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Comment Congress *might* be rattled (Score 1) 362

I just called my representative to express my displeasure. The young woman who answered had an obvious prepared response about how Rep. Sinema has been working to protect the Fourth Amendment and this was a hard decision...but it didn't sound like her heart was in it.

That this amendment failed is a bad sign, that Congress would rather stand with the spymasters than with the citizenry. But there may still be a glimmer of hope for us to push hard enough to un-fuck ourselves.

It does make me wonder, though, what kind of dirt the NSA has on my representative that they could make her cave like that.


Comment Not just NYC (Score 4, Insightful) 382

Last week there was an Amber Alert in the Valley of the Sun. A bit later, I thought that such a system was too easy to abuse...imagine an Amber Alert that says it's for a kidnapped child but actually happens to be for a political dissident like Snowden...and that's when I turned off the Amber Alerts.

They've also been excessively over-zealous about thunderstorm alerts, but I'm not quite yet ready to turn those off. But if they don't clean up their act fast, I will.


Comment Not many options (Score 4, Informative) 221

First, you can -- and probably should -- just accept that the deadlines don't mean anything. They self-evidently don't to anybody else, so why should they to you?

But if you must pretend that they mean something, then you've really only got three options:

1) adjust the deadline based upon how much actual work is involved with the new request;
2) factor into your initial estimate how much you think it'll take to do what you think they're likely to add on later;
3) or make new requests a separate project with their own life cycle.

This, of course, assumes that you're the one estimating time and setting deadlines. If somebody else is doing all that, forget about it. It's not your problem; it's the problem of whomever is setting deadlines. Either they need to be doing a better job at time / project / resource management, or they need to bring on enough additional developers to meet the demands, or they need to fire the incompetent hacks they've got working for them now who can't meet the demands of the job. Whatever the case may be, it's a management problem and nothing for a developer to worry about.



Comment It actually is a big deal (Score 4, Interesting) 58

The two-factor authentication is supposed to protect against a man-in-the-middle attack. The problem is that the verification response from the second factor goes back through the same already-compromised channel.

Imagine you're a sophisticated vilain in some backwater part of the world. You notice there's an AP reporter there doing some long-term investigative journalism, and said reporter likes to file his reports from a particular internet cafe.

You hack the cafe's wifi and somehow convince the reporter that his Twitter account has already been hacked -- say, by showing him a tweet in his name of something outrageous. The reporter, panicked, resets his account -- but does so through your fake Twitter authentication. You now capture both his password and the second factor sent through his text message; you now own his Twitter account.

And you now go ahead and actually send out some outrageous tweet as this particular reporter. Perhaps you pull off your attack while some very important person is visiting, and you report said person's assassination. You know this will crash the markets, and so you short all the proper stocks and make a killing...on the market.

Is it wise for people to have the trust they do in Twitter? Hell no. Do they have such trust anyway? Yes.

Which is why this is a big deal.



Comment !Gimp (Score 0) 403

Before anybody here recommends the Gimp as an alternative...yes, it's a well-done project, and yes, it admirably suits many people's needs.

But suggesting that the Gimp is a suitable alternative to Photoshop for a creative professional makes you sound as insanely stupid as that accountant who wonders why the company spends all that money on a huge financials package with a massive SQL backend when he could whip up something that works just as well in Excel with a few macros in an afternoon.

There is a serious lack of alternatives in this space; the monopoly Adobe enjoys is akin to AT&T before the breakup. Adobe clearly knows this, and this cloud bullshit is obviously an attempt to (continue to) cash in on said monopoly.

Most people I know are planning on camping out indefinitely on CS6 and hope something shakes free sooner rather than later. Long-shot dreams, such as Google buying Corel and turning PaintShop Pro into a Photoshop competitor, are being desperately wished for.

It's not pretty.



Comment Re:Not too bright (Score 2) 414

Colony ships need at least as much energy, if not more. You've got an entire postmodern industrial complex to keep running, after all -- plus, you've also got the added energy overhead from recycling literally everything.

And sleeper ships are a no-go. At those timescales, any and all gasses will leak out of any container, no matter how thick and sturdy, as surely as it does from a rubber all your plastics and rubber will turn brittle, your silicon chips will be completely fried from cosmic radiation, and on and on and on. You'll need a continuous maintenance operation, which turns it back into a colony ship.

And, besides. If you're happy living between the stars for several times longer than recorded human history, why should you care at all about any particular star except as a place to recharge the batteries? A planet would be useless to you -- especially one with an entirely alien biosphere, where everything will either try to eat you or trigger allergic reactions.



Comment Re:Not too bright (Score 3, Insightful) 414

Even if there's a literal Heavenly Paradise a mere 1000 light years away, that's as unfriendly to humans as the surface of Venus.

How, pray tell, is one supposed to make the six quadrillion mile journey to get there?

With the amount of energy you'd need to send just a single schoolbus-sized Space Shuttle that distance fast enough that the astronauts wouldn't be collecting Social Security several hundred millennia before they got there (which actually is physically possible thanks to relativistic time dilation), you could power the most ludicrous imaginable planet-wide environmental cleanup program here on Earth. Hell, with that much energy, you could probably terraform Mars as a side job, turn it into a luscious garden. And that's just a single ship....

Suggesting we colonize the Solar System to protect the species, as Professor Hawking has done, is simply idiotic. But the stars? They're beyond idiocy.



Comment Not too bright (Score -1, Flamebait) 414

Okay, I know it's Stephen Freakin' Hawking and all. But still. This isn't rocket surgery, and he really should know better.

But there is nowhere else in the entire universe that's anywhere near as friendly to humans as Earth.

Not only that, even if we fought a global thermonuclear / biological / chemical war that ignited all the coal, oil, and other carbon deposits, the Earth would still be the friendliest place in the universe.

It would be far easier to clean up such a fucked-up Earth than it would be to even establish a beachhead anywhere else.

There are lots of reasons to explore space, but survival of the species isn't one of them. If we can't survive here, we can't survive anywhere else, either.

Sure, it's quite romantic to imagine a rotating asteroid colony where we raise our crops and our babies while we go use clean nukes to mine the other nearby asteroids...but not only is that so far removed from reality it's not even funny, it doesn't even pass the sniff test. Even if the Earth's atmosphere were rendered unbreathable, it'd still be far easier to build a dome on Earth that just has to server as a barrier and not as a high-pressure containment vessel, plus you could replenish your inside air by refining the contaminated air that surrounds you. Oh -- and temperatures will still be pretty close to what you want, you've got the right amount of insolation, there's all sorts of raw materials right here at the surface for the taking, and on and on and on and on and on.

I hate to be so blunt...but what a maroon.



Comment Bad summary (Score 5, Informative) 79

First, 1/200s is a very common shutter speed, yes, but most cameras can shoot at at least 1/2000s and most high-end cameras can shoot at 1/8000s...assuming, of course, you have enough light.

Most high-speed stills photography is actually done with a slow shutter speed; perhaps even a shutter left open for a couple seconds. Motion is stopped by the short duration of the flash burst. And with, for example, a Canon 580 EX II flash, you can get a 1/35,000s flash duration. Granted, this will be at minimum power...but they're operating at macro distances, where you can put the flash head almost on top of your subject and still overpower the subject with light.

Don't get me worng; this team is doing some nifty stuff. But it's also something that most professional photographers could easily replicate with the equipment they already have -- and that anybody who specializes in macro photography will probably already plan on playing around with next winter after reading this article.

What the team is doing that's interesting isn't the photography. It's the 3D reconstruction and subsequent analysis and modeling. Making it seem that it's about the photography, which is the easy and inconsequential part, really detracts from the good stuff.



Comment A wider color spectrum... (Score 5, Interesting) 456

...actually covers many of the other options.

If your wider spectrum extends into gamma frequencies, there's your radiation detector.

If it extends into infrared, you'll be able to see the heat given off by live wires, which is "good enough" generally for your electrical field detection -- assuming you're wanting to know which wire to (not) cut.

Infrared would also let you see involuntary changes in blood flow patterns, which again should be "good enough" for your lie detector.

If you extend the definition of "color spectrum" just enough to also include the ability to detect the polarization of light, then you can very easily determine the location of the Sun at all times during daylight (and dusk) hours, even when it's cloudy. That's again generally "good enough" for a compass.

Doesn't do a whole lot for sound, though, I'll admit....



Comment Re:It depends... (Score 1) 626

Yes, of course it will. As supply drops, prices rise. It's not cost-effective to make gasoline from tar sands at $100 / barrel, but it would be very cost-effective at $1,000 / barrel (and substantially less).

The thing is, that applies to more than just petroleum reserves.

At some point, it becomes cost-effective to create syngas as a feedstock for petroleum distilleries, and to create that syngas with atmospheric CO2 for the carbon source using solar photovoltaics as the energy source. And, yes, oil would have to be very expensive for that to be cost-effective.

Before it's cost-effective to use atmospheric CO2 for the carbon source, it'll be cost-effective to use CO2 captured from coal plant exhaust. We'd still burn the coal for electricity generation, but the carbon would serve double duty and get burned twice before being dumped in the atmosphere. Still very expensive, yes, and still needs lots of photovoltaic electricity as input, but it's not quite as expensive as pulling the CO2 directly from the atmosphere.

Thing is...the price at which these sorts of non-petrochemical alternatives become cost-effective is less than the price at which many petrochemical alternatives become cost-effective to exploit.

So I personally doubt we'll ever touch the Canadian tar sands. They're too expensive, and we have cheaper alternatives that are inexhaustible.

That's not to say that the alternatives are affordable, just that they're less expensive than the tar sands.

Whether or not we can afford any of the alternatives remains to be seen. Of course, the other alternative is a retreat from civilization, so let's hope that we actually do figure out a way to pay for all of this....



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