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Comment Will have zero effect on bad guys (Score 5, Insightful) 505

The cost to personal liberty, the flagrant unconstitutionality, and the chilling effect on US international relations and tourism aside, this is ALSO a bad idea because it will have zero effect on the real bad guys.

If you are a bad guy, why would you bring a phone loaded with contacts? Why would you provide a real, rather than a fake social media account? For a real bad guy, it is trivially easy to circumvent this new check. For the rest of us, it's a massive inconvenience, invasion of privacy, and an almost certain invitation to both systematic abuse and abuse by bad-apple agents.

(BTW, topic drift... I was quite surprised to see financial data disclosure requirements described as "new". Unlike the phone search and social media stuff, the financial data part is _not_ new. It's been a requirement for certain visa applicants for at least 40 years. It doesn't currently happen at the border, but rather at visa application time. Perhaps the reason it's listed as being new is because it now includes visa-waiver-program countries too?)

Comment Does this mean that Hydrogen "is a metal"? (Score 1) 334

This is just a semantic nitpick question about terminology. (I am not a chemist. Nor a physicist. So, humor me if this question is stupid.)

Should we think of Hydrogen as being metal -- one that happens to have been given a bad rap in the past because the "right" temperature/pressure point where it's metalic-ness would have been obvious, just happens not to be exactly common in our everyday experience. In the taxonomy of elements, isn't a given element on periodic table either considered a metal or not?

Or is hydrogen qualitatively different, somehow? e.g. is it semiconductor like Silicon?

Also, are there any other elements with metalic/non-metalic versions of (say) their solid states?

Comment Re:Forgot Some... (Score 1) 489


(The following are not recent, they are long-standing UI problems, but I think at least as serious as the others on the list.)

  - Un-commanded/asynchronous change of focus. (E.g. popup appears, userping your current interaction with a window).
  - Lack of context. (E.g. popup tells you there has been an error of type X, and offers some choices, but you have no way of even knowing which program or window the popup is assocated with. For bonus points, it asks you to choose a corrective aciton on the spot.)
  - Missing or non-obvious way to "back out" of the previous action, if you decide you took a wrong turn. (Iphone is really bad this way, and the alleged fix in IOS9 doesn't really fix it.)
  - User-interaction windows that "take you hostage". You have to click one of several irreversible choices before anything else can happen. Won't relinquish focus to go see explore options or understand the context better. Worst still, it can't even be dragged so you can look at the window below for context!
  - Obscured boundary between executing the program and changing the configuration. "Do you want to do X?". "Do you always want to do X in future?" "Do you want to make XYZZY the default handler for X"?. Also, ambiguity about whether resulting changes are for the current operation, the current data set, the current session, or all future activities by the program.
  - Ambiguity about which each choice means what. Does "proceed" mean proceed with the original operation you requested? Does it mean proceed with the corrective action suggested, e.g. in an error popup? A popular variation of this is "do you want to do X (yes/no)", with no explanation of what will be done instead if you select no.

Comment Re: This stuff makes me feel old (Score 1) 296

Agreed with all of the above. Slight topic drift follows...

I've never bought or sold a Bitcoin, because they don't seem to offer any use case that I care about.

Certainly not investment. Not even under the banner of "speculation" -- that's not in my temperament (I don't like playing with the highly volatile)
And not money-laundering either. What little money I do possess is sparkling clean, and not in need of any laundering.

But, is the following a useful use-case for Bitcoin?

Can you use Bitcoin useful as an interim currency to send money between family members in different countries? The sender would buy bit-coin in say dollars, send it electronically to the receiver, who would almost immediately sell it in euros, say. The Bitcoins would be held for a short enough time that hopefully the volatility would not be an unacceptable risk. Perhaps just minutes.

I would be interested in that use model, perhaps. I don't care about anonymity per-se, as the transfers would all be legal and well within regulatory limits. But, purely as a way to avoid dealing with foreign-exchange departments in banks, which I can tell you from experience are VERY very slow, complicated, and expensive. Seems like a Bitcoin-based transfer would essentially be self-directed, with nobody other than the sender and receiver having to play an active role.


Comment Re: This stuff makes me feel old (Score 1) 296

> my house payment is $1000, it'll be $1000 in a fiat currency like US dollars, period.
> But my house payment will be $1000 US dollars regardless of the price of gold or silver or bitcoin or whatever.

It's only "fixed" in dollars, because you negotiated in dollars when you took out the mortgage. (I'm not suggesting you had a choice, of course).

It's not "fixed" in any other fiat currency. Your $1000/mo mortgage payment still changes from month to month when measured in Euros, Yuan, Pounds, Shekels, Wampum, or Micronesian Rai stones.

So, I don't think this argument illustrates any fundamental fiat-vs-bitcoin difference.
It only illustrates the pragmatic point that currency amounts specified in a contract have to be bound to a particular currency in order to make the contract unambiguous. That chosen currency (whether fiat or bitcoin) is only "special" in the context of that particular contract.

Comment Simpler is better. Must be self-evidently fair. (Score 2) 637

Simpler is better => Everybody who wants to understand it, does understand it. Electoral college may have been the simplest viable system in its day, but modern rapid communication enables much simpler alternatives.

Self-evidently-fair => This is hard, because "fair" is subjective -- and there will be factions who claim _any_ system is rigged or biased. Despite the subjectivity, some systems are obviously fairer than others -- extreme example: simple majority voting is fairer than throwing the votes away and appointing a hereditary king. We can certainly come a lot closer to "objectively fair" than the current US presidential system, though. Electoral College system is self-evidently unfair despite its historical honorable intent. If you live in a rural-dominated state your vote counts more than if you live in an urban state. For that matter, if you live in a small (swing) state, your vote counts more than if you live in a large state. And, if you live in a non-swing state, your vote doesn't count at all!

Based on these criteria, my top two choices (in no particular order) would be:
    - Popular vote, winner takes white house. (The clear winner of the "simpler is better" criterion).
    - Popular vote with instant runoff system. (Still fairly simple. I won't bother describing it, it's pretty clear on Wikipedia).

Instant runoff handles "spoiler" candidates better IMO. (I say IMO, since "better" is of course subjective).
Instant runoff may even help discourage the de-facto two-party monopoly that exists fort the US presidency.
For these reasons I have a slight bias towards instant runoff, but still think either of the above variants of popular vote would be vastly better than what we have now.

BTW, does anybody reading this know where I can find the Douglas Hofstadter essay on voting systems? I read it years ago. He demonstrated the pros and cons of many different voting systems, and clearly showed by example that no voting system is perfect. As I recall, for each system he described a scenario that produced outcomes that satisfied none of the voters.

Comment How do you opt out? (Score 1) 168

I am always suspicious of web sites that present only one interface -- something like "sign up here". No reading what the implications are first. No up-front disclosure of how to terminate the agreement if you change your mind. Basically, no information disclosed until you are already committed.

The web site appears to have a glaring omission. Provides for easy opt-in, but what about opt-out?

Suppose you own a property, and the previous owner was on the list. You buy a drone, and want to fly it on your own property. Oops!

Even if they fix that problem, and provide a way to remove an address from the list, there needs to be a robust way of ensuring that the change propagates quickly to new and existing drones.

Seems very half-baked and gimmicky to me.

Comment Selection Bias? (Score 1) 197

The article is a little light and fluffy. Doesn't say how these passwords were leaked.

Seems likely, though, that the very fact that they were leaked at all might be a form of selection bias. For example if the leakage vector involved some sort of cracking, it is hardly surprising at all that simple passwords dominate the list.

Comment My opinion as a pilot (Score 5, Informative) 269

I have lost four of my friends to airplane accidents. Two were pilots -- in one case the it clearly his own fault, and in the other it was extremely bad piece of luck. The other two deaths were the direct result of naively trusting the wrong pilot.

I see two flavors of comment so far. Non-pilots saying they think the idea is scary, and pilots saying "aw, pshaw, I am well trained, what is the problem?". Well, I am a pilot myself (commercial pilot and certified flight instructor), yet I strongly agree with the "that's scary" crowd. I've flown many thousands of hours in all sorts of locales, weather, and equipment. I've handled numerous emergencies, with never a scratch. I've taught hundreds of other pilots to fly. But, in all that time, by far the scariest moments I have ever had in the air were occasions where I made the mistake of riding as a passenger with the wrong choice of pilot!

Those who place their faith in the FAA's training standards, simply fail to understand that the ratings indicate compliance with the bare legal minima -- essentially they mean nearly nothing.

Nor does safety correlate with pilot rating. I've met some mere student pilots that I'd sooner trust with my life than many commercial pilots. The variation from one individual pilot to the next, regardless of qualifications, by far exceeds the variations from one rating to another. That variation comes from preparedness, attitude experience and common sense. Bottom line, with the exception of airlines (where I have no choice!) I will NEVER ride with a pilot whose experience, skills, and attitude I do not personally know first hand. And, I'd never advise friends or loved ones to ride with "just any old pilot".

Submission + - Happy 100th Birthday, Bill Hewlett ( 1

RockyMountain writes: The day seems to be passing without comment in the news, so I figured I should at least point it out to Slashdot readers. Today is the 100th birthday of the late Silicon Valley pioneer William "Bill" Redington Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard.

Even HP's web site is silent on the event!

Comment More importantly, how many items never received? (Score 1) 217

Very little problem with receiving someone else's mail, so I voted 1-10. Closer to the 1 end of the scale.

But, a bigger problem is items mailed to me that never arrived.

Historically, that number has been zero. But in the last month, I have had three separate items that were sent but never showed up. Mailed about a week apart, from three different senders. Percentage-wise, three missing items is plenty, as my (junk-mail-adjusted) received mail volume probably only amounts to about 10 items per month.

Comment Re:Anything less than 80% is a waste of money (Score 1) 163

I'm not convinced.

IMO, expanding via RAID card is a bad idea. (Unless you need RAID for other legitimate reasons, such as redundancy/reliability, etc., and throw a lot of money at doing it right!)

RAID costs more energy. Say $10/year per SATA-internal disk, regardless of capacity. Assuming 24x7 power applied. Maybe a little lower with spin-down.

That may not sound like much, but it doesn't yet include the biggest cost of that additional energy -- heat. If your PC enclosure is remotely typical, its air circulation around the disk drives is pathetic. Pack two or three close together in most PC enclosures, and they will over-temp in almost any PC enclosure. (Check your SMART data, if you don't believe me.)

I'm not saying that high-density RAID drive cooling and powering is not possible. Indeed, it is. There are plenty of well-engineered commercial RAID storage solutions on the market (and plenty of bad ones too, BTW). They have great cooling and power distribution. But, they are EXPENSIVE! Your $69-versus-$99 disk comparison is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of doing RAID well!

The Military

Submission + - US Air Force's 1950s supersonic flying saucer declassified ( 2

MrSeb writes: "Tighten the strap on your tinfoil hat: Recently declassified documents show that the US Air Force was working on, and perhaps had already built, a supersonic flying saucer in 1956. The aircraft, which had the code name Project 1794, was developed by the USAF and Avro Canada in the 1950s. One declassified memo, which seems to be the conclusion of initial research and prototyping, says that Project 1794 is a flying saucer capable of “between Mach 3 and Mach 4,” (2,300-3,000 mph) a service ceiling of over 100,000 feet (30,500m), and a range of around 1,000 nautical miles (1,150mi, 1850km). According to declassified cutaway diagrams, the supersonic flying saucer would propel itself by rotating an outer disk at very high speed, taking advantage of the Coand effect. Maneuvering would be accomplished by using small shutters on the edge of the disc (similar to ailerons on a winged aircraft). Power would be provided by jet turbines. According to the cutaway diagrams, the entire thing would even be capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). The fact that there are no disc-shaped aircraft in the skies today, though, suggests that the USAF's flying saucer efforts probably never got past the prototype stage."

Comment Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, Colorado Trail (Score 1) 240

A week hiking on the Colorado Trail.
Five days in Iceland (Reykjavik area), including a trip down an extinct volcano core (
A coupla days in and around Edinburgh, Scotland.
Several days hiking on Ireland's Beara Peninsula.
A week-long family reunion in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland. (My family).
24 hours in Boston, Massachusetts, reunion with old friends.
A week-long family reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (My wife's family).
I checked the "spectacular" box. :-)

(I don't usually get that much time off work, this took some special arrangements!)

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