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Comment Re:It's almost... (Score 2) 289

No, homez, this isn't anywhere near "early alpha" analogy. This is like saying you're well on your way to producing a written a web server, when in fact what you've built is something which can deliver a single web page to a single client at once, and requires editing of configuration files to deliver another page.

I'm having a hard time understanding comparisons to web servers and a trams. Could you use a car analogy instead?

Mars

Reformatting a Machine 125 Million Miles Away 155

An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Opportunity rover has been rolling around the surface of Mars for over 10 years. It's still performing scientific observations, but the mission team has been dealing with a problem: the rover keeps rebooting. It's happened a dozen times this month, and the process is a bit more involved than rebooting a typical computer. It takes a day or two to get back into operation every time. To try and fix this, the Opportunity team is planning a tricky operation: reformatting the flash memory from 125 million miles away. "Preparations include downloading to Earth all useful data remaining in the flash memory and switching the rover to an operating mode that does not use flash memory. Also, the team is restructuring the rover's communication sessions to use a slower data rate, which may add resilience in case of a reset during these preparations." The team suspects some of the flash memory cells are simply wearing out. The reformat operation is scheduled for some time in September.

Comment Re:This Just In! (Score 4, Insightful) 111

Because you can't have the government competing with them in an area that they might, someday, begin to consider serving.

That's not why. It's because they're afraid of getting shown up.

If you have a bunch of people out in the country getting gigabit internet for $25/month while the city folk are still paying $50/month for 1mbps DSL, it makes AT&T/Verizon look either corrupt or incompetent. It also destroys their argument that they can't provide good Internet in the US because of the low population density.

Comment Re:Rule of thumb (Score 1) 122

My prius was $6500 used. It is a 2006. They only gave me one key, the previous owner had lost one.

With the Prius, the vin number can be used to *create* a new key, but you need the old key as part of the programming sequence to pair the new key with the computer. Can't even boot the computer up without a paired key (really just an RFID tag in the fob, the actual physical key is only good for unlocking the door and cannot boot up the computer). So if all keys are lost, the master computer is effectively bricked. Also, due to the fact that the neutral is engaged only through software and when the computer is off, a steel bar locks the planetary "Synergy Drive" transmission, you need a flatbed tow truck with a very strong winch to drag the car up onto the flatbed if you can't boot the computer up.

There are other interesting design choices. For instance, the rear truck release is only electric. If the 12 volt battery that boots up the computer dies, you have to fold down the rear seats, unload the trunk, open the trunk, remove the tool box, climb in on your belly, reach in a hole blind to pull a lever to push up on the hatchback with your shoulders to open the hatchback so that you can then get to the battery compartment.

Though this has been fixed since, the gear shift lever (really just an analog joystick with 4 positions in a lower case reverse h and a spring to bring it back to center) is non-instinctive, you push it forward to go reverse and back to go forward.

Finally, I think the fuel cap release lever was designed for 5' tall asians, not 6' tall Americans. Even at a measly 5'6", I need to get out of the car to be able to reach it.

Comment Re:Rule of thumb (Score 2) 122

Not quite true. The article likens this to GM bricking a Corvette for losing the keys, but that's exactly what happens to a modern Toyota computer if you lose the last key (cost of replacing a key for my Prius $175. Cost of replacing key + computer $1,275, I checked and that convinced me to spend the $175 for a second key for my used Prius).

Comment Re:Actually I think this ability is extraordinary (Score 1) 5

For contracting, it helps immensely. But something must have changed in the past week. I went from 5 recruiter contacts a week to 35 in the past week. I no longer look for jobs- jobs look for me. (I estimate, from the request numbers, that those 35 contacts represent 18 jobs at 5 companies, including the one I'm currently working at).

Comment Re: A fool and their money (Score 0, Troll) 266

It's very fashionable to decry things we don't understand. Dowsing clearly works; my father called the local dowser in for his house in a remote part of SW Ireland. I watched him walk back and forth across the land, rods twitching, and eventually he hacked his heel down and said to "drill here" and we'd get "water for a family of five and to spare". Drill he did, we dropped down a remote-control DanFoss pump, and sucked on an aquifer that never failed, even in the drought years.

OK, they guy knew all the land thereabouts: he lived locally. Maybe he just knew the exact path of every underground watercourse in the neighborhood, but I doubt it. As a scientist, I want replicability of the observation (no problem here: he and several others do this for a living: no charge unless the water flows), and I'd like an explanation of why (none yet)...but equally I refuse to dismiss a phenomenon simply because it has no explanation yet. If we did that we'd still be living in the dark because we couldn't explain sunlight.

Earth

Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches' 266

merbs (2708203) writes Across drought-stricken California, farmers are desperate for water. Now, many of them are calling dowsers. These "water witches," draped in dubious pseudoscience or self-assembled mythologies—or both—typically use divining rods and some sort of practiced intuition to "find" water. The professional variety do so for a fee. And business is booming. They're just part of a storied tradition of pseudoscientific hucksters exploiting our thirst for water, with everything from cloudbusters to rainmachines to New Age rituals.

Comment Re:Interesting. (Score 1) 126

The question of how and why ideas, 'culture', religions, new scientific hypotheses, etc. are transmitted and compete with one another is really a very long standing one. [. . .]

Cultural transmission is a very solid social science topic, and internet memes have the dual virtues of both potentially being novel(they might actually follow some traditional propagation pattern, might be something new, either way would be interesting to know) and being amenable to large-scale analysis because the internet is just so conveniently searchable and heavily cached in various places.

While a bit dated and somewhat intellectually renegade, Marshall McLuhan has done much to talk about how print fostered literacy (duh) and the transmission of ideas in a stable form across human cultures in The Gutenberg Galaxy (i.e. Gutenberg Bible and the enablement of Christianity as a proselytizing religion with a relatively stable population of "practicing" Christians all "reading" the same text). However, his writing style is a bit mimetic of the illuminated manuscript and he communicates his point in a way that makes sense to scholars of literature and critical theory. McLuhan's work is not your usual dry, codified sociocultural study of the effects of media!

But the above was only a momentary detour on the way to the work of Susan Blackmore who is interested in the evolution of life on Earth and the question of whether life on Earth will make it to the point where it can successfully leave its planet of origin. Her talk is entitled "Memes and 'temes' " (yes, it's a TED talk) and is fascinating in terms of how she thinks about memes and the transmission of ideas in a Darwinian model.

I wonder if the researchers in Indiana have any interest in the area Blackmore stakes out in her talk. Would be great if they did.

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