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Comment Proof-of-Wasted-Work vs. Useful Work (Score 3, Interesting) 156

Most of the proof-of-work systems out there are really demanding that you waste some amount of money, time, or both, to prevent people from just generating arbitrarily high numbers of coins (as opposed to the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy use of leaves as coins.) Bitcoin number-crunching is purely wasteful potlatching. Dogecoin is such wow, so calculation!

At least this one is doing a kind of work that's potentially valuable to the world, assuming the system collects all of it in a way that can be used to contribute to mathematical knowledge. (Yeah, yeah, this is /., and I'm commenting on the article without reading it :-) There may be other kinds of calculations that are both useful and verifiable out there. Unfortunately, protein folding and most other non-mathematical real-world applications probably aren't easily verifiable except by having N people redo the same calculation, which is a problem for currencies that need to prevent double-spending. (I ran Folding@Home for a while, as well as the GIMPS Mersenne Prime Search. For SETI@Home, which for some years was a far larger supercomputer than anything on the Top-500 list, sure, you can contend that there really aren't aliens in the chunk of sky your system was testing, but that's not the kind of verification we're looking for...)

Comment NIF was really for weapons research (Score 1) 143

Hey, what's your serious response doing here, in between all the suggestions about sharks with frikkin' lasers?

NIF was always really about fusion research for the nuclear weapons programs, just as almost everything else at Livermore Labs was either related to weapons research & development, or infrastructure for the R&D folks (e.g. they did some good development on email systems back in the 80s because their R&D folks needed good email.) Some of it's more direct development, some of it's more basic science, but even then it's basic science intended to help weapons research. They've occasionally done other things (some solar energy research or whatever), but that's a drop in the bucket, and a lot of the environmental research they did was either trying to figure out how to clean up the messes their weapons folks made or the messes left over from the previous Navy base at that location.

Comment Illegal Parking at Livermore Labs (Score 1) 143

You really don't want to park in the wrong place at Livermore Labs. I don't know if they're still running the 5-story-high magnet they had back in the late 80s / early 90s when I went to some graphics conferences there, but if they can't just pick up your car and move it out of the way with the magnet, now they've got the Big Laser. Also don't go parking near the "No Parking - Spilled Plutonium" signs (though actually the nastier environmental problems they've had there have been leftover junk left over from WWII when the Navy was using the place - solvents that weren't yet known to cause cancer, or maybe they already were known to cause cancer but were still really effective solvents, the occasional leftover explosive, etc.)

Comment US Policy is the big limit to Cuban Internet (Score 1) 119

The best way to keep a totalitarian ideological government in power is to limit communications with the outside and continue to give it enemies to justify the government's existence. The US government has been trying as hard as possible to keep doing this for decades.

The US economic embargo has severely limited telephone communications with Cuba for decades, and more recently has limited Internet connectivity, and the travel policy has limited US tourism and family visits from "corrupting" Cubans by exposure to foreigners and foreign ideas. And the Cuban government has been just fine with that; it means that they get to control the limited amount of internet connectivity coming into their country and make sure that only the ideologically correct people get access. The embargo meant that the US telephone companies couldn't pay the Cuban telcos their share of the costs for the undersea cables to Cuba or for the phone calls from the US to Cubans, and they couldn't accept payments from the Cuban telcos even when the Cubans could acquire enough US dollars to pay them.

Maybe that's started to loosen up under Obama, but realistically it's not going too get better until the Republicans and Democrats stop believing that support from Old Cuban Exiles is critical to maintaining Republican political control in Florida, and given the Bush/Gore election tie, that's not going to happen for a long time.

Comment So they don't blink like LEDs? Good! (Score 1) 376

What I really hate about LED lights on cars or road signs is that they're blinking fast enough that you don't notice it if you're looking at it straight on, but if you turn your head the blink turns into a trail of images because of the speed that your eyes and nervous system process such things. That would be really annoying to have in oncoming headlights.

Comment It's mostly immigrants that get poisoned (Score 2) 274

We've got the problem in California that there are lots of people who've come from places where mushroom hunting is a common occupation, and where there are local tasty mushrooms back in the old country which look a lot like our poisonous ones. And it's often not just one victim, it's a whole family who've been out in the woods for the day, picked the mushrooms, and cooked them for dinner. And now they all need liver transplants.

Comment Flashing Lights to say "Turn On Your Headlights" (Score 1) 457

If it's night time, I'll flash my headlights at people to tell them they forgot to turn on their headlights, or to tell them to turn off their brights.

If it's daytime, I usually have my headlights on for increased visibility, and because my car has an "automatic" headlight setting that's smart enough to turn off the lights a minute after I get out of the car so I don't have to worry about whether I left the lights on.

Comment Asset forfeiture happens all the time (Score 1) 457

There are some places where the police are individually corrupt and find ways to take forfeited assets for personal gain (I remember a case in New Jersey where the police chief's girlfriend kept winning auctions for forfeited property at amazingly low prices because nobody else knew it was up for bid), but there are a lot more places where the police departments are organizationally corrupt. So cops driving the cool sports cars they seized, or using seized money to justify more overtime for cops, or cops getting the cool guns from drug or gun dealers, yeah, happens all the time.

Comment D-Wave Seems to do Some Stuff Fast (Score 1) 224

Yeah, I've never been clear on exactly what stuff D-Wave does fast, or how it does it, in spite of having been to a few of their presentations, and D-Wave has always been clear upfront that their machine works differently from Shor's proposed quantum computers that sparked all the "It'll let you break crypto" interest.

But they apparently at least run some kinds of demos faster than you'd expect them to be able to do with conventional computers, and do it in ways that are interesting enough for a few big players to invest the money in more research which might lead to discovering ways to apply it to their real-world problems and not just lab demos.

Nobody doing "traditional" quantum computing has built anything that can solve problems bigger than factoring 15 = 3x5, or maybe somebody's gotten up to 21 by now. But it's still not close enough to sell anything to anybody; it's still just pure research.

Comment Re:Prairie home companion. (Score 1) 89

I'm under 60, and I've been listening to PHC for almost 30 years. And yeah, it's not for everybody, and it takes some attention span and some familiarity with the culture that it's coming from. I'm originally an Easterner, and my family was from the Midwest rather than the North Central area, and none of them were still farmers by the time I was around.

The church I went to in Berkeley in the 70s was about half grad students and about half old-time Swedish immigrant families; Pastor Anderson was from Minnesota, and his accent was about like a typical Lake Wobegone resident, and the potluck dinners would have lots of baked goods and casseroles and the occasional lutefisk. They weren't Lutherans, but you could recognize a lot of Keillor's memes, though of course these were the folks who, after moving South from Sweden to Minnesota, decided that that was enough of that moved somewhere warm.

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Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson