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Comment eternal life equals infinite mortgage (Score 1) 625

If people can live for a thousand years, interstellar travel becomes easier.

Interstellar travel accelerates aging, and thus it must be regarded as a disease not a cure. Besides, you'll be among the five billion people employed in sequestering all radiological sources in the earth's mantle into some deep pit in Nevada. If you survive your 10,000 years term of service at this biologically hazardous occupation, with luck and good behaviour you'll be eligible to take out the one billion dollar mortgage on a 400 sq ft condominium of your very own somewhere in free-wheeling Singapore a full fifty floors above the prison levels exposed to god-knows-what in the lower atmosphere.

Comment merely (Score 1) 351

The links are merely speculative at this point and provide a framework for a human study, Borjigin said."

Where merely means "all you superstitious, paranormal-guzzling wankers can leave the room now, a scientist just showed up and shed the first useful photon on the matter".

This provides a "framework" for directing a second useful photon upon the matter, the framework mainly amounting to bathing less often in warm blood. But you have to start somewhere.

Comment Re:Not a new concept (Score 1) 461

The concept is pretty simple: To lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. To not gain weight, eat only as much as you burn. You can increase how much you burn with exercise, or you can decrease how much you eat, or both. Anything else as far as dieting is concerned is window dressing.

This gets moderated insightful? Have you people lost your minds? Visit earth much?

Okay, sale at Macy's on thermodynamic bounding boxes. Dioxans, I hear, from the thin aliens on the squishy planet Dioxan Monohydride, eliminate long term weigth gain with a single dose. There's just this tiny issue with life expectancy and expectation of quality of living.

OMG! A system with two criteria that doesn't boil down to a pocket protector inscribed with the zeroth law of thermodynamics. But, as usual, we have a class of solutions to problems with living smug with living less. Not that your average geek would notice.

Let's see here. My cellphone battery only holds a charge for 15 minutes. What should I do? The math is simple. If electrons in exceed electrons out, the phone won't run out of juice. Basic electron caloried counting. Next question? I could do this all day. What, you don't want to plug your phone in every fifteen minutes? Sucks to be you. My fat metobolism works just fine. I'm young and stupid. You should have bought a Samsung. All problems in life are solved by correct brand allegience.

The actual problem with diets is that many people have disregulated fat metabolism. This is hard to fix once it happens. All arrows point to excess consumption of simple carbohydrates, especially in liquid form, and particularly the sugar fructose. Sound familiar?

Even the people who state categorically that HFCS is exactly the same as sucrose (they live in the same thermodynamic bounding box, after all) are ignoring the possibility of HFCS interacting hormonally with the intestinal wall.

Unfortunately, Gary Taubes is an idiot. For a while it was looking like a bandwagon with my name on it. But he just wants to take the debate way to far in the opposite direction, where he pretends that net caloric balance isn't even worth discussing. There's no room for that attitude in science, Gary. Try again.

Here's the real reason your cell phone battery won't hold a charge. It's because you charge it too often. Avoid rooms with wall outlets, and your problem will go away.

Comment take a look at meeeee (Score 1) 106

Just about anything that applies the special snowflake formula to the entire human species tends to win these things. We're total suckers for anything that affirms our special-snowflakeness, even if it's our epic fascination with beating the shit out of each other.

Vulcans? Too evolved. If doesn't count if you're good all the time. What matters is that once you were bad, but now you have risen. Otherwise you're just too smart for your own good and you don't really understand the shit that goes down.

Another typical science fiction plot:

Evolved race gives up on humans after 10 ms of initial observation. A billion years later, we prove them wrong. There's just no holding back special snowflakeness.

Comment jarhead Puritan pride (Score 2) 335

Incorrect. I will not die if I don't have sex, and it is not essential to me.

Why do you even bother to post? Oh I get it, you're anonymous. Because ya know, by the time this exchange of fish tails ends, the universe itself will be considered optional. Space time? Who needs it? I mean, really needs it.

I think this is a right the troops need to sign away during the recruitment process. Explicitly, not as part of an omnibus bill. Okay, just one last form: sign here to consent to being court marshalled for engaging in sexual activities with a consenting adult.

Prospective recruit: Whoa, run that one by me again. No shit? You know what, I'm going to sleep on this. See ya tomorrow ... or the next day ... or the second Tuesday after not in this lifetime ...

Whatever my morality about sex, I don't this should kept under the covers in the fine print on the application form. Shout it loud, shout it proud if you've got jarhead Puritan pride. Informed decisions before the first lock is shorn, that's the only democratic system there's any reason to protect.

Comment Re:Slashdot affected as well (Score 1) 290

/. does support Unicode (UTF-8 sucks, btw - it's a compatibility hack).

I was guessing your house wine was UTF-32 even before the last paragraph. Unfortunately it lacks compatibility with the size of existing Google datacenters, though it's nothing that couldn't be solved with more circuitry and a beefier power feed.

You absolutely can parse UTF-8 backwards: "continuation bytes all have '10' in the high-order position". How much easier does it have to get? Please inform me how your pushmepullyou parsing system is defined such that all code points are pallindromes with no loss of space efficiency.

Ken Thompson of the Plan 9 operating system group at Bell Labs then made a small but crucial modification to the encoding, making it very slightly less bit-efficient than the previous proposal but allowing it to be self-synchronizing, meaning that it was no longer necessary to read from the beginning of the string to find code point boundaries. Thompson's design was outlined on September 2, 1992, on a placemat in a New Jersey diner with Rob Pike. The following days, Pike and Thompson implemented it and updated Plan 9 to use it throughout, and then communicated their success back to X/Open.

Good grief, if Thompson and Pike are the scourge if right thinking, our species is doooooomed. However you describe it, the present state of Slashdot's Unicode handling is a disgrace to God, geek, and man.

Comment Re:Dictation versus typing (Score 1) 287

Then fixing those mistakes is even slower than fixing a typographical one.

If you're writing for the New Yorker, fixing mistakes takes weeks. But then they get into not just whether the noun itself should be in the possessive form, but whether your sentence should require a noun in the possessive form in the first place.

The kind of mistakes you're talking about are specifically keyboard level mistakes. Spelling, orthography, and missing or duplicated words.

It's a tremendous cognitive burden to type at 120 words per minutes of something you're composing on the fly while also getting all the minor details of spelling, punctuation and orthography correct (not to mention getting your homonyms correct which I can usually do at speed if there are two isolated main forms to resolve, but not for palette/pallet/palate or muddles like Seine/sine/sign/sing/singe/singer/signer/seignior/Seigneur/senior/Seniour/senorita where finger habits start seeing double).

If you're not trying to go the orthographic last mile (while neglecting the stylistic last mile) dictation is hugely faster than typing to capture the gist. With dictation, you also get a useful side channel on your emotional inflection and the pacing of your word flow. It's not the same cleaned up and transcribed.

With dictation, one is free to swoop around and really think and make connections and shift and shape and reorganize. If you sit down at a keyboard in that state, you might as well open Mind Manager and type with your mouse.

Back to the actual subject, this is a typical worthless (and breathless) press release. He's sounding the "invest now, or forever be left behind" klaxon. They might be close, or not so close, or we might never see this.

Sure, Seagate could have told people back in the 1980 that they were targeting 1 TB/platter with their fancy magnetic recording technology. But really, with where they were at at the time, there was no connection to where we're at now. It wasn't a better investment in 1980 because we hit 1 TB/platter now. So these "could do" numbers are often exceptionally worthless, even when true.

Comment Re:Hurry it up (Score 2) 103

A million college students are waiting anxiously for this tool now that some professors have started checking their essays electronically for plagarism.

This assumes that they're as stupid as we all suspect, because the next thing the administration begins to do is check whether the student's written oeuvre is self-consistent without bunkering down under a blander identity than a Milli Vanilli cover of Valium Spice.

I'm so busted.

Comment Re:Just doesn't work... (Score 1) 245

One extra detail: the alphabet of 50 characters was the effective entropy over a much larger space of symbols. I described the tree in entropy space, because that is the what mattered to its performance profile. The naive view is that the symbol set contained 8000 symbols and that four character strings could be selected from a set of 8000^4 members.

I ignored this detail because conventional reverse engineering would very quickly determine that we only go to the hash table for a much smaller nucleus of the problem space. That filter was a couple of pages of code. Nothing major, but not trivial to guess without some appropriate expertise.

Comment Re:Just doesn't work... (Score 2) 245

Great, so all you have to do is replace that conditional so it always evaluates to true, no? When you actually do this, the program happily writes an answer to the screen every time. The only problem is, if you provided an invalid security key at the beginning, the answer it writes is complete nonsense. You see, it's secretly already tested the security key, and if it was wrong, the answer ends up being wrong too.

I implemented exactly this circa 1990 to protect a small database of disambiguation rules structured as a hash table. A random value obtained from the security dongle was intermixed into the hash function and hash check condition. This was not done once for each possible lookup as defined in a conventional database. It was done once for each feasible answer for each possible lookup. The code had a statistical model of feasible answers. For some queries the number of feasible answers was excessive (too many dongle interactions) so we created a heuristic that was correct 99% of the time and set aside the 1% for a second pass with an additional data structure. If the dongle wasn't present the set of feasible answers was incorrectly narrowed with the expected statistical distribution. The members of that distribution, however, were entirely wrong.

We built up more complex queries from smaller queries. We were actually building a tree where every path in the tree was a valid answer and the majority of leaf nodes were at depths 2-4. That we hit a leaf node was a bit of metadata from the hash table lookup, which would be wrong if the dongle wasn't installed.

How about a quick forward description. Start with an alphabet of 50 symbols and construct the tree of all strings of length one to six. Every node in the tree has a flag about whether that node terminates a valid string and some additional bits about the correct orthography of the string as expressed in the user input, when typed. Your database is a subtree of this tree with about 100,000 strings (problems were so much smaller 25 years ago) along with a couple of bits of metadata per leaf. It's pretty sparse compared to the 15 billion possible leaf nodes.

The database subtree is actually constructed by elimination. One dongle assisted hash probe tells you whether a descending edge from your current vertex leads to a non-empty subtree (further solutions with your current path in the tree as a proper prefix). In addition, the user input defines another subtree of everything that could possibly matter to the conversion being performed. What you are computing is the intersection of these two subtrees: the tree corresponding to the task at hand and the tree corresponding to all solutions possible. Because the hash table was decomposed on the principles of minimum description length, when the dongle was absent (or corrupted) you still get an answer with much of the expected statistical distribution.

Except for one thing. The hash check was imperfect and you would get some false positives. We set up the rate of false positives so that the set of false positives grew exponentially as you descended to deeper levels. We knew from the statistical structure of the user input that few elements of this phantom solution set would interact negativity in practice even though the phantom set vastly out-numbered the legitimate set. Further, if one tried to enumerate the tree exhaustively using an incorrect dongle hash function, the tree you would reconstruct had no depth limit. It grew exponentially in size forever. We knew there was a depth limit when correctly probed, but this was nowhere expressed in our program code. In fact, this could be used to reverse engineer the correct hash function: only the correct hash function enumerates to a finite set of 100,000 subtrees. Just iterate over the set of all possible hash functions, in some well-structured enumeration order, until you discover this condition. Bingo, you're done.

Not all of the phantom space was harmless, so we ran a test on that and identified all the members of the phantom space likely to interfere in practice and coded an additional data structure about 25% the size of the main data structure which encoded the set of harmful phantoms on the principles just expressed. I think we tuned this second hash structure to have a lower rate of phantom production, otherwise we would have needed a third structure to restore the solutions incorrectly eliminated.

So the desired answer set was the (user problem tree) intersected with (database tree - bogus database answer tree + [non existent] bogus bogus answer tree ...).

I won't get into it, but you can construct hash tables encoding these subtrees at pretty close to the Shannon entropy by balancing the number of hash check bits against the sparseness of the subtree encoded.

We didn't use an ordinary hash table. We used a globally optimized hash table computed using a bipartite graph matching algorithm where every hash query had a set of three locations to examine and if any location returned a hit, you added that node to your subgraph descent set (if more than one of these locations was positive, you had at least one hash accident but that didn't tell you anything you could use). With three locations per probe reconciled with the bipartite graph algorithm, the hash table would achieve a bit over 90% occupancy rate and constant-time probe rates (we always tested all three cells, because each hit added metadata concerning the path, you had to accept all answers).

The hash table placement algorithm (bipartite graph solver) was not included in the distributed software. Nor was the statistical model used to construct the tiny phantom correction table. Without duplicating this work, any attempt to replace the supplied hash function (in hardware) with a different software hash function would require data structures about 50 times as large as we had employed, according to one estimate I made.

The only viable and practical attack significantly less difficult than reproducing much of our original work was to crack the dongle hashing algorithm and encode it in software, eliminating the hardware security lock. It was hard to suck the encoded information out of this structure, because it contained a lot of noise.

If you had a huge corpus covering the space of typical user input, you could discover which parts of this data structure was used in practice as a statistical construct. But anyone who had that wouldn't be ripping off a low quality reproduction, they would compete straight up. It's about manipulating incentives.

The problem with this technique is that it was pretty much a one-off. You had to tune the hash rejection rate just right so that the phantom elimination tables converged to finite size. You needed to constrain worst-case performance on any possible input string (we did this by throwing away regions before lookup where the sparsity fell below a certain threshold). And you needed an application space that tolerated imperfect answers. In our case, a wrong disambiguation of user input to Asian characters. There was also a conventional B-tree database for user-generated expressions which could be used to supplement or override any rough edges that poked through from what I described above. Our application had all of these things.

What I learned, though, is that one can go pretty far in this direction under the right conditions. This system was extremely resilient to conventional reverse engineering. We were fortunate that memory-resident hash tables sustain such high access rates, because the amount of memory we touched compared to a convention database was a hundred to a thousand times more. One sentence of input with the most productive symbols would probably hit our entire data structure multiple times over. Even on a 486, we could manage 100,000 to one million hash probes per second, depending on how aggressively we mixed in randomness from the hardware dongle. Even then, we drove that parallel port dongle to ten times its specified rate. It might have been producing bogus values some small fraction of the time. If so, it was never noticed amid all the other noise inherent to the problem space.

With this result I smell a rat because there's no discussion of computational burden up front. I'd be shocked if the obfuscated software ran at 1% of the rate of a conventionally encoded algorithm. But still, a critical nucleus at the center of your system that resists reverse engineering is a potent building block to discourage competition.

Competition is of course just another word for innovation. A large field of innovation is stifling competition. Innovation is passive-aggressive like that, which is why Microsoft loves this word. Personally, I wouldn't date that chick. The problem with defining worthy innovation (worthy of nasty protections such as the patent system) is that it's deeply frame dependent. What looks like the distillate of hard mental labour in one frame of reference is an automatic result in some higher frame of abstraction we haven't managed to reach yet. So patents are often awarded to the idiot who arrives there by the most awkward possible method in the least appropriate frame of reference.

If someone wants to make a living coming up with a partial result by feats of intellectual acrobatics a decade before the same result is convenient to achieve as an automatic result within a higher frame of reference, I don't have a huge problem with granting limited patent protections, but only so long as you're truly ahead of the curve. If any frame of reference comes along where you special result becomes a general result, game over for your expensive patent--in an ideal world that will never exist.

LZW is a good example where the early implementations were delicately tuned though a mixture of inspiration and empiricism to achieve viable performance levels. But the entire space of time/space efficient LZW implementations can be fairly thoroughly explored in a decade or so within the right algebraic apparatus, making every efficient implementation a direct result.

A person smart enough to do the algebra first would have no claim to patentability at all. One can not patent beautiful objects such as algebraic expansions of pi. It's just too universal deep down.

The byproduct of being able to obfuscate your algorithm is that your Chinese competitor can obfuscate ripping it off. So in a sense, it's highly desirable that there's a horrendous performance penalty with each additional nesting.

Comment keyspace negawatts (Score 2) 207

This particular scenario is rubbish.

It's weird that PHK framed it this way, but he's on the right track, regardless. Compromised entropy is one of the largest persistent attack surfaces in the state surveillance war. It's darn hard to notice when your client-side random key is leaking key space from prior exchanges, unless we're all running perfectly vetted software every day of the week and twice on Sunday and nothing bad ever happens to the golden master distribution chain. Developers never lose their private keys ...

From the dark side, at Borg scale, it's a slow war of attrition. The more they know about you, the better their guesses become. Suppose they gain possession of a dozen of your passwords from the least upstanding corporations you deal with. Your passwords have zero cross-entropy, right? Every password entirely unconditioned on any other password you've ever used?

And it if turns our you're a member of the 0.01% who uses distinct, randomly generated sixteen-character password strings for every site, so much the better to target you with other methods.

This isn't a battle over the yield strength of the titanium crypto primitives. It's a battle over the total burden. Every person who re-uses the same password a dozen times is that much less computation. Password cracking is like Type II b muscle fiber. It's the muscle fiber of last resort, that one your body activates to lift an overturned car off your child after a crash. Traffic analysis is Type I muscle fiber, the fiber you can use all day long, day after day.

That big hassle with the self-signed certs (which are needed for authentication) significantly thinned the default use of strong encryption for simple privacy. These did not need to be tied together as they were. Because the use of encryption stands out and the connectivity graph is below the percolation threshhold, it becomes hard to set up covert onion routers.

The focus on encryption strength is mostly red herring to distract us from the real agenda, which is keeping the general run of affairs extremely sloppy. The whole surveillance apparatus depends on the bulk manufacture of negawatts (shedding keyspace) in dribbs and drabbs by various murky political means. It's not a hard war, it's a soft war.

Comment Re:Sony, for example (Score 1) 234

Companies have NOTHING to fear from consumer retaliation.

You're nuts, man. Sony took it in the nads for their blunder with the PlayStation 3. You know, that small setback where they allowed a Monogolo empire with deep pockets and not much traction to sweep behind their Maginito line and plant the Xbox flag atop Mount Suribachi. (By the way, would you be interested in picking some Lehman Brother shares I have lying around? Can't lose investment. Too big to fail and all that.)

Yes, the sumo wrestlers pick themselves up again all too quickly after their flagrant misdeeds. It's hard to knock them completely out of the ring. Whatever fear they experience momentarily is replaced by arrogance just as soon as their testicles re-inflate. (Hint: They're not pinching their nose and convulsing their chests because of some smell they've left behind.)

The girls, they kiss frogs. That's how it works. The triumph of hope over experience is what our species is all about, so much the better if there's an IPO with some DRM.

Comment regulation gulag (Score 1) 234

The argument over 'more regulation' vs 'less regulation' is about the stupidest argument out there.

It's not an argument. "Regulation" is a code word for power. Either the government holds this power, or private interests hold this power. There's no middle ground, due to the convexity of the slippery slope. It's either a firewall configured with a default "block all" or a default "pass all". Those are your two choices, 100% mutually exclusive.

Besides, inhabiting the middle ground involves the tedious art of knowing the difference, which is not what people with power enjoy doing.

Comment Re:Serious Doubts on Canonical's Ability (Score 1) 251

Canonical's stuff makes GNOME3 look usable. That takes some doing.

I'm sure any distro has rough edges. My experience on Ubuntu was just fine. But then they decided that neither preserving their user's work-flow equity nor advance notice of aggressive disruption were valid terms in the quality equation, so I bailed out of their ecosystem with extreme prejudice. Some of us older types actually derive value from persisting with entrenched methods.

Sometime nearly a decade ago I came across a Motorola web site for some hot embedded processor where you had to sign a form declaring an intent to purchase no less 10,000 parts (if selected) in order to receive the specification sheet.

Even if just a drop in the cell phone ocean, there's no reason the chip vendors can't cut a competitive price on volumes of 40,000 where larger commitments already exist on other contracts. The main reason they don't do this is to keep those large commitments happy that they are getting a favourable price. It has nothing to do with scale.

Samsung in particular would like to see some differentiation in the phone market where they are less under Google's thumb. I can see Samsung going "oh hell, sure, if you're only going to do a pilot run on a concept phone, we'll give you our best volume price on the components and watch with interest from the sidelines". At the same time, there are any number of premium Android phone design teams who have fallen on hard times who wouldn't turn down a third-party hardware design contract while they try to pick themselves up off the canvas.

Ubuntu is more than capable of getting the Linux component to work at least decently by the standards of people who view change as entertainment.

I don't see this project as being that risky if Ubuntu has already lined up the right concessions on the componentry and hardware design fronts. I just think it's a silly amount to pay for an Asus Transformer that dual boots. But hey, whatever floats your boat. What I do know about this kind of thing is that many people suck at NPV specs deflation. The kickstarter fora always fill up with people on delivery day who skipped the algebra class on slope and intercept.

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