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Comment Re:What could possibly go wrong... (Score 1) 1388

I'm having trouble envisioning such a smart bullet. The big problem is that the process of firing a round is completely mechanical (there is no electrical signal to interrupt), the size of the rounds are carefully set standards and can't be easily changed, and standard 'dumb' ammunition can be made with pretty simple tools. I've one set of tools that take up about the same amount of space as a trade paperback when in their case.

If we invent a new type of firearm that only fires smart bullets and leave the old firearms in the market, we've done nothing. If we ban all firearms that don't fire smart bullets, then we have the same problems if we just decided to ban all guns (at the risk of hyperbole -- 'constitutional crisis').

Comment Is combining atheism and evolution harmful? (Score 1) 1142

It seems to be that there are many people who flatly reject the possibility of evolution because they see it as being against religion. I understand that this isn't a logical reason to reject evolution, but one of the reasons people see evolution as being against religion is that both Darwin (maybe unfairly) and yourself have been has been labeled as atheists and known as famous teachers of evolution. If my memory of your work is correct, you offer evolution as part of the argument against theism.

But isn't it harmful to the acceptance of science in general -- and evolution in particular -- to be tied to atheism, even if the connection is unfair or logically unsound? As a practical matter, wouldn't avoiding pitting religion against science help science -- especially in those parts of the world that most need science?

My apologies if anything here distorts what you have said or done.

Comment The real roadblock (Score 1) 299

The problem with traveling to another star is that once you get the project past the bubble of SciFi / Engineering / Science fans and start talking about spending real money and building real things you end up in the world of modern politics. A few issues that are almost guaranteed to come up:

* My religious book doesn't mention traveling to another star, so this is a bad idea. (You think I'm kidding?)

* You want *my* country to collect tons of impossible to replace and valuable elements ... and then throw them into space? Why doesn't country Y help more? They have plenty of element foo.

* You want a multi-national government body to control all these resources? Sounds like an affront to my county's sovereignty.

* This is going to cost what? How are we going to do this and afford to [win the war on terror | achieve ecological balance | grow our economies | feed the poor | provide medical care ]

* You are going to launch how much radioactive fuel into Earth orbit?

The reason we haven't heard from other civilizations from other stars?


Comment Re:Rich people don't like to go slow? (Score 1) 650

Right, there are already companies that offer, essentially, short-term car rentals. As long as the renter is a licensed driver (I'm assuming here that we will have a requirement for a human "stand by" driver for a while) then just hop in and tell the thing where to go.

But that would make commercial drivers of all kinds very nervous and I'm sure the lobbying and scary propaganda would be out in force.

And it reminds me of other (kind of minor, I'm sure Google has thought about them) problems with autonomous cars -- what happens when the map is out of date/wrong, does the car know where/how to park, how do you control the thing when you aren't sure exactly where you want to go, etc.

It will be interesting times.

Comment Re:Rich people don't like to go slow? (Score 5, Interesting) 650

I could see people wanting the laws for autonomous vehicles to follow the laws for aircraft -- where parts and software have to be certified and it is illegal to use non-certified or modified parts. That path would make autonomous vehicles a lot more expensive (and have fewer "toy" features).

I think the real problem with autonomous vehicles is that there is a sizable percentage of people who would "bully" them. You know the thing is going to give you the right of way and slow down to keep a safe distance, so why not cut in front of them, etc. Then who wants a car with a pushover as an automatic pilot? But what lawyer would okay even a slightly aggressive autopilot?

I'd say autonomous vehicles would be great for taxis in cities with large, dense urban areas ... but the taxi companies would fight that I think (unless they decided they could replace all the drivers with minimum wage button pushers).

Maybe they would be big in Japan :-)

Comment :-) Here is some bad advice ... (Score 2) 399

Make it a puzzle!

Over a period of weeks send letters/small packages to each person with subtle clues that there will be a wedding with these certain people at this certain time and this certain place. Use everything from drawings that use obscure in-jokes and metaphors, to little refrigerator magnets on small pieces of steel that spell out a hint as to how to re-arrange them to get the real message, to little circuit boards where you have to toggle in the right binary (which was hinted at in a previous letter) to get the message to be sent out via a single led and morse code. If you are good at web development, turn the whole thing into some kind of "I love bees" confection.

Okay, no -- seriously.

There are at least three times in life where you really do need to adult up and act the way society expects you to:

1) Marriage -- Just send out normal pretty invitations, everyone already knows how those work. This isn't about how clever you are and to a lot of people marriage still is a religious service.

2) Death of someone close (Mum, Dad, Spouse, etc.) -- You really are expected to say a few kind words, help carry the coffin and talk to visitors. It doesn't really matter what you'd rather be doing or how wonderfully Atheistic/Aspergers you are, buck up and row, you don't get many chances to do this right.

3) Naming kids -- This really shouldn't be a time to show how clever or cool you are (especially if you are plain white with no real ethnic background), give them nice, neutral, hard to Google names that won't emotionally damage them or make people think you are a DB or illiterate.

-- And yes, please do get off my lawn :-)

Comment Re:Premium content (Score 1) 234

Hence the reason I said they're all idiots. Charge more for internet ads, and vet them to make sure they're effective ads.
Advertisers don't care about subscriber numbers. They care about sales from their ads.

Eh, well, I probably can't argue that they aren't all idiots. :-)

But as far as I can tell, no non-national newspaper has been able to charge enough and/or show objective data demonstrating the ads are effective enough.

Again, it seem that unless the ads are provided as a result of a search, most people ignore them in favor of what they are searching for. Companies still use sale papers and print ads, I'm assuming, because their research tells them that people are more likely to browse a print product (or just habit, who knows).

And I'm not saying that it can't be done -- I'm saying there is a nice career opportunity as a consultant if you can make it happen.

Comment Re:Premium content (Score 1) 234

And yet the newspapers think that they'll make more money by putting this crap behind a pay wall. In reality, they'll just get fewer hits on their website, and thus ads, and will end up lowering their revenue way more than what they charge for access to their 'premium' content.

Let me tell you a secret, from the point of view of "most newspapers" the paywall is to get people to start buying the paper again, not an attempt to make money on the Internet. Print ads and sale papers (from Target and the like) still make more money than digital ads and there is a lot of pressure to keep subscription numbers up to attract those ads.

Because advertisers, especially local ones that are impacted by that compelling content, are willing to pay for good quality ad hits.

I'll disagree. Real Estate and Car Companies like advertising on the Internet (through Google, mostly), but have become very cynical after being hit with every single web-based-ads sales pitch in the universe. The vibe I get is that 90% of all their referrals are crap. As for the smaller companies, most of them really don't need an advertising campaign with global (or even regional) reach, or they don't have effective websites to refer to, or have the belief that advertising on the web (in terms of banners and text on a non-search website) is ignored.

What's the answer? If I knew I wouldn't be posting it on Slashdot :-) Maybe some kind of City Guide (yellow pages+wikipedia+restaurant menus) with news as a sideline (to keep the updated content high and keep the search engines coming back).

Comment Here is what one pro photography shop does... (Score 1) 393

This is a post from "Image Mechanics," a business that apparently manages tons of image files, on their blog:

Long story short, they write to an external removable hard drive and then store the raw drives in blocks of anti-static foam cut to hold the drives that then fits into a filing cabinet.

Comment Its the visualizer plugins (Score 1) 124

You see, its a not too well known fact that you can create atomic bomb simulations by writing iTunes visualizer plugins. The better your design, the bigger the explosion on the screen.

And interestingly enough, all modern US atomic weapons license House of Pain's "Jump Around" directly from iTunes ... something about a timing dependency, I'm not sure.

Now the rumor that the whole US economy can be modeled with a secret visualizer run against "Bohemian Rhapsody" is just crazy.

Comment A few things to consider (Score 1) 323

I tend to agree with the folks who have said this would be better as a grassroots thing rather than a top-down decision.

Some things you should probably find out before you start pushing:

* How much money does the state spend on non-OSS software for the schools? Most folks aren't OSS activists or care about the "freedom" of students and teachers and are going to look at OSS strictly in terms of dollars and cents. Also, Microsoft will probably be giving generous discounts to the state -- especially if you become successful in sparking interest in changing things. In fact I wouldn't be too surprised if you found "allies" who really are only concerned with getting a better deal from Microsoft.

* The replacement cost will have to include the cost of training and administration -- do you know what computers are in the school system, who has responsibility for them, what software is loaded on them, how they are used (in practice, not as documented)?

* Do you have a group of parents and teachers who want or are willing to change? The teachers especially can make your plan fail pretty easily if they feel pushed into something.

* How much software is legislatively or bureaucratically mandatory? Is there a State-wide software package (or packages) that the schools have to use? Did the state create this software themselves? Will it run on the end-user systems with the same reliability that it does now?

* Are you going to replace the servers and server software or just the end-user desktops? What part of the State bureaucracy runs the end-user stuff and what part of the State bureaucracy runs the servers (would not be surprised if it were different people)?

* What are the end-user computers used for? Will there be an untold number of overly-complex MS Office forms that won't be formatted properly in Open Office (the answer here is "yes," by the way)? How will those documents be handled? Are there any difficult to replace software packages used by the teachers? How much of the teacher's training materials will have to be fixed or dumped and re-written and how much staff time will that take? Are there gadgets that you don't care about that the staff does that may not work as expected with OSS computers?

Note that you cannot *just* aim for cheaper or "freer" (although it better be cheaper) you will need to be able to prove that OSS will provide a better experience for the admins, teachers, students and taxpayer.

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