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Comment silly words (Score 1) 113

With a small herd of these pet pandasauri—and an enormous harvest of coprolignum—one could well up the Great Wall of China in record time. It would still required great hordes or workers, but the workers would be highly obedient. Anyone who slacks off would have their highly-prized long-handled trowel promptly confiscated. With no hall pass, it's crenellation duty for you. From there it's years fighting your way up the rank just to obtain the corner-pocket edge-finishing tool.

Comment I wank, therefore nothing much (Score 1) 189

Would any consciousness be able to deal with such a relative delay?

Interesting to frame the story in such a way as to bring the existence of human intelligence itself into doubt.

Roger Penrose believes that human creativity is rooted at quantum effects, effects which probably play out at the Planck scale, where the ratio between the Planck scale and the reconfiguration of a single molecular bond in a gathering neurotransmitter pulse likely exceeds the ratio of a CPU cycle to a trans-continental ping.

Shall I continue wanking, or should we put this bizarre speculation to bed?

Comment sanity pre-emption field (Score 1) 158

If I had a time machine and I could visit myself in a past life, but it was even more hemmed in than Twitter—say Morse code at one millibaud—my message to self (circa mid to late 1990s) would be this: Screw games.

Yes, I had a blast playing those games. But then I started making "mixed" decisions in how I set up my system to balance the games I liked to play and the development tools I needed to use. In hindsight, that was nothing but bad mojo. The difficulty of achieving a perfect stack is exponential in the number of interacting constraints.

There are many other things I could tell myself, but in most of the other cases I probably had to learn those lessons the hard way. This one is different. I guess I somehow believed I was just chasing a moving carrot I would catch Real Soon Now and that all the fuss to mate the perfect video card to the perfect driver was a temporary growing pain (along with much else at the time). I was wrong. Nearly two decades later, the carrot remains elusive. DRM amounts to a sanity pre-emption field.

My final stop on the video card wagon was a hardened HD5670 (Redwood) with the open source Linux driver, nearly passive heat pipes and Japanese capacitors. If the software doesn't work with my card, screw the software.

I have mucked a bit with OpenCL. Getting the software development stack to work again after each Linux upgrade cycle bears some resemblance to Mine Sweeper. Sometime in the next decade I'll probably spring for a $60 CGN prime plus plus, just so I don't feel left behind.

Comment pi=3 for the Spandex pigeon (Score 1) 490

Thanks for that lovely rejoinder.

You can't be serious saying it is more dangerous to give way at slow speed versus coming to a complete stop and then having to huff and puff back up to speed, while simultaneously being overtaken with inches to spare by a bunch of impatient motorists because you can't outpace them.

Unfortunately, your typical car driver is all too often dead serious in taking this view. I'm quoting this passage because the issue is more fundamental still.

As my motorcycle driving instructor said so long ago "an intersection is where vehicles intersect". He was no Euclid. That was his only postulate. The corollary he taught, which I took to heart, is "try not to be where vehicles intersect any longer than necessary". He didn't even add an axiom about human binocular vision lacking a faceted lens (this is how Brundlefly checks out the girl flies) or note that the nature of an intersection having four lines of sight is the worst possible configuration concerning the forward brow-ridge skull design. He was no Newton, either.

What does your average barely-competent cyclist do for the first three pedal strokes? It certainly doesn't appear to involve noticing that they've departed from a dead stop in a cruising gear, but then certain forms of cognition are strained when a cyclist is laboriously heaving left, right, left, right, left right to obtain the 30 rpm cadence permitting minimal pelvic-saddle congruence.

Minimal balance, maximal transit time, and poor lane control. What else can we optimize by demanding that cyclists come to a complete stop, rather than entering the danger zone with the inertia of a fast-moving pedestrian?

I was reading about OODA loops the other day, as conceived by USAF renegade-Colonel John Boyle (largely responsible for the F16 and A10 aircraft designs according to his booster camp). In his world coming to a complete stop is called a stall, also known as a clay pigeon, also known as a energy-space cluster fuck.

Stupidity is much the same all the world over.
                  — John Stuart Mill

You know what, fat bubba in your big compensator truck? Having rules that allow the congestion to clear expediently also permits you to get through the intersection more efficiently, without getting any Spandex floss caught between your radiator teeth (typically also a large delay if you even heard the bump). Look it up someday. Expedience is the thinking man's barging ahead, to mutual benefit for one and all.

I had a guy in my motorcycle class who got a broken leg sitting at a red light because the car behind him (closing time) didn't manage to stop in time. He got bumped just enough to drop his giant bike onto his own leg and snapped it good. We were taught to keep an eye on the rear view when stopped at the front of a red light after closing time, with one hand on the throttle to gun it through, if traffic was spotty. If we were going to bite it, we were going to bite it in style.

Pardon my French, but being stopped at the freaking light as a safety measure is so freaking overrated. In a jet fighter you're a clay pigeon. On a motorcycle you're a leather pigeon. On a bicycle you're a Spandex pigeon. On the sidewalk you're a sneaker pigeon. For the drunk, any colouring outside the lines that you can walk away from is a good landing.

I didn't even get into the human eye having rods and cones and being preferentially sensitive to moving objects in 90% of the field of vision.

I personally tend to treat stop signs as "dwell" not "yield". Dwell means having enough time to look a fair distance up the street in both cross direction, twice each way. Then I'm good to go, so far as I'm concerned. Pi legislated to equal 3, bite me.

Comment political calculus on Internet Island (Score 2) 195

That's ironic, because in the 1.x days, the full Seamonkey suite felt less bloated than even Firefox 3.x and hogged far less memory and crashed less.

Firefox 3.x was the apogee of runaway heap allocations. With my usage pattern and plug-ins I was losing 600 MB per day on average. I would have six FF Windows open on half a dozen different desktops, each with 20 to 50 active tabs. When I decided to restart FF because it could no longer keep up with my typing in a textarea box, my session saver would restore all of my FF windows to a pile on a single screen of a single desktop, and then there would be a tab reload storm something fierce. It was a ten minute interruption to get all my windows back to the desktop where they belonged, and FF itself sufficiently quiescent again to promptly enact GUI interactions.

My current FF leaks somewhere on the order of 100 MB/day and when I restart FF, it at least puts all my windows back on the same screen, if not the same desktop, and the tab reload storm is forestalled by lazy loading.

By that point I certainly wasn't sticking with FF because it was sleek or svelte. On the contrary, I was invested deeply enough in my suite of FF add-ons that I decided to tough it out (though rather loudly on the FF bug tracker).

I don't understand why so many outspoken voices on this thread purport to be sanguine about Firefox slipping back to the second or third tier in the absence of Google funding. Has no-one here ever read the red-hating Agatha Christie? Oligopoly, triopoly, duopoly, monopoly.

Each little Indian cut off at the knees substantially alters the political culture and calculus on Internet Island. Firefox is Piggy with the coke bottle glasses. Soon after Piggy's demise, civics aren't much discussed.

Think of Piggy as The First Samurai.

Comment Re:Send us a postcard from Stockholm. (Score 3, Interesting) 329

That was a surprisingly good summary of what I've concluded from my own readings. I guess there are two types of nerds: speedy nerds and slow nerds. Generally what passes for intelligence here is News for Speedy Nerds.

For really short people, you basically have to be obese to be "normal" and for really tall people, you basically have to be emaciated.

I'm in the second group. I'd have to check myself into the Ally McBeal foie gras buffet emporium if I ever got down to the bottom end of my "healthy" BMI bracket using the dumb old formula. I used to weight about that much during my growth spurt, despite devouring large meals between larger meals. Strangers standing beside me in elevators used to worry whether my body could withstand the acceleration, and suggest to me that I eat more. On one work term there was a one-plate lunch buffet restaurant I used to frequent where I discovered the technique of using the sturdy vegetables and lettuce to cantilever the plate's diameter. I was a serious eater, and still I had no shadow.

Here is an equally simplistic BMI that works better at the extremes: Ponderal index. It works for me because I eventually filled out into a "scaled up" normal person with no (recent) African genes for shedding heat.

After taking a closer look I concluded that some individuals are such a bad fit for the regular BMI, the use of BMI in the medical setting with these individuals amounts to borderline malpractice. How many people are taking a cholesterol drug because their BMI factored into their GP's uncritical perception?

Anyone else remember the old expression: garbage in, garbage out? Coefficient 2.0 of the BMI formula needs a serious make-over.


Study: Earthlings Not Ready For Alien Encounters, Yet 453

astroengine (1577233) writes "The people of planet Earth would be wise to raise their cosmic consciousness prior to contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, a new study shows. 'The scientific community now accepts to some degree that this contact may occur in the next 50 to 100 years,' said Gabriel De la Torre, a clinical neuropsychologist and human factors specialist at the University of Cádiz in Spain. 'Consequently, we are becoming more concerned about this possibility and its aftermath Certainly the topic of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations raises a number of questions that are not easy to answer. We estimate that this type of event will have not only a social effect, but also on both consciousness and biology as well.' Although we may not have the necessary social skill set to deal with an encounter of the third kind, scientists or astronauts might make the best candidates for the first alien conversation."

Comment Controversy: just add water and stir (Score 1) 426

Contrary to the story summary, the recipe is not quite that easy. There needs to be at least some effort to disguise the act of speaking our of your ass.

There are seven layers of straw men between this outrageously overblown mathematical quibble and the true nature of human cognition.

Comment the many fragments of infinity (Score 1) 208

He strikes me as being more like David Helfgott and less like Rachmaninoff.

To a large degree in mathematics, infinity is used to invoke the limiting configuration of an unbounded process (where there is always a next step). This isn't precisely the same thing as believing in infinity itself, or any of its many discrete fragments.

Meaning in Classical Mathematics: Is it at Odds with Intuitionism

Comment Shields Down! (Score 3, Interesting) 254

I suspect the majority of the people feel the same way.

Not even close, unless you also think that the majority of people who suffer in silence all fret over the same life issue.

Apathy has at least a dozen different root causes at the level of kingdom and phyla. Some people dislike how their computer turns into a vat of sticky molasses right after the anti-virus software gets installed. They didn't know you need twice as much bare metal to eke out a tolerable user experience once the protective condom—prosthetic cylinder—is superglued onto the pink skin under the hood. When you find a male user whose entire panoply of defences are on the floor (or around his ankles), one suspects the anti-virus software was interfering with a cherished late-night hobby.

The entire anti-virus program was misconceived to begin with. It's not ultimately impossible to write secure code, but it will remain impossible until we've exhausted every other dodge.

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else. — Winston Churchill

Note that by "secure" I don't mean "flawless". A better proxy is that once a flaw is discovered, it takes far longer to work up a successful exploit than it does to fix the problem and test the patch, assuming both lines of development hear the same gun.

I've been reading security threads for at least two decades. There's always someone who pipes up with the view that because the travelling salesman problem is NP-complete, you might as well plan your route by flipping coins. This is the strange and not-so-wonderful archaea kingdom of the apathy tree. Brain the size of a planet, and all these people can manage is to cop a snivel. These people have their edge enhancement (aka paranoia) dialed up so far, the entire universe looks like a chessboard in the movie Tron. I'm guessing that the evolution of intelligent life is also NP-complete, yet somehow it happened. Hard to notice this if your giant brain perceives itself as living on planet Tron.

At the end of the day secure code has no hope of survival in a winner-take-all market with a short little span of attention (winner take all, until it's all siphoned away by a Chinese triad). It probably boils down to prisoner's dilemma—until there's a sea change, and secure code gets the girl.

The answer lies in a systems theory analysis of human mating-instinct time horizons. This is a different difficulty class than NP-complete, founded on the technique of proof by partial induction: well, we're still here.

Comment stumbling over progress (Score 1) 181

It took a long time (ten years?) to get just a basic 32-bit protected mode operating system out to people at large after the hardware (80386) was out.

Double facepalm!! That's one version of the story. In other news, the day after the first Prius was available for sale, there was a global recall on internal combustion engines—the kind of recall where they don't give back.

The hump where protected mode starts to drive real productivity benefit is somewhere above a 486SX/25 with 8 MB of RAM and a 120 MB disk drive. I had a Gateway 2000 laptop exactly like that (monochrome). It even had NetBSD for a few days. Simply not worth it. It had relatively fast video, but not VLB. I didn't even try X Windows.

Later I converted a 486DX/100 with 16 MB of RAM and a 200 MB disk drive into a BSD crash box. That system ran not bad, if you were patient enough. It really could usefully multitask.

Then I upgraded my main system to a P6/200 with 32 MB of RAM (not cheap) and a 640 MB SCSI hard drive (about a dollar per MB) and pair of 19" monitors (about $1000 each) running an early version of NT. This was exactly the point where I said to myself "I'll never go back".

This was not a software issue. The delay in widespread adoption of protected memory operating systems was in large measure caused by a DRAM price cartel.

DRAM price fixing. The American company Micron was the ring-leader as I recall it.

In December 2003, the Department charged Alfred P. Censullo, a Regional Sales Manager for Micron Technology Inc., with obstruction of justice. Censullo pleaded guilty to the charge and admitted to having withheld and altered documents responsive to a grand jury subpoena served on Micron in June 2002.

On October 20, 2004, Infineon also pled guilty. The company was fined $160M for its involvement, then the third largest antitrust fine in US history. Hynix Semiconductor soon took the third position in April 2005 with a $185M criminal penalty after they also admitted guilt. In October 2005, Samsung entered their guilty plea in connection with the cartel.

I remember this extremely well because memory flat-lined at CDN $40/MB for about three years in the mid 1990s.

Of course this is not corruption. It's the invisible hand hard at work.

Comment Re:Wrong interpretation of energy (Score 1) 135

Then he wants to 'compress' the lasing cavity to *ahem* reach black-hole level of energy densities.

It seems pretty clear to me—I took that same first course—that a neutrino is just a white hole (moving at the speed of light) made up of photons which such a strong self-interaction they can't escape from themselves and thus refuse to interact with much of anything else.

This all seemed to fit with the gravitational contribution of the EM Stress Energy Tensor until I saw a post from Lubos on Stackexchange about the non-zero photon pressure and their Tii spatial components in GR, so I'm now back to looking for a different way to pretend I have a clue.

Comment rudeness butts into common sense (Score 2) 248

essentially blaming them after she behaved rudely to her family and friends

Apparently one person's "rude" is another person's common sense. (Invocation of "blame" is another red flag that common sense has left the building.) 100% of the rudeness here derives from unbalanced technology, because Facebook wants it that way.

Entire countries filter the internet. Yet as an individual, it's not practical for me to contract a public identity management agency which allows me to enact controls over what personal information I'm willing to see splattered into the public space on malign service hosts.

Nothing should go onto your social media pages that doesn't first go through your own appointed screening filter, if you choose to have one.

Had such an option been available, her personally appointed screening filter would have simply bouncing back a message to her uncle to the effect that "Janet doesn't wish to see her reproductive status conveyed on cloud services".

It's not rude. It's common sense.

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Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau