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Comment Re:venerable language (Score 1) 86

I'm suspicious of anyone who calls HTML 'venerable.' They should call it, "notorious" or "infamous," maybe, "expectorant." Marc Andreesen points out there are just problems with it, and I can't see OOP fixing things.

Hate it all you like, you have to admit that it's been a success by pretty much any measure. Tim got the basics pretty sound.

Comment Re:EBooks (Score 1) 153

I'm in my 50s and my house is literally full of physical books. Every room is lined with bookcases most of them stacked two deep, and I've literally had to put jackposts in my basement to keep the floors from sagging.

Buying new books as ebooks means I don't have to get rid of my old books. It's also nice being able to travel with a generous selection of reading material.

Overall I find the reading experience to be about a wash, but that's a highly personal thing. For pure reading a physical book is better except in low-light conditions, but the search and note taking functions on an ebook are a big plus.

The biggest drawback for ebooks for me is the terrible mathematics typesetting, which is obviously a niche concern; but it's beyond bad; it renders many math ebooks unusable. Often the equations are rendered as low-resolution bitmaps that are close to unreadable, or in other cases I've seen equation terms randomly spread hither-and-yon across the page. For scientific and technical books I would much prefer a larger, higher resolution device. It's too bad nothing really fits the bill because I hate throwing out cases of obsolete technical books every year.

If I had to choose just one format, I'd choose paper. But I find ebooks have their uses.

Comment Re:free software (Score 2) 104

Both offerings can run FOSS, straight up.

Apple: Install bootcamp, then install Linux

Chromebook: Install MrChromebox, then install GalliumOS (a fork of xubuntu for chromebooks)

Apple gives you more choices, because it offers more standard hardware, and has a real HDD, but chromebook has ASTOUNDING battery life, and is very cheap. (Sticking a really big microSD card in, and mounting it as /home with TRIM enabled can get a lot of mileage out of the otherwise space constrained chromebook ecosystem, which is what I did with my Samsung CELES.)

Either way, you nuke the proprietary closed OS off the device, and run as close to pure FOSS as possible. (MrChromebox installs SEA BIOS based coreboot image for legacy boot mode, which is itself FOSS.)

Other than maybe some kind of contractual agreement to get the hardware, there isn't that much in the way of a school running free software and still leveraging this bidding war in their favor.

Comment Re:The problem (Score 1) 142

Quads can't, no variable pitch blades.

And you don't see the solution to that?

It's really simple. Regulators mandate safety standards so that - in real world conditions - you don't have cars constantly falling out of the sky due to failures or running into buildings. Engineers determine the designs to meet those standards. If they can't, they don't get to sell it.

Comment Brand loyalty? Oy. (Score 2) 104

We had a lot of odd minicomputers in my high school, but the one I used most in school was a Digital Equipment PDP-8. You loaded the bootstrap from a paper tape reader, and you loaded the paper tape reader program by switches on the front panel which allowed you to set memory address contents word by word and set the program counter to a particular octal address. Input/output was through a teletype that printed on a roll of paper.

I have to say that this primitive hardware was as satisfying in its way to work on as the latest core i7 laptop I'm writing this on -- despite the actual core memory's unreliability in our building which was next to a busy subway track. I suppose I did have positive feelings toward DEC, until I got to college and worked in a lab that stored its research data on RK05 disc packs.

In my experience -- which as you can probably tell is by now extensive -- there are two kinds of people, those that adapt readily to new stuff, and those who stubbornly stick with whatever they already know. And as you look at successively older cohorts, the greater the proportion of stick-what-you-knowers there will be.

So the idea that you'll imprint *kids* on your technology is dubious. Yes you will imprint them, but it won't prevent them from switching to something else.

Comment Re: Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth (Score 1) 255

The human population is composed of experts, with divisions of labor. It is not unreasonable for AI programs to have areas of expertise.

In fact this is not true. The human population is composed of experts, some of whom have required in addition specialized skills due to division of labor.

Comment Re:Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 1) 255

Oh, and here's another example I just thought of.

I once read a book by an early aviator on techniques of navigating by landmark from the air. He recounts a number of feats of navigation by what were then called "primitive people", including one account of preparations for raid by a group of 19th Century teenage Apaches on an enemy village. None of the boys had ever been there, and so they sought out an elderly man who'd been there once when he was a boy. He described all the landmarks along the way, e..g. turn south at the hill that looks like such and so, a process took almost two days because the village in question was almost five hundred miles distant.

Now if a 19th C Apache had devised an intelligence test, chances are you or I would score retarded. There's no way I could give turn-by-turn directions to a place I'd visited just once thirty years ago. And if I could the chance you could just hear them and then go there without any difficulty is nil. We are simply too unfamiliar and unpracticed a task that is second nature to them.

Comment Re:Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 1) 255

You have to look again at how the tests are devised. Let's say you just invented an intelligence test. How do you know it's any good? You give it to a bunch of people and see if it confirms what you already believe about those people.

This culturally biases the tests in several ways. Let's say your test evaluates verbal and spatial mental performance. Naturally the verbal part will be biased towards not only native speakers of your language, but native speakers of your dialect. Then how do you weight verbal vs. spatial in your net socre? That's a cultural assumption. Even if you decide to weight them equally, that's still a weighting and represents a de facto judgment that one is not necessarily more indicative of intelligence than the other.

Then there's the stuff you don't include in your test, for example social reasoning and perception. Inferring other peoples' mental states and intentions is an extremely important aspect of intelligence, but it is also intrinsically culturally specific. Let's say you ask your neighbor whether you can borrow his car and he tells you it's broken. You know it's not broken. What can you infer from that? It depends on where you live. In the US you'd take it as a sign of disrespect, but in some cultures you'd infer that it would be inconvenient for him to loan you his car. Social perception and reasoning is one of the most important aspects of intelligence, but it is nearly inpossible to get a culturally unbiased mesaure of that.

Comment My pockets are too small for textbooks (Score 1) 153

> Paper books sometimes get discounts that make them cheaper than ebooks. Why would anyone pay more for bits?

I do a lot of studying 5-15 minutes at a time. I study a few pages in the bathroom, a few pages while waiting in line, etc. Dead tree books are rather inconvenient to keep in my pocket, so I prefer digital for studying.

For reference books paper can be good because it doesn't dissapear easily, but even for reference digital is searchable.

Comment Re:I agree, but not for the same reasons as Musk (Score 1) 142

Congratulations, you have it entirely backwards.

The maximum efficiency of a prop, in newtons per watt, is 1 / (v_wake + v_freestream), where velocity is in meters per second. The faster you're moving (the freestream velocity), the less thrust you get per watt. Which is why large props are more efficient (more air moved at a lower wake speed), particularly at low speeds, and same for high bypass jet engines.

Now, in terms of "energy per 100km" or "miles per unit energy", obviously a hover yields "infinite joules per 100km" and "0 miles per joule", because you're not going anywhere. But that's an entirely different situation than propulsive efficiency. If you want to start factoring in motion, then your cross section / drag coefficient / L:D ratio / altitude (and thus density) and so forth come into play, and the optimum speed comes down to a balance between a wide range of factors - the faster you go, the less time you spend flying, but your drag increases quadratically, and your prop efficiency drops (the rate of drop relative to the difference between the freestream and wake velocities). Airplanes maximize this balancing point by having extremely low drag coefficients (Cd), far less than cars tend to have.

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