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Comment Public regulation, private provision? (Score 3, Interesting) 116

There is an interesting debate going on world wide about how best to manage privatization.

Many successful examples follow the example of government regulating the private sector, but the actual provision of the services being private.

Just as an example, it seems education in Scandinavian countries is provided like that.

So why is that bad for IT? It could be a good thing.

Comment Linux is succesful because Windows needs a counter (Score 1) 368

Having read a lot of the responses (though not all), I am surprised this point does not come up.

When Linus Torvalds started Linux, he obviously did it for love not money. Indeed the early contributors were driven by their ideals.

But the SUCCESS of Linux is because a lot of those big companies (IBM, Sun/Oracle, Intel, Google, ...) need a way to keep the Microsoft Windows monopoly in line.

Remember that for decades (1980-2000) they tried to do that by offering their proprietary UNIX operating systems. That failed miserably, which is the main reason they were forced to learn and band together around Linux.

I like Linux, I think its great. But the SUCCESS of the open source movement, and especially Linux, owes everything to the scare Microsoft has given the entire industry.

So: the people who are being payed to write Linux, are getting the money because they are producing the most credible challenge to MS. It has nothing at all to do with high ideals.

Comment Next step: encryption at rest (Score 3, Interesting) 275

OK, better late then never. Good that Google has finally introduced HTTPS as a default.

Now the next feature we all need is encryption of the content of our data when it is at rest on disks in Google's data center. That way even Google employees cannot read our mail. Not for serving up ads. Not for any reason whatsoever.

And after that, Facebook and Twitter...

Nah, I'm dreaming.

Comment Re:Do Life and Evolution always go together? (Score 1) 214

Wow, that is simply the most pathetic attempt at creating a human-centric definition of life Ive seen... and Im a biologist, so Ive seen plenty of strange ideas.

You know - the simple fact that you need to be rude already shows your argument will be full of holes. And as to being a Biologist, well my training is in Physics and Math. Your training does not make you a more profound philosopher, nor do your manners.

But I want to argue about the substance, not just the style. So here goes.

To make a very direct point: sure its true that we are

just made up of 1 part living stuff and the other 10 parts are non-living


In fact, if you come to it from the point of view of a Physicist, its even a higher ratio. Most of what we are is chemistry and matter. That is 99.9% of what we are.

But that matter and its chemistry is configured by its DNA so that it can process information. If you measure it by "bulk", processing of information is a tiny part of what we do, barely visible externally.

Which means to say that "bulk" isn't everything. Being able to perceive is a significant "phase shift" in our state of being. It is a big big thing, just not bulky...

You are wrong on one more point. This is not an argument for a human-centric world. Cats and Lizards and Jellyfish can also perceive. They are just as much alive.

OK, enough said. Try to be more polite and thoughtful. Not for my sake but your own. You'll get more out of life.

Comment Do Life and Evolution always go together? (Score 3, Insightful) 214

As posts above testify, the word "evolution" is used more and more in contexts that have nothing to do with life.

For example people talk a lot about the evolution of ideas, societies, and so on... Quite possibly, the philosopher Wilson is one of the popularizers of this approach.

Anyway, this also leads to a different point - Evolution by itself is not a proof of the existence of Life. For example, Ideas or Societies are not living organisms, yet they do evolve.

So the fact that prions evolve does not mean they are alive! One can fairly say that they are just a chemical (a protein) that can reproduce itself, evolve, and do damage.

In Science, Mathematics and Philosophy, it is very common to take "edge cases" in order to better understand the limits of an idea. Prions give us a good example of something that can reproduce and evolve, yet its a chemical not a living organism.

So what is "Life" ? Perhaps we should require the ability to perceive - awareness of ones surroundings - in order to define true life? In that case Bacteria aren't alive either, which is fine by me.

Jellyfish and Lizards do qualify as alive. More generally, you would need some sort of functioning nervous system (however primitive) to be "alive". Brain-dead people would possibly not be "alive" by this definition.

Comment Totally agree Re:Smaller companies? (Score 1) 507

Alzoron has it right! In fact, in any NEW project, even for a large company, trying to get the myriad payments right is extremely onerous.

I happen to have experience with the topic from a project I did - even if you have a big budget and months of time its not easy.

Remember that the internet is global. If the USA charges sales tax based on the location of the CUSTOMER, then all countries in the world can and would do the same.

Imagine trying to get that right given millions of towns and counties all over the world.

Comment Re:Being human, being cyborgs (Score 1) 54

I wish I knew enough about how we evolved to become such flexible animals. You may be right that learning to use fire was a milestone.

Others may feel that walking upright was the critical factor; or perhaps omnivore behavior; or perhaps the development of our language skills.

I don't know; and your take may be correct. I am just saying that we ARE flexible animals, and that - however it came to be - is a big part of what makes us human.

Comment Re:Being human, being cyborgs (Score 2, Interesting) 54

Well, novar21, I see your point. But if we are dependant on TV etc then we have lost the fight without a struggle.

True fact: my family does not have a TV at our home, though we do have a DVD. The result: my children actually read books, as well as watch relatively high-quality movies.

In other words: education is not just about the educational "system". We as parents can and should take control.

Comment Where is the catch? (Score 3, Interesting) 111

Lets all look around us; people who read books have not moved en-masse to e-books. So how come Amazon is announcing sales of e-books have surpassed regular books?

There is a trendiness effect. People who usually do NOT read books may still buy an e-book reader for someone else... esepcially on official toy-giving day a.k.a xmas.

Sure, eventually e-book readers make sense and will replace paper. I'm just saying that day is not now.

In fact, by the time e-book readers replace paper, they may look like paper themselves. There is a tech trend towards computers that are as thin as a sheet of paper...

Personally I like paper, so I will buy an e-book when it catches up and becomes as thin as paper. Not long to wait - a year or three.

Comment Being human, being cyborgs (Score 1, Redundant) 54

The interesting bit in the article is about modern-day Cybrogs and how we and machines are getting integrated. Of course the article is designed to startle - after all people will read it only if it challenges them. But should we really be scared?

It is not really any more alarming then "machines that can actually create cloth" were in the early 19th century. That too was a ceding of a human ability to machine enhancement.

We need to realize that we always were part machine - albeit chemical and biological ones, rather than electrical and metal ones.

So what makes us human? Certainly not emotion, that is easy to simulate. Perhaps it is free will, social intelligence and an inquisitive inventive mind ? Perhaps it is the combination of all this in a single package: we are multi-purpose, FLEXIBLE, animals.

And what if a machine can be built that would do all that, and would be just as multi-purpose? Intellectually that would simply prove our own nature: multi-purpose flexible machines is what we are. Politically it would be something we can legislate against if we dislike it: after all we already have humans; why build a "mark II" if we like "mark I" ?

Our humanity is in danger from only one thing: laziness. If, due to our own laziness we give away our free will, social intelligence and inquisitive inventive mind - then we are in trouble.

That would happen if we allow educational standards to keep slipping. It certainly could happen, but its up to us.

Comment Re:Google is officially a big company now (Score 1) 527

Come on, be fair. Look - I am not a Microsoft employee and not a relative of the Gates family. But still, why so bitter? You can check and see that billions of USD have really truly gone from the 'Bill and Melinda Gates' foundation to various health research causes around the world. Its easy to check, its public information.

Comment Google is officially a big company now (Score 4, Interesting) 527

Remember the days when Microsoft was "evil" and Google everyone's darling?

Then Bill Gates contributed $40bn to the world in history's single biggest act of charity, Microsoft's domination looked for a while like it really was slipping, and Google simply became too big.

Google has simply become everybody's competitor.

Example: the Chrome browser competes directly with Mozilla's Firefox. Not that this was the reason for that blog post, of course ;-)

Another example: Google is so big that its people don't talk to each other, to the extent that they are building two incompatible operating systems (Android and Chrome OS).

Another example: the publishing industry has set its sights on Google, for the crime of taking away too much of their Ad revenue. They are contemplating de-indexing Google.

So Microsoft, once the "evil empire", is now champion of Liberty. Well, that is good; because they never were that evil, so some redress is in order.

And Bill Gates did contribute $40bn to the world. When Sergei Brin, Larry page and Eric Schmidt do the same with their personal fortunes, we can all go back to normal.

Bottom line: businesses are for-profit affairs. The best restraint on them is competition. We the people should keep Microsoft and Google both on their toes, for our own best interest.

And we should remember that people like Gates, Brin, Schmidt & Page are good good people at heart. They are creative. They contribute. Just like everyone, we need to set them straight from time to time.

Comment Figuring out how it works (Score 5, Informative) 211

(sorry may be some confusion - a double post since the previous one inadvertently was anonymous)

To better understand how this works, I went to the Tehnion website.

Sand is actually Silicon-dioxide (combined silicon and oxygen). Pure silicon interacts with oxygen form the air to create sand. That's first-year normal chemistry. Usually such an interaction produces heat not electricity.

They built the battery from pure silicon, and the trick is that Oxygen from the air has to pass through a membrane to get to the silicon and oxidize it. The membrane will allow only oxygen ions through, so electrons have to flow the other way to match up with the ions and maintain overall neutrality. Hence you get a current instead of only heat.

Of course it will take some years to commercialize. Small applications will come first (small batteries), only later will we get big batteries (for cars?) and even later rechargeable stuff (if at all). I noticed many people are skeptical - but this is normal in science and engineering. Any real innovation raises new questions that must be answered. Kudos to the Israeli team, and their collaborators from USA & Japan.

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