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Fossils of Cambrian Predator Preserved With Brain Impressions

AlecC Re:Looks like a rock drawing to me... (45 comments)

I think the colour has been put on by the discoverers to highlight the high points and make the fossil easier to interpret. In the real world, the whole fossil is just rock coloured, as seem at the edges of the picture. I.e. you are tautologically right: the colour is mapping height.

about a week ago
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Tesla Aims For $30,000 Price, 2017 Launch For Model E

AlecC Re:Sometimes I wonder... (247 comments)

I would say he is in it as much for the fun as for the money. Of course, he wants to make profits, because that is the proof that your idea is good rather than a billionaire's toy. But I think his main motivation is to be the worlds coolest engineer. So I don't see him taking an exit any time soon. I think he will only exit when there is no more novelty to be wrung out. Which is probably when all the other manufacturers are treating electric cars as mainstream, not niche.

about three weeks ago
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Tesla Aims For $30,000 Price, 2017 Launch For Model E

AlecC Re:What about range on this smaller car? (247 comments)

If you are on a long trip, you are usually passing filling stations: very few people do 200 miles entirely on back roads. And good safety means that you should take a break about every 150 miles or so. So, as soon as filling stations do electrical recharge, the problem goes away for drivers not trying to keep going avery minute of the day. The problem is always chicken-and-egg: until people have the cars, the charging station will not exist.

about three weeks ago
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Tesla Aims For $30,000 Price, 2017 Launch For Model E

AlecC Re:What about range on this smaller car? (247 comments)

Your last paragraph is definitely not the case in the UK. All moving vehicle offences go to the driver. The owner has a legal obligation to tell the police who was driving when an offence was committed, but after that the person who was driving takes all the penalties.

And the insurance is the other way round. The named drivers get fully covered to drive the insured car, and they also get bare legal minimum insurance driving another car if they don't own it. But if somebody else drives the insured car, it is up to them to get insurance.

about three weeks ago
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UK Seeks To Hold Terrorism Trial In Secret

AlecC Misses the point of the Justice System. (240 comments)

To me, this misses the point of the Justice System. The function of the Justice System is to allow people to live together by administering, fairly, a set of rules that all know and have, by remaining in the country when they know the laws, agreed to abide by. Prosecution and punishment are a means to that end, not an end in themselves. If we have rules, we need to punish rule breakers. But if we have punishments, we need to reassure people that the law abiding will not be punished: and the mechanism for doing that open trial with guild established beyond reasonable doubt.

So it is more important that justice is seen to be done than it is done. The "beyond reasonable doubt" rule establishes this. Of course, the easiest way for justice to be seen do be done is for it to be done, where it can be seen. And secret trials break this paradigm. It will not deter other plotters from future plots, because they don't know about it. It might take two dangerous men off the streets - but can that not be done other ways, with a simpler and mor publishable level of proof?

about a month and a half ago
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How Open Government Data Saved New Yorkers Thousands On Parking Tickets

AlecC Don't forget the safety point (286 comments)

The law against parking in front of hydrants is, presumably, to allow easy access for the fire service in case of fire. The fine is only a means to enforcing this, and making the city safer. Not, for example, raising revenue not an act of hydrant-worship by city officials. So by getting the city to make it clearer where the hydrants are, and thus keep them open for use, he has made the city a safer place. That is actually more important than saving fines. Maybe, one day, someone will not be burned to death because the fire service ran out of water as a result of this,

about 1 month ago
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How Open Government Data Saved New Yorkers Thousands On Parking Tickets

AlecC Re:Saved New Yorkers Thousands On Parking Tickets (286 comments)

But the purpose of the law is to keep the hydrant clear for use by the fire services. The fine is only a means to this end. If you think it is a money earner, either the hydrant is unnecessary, or you think the city is happy to make money by burning buildings (and possibly people).

about 1 month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Where's the Most Unusual Place You've Written a Program From?

AlecC Outside Maternity Ward (310 comments)

A friend wrote a Basic-like interpreter for our embedded product to occupy his mind while waiting for his first children to be born. We did uses it a little.

about 1 month ago
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Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

AlecC Re:How will they recoup costs? (170 comments)

As well as the market information given by others, which can effectively double income, Africa has developed mobile and small scale banking. So it could bring them financial services: money transfers from family working in the city, the ability to save safely or to borrow to fund new businesses.The relatively small amount of energy used by communications technology can pay off very fast. And they have a lot of sun there for solar power rather than a genny,

about 2 months ago
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Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

AlecC Re:Interesting... (170 comments)

Very unlikely to be in geosynchronous orbit, which is a long way away - about 20, 000 miles compared to Low Earth Orbit at 120 miles or so. Inverse square law means that both ends would need much more power. Handing from one station to another on the fly is a solved problem.

about 2 months ago
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Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+?

AlecC Re:I have a really hard time caring... (355 comments)

It is more a question of having a home/office base where you plug in exactly 1 cable to your portable device to get power, desktop quality keyboard mouse and display, faster then WiFi network connectivity. Portable devices are, of course, ubiquitous, and we all have them - and we are always worried about the battery. Desktop installations have their advantages, and plenty of people make their portable devices into temporary desktop devices by plugging in enough cables. It seems a good idea to reduce that number of cables to the lowest possible number if possible. The USB Power Delivery standard does this. It can actually be delivered over current connectors, but it looks as if manufacturers are waiting for the new USB connector to implement it.

about 2 months ago
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Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+?

AlecC Re:No Threat To Thunderbolt (355 comments)

The OS has many discontinous buffers for many different overlapped commands. If you allow peripherals to buffer many commands and execute in their preferred order, performance can greatly increase - more than double for disks IME. Bu that would mean the controller having many different base/limit registers. Which, of course, it does (even if via software) in USB. Allowing the peripheral to switch buffers as needed cuts a lot of duplicated effort - by handing trust over to the peripheral completely.

about 2 months ago
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Do Embedded Systems Need a Time To Die?

AlecC Blinkered (187 comments)

This guy has an incredible blinkered view of "embedded devices". Most embedded devises are not connected to the Interned. Should my wristwatch, washing machine, car ignition controller, garage door opener, swimming pool pump, dumb TV, bank vault, disk drive, mouse, keyboard, etc all die prematurely because somebody else makes a router that can be prejudiced. There are literally billions of embedded devices in the world,. of which probably less than one a thousand is connected to the internet. Yet this seems to be suggesting that we should kill a thousand devices because one /might/ be prejudiced.

about 2 months ago
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Study: Earthlings Not Ready For Alien Encounters, Yet

AlecC Re:next 50 to 100 years? (453 comments)

While the number of civilisations may be infinite, they are scattered through infinite space. Their density may be low even when their number is infinite, If there is only one civilisation per billion galaxies at any one time, they will be hard to spot.

about 2 months ago
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Understanding the 2 Billion-Year-Old Natural Nuclear Reactor In W Africa

AlecC Re:How low can you go?(power density) (152 comments)

Why does inflation making space expand faster than the speed of light change the constants? No particle or energy travelled faster than light. Just space expanded smoothly such that, over a sufficient distance, the rate of change of that distance exceeded C. Nothing to trouble relativity in that fact: geometry changed, but nothing moved to fast. In fact, it is still the case: if the Hubble expansion is uniform, as it appears to be, at some distance the rate of recession must exceed C; there are objects which we will never see, because light cannot cross the ever-expanding gulf between us.

about 3 months ago
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Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment

AlecC Re:Razor wire (135 comments)

It is imaginable that a fibre such as you describe could be one of the products which could be made with graphene. But the nanoparticles being described in the articles are dangerous at the cellular level, not at the size of an arm. They are much more like incredibly fine, incredibly hard grit.

about 3 months ago
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Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment

AlecC Order of Magnitude? (135 comments)

It is hardly surprising that graphene can, in some circumstances, be dangerous. Exhaust particulates, which he have known for years are dangerous, contain (now we know what we are looking for) large numbers of graphene nanoparticles, which may well contribute to their damaging effects. Just about every chemical ever tested has bad effects at some scale. What I didn't get from either article was any sense of the scale of the danger. Obviously, it is early days in the research, and one would only expect an order of magnitude estimate. But is is such a danger that we should not allow graphene products into the home lest they spill, or merely one which demands normal safety precautions in the factories for future graphene products? A warning of danger without some idea of the scale of the problem is just sensationalist: it induces fear without giving any idea as to what should be done, if anything,

about 3 months ago
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50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal

AlecC Re: In 3, 2, 1... (224 comments)

Wirth's own compiler obviously implemented his language. But that was a university Comp Sci compiler: it had to be good enough for students to hand in assignments. But otherwise, every compiler needed extensions. Which were fairly easy to add, and the language was generally good. I did many years of embedded development, with two RTOSes optimised to Pascal idioms. And I really wanted to follow the Pascal line of development to Ada, but was not able to. I entirely agree that Pascal is a much more elegant language than C and its descendants. But it was written as a teaching language, and C was written as a systems implementation language. And since systems are a much bigger commercial market than teaching. So people wrote and supported C compilers. So we are where we are.

I think C/C++ is twenty years past it best before date. Not that it is a bad language, for its time, but its time should not be now. We should have replaced it, and haven't. And a replacement descended from Pascal would be nicer than one descended from C, though many devotees will damn me for saying so.

about 3 months ago
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50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal

AlecC Re:In 3, 2, 1... (224 comments)

It was not bad, it was incomplete. It was a much nicer language than C, which is why I chose it for the projects I was developing, and was the point made several posts up . But, as I recall, it had no features allowing multiple compilations to be linked together - no equivalent of the C header file.Turbo Pascal added this, to make a very usable system. As did several others - incompatibly. This militated against it becoming a widely used systems language, because it was fragmented into different dialects, all incompatible. C, ugly though it was, stayed on the K&R standard, then added the Ansi standard, which was nearly completely upwards compatible, then mutated into C++ which made great efforts to keep compatibility with C. I can switch code between GCC and VisualC with very little effort: I could not switch code between the various Pascal environments in the same way.

about 3 months ago
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50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal

AlecC Re: In 3, 2, 1... (224 comments)

It was not "the standard". The standard was the "Pascal User Manual and Report". To my recollection, this contained no mechanism for multi-file compilation. It assumed that every program was a single file - fine for a teaching language, where programs would typically be a hundred or two lines long, but no use for a system language. UCSD added extensions that made it into a perfectly good systems language. So did Turbo Pascal - differently, So did the Oregon Software cross compiler I used - differently again. You could not simply port programs between these various systems, whereas you could port programs written in K&R C. With additions, Pascal was a fine systems language; as I say, I used it for 15 years and wrote many tens of thousands of lines of code in it. But it needed extensions.

about 3 months ago

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