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Comment It's why Adblocking is Necessary (Score 1) 174

Back when I was reading the Internet on a 14.4-kbps modem, the bandwidth used by ad banners was annoying, but you could block some of them with a hosts file, and the others weren't really that annoying unless they were using blink tags or animated GIFs. (Popups were annoying enough that most people blocked them pretty quickly.)

But sorry, if my browser is going to run random Javascript or Flash, it means my browser is going to run slowly and unreliably, and there's a risk of malicious content, and it's not safe to allow that kind of stuff.

Comment Why we want self-driving cars (Score 1) 301

One reason is so that people who can't drive themselves can get around more autonomously than if they have to take public transit or taxis. For instance, my mom's vision is no longer what it used to be, and she had to give up driving a decade or so ago because she just couldn't see well enough, especially at night. Yes, she used to have the skills to have a driver's license, but now she's not going to be able to tell the self-driving car to do anything useful until about the time it hits something.

By contrast, I know some other people who have epilepsy, and would be perfectly capable of driving 99-99.99% of the time, but occasionally they're not, so maybe they could help the autopilot most of the time. Usually it's just brief inattention rather than more dramatic seizures, but it's still long enough not to be driving.

I also want a self-driving car so that when I go somewhere, I can then tell the car to go park itself, and call it up to have it come back from wherever it parked when I'm done. So there'd be no driver in those cases.

And then there's drunks. You really don't want their hands on the wheel. Maybe let them hit the brakes if they want to do that before the autopilot does.

Comment Diffie Hellman is not Knapsack (Score 1) 114

As somebody else pointed out, either you or the person you were talking to was thinking of Merkle-Hellman, not Diffie-Hellman.

NP-hard problems are attractive, because they take polynomial time to verify if you know the right piece of data (i.e. the key) and exponentialish time if you don't. But it turns out that there are a lot of them that either can't be usefully turned into an encryption algorithm, or usually aren't more than polynomially hard if you do, because the version of the problem that got you public-key encryption is either some subset problem that isn't exponentially hard, or is only hard sometimes but not always, or else because turning the problem from a decision system into an encryption system took you exponential amounts of work (i.e. wasn't useful.)

So far Discrete Logarithm (over various groups, including modulo-prime arithmetic and elliptic curves) and factoring have been the most useful problems, giving us Diffie-Hellman and RSA and a few signature systems.

Comment Avoids in-house racism issues (Score 1) 131

It's a way to model attacks by [current favorite threat] or [some other threat] without the risk that you'll get caught yet again using training material that's racist or religiously prejudiced or stupidly outdated, avoids the political problems of using training material where the "enemy" is now one of our allies (like the Germans or Russians or in some decades, Iraqis), and eliminates the problem that the training-material enemy is some national or ethnic group that some of your soldiers happen to belong to. And it means you don't have to do sensitivity training for the people who write your training material.

Comment Cultural diversions? (Score 1) 190

Yeah, the valley isn't the city. But here in Mountain View, there are usually about 25 cuisines of restaurants on our 4 blocks of downtown restaurant zone, and you can find a few more in Palo Alto or Sunnyvale, plus a lot more range of Indian and Korean farther down El Camino. We don't have much in the way of nightclubs, but there's plenty of choices of music jams around. I do have one friend who was living in San Jose and decided there wasn't enough social life down there (i.e. chances to meet women), so he moved up to the city and found that the women in the bars in his new neighborhood were also there to meet women, but eventually got to know somebody from his musician circles.

Comment Re:Insert any city here (Score 1) 190

Phoenix area has a lot of data centers, which got built there because there's no risk of earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes, and at least used to have a lot of chip factories because it was cheap and had minimal environmental regulation. Not sure how much that's still the case; if I were going to move to Arizona, I'd much prefer Tucson, which is relatively civilized.

Comment Sacramento Special Features (Score 1) 190

There are a lot of people in the Bay Area who already have commutes that hopelessly suck. Sacramento's just a bit farther away from San Francisco than places like Brentwood are from San Jose - it's 90 miles, which Google Maps says is about 1.5 hours in current traffic (though about 5 hours at rush hour.) And look at the surrounding communities - Roseville (big HP campus there and SF banks), Folsom (Intel), Rancho Cordoba (insurance and health care companies along freeway), Elk Grove (Apple), and bunches of other Silicon Valley companies that have large branch offices because it was close enough to Silicon Valley and the land was cheap enough to build data centers.

There have been some cultural changes out in that area as well since the time I was visiting occasional customers out there. Until Starbucks got to town, there was a local conspiracy not to sell any coffee strong enough to wake up a state bureaucrat. Other than one Lebanese restaurant, you simply couldn't get espresso, and the coffee at state office buildings was watery swill that's about like what McDonald's gets while they're washing their coffee pots. The stuff at gas stations near the freeway wasn't thick enough to burn.

It's not uncommon for some kinds of startups to move to the Lake Tahoe area when they're about to make some money, so that they get Nevada's near-zero taxes instead of getting hit with California taxes. You can still drive down to civilization if you need to see people, and if you were originally Easterners instead of native Californians the idea of snow isn't scary.

Comment Silicon Valley reinvented in 80s also (Score 1) 190

Remember when there was computer hardware? Companies like Sun and Silicon Graphics and a bunch of little Motorola 680x0 workstation companies?

Yeah, that boom had ended when I moved here in the early 90s, but there was still enough interesting culture and good weather to justify moving out from the east coast, even though the Internet meant you really could work from anywhere in the world you wanted. I caught the tail end of the housing slump (which meant my house in NJ made a good down-payment on a condo out here.)

Then all the dot-com silliness happened.

Comment Re:Yeah, RFID's copyable. Waterproof, though? (Score 1) 865

Believe me, I have plenty of experience with freezing rain and cars; I currently deal with the problem by living in California. :-)

And yeah, I do prefer simple non-electronic keys - my previous two cars were Chevy vans, which meant that not only was it easy to replace keys, and carry a AAA-made plastic key in my wallet in case I got locked out, but I could also break in with a screwdriver without much trouble.

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