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Comment 40 hours of meetings a week (Score 2) 311

I was once on a project that had 4 or 5 large companies working together to bid on a NASA RFP. At one point we had 40 hours a week of scheduled meetings. It was actually very liberating, because everybody recognized that there was no way anybody could do any work if we all went to all of them, so there was the 15 minute daily status meeting in the morning and then you could blow off anything where you weren't actually needed.

Comment Yeah, didn't know they even had 4500 left (Score 1) 120

Poor Blackberry; they've been on the skids for years. The whole "Lawsuits in Motion" thing distracted them, but mostly they missed the boat when Apple was developing the smartphone market for people who want the shiny toys and Google Android followed up by taking the cheaper smartphone space.

Comment Ecology is really critical, and really hard (Score 1) 308

If you want to stick some apes in a can and send them to nearby parts of space for short periods of time, you can do that without doing much ecology - send enough oxygen and water, and recycle them a bit if you want to support slightly longer missions.

But if you want a long-term space colony, whether it's on a planet/moon/asteroid where you've got some natural resources, or in outer space where you've only got solar energy, you've got to build a sustainable ecosystem, with plants that provide food and oxygen, some way to grow some medicines, some way to make dirt or equivalent for plants to grow in. So far, we haven't even built a human-supporting terrarium that worked without cheating. Biosphere II was really useful, because it failed, and it's the biggest that's been tried. We also don't really know what nutrients humans need - we can do most of the important ones, and you can live mostly adequately off beans and corn and green leaves, but that doesn't mean we've really got everything covered, or waste disposal handled adequately, weird viruses not showing up in the air supply, weird fungi not growing behind the instrument panels, plant diseases not killing off your near-monoculture, etc.

We're not vaguely close to being able to set up a Mars colony. We've got to learn to terraform a planet first, and the only one we've tried it on (Earth) isn't going very well; we haven't even found the thermostat yet.

Comment It's also Republican Politics (Score 1) 1293

The Republicans have learned that saying they're against evolution gets them the votes and campaign contributions from a large chunk of people who don't believe in evolution, and they want to perpetuate that block of voters. Doing anti-evolution textbooks doesn't just get them a lot of the kids, it gets the support of their parents.

And if you sell people on being anti-science about evolution, you can sell them on being anti-science about climate change. The party's Corporate Sponsors really care about that, because lots of them are in businesses that cause bad changes to climate, and they don't want laws interfering with them.

It's also about affecting how history is taught, particularly about race relations. My father was born in Texas, and moved a few times when he was a kid; he had to relearn the history of the War Between The States when he'd move, because it was different in different states. Texas still wants you to see it Texas's way. And there are other social issues, like gun rights, where the right-wingers have been pushing their views into textbooks as well, just as left-wingers have done.

Comment Human evolutionary niches (Score 1) 159

Actually there's been some research suggesting we had a niche for a while scavenging leopard kills, back when we were just apes. Leopards tend to cache their kills in trees so they can eat some now and save the rest for later, and we could steal some of that, especially since opposable thumbs were good for cracking open skulls to get the yummy braaainzzz. So when your cat's begging for scraps from your dinner, give him some, his ancestors earned it.

Comment Finding the troll! (Score 1) 159

Patent trolls can't hide quite as well as spammers can, because somebody has to actually own the patent, though they can wrap their trolling in a shell corporation that doesn't have any assets because it passes any winnings on to its owners or parent corporation or something.

I once tracked a spammer to an address in Greenville Delaware, which is the office of The Company Corporation, the canonical place to get $99 Delaware corporations, so I figured it was a lost cause; their only assets would be a file folder in a lawyer's office, and if I sued them they'd just go bankrupt and have to spend another $99 getting a new shell corp.

Comment Con-men and the poker rule (Score 2) 173

The poker rule says that when you sit down at the table, you look for the sucker. If you can't find them, it's probably you.*

If Carreon's a con man, he's spectacularly bad at it, failed the poker rule from the beginning, and deserves any education he's gotten, which unfortunately seems to be "not much".

(* The Questionable Content version of the sucker rule is to look for the drunkest person at the party, and if you can't tell, it's you, and you should stop for now.)

Comment Weak reception - Bad Digital Fails Badly (Score 1) 410

Mom lives in an area where the signals from the TV stations she cares about are pretty weak.

Bad analog TV isn't good, the sound's a bit noisy and the picture's a bit fuzzy, but you can still use it, especially to listen to talking heads on PBS.

Bad digital fails badly - the sound cuts out for long periods, and the pictures start going blocky then pretty much BSOD on you.

She could get a few stations, but not the ones she wanted, and we tried rabbit ears, then antenna inside, then an antenna outside, and it wasn't improving things enough to be worth the trouble, so she got low-end cable.

Comment Out of Band Modems for router monitoring (Score 2) 410

I do managed security services, and we use modems to manage routers, firewalls, intrusion detection, and similar devices. It's not the primary management mechanism, but you need to be able to talk to the console when the Internet connection's not working, or when your box wasn't staged correctly so it doesn't have the right IP address, or when the box has gotten too hosed to do anything other than power-cycle it. At more permanent locations we'll install networks of terminal servers so we can get serial connections to the console ports without dealing with POTS lines, but usually at customer sites it's dial. And getting customers to connect the "line" side of a modem to the wall and the "phone" side to the router's console port has gotten a lot tougher the last few years.

I doubt it's still done this way, but for a long time the 4ESS phone switches had 56 kbps X.25 satellite connections as backup management. 56k was still tolerably fast, X.25 wasn't obsolete yet, and satellite was a way to get a connection when backhoes or floods had taken out land-based connections.

Comment Re:Mother-In-Law (Score 1) 410

My mom still uses dialup. Her vision's not good enough to do anything with the web, and dialup's plenty to collect her email, just as it always has been. Drives my siblings crazy when they go visit; they occasionally have to go out to Starbucks for their wifi fix. (My wife has a cellular wireless frob, so she's ok not having wifi.) Mom could get low-end cable modem wireless service without too much trouble, because she had to break down and get cable after the digital TV transition happened.

Comment 300-1200 transition was early-mid-1980s (Score 2) 410

At least for CRT terminals and Unix-capable computers (PDP-11s, Vaxen, and most of the Motorola-based machines), 1200 baud took over from 300 baud pretty quickly. We still had 300 baud paper terminals like the TI Silent 700, and people with Commodore 64s or TRS-80s might be using 300 baud, but otherwise 300 was mostly gone by the mid-80s. I last used a Silent 700 around 1991, dug out from the storage closet at the lab because I was working on a project with a company that wouldn't let us connect to the outside world from their LAN, but their security people were ok with a Silent 700 on their phone network, figuring it couldn't compromise anything. It was an old and clunky way to read mail, but it sort of worked.

There were exceptions - the Visa credit-card protocols ran at 300 baud, because it was much faster to sync up at 300 (3-4 seconds) and send less than 100 characters of data than to spend 45-60 seconds syncing up 1200/9600/14400 and send anything.

Comment Shoe Bomber isn't why you have to take shoes off (Score 1) 325

Sure, the TSA's "be afraid, be very afraid" and "be compliant sheep" commercials while you're waiting in line tell you that, but they were making people take their shoes off at lots of airports before the shoe bomber. Why? Because lots of mens' dress shoes have metal shanks in them, and they set off metal detectors a lot, so they were slowing down lines dealing with them. By making everybody take their shoes off before that, they could avoid the problem, just like making people take their belts off avoids the delays from large belt buckles setting off metal detectors. The shoe bomber was just an excuse to expand the rule to everybody.

Before they started doing it, I tended to wear Teva sandals, which are all non-metallic, and I've lived in places where lots of people wear flipflops, but the airports that had randomly started doing the "it's always been the rule" rule about taking shoes off would sometimes make us take our shoes off anyway, even before the shoe bomber.

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