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Comment Re:Science or Religion? (Score 2, Insightful) 1136

It used to be the case that scientists had a good theory about what weather there would be in different seasons, and this theory was usually right. They couldn't predict daily weather all that well, but they could predict that you could reasonably grow oranges in Florida without worrying about it being colder than Maine for a week and snowing a month later, and they could tell you that there would be snow in Vancouver and not in Dallas.

Now conditions are outside the boundaries that climate models are based on, and scientists really have no clue any more. And it's not just the scientific climate models that don't apply; common sense and experience are no longer relevant, because we don't have history that tells us what happens in this environment, measured, anecdotal, or otherwise. In all of our past experience, the arctic wind has blown eastwards around the pole. Then one year it blows across the pole into Europe. Two years later, it blows across the pole into North America. Is this going to be a regular occurrence? Nobody knows.

The extent to which climate change has a falsifiable hypothesis, it is rejecting the null hypothesis. That is, you can ask: is the environment now following the patterns we have previously observed? We find that we are observing patterns that we had not observed previously, including some that we would have noticed had they occurred in a substantial time period. On the other side, we've previously been able to demonstrate enough of an understanding of climate to know how to build houses and what crops to plant where. But the evidence that you should build houses in Florida to keep heat out and houses in Maine to keep heat in is getting less certain. The issue is not that scientists know that something bad is going to happen, it's that nobody has any clue if something bad is going to happen, even after taking into account that some bad things never happened before, because the situation is just different in some measurable ways.

Personally, my guess is that the planet has major negative feedback, or it wouldn't have stayed in a reasonably narrow range of climates long enough for life to get this far. More greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will trigger more cooling by some other mechanism, which might be okay or might be all of the continents turning into highly-reflective deserts instead of light-absorbent arable land. We really can't make an accurate prediction.

Comment Correlation is obvious (Score 1) 258

There's got to be a significant correlation between having the seasonal flu vaccine recommended for you, and being exposed to swine flu. Surely we should expect that people who choose to get seasonal flu shots do so in part because they're more likely than average to come down with the flu if they don't get a vaccine. Being at high risk for exposure to the flu is a clear mediating factor in leading to both getting every available flu shot and coming down with any strain that goes around that there isn't a vaccine for.

To put it another way, we vaccinate some people go keep them from spreading the flu. If there's a link between getting the vaccine and getting the flu if you don't get the vaccine, then we're vaccinating the right people, and we should go on vaccinating them. (But it's worth making sure people know that they can't act like they're immune to the flu this year.)

Of course, the study could have found an actual danger to the vaccine, but we can't tell until the peer review is complete; peer review is where people will come to some sort of consensus on what the risk is that this value should be compared to.

Comment Re:hit them back (Score 1) 380

That's why there's a legal system to which the two parties present their evidence before a judgement is rendered. If this guy can actually present the evidence he says (here) he has, he should win in court. If he's lying here, he should still go to court, and lose big. (Or, more likely, they should go to court-backed mediation, where they can show their evidence to a mediator who can make a decision if it's obvious and make it stick if they both accept it.)

Comment What's with the numbered versions of Ubuntu? (Score 1) 936

He makes a good point about the weird Ubuntu version scheme: a new user is likely to think that you could update from version 8.04 to 8.10 as a ordinary incremental change. But an expert would know that 8.04 and 8.10 are actually dates ('08.April and '08.October), and everybody actually calls them Hardy and Intrepid whenever they're saying anything that might be useful information. For that matter, the recent code names actually tend to give accurate suggestions about the sort of release it will be, with the LTS one suggesting robustness and the others suggesting ambition of various sorts. (Are you sure you want to move from something Hardy to something Intrepid? On the one hand, you get new stuff; on the other hand, it won't live as long)

Comment Anyone try a DNS lookup? (Score 2, Informative) 143

$ host www.whitehouse.gov
www.whitehouse.gov is an alias for www.whitehouse.gov.edgekey.net.
www.whitehouse.gov.edgekey.net is an alias for e2561.b.akamaiedge.net.

Reducing their bandwidth and server load is just not a big deal. (See Akamai and note that the whole site takes the path that the "image" request takes in that diagram.)

Comment Re:My (short) experience with git so far (Score 1) 346

You can probably simplify the git workflow a lot.

You don't need to update at all until you're done with your branch. If there were any benefit to updating regularly, you could get exactly the same effect at the end by rebasing a dozen times against progressively newer commits in the upstream history. The exception, of course, is if someone has done something you want to use, but you can just update to the point you require. SVN doesn't have a command for "updating all the way is too hard, update only a little bit at a time", which gets people in the habit of updating all the time.

If this is your whole workflow, you shouldn't have any of your own changes on the master branch (except, of course, when you send out your work branch and then get it back in the next pull), so you shouldn't need to fix anything there; in fact, the "pull" should just say "fast-forward" and give you exactly what is in the main repository. In fact, you can skip having a master branch at all, and just rebase against "origin/master" (which is the state of the main repository the last time you looked).

You should use "git commit" all the time. Until you push, you can revise commits after you make them. As soon as you've done any work you wouldn't want to redo, commit it. Then use "git commit --amend" when you do more. Eventually, do another amend to write a real message, inspect the change with "git show", then fetch, rebase, make sure you still like it, and then push.

I generally work with two branches, one which contains just whatever I've written as I write it, with tons of commits with the message "more stuff" or "fixes", and the other formed by getting a diff between origin and the junk branch and applying only those parts that are actually all one logical change and all good, and committing it with a good message. I repeat this until my good branch contains everything worthwhile, and then I dump the branch that's only got unneeded debugging statements, whitespace changes, and so forth.

Comment Re:There is speculation... (Score 2, Insightful) 163

For that matter, why should Red Hat fund development on the sorts of thing that Alan Cox works on, if hardware vendors are willing to fund it? Intel can even get developers internal documentation and (most importantly) face time with hardware designers who can explain things that they didn't think to document (or that they documented in a huge specification that's too big to find the little detail in).

There's no reason for Red Hat to have a collection of kernel developers working on stuff that Red Hat doesn't need more than anybody else does.

Comment Re:Crossplatform (Score 1) 129

I think you're missing the fact that the Wiimote is sufficiently different from other systems' controllers that most games released for both of them will be terrible on one or the other. Trying to sell to the massive Wii install base isn't going to be easy if you're trying to compete with games that are less awkward and more fun on the Wii.

On the other hand, there's no reason there couldn't be a good Wii GTA, except that it would be much more disturbing than other console versions. In ordinary GTA games, your character does all sorts of bad things while you sit around pushing buttons on a controller. In a proper Wii version, you'd be miming doing the bad things yourself, which will seem a whole lot worse.

Comment Re:I object to the question (Score 1) 243

I'd actually say that the US needs a CTO, who would be responsible for identifying the most promising technologies to subsidize the development of. Someone who can look at the range of technologies that are under development, and decide whether it makes sense to go for more efficient production of renewable hydrocarbon fuels for cars and fuel-efficient hybrids, or whether we'd do better to produce more electricity in the midwest, transport it as compressed hydrogen gas, turn it back into electricity in the high-population areas, and drive plug-in electrics. And are we going to use enough more oil to make it worthwhile to put research into cleaner and safer processing, or should we focus on not using it in the first place? OSHA, the EPA, and the DoE each have their own priorities, and there isn't anyone in the position to find a balance between them and get useful things done.

On the other hand, the government needs someone to fix the government's information technology problems, which is an entirely different job, and seems to be what Obama's looking for. I'm not sure why this post isn't called "Secretary of Information Technology", actually, which would be more in line with other executive branch government posts and distinguish clearly between the two possible job descriptions.

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