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Comment Re:So fucking what? (Score 2) 349

I agree. Blackberries are good handsets. No longer state of the art, and they can't play Temple Run (as far as I know :), but I have found them to be superior to Android phones when it comes to doing the basics like making phone calls, taking simple notes, and the like. They're closer to the Palm Pilot PDA approach than are touch-screen smartphones, and they are just made for doing simple PDA tasks very quickly and effortlessly. And it's worth noting that they had NFC in their handsets a couple of years before it became common with Android, and Apple still doesn't offer it (my company writes NFC apps, so we're painfully aware of these things).

We have a bunch of really dated old Blackberries in the lab at work, and I think I'm going to just take one and get it out at the next meeting with vendors, just to see how they react. Actually, a friend pulled out her Nokia candy-bar phone last night at a club, and it just brought back warm memories. You could drop the things and abuse them, and they just worked. Easy peasy. Try handing an elderly relative your Android phone to make a call. I generally just dial the number for them, simpler than explaining how to "bring up the phone app and tap on the left tab" etc.

Comment What about my car? (Score 4, Funny) 116

Maybe if this is successful, Nasa can spin off the technology to earth-bound vehicles as well. I would love to have some robot wander by from time to time and refuel or service my car overnight! You could even have robotic landscapers and robotic Christmas decoration putter-uppers. Really, the possibilities are endless. And, of course, a commercial success with this would help pay for more space exploration.

Comment Re:Should rename these Darwin Viruses (Score 4, Insightful) 129

You still have to deal with typo squatters. If you type instead of or some such you may end up at a phony website designed to phish you.

Fortunately, it seems that the big players have grabbed most of the common typos like, and so forth. But out of millions of sites, there's bound to be plenty of opportunities for a determined script kiddie.

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.

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