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Comment Re: Glasses (Score 2) 435

Not just that - you can't focus anywhere but where the camera is focused. The 3D they tried to sell us showed difference in depth between the foreground and background, but was still blurry even when you try to look at it, unless you were only viewing animated films. This meant that watching 3D movies simply took more effort, as parts of the screen moved in and out of focus.

Comment Re: Not news (Score 1) 219

I do, but it could have missed out on a spot of my local news for any number of reasons - like a domestic political scandal or election happening at the same time. Not everything should necessarily be ascribed to malice or conspiracy.
There are other personal reasons why someone might miss out on a news story, including holiday, travel, family emergency, or illness.

Comment Re: Any way to hedge USD using smart contracts? (Score 1) 146

The principal reason fiat currencies are managed for low inflation is to produce steady nominal economic growth, and encourage investment and redistribution of funds. This isn't necessary for bitcoin, because it doesn't need to replace fiat currency to have value.
For example, Bitcoin offers a way to transfer funds in and out of war zones and political hot spots. Our existing monetary system breaks down in these cases, as trust breaks down, government stop operating, and the local fiat currency becomes worthless. Also, fiat is worthless if the government doesn't like you - just look at what happened to Wikileaks. The US government had their bank and PayPal accounts shut down and they were forced to rely on bitcoin donations.

Comment Re: Hilarious (Score 2) 146

It is normal for investors to hold a percentage of higher risk assets, and to hold financial instruments for purposes other than long term growth, such as hedging contracts to protect against currency fluctuations. In BTC's case, holding it offers certain characteristics that are hard to get in other asset classes. To someone managing a fund or portfolio, these characteristics have little to do with the technology itself, and everything to how the bitcoin price responds to international events. In recent years, the bitcoin price has risen when uncertainty around the global economic system is high, or a country (read China) is trying to restrict money flow across its borders. Given recent worries about the US president-elect starting a trade war, bitcoin outperformance at the same time as a strong US dollar (hence a low gold price) is a foreseeable outcome. None of this is to say bitcoin has any inherent value. However, the fact that its price has reacted to world events in predictable ways has meant that it has been a useful financial instrument.

Comment Re: Free Motorcycles (Score 1) 295

But the fact that the power hasn't been exercised isn't the point. The law is still on the books, so the state all has "ownership" and can in theory send you off to you to do whatever they want. Your Supreme Court considered this different to slavery only because serving in the armed forces is an "honour".

Comment Re: About time. (Score 1) 656

Section 116 of the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and in theory might provide a defence if the nurse argued that their opposition to vaccination was based on religion. However, it becomes murky in healthcare. For example, in some states, doctors objecting to abortion are legally required to refer patients on to specialists that offer terminations, but those laws are contentious.

Comment Re: No. Simply No. (Score 3, Informative) 522

Not that I am in love with Microsoft, but Excel has added quite a few "minor" functions since 2000 that dramatically increase usability.

For example, Excel 2007 introduced filtering and sorting by colors. And formats. Coupled with the existing conditional formatting, it significantly improved the ability of the software to sort based on any criteria, without using extra columns.

Going back a bit further, a key feature introduced in Excel 2003 was the ability to import xml datasets, and to set up templates quite easily which automatically imported data from xml files into preset columns. This can be done using macros, sure, but it's a lot easier to use the built in functionality.

Comment Re: @ CGordy - Re:sure, no problem (Score 1) 245

Without disagreeing with you, the point I was trying to make was that SIS or safety systems are hard wired and so are not physically capable of being connected to the internet, but (at least on the plants I've worked on) DCS data is available remotely via the company VPN. It is always possible to do financial damage by entering incorrect DCS setpoints, but it shouldn't be possible to compromise the plant safety (in a perfect world, anyway).

Obviously, my experience is in refining and chemicals, not nuclear, so the way control rooms are managed is probably different. I also suspect there is a difference in terminology, as I wouldn't class someone without a four year degree an engineer, but that's another discussion entirely.

Comment Re:sure, no problem (Score 5, Informative) 245

There's a lot of misconceptions on slashdot about how these "critical infrastructure" plants actually run. I've spent a lot of time working in chemical plants, and these plants are heavily instrumented, with all parameters recorded. These are accessible in real time to the plant engineers, who typically don't sit in the control room, and often aren't in the same state (there's a very limited pool of people available who are "experts" at some of these processes, and when a serious problem occurs companies want the best person to look at the data ASAP).

The guys who sit in the control room are not engineers. They're plant operators, and their job is to keep the plant running as smoothly as possible, and escalate the issue to an engineer if there's a non-standard problem. Most plants these days are so heavily automated that for normal, stable operation only two operators are required on site per say $100 million of plant (as a guesstimate - more during the day when scheduled maintenance is occurring).

The engineers at these sites are actually classed as management. That's because they have ultimate responsibility for the plant when problems happen, although they don't control the day to day operation of the site. Most of an engineer's day on a chemical plant should be spent looking at whether the plant is configured optimally, and trying to troubleshoot longer term problems which require a more theoretical viewpoint. However, they do have to get out of bed at three in the morning if something's gone wrong. They also have to manage the operators, and have a promotion path to "real" management - refinery managers (for example) are usually engineers.

However, what the article totally missed is that these sites already have two layers of control system - the Distributed Control System (DCS), and the Safety Instrumented System (SIS). The wikipedia contains a lot more detail, but essentially these SIS's are hard wired systems that aren't programmable at all, so they are intrinsically resistant to an internet or software based attack. However, they're very expensive (every trip needs to be built as a dedicated circuit), so these systems are only used to ensure that the plant fails in a safe manner, not continued operation. Priority is given to safety of people in the vicinity over integrity of the plant equipment - these systems wouldn't typically be used a stop a pump or centrifuge (for example) from running too fast, unless that could cause some consequential (human) damage.

Finally, an analog system would be a big step backwards from a safety viewpoint because it wouldn't allow the plants to automatically shut down safely when a problem occurs. Plant shutdowns are typically a multiple step process, and in a refinery (for example), large quantities of high temperature, high pressure flammable gases need to be disposed of, which would simply not be possible to safely "program" in an analog environment. Before digital systems came along, plant trips were "all hands on deck" incidents, with operators frantically adjusting adjusting setpoints on dials to bring the plants down. Of course, the risk of operator error was high, so automated shutdowns were a big step forwards in plant safety.

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