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Comment Re:Fuel tax? (Score 1) 500

The idea of a mileage tax comes up fairly regularly. It's never been clear to me that it would be any more effective at reducing travel by car, pollution, etc., than an increase in the fuel tax. And the technology to implement a mileage tax (basically, an in-car GPS receiver and telemetry device) raises some significant privacy concerns. Some might argue that all-electric vehicles should not escape paying taxes; but going to a carbon tax would address that.

I wrote a longer blog post on this back in 2009:

Comment Fit the Method to the Need (Score 1) 371

Having looked at this for my business, as well as for personal stuff, I think the first thing to think about, for each category of document, why you need to save it, and how you are likely to use it. For things that you are required to save, like tax documents, I am not sure that electronic storage is sufficient -- you may need the paper. On the other hand, keeping the paper doesn't mean you have to work with the paper. Scan them, by all means, and use your electronic files as an index. I have a regular-size filing cabinet with hanging folders (by year for tax info, for example), which I very rarely look into. For other things that you may keep for reference, electronic records may be fine. And some stuff, like old utility bills, is probably not worth keeping at all.

Comment Re:Don't know why - but I like it (Score 1) 2288

I use metric (SI) units all the time for science and engineering work, and would probably go crazy if I had to use imperial units, but there is a good point here. Many of the customary imperial units do feel more intuitive, or comfortable. Of course, there is a very good reason for this -- they were, in some cases, based on human measurements in some way. It's called a "foot" for a reason. I'm not a big person by modern standards, but my left foot is within ~1/8 inch of being one foot long. The second joint of my little finger is almost exactly one inch. I suspect this kind of thing is one reason (in addition to habit, of course) that these units "feel" more acceptable.

Comment Some resources ... (Score 2) 225

Here are a few resources that might be useful:

1. The Today in Science listing of birth and death dates of scientists, and notable events. (For example, today is the anniversary of the publication of Einstein's paper on General Relativity, Die Grundlagen der allgemeinen Relativitästheorie.

2. Interactive science simulations from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

3. Science news articles at, New Scientist, and Technology Review.


Submission + - Happy Pi Day

CmdrTaco writes: "Just wanted take a break to wish everyone a Happy Pi Day. It's 3/14, so I hope you are all enjoying your day off, and remember not to bother checking your mailbox."

Comment WTF? (Score 1) 794

the Clark County Registrar says that when voters choose English instead of Spanish, Reid's Republican opponent, Sharron Reid's name is checked by default.

This is so screwed up it's not even wrong. Why on earth should there be any default selection on the ballot? And why should the language have anything to do with it? It sounds like Clark County needs some new election officials, after they finish tarring and feathering the current ones.

Comment I've had my copy for 40 years (Score 4, Insightful) 128

And I have found it to be invaluable reference. It's not a textbook; it assumes you basically know the math, but just need to check the details. One other feature, quite handy for programmers of quantitative applications: it has approximations for many functions (e.g., the cumulative normal density function), with notes on their accuracy and range of applicability.

Comment A Very Good Survey (Score 3, Informative) 467

If what you are looking for is a way to get your mind back into "math mode", I'd suggest one book that I have used, both to refresh my memory and to read for pleasure since I was an undergrad ~40 years ago. It's called What is Mathematics?, by Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins, in the 2nd edition (which I have).

There is a new edition, edited by Ian Stewart, which Amazon has:
What is Mathematics?

I like the book because it is geared to an intelligent adult reader; it doesn't assume much technical math knowledge, but it gives (IMHO) an excellent overview of the concepts through calculus. It has exercises, too.

Comment Re:Security... anyone heard of it? (Score 1) 187

RTFA: "The photo gets sent to the bank through its mobile application. In most cases, funds are in the customers account immediately."

Soon to come- android and iphone customers are bombarded with spam containing the pictures of check of large amounts, "to be deposited and wired back to us for a 10% check cashing fee". None of which are any good.

Comment Re:I don't think this story is very accurate (Score 1) 97

Find a single piece of other evidence in the article.

Are you serious? "dog's blood that was found both on him and at the attack site.[...]When they arrested Johnson nearby they found he was covered in blood[...]We did not have excellent ID evidence [suggesting that they had some id evidence, but did not want to rely on it excusively][...]The court heard another dog was also used in the attacks [meaning that there was testimony about the attack at the trial]

Yet another high-quality comment.

Comment Re:None (Score 1) 896

Pretty good advice, but the other thing is that you can't get free software to work reliably without multiple layers.

I have XP on my machine.
- Router has hardware based firewall enabled.
- Zone Alarm for outgoing firewall/app control.
- Adblock/Peer Guardian/etc
- Two virus scanners. Two malware scanners.
- Spybot
This all is free and it still only works ~80% of the time.
- Spyhunter (paid for this)
- One other professional app I paid for (no, not Norton or anything typical consumer junk)
The fact is that you need a professional AV and anti-malware/registry locker. The free ones are just not up to the task or updated days or weeks later than they need to be.

- Complete removal of the following from the OS down to the registry/core level:
1: Internet Explorer - my machine throws up "what application should I open this with?"
2: Remote Desktop/Remote Access
3: File Sharing (also remove the relevant parts from the TCP/IP connection)
Plus blocking of FTP and other remote protocols in and out of the machine. If I absolutely have to use it, I'll enable it for those few minutes.

It takes all of that to lock down XP. And that's only if I don't get online and hit a bad site on the web or something that I purposely get caught in.(note - torrent, password cracking, and Online Gaming gold/money sites are nearly 100% infected - avoid like the plague) Secondary are social networking sites and online gaming forums and the like.

Yes, this means you really should be using the net for work and a few specific applications you know are secure. Pretty much common sense. No AV in the world will help you if you start going to astalavista or other crack sites and start clicking links to various sites.

So... What to do?
Upgrading to Windows 7 or ditching it all and getting Apple/BSD or Linux makes a lot of sense if for no other reason than it's so new that the botnets haven't have time to adjust and are still going mostly after the biggest installed target group of users. They're not much more secure but they are a lot less likely to be targeted, which is something I guess...

It stinks but XP is going to be no longer supported at all in a couple of years, tops, and then the entire industry will abandon it and stop keeping the AV and firewall software as up to date. So changing now to something else is probably the best course of action if this really bothers you.
(myself I don't keep anything I can't replace on this machine so I don't care...)

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"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman