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Comment Re:Too expensive.... (Score 2) 320

I hate how deficient PC laptop screens are nowadays. They've somehow managed to get worse over time, not better. I'm still using an aging Dell laptop that's six years old because it has a 1920x1200 screen and I cannot even find a replacement that is similarly specced.

The only company that gets it is Apple, but their Retina display laptops start at $1,700, which is an absurd premium, and I'm not interested in running OS X anyway.

Comment Responsible disclosure is dead (Score 5, Insightful) 400

Here's what I've learned recently: If I ever discover a major security hole, do not even attempt to release it responsibly. Instead, layer up behind some proxies and Tor and leak it into a blackhat forum or IRC channel. That way the security hole will eventually get fixed, and I can't be prosecuted.

Comment Just like parity files (Score 5, Insightful) 357

If you've ever used Usenet, and you've used parity files to recover missing segments of data, then you know exactly how this technique works.

Frankly, I'm surprised it took so long for someone to apply it to lossy network environments. It seems obvious in hindsight.

Comment Re:Joke right? (Score 1) 279

> There are probably a fare number of single shot WWI and WWII era rifles we gave them to fight the Russians still floating about as well.

All standard arms of the World War I through World War II period were at least bolt-action, with some militaries issuing semi-automatics as standard (such as the US Armed Forces with the M1 Garand in WWII).

The improvement in rate of fire with a bolt-action rifle that loads from stripper clips is pretty significant over a single shot.

Comment Re:Why this is important (Score 1) 405

Hate to bring you down, but from everything I hear, the life isn't "arsenic-based" in the same sense that we're "carbon-based". Instead, all indications are that it's "simply" arsenic replacing phosphorus in the DNA backbone.

As a biochemist, I can almost assure you that the rest of the DNA looks the same. That is, these organisms have the same A/T/C/G DNA bases. I'd guess the (deoxy)ribose sugar part of the sugar-phosphate backbone is the same. It's just the phosphorus in the phosphate has been replaced by the chemically similar arsenic. Anything more extensive would be the selling point, and arsenic would be a secondary (but still important) consideration.

Well darn. I was going off the rather incomplete information as released so far. But we'll know for sure soon enough.

Comment Re:Why this is important (Score 1) 405

I don't know why you jump to that conclusion when it's not possible to concede that either mode of lifeforms came from abiogenesis on this Earth, or that either couldn't be extraterrestrial in origin... It's just as likely that our phosphate based life and this arsenic based life hitchhiked to this rock on other rocks.

Extraterrestrial origin is, of course, even more significant, but my main point was that even if it is homegrown, it still implies two separate abiogenesis events, which is huge. Note that extraterrestrial origin also implies two separate abiogenesis events, of course.

Comment Why this is important (Score 4, Insightful) 405

Taking the speculation in the article at face value, and thus assuming that NASA has found an arsenic-based lifeform in a shadow biosphere on Earth, here's why it's important:

All life on Earth that we know of is related. It all uses the same basic DNA/RNA mechanisms (including the same four base pairs), uses the same specific molecules that prominently feature carbon as the basic assembly blocks of the cell, etc. To use the ever-popular car analogy, cars can look quite different from each other, but they're all still essentially made out of the same things: bolts, gears, copper wiring, etc.

Well this other kind of life is completely different. It's so different that we know it cannot possibly be related to all of the other Earth life that we've known about thus far, as there is nothing in common. That means abiogenesis (the spontaneous generation of life from precursor non-living materials) happened at least TWICE on just this one planet.

So while this isn't extra-terrestrial life, it does have all sorts of potential ramifications on the potential existence of extra-terrestrial life. Before today, it was possible to speculate that one solution to Drake's Equation was simply that spontaneous generation of life was so rare that it only happened once, ever. But if we now found that it's happened multiple times just on this one planet ... then hell, it could be happening everywhere, all the time.

Comment Re:It's just not that compelling (Score 2, Informative) 535

Kids don't really struggle with projecting a 3D scene onto a 2D plane. They just start drawing what they see on paper. They don't even think about vanishing points and projections. That interpretation is natural as our vision is really based on 2D sensors.

Actually, that's not true. The naive/untrained method is to draw everything from a flat 2D perspective. You can see this both in art by children (or people with no formal art training) as well as in pretty much all art from the Middle Ages and prior. The development of perspective, which is an application of mathematics/geometry to art, is why paintings from the Renaissance Era on simply look so much better and more lifelike than paintings from any earlier era. The rules of perspective (that is, mapping a 3D world to a 2D surface) are not obvious, are not simple, and learning how to draw perspective well is a skill that is hard to master.


Submission + - First video of "A Digital Video Primer For Geeks" (

Ignorant Aardvark writes: " just released the first installment in its video series "A Digital Video Primer For Geeks", whichcovers digital audio and video fundamentals. The first video covers basic concepts of how digital audio and video are encoded, and does so in an understandable fashion. The video is hosted by Monty, the founder of (the people who brought you Ogg), and explains a lot of concepts (FourCC codes, YUV color space, gamma, etc.) that many watchers of digital video have long been exposed to, but don't quite understand themselves. The intent of the video series (in addition to general education) is to spur interest in digital encoding and get more free software hackers involved in digital audio/video. As Monty explains, the basic concepts aren't nearly as complicated as most people seem to assume. Give it a watch and see if you agree."

Comment Not a useful article at all (Score 2, Insightful) 426

So I spent the time to read that overly long article, and the author doesn't even say why he can't play the game with his left hand? I understand he looked through the menus for an option and didn't find one, but what specifically is going on in the game that makes it impossible to play with his left hand? This seems like the central point of the whole story, and yet it is left unexplained.

Comment Re:"overclocking" machines vulnerable (Score 4, Insightful) 173

Um, if they have physical access to the computer (in order to monkey with the power), why would it be considered secure?

This vulnerability is dangerous in the case when the same key is being used in many devices. Cracking one means you've cracked them all. This is a fairly common situation in consumer devices. See the HD-DVD player keys, or the TI graphing calculator signing keys.

Comment Re:Existing (Score 1, Offtopic) 116

Which part is over-estimated? All I can speak on from experience is AntiVandalBot. I ran that on an Athlon XP 2500+ (which wasn't particularly amazing at the time). It wasn't the computation that was hard, it was the network usage of downloading the diff of every edit by a non-trusted user from the RC feed. I would not have been able to run it on any home Internet connection. Thankfully I was able to place my server on an unthrottled 100 Mbps dorm connection at the University of Maryland.

I will grant you that highspeed Internet access has become a lot more widespread since 2006 (I personally have 25/15 FIOS), but at the time, there wasn't anything available residentially that could handle it.

Comment Re:Existing (Score 3, Informative) 116

The false positive rate on the anti-vandalism bots is a lot lower than you would think. The bots are written quite conservatively, take a lot of factors into account, and only pull the revert trigger when they are quite sure.

It's the type II error rate that's pretty high. Unfortunately, that's not solvable without strong AI.

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