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Comment Re:When are we going optical? (Score 1) 192

Alas, it's not quite general, as my Thinkpad is lacking the feature (the digital outputs are all labeled with "HDMI" in alsa).

Now you made me investigate. :) My laptop doesn't list any IEC958 devices either, but it does have a SPDIF control in alsamixer so I thought that it would work anyway—on my media center PC that switch was all that was needed to enable digital audio to my receiver, even without using the special "spdif" or "iec958" ALSA device. Much to my surprise, however, on the laptop it had no effect. From digging into the low-level details with /proc/asound/card0/codec* and the hdajackretask utility from the alsa-tools-gui package, it seems the chip (a VIA VT1802) does support SPDIF, but the SPDIF-capable digital output pin is not connected to the headphone jack (or anywhere else). Apparently the motherboard designers ran out of space for the trivial amount of off-chip wiring necessary to make SPDIF functional.

Comment Re:When are we going optical? (Score 1) 192

Incidentally, S/PDIF isn't doing too great these days, which is a shame. One of my old laptops from 2005 had optical audio output, and it was awesome especially given the poor quality of its analog output. Since then, this feature has been missing from most laptops, and even with desktop mobos you have to be careful.

Current systems can generally output S/PDIF digital audio through the line-out port; it's a standard feature, though somewhat hidden. You just need to connect an RCA adapter (use the right/red channel) and enable the S/PDIF output switch in the sound card settings. Audio quality is the same as Toslink (optical S/PDIF), though the signal may attenuate over very long coax links. There are devices like this one available which convert from coax to Toslink.

It seems since HDMI came out, you shouldn't need any other way of getting raw digital audio, which seems especially silly with something like 5.1 or better...

Unfortunately, S/PDIF doesn't support multichannel PCM; to get more than two channels the audio has to be compressed (e.g. AC3). If you want uncompressed multichannel digital audio (e.g. Dolby TrueHD) the only option is an HDMI connection, and the relevant standards say this is only allowed in combination with HDCP. It is at least possible to live-transcode multichannel PCM to AC3 to get surround sound without the DRM, albeit at some cost in quality, CPU time, and latency.

Comment Re:How many seconds (Score 1) 58

Netflix says UHD video is 7 GB/hr, or 10.5 GB for a typical 1.5 hr movie

You can certainly compress UHD video (or just about any resolution) down to 20 Mbps or less, but quality will suffer as a result. What is the point of ultra-high-resolution video with visible compression artifacts? Streaming at Blu-ray-equivalent video quality would require around 40 Mbps. This also happens to be in line with the Youtube UHD video upload guidelines.

Specific content providers may, of course, offer varying levels of control over video quality, at their discretion. At the moment there is no uniform system in place to give the user control over bandwidth consumption across all sites and applications. Netflix cuts some corners to save bandwidth, but not everyone else does the same.

In the end, even 10 GB for 1.5 hours of entertainment isn't much better than 24 GB when a typical mobile plan includes less than half that amount for the entire month. The biggest single-line plan Verizon currently offers (32 GB for ~$155/mo. + taxes and fees) would cover three films, more or less, in overcompressed quasi-UHD. Three movies in a month is hardly extravagant—and there is no requirement that you actually watch the video on your smartphone. Streaming in UHD to a smart TV or set-top box is not unreasonable, and in some places mobile providers are the only real options for Internet access.

Comment Re:Did a non-technical person write this? (Score 1) 73

For example, it can store and process data as 0, 1, 2, or 3, known as Ternary number system.

The Ternary, or Base-3, number system uses digits 0, 1, and 2 or (for Balanced Ternary) -1, 0, and +1. The Base-4 system with digits 0, 1, 2, and 3 is properly referred to as the Quaternary number system.

Comment Re:How many seconds (Score 2) 58

Higher bandwidth does not mean you use more data to stream a movie

Actually, in most cases it does. The provider automatically selects the video quality based on the available bandwidth, so more bandwidth available equals more bandwidth—and data—used for the same duration of video. Up to a point, anyway: 4K or UHD video, the current "gold standards", require 35-45 Mbps; this is also the approximate maximum bitrate supported by Blu-ray discs. At that rate you'd need to download a GB every 3.5 minutes, or over 24 GB for a typical 1.5 hour movie. I suspect the peak mobile bandwidth available in most places is considerably less than 40 Mbps, though results may vary in major metropolitan areas.

Comment Re:Agreed on the purpose. Hopeful for a side-effec (Score 1) 123

If they can't legally reveal the source of the information amd they can't *legally* lie about the source, than they can't really use the information for criminal prosecution without breaking the law.

They'll still use it, after coming up with an alternate explanation for how the information was obtained. They won't even have to lie, exactly—once they use the secret interception to identify their target, they'll go back and perform a public and apparently above-board investigation based on those results (perhaps laundered via an "anonymous tip" from a "concerned citizen"); the results from that investigation are the ones they supply to the court. Of course, the public investigation never would have been started if it weren't for the data they secretly intercepted, and the defendant, whether guilty or innocent, will face an uphill battle combatting the mass of circumstantial evidence compiled long before the public investigation even started. This is no different from "parallel construction" as currently practiced in the U.S., with all the attendant problems. If you set out to find people who look guilty, you will turn up more than a few who are actually innocent—and if the fact that the case was founded on a dragnet search is kept secret, that circumstantial evidence will be granted far too much weight. As far as the victim can prove it's just a case of really bad luck, when in fact the system is secretly selecting for those least able to defend themselves, which leads to a high false-positive rate.

Comment Re:Space-bar? (Score 1) 309

Not to mention Windows actually makes it really hard to name a file starting with a space, as it will helpfully remove the space if you try.

It doesn't try all that hard, since this works fine: notepad "\\?\c:\temp\ space.txt". Once the file is created you can open it and edit it normally, or delete it from Explorer. If you really want to see Windows get confused, try creating a file like "\\?\c:\temp\nul.txt". You'll be able to open the file through Explorer (as an alias for NUL), but not save to it. Explorer won't even be able to delete the file because it thinks its opening/deleting the special NUL device, despite the path and .txt suffix. (Naturally, you can delete it using "del \\?\c:\temp\nul.txt" from a command prompt.)

Comment Re:Here's the text of the law, which subsection is (Score 1) 123

I see that by the plain words of the law they "may not disclose ... any content of an intercepted communication", I don't see any authorization to disclose the content and lie about the source.

You stopped too soon. Read the rest of the text. The key phrases are "discloses, in circumstances from which its origin in interception-related conduct may be inferred ... or tends to suggest that any interception-related conduct has or may have occurred or may be going to occur". As long as they disguise the origin enough to protect their secret spying program they can use the intercepted content however they want. The point of this clause isn't to protect the public from misuse of the intercepted communications, it's to keep the interception program itself out of the public eye.

Comment Re:Why do I need this? (Score 1) 105

In America, the stoplights have "hoods" on them to prevent them from being seen from any angle other than head on.

Is that what those hoods are for? I always thought they were to make the lights more visible by keeping them out of direct sunlight. Most of them certainly aren't very effective at hiding the color of the lights facing the other direction, whether because the angle is wrong to block the entire light or due to more subtle reflections, often on the inside of the hood itself.

In any case, hiding information about the status of the intersection is counter-productive to ensuring safe and orderly traffic patterns. The more accurate and up-to-date situational data drivers have the better. Rather than directional masks, they should be adding count-down displays visible to all drivers (not just those in late-model Audis) so that everyone has an accurate forecast of when the light will change.

Comment Re:Provide this at the state level (Score 0) 280

Here's my homework, teacher: Article 1, section 8: Congress may lay and collect taxes for the "common defense" or "general welfare" of the United States.

This does not equate to a power to spend tax money on (or regulate) anything "for the 'common defense' or 'general welfare'". If Congress's enumerated powers included getting involved in education, this clause would grant them the power to raise money toward that end. It does not grant that power by itself. If it did, the remainder of the section (and the entire concept of enumerated powers) would be rendered meaningless, which was obviously not the authors' or signers' intent.

Don't worry, this is a very common mistake. Your reading comprehension will improve with practice. In the meantime, perhaps you would care to read what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had to say on the subject.

Comment Re:Not Fed (Score 1) 280

Financially, Congress has the power to tax, borrow, pay debt and provide for the common defense and the general welfare.

You skipped some critical words and punctuation:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; ...

Notice the comma after "Excises"—these are two separate lists, not a single broad power. The power described here is simply "To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises". That's it: to collect money, not to spend it. The purpose of that power is described by the next phrase, "to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States". That is merely clarifying language, tacked on to explain why the money is being collected and not intended to grant any additional powers. In other words, the nature of this power is merely to fund the enumerated powers given by the remainder of the section. If this sentence alone were intended to authorize absolutely anything which might be argued to "provide for the common Defense and general Welfare" then the remainder of the section would be superfluous. That (false) interpretation does away with the entire concept of enumerated powers. The authors and signers obviously did not intend for the enumeration of powers granted to Congress to be superfluous, or Section 8 would have ended immediately after the words "general Welfare".

Don't just take my word for it, though. Consider instead the writings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on the subject.

Comment Re:It was a joke to begin with (Score 1) 280

When the time comes to start specializing in something (i.e. choosing a major in college), they will have a good idea of what subjects they enjoy and have an aptitude for. That's where they'll pick up the math and analytical skills and other foundational stuff.

Math and analytical skills are foundational skills for far more than just computer programming, and ought to be taught long before the student enters college. It is undeniably true that not every student needs to be trained as a large-system software developer, but everyone should learn at least the most basic fundamentals of computer design, both practical and theoretical, and more importantly the problem-solving skills such as abstract thinking, divide-and-conquer, proofs, etc. which are necessary to understand how complex systems function, including—but not limited to—software. Introductory computer coding is one context in which these skills can be taught, so long as it is recognized as a means to an end and not the end itself.

Comment Re:And we have Google (Score 1) 204

You can't have it both ways, either we have a forgetful society ... or you let things be remembered forever and applied to your "reputation".

The so-called "right to be forgotten" has exactly zero relevance here. For one, it never prevented anyone from assembling a database of social interactions with "scores" based on individual behavior. It only prohibited the details of that behavior from being searchable by the general public. This new system China is implementing does not need to be public or searchable to be effective and would be fully compatible with the nonsensical "right to be forgotten" laws instituted in the EU. Moreover, the ability to search historical records for once-public information about an individual's past does not in any way imply the degree of official monitoring and collection of private data about individuals that China's plan calls for, much less mandate that this information be used to control access to goods and services in service to the rulers' political and social agenda.

When a person with extensive debt and a history of missing payments is denied a loan based on their credit score, that is simply common sense. If more information allows that risk to be assessed more precisely, so much the better—so long as the information is made available voluntarily, and deliberately hiding relevant data to obtain credit which would not have been extended had the lender known about the risk is tantamount to fraud (i.e. theft). On the other hand, when an otherwise responsible, low-risk individual is denied a loan merely because an intrusive government deems them "potentially subversive" or "not a team player" we have a serious problem, especially when the government exercises significant direct influence over the economy.

TL;DR: The problem is not the absence of "forgetfulness" or the existence of a "reputation score", it's the influence of the government over the economy and the application of political force guided by that information. Without that information the government's meddling would be perhaps a bit less efficient, but no less wrong.

Comment Re:Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! (Score 1) 302

I haven't seen a software project of any complexity come in this close.

Even your average "Hello, World" app running on a modern PC is probably more complex, if you count all the software involved in getting from a few lines of trite source code to pixels on a screen: compilers, program loaders, standard libraries, system calls, filesystems, pseudo-terminals, terminal emulators, IPC, rendering libraries, graphics drivers, window managers, memory management, scheduling, etc. We've just become very good at automating the management of all that complexity behind the scenes, to the point that it's routinely taken for granted and treated almost like magic. Physical designs are trivial by comparison—but the complexity they do have is much harder to manage compared to digital constructs.

Comment Re:It's past time. (Score 1) 1430

The electoral college was specifically designed so the person who won the popular vote could still lose the election.

When the electoral college was designed there was no popular vote for the presidency. The electors were expected to meet, debate, and ultimately select the president and vice president as free agents representing the interests of their respective states—very much as if Congress directly appointed the president and vice president. The role falls to the EC rather than Congress itself mainly to ensure that the electors are all recent appointments, whereas a member of Congress may have been elected up to four years prior. The idea that an elector would be expected to vote for predetermined presidential and vice presidential candidates based on the outcome of a state-wide or nation-wide election (with or without the binding agreements and legal penalties for noncompliance employed by some states) is a comparatively recent invention.

For myself, I don't really care whether the president is selected by the EC or a popular vote. There are pros and cons to both systems. What I would like to see, however, is the option for any candidate to be disqualified through a 20-40% minority veto. Anyone who manages to alienate enough of the voters and/or electors to warrant such a veto should not become President. I do not think it unreasonable to expect that the President should at least be deemed marginally acceptable by 60-80% of the citizens he or she will rule over for the next four years. This business of choosing between two bad candidates (and a few minority candidates who certainly won't win, and are apparently on the ballot only to split the vote) is utter nonsense. The lesser evil is no way to select the representative for an entire nation.

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