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Comment Re:Hmm (Score 1) 273

Never used MS databases; we're an Oracle shop. The Oracle driver supplies some extra goodness from OLE, the MS ODBC driver supplies adequate speed and all, though.

I've just started in on PostgreSQL connectivity, and that's fine too.

Please don't misunderstand me, guys, I H8 MS as much as the next FLOSS commie; but MS is my work environment and Excel gets stuff done for me.

Comment I'm sorry, when did we HAVE this nuance? (Score 4, Informative) 388

When Krushchev said "we will bury you" at the UN, he *meant* "we will be around after you are gone" like "a son buries his father". It was a common Russian expression, and we had access to fine, nuanced Russian translators. Instead it became this famous threat of nuclear Armageddon, please pass the collection plate for more nukes of our own.

You can see similar rush-to-exaggerate in rhetoric that led up to WW1. I'm trying to think of a time when leaders in particular did NOT want to paint their side of a political dispute as heroism and the other side as villany. Coming up dry. Anybody? Is there a history major in the house who can point to us some long-lost "Age of Nuanced Political Dispute" ?

Comment Re:Hmm (Score 4, Interesting) 273

Sounds like you and the post you're replying to might have the answer to a question I've wanted to ask a real spreadsheet power user for some time. I'm a MS detractor in general but have fallen deeply for Excel in the last decade as I learned VBA, creating whole small applications with same, pivot tables, database access via ODBC and OLE - sometimes Excel is my whole work environment, hitting on huge databases, downloading chunks into pivot tables, using spreadsheet calcs to create masses of UPDATE statements that then change the same database.

Does ANY of that work in OOo ? I know it has some kind of database connection, but it seemed pretty lame by comparison; I know it has a macro language of its own, but unlike VBA there aren't six thick books on it and mega-lines of code to steal from the Net - so I'd anticipate a huge drop in capability if I switched.

Comment Not about global warming itself, of course (Score 4, Interesting) 393

This isn't about whether the (very) widespread claims that current evidence supports 'global warming', it's about whether Mann committed scientific fraud.

For instance, George Bush's commander really did think of Bush the way a fake letter (put forth by CBS as real) said he did; presumably the faker was frustrated by his inability to get that fact in the news, so he resorted to fraud, no doubt thinking that the real truth made it morally OK. But he still committed fraud, and the news that the secretary who would have typed the letter if it were real, said it was the commander's opinion, even as she debunked the letter was quite lost in the scandal over the fraud.

So global warming could be real, and Mann still a fraud, or it could be all a huge mistake by thousands of scientists, and Mann NOT a fraud, simply in possession of data that was mistaken or didn't mean what he thought.

Steyn is no doubt happy about the trial, because it will give him grounds to subpoena great heaps of Mann's work, looking for the same thing that the climategate E-mail thieves looked for: any kind of out-of-context quote they can find that they cam drum up into a "scandal" - a fraudulent one, of course...

Comment Re:U.S. Willing to Talk if Snowden Pleads Guilty (Score 2) 315

And there's a punchline in the third sentence:

And the attorney general reiterated that the United States was not willing to offer clemency to Mr. Snowden

"Clemency", kind or merciful treatment of one who deserves harsh punishment, says the dictionary.

So the full offer is: "We'll talk if you come back, plead guilty and are punished to the fullest extent of the law."

It's like some kind of Woody Allen line, "My lawyer plea-bargained my sentence down to death".

Comment If there were competition, it would be a few cents (Score 1) 479

In an environment with truly open competition, prices must be driven down to the costs of production, plus whatever profit pays for the seller's own work and risk. Anybody charging more is outpriced by somebody willing to accept that minimum.

Every service provision has capital and operating components. Connection to any network - water, gas, power, comms - has a fixed price whether you use it or not, and an incremental price proportional to usage. Keeping a network to a whole city running costs a good $25/month, flat - but then incremental water, power, whatever, are often pretty cheap. Blended rates per-unit only work where everybody consumes in the same order of magnitude at most. (Many get around this because the high consumers can be identified and "commercial rates" for water or whatever are lower per-unit.)

And we know the answer on gigabytes: Netflix pays something under a nickel each. Since bandwidth purchases differ by well over an order of magnitude, the bill will always screw somebody to benefit another unless it breaks out the costs: $35/month plus a dime a gigabyte, (or something similar)

Comment Re:I demand my UNIX! (Score 1) 459

Oh, lordy, Amen.

For a while, I found the registry stuff that switched caps-lock and CTRL, and of course on Linux it's just an xmodmap tweak - and I carried around files for both on a key so that I could swap 'em on any machine I was using. For an emacs user in particular, this is huge.

THEN came Windows 7, which I was compelled to use at work - and it won't let users reprogram keys at user-level; you have to do it with Admin access at the whole-system level and compel all users to do the same....not that my work lets me have Admin access. I was stumped, so I switched back.

The irony is that while I'm hating on MS for this, I have to admit that their MS Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is the One True Faith for me. It has a bunch of idiot key along the top I ignore; the main thing is the spacing, size, and 3D curved shape that matches the hand better than any other. That's the funny thing about MS: a hate-worthy software* company that makes fine hardware...the MS Mouse was the best of its time, too, until it spawned a number of great imitators; but the Ergo 4000, no rivals - instead we get the gimmicky keyboards that this article rightfully complains about.

*with apologies to Excel, Pivot Tables, and VBA, which have saved my job more times than I can count. Credit where due.

Comment Re:Math, do it. (Score 5, Insightful) 1043

>A portion of the government wants as many people on food stamps as possible, because as soon as you condition a person to free handouts you get power over them.

I've heard that before - indeed almost exactly the same words - but I don't understand. It's so vague.
1) Which portion of the government? Are you talking about some federal or state employees, or are you referring to politicians? After that, can you get even more specific and give examples of persons doing this conditioning and then exercising power?

2) What do these employees or politicians DO with this power over some poor people? Do the government employees make them come over to mow their lawn? It can't be politicians saying "You must vote for me or I'll cut off your food stamps" because we have a secret ballot. The most that could be done is "if you stop putting me in, the Republicans will probably cut off everybody's food stamps, including yours"...but that applies to every public-spending decision. "Vote Republican or those Democrats will raise your taxes" is exactly the same proposition, and seems to be pretty legitimate. You might as well say "if you condition people to tax cuts, that gives you power over them".

If that sounds sarcastic or something, sorry ... I'm not trying to pick a fight, it's just the whole statement doesn't compute for me. I'll take up the same position if you've got some specific examples or something.

Comment The Senior Anti-Sex League (Score 1) 903

...I admit 1984 was even worse, they had a "Junior Anti-Sex League". Our anti-sex league is at least mostly beyond the age of burning desire themselves.

I love how this stuff exposes the "anti-abortion" forces as actually being "anti-sex". If you were only anti-abortion, you'd be strongly pro-contraceptive. But no, they don't want women's ancient disincentive to sex taken away: if you have sex, you should be punished by bearing children in pain and caring for them for two decades. Then you should mourn how your life was ruined by all the opportunities for education and earning lost to childcare, and mourn how your child started off life at a disadvantage. You should suffer for your sins, the sin of having sex. And you should think about all that before having sex outside of marriage, and Just Not Do It.

All that used to be quite openly stated, you can find grandparents around today who remember lectures with just that rhetoric. Now they cover themselves with victimhood, but they're only "victims" in having their power to dictate women's sex lives taken away by technological advances in medicine. It's particularly sidesplitting that they base their objection to the loss of this power with complaints about a large organization imposing fascist controls on individual behaviour.

Comment Judaism for MULTICS isn't going back far enough (Score 1) 392

Charlie admits that Judaism is still alive and MULTICS is not. He should have gone with Zoroastrianism, even older. (Actually, writer Paul William Roberts found a tiny community of Zoroastrians in Iran a few decades back.) But then a few of us still remember MULTICS with some affection and it still affects our designs. The University of Calgary was sucked into the belief that MULTICS was a great future back in the 70s and ran one of the largest-ever installations of it, in user-count at least. (They were also taken in by ADA and ran some courses and assignments in it for a while.)

MULTICS was the only system I ever used that had the very cool and effective accounts/login design of two-parts to your login: your personal ID and your project ID. Your personal ID stayed permanently, but might lack all resources for years; your compiler course would come with one project-ID that would give you enough resources for that course; your database course would be a different project ID. Your access levels to various files, etc might change with which project ID you used, but your home directory was always yours because of your personal ID. It was cool. There were a few babies tossed with the bathwater when MULTICS was simplified down to Unix...

Comment Re:why ? (Score 1) 392

You should have quoted some of the article, you'd get modded up as "funny"....few realize what a comedian Eco can be. My favourite bit was how, if Mac was Catholicism - because there's this clear set of rituals you go through to reach salvation (or at least the moment your document prints) and anybody can get there; and if DOS is Protestantism - much more flexible about ritual but also much more demanding and takes for granted not all can reach salvation; then Anglicanism is Windows: it LOOKS like Catholicism(Mac) ...but you can always sneak out to DOS to change things you don't like.

Comment Send the American icebreaker! (Score 0) 188

The good ship "Paul Ryan", which will anchor safely off the ice pack and send them pictures of the sailors aboard enjoying fine meals and swimming pools to give them incentive to break free of the ice on their own! We do these people no favours, killing them with kindness by "helping" them out of the jam they got themselves in. We can't have these ships oppressing us with their pleas of imminent personal disaster. ...and you thought that this one topic surely couldn't be dragged into American political crank-fests. My next post: how all this relates to gun control.

Comment Re:Seems to be going on about ends justifying mean (Score 1) 511

Thanks for that. The 1972 decision seems quite specific in that it applies to foreign surveillance, not domestic, where a warrant is still required. It still strikes me as "in the tank" for the government to fail to go on at that point to subject the prima facie* claim of foreign-ness to a review by this branch of government, since both of the other two seem willing to take the NSA's word for it. Does "we program our computers to review anything with what, in our sole judgement, seems to be a 51% of having a foreign endpoint" count? Does it count to actually tap every phone, but only check the logs if the 51% is estimated to be true? Does it count as breaking the law to have policies of control over these log-checkings run by the same information staff that let Snowden walk out with gigabytes?

All of these would have been cool things for the court to consider, and would have lent great legitimacy to the program if these burning issues sucking up so much cable news airtime were found to actually be minor issues, or well-handled at least. Instead he basically said, "My read of Keith says they're within the Constitutional limits since they say they're just checking out foreigners, and their word on that is good enough for me".

One hopes that will be a basis for appeal.

*See, I know two words of Latin. So I must be right.

Comment Seems to be going on about ends justifying means. (Score 5, Interesting) 511

TFA didn't appear to go into the matter of law - does the program violate the 4th or not, and why. The decision must have done so. It's little short of bizarre that a judge went on about matters not of law - how the program is valuable or a "counter punch" for 9/11 or whatever. Surely such talk is all about an end justifying a means. I'm not allowed to break the law just because I've got a valuable end in mind; the government, the same, one would think. If the end justified the means, then, heck , allow cops to search every house at will for evidence of child-molestation.

The NYT article says specifically that he ruled that the 4th does not apply to information given to 3rd parties. TFA notes that he went on about how we give info to 3rd parties all the time so that they can profit from them. What the heck voluntarily and openly giving over information to vendors in return for free services or whatever has to do with the government taking information non-voluntarily and without notification, he doesn't seem to have explained.

So one comes back to the "end justifies the means" parts of his comments. There seems to be capture of the 3rd-branch "regulator" here: he believes the program is saving lives, or something, whereas the judge two weeks ago noted that he was cleared for all possible secrets, yet was shown no cases where they'd averted a crime that would otherwise have occurred. So much for the "54" terrorist plots averted.

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