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Comment This is why I switched to OpenSuse (Score 4, Insightful) 255

Ubuntu was at one time an appealing alternative to Windows. I had it running on a desktop and laptop at home, and at least one VM at work ran Ubuntu. It just worked. But the minute they came up with this Unity dashboard thing, it broke the familiar UI and as far as I'm concerned, tweaking Ubuntu to make it usable again to myself and my users became more effort than it was worth.

Meanwhile, Suse has plowed ahead with a record of pretty consistent, solid distributions. Fedora's been pretty good as well, but once I got Suse I just got used to the Suse way of doing things and didn't look back.

Yeah, I miss how Ubuntu can locate printers very reliably on the network, while I have to manually plug in the IP addresses in YaST, but that's not a show stopper. What is a showstopper is when I can't find basic stuff like the calculator because it's been moved from a simple accessories pulldown menu and hidden in some goofy app picker.

This ad thing is merely more fuel on the fire. I don't get what those people are thinking. I guess they have to keep pushing the envelope, looking for ways to monetize their product and keep growing, but I would have thought they'd do better by just making it the easiest and most affordable alternative there is to Windows. Anyway -- R.I.P. Ubuntu!

Comment Re:Fact Checking! (Score 1) 757

People with expertise in the field seem to disagree. Every recent source I've read confirms that North America has huge gas reserves.

An article entitled "The Oil Industry's Deceitful Promise..." written by a journalist in an anti-industry blog hardly constitutes an authoritative source.

Comment Seriously, what can we do? (Score 5, Insightful) 757

Apart from having a national Open-Your-Freezer day to cool things down [joke], what realistically can be done? We can't impound all fossil-fuel burning vehicles. We can't shut down the coal electric plants. We can't stop China and other developing regions from buying hundreds of millions of cars and refrigerators and electronics.

The random environmentally conscious person may trade in her Explorer or Accord for a Toyota Prius and feel nice and self-righteous about it, but has she truly helped the environment? The amount of energy expended to manufacture that Prius, and to dispose of that older vehicle (or merely to pass it on to another driver who'll use it for ten more years) far exceeds the trivial few barrels of oil per year that it conserves. Long term, sure, if we were all driving electric hybrids or pure electrics, we'd be generally reducing atmospheric carbon content, assuming the electric plants weren't making up for it by burning more coal and oil. (If we all switched to bicycles, an argument could be made, but of course our economy would all but shut down.)

So what can we do other than wring our hands and worry fruitlessly? Well for one thing, we can at least maximize our efficiency which in the U.S. is pretty easy because we're so wasteful. An engineer famously observed that California's rolling blackouts a few summers ago could have been prevented had they merely painted white the roofs of all public buildings in that state.

Technology is gradually solving these problems, without particular government intervention and sometimes despite such intervention. For example, solar panels are coming down in price, led by the increasingly dominant Chinese manufacturers. You know it's happening because American panel manufacturers are demanding an anti-dumping injunction. At the same time, a variety of new solar-to-electric technologies are in the pipeline, ranging from spray-on applications to bendable and foldable sheets, to bandwidth-specific crystals, to 3-D blocks that are more efficient per area, and on and on. DARPA is experimenting with 50% efficiency solar cells.

Ultimately, most homes and commercial buildings can and should have some form of solar on the roof; as costs of building these features into new construction or retrofitting them to existing structures fall, it will make enough economic sense that it will happen all by itself, and peak demand for electricity will fall even as demand for storage batteries and fuel cells and solar panel equipment skyrockets (now you know where to invest your money).

The other big trend is the availability of cheap natural gas from fracking, which is driving the construction of new gas electric plants and gas-heating in homes. Fuel oil is expensive; gas is dirt cheap. The simple economics will force a mass conversion to this relatively clean and cheap power source.

Ultimately, we will diversify away from reliance mostly on fossil fuels to a mixture of about half fossil and half clean. The impact this will have on the atmosphere is not fully understood, however, and probably would take decades to be observed. Nonetheless, in the latter half of the 21st Century we can expect to have cleaner skies, at least. If we can actively foster reforestation across the Americas and Asia, and if we can somehow reduce the pollution of the oceans which is killing the plankton that furnish most of our oxygen, we may long term reverse the CO2 increase and perhaps eventually this will drive down temperatures.

Or, maybe these climatic changes have little to do with human activity and nature will simply take its course, regardless of what we do. But at least we should, in my opinion, un-do some of the obvious damage we're causing and optimize conditions for a healthier planet.

My other pet solution is to push a trillion ton block of ice out of Saturn's orbit and dump it onto the North Pole, which might buy us a couple extra decades at least.

Comment Re:No! (Score 1) 358

But controlled fusion is quite different, and a lot more difficult than, uncontrolled fusion. Otherwise, we'd long since have fusion power plants up and running.

I do agree it's a shame that the first and foremost use of this power is military applications. But, it's the old story. If we didn't do it, they would, and then we'd be nothing but ashes.

We're making progress, at least. I wonder whether we could be making faster progress if we were throwing more money at the research. Perhaps. But there are only so many nuclear physicists out there, and only so many brilliant engineers who come up with these amazing systems for controlling and containing the fusion reaction.

Sometimes discoveries just happen randomly, too; you can't necessarily rush the process.

Comment Take your phone to the bathroom! (Score 5, Funny) 630

Better than unionizing -- just take your wireless headset to the toilet. You can stay on your calls, and there can be an LCD monitor in the stall if you need to reference information, read from a script, check your Facebook page, etc.

At the end of a particularly annoying call, the sound of a toilet flushing would be entirely appropriate, too!

Comment Re:Breathless summary by the clueless (Score 1) 734

It seems that you misunderstood the OP, and you don't understand his criticism of the summary. Since it's already been discussed ad nauseam I won't rehash it. You also appear to have a very narrow and limited set of experiences upon which to draw. I suggest you read more widely, and try addressing the issues rather than this kind of tedious, line by line rebuttal that misses the basic point. This is what I get for trying to argue with a geek, I suppose.

Arizona is tolerant in a different way than New York City or Cambridge, Mass., are tolerant. The latter places enforce a top-down, one-size-fits-all kind of tolerance, while the Westerners simply leave each other alone. There are mixed race couples all over the place in Phoenix, for example. There are certainly conservative pockets where LBGT types might not feel too welcome, such as the Mormon or fundamentalist communities, but there's very little in the way of violence against them that's ever reported. It's possible they experience job discrimination and such, though; I don't know, not being one, and not being in touch with their community.

Comment Re:Breathless summary by the clueless (Score 1) 734

It's interesting people take the view that in the bad old days, children weren't taught numeracy and literacy. Yet, a couple of generations back, people learned much better reading, writing, and speaking skills, as well as solid basic math skills. We are living in a post-literate age.

Comment Re:Breathless summary by the clueless (Score 1) 734

At last, an honest and courageous view from someone in the trenches of academia.

You could also mention the official speech codes that several major universities tried to implement, the growing anti-Semitism and laser beam focus on boycotting and divesting from Israel, the intolerance displayed by students toward anyone who doesn't fit their mold, the institutionalized leftism.

Universities have always been rather oppressive, actually, but today it seems some of them have really gone over the deep end.

Comment Re:Breathless summary by the clueless (Score -1) 734

And this is why the left in the US is completely being clobbered by the right. Too often insults, redefinitions and logical fallacies by the conservatives are met by "well, if I can figure out what they're really saying, we can maybe come to an agreement" by what amounts to the left. In other words, they're being nice in response to what is basically bullying.

Here's the problem: anyone who argues like the initial poster is not looking for a rational discourse, for an enlightening discussion, or even for a solution to a problem. They are merely looking to get enough people onto their side.

Definitely read up on the issue. But don't mistake the original post for an opening in a an honest discussion. It isn't.

No, it's not (why they're being clobbered), and no, they're not (being nice). There is a schism in the U.S. between a more traditionalist approach to governance (what is now labeled conservative) and a neo-statist approach (what is now labeled liberal).

The problem with the left is a lack of humility, and a sense that they know better than the rest of us what's good for us. The left's intellectual foundation is the universities where most social science profs and their students have for four decades or more been left-leaning if not Marxist. Obama represents that tradition; he comes from the ivory tower culture, he thinks of the rural whites as "clinging to their guns and religion", and he brooks no disagreement.

The conservatives take their inspiration from an earlier America when people were slightly more independent and the government was much smaller. Perhaps this is an unrealistic pipedream, but if you spend some time in the Southwest and the western states, except for the Pacific coastal region, you find a persistent culture of leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. Places like Arizona and Oklahoma and Texas (regions I'm most familiar with) are very much this way; they do have pockets of liberalism in the large cities and university towns, of course, but otherwise they are laissez faire free enterprise traditionalists.

The opening post is an expression of anger and frustration at elements of our society who want to reprogram children to be more "open" to their particular world views. Rightly or wrongly, this is what they want whether they admit it or not. Some of our greatest thinkers in decades past came off the farm, grew up going to a one room schoolhouse, spent more time out of doors than in a library, and so forth, yet this didn't seem to hold them back. They developed a uniquely American kind of independent thinking relatively free from the peer pressure of the eastern university environment.

Comment Too bad, it was a good app (Score 2, Interesting) 72

I like Livestand. It's a richer interface than the one-dimensional approach of the classic browser news portal. I wonder if it was costing them too much money to maintain, or not enough ad revenue, or no revenue at all. That part was never clear to me; paging through the app, I don't see much in the way of ads.

I wonder what's happening to Yahoo these days; they seem not to have a clue since about 2003 or so. They were a great portal back in the '90s and I still have them bookmarked for news and weather, and my wife uses their email. They have so much potential; something isn't adding up.

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