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Comment Plasma: better picture, worse choice (Score 1) 202

It's clear to me that plasmas give better quality image but I still choose LCD. The plasma issue of burn-in is the main worry but they're also more power hungry and heavy too. Plasmas easily beat LCDs for black levels, colour accuracy, response time and viewing angles but LCDs are good enough. Even if my kids didn't spend hours playing video games I know somehow there would be burn-in and then I'd want to buy a new set ... which is just a waste. Plasma being the losing technology is not all down to marketing.

Comment Cars Float, Submarines Sink (Score 2) 91

The fundamental engineering problem here is that cars float and submarines sink. Ballasting that car with enough weight so it's close to neutrally buoyant will ensure it performs nothing like a sports car on the road. This is the kind of issue that made lead acid batteries such a great choice for submarines in the first place.

The best approach is going to involve minimising the volume where water is excluded, i.e., ensuring that as much of the vehicle is flooded by water as possible when it dives. At least, as a sports car, the interior is very small so they may have a chance of making it work.

Comment Re:Latency, latency, latency! (Score 1) 445

Just because a file is shared with Dropbox doesn't mean that accesses involve a network round-trip to their servers. The files are still stored locally (on an SSD if you have one) and only synchronised when a change is made on another machine. Dropbox is not the same as a Windows "network drive" over SMB/CIFS or Linux NFS.

Comment Re:This shouldn't be necessary (Score 2) 262

Apparently the trick in progress here is that people already gave their email to someone else, namely their service provider. The legal logic is that this borks their expectation of privacy, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katz_v._United_States from 1967. One might hope SOTUS will revisit their decision in the light of the current state of technology but until they do you're stuck relying on legislative protect rather than constitutional.
Australia

Submission + - Facebook Won't Take Down Undercover Cop Page in Australia (abc.net.au)

jaa101 writes: "Facebook has refused a request from Australian police to take down a page with details of undercover police vehicles saying saying it cannot stop people taking photos in public places. The original story is at http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/facebook-page-reveals-details-of-unmarked-police-cars/story-e6frf7kx-1226499939251 (paywall) but it doesn't give a link to the relevant page which seems to be at https://www.facebook.com/pages/VIC-Undercover-Police-Cars/131769163636069?ref=ts&fref=ts . This page for the state of Victoria has 12000 likes but a similar page for the state of Queensland has over 34000 at https://www.facebook.com/pages/QLD-undercover-police-cars/173981759325151?ref=ts&fref=ts and there are other Australian pages too."
Apple

Submission + - Apple kicks Java out of browsers in OSX update (foxnews.com)

SternisheFan writes: "An Apple update released Wednesday removes the Java browser plug-in in all Mac-compatible browsers. The move puts even more daylight between Apple and Oracle, as the latter struggles with security flaws and the former seeks to eliminate its dependence on crucial software updates from third parties. Apple's update came one day after Oracle issued its own Java patch. That's a much better turnaround time than earlier this year when Oracle issued a patch in February 2012 that Apple didn't push out until April. Users who update will need to reinstall Oracle's version of Java if they wish to run Java applets in their browser. But for the majority of Internet users, the update will go unnoticed.
    In fact, many security experts and blogs suggest that users who don't use Java on a regular basis disable it in their browsers or uninstall it altogether. This mitigates the risk of infection from malicious applets that seek to infect, harm or control victims' machines."

Comment Not Really Freefall (Physics Lesson) (Score 3, Informative) 192

Freefall strictly speaking means 9.8m/s/s which, after 228 seconds, multiplies out to 5000mph. That's an order of magnitude more than Baumgartner's speed. Wikipedia explains:

"The example of a falling skydiver who has not yet deployed a parachute is not considered free fall from a physics perspective, since they experience a drag force which equals their weight once they have achieved terminal velocity (see below). However, the term "free fall skydiving" is commonly used to describe this case in everyday speech, and in the skydiving community."

Still, terminal velocity for a human at sea level is about 120mph which is 4.5 times slower than the quoted 536mph. Taking the square root gives an atmospheric pressure 2.1 times less than normal which translates to him popping the 'chute at about 25,000. Actually he had a pressure suit which would probably slow him down so it could have been higher than that.

Microsoft

Submission + - Microsoft Pushes Skype with Windows Update

jaa101 writes: "Came in this morning to find many of our corporate boxes sporting shiny new Skype installations. Looks like they've been pushed by Microsoft. We have a WSUS server so the administrators of that may have overlooked something. There's discussion at http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-GB/winserverwsus/thread/74a93b2b-e820-40ef-a45d-2815b57d164e with Microsoft claims that they only pushed if there was a Skype installation there already ... and refutations. Maybe our SoE had something in it that fooled the updater but the affected machines had nothing like a working Skype.
Was Microsoft running short of Skype supernodes? I guess it's likely to slow down Windows machines with unwanted services and use plenty of unwanted traffic for both home and corporate users. And these will be people who haven't agreed to the Skype ToS! We're using XP but probably Vista and 7 are affected too. Please Microsoft, release a new update to remove these unwanted installations."

Comment Re:JPL impact risk table (Score 3, Informative) 119

Since we can predict the next (2013) close approach very accurately we're very confident it will be a miss. Therefore that approach doesn't rate a mention in the table.

The trouble comes in that, while we know the 2013 approach distance will be greater than 0km from the surface (>6400km from the centre) there's still some uncertainty. The earth is massive and the close approach will cause a relatively large change in the orbit of DA14. The size of the change is inversely proportional to the square of the approach distance. Thus even a small uncertainty for 2013 results in a large uncertainty for subsequent approaches. Celestial billiards at work.

Comment Everyone Must Understand the Voting Process (Score 5, Insightful) 218

In my view an important property of any ballot is that the great majority of people must be able to understand the whole process. That's the only way for people to have confidence that there's a reasonable chance of detecting and preventing rigging. It also rules out pretty well any form of electronic voting. Internet security involves very serious maths that very few people can handle.

Around here we still write numbers in squares on pieces of paper and drop them in the ballot box. It works. The cost is tiny compared to the cost of government. I just can't see the advantages of more automation being worth the risk.

People might think it weird that an IT guy would have this luddite view but I think, on the contrary, I'm better placed than most to know what could go wrong.

Comment Re:Offshoring (Score 3, Interesting) 116

It doesn't sound like this falls into the offshoring category to me. Since the military is involved I guess they demanded the source to assure themselves that there were no backdoors. It doesn't seem an unreasonable step for any government (even/especially in the US) to take before using your software in a security context.

The fun is in considering what recourse Symantec has. If they didn't have some really expensive penalty clause in the non-dislosure agreement that will have been involved here they'll be kicking themselves right now. They'll also be wishing they gave themselves some way to identify the source of the leak. Their smart move would have been to insert some minor changes, e.g., to indentation or comments, to make each version released to third parties unique and therefore traceable.

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