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Comment Re:Didn't they opt themselves out? (Score 1) 188

That's standard. Pretty much every law that's passed has a clause at the end exempting Congress from having to obey the law.

This is a bit different though. The browsing history of Congresscritters while in Congress may be exempted. But their home Internet connection falls under a local ISP's purvey, so their history could be harvested under the new law.

Comment Re:How? (Score 1) 188

The problem is most ISPs in the U.S. are government-granted monopolies. So there is no competition, no alternative ISP for people to switch to if they're upset that their ISP has decided to sell their browsing history. And without the pressure of outraged customers switching to a competitor, there's no reason other than principle for a company not to sell the data.

Comment Re:Still clinging to iPhone limitations (Score 1) 81

I'd prefer a thicker phone too (I had to add a case to my Nexus 5 to make it thicker because I kept dropping it). But I believe the reason Samsung got rid of the removable battery was because too many people were killing their phone in the water. The Galaxy S5 was waterproof and had a removable battery. But that required the back cover be removable with a big gasket around its edge. People weren't placing the cover on properly, so the gasket wouldn't seal and the phone would leak and die when placed underwater.

These people complained and demanded replacement phones, blaming Samsung's design for the problem instead of blaming their own failure to make sure the back cover was properly closed. So Samsung did the logical thing and eliminated the back cover as a failure point in their waterproofing.

Comment HTML5 killed Flash (Score 1) 180

The Apple fans will say Jobs and Apple did. But while Apple complained about Flash and threw temper tantrums over it, they never offered anything to replace it (at least not alone). HTML5 (along with Javascript and CSS) is what replaced Flash and kiled it.

The only reason Flash ever became a thing was because web designers were begging the W3C to add multimedia capability to the HTML spec. The W3C saw the web as a medium of information exchange (the way Berners-Lee originally envisioned it was a way for researchers to exchange journal articles they'd authored). They saw the requests for multimedia capability as the petty desires of advertisers and marketers. You see, photos and text you can scan and grok as quickly as you want in whatever screen format you want. Audio and video are limited to the speed and format that the creator sets. So the W3C saw adding multimedia capability to HTML as counter to the web's original design goal.

Then web designers discovered this little thing called Flash. It was an artist's tool for transmitting animation over slow Internet connections (here's a YouTube version if your browser doesn't support Flash anymore). Instead of retransmitting redundant information like video does, it transmits backgrounds, scalable vector graphics, and sprites just once, and lets you animate them with on the client side. That's all it was designed to do - help artists create animation. It was never designed to be a multimedia web platform.

But since the W3C refused to give web designers the hammer they asked for, the designers grabbed the closest thing they could find which resembled a hammer and started to hammer away with it. Flash began to be used for multimedia - animated websites, ads, and movies. That's why it was so full of security holes. The guys who wrote Flash never imagined it would become The Global Standard for creating multimedia websites. They thought they were just making a simple way for artists to create animation that could be transmitted over 56 kbps dialup lines, and didn't give any thought to security.

By the mid-2000s (long after the tech bubble), the problems with Flash were becoming clear. The W3C still refused to budge from their anti-multimedia stance, so the web browser developers themselves got together and began coordinating a way to add multimedia capability to HTML to help replace Flash. They came up with what eventually became HTML5 when the W3C finally relented. All this was going on years before Jobs wrote his "Thoughts on Flash" letter, but because those in the print media were widely ignorant of any of this, they mistakenly saw Jobs as the impetus behind the switchover. To repeat what I constantly seem to have to tell Apple fans, just because the first place you ever saw something was on an Apple product, does not mean Apple invented it. (Here's pinch to zoom in 1988!)

Outside of the whirlwind of controversy over web security, Flash continues to live on in its original intended design purpose, and rather successfully at that.

Comment Re:Makes sense (Score 1) 369

Um, lots of places investigated robots back in the 1980s and 1990s. The unions succeeded in keeping robots out to "preserve jobs." And as a result, during the 1990s and 2000s manufacturing at large moved out of the U.S. and to China.

Maybe if the unions hadn't been so shortsighted in their opposition to automation at the end of the 20th century, the U.S. would still have a manufacturing industry. And at least some of those lost union manufacturing jobs could've been replaced running automated U.S. factories instead of being shipped overseas.

Comment Re:Costco put some cards on the table (Score 4, Informative) 254

For those who don't want to read through that rather boring document, Costco claims they are not infringing because the hardness of the cores, coefficient of restitution of the cores, and density and shape of dimples on the Kirkland ball do not fall within the range of those specified in the patents. And that the patents are invalid due to prior art.

Comment That's not brainstorming (Score 1) 84

That's forcing yourself to document your work.

Brainstorming is when one or more people just speak whatever is on their minds, in the hope that they'll arrive at a solution they wouldn't have thought of if they'd stayed on the rails. It's a way to force people to think outside the artificial mental box they may have constructed by pre-defining a problem incorrectly. The main hindrance to brainstorming has been well-known for over 60 years. When you put people into a group, they tend to want to conform to whatever they think is the prevailing opinion of the group. So rather than unshackling the creative process, the group can end up limiting it.

Once you know about this pitfall, you can take steps to avoid it. That's why people advocating brainstorming sessions always say not to judge what others are saying - because a crazy stupid idea may be a stepping stone to a good idea. Unfortunately, the judgmental people who kill this type of creative process have used their bag of tricks on the headline - converting "brainstorming sometimes doesn't work" into "brainstorming doesn't work."

Comment Lots of risk, little reward (Score 1) 162

Unless your goal is to drop bombs on places halfway around the world, there really isn't much economic reason to go into space. Satellites are the main exception, but you launch one and you're set for the next 7-15 years. That's why pretty much all the U.S. launch vehicles are actually modified ballistic missiles. They were designed (by the private sector under contract) with the goal of dropping bombs on places halfway around the world. And NASA got to re-use that tech at a price heavily subsidized by military R&D.

Need I point out that the initial goal of NASA, back when it was NACA, was to eliminate inefficiency in the private sector by generating a single, publicly available dataset of aerodynamic tests on standardized shapes. Sure private companies could run those tests themselves, but it was redundant and inefficient for each company to run the same tests and keep the data private. NACA ran the tests once and made the data public.

NASA shouldn't be (and for the most part isn't) in the business of developing rockets. They contract that out to the private sector. The problem is that Congress has been putting their fingers on the scales - mandating that certain contracts be awarded to certain companies, instead of allowing the proper bidding/test/award procedure that takes advantage of the market to deliver the most ROI per dollar spent.

Comment We've already seen this play out three times (Score 1) 119

First with music stores (e.g. Tower Records), then with video stores (mostly rental - e.g Blockbuster), then bookstores (B Dalton, Crown Books, Walenbooks). Frankly I'm surprised a brick and mortar video game store managed to hold out this long, given that that media was acknowledged as software to begin with. Music, movie, and book publishers mistakenly thought they were selling a physical product, and it took Internet piracy to make them realize they were selling software - a virtual product. There was no such misconception with video games.

Comment Did he check the math? (Score 4, Insightful) 321

Centripital force is

F = mv^2/r

or a = v^2/r

At a typical takeoff speed of 150 knots, the lateral acceleration needed to keep the plane centered on a round runway with a 1.5km radius is 3.97 m/s^2, or 0.40g. On a freeway you'd just tilt the roadway based on the expected transit speed (about 24 degrees for 0.40g). But with a circular runway, planes are going to be traversing every part of it at all speeds from 0 to 150 knots, so there's no single tilt which will eliminate the problem. Likewise, during the takeoff roll the required lateral force will increase with velocity. So you can't just tilt the wheel/joystick at a certain angle and hold it there while taking off. You have to constantly adjust it as your velocity increases.

If a plane has to make a no-flaps emergency landing at 200 knots (which also happened to be about the regular takeoff speed of Concorde), now you're talking a lateral force of 7.06 m/s^2, or 0.72g. Which brings us to why runways are straight in the first place. It's not because it's easier to design and build. It's because it's a stable travel path. If for whatever reason during takeoff or landing the plane's controls stop working, the plane will want to go straight. Making the runway straight means the plane naturally (and with a little luck) will stay on the runway. Making the runway round means if you lose that lateral force being applied by your control surfaces for whatever reason, the plane is guaranteed to depart the runway at speed.

Comment Other usages that are changing (Score 4, Interesting) 300

Other shifts I've noticed in general vernacular over the last 30 years:
  • Less vs. fewer. Countable items are supposed to use 'fewer' ("10 items or fewer"). Non-countable items are supposed to use 'less' ("less water"). But nowadays I hardly ever see 'fewer' being used. Nearly everyone uses 'less' for both cases.
  • "and I" vs "and me". When I was young, the common error was to use "and me" when you were supposed to use "and I". e.g. "My wife and me went to the party" is incorrect. "My wife and I went to the party" is correct. The frequent correction by grammar nazis caused people to overcompensate, and now they say "and I" even when they're supposed to use "and me." e.g. "The dog sat by my wife and I" is incorrect. "The dog sat by my wife and me" is correct. A quick way to test is to eliminate the conjunction. "The dog sat by I" is clearly wrong, while "The dog sat by me" is right. So in this case you're supposed to use "and me".
  • Who vs whom. As with "and I" vs "and me" above, who is a subject, whom is an object. But almost everyone uses 'who' for both subject and object now.

BTW, my solution to "he or she" in writing was to simply add a slash - "s/he". One extra character and the same number of characters as "they". Unfortunately there's no way to pronounce it, so when speaking I usually use "they".

Don't even get me started on the silly rules about punctuation inside or outside quotation marks, which prioritize conformity over meaning.

Comment Re:Sucked out of an airplane? Not likely (Score 4, Informative) 278

Mythbusters tested a small bullet hole in a pressurized fuselage. The thing about pressure is it's a force per unit of area. So the larger the opening, the larger the forces involved (until the pressure is equalized). So something as small as a bullet hole doesn't result in large forces.

Aloha Airlines flight 243 lost the forward section of its fuselage. The flight attendant standing in row 2 near the front of the failed section was hit in the head by debris and fell to the floor. The flight attendant standing in row 5 near the rear of the failed section, with all the force of the cabin air behind her, was blown out by the decompression.

Airline fuselages are designed to suffer decompression only in a small section. You literally design weak sections surrounded by a lattice of strong sections, so a crack or failure cannot unzip the skin around the entire plane as it did in Aloha 243. The failure aboard Aloha is suspected to have started on the left side (one of the passengers noticed a crack by the door while boarding). And the theory is the crack failed producing a small hole. The flight attendant was blown towards the hole by outrushing air, and her body momentarily plugged the initial hole. This caused a pressure hammer from the air behind her rushing forward towards that hole blew out the entire forward cabin overhead.

Comment Yes you do (Score 1) 342

You're assuming the charge here for is a failed upgrade. The charge is for a failed forced upgrade. If Microsoft had informed users with a list of new features, what would happen in the upgrade process, and a disclaimer outlining the risks present in any upgrade, I think they would've been ok.

But they didn't do that. They did nearly everything they could to force the Win 10 upgrade down people's throats, including misclassifying it as a security update, constantly pestering people who had already said they didn't want the upgrade, and breaking long-established UI paradigms like clicking the X to dismiss a dialog, to make it the same as clicking OK. Once you inadvertently authorized the upgrade, the computer would often upgrade on its own overnight without user intervention. No information, no disclaimers. If that's how you're going to treat your users, then you deserve to be fully liable for all the problems your shenanigans cause.

OSS is fine because using it is completely voluntary. An OSS project might get into trouble if, say, Ubuntu forcibly upgraded pre-existing Ubuntu systems using sysv init to systemd. But no OSS project would be crazy enough to try that with pre-existing systems. The only reason Microsoft did it was because they knew software lock-in would prevent most users frustrated by their shenanigans from fleeing to a different OS.

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