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Comment Re:IOS 7 on an iPhone 4S (Score 1) 488

iOS 7 does have improvements in several aspects, for example, battery life has improved greatly.

My wife did the upgrade on her iPad a few days ago, and is shocked by the horrible battery life. She claims she isn't (yet ;-) doing anything different than what she was using it for before, but its battery dies overnight, while it used to last several days between charging. That's a rather radical change.

I suggested googling for info, especially on settings that may be different than what she was using before. She found a few suggestions, and might know in a few days whether they had any effect.

What I find disappointing is that we can't seem to find any good summary covering the issue, with a good collection of suggestion on how to deal with battery-life issues. There are zillions of "Well, I tried X, and it seems to have an effect" sort of comments, but nothing the least bit systematic.

Of course, we may just be incompetent at finding such things in iOS land. But that describes much of the Apple fanboy crowd, really, so some good advice sites could contribute a lot to users' happiness levels.

Comment Re:This is pointless (Score 3, Insightful) 208

It's the read-write to physical medium that are the bottleneck with the sneakernet now.

Yeah, but it's competing with high-speed networks that are crippled by the ISPs at both ends using a single fibre to feed an entire neighborhood, and intentionally slowing the speed at the customer's site to a crawl unless you pay an exorbitant rate for a higher speed (which is then unused 99% of the time, and doesn't deliver if 2 or 3 others in your neighborhood are using high speed at the same time).

It's not surprising that vehicle+SD card could outperform such a network. The ping times can be rather long, though.

Comment Re:Well, obviously (Score 3, Interesting) 285

It makes it much easier to spy on your own citizens when you do that.

Well, yes and no. The main thing to worry about is typified by this comment:

Among Brazil's plans are a domestic encrypted email service

It's possible that what this means is that Brazil's domestic email service will do the encryption. This would be no security at all, since it would mean that the email service has everyone's keys and can decrypt everyone's email. And possibly sell it to interested customers, such as the US government.

If they're serious about local security, what they'll do is study various end-to-end email encryption packages, and recommend the best ones to their citizens. End-to-end encryption is the only way to get actual security in email. And they'll want a public education campaign to teach people about the "gotchas". For example, you don't ever store your keys in "the cloud".

There have been proposals in the US that email encryption be done by the low-level IP software. This was rejected back in the 1960s by the ARPAnet folks (the military predecessor to the Internet), on the grounds that low-level encryption is inherently secure, since it's typically installed in a way that the user can't control or even see into. It could easily be sending your keys and/or decrypted email to arbitrary third parties, and most users would have no way of knowing about it.

Anyway, it could be interesting to know what the Brazilian planners are planning. Are they really aiming for a domestic email service that "handles" the encryption (i.e., no security at all)? Or are they planning to actually do it right?

Here in the US, we know the answer to that question as applied to our own government (and telecom companies ;-). Is the Brazilian government any better?

Comment Re:In before (Score 3, Informative) 490

When you begin to get into decent shape, you lose inches but actually GAIN weight, because muscle is 3 x as dense as fat.

It might be interesting to figure out where that silly claim originated. A quick check finds a number of sites online claiming that actual measurements (imagine that ;-) find mammalian skeletal muscles to have a density of about 1.06, and mammalian fat has a density of about 0.9. A quick division turns up a ration of 1.18 between those, nowhere near 3.

If you want people to believe you, you really shouldn't use numbers that can be debunked by measurements that can be done fairly easily in any well-equipped kitchen with a few chunks of meat and fat that you can get at your local grocery stores. Yes, you can vary the results a bit, e.g. by cooking the fat out of the meat and the water out of the fat, but you won't get anywhere near a ratio of 3 for their density.

And "dense" isn't a difficult concept. Density is measured in grams per cc. Your kitchen scale can measure the grams, and the water-displacement method popularized by that ancient Greek guy is a very easy way to measure volume of oddly-shaped chunks, if you have a largish measuring cup. This is good enough to get 2-significant-digit measurements, or 3 if you have good tools and are more careful.

Comment Re:Annoying isn't the problem (Score 1) 82

... I had gone to that page as well, but I was using NoScript, so I didn't load a virus onto the company network and didn't get fired.

Anyone who surfs the Web from an employer's machine and leaves scripting turned on is just asking for a disaster for which they are held accountable.

This is yet another anecdote illustrating why we should be trying to educate people about and common "dangers" of using the Web. One of the first lessons should be the idea that you don't download code from strangers and let it run it on your machine. Since "scripting" in web pages is code (unlike HTML markup, which isn't ;-), leaving scripting on makes it easy for outsiders to insert software in your machine and run it. And you will be held responsible for the results.

Comment Re:Router (Score 2) 82

Because everyone loves Pi!

Yeah, except for the faction that prefers tau. ;-)

Actually, I'd conjecture that when we finally meet intelligent extraterrestrials, we'll find that those who have technology are evenly divided between those whose geeks memorize pi to zillions of places and those who memorize tau to zillions of places (in whatever base they use).

But I don't expect to be around to learn whether my conjecture is correct.

Comment Re:Cue the usual "debate" ... (Score -1, Offtopic) 82

Ooops! I forgot the mandatory "FRIST!!!" meme. Will this suffice?

And I get a "Slow down, cowboy!" message when I posted this. Too much coffee today, I guess.

Well, so much for a minor attempt at humor ...

Hmmm ... I wonder how long you have to wait before replying to your own post. This doesn't seem to be documented anywhere that I can find.

It appears that 4 minutes still isn't long enough. Brief pause to get another cup of coffee ...

Comment Cue the usual "debate" ... (Score 4, Insightful) 82

... in which one faction points out that ads are funding much of the (commercial) Web, and if you suppress them, you won't have all that Free Content. Meanwhile another fraction is pointing out the huge waste of bandwidth and human time soaked up by all those annoying ads. And yet another faction takes the "Can't we all just get along" approach, by suggesting that the commercial folks should make their ads less annoying so that people don't suppress them.

Yeah, we've heard it all before, we'll hear it all again, and nothing much will change.

Comment Re:Treason.. or... (Score 2) 524

Don't we have to have a declared war to actually have a true charge of treason?

For the past half century or so, we haven't had to declare war to fight a war, so why would we need such a declaration to charge someone with treason?

(Trivia question: When was the last time that the US Congress actually declared war? And: How many wars has the US been engaged in since then?)

Comment Re: People are dumb panicky animals (Score 1) 373

Even the DSM definition doesn't make a distinction between beliefs that are taught and those that appear spontaneously.

Funny; my first thought when I read the comments about beliefs that "appear spontaneously" is that I've had a number of beliefs like that. The spontaneousness of my beliefs was due to the fact that I'd suddenly seen (or found) firm evidence supporting a specific belief.

This has to be fairly common. Thus, I've personally seen a number of auto accidents, and in most of them, it was fairly obvious that a specific driver had triggered the accident. To someone who wasn't there, believing that one driver was at fault might be a delusion, but to someone who witnessed the event, the "spontaneous belief" would be based on observed facts and not delusional at all (though still possibly wrong).

So what else could someone mean by a phrase like "spontaneous belief"? It reads like a phrase that's intended to deprecate someone's beliefs, but I could be misreading it.

(Note that, in common speech, "belief" simply means anything you believe to be true; it's orthogonal to "factual". This is the basis of people treating things like evolutionary theory or econometric theory or the theory of universal gravitation or stories on Fox News as "beliefs". ;-)

Comment Re:Why don't they just learn English? (Score 1) 562

Chinese is a ... a bunch of mutually unintelligible but related languages, similar to the group of languages spoken in western Europe today that evolved in similar ways over a similar period of time. They're more able to communicate across the language barriers because their written language is ideographic.

A reasonable summary, based on various linguistically knowledgeable source that I've read. A useful comparison seems to be with the Romance languages. The Chinese politically-based practice of calling their languages "dialects" is often explained by imagining that Europeans did something similar: All the Romance languages would be considered "dialects" of Latin. Only Latin would be taught in schools, and other languages would be written using Latin spelling and grammar. This was tried for some time in Europe, but they finally came to their senses during the last few centuries, and developed reasonable spelling systems for each of the modern "Latin dialects" such as French, Portuguese, and R[ou]manian. Latin writing simply doesn't work well for those modern languges.

I've seen criticism of the "All Chinese dialects are written the same" based on this. It was true a few centuries ago that most literate people in Europe wrote the same, in Latin, but this only made communication possible with others who had learned Latin. It wasn't really usable as a way of writing Italian or Spanish, though; it was just writing in the predecessor language. Similarly, the various Chinese languages are different enough in grammar and vocabulary that using "standard Chinese" writing doesn't really constitute writing their native language; it is really just writing in the predecessor language (or its modern descendant spoken in one major northern city ;-).

But it can be interesting to read discussions of such topics by linguistically-naive people, to see just how confused they usually are about language-related topics. And we've seen a bit of linguistic nonsense here, both by the native speakers of various Chinese languages, and by others just reporting what they've learned from other misinformed sources.

An interesting point about the Romance languages is that their speakers often do find the others' written forms easier to understand than the spoken forms. This is because the spelling systems have tended to preserve original Latin spellings that hide many of the phonetic differences in the way that letters are used. This makes understanding the writing possible in some cases where the pronunciation would be too different to understand without special study.

Something similar does seem to be partially successful with Chinese writing. But in both cases, the result is often misunderstandings, or simple confusion about what that funny writing could possibly mean. And, like the Romance languages, the Chinese have invented a lot of new characters to improve understandability. English has done this, too. Thus, Latin didn't have the letters 'J', 'K' or 'W', which many European languages find useful. Cantonese similarly has a long list of characters never used in Mandarin, to fix some of the major problems with using Mandarin to express Cantonese. Most of the other Chinese languages are simply not written, because the standard writing system doesn't work for them.

But I wouldn't expect the misunderstandings in such topics to disappear. People would have to pick up some actual linguistic understanding for that to happen, and that'd be too much work.

Comment Re:Hypothesis (Score 5, Interesting) 168

7). "Reverse seeding of life, from Earth to Mars, did not happen." This may be easier to support. Earth's gravity well is greater than Mars. However ruling it out will be extremely difficult.

Actually, some astronomers looked at this back in the 1970s, and concluded that at the bacterial level, Earth to Mars travel is fairly easy, and has almost certainly been going on since early in the Solar System's history.

The mistake people are making is thinking that impacts ejecting rocks are the way that bacterial would make such trips. The astronomers examined and verified the effectiveness of an entirely different mechanism. The Earth (and all the planets with atmospheres) has a "cometary tail" produced by the solar wind. This tail is mostly gases, of course, but it also includes a small proportion of dust-like particles. It turns out that this includes bacterial spores, which have been found at all levels of the Earth's atmosphere, and have probably been there for a few billion years.

The Earth's cometary dust tail is thin, but it is of interest to astronomers. Taking pictures through a haze of air and dust is more difficult than avoiding the air and dust, so some astronomers need to keep track of our planet's tail and avoid it when possible.

Anyway, measurements back in the 1970s did show that the Earth's dust tail contains small particles the size of bacterial spores, and since they exist in our upper atmosphere, they are to be expected in the tail. How long they can survive in space isn't well understood, but tests in orbit have shown some rather good survival rates of the spores when exposed to conditions near our planet.

So the solar wind has been pushing small quantities of Earth's air outward for a few billion years, and that includes assorted tiny dust particles and bacterial spores. This has to have "contaminated" all the outer planets with Earth's bacteria for all that time. Whether they've survived anywhere else isn't known, but Mars is the most likely place.

Some of the astronomers have also calculated the spread of our dust tail outside the Solar System. Most of it does escape eventually, and gets lost out in interstellar space. We make an orbit around the galaxy roughly every 220 million years, so since life arose on Earth, we've been spraying the galaxy with our bacterial spores for around 15 to 20 orbits.

How such spores survive out there, nobody knows, of course. But it's an interesting thing to consider when the "panspermia" hypothesis comes up. Any planet that develops bacterial life will, probably within a billion years or so, start spraying them out into the galaxy like we do, possibly contaminating any compatible planet anywhere else in the galaxy over the next few billion years.

(I recently read somewhere an estimate, based on current measurements of the solar system's dust, the likelihood of spores from Earth hitting Earth-size planets around stars at various distances. The numbers were nonzero, but I took them all with a grain of salt -- also included in the dust -- since so little is known about the reality of interstellar space and the likelihood of a spore surviving a trip that may last a few million years.)

Comment Re:You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit (Score 1) 301

They could write an invoice for 1 year of priority support for the next year.

I've seen a number of free/open software projects that ask for funding along this line, often to fix bugs or implement new features. It seems to work pretty well.

You can also find something similar among the flock of (sometimes very good) online cartoonists. You can "contribute" by paying them for a specific date's cartoon, for example. Sometimes they'll "pay" you by sending an "original" printout of the cartoon, which of course really only exists in their computer's file system, but they do have a (color) printer, and there's a long pre-Internet tradition behind the sale of such artwork.

There should be lots of ways to donate money to "support" what they are doing, especially if you're using their software. And paying for new features is a friendly way to do it. Everyone knows how expensive corporate software development can be, so you should be able to pay what would be a significant N-month "contracting" salary without any auditors batting an eye. They know how expensive in-house software can be to develop.

Comment Re:$20,000 hammer (Score 5, Interesting) 301

Imagine if you receipt at the grocery store listed the total of all 20 things you bought, then divided them evenly between all 20 items so your milk is $2.94, your bread is $2.94, your lettuce is $2.94, your apples are $2.94, and so on, I'm sure that a lot of people wouldn't even look. A few might raise hell over the numbers.

That's pretty close to what really happens. Some decades back, when the first stories started to appear about the $1000 hammer or $5000 power cord or whatever, there were also occasional stories from people familiar with the accounting practices who explained the bogosity of the calculations. Of course, people just ignored this, and repeated the stories as evidence of administrative (usually government) idiocy.

The basis of it all generally turned out to be the fact that many organizations (especially government) explicitly list an "administrative fee" on their invoices when purchased through the usual purchasing department. This is typically a fixed percentage of the bottom-line price. People would simply divide this charge by the number of items, to get the per-item administrative fee, and add it to an item's price to get the item's "cost".

Thus, it's common to have separate power cords, due to the different plugs needed in different parts of the world, So you might have an order for a computer (10,000), plus a cord that fits your wall outlets ($10), for a total of $10,010. If the administrative fee is 10%, the total charged your department is $11,011. You critics will then list the charge for each item as $1,001 / 2, or $500.50, so your price for the computer is $10,500.50, and the price of the cord is $510.50.

That's a pretty expensive power cord, right?

Not that we should expect any such accountant's explanation to have any effect on the situation. That would take all the fun out of reporting on bureaucratic idiocies (that our political opponents support, of course).

And there might well be $500 power cords. They might include things like a transformer that adapts to a wide variety of line voltages, generate AC output of a different frequency than the input, or have a storage battery to get through short power fluctuations, etc. But that's a different explanation, with different ways of misleading your readers or listeners.

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