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Comment Re:Baddly worded summary (Score 2) 71

I suspect this may enable them to lower their prices or increase their margins.

Linux support on popular high-end hardware is close to flawless -- or becomes so after that hardware has been out for a year or so. But if you start looking at the plethora of low end laptops, especially, you are in for a world of minor headaches. I find it takes me about a week of research to get a cheap, relatively new laptop working flawlessly. Sometimes the fixes Google turns up for your model don't work because you have a different revision number. Most people, if they attempted to install Linux onto a recent, low-end laptop, would find a lot of things not working, like sound, or keyboard special keys. It's not rocket science to fix, but for them it might as well be.

This is not what 99% of the world signs on for when they buy a laptop, so it makes sense for someone to have a business that does this for people. But if you're in the business of doing that, you have to pay yourself for your labor. That means you can compete at rock bottom prices because that's where you're starting from in your costs; and in any case starting with a better quality device minimizes the work you have to do dealing with stuff like broken ACPI firmware.

Which means when you count the cost of your value added, it's really hard to sell a rebranded laptop at a competitive price. Selling high quality rebranded hardware at relatively high prices and small profits may be a way to bootstrap your business, but the only way to get serious volume sales at a profit is going to be to have a computer manufactured to your specifications.

Comment blantant-predator moral honeypot (Score 1) 125

A public act by an organization ignoring robots.txt will only lead to the justification of other organizations ignoring robots.txt.

So what? When DoubleClick argues that they ought to have the same advantages as Archive.org, they'll only manage to look like douchebags reaching their filthy hands into a cookie jar.

It's not always a bad thing to set up douchebag-honeypot moral exemption, even if it does depend on the mass audience (mostly) managing to find two sticks to rub together.

The real solution here is to make the directives in robots.txt more explicit concerning the predatory/non-predatory use cases.

Comment This might offset *warming* but not *change*. (Score 1) 189

Most of the greenhouse effect warming takes place in the summer, for the simple reason that's when the most solar radiation is received and trapped. This doesn't eliminate that effect, it offsets the increase in the *average* by adding an unnaturally cold winters -- which by the way would increase fossil fuel use dramatically.

Now this would -- if it is physically and economically feasible -- blunt *some* impacts of global warming, such as glacier retreat and sea level rise. But it would accelerate *other* effects, such as habitat loss and changes in rainfall. Other carbon driven changes like the emergence of carbon-loving weed populations would continue unabated.

Consequently assuming that it's practical, its effects would be at best mixed, and there would be some big-time winners and losers. People with a lot of money in waterfront property would be big winners; interior farmers who rely on historical rainfall and summer temperature patterns would lose. Trout fisherman would lose as warm-water species outcompete salmonid species in their historical range. Etc.

These kind of problems are inherent in any attempt to treat the *symptoms* of rapid, anthropogenic climate change. I you aren't going to use conservation and efficiency to attack the problem, then the most promising geoengineering solution is carbon sequestration -- if it can be achieved on the scale needed. In the ideal case you would set the CO2 levels back, say, to 1960s levels. Not necessarily pre-industrial, because people have already adapted to changes from pre-industrial levels, but low enough that the rate of climate change is closer to natural than what we have today.

Comment Showing my age (Score 1) 332

Earliest language (high school): BASIC, operating on a time-shared (Honeywell?) minicomputer using punch-tape program storage and a teletype for input / output.

Earliest college language: FORTRAN on a time-shared CDC Cyber. Initially wrote software using a teletype on IBM punchcards, then stood in line to pick up my output from a high-speed line printer. It was quite the thrill the first time I was able to sit down at a VDT and type / run / save my software using a video interface.

Earliest application programming as an engineer: REXX and APL. Three guesses who I was working for. I still look back fondly at APL; it put you in a very different mindset while programming, as opposed to standard structured languages.

Comment I suggested training on sims to Alain a decade ago (Score 1) 49

I worked with Alain Kornhauser about thirty years ago, first taking his robotics course as an undergraduate, later managing his robotics lab as an employee, and then again even later (briefly) as a grad student tangentially as part of a group doing self-driving car research focused mainly on a neural networks approach. I had also been hanging around Red Whittaker's group making the first ALVAN (Autonomous Land Vehicle) around 1986 before going back to Princeton to work as an employee.

While I did not contribute much of significance to that self-driving car group (I had other interests), I had suggested we train cars to just drive one specific route based on videos from driving that route a variety of times. I guessed that most daily commutes are just along the same route and so that could be a big win. But he dismissed that idea for some reason I'm still not sure I understand. Still think it made a lot of sense though for the resources we had at the time.

About ten years ago I suggested he get his PAVE students to write software to drive Gran Turismo as a challenge. Not much response from him on that then though. Glad to see his is finally doing that -- although with much better game/simulation software now.

I also suggested he could make PAVE the free and open source software hub for self-driving vehicle software to address some concerns I outlined back in 2001 in the essay to the Markle Foundation:

From the email I sent Alain in 2007-02-02:

"Glad to read of your group's successes with the Grand Challenge. I've long thought a fun project for your students would be to write software that takes visual input from a a PlayStation 2 driving game like "Gran Turismo"
(direct via video out to video capture, or even through a camera focused on a TV) and processes that image to drive the simulation via a USB hookup into the PlayStation. Not quite the real thing (and Red Whittaker might rightfully scoff at that approach as ignoring much of the challenge of making real hardware survive in a tough environment :-) , but it is cheap, easy, and safe to do in an undergraduate lab with limited supervision. And the racing game simulators just keep getting more and more realistic. And if that challenge becomes too easy, you can then add noise to the video signal to make it harder... Or introduce lags or noise in the USB steering. And then start working on controlling ATV Off Road Fury or the the Snowmobile racing games, and so on. Or have kids write software to control one game and then give them only one day to make it work for another... Probably lots of good science and engineering and education to do there on a (relatively) small budget."

I mentioned that idea again to him in 2011-06-18 when I was looking for jobs:

"Or maybe you need someone to do more work on cars that drive themselves, which sounds like more fun? :-) Except that PAVE stuff is all student run, and good for that approach, so I can see you probably won't need someone for that. I still feel getting students interested in writing open source software to process images from the latest driving simulator games is a good (safe) project that might advance the state-of-the-art in automotive intelligence in a very positive way. :-) I'm sure it would at lead to lots of funny press though ("Students at Princeton are seriously playing with video games", and so on). Whether that is good or bad depends on your point of view, perhaps."

Anyway, glad to see that idea finally getting some traction. :-)

While he did not take some of my ideas that seriously, I did not take his idea of the self-driving car stuff that seriously myself back then. Not that I objected to it -- I just did not see the urgency for it and was more interested in robot manipulation (being a fan of the "Silent Running" drones).

But Alain saw the value in self-driving cars decades before most other people. He explained how they could save lives by being safer -- as well as reduce expenses and reduce pollution by being more efficient.

Alain is a brilliant guy and a nice person too (they don't always go together) -- wish I had made more of my time working with him. Looking back on it, I think, wow, what if I had just been excited to do a project to make a self-driving golf-card for the Princeton campus for alumni or for the annual P-rade? That would have been a great place to start and I'm sure we could have been successful enough on a limited scale with a limited budget to move onto grander things.

Back in my early 20s I just did not appreciate what a great opportunity working with him was. Working with him as an employee for a year in his robotics lab was where I learned so much about 3D graphics which made it possible to write a garden simulator and also PlantStudio software (for breeding 3D botanical plants). Best job working for someone else I ever had. Thanks Alain!

Comment Re: Serious stupidity (Score 1) 189

Nuclear isn't a viable alternative. It's incredibly expensive to build and operate. Yes, it is largely emission free, but the other costs surrounding it simply do not make it a large scale alternative, at least not fission. And who knows when we'll ever have fusion reactors that can actually produce economically viable levels of power.

Comment Re:More "trust me" science (Score 1, Interesting) 189

Models have all predicted warming, and there is warming.

But really, I doubt you know fuck all about any of the models. I doubt you know anything about AGW, but go ahead, prove me wrong. Describe, in terms that those who actually do research in climatology would use, and with snarky references to Al Gore or "lefties", what exactly AGW theory states, and why exactly the theory makes those specific set of claims. I openly challenge you to demonstrate you know anything about the science you're attacking.

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