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Comment ALGOL-W (Score 1) 513

I played with Basic in high school but did my first undergrad stuff in ALGOL-W. As an undergrad I messed with Pascal, Fortran and PL/I. One of my profs at the time was an author of the ALGOL 68 report, thought BCPL was cool and that C (a relatively new language at the time) was a mental disorder. He gave us an assignment in APL once. I guess I'm showing my age.

Now I do 99% of my work in C. My boss and I agree to disagree on scripting languages. I like Python. He thinks Python is ridiculous and insists on Perl for production work.

...laura

Power

Study Shows Laptop Batteries Often Don't Last As Long As They Say (digitaltrends.com) 87

A new study conducted by Which? magazine has found that "the battery life claimed by laptop manufacturers rarely lives up to reality. "Although Apple's battery life claims were the closest to reality, in the case of some other manufacturers, their laptops lasted hours less than the stated time," reports Digital Trends. From the report: In its testing, Which looked at the battery life claims of 67 different laptop models from manufacturers as diverse as Asus, Apple, Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba -- some of the world's most popular laptop makers. It found that while Apple's average claim of 10 hours was proven correct -- and was even slightly better in some cases -- Dell's claims were overstated by more than four hours, and HP, close to five. The times listed in the header image are the average claimed battery life for all of the laptops Which? has tested over the past year versus the times it recorded in its internal testing. That involved charging the laptops to full, then running them down to nothing three times, using online web browsing via Wi-Fi or watching local videos to do so. Out of all laptops tested, the only manufacturer to understate battery claims was Apple. In one case, it claimed that its MacBook Pro 13 could achieve 10 hours of usage, while tests suggested it could go for as long as 12 hours. At the other end of the spectrum though, there were some really egregious overstatements. The Lenovo Yoga 510 has a claimed battery life of five hours -- it only lasted two hours and seven minutes. The HP Pavilion 14-al115na is supposed to be able to run for nine hours, but was only capable of four hours and 25 minutes. The Acer E15 claimed six hours but ran for just under three hours.
Businesses

SpaceX Accident Cost it Hundreds of Millions (fortune.com) 67

Elon Musk's SpaceX lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars in 2015 after a botched cargo run to the International Space Station and the subsequent grounding of its Falcon 9 rocket fleet, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. From a report: The accident derailed SpaceX's expectations of $1.8 billion in launch revenue in 2016, an analysis of the privately held firm's financial documents showed, according to the Journal, which said it had obtained the documents. SpaceX declined to comment on the Journal's report. In a statement emailed to Reuters, SpaceX chief financial officer Bret Johnsen said the company "is in a financially strong position" with more than $1 billion in cash reserves and no debt.

Comment Same for small plane crashes (Score 1) 270

The media are all over small plane crashes much the same way, giving a highly distorted view of just how safe aviation is. Aviation organizations like AOPA have started to get on the media's case about this.

If they reported car crashes with the same enthusiasm the "news" would be nothing but car crashes.

...laura

Comment Security through obscurity (Score 1) 95

It's radio. Anybody in the vicinity can listen in all they like. Back in the bad old days this was Industry Canada's position, that cellphones were not private and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

Unlike AMPS, the communications are digital. So what. If you are sufficiently determined you can decode the data you have captured.

...laura

Comment Set up a dummy account (Score 1) 348

If push came to shove I'd set up dummy Facebook and Twitter accounts and let CBP see them. No good way to tell which of the several hundred Laura Hallidays on Facebook is me. Post some pictures of cats, a few likes, done.

I already engage in some self-censorship. There are a few CDs (mainly Russian and Israeli acts) I leave at home when I cross the border.

...laura

Comment Facebook is for old people (Score 1) 534

I accept that advertising is what supports platforms like Facebook (indeed, just about everything on the internet), but please remember the user in all of this. My computer is mine. My browser is mine. Monopolizing it while you play an irrelevant auto-play video is just not cool.

Facebook is relatively tame in this respect. I've seen worse.

...laura

Comment Re:What's the big problem? (Score 1) 675

I remember a few years ago seeing that my Amex was about to expire, and wondering when my new card was going to arrive.

Then I got a phone call from American Express. Had my new card arrived? No. Did I live alone? Yes. Did I know any men with Russian accents? Uh, no...

Yup: somebody had stolen my card and had gone on a shopping spree with it, triggering security alerts. My bill that month was about 50 pages, interesting charges (all local, curiously), then pages of Credit for Fraudulent Charge. I asked what my liability in the matter was and they said zero: unlike most other credit cards, American Express cards may only be used by the cardholder ("non-transferrable"), and if the merchants hadn't verified the identity of somebody who was really unlikely to be named "Laura", that was their problem, not mine.

...laura

Security

DARPA Will Stage an AI Fight in Las Vegas For DEF CON (yahoo.com) 89

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "A bunch of computers will try to hack each other in Vegas for a $2 million prize," reports Tech Insider calling it a "historic battle" that will coincide with "two of the biggest hacking conferences, Blackhat USA and DEFCON". DARPA will supply seven teams with a supercomputer. Their challenge? Create an autonomous A.I. system that can "hunt for security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to attack a computer, create a fix that patches that vulnerability and distribute that patch -- all without any human interference."

"The idea here is to start a technology revolution," said Mike Walker, DARPA's manager for the Cyber Grand Challenge contest. Yahoo Tech notes that it takes an average of 312 days before security vulnerabilities are discovered -- and 24 days to patch it. "if all goes well, the CGC could mean a future where you don't have to worry about viruses or hackers attacking your computer, smartphone or your other connected devices. At a national level, this technology could help prevent large-scale attacks against things like power plants, water supplies and air-traffic infrastructure.

It's being billed as "the world's first all-machine hacking tournament," with a prize of $2 million for the winner, while the second and third place tem will win $1 million and $750,000.

Comment Null Island, Pacific style (Score 1) 91

A long time ago I was working with GPS applications and their internal representation of longitude meant our Null Island was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 0 north, 180 west.

We figured out the conventions of the mapping application we were using (no Google Maps yet, and the documentation was vague) by trial and error. Our first attempts to plot GPS fixes from a drive along a local freeway showed a blank area with no freeway, nor much of anything else. We found that we were drawing a map centred on 49 degrees north (correct) but 123 degrees east, out in the middle of nowhere near the border between China, Mongolia and Russia. Nearest town Harbin, China...

...laura

Comment What else is new? (Score 3, Insightful) 170

Step 1: Apple introduced the iPad and everybody was desperate to get one because it was the trendy item to have.

Step 2: people started figuring out what they could do with a handy portable computer.

Step 3: everybody who had a use for a tablet had one and the sales dropped off to replacement level.

Any remotely interesting new product is going to grow at unsustainable levels until the market is saturated. Then the growth stops.

...laura

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