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Comment Re:Who cares whether suicide risk? (Score 2) 430

Why, indeed, might prosecutors go so hard against the 1 guy who refuses to plead guilty, while allowing the rest to bargain for a minimal punishment or in some cases get off completely?

You suggest that perhaps it is because they just want to avoid trials, in other words to expedite the prosecution to get through their case load faster. This is no doubt correct, but the tactic also seems linked to the current incentives in the system to demonstrate successful convictions. Going thermonuclear on the hold-outs is necessary for the plea bargaining scare tactic - and the convictions that it produces - to work on the others. If the hold-out who refused to plead guilty received a punishment similar to those convicted, then plea bargaining would lose its value as a quick and efficient means to get convictions as there would be no incentive for the accused to accept the prosecutor's deal.

If this speculation is true, then it seems that it would be best to tie performance incentives for prosecutors not to convictions but to other means of evaluation, for example some type of external peer review. Unfortunately, however, when prosecutors are political appointees there is a lot of advantage to be gained in appearing to be a "hanging judge."

Comment Re:Saw what he wanted to see. (Score 1) 1110

It's not niche. California is niche. Look at the following population stats for areas affected by extreme weather. Most people in the U.S. are concerned about the weather, because they actually have real weather events:

Population of the Midwest 65,377,684 (2012)
Population of Texas 25.1 million (2012)
Population of Florida 19,057,542 (2012)
Population of New York 19,465,197 (2012)

You can't base what is important to others off your own immediate circumstances. That said, I agree with you that Windows 8 UI is shit and their weather app is dumb. But some weather information is useful for most people and is one of the things they want their computer to do for them, quickly.

Comment Re:Saw what he wanted to see. (Score 1) 1110

Weather is important if you don't live in California.

If you live in the Midwest, where nature tries to kill you every winter and makes a good stab of it in summer too, you want to know 1) how many degrees below zero it might be today; 2) whether there is an incoming snow storm that will affect your commute or close your kids' schools. Or in summer 1) if there is a chance of tornadoes today and you need to refresh your emergency supply kit; 2) if it will be above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with dew point of 82, and you need to make sure your air con is serviced.

It's helpful to have this in your OS. Its also one of the main benefits of having a smartphone if you live here.

Comment Re:Nothing wrong with him (Score 0) 529

I wish I had mod points for this. Who cares what Stallman eats or does with his toes. What counts is whether he has a point or not, and surely Slashdot of all places should embrace the geeks and freaks that don't care about bourgeois social norms and Emily Post etiquette bullshit. Fuck all of you juvenile morons / Microsoft trolls.

That said, I like Ubuntu. But I do agree that the shopping lens stuff is a bad move, and Bacon doesn't address its critics at all here.

Comment Career Training or Basic Research? (Score 1) 716

Speaking as a foreign-born college professor in the U.S., I think that this whole anti-college mentality in the U.S. is largely fuelled by the excessive cost of higher education in this country. Most of the countries that are rising economic competitors with the U.S. are investing in higher education, trying to encourage more students to graduate, and creating a more-skilled workforce. The new President of Mexico has campaigned on a platform of confrontation of Mexico's entrenched teacher unions and wants the country to focus on improving its poor educational outcomes that are holding back development and long-term GDP growth, particularly in tertiary education. In the U.S. state government funding for higher education has been reduced substantially since the 1980s (e.g. University of California, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota). Most of these systems are only nominally state-funded now; they essentially function like private institutions with revenues coming from endowments (i.e. charitable giving); corporate partnerships and patents; and tuition. Compare this with France or Germany where universities are nearly completely state-funded, and consequently where tuition costs are almost neglible (France = 150-500 euros per semester; Germany = 50 to 500 euros per semester). There are of course problems in European universities with lack of resources for research, poor salaries, underfunding of amenities like buildings, facilities, computer labs etc. But students are not hobbled by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Is is not for this reason that these countries lack the anti-college movements we see here in America? Education is viewed primarily as a public rather than private good in these countries; and while it is connected to economic development and incentives these are understood in national terms rather than in terms of individual earning potential. There is also the sense that university education is oriented towards abstract learning that has intrinsic value (what used to be called 'philosophy' understood in a broad sense, e.g. in the term PhD, and whose purpose is understood in terms of the expansion of human knowledge ) rather than practical job training whose value can be measured in monetary terms. When the cost of a degree is low, an investment of several years in this kind of learning seems reasonable even if it does not immediately lead to a career track. In my opinion, it would be best to strengthen the community college and state university systems in the U.S., and develop programs of study explicitly oriented towards careers and job training for substantially lower cost (perhaps even with funding from potential employers. Students who are not interested in academics for intrinsic reasons should be encouraged to go to these sorts of institutions (which might develop their own 'elite' variants). In contrast, (a smaller number) of research universities should emphasize their traditional mission of abstract learning, scholarship, basic research and disciplinary progress largely independent of immediate economic incentives. It seems that most American students see college as a means to an end, a waystation on the path to a career. These students need to have a cheaper practical alternative, while the most motivated, intelligent and intellectually curious students who are in a position to make a contribution to an academic field of learning and don't care about making big $$$ should be supported in their endeavors.

Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 526

But that is just not true. I am a professor and very much dislike to write on a whiteboard for more than a few minutes at a time (and even more on a blackboard, with greater resistance). It is extremely tiring to write in this position where the writing surface is parallel to the body, as compared to writing on a piece of paper flat on a desk at 90 degrees or so. I don't mind writing a few words, figures or references on the whiteboard, but if I have any substantive material to convey visually to my students I will use a slide. A symptom of the problem is how difficult it is to write legibly on a whiteboard as compared to on paper. I'm not saying it's impossible; I'm not saying it is not practical. Of course it is useful to be able to write notes up on a board. But the main reason classrooms have whiteboards is not because it is easy to write on them, it is so that information can be conveyed to an audience of several individuals at one time. It is because it is easier to VIEW the information presented in this way, and not to facilitate writing in any way at all. This said, I haven't used a laptop with a touch screen, let alone a desktop monitor. But the tablet use case is much more like writing on paper where, again, the screen is at 90 degrees to the body. That seems ergonomically a more natural position requiring little muscle strain. Touch screens on laptops and desktops seem like a gimmick to me. I don't get it, sorry.

Comment Re:microsoft looks to have fired to architect of w (Score 1) 663

In comparison with Windows 8 and Gnome 3, Ubuntu's interface is actually pretty conservative, and let's face it, it's pretty similar to OS X, especially if you like to keep your dock in OS X on the left-hand side of the monitor. Keyboard shortcuts work well, obviating the need to use the mouse for pretty much all tasks. Lots of folk on Slashdot hate Unity, and that's fine. But Canonical seems to me to be occupying the middle ground in interface design right now. I would say that it is more than "mostly usable" in 12.04 or 12.10.

Comment Re:Libreoffice not perfect but docx is an Outrage! (Score 1) 480

Yes of course I know that. I also know that docx is *supposedly* an open standard. What I am saying is that 1) either docx should be made fully transparent, or 2) that all word processing software should support one standard, be it ODF or whatever, in addition to whatever bullshit formats they want to dream up. That is what I meant by ONE standard.

Comment Libreoffice not perfect but docx is an Outrage!! (Score 1) 480

I use, and sometimes struggle with, Libreoffice on a daily basis both on OS X and on Ubuntu. I am an academic and mainly use the LO writer. Now here are a few issues with it that I find annoying: no draft view; no outline view; impossible to select-all for footnotes; sometimes font rendering is distorted; the UI is ugly enough on linux but it is HIDEOUS on OS X. Also, I have run into problems on OS X with the program crashing (although the auto-recover works well) with large documents. Finally, the powerpoint compatiblity with Impress has been very bad (maybe it is better now?) and until very recently the choice of templates for Impress looked like they were made by Orcs sometime in the 1980s.

THAT SAID, it is a freaking OUTRAGE than in 2012 there is not one open standard for document creation. As much as I find Libreoffice disappointing and sometimes find myself going back to MS, it is absolutely unconscionable that Microsoft still has a monopoly over the file formats in which we save most common office documents. Frankly, I don't understand why the EU spend so much time on the browser issue without combining it with the equally significant problem of office file formats. How is it that MS has been able to get away with this for so long? I mean, WTF???

It is just deeply, deeply sad that the work most people spend their days doing is subject to the control of proprierary formats.

Comment Dark Hole of Legal and Human Rights Suspicions (Score 4, Interesting) 915

This editorial from today's Sydney Morning Herald is of interest. Key quote: "The case is a dark hole of legal and human rights suspicions that needs the light of transparent judicial process." Read more:

Comment Re:NZ Perspective (Score 1) 285

Speaking as an expatriate New Zealander and now U.S. citizen, I share your outrage. It is hard not to conclude that the NZ police have been very naive at best, reckless and lawless at worst, in this case. The paramilitary-style raid on Dotcom's compound is unprecedented in New Zealand law enforcement for these sort of allegations. The fact that the police officers, despite being armed to the teeth (helicopters, police vans, semi-automatic weapons, Glocks etc. etc.), were not wearing body armor and readily admitted during the court hearing that Dotcom was considered not to pose any threat of violence, suggests that the raid was above all for show, if not for pleasing foreign agencies (i.e. FBI). In fact, the very nature of the raid itself was likely to increase any chance of violence on the part of Dotcom. This was an act of pure intimidation, no more, a use of the state monopoly of violence to threaten and terrorize individuals and their families extrajudicially. I'm sure the FBI couldn't believe they managed to get the NZ police to go along with this raid, which seems concocted in the feverish imagination of a Bourne Trilogy scriptwriter. Whatever the outcome of the litigation regarding the so-called "criminal" (in fact, probably should not amount to anything more than civil) allegations against Dotcom, and even if they manage to get an extradition despite the bungling with the warrants and the FBI seizure and offshoring of evidence, it is an embarassment for NZ. Dotcom is media savvy and is turning NZ public opinion to his advantage, but above all it is the failure of the NZ police here that is to be lamented. Sorry, the *epic* failure, lack of judgment, credulity and small-penis syndrome. A truly pathetic saga.

Comment Re:you're all worthless and weak (Score 5, Informative) 754

Actually this article is not about Europeans trying to prove they are better than Americans, its about a self-flaggellating American woman worried about how American boys are turning into technopussies rather than real men who play with knives. It's a different genre, but an easy mistake to make though. Both kinds of story are pretty popular on their respective sides of the Atlantic.

Comment Re:UEFI SecureBoot is a catastrophy (Score 1) 393

They exist institutionally and legally as a company in order to make money. It doesn't seem that there is a lot of money in the luxury PC/Windows market. Can you name a PC manufacturer that is making significant profits on a small range of higher-priced high-end machines? Explain why this model doesn't work for PCs. It is the whole Apple package that most people* want, and most of Apple's profits don't come from the Macs, they come from iOS devices where no-one is dualbooting or installing another OS. Samsung tablets aren't doing very well, and the hardware is pretty decent. I use Windows 7 as my main desktop. I don't particularly like Apple products. I don't care if others use them or not. I'm just trying to understand the phenomenon like you, and I don't think that focusing everything on the hardware like this helps us understand what Apple represents (for good and ill). *not your buddy running XP, poor soul...

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