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Comment This was not a hard question (Score 1) 586

I'm astonished at many of these comments. This was not some "random question" like "do you support puppy-kicking". It concerned a repeated-stated policy direction of a now-elected high official. The Intercept is not some unknown blogger; it's a billion-dollar news organization that's won major awards.

Calling it "hypothetical" is not just wrong, because of the stated-policy angle making it not remotely hypothetical, but pointless - if somebody calls and asks if you support puppy-kicking, the "hypothetical" aspect doesn't mean that puppy-kicking is not illegal, making the answer obvious. The "Muslim Registry" is unquestionably unconstitutional, the way collecting data on all phone calls was obviously unconstitutional when Clapper lied to Congress about it - the court decision later was routine, as NSA lawyers certainly could have told them when they were developing it - the whole thing depended on secrecy from court examination, which is why even the congressional committee members were surprised to hear about it.

Before the Snowden revelations (by The Intercept, partly) the NSA metadata programs would have been called "hypothetical", so there really is a need to ask about these proposed programs before they are just enacted in secret.

Comment When do we switch to OpenBSD? (Score 4, Informative) 141

...I don't mean running everything on OpenBSD literally, though it's an idea. I mean, "when do we get really serious about security?" Again and again, we find major hacks that are not the result of super-hackers defeating valiant protective efforts, it's script kiddies defeating idiots who kind of deserved it. The Sony hack came with many stories of multiple executives demanding the network be multiply-holed so that they could watch their favourite videos or whatever, hit their favourite sites.

I'm reading Andrew Ginter's book on SCADA security right now and reflecting on the insanity that there are SCADA systems, of all programming, being written on Windows, at all. There's one place the OpenBSD suggestion is quite serious. But even "OpenBSD" is just a buzzword unless you run your operations with security on your mind at all times. Schnier reduces this "mindfulness" argument to "read your logs", said it in three words.

Most of this stuff is not actually that *hard*...it requires *diligence* and *discipline*, but not nuclear science.

Comment Most of us just want to know when to jump in. (Score 1) 46

It's cool to read about this stuff, but as I lack the multiple PhDs to really follow the physics, I'm afraid my brute need is to know when to buy. Everybody wants to avoid buying the next Betamax or HD-DVD, obviously, but also you want to not buy in just as the price drops below $3000 ...and also shortly before it crashes to $999.

I managed to hold off buying a large flatscreen until 1080p was standard, at least (remember the nail-biter of choosing between 720p and 1080i ?) and feel very smart to have grabbed one of the last plasma sets before LCDs more-or-less pushed them off the market; everybody comments on the superior colour. That's not near to wearing out yet at 5 years, so I'm in no hurry to jump ship until I get even better colour, resolution, and anything else they're cooking up.

This may be the Next Big Thing, but it's become a hard call with things like 3D, 4K, high-frame-rate, and HDR zooming in and out of popularity on a yearly basis.

Comment They already are (Score 1) 278

"Automated" is a continuum, not a binary. You can't find any process that's fully automated to the standard of "runs without any intervention for longer than a human lives"...and arguably, if it needs maintenance every 125 years, then it's still not "fully" automated. Maybe the still-unbuilt 10,000 year clock would qualify.

But by more reasonable standards, we're already done. Single families (largish, busy ones) can now farm a 70,000-acre farm themselves, provided the farm machinery stays in service. There was no such thing as a 70,000-acre farm back when there were people on the moon.

Here's a really great example because it involves the plant that put 20 generations through lives of slavery: cotton. In "Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy" Pietra Rivoli backtracked all the globalized industry that gets a T-shirt to her drug store. After working backwards through China and Malaysia and India, it turns out the original cotton still comes from Texas, though labour prices are far higher than Africa or Asia, because it's been so well automated.

She interviews a 80-something farmer who used to pick it by hand, along with the hired Hispanic help, remembers how hot and hard and backbreaking it was, why only slaves or the desperately poor would do the work. And then she traces how many advances have taken place in the intervening years, one task after another automated, and finally centralized onto one giant piece of machinery that practically has a "HARVEST COTTON" button on the dash, and a place to put your book. She notes the 80-something now has time for a nap after lunch.

That may not be 100% automated, but replacing a barracks full of actual slaves with one part-time old guy in an air-conditioned cab is clearly 99% of the job, done.

Comment Another headline from FantasyLand (Score 1) 143

There needs to be some hashtag analogous to "RichPersonProblems" for military groups. Easy to look up that the $22.5B price tag is for THREE warships. That's like enough money to sort out all the lead water services in Flint and surrounding towns; then all the rest of them in the United States, probably 250,000 of them, delivering neurotoxins directly into the populace (if ISIS were doing it, the money would be there already)....and enough left over for a couple of hundred highway interchanges that would each save a couple of lives per year.

The waste level, if you calculate actual risks and returns, is jaw-dropping.

American's are soooo suspicious about every welfare dollar spent; if you apply for it, a guy comes to your house and snoops in your bathroom and underwear drawer, looking for proof that your boyfriend actually does live with you. But along comes a City Slicker with a laughable story about a superior killing machine, and Americans roll over and spread open their wallets.

Testing? Read "The Pentagon Wars" by Col. Jim Burton (or see the movie; the situation was so awful, they could only make a real-life story about Pentagon weapons system purchasing, into a *comedy* with Kelsey Grammar and Carey Elwes.) They HATE testing. Or any other requirement to prove their snake oil works in the real world.

Comment Re:What Hollande says (Score 1) 328

If France was actually subsidizing 75% of their power production for over 40 years, they'd be broke by now. But the cooking of the books would have been spotted long since; the money they snuck into the electric utility would have had to come from somewhere, by some accounting route.

But in fact, the books of Électricité_de_France, their utility, which gets 64% of its power from the nuclear plants it runs, show a steady 9% profit for some years.

Their money all appears to come from sending people electric power bills. France has a very healthy culture of protest and dissent about government malfeasance and it does have an anti-nuclear movement, (though it is very small and unpopular) and if there were a scandal lurking there in the accounts, I'm sure it would have turned up in the last 40 years.

It's that record of safety and profit that really undercut the main anti-nuclear arguments for me: I always ask those guys: "So what about France?"

Comment Not a dream, just the tech is only halfway (Score 4, Insightful) 260

Remember that shot in "Avatar" where a guy makes a vague gesture of waving a document from his desktop screen and towards a pad in his hand, and the document does exactly that? Those folks have finally replaced paper - not because of that one thing, but because it implies a document is always with you, effortlessly and seamlessly.

It goes much further than that. Paper documents you've printed off and carry with you can be *found* in a couple of seconds. During a meeting if you say, "I've got it right here"...and more than about four seconds elapse before you are showing that document or reading aloud from it, the conversation moves on past you. And it takes more than four seconds to find a document in a file system; less than four to shuffle through up to several pieces of paper (we can hold up to seven things in mental RAM, remember) and pull something out. So printing something serves as a proxy for making it more accessible.

At the moment, if you want to share that electronic document, you go through multiple steps, again breaking up a conversational flow - or it's impossible because your pad is Android and their's is iPad, or something. Or your meeting guest isn't on the corporate LAN. But if the guest brings six copies on paper, the sharing is accomplished in 15 seconds of passing-around-the-room.

Most printing I saw in the last few years related to meetings and passing out copies; or it was training materials. When you make a vague gesture waving the document on your pad to all the other pads in the room, and "it just works", a lot of modern printing needs will go away. When everything is searchable as quickly and quietly shuffling through some paper with half an eye while staying in a conversation, more will go away.

The problems will be solved one at a time. What people still haven't absorbed about computer use is the UI dictum that a four-second delay causes loss of focus and an eight-second delay starts the user off on different tasks - in a meeting, task #1 is to pay attention to the meeting, so the job of the pad simply doesn't get done and paper is brought next time. After we finally get sub-second, or at least less than 4-second solutions to all the things that paper is good at, use will finally decline. Sail had a long overlap with steam, too.

Comment It's not just outcomes, it's control (Score 2) 198

We spend far more attempting to avert air crashes than car crashes. The regulators of both form of transportation have struggled with why they are pushed by political forces above them to have such different levels of concern for the same lives. People doing polls and focus groups, professors doing anthropological studies, say, have formed the opinion that it relates to control.

We chafe at having our autonomy restricted in cars - speed limits, four-way stops, seat belt laws, helmet laws, all unpopular, though such restrictions seem small prices to pay for your life. The cost of a highway interchange, at $50 million plus a million or more a year to maintain and replace, can be controversial though it would save a life per year in perpetuity, a couple or three million per life. We feel a death is a lot less anybody else's fault if we were in control of the vehicle at the time. On the other hand, a death in air traffic is just being tossed into the ground at 600 MPH by somebody else who screwed up. We really hate that a lot more.

So, yeah, autopilots are always going to have to do twice as well to be half as appreciated. It's a glitch in human nature. Sorry.

Comment Re:The A-10 needs to be retired. (Score 1) 325

>>The thing is nearly half a century old....it needs to be retired.

Non-sequitur. Can it do the job or not? The sewer taking away wastewater from your street may be much older. It hasn't been replaced because the wastewater is still leaving. But that's speaking of the specific asset; the *design* of your sewer dates to Rome. And then there's your table knife.

Comment A few books to read (Score 1) 325

"The Emergency State"
America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs
David C. Unger ...goes back to the 30s and the run-up to WW2...and how American never drew down its military spending by much, ever after.
            The relevant point it makes with a lot of history, endless citations, is that the threats America faces - including many posted here - are articulated by working backwards from the size and cost of military, intelligence, and other security budgets that are desired. The Communist threat was merely overestimated, wildly; the threats of "Rogue Nations" that held spending up until Terrorism was elevated from a risk smaller than lightning strikes to existential concern was the real doozy.

"The Pentagon Wars"
Col. James Burton (or enjoy the Carey Elwes/Kelsey Grammar comedy movie - yes, the true story was so stupid they made a comedy of it) ...of special relevance to the F-35, which this book pre-dates, is how the Pentagon brass *hated* the F16 because it did only one thing (dogfight) and did it better than the much more expensive F15, which could do the whole kitchen sink of the time. Makes the point that every new plane since WW2 (F16 excepted) has been twice the weight and twice the cost of the previous one. It has whole chapters on how much the brass have always hated the A10 because it offers little work for AF brass. It's best used providing close air support, which means some Army lieutenant is tasking it with a walkie-talkie, whereas strategic bombing requires vast amounts of planning and strategy, proper work for Air Marshals.

Even if Unger is wrong, and it's rational to expect two wars at once from mid-size opponents (the current justification for the Emergency State), you wouldn't so much prefer to fight 10 MIGs with 10 F-16s as you'd prefer to fight a billion dollars worth of MIGs with a billion dollars worth of F16s (dozens) than a billion dollars worth of F35s (a few).

Comment How does powerwall beat lead-acid? (Score 1) 231

The powerwall is all cool-looking and compact, but I don't actually budget a lot for fashion statements in my basic infrastructure.

I see that wal-mart sells "deep discharge marine batteries" that hold about 1kWh for $99. So that's $1400 to duplicate a powerwall's storage. I guess if a powerwall can take over 4X as many cycles as lead acid, it wins. For solar and daily cycling. (My interest is getting through The Big One with a $500 generator that doesn't have to be on 24H a day, so I think the cheaper solution is the win.)

Comment Funny, no problem with law, medicine, accounting.. (Score 1) 647

...law and medicine in particular soared straight towards 50/50 with no dips, whereas women avoid IT with every downturn. The first downturn was after the dot-bomb, and now the larger financial slowdown.
What's the diff? The other three are real professions. This gives them some protections from the members being turned into commodities when there's a surplus of them. There are reduced openings, even job losses, but a floor on how badly they're paid and treated.

Women are just being rational and evaluating it as a job and career - and their tendencies should be read as the canary in the coal mine: coming in from the outside, they have a clearer view. Make IT a real profession like law, medicine, engineering, with state level licensing requirements, and you'll get rid of a lot of the industry's worst features, have a buffer against H1-B outsourcing, and the gender issue will go away as with the other professions. Women

Comment France France (Score 1) 344

There, I have now doubled the number of times "France" appears in the discussion. (It was twice when I posted).

That's normal. You see these giant arguments go on and on about whether it is economically feasible or safe or whatever, and not only do detractors fail to address the nation that's been getting most power from it for 40 years without accidents, contamination, public protests of note, and affordably enough....the weird thing is the promoters hardly mention it, either.

France. Triple.

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