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Comment Re:paper (Score 2, Interesting) 107

Even with screens of excellent quality, I prefer a book-like format to my computer for reading. The computer screen locks me into one posture, one particular lighting set-up, and a very narrow range of viewing distances. With a book, I can easily vary all of these conditions even as I read, and I find that I do so, constantly. I might spend an evening reading for pleasure (currently re-reading LOTR). But I'm changing my position, or the angle of the book to the lighting, or how far I'm holding it from my face almost constantly.

If I spend an hour working up a spreadsheet or editing a web page then go outside, it takes several minutes for my acuity to return to normal: things are a little blurry until my eyes adjust from the fixed conditions of the computer work to rapidly shifting focus between the path at my feet and the mountains miles away. That period of adjustment doesn't happen when I'm reading for pleasure, and I think its because I'm not locking myself into tight constraints on posture, etc, when I'm reading a book.

I'm thinking that I might see ebook hardware that I would like as much as deadtree books in the next 10 to 20 years, but we aren't there yet.

Comment Re:Error response (Score 1) 724

Try pulling the ram, cleaning the fingers, and reinserting.

Back in the day of discrete memory chips, a common cure for all kinds of flakey problems was to use thumb pressure to reseat every chip on the board. Thermal creep would cause them to work loose in their sockets. You could feel the scrunch of a loose chip under your thumb, and often enough that got the machine back in working order.

Comment Re:Memtest not perfect. (Score 1) 724

Well, if you open up the Faraday cage and then expose the running machine to random RF interference, yeah, you will see more memory errors and other flakey behavior.

If you run memtest86 with the computer plugged into a well grounded outlet AND THE CASE CLOSED and you may find that you see a lot fewer "memory problems".

Comment Re:Memtest not perfect. (Score 2, Interesting) 724

I run memtest86 overnight (12+ hrs) as a routine part of the initial evaluation of a sick machine. Occasionally it finds errors after several hours that were not present on a single pass test. The last instance was a few months ago: a single stuck bit in one of the progressive pattern memory tests that only showed up after 4+ hours of repetitive testing. Replacing that mem module cured WinXP of a lot of weird flakey behavior involving IEv7 and Word.

The overnight memtest86 runs have only kicked out errors that were not found on single pass testing maybe 3 or 4 times in the last 10 years. But it happens.

Comment Re:How old? (Score 1) 432

Oh, yeah, I remember those days, now that you mention it. Back when Windows 3.1 was the only way to fly, I was constantly tweaking my desktop. Then with W4W (win311), I had pretty much outgrown that. I skipped the Win95 circus, kept Win98 in default configuration because I was doing a lot of support for newbies then, and did pretty much the same for winXP.

I finally completed a two year long switch to Ubuntu last Summer. I haven't yet done much with the desktop, other than some minor explorations between Gnome and KDE. I like Gnome: it isn't as cluttered with bells and whistles. KDE has a lot of pretty time sinks that I can't afford.

I like the concept of having virtual desktops ("workspaces") available just a Ctrl-Alt-<arrow> away, but I haven't yet made much use of this extended real estate. I'd be interested in hearing how others are using this space.

Comment Re:hilarious (Score 1) 143

Following is much too long. I'm worried about tl;dr but I haven't had sufficient coffee to figure out how to condense this.

I don't know whether it was parent post's intention, but a sudden insight flashed through my head that government could require a safety recall on operating systems that <strike>have defective security by design</strike> are hosts to huge botnets.

It could be a tiered recall, where IT departments of hospital networks and similar high risk environments are required to participate (or face felony charges of criminal negligence) while the recall would be voluntary for individuals who use the OS for games. A middle tier would allow some business use of the operating system under strict safeguards, with those who violate the safeguards facing misdemeanor charges of negligence.

The company producing the defective OS would be responsible for providing a safe alternative and basic training in its use and maintenance.

The government could indemnify, on a time-limited basis, the OS producer from violation of free open source software licensing agreements, so that the company could immediately replace its defective OS with any of the available secure FOSS products to meet the recall requirements. The indemnification could be set to last only until the company had a certifiably secure OS of its own, and could applied only to the use of FOSS in meeting the recall requirements. The company would not be able to make a dime off of FOSS use.

This would be disruptive to hospitals, fire stations, and police precincts that are currently relying on an OS that would be recalled. But it is less disruptive than having those institutions compromised and robbed of their data, or sabatoged. Also it is the IT departments of these institutions who failed to use due diligence in choosing their operating systems, so the costs of the disruptions would be brought to their rightful owners. The normal political processes of institutions and agencies would assure that adequate attention would be given to the long term risks of defective designs in the future.

This would obviously be disruptive to the corporation that released the defective software, but it would not destroy that corporation. It would certainly change its focus, requiring it to provide more service (training and support in the use of the replacement OS) and crippling its marketing strategies, but that of itself is probably not a bad thing. Since it would be indemnified against the short term (probably around 5 years) violation of FOSS licenses in the recall process, it should be able to survive. To my knowledge, all current operating system developers that would be affected by this kind of recall have been boasting that they have enough cash on hand that they could weather this kind of recall.

There would be numerous secondary benefits from this as well, such as a great deal of skilled attention to fitting proprietary software to a FOSS base, a great deal of exposure and training to FOSS, the reduction in costs of malware removal and protection, greater data security for everyone, and so on.

While this would not directly remove any of the current botnet threats, I don't realistically see any way that would be possible. So long as OS designs with defective security are being used extensively, those threats are not going to go away. Instead we should look for ways to quickly force the change from defective OSs to secure OSs, and begin by focusing on those areas where the risks are highest.

A government recall program, similar to what was used in the 1960s to guide the automotive industry into designing safer vehicles, is one approach to this kind of problem that we know can work.

Comment Re:Near light speed? (Score 1) 138

Parent post almost has it right. And is close enough for nearly any high school or undergraduate work.

There is a difference between weight and mass. Mass is intrinsic to the object being measured; weight has to do with the forces acting upon the object, which is often just the force of gravity, but sometimes involves other forces. And that's the part that parent post misses. Weight has always been a matter of human perception, and most especially of the human capacity to imagine a perception that has not been directly experienced.

Weight has to be defined as the effect an object would have upon the internal human scale at the moment in the question. This is a virtual scale constructed on input from the inner ears, stretch receptors in the skeletal muscles, and other elements of the proprioceptive sense. It has been refined by millions of years[1] of dealing with the very subtle sensations that you feel as the tree limb you are perched is just beginning to break, and other, similar, aspects of arboreal life. Most especially, it has been developed in considerations of whether the limb you are thinking about jumping to would support your weight. For a tree dweller, weight is very much a virtual thing used in thought experiments concerning critical decisions about taking the next step out on this limb, swinging on that vine, or jumping to a different tree. The concept of weight is strongly connected to the ability to perform thought experiments and other "what if" visualizations.

Weight is a very important concept to get right, or you lose historical continuity and trans-cultural meaning. If you think of it only in terms of mass and force, you will not understand the reasoning that developed the first trebuchets, and you will have more difficulty in communicating with persons of foreign cultures than you otherwise would. Such as persons from non-literate cultures who are highly skilled in maintaining oral traditions. Or girls who are taking the History of Art sequence.

We do weigh more when the elevator accelerates upward: we feel that. If you could lift the Greenbird off the ground when it was parked and again when it was moving at high speed, you would notice its increase in weight. And that kind of thought experiment is trans-cultural and easily done by any human of any time period. So weight is not only perfectly cromulent in this usage, its usage conveys more information to a wider audience (both across cultures and across time) than any talk of mass or forces would.

Of course we need to make allowances for those who were raised in the metric system, which is deficient for having no distinct measure of weight. They have to make do with what they've got, and too frequently have to try to describe the mechanisms of perceptual psychology (like weight) with measurements developed for the narrow fields of chemistry and physics. Their loss.

[1]Or if you prefer, we were designed 6,000 years ago and constructed with all the techniques of antique fakery so that it looks like we have been around for millions of years.

Comment Re:Crap (Score 1) 138

s/ton/tonne/; # makes it right with the story.

"Tonne" is, I believe, always metric: 1000 kg (aprox 2,200 lb, or 1.1 ton (or 1.0 long ton).

This is almost the weight of half a cord of seasoned oak firewood, or half a cord of green fir. Which has only a chewbackan meaning in this context. But it does leaven the pedantry a bit.

Need more coffee...

Comment Re:Interleave the Loops (Score 1) 115

One property of a mobius ring is that if the ribbon is cut along its length, it falls apart into two interlocked loops, each new ring passing through the hole in the middle of the other (two rings simply linked together).

No! No! No!

That is, you're doing it wrong.

When cutting a a mobius ring parallel to its edge, the first cut produces a single loop twice as big as the original, with a full twist (so it is no longer a mobius ring). If you cut THAT parallel to its edges, then you end up with the two interlocked loops.

Try it. Go ahead, give it the old empirical test.

Comment Re:shopping cart, anyone? (Score 1) 571

The Tata is so small and light, power steering is unnecessary. You don't need power steering on a motor scooter, and a Tata is more comparable to a motor scooter than to any car that's legal in the USA. I base this on my experience with my first car, which was a beat up 1960 VW with a 36 hp engine.

Other posts talk about the Tata adding to pollution by enabling more people to drive. That is a silly argument. The Tata is aimed at the emerging Indian middle class, who are going to be buying cars no matter what. Providing a car that is designed to perform well in India's urban areas, AND has a low carbon footprint, is a better thing for all of us than any of the alternatives.

Comment Re:Third Party (Score 2, Informative) 785

Let's put out the fire in the attic before we start worrying about cleaning up the combustibles in the car barn.

The RIAA needs to be dealt with... but the only way to get that mess fixed is to replace the DMCA with workable law that fits the current and future engineering realities. Rather than attempting to apply horse and buggy law to SUVs on freeways. This cannot be done through tweaking existing laws. It is a major project.

But right at the moment, the global financial crisis is causing global distribution and production crises, and if those are not addressed immediately, then by November there will be famines, pestilence, and wars. There are only a few short weeks left to get things to the point where the American farming industry can get the loans it needs for Spring planting... and if fields end up going fallow for want of loans for plowing, seeding, and fertilizing, there will be a food shortage of global proportions. The last thing any of us would then be worried about would be revising copyright law.

Obama's Administration is required to do certain things to uphold even the bad laws, until they are changed. We can hope that their defense of DMCA is inadequate (without being blatantly illegal).

Comment Re:Third Party (Score 1) 785

Of course the alternative is total meltdown in 2009.

So far, things are on track so that credit will ease up in time for the loans that the American farming industry depends on to pay for planting their crops. But if things had been allowed to stand as they were on Jan 1, those loans would not be possible and a lot of acreage would go fallow. If that were allowed to happen, the financial crisis would become a food shortage crisis by November. Coupled with collapses of other industries*, this would push the world toward famine, pestilence, and war.

*An example we're not hearing anyone talk about: roughly 10% of the world wide container fleet is now idle, in mothballs (390+ vessels or 9% a month ago). The crews for those ships (including the captains, navigators, and other specialists) are finding other ways to make a living. When the economy does turn around, it is going to take more than a year to get all those ships operational again. The problem is worse for the more specialized freighters: the automobile carriers, the grain ships, etc.

Comment Re:Third Party (Score 1) 785

Now is a good time to work toward a third party, while the Republican machine is down for repairs. There are a lot of moderate Republicans who are worried that Rush might really be the current head of the Party, and that the Dittoheads, Religious Reich, and the Neocon Fascists have damaged the Republican Party to the point where it would be better to start over than to try to surgically excise the corrupted parts and repair the damages.

A new party more moderate than the Libertarian hard core but based on the same principles of reason would attract a lot of interest from disenfranchised Republicans, who are legion. Do it right, and it would attract a fair number of Democrats, too.

The last time this country had an effective political party based on conservative reason was before Reagan embraced the conservative emotions of the evangelical Christians. Now in addtion to that group, the Republican machine must also accommodate the conservative elitism of the neocons and the conservative unthinking patriotism of the dittoheads. It is too much; the center cannot hold against so much divisiveness.

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