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Comment Re:Ye Gods, an Ad (Score 2) 107

I know a number of people who make use of virtualization on notebooks, and SSDs help dramatically there. I switched to an SSD on my home system and since then, it's become painful being on any system with an HDD because of the latency caused by the drive. I'm trying to talk my boss into letting me get an SSD for my work notebook as I usually have at least one VM running and often two, and the competition for the hard drive is killing me.

It's not a necessary thing for every person who has a notebook, but it's a much larger fraction than car owners who have a Ferrari in the garage.

Comment Re:Ghost in the machine (Score 1) 128

Hydraulic isn't much different. A blocked port in the rack and pinion can send the wheel spinning wildly in one direction. Happened to my brother's old Volvo. The wheel would damn-near tear your arm off and try to send you into oncoming traffic. There are a lot of ways to build in saftey. I was impressed with recent brake-pedal light switches. My oldest car was one wire that completed a ground loop. If the switch failed you'd never know. My next car it was two wires. My newest car is three wires, and the plunger switch always opens one circuit and closes the other. With three wires the computer can sense a defective switch if the switch is ever in an open/open or closed/closed situation. In fact the computer logic allows *some* brief amounts of this situation simply to account for inaccuracies in the switch itself. So, things do get better.

Comment Vinge & Pohl Anecdote (Score 4, Interesting) 339

In, ah, 1997, just before I moved out west, I went to the campus SF convention that I'd once helped run once last time. The GOH was Vernor Vinge. A friend and I, seeing Vinge looking kind of bored and lost at a loud cyberpunk-themed meet-the-pros party, dragged him off to the green room and BSed about the Singularity, Vinge's "Zones" setting, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and gaming for a couple of hours. This was freaking amazing! Next day, a couple more friends and I took him for Mongolian BBQ. More heady speculation and wonky BSing.

That afternoon we'd arranged for a panel about the Singularity. One of the other panelists was Frederik Pohl. I'd suggested him because I thought his 1965 short-short story, "Day Million," was arguably the first SF to hint at the singularity. There's talk in there about asymptotic progress, and society becoming so weird it would be hard for us to comprehend.

"Just what is this Singularity thing?" Pohl asked while waiting for the panel to begin. A friend and I gave a short explanation. He rolled his eyes. Paraphrasing: "What a load of crap. All that's going to happen is that we're going to burn out this planet, and the survivors will live to regret our waste and folly."

Well. That was embarassing.

Fifteen years later, I found myself agreeing more and more with Pohl. He had seen, in his fifty-plus years writing and editing SF, and keeping a pulse on science and technology, to see many, many cultish futurist fads come and go, some of them touted by SF authors or editors (COUGH Dianetics COUGH psionics COUGH L-5 colonies). When spirits are high these seemed logical and inevitable and full of answers (and good things to peg an SF story to); with time, they all became pale and in retrospect seem a bit silly, and the remaining true believers kind of odd.

Comment Re:Of course (Score 2) 107

There's a probe called New Horizons on the way to Pluto right now, largely because we can't get decent pictures from here. Even with Hubble, the best we get is a fuzzy blob a few pixels in size.

Then there's the Cassini mission that provided information about Titan that could not have been obtained without dropping a probe into its atmosphere.

There was Galileo, which provided a wealth of knowledge about the Jovian moons that we could not have gotten by taking pictures from here.

Magellan provided radar mapping of the surface of Venus that is completely obscured from view in visible light due to permanent clouds.

And, of course, there is the science being done on Mars that requires a physical presence.

Comment Re:Endorse James Webb. Do NOT even mention Sptizer (Score 3, Interesting) 107

Are you aware that federal income taxes were collected long before the case (Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust) that basically triggered the adoption of the 16th Amendment? They go back to 1861. The issue in Pollock was not that the income tax was unconstitutional (the income tax on wages was decided unanimously to be constitutional in 1880 and held to be an excise tax in Pollock), but that taxes on income derived from property (rental income, stock dividends, etc.) were direct taxes (as opposed to indirect taxes on wages) and so had to be apportioned by state populations. It then spent the next decade doing contortions trying to fit various taxes challenged after the Pollock ruling as excise taxes so as to not deprive the federal government of revenue from many other sources.

The 16th Amendment merely allows taxes collected on all income, whatever the source, to not be apportioned by state populations, taking the issue out of the courts' hands completely. Repealing the amendment wouldn't end the income tax or the IRS, but instead justify a larger bureaucracy to ensure that income from direct taxes was apportioned properly, or else a rush to the courts to challenge pretty much every tax and a resumption of the judicial contortions to keep them in place.

And you really should get up to date on your recent history. While I'm not sad to see Saddam Hussein gone, there were no unconventional weapons found, save for a few old artillery shells buried more than a decade before. He really had dismantled his programs, but tried to make it look like maybe he didn't in case Iran got the bright idea of starting a new fight.

Comment Re:Budget Perspective (Score 2) 107

The B-1 was used in Iraq first during Operation Desert Fox and later during the 2003 invasion, and was also used in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The B-52, while still a very good bomber, is showing its age. While the Air Force still has it in the plans for another 30 years or so, it's not what you want to use should you have to go up against any serious air defenses, as they have to be neutralized first. Boeing has proposed several modernization ideas including new engines that would improve fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance requirements, but the cost of that is more than the Air Force wants to pay. They're planning for a new bomber to replace all three existing bombers starting around 2030-2035.

And the B-1 never really scared the Soviets. Before the final one was delivered, the Air Force realized that it couldn't compete with Soviet air defenses.

Comment Re:This, I am unsurprised about (Score 1) 241

It's strung out to keep it in the news, lest it be forgotten about in a few months. There is a strategy to it that goes well beyond awards.

Assange, on the other hand, does it for his own benefit, primarily to his ego. A recent post on Twitter mentioned delaying "the identity of NSA 'SOMALGET' country X to another date for media cycle reasons." Less than two hours later, after several replies had said it was Afghanistan, Assange made another post announcing that Afghanistan was the other country. (I follow the Wikileaks feed in part because there's occasionally something interesting but mostly because the slow burn of Assange and his declining support base kind of intrigue me.)

Comment Re:This, I am unsurprised about (Score 1) 241

You're right that there was little (not no) pretense of protecting the Afghan peoples. However, the government in Kabul (such as it was) refused to hand over bin Laden, claiming that bin Laden was their guest, and they could neither kick him out nor turn him over to others who would do him harm. After airstrikes began, they offered to discuss turning him over to a neutral country that would not extradite him to the US, but only if proof of bin Laden's complicity in the 9/11 attacks was presented and they accepted it. The US, of course, refused the deal.

As to the others, the vote in Crimea that was allegedly 97% in favor of annexation with an 85% turnout rate was a sham: the Russian Council on Civil Society and Human Rights (accidentally?) posted the true results briefly: 30% turnout and only half voted in favor of annexation. The deposing of Morsi was condemned by the United States several times, though it admittedly didn't do much more. And Thailand has had 18 attempted coups, 11 of which were successful. It is, for better or for worse, an almost natural state of affairs there.

Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 310

There's nothing illegal about it. Most states have alternate regulations for certain jobs. For example, if you're the one and only person working a shift, and someone must be there all the time, an exception can be made requiring you to remain at your work location even through your meal breaks, though both you and the employer must agree to this and you have to be paid for the time. They also generally allow for alternate schedules for union members provided a majority of the union members vote in favor of that schedule.

Comment I used WordStar 4.0 for MANY years (Score 1, Interesting) 522

I was working for a computer mail order place (Logicsoft) when WS 4.0 came out. The salespeople all got promotional lucite paperweights; I might still have one!

I used WS 3 and WS 4 to crank out role playing game manuscripts. For most of this time I only had a floppy-only PC-DOS system. This required juggling floppy disks when running spell check. It was great upgrading to a hard disk drive, but I maintained one-or-two-floppy running copies of WordStar that I could bring with me. Kind of like putting applications on a thumb drive.

I used WordStar X.X on an Osborne PC. The "OzBox," which lived in the campus SF library where I spent a lot of my time, had a program that could copy files to single-sided DOS floppies.

I was what you might call a Journeyman user of WS. I used "dot commands" and spell check and maybe even Mail Merge. There was still a lot more I didn't need and didn't bother learning.

I remember buying WordStar 5.0, but regretted it. It couldn't be whittled down to a few floppies.

I still had copies of WordStar (and various versions of DOS) until, um, late last decade, when I got rid of all my floppy disks. If Memory Serves, a fairly complete WordStar 4.0 install took up two 720K floppies. As part of the great reduction I converted all of my old RPG manuscripts to ASCII, so I didn't need a working WS copy.

I sometimes regret the loss of the "keyboard diamond" method of navigation. I could probably set up Word to use it, but it isn't worth the trouble.

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"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman