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Comment Re:Better idea (Score 1) 167

For something as important as voting, how about paper only?

We actually have solutions that are much better than that. This wasn't true a few years ago when the whole voting machine fiasco started, but that discussion provoked a fair amount of research into secure voting systems, and security and cryptography experts have proposed a number of systems that provide verifiable end-to-end integrity. Each voter can verify that his or her vote was actually included correctly in the final count -- but without being able to prove to anyone else how he or she voted (important to mitigate vote buying/coercion). Each candidate/party can fully audit the ballots before the vote and the count after the vote, and audit results are provably correct.

The most thoroughly developed system is Chaum and Rivest's (this is the Rivest who is the "R" in "RSA") "Scantegrity" system. It actually does use paper ballots, slightly modified traditional "Scantron" forms. Rather than just filling in the bubble with a #2 pencil (though you can do that, and that will work, and it will only sacrifice one form of verifiability), instead bubbles are filled with a special marker that reveals a code. That code can be recorded by the voter and used by the voter after the election to verify that the voter's vote was counted correctly. Ballots are counted by normal Scantron scanners, and can easily be verified by hand.

But, thanks to the additional auditing steps (which rely on serial numbers on ballots and some carefully-defined processes) it's not possible to inject additional ballots into the process (no ballot box stuffing), nor to "lose" ballots, without detection. The system does make allowances for absentee and mail-in ballots, and has been used in a real election to verify that it's fully practical.

For more details about Scantegrity, see

And another thing, we should really do vote-by-mail nationwide just like Washington state does it.

There are signficant risks in that. OTOH, it doesn't seem like Washington is actually seeing them. Still, I'd move very carefully on that one.

Comment Re:"3d printed" - does nobody MAKE anything anymor (Score 1) 39

Can none of these hipsters run a lathe or a milling machine?

Why? Because it is supposed to be hard? For most of the parts they are making, 3D printing is superior in every way. Less material, less time, less training, less effort, less waste.

Disclaimer: I know how to run a lathe and CNC milling machine, and have a Sherline in my garage. But I also know how to select the right tool for the job.

Comment Re:They don't make disasters like they used to (Score 1) 427

Regards the fraud, the statement was not about whether or not the merchant lost information on chip vs swipe, the duped cardholder still gets to charge back and the merchants still eat the full losses unless you are 'EMV certified' which is almost impossible to get (even with an EMV reader - see here:

The merchant is out of the product and fees regardless of a charge back being chip or swipe but the overhead of maintaining EMV connections, certifications, new terminals, technicians, it's simply not worth it to the retailers (EMV is only profitable to the banks and has seen serious holes poked at before they even made these card with chips in them). Although I've heard now card companies are charging EMV non-compliance fees - you get slightly higher fees if you're not EMV compliant. It's a complete money grab for a broken system, EMV chips can be quite successfully cloned.

Comment Re:Obligatory (Score 1) 39

I like how precisely it plants and waters each seed.

Actually, the way it waters - as well as the way it weeds - makes me think the kid who designed it isn't a gardener.

It appears to be top-watering the plants frequently. Most gardeners know that, if you top water (say with a sprinkler), you want to be careful about both the timing and the frequency - otherwise it's an invitation to all sorts of fungal leaf diseases. If you're interested watering precisely for weed control or water conservation, drip irrigation systems are a much better (and much cheaper!) solution.

It "weeds" by pushing the weeds under the ground. This isn't going to be effective against a lot of pernicious weeds. A gardener probably would have designed the weeding mechanism to use a wire or blade to cut the weed off below the soil line. Additionally, weeds that can be visually identified as such because they're at a distance from the desirable plant aren't as much of a problem as weeds right up next to the plants... and you really don't want this tool shoving those underground and potentially damaging your veggies' roots.

As far as precision sowing goes... If you really care about that, there have been tools available for decades to accomplish exactly this at reasonably low prices.

Comment Re:FarmBot (Score 2) 39

Not at all. The ideas behind farmbot include precision planting, precision watering, and the ability to more easily weed since you know exactly where the plants are. All of these things are increasingly important in agriculture. why are they important? Well precision planting allows mechanical weed control, and it also means water need not be wasted where there is no plant planted. Think of it as drip irrigation without the hoses and a lot more precise.

When it comes to precision planting, that's actually possible on a large scale right now, almost to the same precision the farmbot can do. I've seen 40' wide corn planters that can place a seed to within an inch of the same spot year after year (if that's what you really wanted to do). Rows of corn are perfectly spaced so that the plants are exactly the same distance apart. Automatic section control means there is absolutely no overlap even when driving back across already-planted soil. It's pretty remarkable!

The farmbot idea is very interesting and I'm following it as it progresses. At present I cannot see it scaling beyond small garden plots. And even if you just scale it by putting in lots of small plots, there is an energy cost there to running these robots. There's an energy cost to conventional farming of course, but the carbon cost of mechanically removing all the weeds at a large scale is often far more than using herbicide.

That said, the farmbot is very cool and I think it will turn out to be really productive for some kinds of food growing, such as your garden. You joke about being too lazy, but the fact is, most people simply don't have time to properly tend a garden so most don't, even those that would kind of like to. This would allow folks to grow their own food. That alone is a good and educational experience to have. I've often thought agriculture (even gardening) and computer nerds are a good fit. Technology really can help us get a little bit back to nature and having our own fresh food from time to time. Of course then people would have to relearn how to cook again.

Comment Re:Take that dark matter! (Score 1) 79

The missing mass is at a galactic level, not at the universe level. Stars in the galaxies, including our own, are moving too fast in their orbits around the galactic core to not shoot off into the space between galaxies if only visible matter is assumed to account for the gravity of each galaxy holding the stars in their orbits.

It actually exists at both levels. We can determine how much matter there is in the universe based on how it expanded, and we can determine how much baryonic (i.e. non-dark) matter there is in the universe based on our observations of the cosmic microwave background and a few other things that tells us about the early universe. From that we know there must be invisible matter that interacts gravitationally and *maybe* through the weak force with ordinary matter. Dark matter would probably not be widely accepted as a theory if we didn't have both these independent indications of it's existence (and there are still theorists looking for modifications of gravity instead to explain our observations, though they've had little luck so far).

Comment Still an early prototype. (Score 2) 39

I have looked at this several times. No way this thing can survive being outside 24/7/365. It's not waterproof where it counts, it needs a whole lot of refinement to make it to an actual 1.0 release device that can last outside through all types of weather for at least 3-4 years. The gantry is not self cleaning or sealed in any way, same for the tracks.

It's a great idea. and a fantastic early beta. but they need some industrial robotics guys to show them how to make it survive weather.

Comment Re: I love the brave new world I exist in (Score 1) 41

And let's be clear - these are not some sort of pre-existing city-controlled cameras that were there when the location was a pay phone - Google/Alphabet is the one installing the cameras.

I had to go check that out because I thought there was a possibility the city was responsible for the cameras... but nope.

I am curious if, at some point over the last decade, either Larry or Sergei took a marker and drew an X through the "n't" part on some old piece of paper where Marissa had originally written "Don't Be Evil".

Comment Re:The RX470 makes me want to try AMD again (Score 1) 42

The problem was their damned Nforce boards, a ton of really nice C2Qs and Phenom I quads came with Nforce and it will NEVER EVER WORK with anything newer than Windows 7. Sure you can tweak the .ini to get the GPU to work....WTF good is that gonna do when you have no networking and no sound?

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