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Comment Re:So, the gist of it is... (Score 1) 182

we need to make them really work, to the point of being overloaded.

imagine if 10,000 people showed up and were 'violent enough' (not that I even believe this crap) to get their phones stolen. yes, stolen, not 'seized'. and they put nothing but encrypted random bytes on it.

the so-called authorities would spend man-years trying to get nothing.

imagine if it was 100k or 1M people.

the ultimate DOS of the feds that no longer work for us, but seem to be a rogue arm of the government.

it would bring a big smile to my face to imagine them trying to decrypt pure randomness.

basically, we have to make it too expensive for them to keep doing this shit to the population.

problem is: the US has lost its ability to really rebel against its own illegal government. we don't really do much in the way of protesting, and the gov guys do all they can to scare us into NOT doing this. and most people are easily controlled by fear (understandably so). so this would not really happen in the current climate. we are not hungry enough to really rebel as a whole, yet. maybe it will get to that point, though. trend surely shows that direction.

Comment Re:Huh? I use these all the time. (Score 1) 253

This gets down to something that used to be a common UI design principle before software became so feature-ful it became impractical: manifest interface.

The idea of a manifest interface (which also is a principle in language and API design) is that if the software has a capability you should be able to see it. You shouldn't have to root around to stumble upon it. Tabs follow this principle; there's enough visual and behavioral cues to suggest that you need to click on a tab. The little "x" in the tab also follows this principle.

But context menus you access by right-clicking break this rule, which means that there may be millions of people laboriously clicking on "x" after "x", unaware that they can make all the extraneous tabs in their browser disappear with just two clicks.

This, by the way, is why Macintoshes were designed with one button on the mouse. But even Mac UI designers couldn't get by with just single and double-click, so you have option-click too, bit by in large you could operate most programs without it.

Anyhow, to make sure people know about this kind of feature, your program is going to have to watch their behavior and suggest they try right clicking. But that way lies Clippy...

Comment Re:Making NASA Great Again (Score 5, Informative) 299

Actually the Wikipedia article on the National Aeronautics and Space Act has an interesting list of the legislation's priorities, starting with priority #1:

The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;

Historically speaking the act, which was signed into law in July of 1958, was a reaction to the "Sputnik Crisis" created by the Soviet launch of an artificial satellite eight months earlier in October of 1957 -- an act which filled Americans with awe and a little dread, knowing that a Soviet device was passing overhead every 96 minutes.

So arguably NASA was founded to achieve preeminence in Earth orbit, not necessarily manned space exploration, which isn't mentioned at all in the legislation. Yuri Gagarin's Vostok 1 flight was still three years in the future, and JFKs Rice Moon Speech followed a year and a half after that. That speech is well worth watching, by the way, if all you've ever seen is the "We choose to go to the moon" line.

Manned exploration of the outer solar system wasn't really what the founding of NASA was all about; in fact manned spaceflight has only a single mention in the unamended 1958 text:

... the term "aeronautical and space vehicles" means aircraft, missiles, satellites, and other space vehicles, manned and unmanned, together with related equipment, devices, components, and parts.

The main focus of NASA at its founding was to provide a single agency to coordinate space and spaced-based research, which at the time would have been largely (although not exclusively) Earth-focused.

Comment Re:Something stinks (Score 1) 379

Well, at present Putin's facing a financial crisis that is going to force him to drop military spending from 69 billion to 48 billion dollars. Germany is raising its defense spending to 40 billion, and if you factor in it doesn't need to defend vast terrain or have a multi-ocean blue water navy, Germany alone should be more than a match for the conventional forces of Russia.

Things may have looked different ten years ago when Russia was riding on high energy prices -- one of the reasons that the Obama administration was so pro-fracking: to contain Russian power. But today Europe really doesn't need the US to defend itself. Sure it'd have to shift some of its defense spending away from things that support US military operations to things that replace them.

In fact support of US power has been a major reason for continuing NATO since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. The multinational force in the Iraq War wouldn't have been possible without NATO, although it wasn't a NATO operation per se. Afghanistan was a NATO operation; in fact it is the sole time in the history of the organization that the Article V mutual defense provision has been trigger -- by the US in response to 9/11.

Comment Re:TLDR: UN says more whites = happiness? (Score 2) 379

Well, you can prove anything if you get to make up the categories, but seriously, lumping Europe with Asia? 60% of the world's population lives in Asia, and 15% of the world's population lives in Europe. So it's hardly amazing that if one of your categories comprises 75% of the people on the Earth that there there doesn't appear to be a lot of diversity. Your friends could include a Pakistani, Tibetan, Uygher, Eskimo, Finn, Scot, Basque and Serb and they wouldn't be a "diverse" group.

Comment Re:Meh... (Score 1) 379

Translation, he's an actual conservative, as in Edmund Burke, who supported the monarchy, but wrote about monarchists as self-evident idiots. He was well aware that monarchs don't have any moral claim to rule; he just thought that Britain had managed against all odds to make it work. He'd feel about the free market exactly as he felt about the crown.

Burke was the kind of ferociously skeptical conservative who loves liberty but despises theories of liberty, even when those theories support his own position. In other words he had integrity, which is rare in thinkers of any stripe.

Comment Re:It's all a simulation (Score 1) 167

My wife did a physical simulation for her thesis of the ocean halocline by using an 8' wide rotating tank filled with water and sugar solution. Now the tank was a body of water rotating every 24 hours by virtue of being on the surface of the Earth, but the angular velocity was much too low to have an observable effect, so the tank rotated every few minutes on top of the 11.57 microradians/second rotation of the Earth.

It was a real time experiment in which a short but fixed period represented a much longer one -- and if you think about it this would likely be the case for any kind of simulation of a macroscosmic universe. The bigger the physical scale of the thing being modeled, the longer the time periods.

Comment Re:A strobe gif in an email is illegal? (Score 1) 151

A strobe gif in an email is illegal, really? How are you going to prosecute that?

Well it depends on the state. In most states you bring charges to a grand jury which examines the basis for the charge and issues and indictment, then Bob's your uncle. In some states you can file what's called an "information", which leads to a preliminary hearing. Either way, you have to show that you have some basis for prosecution, and then it's on to the jury trial.

In the jury trial, you have to convince ALL twelve jurors that the accused is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. To do that you have to show two elements:

actus reus
An actual act, omission, or possession which contravenes the law.
mens rea
"Guilty mind" -- intent to do the unlawful thing.

What's confusing to people here is that the same actus reus can be criminal or innocent, depending on intent and awareness. If someone slips a piece of shoplifted property into your pocket, your possession is unlawful, but you aren't aware of it so you don't have mens rea. If you serve someone with a deadly nut allergy food that will kill him, whether that is attempted murder depends on whether or not you know he will be harmed.

So to answer your question, to prosecute sending a gif, you have to show that the person sending it was aware that it would cause harm at a minimum. If you can show he intended to cause harm that's even better. In this case, the offending gif was accompanied by this text:

You deserve a seizure for your post.

Saying that seems amazingly stupid. But the delusion you can escape legal responsibility for assaulting someone by using means that wouldn't work on everyone is pretty stupid too.

Comment This is an easy problem for any CS major (Score 1) 331

The problem is we don't have enough lexical tokens to build the grammar we want. Commas perform two distinct functions: they separate items on a list, and they separate grammatical clauses. It turns out that situations arise where you can't know which function a comma is performing without prior knowledge of the writer's intent.

Suppose I write, "I owe everything to Jocasta, my wife, and my mother." There's no telling whether I'm talking about two people or three. Even if you *know* I use the Oxford Comma to separate every single item in lists, there's no way to determine that's what I'm doing here; "Jocasta" and "my wife" may be the same person. The only way for you to figure out my meaning is to have prior knowledge of my wife's name.

Yet if I adopt the policy of *never* using the Oxford comma, that leads to equally ambiguous results. Try it. There is simply no way to fix this problem working with nothing but commas.

Now as a CS graduate, the solution is clear: I need distinct tokens to separate list items and appositive clauses. Suppose I use "+" for list items and em-dash to set off appositive clauses:

I owe everything to Jocasta -- my wife -- + and my mother.
I owe everything to Jocasta + my wife + and my mother.

Or if you're Oedipus Rex:

I owe everything to Jocasta -- my wife and my mother.

But until a major style guide adopts distinctive punctuation marks, we're stuck with ambiguity. That means you have no choice but to read any list or appositive clause you've written with a critical eye, and then rewrite the sentence if it can be misinterpreted. The result may be awkward and ungainly ("I owe everything to my wife, Jocasta, and also to my mother.") and the whole process is irritating, but you have no choice.

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