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Comment Not quite dead yet (Score 1) 319

It means that we are now far more removed from access to the metal to even do a lot of the optimizations that we've done in the past.

Well... no, it means that you are, perhaps. Some of us still write in c or c++, and keep our attention on the details. You can tell you've run into one of us when the many-functioned app you get is a couple megabytes instead of 50, runs faster than the fat ones, and doesn't suffer from black-box bugs inherited from OPC.

I always thought that the user's CPU cycles and memory were things a developer was obligated to treat as the user's valued resource, and so not things to waste.

I know, totally out of date thinking. It's ok, I'm old, I'll die soon. :)

Comment machine code ate my neurons (Score 1) 319

But can you program in Z80 and 6502 machine code?

Yes. But more importantly, I can program in 6809 machine code. Including building all the index modes. Which, back in the day, is one of the things that saved me from having to design in, and then program, CPUs like the 6502 and z80, both of which are seriously anemic by comparison. But I prefer to program in assembler. Because I'm sane.

My affection for the 6809 ran so deep that I wrote the 6809 emulator you'll find here, which required me to implement the entire instruction set from the ground up.

But yeah, I can write machine code for about 10 microprocessors. And you know what? In the day... that was useful. I could read (E)(P)ROM dumps, I could cold-patch... but today, I just wish I could get the brain cells back. :)

Comment Re:All the passengers fault.. (Score 1) 152

That was my first thought. My second thought was..."I wonder how hard it is to recover your laptop when you get back from your trip?" The TSA as a reputation as quite light-fingered, so maybe these are just the ones nobody wanted, because they'd already acquired all they need. Unless you think they are selling them, in which case this is hard to explain.

Comment Re:What is the carbon footprint? (Score 1) 104

You can be pretty sure that the process will use lots of energy (relative to, say, grass). So it's unlikely to be competitive even if there are decent sources of energy available (say you steal chloroplasts from some algae, the way some [were they bacteria] do). I'm quite willing to accept that they've found a more efficient carbohydrate synthesis mechanism, but that's a long way from something that's capable of competition with microbes that have been evolving for 4 billion years (plus or minus a bit). That said, if they were to genegineer it into an existing microbe it might be successful in some environments. And that could be a problem. So when they get ready to do that in 15-40 years be sure they've filled out all their environmental impact reports properly. Including recovery strategies in case of a mistake.

Comment Re:What is the carbon footprint? (Score 1) 104

Just as catalysts usually get poisoned and need to be regenerated, so enzymes usually suffer degradation in use. In living organisms they're usually they're digested and rebuilt rather than just reconditioned.

So the cost of the enzymes is likely to be a real factor. It's also likely to be a small one...but you can't be really sure without knowing how they are acquired/synthesized/reconditioned.

Comment Re:Well there would be a lot of it (Score 1) 67

Chemical reactions slow down remarkably as the temperature drops. I could envision using this as a spore transportation system, but they'd need to pick an asteroid that was either headed out-system (towards another brown dwarf) or headed towards a plausible planet. And the success rate should be expected to be less than that of wind-pollened plants. If they land on a planet they'll be evolving in the kind of environment we know about subject to things like gravity, so they'll probably need to start in an ocean...and we're back where *we* started. (Obviously there are different kinds of planet, and some of them may work, but in each case the evolutionary adaptations required would take a long time and a lot of evolution away from the star-resident form.)

Comment Re:Security is an illusion (Score 1) 153

There's just too much volume to track all the content everywhere.

There are 350 million people in the USA, more or less. Including kids not of age to use computers. One computer, just one, operates at billions of instructions per second (when the code is written in anything efficient, like c.) The NSA has a newish huge data center located on the main trunks.

You do the math. If you still think they can't sieve that amount of data effectively, why then, good on you for your optimism. :)

Comment Re:Well there would be a lot of it (Score 1) 67

That's a pretty big "if". The escape velocity of a star, even a brown dwarf, is pretty high, and if you though that the Earth's atmosphere got in the way of space flight, whew! They'd need to go directly to nuclear rocket.

Then there's the question of how large the minimum intelligent entity would be. They need to be diffuse enough to float. Whoops, that means that their brain "cells" need to communicate with each other via wireless transmission. And that implies at each entity would need a huge transmission spectrum. Possibly they could do it at the microwave level, but they might need to go to terahertz or infrared. But the diffuse means that they require an immense volume.

Then there's the question of what they build the vehicle out of. It has to be something that will float in the area of the cloud within which they can live...or they've got to have some kind of remote manipulator.

I really think that space flight is extremely unlikely for this kind of life form. But they might well be able to think extremely well. Possibly they would be "inherently telepathic" to the extent of only having a group mind, as the individual floating entity would probably be too simple to be intelligent.

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The means-and-ends moralists, or non-doers, always end up on their ends without any means. -- Saul Alinsky