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Comment Re:Big inequalities (Score 1) 904

What happens when enough old people are gazillionaires that they basically set policy (answer: I doubt it will be to the benefit of the young)

You mean that old people don't basically set policy already (at least in the U.S.)? Up until recently any politician who even breathed a word implying that Social Security or Medicare benefits would be reduced, or even held constant, could count on getting kicked to the curb.

The Baby Boomers and their parents have saddled their children and grandchildren with a crushing debt while enjoying the benefits of shifting a bunch of spending from the future to the present. In my opinion it's time for them to start repaying the piper.

Comment No time travel needed (Score 1) 624

Perhaps I was lucky, but I did read the top three books I'd recommend as I was starting my first job:

1. Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment, W. Richard Stevens. This was influential in teaching me what clean functional programming interfaces look like, and hopefully the code I've developed since then has lived up to that ideal.

2. Network Programming in the UNIX Environment, W. Richard Stevens. Much the same as the first title, but in some ways illustrating programming interfaces that tackle more complex/flexible situations.

3. Writing Solid Code. Steve Maguire. Fifteen years later I still daily use a few of the ideas presented in the title. However it also served to show me the ugliness of some programming conventions (e.g. Hungarian Notation and StudlyCaps()) and led me to avoid those practices in my own code when I have a choice (i.e. when not having to conform to the style of existing code).


Submission + - Physicists Turn a Single Atom Into a Mirror (

sciencehabit writes: Physicists have fashioned a mirror from a single atom. The advance might lead to an atom-sized transistor for light, and experts say it bodes well for broader efforts to shrink optical elements to the nanometer scale. Such an optical system could be faster and more efficient than current electronics

Submission + - Mapping the Price of Pot Across the Internet (

Julie188 writes: "You might not have known that you are paying $526 to get buzzed when that same high, same pot, costs $97 in different areas; but this and other important information can now be found, thanks to a site called FloatingSheep and the mashups it posts. FloatingSheep analyzes geocoded data provided by web users to discover stuff that would normally go unseen, like the maps of the price of pot, of business and sex, of religion, bowling alleys, guns, and strip clubs — yes, all in one map. One of the project's founders, Dr. Matthew Zook, says that FloatingSheep is interested in fighting censorship in all its forms, not just the state-sponsored kind but also "soft censorship or citizen censorship. I'm thinking of things such as the editing wars that can break out in Wikipedia (or rating websites like Trip Advisor) in which less prevalent opinions/viewpoints have a tougher time being heard.""

Submission + - Meet the designer of China's deep-sea sub (

An anonymous reader writes: You may have heard that China sent a manned research sub down to the ocean deep this summer, marking a personal depth record of 5000 meters (next year it will aim for a world record of 7000 meters). Here's a story about the sub based on an interview with its designer in Wuxi, China. It's got some interesting new details: The designer had never actually seen a submersible before he set out to build the deepest diving research sub in the world; all the stuff he's built before has ended up in warehouses because the Chinese government only funded technological development, not use.

Comment Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (Score 5, Interesting) 66

BIOS does actually very little these days. The OS re-initializes most devices anyway on boot

Well, actually being a BIOS developer, I can state with absolute confidence that you're wrong about BIOS doing very little these days.

The BIOS these days takes care of an incredible amount of work, such as detecting, training, testing, and configuring RAM, initializing the CPU state on many cores, configuring the interconnect between processors (QPI on some recent Intel processors, HT on AMD), setting up system memory maps, probing and setting up the entire IO fabric, building tables (e.g. ACPI) that fully describe every nitty-gritty aspect of the system to the OS, make your USB keyboard and mouse functional for ancient OSes, work around problems in hardware, have small drivers for accessing myriad devices for reading blocks from boot devices, in the case of EFI/UEFI manage options for boot ordering as well as bazillions of basic system settings, actually implementing each and every one of those bazillion settings, handle all sorts of hardware abstractions in the form of BIOS/EFI calls, manage and configure IO BARs, provide code to handle all sorts of potential correctable (and sadly sometimes uncorrectable) hardware errors, in some cases provide disaster fallback paths if you manage to corrupt the main BIOS image, in the case of EFI provide a runtime environment for pre-OS applications, etc. -- and do all of this with absolutely nothing underneath it other than hardware. If you think this is "very little", I'd encourage you to find a job developing BIOS code, and I think you'd be overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of the codebase in a modern BIOS. Just the source code trees these days push a fair bit over the 100MB level. Seriously.

Having also worked on OSes and kernel-level device drivers, it is true that the OS re-initializes a fair bit of the hardware, but not nearly the level of hardware the BIOS initializes (have fun trying to re-train RAM or reconfigure the CPU interconnect, for example). If anything the trend has been toward the BIOS taking on greater and greater responsibility for device initialization and provision of runtime services to make the OS less aware of "quirks" in the hardware. That's not to say there isn't a ton of work the OS still has to do, but your statement vastly over-trivializes the role of the BIOS in modern machines.

Comment Re:Ugh, I unfortunately am a Minnesotan. (Score 1) 345

It is complete nonsense to try to tie the 35W bridge collapse to the current administration, and your rhetoric attempting to do so comes up short

Let's see -- there is known to have been a design deficiency in the original bridge that could lead to catastrophic failure if a single component fails, i.e. the "fracture critical" design.

The fracture critical component which failed which led to the collapse had been inspected on previous occasions, but the failure was not detected in those inspections. It is not that the inspection was not done, but that the failure in progress was not noticed by the engineering firm which performed the inspection. As best I've ever heard this firm was not a slipshod outfit, though obviously their inspection methodology missed this particular point.

Explain to me again how this is a failure of the Minnesota executive branch? Explain to me again how this is attributable to holding the line on tax issues?

For perhaps the first time in my life I've seen an elected official stick to what they promised when running for office. The governor did _exactly_ what he promised he would do when he originally ran, admittedly shifting certain expenses onto those who make direct use of certain state services. Not only this, but after doing so he was re-elected during a time when the gloss was off the Republican apple, in a traditionally very Democratic-party friendly state. So the voters re-confirmed that yes, they liked how he was handling taxation issues, and that he should stay the course.

So, pick your poison: an elected official who keeps their word (or at least the spirit of it), or one who promises one thing and then does another once elected. I may or may not agree with a politician, but if they keep their word at least I know with certainty what to expect of them.

And one final thought -- I recently looked into relative taxation and spending rates between the various states. The information I could readily find indicated that Minnesota was about 6th highest in taxation, and about 12th highest in spending, per capita for each stat. Draw what conclusions you will, but this indicates to me that the state has both a spending problem, and an even more significant taxation problem, relative to other states. I find it difficult to fault the current governor for opposing overall tax increases when I see relative rankings such as this.

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