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Comment Re:Won't Be Star Trek (Score 1) 79

There was one where the Enterprise was parked underwater just to hide from a pre-industrial civilization - can you believe that? Another where a belt buckle made all of Star Fleet obsolete.

I even saw one where the Enterprise was being built in the middle of a field on Earth's surface, and a single drop of red paint was enough to implode Vulcan.

Comment Why? (Score 1) 363

Okay, I understand that folks are uncomfortable with the 3D glasses, and the 3D effect is frequently a distraction to the story, and all that, but isn't it just some software on the TV that is producing the image? Is there really much in the line of special hardware on the TV itself needed to produce the 3D effect? Lots of TVs have headphone jacks, but only a vanishingly small number of people use the jack. So, if 3D doesn't involve an excessive amount of special hardware on the TV, why not leave it in as an available, but unmarketed feature.

Alternatively, can a third party settop box do the 3D processing?

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 "As a cost-cutting measure..." (Score 4, Insightful) 32

This is the problem with subscription services; the provider can change their mind at a whim as to what they provide, leaving subscribers in the lurch. We saw it with the disappearing e-books a while back. Cell phone providers are changing plans all the time, as are TV providers. The situation will only get worse with Software-As-A-Service providers. What are you going to do when your budget software service goes under, or is acquired by a bigger provider and is shut down? Or when your backup provider stops supporting your OS?

... and this is on top of all the third party data sharing, affiliate advertising, and security bypass "features" that modern services employ.

I heartily recommend avoiding subscription services like the plague.

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.

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