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Comment Scratch paper (Score 1) 260

I realize this isn’t quite on point, but the fact is, I have to do a lot of my mathematical derivations by hand, on paper. I would really stuggle if I were forced to ALWAYS use software to do this, even if it did a lot of the work for me. I could pay for Mathematica, WolframAlpha, and/or Matlab, but those really irritate me. I often use sympy, which is freaking awesome. But sometimes it’s just nice to use pencil and paper.

More on point, if I need to carefully read a document, and I want to flip back and forth to the references section, scribble notes, underline things, dog-ear pages, etc., it’s so much easier with paper. Flipping to the references, especially, is a pain on a computer screen, unless I open the same document twice, which some software won’t even let me do! And reading on paper is just easier on the eyes.

Comment Under Trump, hate speech is encouraged! (Score 2, Informative) 427

Now that Trump has been elected, we enter a new era where white men now have license to say whatever insulting, sexist, and racist things they want. In other words, hate speech is encoraged. Therefore filtering out hate speech would be unnecessary and heavily discouraged.

On a more serious note, filtering out “hate speech” must be considered carefully. In the 60’s, you could shut anyone up just by labeling them a commie. Today, you can squelch any dissenting opinion you want by labeling it hate speech. I’m believe in being nice and tactful, but we need to protect our constitutional right to free expression. It is not illegal to be an asshole.

To the British, the American colonists who wanted indepedence were “assholes” who didn’t know their place under the monarchy, regardless of their lack of representation in the government. To white racists, people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were assholes for standing up for the civil rights of black people. Today, anyone who stands up for gay marriage is an asshole to many conservatives. It’s actually important that people be “assholes."

Comment Offensive or defensive? What do they want? (Score 1) 1028

Are the Russians planning to take over more territory? Or are they afraid that another country may be a military threat? And which one? I can see North Korea or Iran doing this on the basis of perceived ideological threats. I could see China doing this on the basis of perceived economic threats. But the Russians? What the heck do these people want?

Then again, the United States is often perceived as being a bully by many other nations too, so maybe these moves by the Russians seem completely calm and rational to them.

Comment Soft keys with changable keycaps? (Score 2) 524

I think one of the problems with Apple keyboards has been the ursurping of the function keys. I guess we don’t use function keys, but it took a little getting used to the fact that F3 doesn’t mean F3 unless you hold down the Fn key at the same time. And then every new Mac seems to change what the keys mean. If instead there were a row at the top of the keyboard that’s touch sensitive and which can change labels for all of those keys, that would actually make things a lot easier. Hold down Fn, and then all the labels change to F#. Leave Fn up, and they present whatever set of hotkeys you want to configure them to be! Sounds cool to me. Presumably, the left-most one will be Esc by default. Apple keeps adding features to Terminal.app, which I suspect is because their own developers use the terminal a lot, so that functionality doesn’t suffer bitrot but actually improves a little over time. I’m not sure what they’re going to do about the power button, but I was never bothered by the old style where there was a gray button flush with the chassis maybe they’ll bring that back.

Now, what I still think is crazy is the removal of the audio jack. That’s GOT to be getting Apple mountains of feedback from people complaining that they can’t listen and charge at the same time. We’ll see what impact that has when iPhone 8 comes out.

Comment Creationists and flat-earthers (Score 4, Insightful) 656

We have this idea in free society that people are entitled to their own opinions and the government should not force people to believe one thing or another. And it’s not like we lack precedents where totalitarian governments actively suppress ideas that might disrupt their regime. So we do need to keep in mind that indvidual people should be free to be wrong and be assholes. That kid in the gorilla costume at Tennessee State was an asshole, but should he be brought up on criminial charges? We need to ensure that “assholes” are not summarily suppressed. Richard Dawkins acts like an asshole but he’s still right about evolution.

Now, when it comes to these nurses, the situation is entirely different. They are entitled to their *personal* opinion. But this is a matter of professional activity. In their capacities as nurses (even on their own time), they represent their employers. As a CS professor, I could be dismissed for a wide range of inappropriate behaviors in my “personal life,” including hooking up with an undergrad and making offensive and racist statements on social media. I can maintain my right to express an opinion, and my employer can exercise their right to not be associated with someone who does not represent their core values. (Although, I will say that I’ve heard that BYU won’t grant tenure to anyone who they see as not sufficiently “Mormon,” and I think that’s reprehensible, so there is some room for debate on this, which is why we have courts.)

There’s also not much room on this subject for “personal opinion.” Science doesn’t have answers for everything, but all attempts to show a solid link between vaccines and autism have failed, and those attempts have been numerous. This isn’t based on a single publication with no replication studies. This topic has been beaten to death. It be shown that their statements are factually wrong. They are also not researchers in this area. If they were, then they would be in a position to conduct further studies to see if they could prove a link. Instead, they are just talking out their arses.

Even more important, they are putting people in danger. And that’s what this is all about. The benefits of vaccines are not in dispute, and the risks are minimal and nebulous. When your scientific illiteracy puts people in danger, you need to be stopped.

Comment Amazon Prime video sucks (Score 2) 44

We do most of our Netflix watching on smart TVs. Amazon video is only on one of them, and the UI SUCKS. When we bought the one TV that had it, we were expecting improved Amazon support over time. The Netflix app has been updated multiple times, while the Amazon one never has. The fact is, Amazon just isn’t trying very hard, so they’re not competitive.

Comment Re: Hipster compliant? (Score 0) 130

Actually, the funny thing is that all these Christians say they want to be more Christ-like, but they’re nothing like Jesus. Yeshu (his real name as well as I can render it in latin script) was a counter-culturalist, hippy, ass-kicker. He mercilessly picked on the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders for being overly legalistic, and both he and the writings of others in the new testament were filled with subtle to blatant fuck-you the conformism of the Romans. It’s amazing how much like the Pharisees so many modern Christians are, espectially the so-called Biblical literalists (who nevertheless seem to cherry-pick as much as the interpretive believers they claim to be superior to).

If Christians were more like Jesus, if they went around challenging the status quo and overly-rigid thinking and pushing people to think critically, then I would really like that religion.

Comment To them, evidence is meaningless (Score 1) 680

Just like Creationists, climate change deniers have a REASON to not want to believe the science. It might be a stupid reason, but they hold a dogma that isn’t going to be swayed by evidence, because they do not WANT to share your conclusions. These people literally live in a fantasy world where evidence is fabricated and evil scientists across the world collude to mislead the public. (Ironic then that the deniers actively collude to mislead the public, many of whom are fully aware that they’re lying, but to this mentality, the ends justify the means.)

Creationists HAVE to have a young earth or else it breaks their religion (original sin and atonement). Climate science deniers are mostly motivated by not wanting to curb their activities because of the economic impact. Supposedly the left is all about entitlement and hand-outs to peolpe who don’t want to work, but this is an example of where the right seriously falls down in terms of personal responsibility. So they invent reasons why their activities are not irresponsible.

Comment Re:Might not be doable open source (Score 1) 186

This isn’t about the technical distinction between Libre and Gratis. This is about the perceptions of companies and software developers with the skills necessary to develop these things and the willingness of such people to develop open source software. Your nit-pick doesn’t change the fact that (a) some developers don’t have interest or skill in certain topics, and (b) if a company invests millions into developing software, they’re not going to share source code, regardless of sticker price.

Comment Might not be doable open source (Score 3, Insightful) 186

There are a few application areas that are specialized and difficult enough that it they may not be doable within the Free Software paradigm. Richard Stallman himself, for instance, was not able to explain to me how you could get the right specialized engineers together to develop a free equivalent to Synopsys design compiler. Enthusiasts in this area don’t tend to be interested in writing software as a hobby, so you’d have to hire engineers, which means you have to pay for all the development.

With automatic speech recognition, it’s not just an AI problem. You need massive labeled datasets that cost money to acquire, and the experts who really know this stuff are moving to on to their next research project. So how are you going to get engineers to learn and implement the esoteric techniques used here? You’d have to pay them. Most people who would be interested in writing free software to do this just don’t know the subject area well enough.

Comment Total bullshit, SEUs are fixable (Score 2) 145

There has been assloads of research on mitigating soft errors going back to the 1970’s. I’ve published some myself. There is no shortage of workable methods on masking transient errors in logic and bit flips in DRAMs. SEUs are a major problem for supercomputers, so their memory systems have sophisticated mechanisms for catching them.

If Cisco is blaming this on SEUs, that just proves their incompetence, since they obvious didn’t spend 5 minutes with Google Scholar looking at hundreds of GOOD papers (in the top conferences and journals) on this topic. Seriously.

PLUS, if something goes wrong, even if it IS a transient error, it’s FAR more likely to be a fixable bug than radiation. We had a weird bug in a DRAM controller whose state kept going invalid. We had to add another circuit to fix that. We *called* is a cosmic ray deflector, but the more likely causes, in order were (a) another bug we couldn’t find, (b) a timing violation caused perhaps by voltage or temperature fluctuation, or (c) crosstalk in the circuit. We would have kept looking, but this deflector circuit made it robust to hundreds of hours of slamming the memory system, so we let it go. (Also, it was graphics memory, so even if it did ultimately suffer a glitch some day, it would go unnoticed.)

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