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Comment Re:false dichotomy (Score 3, Insightful) 200

The US spends far more on programs like SS and Medicare than it does on the Pentagon. Indeed, looking at the big items first would help. In order to support the existing medicare committments, with no further socialization of medicine, tax rates would have to reach 80% in my lifetime.

Quit pulling numbers out of your ass. That number you just quoted has zero basis in reality. Ok, how about this: in order to keep funding the military at the rate its growing, taxes will need to reach 90% in my lifetime. Top that!

And do you see that big chunk of the budget labeled "health"? Yeah, that's what the health care bill is designed to reduce. Without a health care bill, that chunk will only get bigger and bigger. It's amazing to me that some people don't understand this.

Comment Re:Just to put things into perspective... (Score 1) 630

Where's the story?

Especially as it relates to Slashdot. Not really seeing how a story about a government policy on alcohol prohibition 90 years ago is "news for nerds", nor how it affects "my rights online".

I'm all for stories like this being made public, but this is not the kind of thing I think most of us come here for.

Comment Re:Arm your citizens... (Score 1) 368

A $500 RC plane isn't going to be carrying any kind of load that can do any real damage.

Sure, you can pack an RC plane with some C-4 and just fly it kamikaze style into something, but it still couldn't be much more C-4 than the amount needed to blow the lock off a door. Explosives have weight, and RC planes can't carry much extra weight. Given the imprecision of flying one of these things any distance whatsoever, I would think you'd have to carry a tremendous amount of explosives to be able to reliably take out any sort of target.

I would think these would make for an extremely ineffective weapon. A truck bomb would be much more effective.

As for military drones, while it's fun to play "what-if", the reality is there's no practical way for anybody else to attack the US mainland with one of these. For one thing, they are extremely slow. For another thing, they are not stealthy. They would even show up on commercial radar. Heck, bottle rockets show up on commercial radar sometimes. And the FAA doesn't look kindly on unauthorized flights in commercial airspace.

That's not even mentioning the range. We fly drones in Afghanistan from Afghanistan. Where is somebody going to launch a drone attack on the United States from?

And lastly, drones are not difficult to shoot down. Lots of things are immune to heat-seeking missiles - that's why radar guided missiles exist. We've actually had several drones shot down ourselves, even in countries with zero radar coverage, zero opposing air force and zero air defense. These were shot down by guys looking up into the sky and getting off a lucky shot.

Look at it this way. How successful would you imagine a Tu-95 bomber run would be over the US mainland? I personally would expect that every one of them would be shot down - they'd be detected early, fighters would be scrambled, SAM sites alerted. Now replace the Tu-95 with a slower, less well armed drone with a lot less range. Why would you think it would actually be easier for a drone to get through?

I think we've got more important things to worry about, not least of which preparing for more conventional attacks from our enemies, or more "traditional" terrorist attacks.


Secret Service Runs At "Six Sixes" Availability 248

PCM2 writes "ABC News is reporting that the US Secret Service is in dire need of server upgrades. 'Currently, 42 mission-oriented applications run on a 1980s IBM mainframe with a 68 percent performance reliability rating,' says one leaked memo. That finding was the result of an NSA study commissioned by the Secret Service to evaluate the severity of their computer problems. Curiously, upgrades to the Service's computers are being championed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who says he's had 'concern for a while' about the issue."

Comment Re:Nice, sure, but revolutionary? (Score 1, Insightful) 278

Saying there is nothing new here is like saying that you take some rockets, some heat shielding, some wings and make the space shuttle. No biggie.

Well, that's an odd metaphor, considering that most generally consider the space shuttle to be a failure at the mission for which it was originally conceived. And two of the five orbiters have been lost to accidents. The overall program safety rate is much worse than the rockets that preceded it.

The point being, yes, it takes some imagination to put all these things together in a certain way. But just displaying imagination does not equal a revolution. In many ways, the iPhone interface - like the space shuttle - is a step backwards. It's not that people are arguing that the iPhone is exactly like other things. They're arguing that the iPhone doesn't really improve the UI experience from where we were before. Those are two different statements, and you're arguing with the former whereas most people are making the latter.

Comment Re:Files too much for n00bs... (Score 1) 278

It's only unorganized if you choose to not organize it.

Which no doubt describes 95% of actual users.

Most modern UI's at least imply some sort of organizational structure (ie. Windows has "documents", "videos", "photos" etc. folders where these types of files generally go by default in most apps, and the Mac has something similar). The iPhone makes you do all the organizational work yourself. This isn't a UI revolution, it's a step backwards.

Comment Re:In short: (Score 1) 278

That assumes that users really need to learn things. The best UIs are often those that match intuitively with our preexisting intuitions about the world. It's not quite that simple, but I definitely think a good UI designer can exploit a lot of our natural understanding of time and space and simple mechanics to make an interface that requires very little learning.

There's nothing "natural" about using a table computer in the first place. You will always need to learn the interface, unless that interface is based around a metaphor previously learned but familiar that we've all been doing since we were kids.

Something, for example, like manipulating documents on a desktop.

There's a reason why the desktop model has endured the way it has. And that's because it's something that everybody knows how to deal with. It's not "intuitive" anymore than a 3D interface would be, but it is something that's almost universally learned from a very young age. And there is no reason to change it, from a usability standpoint or otherwise. There's no such thing as an intuitive computer interface, so I wish so-called UI "experts" would drop that word from their vocabulary. There are only interfaces that are more or less easy to learn. A desktop UI is easy to learn. A 3D UI is not.

Comment Re:Real book page turn times (Score 1) 199

Newsflash, not everyone has the same mix of devices (either at home or portable versions).. Thus to the person with the iphone, and a 17" macbook pro, feature phones look stupid and braindead, netbooks make no sense at all, and having any sort of desktop computer at all seems so ancient an idea.. Change the devices around a bit.. and the guy with a moto razr, and a netbook.. cant comprehend why anyone would bother with an iphone or a high end winmobile device ..

This is not really the point. You're talking about people with devices that can do various things not understanding the point of other devices that do those things. We're talking about two different devices that already serve completely different purposes having features grafted on so one is more like the other. This is not the same as what you're talking about.

To run with your analogy, you would better ask that guy with the netbook and the razr how he'd feel about a new netbook that you could hold up to your ear and make calls with, or the guy with the iphone and the macbook pro how he'd feel about a new iphone with a 14" screen (and therefore the same bulk as his macbook pro). These would be pointless devices to these people too, even though they're fans of these devices in their original forms, and even though this convergence would theoretically allow them to carry one fewer device. But the execution of these features would be so lacking in comparison to the device for which these features were originally intended that nobody in their right mind would actually ditch the devices they're currently carrying in favor of the new ones.

So it is with video-playing e-readers, which sound to me kind of like toast-making washing machines or car-waxing guitars. Sure, I'll bet somebody could adapt these devices to do those things... and maybe one or two people would even find them interesting enough to buy as a result. But I'll bet most people would continue to buy toasters and washing machines separately, as they'd no doubt do the job better.

Not everything in this life needs to converge. We're not going to one day have some super-device that performs every task we need or want to do and does it all from the palm of our hand. It might be a nice dream, but it is not reality. The reality is that we actually have more devices now than ever, because that's what people really want. They may say they want convergence if you phrase it in the "if you could have more features on this product, would you want them?" kind of way, or even the "if you could carry fewer devices and perform the same tasks, would you like that?" kind of way, but this is not the real choice people are asked to make when they actually buy these devices. The real choice is usually between one device that does a bunch of things poorly, or a bunch of devices that each do one thing really well. And the vast majority of people regularly choose the latter.

Comment Re:NO TAXATION, WITHOUT REPRESENTATION (Score 3, Informative) 762

Strangely enough, I agree with this. I'm definitely not against taxes in general and sales tax specifically, but it doesn't make sense to me that a retailer should be required to lift a finger to help a state government from which it gets nothing in return. Those taxes are not going back to Amazon; those taxes are going to pay for things like police and schools in the community in which the *buyer* resides. And yes, the buyer is the one actually paying the tax, but it is ridiculous to expect a company outside of the state to pay any of their own money (in time and effort) to do the work of collecting that tax when they have no say over whether and how that tax is collected.

The states' beef is with the buyers, the actual payers of the tax, who then see the benefits from those taxes. They should be the ones required to collect their own taxes, not the retailers who will never see a dime of the money they spend collecting the tax come back.

This is really no different than what the RIAA is doing. It's the same mentality; if you can't get recourse with the people who you actually should be going after, then just go screw somebody else somewhere up the chain instead.

Comment Re:Laws (Score 4, Insightful) 698

Because our laws are written by corporate interests, not the people.

Oh, this is bullshit. We put up with it because we're conditioned to put up with all manner of mediocrity, lies, and incompetence in this country. This is only one example of it. Our leaders are another, but WE voted for them.

People always want to put the blame on someone other than themselves. But the people who are responsible for this kind of crap in this country are US. We are responsible because we expect it and we do nothing about it.

If we don't want to put up with shit like this, then we should be electing people based on how they specifically say they're going to respond to these kinds of shenanigans. But we don't. Instead, we vote for people because it looks like they have a nice family in TV commercials, or because they're against teh gays, or because they claim to adhere to some poorly defined set of values (ie. "family values", "conservative principles", etc.).


When you see 6-10% of people undecided in the final days of a national election (as was the case in 2008), what does that tell you? It doesn't tell you that we have a bunch of independent thinkers, as those people and the media will claim, it tells you that we have a bunch of people in this country who aren't paying any attention at all. Not only do they not understand the candidates' stances on the issues they care about, they don't even know the broad ideologies of the parties they belong to - they can't even make an assumption based on party affiliation or label. These are the people that often decide our elections.

And when you couple this lack of paying attention with the ridiculously low voting rates we have in this country compared with other democracies, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Comment Re:No (Score 2, Informative) 439

Ironically, the places you need GPS the most are the places there is no cell phone coverage. As much as I like my Android its my Garmin that goes into the backpack.

In other words, the way you personally use your GPS device must be the way everyone else does, right?

You talk about putting your Garmin into your "backpack" and using it where there is no cell phone service. That's sounding to me like you're taking it hiking out in the back country. Which is fine, but that is not what most people use GPS for these days, nor is it what Google Navigation is intended for. It's intended for use while driving. (Indeed, many GPS devices produced these days will not work when off-road.)

Most places in the United States where there's a road, there's cell phone service. No, maybe not on some rural route in Idaho, but certainly in the most populated areas. And while it may seem counterintuitive, it is actually more helpful to have GPS for car navigation in the most populated areas than it is in the least, the reason being that there are so many more roads, which means so many more turns. To get from my store in Manhattan to my home just outside the city - a distance of approximately 14 miles - requires something like 45 different maneuvers and the use of about that many different roads.

Now, the REAL killer app for Google Navigation, which will be apparent to all eventually if it isn't now, is free cloud-provided live traffic. Most current GPS devices that provide traffic info (and remember, they all force you to pay for it in some way) do it the old fashioned way, usually by subscribing to a service that's taking call-in reports from local police or utilities, or even individual commuters. This info is always old and often wrong. Google Maps' traffic is live, taken from the cloud. Right now, my wife and I have gotten into the habit of having our GPS hooked up and having one of our phones out with Google Maps loaded up to check traffic on our route. (Remember, this is New York.) And it's always right, but there's currently no easy way for us to do anything about it when our GPS device guides us into a "red" traffic area. (We can press the "detour" button, but that doesn't really guide us around traffic, just a pre-set distance.)

It's going to be amazing having free live traffic data integrated into Google Navigation. The only thing I haven't seen is whether there's a way to tell the app to "avoid traffic" when constructing a route, or to "detour around traffic" if traffic develops along the way. But that should be pretty easy to add if they haven't already; just another little algorithm.

And that's the *other* great thing about this - free updates. I had to pay $80 for map and interface upgrades to my Magellan Roadmate 2200T, and while it was worth it, they only ever produced that one update and I sure would have liked it to be free. Especially considering that the update itself has its own problems, which I have now just had to live with - for example, it now messes up the side of the street destinations are on about half the time. No way to fix this except to buy a new device with new software on it. It also constantly drives me into a dead end when I go to my mother's house - the map is out of date. Again, no more updates are coming - gotta buy a new device. Waste of money.

Comment Re:the magic ingredient (Score 1) 809

I think "hard sci-fi" writers who fail to recognize that not all sci-fi is about technology and its effect on humanity are rather short-sighted.

I agree, and another argument you could make is to imagine our current lives being imagined by sci-fi writers 200 years ago (if sci-fi writers existed then - did they?). Most of them probably *would* have focused on our technology, and maybe some of them would have gotten some of it right. And there are stories to tell about how the internet or the cell phone has altered the way we live, but honestly, do you really think about these things throughout an average day? You use your technology, but you're mostly thinking about how to get into the pants of that girl you've got a crush on, or you're thinking about how school or work sucks, or you're thinking about drinking a Shamrock Shake. The technology you use can be a means to these ends, but it's not the end itself.

Most current sci-fi is, like most media in other genres, a form of realism. It's not an attempt at predicting the future of technology or asking "what if?" or related existential questions, it's an attempt at looking at what real life might be like for people in various situations in the future. Nobody in the real world of Star Trek, except maybe a few intellectuals back on Earth, is going to ruminate on how flux capacitors have changed the way we live, or on what happens to your soul when you use a transporter. Most people are just going to use those things and not think about it, the same way we all drive cars and communicate on cell phones and write blog replies on laptops now without thinking much about it. This is just our lives.

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