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Comment Re:Not for me (Score 1) 252

The regular VLC works just fine in win8 so basically they're raising money to more or less create a VLC skin...

If you read the kickstarter page, you will see it is much more than a skin for windows 8. They are planning a native ARM port for tablets as well and, as they note on the page, there is currently no toolchain available that supports all the feature they need for that port so it will be quite a bit of work. Plus, they also expect to run into problems with Windows RT's new sandboxing system.

Comment Re:Isn't this more NOAA's job? (Score 3, Informative) 44

Goto the site and click Overview > Sponsors. You will see that, while NASA is the one carrying out the mission, its sponsored (ie funded) by several divisions of the NOAA and NSF, etc so think of it more as NASA is being contracted to do this research and not a whole lot is coming directly out of their own budget.

Comment Re:Too much rhetoric over the wrong things. (Score 1) 202

You must have misunderstood me or gotten my context wrong, because I do not (and did not) disagree with any of this.

Sorry, I should have clarified my point after the except. Basically, what I was trying to point out is that, per the new policy, the addition of an 'apparatus' makes an idea novel. Thus, adding the word 'the internet' to another patent already granted is technically a valid, patentable idea. While anyone with common sense can see its not novel or can think of similar things that have already been done, the fact is the USPTO must follow these ridiculous policies and blaming them for this mess when there is little they can do about it, i feel, is unwarranted.

Comment Re:Too much rhetoric over the wrong things. (Score 1) 202

But aside from the bad decision of allowing software patents, the big problem has been the apparent incompetence of the Patent Office itself: issuing patents for things it never should have (because of things like prior art for example).

History paints a slightly different story. The Patent Office initially refused to allow software patents and the total number of patents granted per year was fairly small. After being overruled by the supreme court in Diamond v. Diehr, the Patent Office was forced to change its policies. From the wikipedia article:

In the 1981 case of Diamond v. Diehr, the United States Supreme Court upheld the CCPA's reversal of the USPTO, and ordered the grant of a patent on an invention, a substantial part of which involved use of a computer program which used a well-known formula (the Arrhenius Equation) for calculating the time when rubber was cured and the mold could therefore be opened. The Supreme Court stated that in this case, the invention was not merely a mathematical algorithm, but a process for molding rubber, which was therefore patentable. In the Diehr case, there was no concession that the implementation was conventional, and the process did effectuate a transformation of substances (from uncured rubber to cured rubber). After this point, more patents on software began to be granted, albeit with conflicting and confusing results. After its creation in 1982, the CAFC charted a course that tried to follow the Diehr precedent. Patents were allowed only if the claim included some sort of apparatus, even rather nominal apparatus at times, such as an analog-to-digital converter front end, or in one case a scratch-pad memory for storing intermediate data. A representative decision from this period is In re Schrader, in which the CAFC set forth probably its best and most detailed formulation of the rule it was attempting to follow. Dissatisfaction with the perceived artificiality of this rule erupted, however, in rulings beginning with the en banc 1994 decision in In re Alappat, in which the CAFC majority held that a novel algorithm combined with a trivial physical step constitutes a novel physical device. Therefore, a computing device on which is loaded a mathematical algorithm is a "new machine", which is patentable. This ruling was followed up in In re Lowry, which held that a data structure representing information on a computer's hard drive or memory is similarly to be treated as a patent-eligible physical device. Finally, in State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, the CAFC ruled that a numerical calculation that produces a "useful, concrete and tangible result", such as a price, is patent-eligible.

Comment Great Analogy Actually (Score 1) 220

So again: Huh? Why is a rental car agency liable for an accident caused by one of its renters? Obviously if the rental car agency was negligent in the maintenance of one of its vehicles and that negligence led to the accident, they might be liable — but not simply if their customer did something reckless over which they had no control (which would be analogous to an ISP subscriber committing a copyright infringement that the ISP didn't know about).
"The analogy between an ISP and a rental car agency is inappropriate, because a plaintiff could sue the rental car agency in order to subpoena the identity of the renter that hit them, but a copyright owner could not do the same to an ISP." [Judge Baker's argument.]

I think this is actually a great analogy because, you see, the rental car company could install cameras and GPS in all of their vehicles to make sure that the people driving their cars were not breaking the law (speeding, texting while driving, driving under the influence,etc) and law enforcement could then subpoena these records anytime they think some rental car driver might have been breaking the law, but since the rental car companies don't do this, they are clearly being negligent (/sarcasm). This is very much akin to many of the arguments being made by copyright holders in court against ISPs / certain websites.

Comment Re:big loss (Score 1) 1251

If all the slot machines in a casino hit jackpots at the same time, it's much more likely that they were interfered with than it happening randomly.

True but, as I tried to point out in my first post, evolution happening quickly (interference) does not prove ID. There are any number of things that could cause perceived 'interference'. For ID to be right though, God must be the source of that interference and I guess I don't see how you are going to prove or disprove that. I approach the argument from this angle because there are already known periods of 'interference' such as the Cambrian Explosion, so the likelihood of your statistical analysis showing no interference at moderate confidence levels is fairly slim.

Comment Re:big loss (Score 1) 1251

Basically, when you boil it down, ID does make a quantifiable claim.

I wish, but I really don't think that their claim is quantifiable in a useful way because random chance is exactly that, random. To use your slot machine analogy, it is entirely possible for every (fair) slot machine in the world to hit the jackpot at the same time. While this event is extraordinary unlikely, the fact that it happened doesn't lend support either theory because, according to both theories, it is possible. I also don't think that their claim is falsifiable either because even if you do show that beneficial mutations happen at random intervals and form an expected distribution, pro-ID people will just say that it does that because 'thats the way God wanted to do it'. I think an important part of the ID argument that you don't address is that their claim is more than just 'God is messing with the numbers', its really 'God guided evolution to produce humans' and 'features like the eye are too complex to have formed naturally through evolution' (aka. 'Irreducible Complexity). The latter seems to be the one you're trying to address but, to me at least, I don't think you can truly prove that its false without also proving the former is false as well. Richard Dawkins has made several arguments against ID along the lines you are talking about, you should give them a read if you haven't as well as the rebuttals given by the pro-ID folks.

Comment Re:big loss (Score 1) 1251

3) To put it in probabilistic terms, consider the world as being a giant casino filled with slot machines, and every time a jackpot is hit in a slot machine, a new species evolves. ID is the claim that someone is interfering with the odds on the machines, evolution is the stance that enough jackpots will be hit without interference.

5) It is possible to develop a statistical method that determines to an arbitrary level of confidence, if species A could have evolved from species B given time duration T.

I think you have a few misconceptions about evolution. First, evolution involves tiny changes over a vast period of time, there is no 'jackpot'. If you were able to look at every single link in a evolutionary chain, you would find the task of classifying them into species to be nearly impossible. Second, the rate at which evolution occurs varies wildly depending upon the environmental conditions of the time, how fast the organism reproduces, how the organism reproduced (sexually or asexually), natural selection, etc; so, with just the fossil record, it would be nearly impossible to determine, with any sort of confidence, how long it would take for any organism to evolve. Evolution happening quickly != ID.

If you are interested in this sort of stuff, I would suggest you check out the field of population genetics. Their models and statistical methods deal a lot with what you are talking about in your post.

Comment Useless... (Score 1) 283

PS3 hackers have already decrypted game executables and modified them with custom values. Its not gonna be much harder for them to find these "internet key check" calls and jump over them. Given Sony' previous record though, they will probably do something stupid like implement this internet serial key checking function as a syscall which the hackers will just patch over to always return "the key is valid" leaving legitimate game owners the only ones who will have to deal with this crap.

Comment Re:What is it with technology companies? (Score 2, Interesting) 160

Do you think the Roman empire grew to its size by being nice?

No, I wouldn't say they were necessarily nice but one of the major reasons the Romans succeeded in creating such a vast empire was because they absorbed the culture of the people that they were conquering. This made the transition easier and made revolt far less likely because, in general, people don't care what ruler they are paying tribute (taxes) to; they only care if the amount goes up or it changes how they live their lives.

I think Oracle et al. could learn a lot from the Roman approach.

Comment Re:Not just Microsoft (Score 1) 650

Washington State is one of the few states in the US without a personal income tax (the sales taxes here are very high to make up for the revenue deficiency).

Correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding of the problem was that there are a large number of fairly rich people who live in Washington along the south border and do most of their shopping in Oregon (which has no sales tax but a very high property tax). This has allowed them to 'dodge' a lot of the taxes that both these states rely on for revenue. One of the main reasons they were looking at an income tax was to alleviate this problem.

If this is the case, since this measure was shot down, what are the alternative proposals to make up for this loss in revenue?

Comment Re:Gridlock FTW (Score 1) 1530

As a pro-choice, pro-gay rights atheist, who was almost punched by his father (he missed) for saying "the government isn't inherently evil and neither is Obama", I have found that people do some stupid things when they are angry. The rhetoric behind this election has been unbelievable. How can we possibly expect any sort of sane, rational discourse on our problems when everyone is trying to make their opponent out to be Hitler (Godwin be damned). Gridlock for the next two years may help spending, we'll see, but I doubt it is going to calm the electorate at all and may help to polarize it further.

Comment Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (Score 1) 870

Training can make a doctor better at handling the familiar, but won't help when the doctor is faced with the unfamiliar. In some cases training can even be harmful -- if you have extensive training in recognizing a particular condition, you are biased towards it, and are likely to score more false positives for the diagnosis than you otherwise would. The typical scenario is the young idealistic doctor who takes a course in [moderately rare disease], and then sees that disease behind every bush for the next few months.

Yes, I'm sure many people here know the old adage 'If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail ' but I think you are misapplying it here. The first thing any real doctor does when faced with the unknown is get a consult (aka. get another doctors opinion). If the unknown occurs during a procedure (eg. surgery, etc) the response is this: Could not operate due to complications. Any other response than this (atleast in the legal world) is called: Malpractice. I'm sorry but doctors don't invent new procedures on the fly, there is simply too much to account for. Even emergency room doctors adhere to this as well (I know this because my neighbor is one and I just asked him about this).

Getting back to the main point of this thread (of which we are woefully offtopic) the debate that seems to be taking place is between conceptual and operational knowledge (aka. why vs how). Ideally, professors want to test conceptual knowledge because this is what best indicates your understanding of a particular idea. Open note tests are a great way to do this because, for instance, lets say you're being tested on some chemistry principles; you may understand all the principles but forget how many atoms are in a Mol (or any number of other unit conversions). In a closed note test, you would get the answer wrong despite understanding the principles but on an open note test, all non-conceptual (aka. only memorized) material is freely available and you can quickly check it. Operational knowledge is exactly like it sounds, follow a procedure to get an your answer. Any slight change in the problem requires a different procedure to be memorized, etc.

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This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.