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Comment Re: Great idea... But there is a problem... (Score 1) 209

"That book"?

Why Venus? Venus has the most Earthlike environment in the solar system outside Earth. High latitudes in the middle cloud layer have Earthlike temperatures, pressures, gravity, sufficient radiation shielding, ample light, and diverse resources already gas phase and only needing to be run through a scrubber to give you feedstocks (even iron, in the form of iron chlorides - estimated at about 1% of the mass of the sulfuric acid - which, by the way, thermally decomposes in the presence of a catalyst to release water and oxygen). Concerning orbital mechanics, Venus ascent stages are of course harder than Mars, but apart from that, it's in a much more favorable spot concerning orbital mechanics, with a much greater Oberth effect and much more frequent launch windows; it can be easier to get payloads to Mars from Venus than from Earth (and can even get gravity assists from Earth). Beyond the abundant solar power, there's also abundant wind power. Normal Earth air is a lifting gas. Unlike a Mars habitat which is a cramped pressure vessel, a Venus habitat is an expansive, open, bright area, full of plants and life. If you don't like someone, go hang your room elsewhere in the envelope, potentially even hundreds of meters away. Bored? Jump into the safety netting; the scale indoors is so big you can basically do indoor skydiving.

As for learning, Venus has vastly more unknown than Mars. Venus is our twin, and the question as to why it ended up the way it did and Earth didn't is one of the great questions in planetary geology. Venus used to have oceans like Earth. Yet today its surface has become this alien place, a veritable natural refinery that bakes and erodes minerals out of the surface and precipitates them out in the clouds. The whole planetary surface, or nearly so, resurfaced itself about 500 million years ago. We have no idea why. Can Earthlike planets just up and do this? If so that's a very disturbing concept. it has the longest river in the solar system - we have no clue what carved it. The best theories are really weird, like natrocarbonatites - super-rare low-temperature lavas that look like oil, flow like water, and glow crimson at night. It has lightning, but we can't seem to find it. It seems to be the second most volcanically active place in the solar system (after Io) but we've never positively confirmed an eruption. There's a huge amount that our planetary models just can't explain. Why doesn't it have an intrinsic magnetic field? Even with its slow rotation speed, dynamo theory says it should; it doesn't. Where's its mercury? Chemical models say that there should be 3 1/2 orders of more in the clouds than the upper detection limits of the probes thusfar constrained it to. What are the strange radar reflective frosts / snows in the highlands? Pyrite? Galena? Tellurium? There seems to be more than one type, too. I could go on for pages and pages here. And there's vastly more reason to have humans present for exploration on Venus, because given the surface conditions, latency for controlling robotic probes is very important - unlike Mars, where communications "downtime" for rovers just gives them more time to charge in the weak sun. And you don't have to worry about degeneration due to low gravity like you do on Mars.

The surface, while hostile, is absolutely accessible. The Soviets had a lot better success probing the surface of Venus than they had Mars. The basic design is very simple: metal shell. insulation, and a material that absorbs heat through a phase change; it can easily buy you a couple hours. Tech developed by the Soviets in the 1960s. It's been determined that you could actually shoot a hollow titanium sphere at Venus, without any kind of heat shield or parachute, and it'd reach the surface intact; that nice "fluffy" atmosphere goes a long way. On Mars you have to have controlled propulsive landings onto rough terrain with little to slow you down - something that continues to randomly kill landers. The surface air on Venus is dense enough to allow you to dredge minerals off the surface.. You can get off the surface, too, with phase change or bellows balloons. The surface is even accessible for humans, and not just in "submersible"-style vehicles - through atmospheric diving suits like are used for deep sea human diving. NASA was developing such "hard suits" for the Apollo program and a bit after - the AX series. They went with soft suits because they're lighter, but hard suits have better mobility. And more to the point, on Venus with such a suit and a bellows balloon, a person could literally fly - floating up, and gliding down with little wings in controlled flight at up to a couple dozen meters per second.

Comment Re: Hiding of recording abilities is crucial (Score 1) 129

Juist because it is not clear to you what is allowed or not does not make it unclear for the people making the decisions.

No, but when there are conflicting explanations and nobody seems to be able to clearly explain why this thing is not allowed but similar things are allowed, it suggests that the criteria are unclear.

This is like so much under civil law: An arbitrary, idiosyncratic decision that does not provide any real insight into how the next decision about a similar example should be made.

And how is case law or if you aim more for criminal law different?

I was trying to distinguish civil law regimes from common law regimes. Under common law, higher courts make precedent: They explain general rules that lower courts are bound to follow, and how those general rules apply to particular cases. A lower court must follow precedent unless it can distinguish the relevant fact pattern in a new case from the rules laid out by precedent. This tends to make decisions of law a little more predictable.

Why you hint VOIP Apps could or should fall under the "not allowed" category is beyond me. Especially as the rules are made for devices, not for Apps.

Well, you said that the radio license is invalidated based on the behavior of the software on the device, and in particular whether bugs can allow an attacker to record audio and transmit it over the radio. VOIP apps are another example of third-party software running on a device that records audio and transmits it over the radio; I am not sure what part of a desktop with add-on microphone and add-on WiFi dongle would have voice-over-radio approval. HTML5 includes ways for web sites to request microphone input, and if a web browser had a security bug in that area, that might mean lots of computers are suddenly illegal devices.

I am trying to understand how the line is supposed to be drawn, and why the law is consistently described as a "hidden surveillance device" law rather than a voice radio licensing law or software correctness law, even though you say (plausibly) that the radio license and software correctness are critical parts of the decision -- which also suggests to me that the device looking like a doll, rather than a computer, is largely irrelevant to the BNetzA's decision.

Comment Re: Jacobin Jeopardy (Score 1) 647

The claim that all those people who say they tried to be communists weren't actually trying Real Communism is pretty close to the textbook/Wikipedia example of the No True Scotsman fallacy, particularly since it is a claim mostly made in hindsight, and contemporary reports of the Soviet Union (to pick an example) played up its communist credentials.

Comment Re: Hiding of recording abilities is crucial (Score 1) 129

Trying to understand what distinguishes a legal device from an illegal one is not nit-picking. It is trying to understand the law. Asking someone to explain the difference between two similar things, where one thing has a trait (legal device, even number, whatever) and the other does not, is a very common approach to learn about a topic.

The stories I have seen say the doll is illegal because it has a hidden microphone (perhaps because journalists are too lazy to write more than 200 words about this story). You are the only person I have seen claim that it is specifically because bugs can invalidate its license to transmit voice over a radio. Those are two very different reasons for declaring it illegal. For example, if it is illegal because certain bugs invalidate its radio license, then a similarly buggy device that transmits voice over a wired network connection would not be covered.

Comment Re: Hiding of recording abilities is crucial (Score 1) 129

You have only explained that the regulatory agency somehow finds this particular doll to be a hidden surveillance device now, but apparently did not find it to be one before.

This is like so much under civil law: An arbitrary, idiosyncratic decision that does not provide any real insight into how the next decision about a similar example should be made. Do voice-over-IP applications on your phone make your phone fall under the "not allowed" group, or are all such applications allowed with certain restrictions? Are laptops with microphones allowed to use WiFi or not? How would the restrictions be enforced for such applications?

Comment Re:FCC can't help ... (Score 1) 209

Oh, we really need Portillo's down here. Or at least Munchies. In the meantime, has some recommendations. For what it's worth, the JCI on Hollister off 290 and the one on SH-6 out in Copperfield have never put barbecue sauce on my Chicago dog. Sonic has a reasonable facsimile, too, minus the bun of course.

Comment Re: Jacobin Jeopardy (Score 1) 647

Sure, and you only touch on my point in passing: It seems impossible to implement communism on any kind of large scale without that kind of failure. Given that all the governments (larger than a kibbutz) that have claimed to be trying communism end up brutally repressing their citizens while also greatly reducing quality of life for the non-elites, I would rather take my chances with capitalism.

Comment Re: Jacobin Jeopardy (Score 1) 647

The DRC has never been short on government interference. There has basically always been lots of state-sanctioned violence and corruption. Heck, they even got help from other governments in the interfering-with-things department. Except for the "other governments" part, the same is true of other failed states. That is typically why they failed.

Comment Re: Hiding of recording abilities is crucial (Score 1) 129

Actually, to distinguish a phone from this doll, you wrote:

My phone can not be used as mobile radio to pick up your phones microphone input and transfer that microfone input as "wireless signals" that happen to be BT and then play them back as audio on my phone.

This is factually wrong. This doll doesn't work like that, and a phone can capture audio and transmit it to another phone even more easily than this doll can. So the facepalm is because you said the thing that "no one said".

The FCC is a US regulatory agency. It doesn't approve wireless radios for other countries. In Germany, the BNetzA licenses such devices. Why did it approve this doll for sale in the first place? What changed between then and now? (As a side note, in the US just as in Germany, you need a license to transmit on most frequencies. Even "unlicensed" bands can only be used in connection with devices that are approved by the FCC, so that they only transmit within approved bands, at permitted power levels, in ways that allow other users to use the band, and so forth. WiFi and Bluetooth run in such an "unlicensed" band, and the FCC has very strict rules about WiFi and Bluetooth radios.)

This doll was designed to listen to children and respond with speech, so saying it was designed "to be a DOLL and NOTHING MORE" -- and in particular that it is "NOT A COMMUNICATION DEVICE" is silly. Talking is one form of communication. Radio transmission is another form. I will repeat my original question: Is this doll supposedly illegal because parents were not told that the doll could communicate over Bluetooth or WiFi? How would the doll do speech interaction at all if the parents (or child) didn't have to set it up to use a WiFi network or pair with some other device over Bluetooth?

You still have not explained why the doll is considered a hidden surveillance device, but a phone in your pocket or a smart TV is not. As far as I have seen, this doll only transmits audio to an attacker if the attacker exploits a bug in the Bluetooth interface to run malicious software on the doll. Any device with a microphone and a radio can have the same kind of behavior due to software bugs.

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