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Comment Re:No surprise there (Score 1, Informative) 263

You're still wrong.

Here's a message encrypted with a (very short) one-time pad: 03 02 05 06.

Here's one one-time pad:
01 - add, 02 - retreat, 03 - flee, 04 - foo, 05 - at, 06 - once, 07 - rats
and here's another:
01 - zebra, 02 - attack, 03 - start, 04 - frobozz, 05 - at, 06 - midnight, 07 - gun
or a third:
01 - innumerate, 02 - tired, 03 - who's, 05 - and, 06 - juvenile, 07 - now

Depending on which one-time pad you use, you get either: "flee all is lost" or "start attack at midnight". I'll let you figure out the third.

Not very helpful, is it? The number of possible one-time pads for a given set of N words is N! (N factorial) (could actually be higher if you allow repetitions in the pad, which you should for common words). A common practice is to use a (specific edition of a) book as your pad, with page/line/word number as key. How many books, now?

Sure, maybe there's only one (out of all the millions of possible editions of books) that renders comprehensible sentences. But if the codemakers are half-intelligent they can confound that, too, by scrambling the order of the words in the cleartext in a pre-arranged way.

Comment Re:Skipping TV ads? (Score 2) 686

Haven't the makers of certain DVR units been successfully sued or otherwise forced to stop providing devices that automatically skip ads in DVR'd content?

Sued yes, successfully no.

The latest is Dish's "Auto-Hop" feature which -- the day after it was aired -- programs ad skips into stuff recorded as part of their Hopper's "Prime-Time-Anytime" feature (which records all prime time shows on the big four using only one tuner). Of course FOX and everyone else filed suit at the first mention of it, even before all the details were out. The suit is till pending but based on preliminary motions it's probable the judge doesn't think they (FOX, et al) will succeed.

The more-savvy advertisers are getting together with TV content providers to do more product placement anyway. (Although that doesn't work for all products/services.)

Comment Re:It's also a small country (Score 1) 377

smart enough to employ simple countermeasures.

I always got a chuckle out of that. Because what are "simple countermeasures" on paper turn out to be "complex and expensive R & D programs" when you try to implement them on your thousand-plus ICBM inventory.

My favorite was "just spin the booster" as a counter to laser interception. Now, consider that Soviet ICBM technology of the time relied on liquid-fueled boosters. Consider the dynamics problems of spinning a liquid-containing cylinder which is also accelerating upwards at eight or ten gees (while attempting to drain said cylinders to fuel the engines). The lasers wouldn't have to hit them, they'd destroy themselves.

(Ditto for "just add shielding" -- which means adding weight, aerodynamic drag, and changing the center of mass, which means rewriting your flight control software, lowering your payload, and risking catastrophic disassembly if the shielding comes loose.)

Comment ballistic == unguided (Score 2) 377

Now, maybe the guy meant intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), or even intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) -- the stuff Israel is shooting down seems shorter range -- but ballistic and unguided are essentially equivalent. You could have a non-ballistic unguided missile (an unguided cruise missile, say) but that's worse than useless (it could loop around and come back at you). But a ballistic missile -- once past the boost phase -- is, like something thrown by a trebuchet, guided only by gravity and air drag.

And of course the further away it launches from, the more time you have to figure out what it's doing.

Comment Hey, what's wrong.. (Score 1) 235

... with a few fireworks to let folks know you've arrived?

Anyway, it's not clear whether they looked at a pure Alcubierre warp, an Alcubierre-Broek thin-bubble warp, NASA's latest, or what.

In a 2006 paper by a whole laundry list of authors (Hart, Held, Hoiland, Jenks, Loup, Martins, Nyman, Pertierra, Santos, Shore, Sims, Stabno and Teage), "On the Problems of Hazardous Matter and Radiation at Faster than Light Speeds in the Warp Drive Space-time" (which begins with the monumentous understatement: "A warp driven vehicle travelling at a speed faster than light may collide with objects in front of the ship, which would be hazardous to the ship and its crew") had this to say: "the gravitational gradients in Broek regions will disrupt hazardous objects in the ship's neighborhood. This is a property of Broek space-time, any natural object will be disrupted and deflected" (bold added)

Certainly worth looking into further, but it's still too early to say exactly what the properties of an actual warp field will be.

Comment Re:Catch 22 (Score 3, Interesting) 707

Exactly this. Canada has -- or had, back when I was living there -- something called a 'declined vote'. You showed up at the polling place, then formally declined to vote. They had to record that, it was roughly like voting for 'none of the above'; if enough people did it, they'd have to hold that particular election over again. (Not that that ever happened in real life, alas.)

Here, third parties have little enough chance to win or even seriously tilt the election (except when there's a major random 3rd party candidate for president). If you'd really rather vote 'none of the above', pick some 3rd party and vote for them. It sends more of a message than just not showing up.

You may have a right to complain if you're too apathetic to show up to vote -- but I have a right to ignore you.

Comment Re:In America ... (Score 1) 193

Close. Plenty of people pay their taxes, whether they want to or not.

The problem is that politicians would then rather spend those taxes on something new and shiny than on maintaining the existing infrastructure. New and shiny gets votes, repair jobs don't.

Comment Survival skills (Score 1) 866

Not knowing chemistry can kill you. (Like, you mix chlorine bleach and drain cleaner and die from chlorine fumes -- among many other scenarios.)

Not knowing public speaking, or music, or political science, or creative writing, or HTML is far less likely to be fatal. Moreover, it's a lot easier to teach yourself the latter than the former, at least without getting put on some DHS watch list (although political science and public speaking might be iffy there too). School chem labs generally beat what you can do at home.

Mind, my dad gave me my first chemistry set for my seventh birthday.

Comment Re:This is what Benjamin Frankin warned us about.. (Score 1) 1160

Shooting to wound is enough to get you killed -- as any combat shooting instructor will tell you.

If you're actually in such a situation, you're pumped so full of adrenaline it's all you can do to shoot straight at all (shakes); your best bet is to aim for the center of mass and hope you hit something that will put the guy down so that he can't return fire/stab you/bludgeon you to death with a shovel. (The latter is a risk if you're using too small a caliber -- real incident.)

Or perhaps you believed all those westerns where the good guy can shoot the villain's gun out of his hand?

Comment Re:And this is why (Score 2) 946

This reminds me of the old remark about Unix (and Linux) being very user friendly, it's just picky about who its friends are.

The nice thing about not being beholden to commercial interests -- as open source isn't -- is that it doesn't have to compromise to make the lowest common denominator happy.

Ubuntu is hardly the only distro out there.

(Personally I don't give much of a rat's ass about computer games; when it comes down it they're all about playing against a programmer who is actually no longer playing, and a random number generator. Cheap thrills. For my other 3D needs I have a Radeon card.)

Comment Re:Measuring results (Score 1) 285

I've been writing software for nearly 20 years and this has never been the case anywhere I've worked.

Then I can only conclude you've been working in the shrinkwrap software industry, or whatever they're calling it this week. In businesses where software is part of the infrastructure rather than the sole product, then yes, specifications are very real, and tend to be stable. Although come to think of it, when I was in the software biz, we took specs pretty seriously too. Mind, we weren't doing phone apps or mass-market software-in-a-box, we were doing enterprise level systems where you weren't worth talking to unless you were thinking of spending at least a half-million on the product.

(As for complete well, I could probably write a book on "debugging the spec". But debugging the spec means a lot of time not spent on debugging the program.)

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