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Comment Re:Dont forget about Sound (Score 2) 371

If this is in linux, this might have something to do with ACPI. The firmware has a table called the DSDT (Differentiated System Description Table) which basically tells the operating system how to turn integrated peripherals like network cards off and on when going to sleep or waking up.

One peculiarity of the DSDT is that the ACPI specification allows it to include different instructions to different operating systems, and this is a common source of problems in linux installs. Some manufacturers (Toshiba) deliberately sabotage non-Windows operating systems in their DSDTs. Others simply deliver DSDTs that are untested and potentially buggy in non-windows operating systems.

Anyhow, an OS can switch devices off an on itself using ACPI, so I think ACPI may trump BIOS settings. One way to test this is to boot with ACPI turned off. If this fixes the problem of the mic being available even when disabled in BIOS, then you have and ACPI/DSDT problem. If not, then it is a design flaw in the machine's design (e.g. turning the mic off in BIOS simply turns the gain to 0) and you wasted your time reading this post.

Comment Talk about obscure... (Score 1) 109

How many people here (a) have read the Divine Comedy and (b) worked as a programmer? I'm sure I'm not the only one, but we've got to be a pretty small audience.

Who do you think is the analog of Beatrice? Or Francesca da Rimini from Canto V?

Comment WTF indeed (Score 5, Interesting) 562

Twenty or thirty years ago there used to be people called "journalists" whose job it was to (a) collect enough data so you could figure out what happened, and (b) write it up in an intelligible story.

Look at the linked story *critically*. How does the "reporter" know DNA was being taken? What is his source for this, or is he just guessing?

This story is basically rumor -- passing along what's on the grapevine. There's no actual reporting here. If there were, that would answer the questions a reasonable person might have. For example: are the researchers collecting DNA or not? And who *are* these researchers? Can we get a name please? Or an institution?

Back in the day a reporter would have identified the researchers and called them up for an interview, or at least a statement from the research institution's public affairs office. He'd look up the grant in the federal records and find out whether or not the researchers had been granted money to collect DNA and what they are being paid to do with it (yes, you can do that!). He'd may even have interviewed people on the institutional review board (required by US law) that approved the project.

But the "reporter" in this case did none of this. She appears not to have done *any* verification or independent research. A story like this would take a real reporter two or three days to nail down, not two or three phone calls.

I'm not saying some horrendous violation of civil liberties could not have taken place, I'm saying the writer of the article didn't do enough work for anyone to decide what did or did not happen. This is not reporting, it's *blogging* under a byline.

Comment Re:You poor baby (Score 1) 277

He's a regular Daniel Boone, leading a life of simple-but-rewarding chores: loading logs into the log splitter as he waits for his iTunes movie to download; snow blowing a clear path for the UPS truck to deliver their Amazon groceries; or just whittlin' a shim to mount the high gain yagi antenna to the mast so he can check his Facebook down at the fishin' hole.

Comment Re:there is proof (Score 1) 160

The question isn't whether antibacterial agents like tricolosan *cause* antibiotic resistance. Clearly that's poppycock. But that *doesn't* mean anti-bacterial soap can't contribute to the spread of pathogenic bacteria in general.

By altering the user's microbiome, an antibacterial agent could potentially open an ecological niche for a pathogen. If the particular strain of pathogen happens to be antibiotic resistant, then the antibacterial has contributed to the the spread of antibiotic resistance without actually causing resistance itself.

As for normal soap and water, that does not in any way shape or form kill bacteria. It washes away stray bacteria that haven't established colonies on your skin. It does nothing for bacteria protected in the pores or by biofilms. Therefore normal handwashing helps prevent the spread of stray pathogens you may have picked up without creating an opportunity for them to colonize your skin.

So the bottom line:

Hand washing with ordinary soap -- definitely good.
Hand washing with antibacterial soap -- in most cases unnecessary, and possibly harmful.

Comment Re:Cables are dangerous (Score 1) 504

Well, a cable would be a good place to put a monitoring device. You can certainly get inconspicuous USB keyloggers that could easily be molded into a keyboard cable.

If the NSA is removing UTP, I wouldn't take that as evidence that the NSA doesn't know what they're doing. I'd take that as evidence that the NSA has packet monitoring hardware that fits into a cable.

Comment Re: Rule #1 (Score 1) 894

The real question here is "how likely is it for each gun owner to kill someone with a gun eventually".

The rate at which gun owners kill people is in any case very, very low as AC suggests; but it's not really what you want to know. What you want to know is your chance of getting killed by a gun owner.

Suppose you identify some group that (a) has a lower rate of firearm ownership than the general population and (b) is less likely to commit crimes than the current gun owning population. You could decrease the *percentage* of dangerous gun owners by giving everyone in that group a gun.... BUT since *some* of that group will turn out to be criminals, you've increased the TOTAL number of criminals with guns.

What you really want to know is what the marginal effect of increased gun ownership would have on public safety, taking into account, of course, the possible deterrent effect of a more highly armed populace.

The problem with the hope for an *increased* deterrent effect is that the US already has the highest rate of firearm ownership in the world *by far*. Nearly half of all households have a gun, and about 1/3 of adults own a gun. It's hard to imagine getting much more deterrence benefit by increasing those already astonishing numbers.

Furthermore, if you look for deterrent effect by comparing states by firearm ownership, there is no evidence. States with higher rates of firearm ownership have higher rates of gun violence. This is correlation rather than causation, of course; it is quite possible that people in violent states buy more guns to protect themselves. BUT -- if there were a dramatic deterrent effect you'd expect to see it in the data eventually.

Comment Re: Rule #1 (Score 3, Insightful) 894

I was hiking just the other day in the woods, and came across a pair of young men plinking with a handgun -- not legal in this park, by the way, but I'm not uptight about stuff like that. They were standing on on side of the path and shooting across the path at some soda cans they'd set up on a log. I excused myself as I crossed their improved shooting range, and they resumed firing.

It was then I noticed that even though they were standing only eight feet from their target they couldn't hit it. And this was with all the time in the world to draw a bead on their target.

Now in the hypothetical scenario where the good guy is called upon to draw his weapon to defend people from a shooter, the good guy is always a crack shot, but if it were one of these bozos shooting to save his life, the safest place to be when they were shooting is between them and whatever they were shooting at.

I'm fairly relaxed about guns. They're not my thing, but I don't get vapors if someone else has one. But it's been my observation that gun owners are like drivers in their skill self-assessment. Nearly all of them think they're better than average and it's quite common for them to think they're pretty darn amazing.

A school shooting that ends with only one critically injured student is a pretty good outcome. Expecting a *better* outcome with some randomly chosen gun enthusiast trying to shoot to save his life strikes me as unrealistically optimistic.

Comment Re:No thank you to CFLs (Score 1) 1146

I keep hearing reports like this but it doesn't jibe with my experience. After the first couple of years where things were dicey, I've had no trouble at all with them. I recently replaced some CFLs that were ten years old, not because they failed, but because their output and color temperature dropped.

So I think it's very possible there's something wrong with your power. It's also possible you purchased a bad brand or from a bad batch.

I should warn you about LED bulbs: at present the quality varies tremendously. I have some I'm pleased with, and some which looked identical but clearly have lower build quality and which never worked acceptably (flicker and color temperature in the 7000k range which is too blue even for me). I think it's kind of wild west market, with Chinese factories turning out quality product under contract and then cheap knockoffs under the table. LEDs are subject to thermal runaway too, and the same bulb may last for a long time in one installation but a short time in another. Yet a different model LED bulb might last a long time in a demanding installation because it has better circuitry. It's tough because a lot of what matters in the long term is stuff you can't see.

I have a motley mix of bulb types and models; in general my house has converged to all robust bulbs as I simply swap out bad bulbs for something else.

Comment Re:red v blue (Score 3, Interesting) 285

Having done business with local governments around the country, I can tell you that the stereotypes about southerners or northeasterners are inaccurate. It's not like everyone from Georgia is a conservative and everyone from Massachusetts is a liberal. You find the same *kinds* of people everywhere, but in slightly different mixes.

Control of most states happens at the margins. If you have slightly more conservatives in a state, you get consistent conservative victories and if you have slightly more liberals you get consistent liberal victories. Incumbents tend to get re-elected too; that gives the ascendant fringe leverage over the low-information middle voters, and puts the weaker side in an up-hill battle for success. Lack of success for a minority party powerfully weakens that party, and it may have difficulty fielding strong candidates. Things tend to *look* hopeless after several decades of dominance by one party, but I think that's an illusion. A strong centrist candidate can win anywhere against a weak majority party candidate, as with Scott Brown who won the Ted Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts 2010.

Red states tend to have a history of hard luck and social upheaval, and this produces marginally more skepticism about government. By contrast Massachusetts, indisputably the bluest state in the nation, has enjoyed remarkable good fortune since the founding of the nation, and that produces *marginally* less skepticism about government here. But it's still there. In Massachusetts you still hear *exactly* the same range of opinions as you would in a red state. It's just that minority parties are structurally disadvantaged in states where one party has had a long record of success.

We just had a special election here to fill Ed Markey's congressional seat. The Democratic winner walked away with 65.9% to the Republican's 31.7%. That may seem like a landslide, but consider this. Almost a third of the voters came out for a totally unknown Republican, a political neophyte who nobody thought had a chance of winning against a well-known and popular politician. That strikes me as a remarkable showing, and I think it shows that even the bluest state is more purple than we imagine.

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