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Submission + - BMI Music exec calls cloud storage an attack (myce.com)

Wesociety writes: Google finally unveiled its long-rumored cloud-based music player today, albeit in beta form. Marvin L. Berenson, Senior Vice President of BMI, would rather you didn’t use the service Speaking on behalf of the music industry in an editorial published last week at the official BMI website, Berenson cites the court case Capitol Records, INC., et al. v. MP3Tunes, LLC (.pdf here) which “raises issues about the legality of unlicensed ‘cloud-computing’ music services.”

Submission + - Wasps Battle Ants by Dropping Them (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: If the yellow jacket wasp wants to bully something small, it eschews the stinger for something more creative. When it comes upon a swarm of ants on food it wants, the wasp will simply pick the pests up and fling them away: a previously undocumented way of dealing with a competitor. (Two videos included of wasp vs. ant "cage matches")

Submission + - The 'Do Not Track' Bill: What You Need to Know (foxnews.com)

Velcroman1 writes: Every click you make on the Internet is being tracked, not just by your Web browser but by hundreds of small companies that tie the click of your mouse to your IP address — and then to your name. And that data is sold to the highest bidder. The problem is serious, and growing — and it's reached Washington's ears. Last week, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced a proposal in the House for new "Do Not Track" legislation, with guidelines for how the Federal Trade Commission might regulate Web tracking and fine those who don't comply.

“Many consumers don't even know they're being tracked, let alone where to adjust their privacy settings,” said Tim Schlittner, a spokesman for Speier. “Companies have clearly not done enough.” Experts hope the legislation will end the patch-and-exploit battle between Web browsers and those who snoop.

Comment Re:Ultimate accountability (Score 1) 179

I'm fairly sure they can put the software on a CD and let a committee of computer scientists verify the content of the disc prior to installing it into the system so it's also a matter of proper procedure and trust in the elections committee.

But I don't have to make any such assumption with paper ballots. I can let anyone provide the transparent election box on election day, even a crook or my worst enemy. All I need is confidence that there will be opposing party representatives verifying that the transparent box is indeed empty at election start and who will oversee the whole process up until the ballots are counted. And if I don't trust the party representatives I can come and oversee everything myself if I want, it's just one day after all.

But with voting computers it does not matter that there are opposing party representatives on election day or that I can watch them start the voting computers and that the computers claim their 'virtual ballot box' is empty. Nobody in that room, even the best computer scientist, would not be able to detect fraud. So now I need to worry about who could have tampered with the computers when bringing them to the voting place, who had access to them while in storage, who programmed them, who checked the programs, etc. And obviously for most of those neither I nor party representatives were present: you cannot have 5 opposing party representatives watching the computers 24/7 all year round while they are in storage.

That's the fundamental difference: with paper ballots all that matters is what happens in the voting place on election day. With voting computers everything that happened since their conception is relevant.

Only problem is any time you can check your vote someone can force you to prove you voted 'right', so it's a bit of a conflict there...

Exactly. It removes the anonymity of the vote so it's a big change with huge implications, and is the problem what makes electronic voting so hard (and different from everything else we do in computer science).

Comment Re:Cores is the new MHz (Score 1) 361

I have been wondering for quite some time - do regular joe consumers really need all those cores? OR is everyone buying into the marketing hype of processor manufacturers without thinking whether we would actually need that many cores??

First of all, any computer organization text will inform you that as the number of cores increase - scheduling amongst those cores becomes an exponentially costly issue in itself. This scheduling/load balancing of course has to be ultra low latency to maintain a reasonable throughput.
Not to mention the fact, that on software side managing threading and choosing instructions to parallelize is a big headache. Many decent programmers cannot get it right so that in itself defeats the presence of different cores.

Is it any surprise then that both Intel and AMD are advertising technologies to power down three cores, boosting the power for the other three?

Nope, not at all.

This gives us the best of both worlds. When doing something massively parallel, we get 6 cores. (or 8, or whatever)

When we're doing something that is more linear (say the latest Grand Theft Auto or whatever game we enjoy) we get half the cores running faster. I don't know of any games that'll take advantage of more than 3 cores anyway - so I want it to run fast.

With this feature I don't *HAVE* to pick Fast Cores or Many Cores. I can have both. And it will optimize itself for me, nothing I have to toggle.

I love it.

Simply because most end-users will rarely utilize all six of their cores simultaneously. Yes, that is even true no matter if you are doing heavy video transcoding or running multiple servers, and playing games simultaneously - you will still leave your cores without any task simply because unless the bandwidth of the memory bus catches up, your cores will be waiting for data to process.
This is why Intel's i-series architecture is superior to AMDs and likely the fact their processors cost more, because they have addressed the memory bus issue.

You have to realize your computer acts like a chain and it is only as fast as its weakest link.

Agreed. These days the weakest link technologically are the programs we use (not always optimized to be speedy when they can just eat more CPU cycles), the storage mediums we use, and the connection to the internet for some folks.

I have been advising people that any new dual or quad processor will suffice - they should instead spend that extra money on buying a better motherboard, speedier RAM, and of course high-speed HDD.

Trust me when I say that just that approach above will yield systems that are actually much faster than coupling an i7/Mega-core behemoth with an old hard-disk and crappy RAM.

It is an altogether different matter that computers are already so speedy that most users cannot for the love of God discern between the speeds of any recent dual-core and a top-of-the-line processor - and it is not their fault -- the advantages now we are talking about are incremental. The power is present but cannot be harnessed. So any gloating is moot.

Agreed, spending more on CPU at some point isn't worth it. Make sure you've got enough for your apps (some want 2.5GHz on 1 or 2 cores, but can't thread out past that) and enough cores for your apps and a background thread or two, and that should be plenty for quite some time.

When I buy a car, I don't buy it to be "fast enough" for commuting. I buy it for the intention of commuting, but I want some extra margin, for safety. I want to have "Oh shit" power, not "Oh shit + 5" power. Also I want it to last. At this point the only things worth potentially upgrading in a new quad-core box would be storage devices if the price/GB comes down on SSDs. Otherwise I'll probably stay with my 1TB fast drive and 1.5TB storage drive in my quad-core (2.8) box with 8GB of RAM.

Comment People can still program in VB6 (Score 1) 850

The problem with VB6 was that it made it easy to program badly.

On the other hand, you could still write useful software in it very quickly compared to C or C++. If you were disciplined, you could even write fairly good software in VB6 ; as my ability with it matured, my code ended up having error handling with full stack traces, which cut the time to debug most problems down by an order of magnitude.

In the end, it was killed off by it's lack of implementation inheritance, the use of COM as an interface model, and of course, by having it's support withdrawn by Microsoft.

Of course "killed" is a relative term ; there are still huge bodies of VB6 code out there in production use. It's still the macro language for Office. I keep a VM image with a VB6 development kit in it hanging around in the event I need to whip it out and patch some of our first-line VB6 applications. In some senses, it's the COBOL of the desktop.

I also know of at least one company that still has a flagship product written in VB3. A lot of the code I wrote for it was very much informed by improved practices I learned from VB6, and from newer languages like C#.

Comment If there's money to be made... (Score 1) 66

As a retired IBM developer, I can tell ya if there is money to be made, they are going to go there, and you could call it Cumulonimbus .Calvus or DogPoopV1 - no one in their cloud-like management cares as long as it will bring in bucks. If there is 8Bil of low hanging fruit for 2013 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/10097450.stm), then it would be prudent for IBM to open a division and start selling it, whatever it is or isn't. I'm just hoping for stock's sake that those customers keep falling for the scam (or as some would say "business").

Comment Re:Kill the lawyers. (Score 1) 457

The "all of it legal" thing threw me. Since when was selling drugs to crack heads on the street legal? Since when was breaking into people's houses legal? I assumed you were making some kind of indirect reference to something else and using these examples as analogies, but I couldn't work out what you were referring to.

Ultimately, there are two things I disagree with in what you're saying. Firstly the notion that being a lawyer is somehow immoral and comparable to dealing drugs or selling slaves (in modern times). Secondly, the idea that part of the solution is to artificially reduce the availability of lawyers.

To the first point: selling slaves was indeed once not an immoral occupation. It's possible that someday farming animals to be slaughtered for meat will be considered horrific and immoral (when we can synthesize "meat"), but that doesn't mean farmers of today are doing anything immoral. Similarly, maybe someone will come up with a better solution than the legal system for solving disputes and lawyers as we know them today will be but an embarrassing memory. But that's not the case. Lawyers provide a vital service to a society that's based on the rule of law.

To the second point: simply making professional, competent legal advice harder to obtain (by artificially decreasing the supply) will only cause additional pain to those who need them. The people most likely to be hurt by this are likely the people who you're mostly wanting to help with this suggestion, i.e. the common people and companies who just mind their own business and try to do the right thing without pulling any sneaky tricks on anyone.

You cannot legislate morality, as for one thing there are many people who will disagree with you about the immorality of e.g. being a patent troll. The system itself needs to be improved such that things that aren't beneficial to society aren't profitable to the perpetrator. In extreme cases one can set up a system of punishment to try to deter people from particular modes of behaviour, but it's far more effective to remove the incentive in the first place.

So, patent reform is one thing to consider to prevent a certain class of abuse of the legal system. You also mention personal injury claims; what would you propose as the alternative? Who is supposed to decide whether a particular claim is frivolous?

I'll certainly agree that the current state of the legal system imposes quite a bit of overhead. On the other hand, I haven't heard of any proposals for a system that would allow disputes to be resolved in a fair (for some version of "fair") and consistent manner that wouldn't incur some overhead. So perhaps the frivolous lawsuits are the price to be paid for having the ability to have your complains heard? A bit like having to allow idiots to spout offensive intolerant messages is a price that must be paid in order to have free speech.

Comment Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (Score 1) 113

I don't think that the AC poster really has thought through his comment very well. Nice comment there about the role meteors have played in terms of mining.... which offers some excellent thoughts on the topic.

One of the problems with heavy metals is that most of them have sunk into the center of the Earth over time, and that it is only rare exceptions.... usually due to volcanism or meteor landfalls mentioned above.... that you find deposits of the heavier elements in even modest quantities. Going to an asteroid you don't have to worry about trying to dig down a couple of miles or more to get at the ore.... because going a couple of miles you have already shot past the center and are coming out the other side.

Also not mentioned..... there is a reason most mines only go at most a couple miles down: There is this pesky thing called "gravity" that we constantly have to fight here on the Earth. Trying to push up a couple miles of pure rock at 9.8 m/s^2 constant acceleration is an incredibly difficult task if you are trying to squeeze under that rock to get at a vein or ore body that happens to lay underneath that rock. The engineering requirements for keeping that rock suspended for at least the duration you are extracting the minerals is an incredible accomplishment that has spawned its own engineering discipline: mining engineering. If you have ever heard of some of the famous "A&M" schools around the country, notable a school like Texas A&M, the "M" comes from the mining engineering school that was the very purpose for the establishment of the university (with biology programs related to agriculture being the other). I can point to a couple dozen universities across the USA that were established explicitly for this purpose. It isn't easy, and even today there are dozens of people in 1st world countries that die from mining accidents each year.... many more in developing countries like China where they die not by the dozens but by the hundreds or even thousands each year.

Another issue is that mining is an incredibly destructive process that causes incredible environmental damage, wiping out whole habitats and even ecological niches. One mine that is close to my house grew to the point it took out a whole city and even an entire mountain in the quest to dig ever deeper down to obtain the ore. In this case, to avoid problems with the overburden of the rocks, the mine has simply moved the entire mountain down the road in an attempt to get at the minerals in the mine. Why not move this environmental damage to a place that has no "environment" to damage? Mining asteroids sounds pretty good to me on this issue too, where streams aren't filled with toxic metals or even entire climate zones are left alone. Heck, once a good asteroid has been hollowed out, it might just make a new environment that we could put stuff into to develop new environmental niches that until now have simply not existed.

Recycling is also never 100% effective as much as some people would have you think otherwise. You always need to have at least some input from raw sources to maintain any sort of supply of an element no matter how effective you have become at reusing the material.

Getting back to the AC poster above:

So dig in the planet, my friend, it's all there. I know, a shovel is not as sexy as a rocket.

No, it isn't all there, at least as easy as those would have you think. Easy spots to dig and extract ore from has pretty much disappeared from the Earth. On a rare occasion you might hear about another gold rush due to a mineral deposit in a generally previously unexplored area, but where exactly are the new frontiers for humanity right now? Oh, that is right, in space! As I tried to explain above, getting down to deeper and deeper pockets of minerals is an incredibly difficult task. Modern mines that operate on the scale of current production requirements now cost several billion just to get started. If you want to see the incredible lengths that some companies will go and the sacrifices that they will make just to obtain a mineral deposit on the Earth, this video about a mine in Indonesia should show you and anybody else that there certainly would be companies with not only the cash but the personnel willing to make the journey into space in order to get easier access to a rich mineral deposit. Considering the difficulties in obtaining the minerals from this mining area, I think launching some diggers into space would have been as easy if not easier.

I'll ignore the airline comment for now, as the guy who made that comment was genuinely ignorant of capitalism and how people make profits.

Comment Just more of the same (Score 3, Insightful) 451

These social networking sites are, in the end, about making money in various ways. It may start off with placing ads, but eventually, they will not be able to resist the sale and ab/use of the data they collect about the users. If you want to do social networking that you can trust, you will have to put up your own site.

Comment Re:Linux is new? (Score 4, Insightful) 742

I can do so many more things in a lot less time at the command line than with a GUI - even web browsing (love links).

1) You can do a tiny subset of the things you can with a GUI in less time
2) But the things the GUI can do that the CLI can't, you can't do at all
3) And the things you can do on the CLI faster, you can still do in the GUI pretty damned fast (assuming you're adept at using one)

When people say "oh the CLI is great, it's all I need", that's a good way to tell that that person doesn't compose music, edit photos, layout pages, edit video, etc etc etc. If all you do with your life is copy and rename text files, then sure: use the CLI. But that's a pretty sad life.

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