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Ebola Quarantine Center In Liberia Looted

Dr. Spork Re:Please stop and think (355 comments)

Thank you for an insightful post. No discussion of this will make sense without the point you made. IMO, it only makes the whole situation seem that much more tragic.

2 days ago
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Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

Dr. Spork My Windows Skype just booted me during a call! (267 comments)

I was using the last pre-MS version of the client, which had the "ring all speakers" option. I have several sound devices in my computer, and when my headphones are plugged in, they on their own don't ring loud enough to hear an incoming call. Luckily my HDMI monitor has speakers that don't get any use, except that Skype could make them ring with the "ring all speakers" option. They were loud enough to hear calls. That was until about an hour ago.

My client just stopped working, booted me off the network, and after messing with it for a while, I finally got the message that my Skype version is too old, and that I either get the new crippled client, or I can't Skype at all.

Many people have petitioned to have the "ring all speakers" re-implemented. It worked great. But Microsoft's answer has been: Fuck you, we will never do that. Stop pleading, we don't care. It didn't bother me too much until today. I just thought I'd stick with version 5.10.116 forever. Oh well. So thanks, Skype, for making my life shittier today. Boy am I happy I pre-paid a year of unlimited Skype Out!

about two weeks ago
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MIT Considers Whether Courses Are Outdated

Dr. Spork Yeah, maybe considering it for the plebs online... (205 comments)

Listen, for the rest of MIT's history, the experience for the core students on campus will remain the same: Dorms, semesters, course sequences, grades/evaluations, professors in classrooms, papers, projects, parties, etc.. Why am I so sure? Because MIT is an elite school, and elites will want their kids to get the classical education which made them elite. It's just as much about soaking in the culture, encountering other people, putting together a study crew, a party crew, having a shared experience that includes a bit of hazing, etc.

Sure, MIT will also have a mass education system for the plebs, and they'll brand it with their elite name. But that stuff is not for the "real" MIT kids, except as a supplement. I'm confident that if they design the modular multimedia tutoring system well, many plebs will learn a lot from it. But the only effect of this will be to learn the material. They won't be transformed into MIT elites, even if the letters "MIT" appear somewhere on their diploma. For better or worse, rich parents will always want to send their kids to universities with dorms, semesters, course sequences, grades/evaluations, professors in classrooms, papers, projects, parties, etc. - in hopes that they will osmotically absorb something like culture. The more it reminds them of Hogwarts, the more money they'll be willing to pay. MIT would be stupid to get out of that business, and they're not stupid.

about two weeks ago
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Nevada Construction Project Could Be Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory

Dr. Spork Re:And it's already closed (81 comments)

It's also a pretty tough negotiating strategy. If the governor A doesn't match the bid of governor B, Musk actually fires a lot of governor A's constituents, and the whole thing is egg on his face. Since governor A doesn't want that, he might decide to offer Musk some terms that are actually bad for the state, but will cause less personal blowback for the governor than the mass firing would have. But then there's governor B has the same incentives, and also doesn't want headlines about mass firings in his own state. He might actually decide to accept an even worse deal for the state, so as to avoid the bad headlines and instead look like a hero. So this sets up a race to the bottom which could easily save Musk more money than he spent on the cancelled construction project.

about three weeks ago
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Nevada Construction Project Could Be Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory

Dr. Spork Re:And it's already closed (81 comments)

It is possible that this is just an interruption of work, while Musk brings in new contractors who can actually keep deadlines. According to the article, the fired construction crew missed all their construction milestones. That could be the reason for the layoffs, not a cancellation of the plans.

about three weeks ago
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The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

Dr. Spork Re: Such a Waste (156 comments)

This is a good point. The book certainly didn't feel that way. The problem is that for the Hobbit movies, Jackson started with the original material and then decided to overdo everything about 5x beyond how Tolkien wrote it. So they can't just ride in barrels down a river - an incredibly perilous thing to begin with.

Here's how I picture Jackson deciding to "improve on" the original. They can't just ride in barrels, they have to ride in inexplicably stable barrels that don't take in water, down a river with some crazy fucking rapids, yeah!, while ... let see, why not make them be shot at by elves who otherwise never miss, but this time each shot will miss by like a milimeter, and then some other fuckers are gonna come attack them and come within a milimeter of killing them like a million times, and then good-guy elves will start shooting at those other fuckers, doing acrobatics and other bitchin elf shit, meanwhile the dwarves will be all "hoooo noooo! OOOooooo!" and we'll just keep doing that for like 20 minutes, and then more shooting and swiping and rapids, and by the end, each dwarf will almost-die like 200 times, because, you know. Tension.

You know that if Tolkien sees this he'd be like "Duh, I totally should have written it that way to begin with, it's waay more radical and gnarly!"

about three weeks ago
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Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy

Dr. Spork If slashdot had a TV channel... (127 comments)

They would be wise to get a celebrity D&D campaign. Just imagine an evening with Cory Doctorow, Stephen Colbert, George R. R. Martin, Matt Groening etc, all sitting around a table, trying to lawyer rules and hold off a raid of hobgoblins! That would be a "reality" show that I could watch!

about 1 month ago
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German NSA Committee May Turn To Typewriters To Stop Leaks

Dr. Spork Re:Enigma (244 comments)

When the Germans go back to those as well, they might as well all get pilot goggles and go 100% steampunk.

about a month ago
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Marvel's New Thor Will Be a Woman

Dr. Spork Re:After that shitfest"The Dark World" they need b (590 comments)

To be fair, minting Thor as a superhero that, though a series of cosmic macguffins, teams up with Captain America and Ironman, is a deeply stupid idea to begin with.

about a month ago
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FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

Dr. Spork But with a pilot it's still ok? (199 comments)

I think it's time for Nibbles the Hamster to get a pilot's license and go to work for real estate. With him in the cockpit, it's no longer a drone, right? He will also get some mini pilot goggles, because it will look adorable and no judge would ever convict.

about a month ago
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Coddled, Surveilled, and Monetized: How Modern Houses Can Watch You

Dr. Spork OMG, not my tooth brushing!!! (150 comments)

This is so scary! If somebody learns every detail of the motions I make when I brush my teeth, they will basically have all the info they need to turn me into a zombie servant of the NSA-corprotocracy! And now they also want to know the humidity in my house!? Goddamn it, didn't our founding fathers say that the moisture content of our residence shall not collected? I'm so outraged! Now excuse me while I upload all my photos, featuring everyone I've ever associated with, to Facebook.

about a month and a half ago
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In Düsseldorf, A Robot Valet Will Park Your Car

Dr. Spork Should be denser! (120 comments)

From the picture it looks like it takes just as much space as a regular parking garage, but I think the real potential in a system like this is in maximizing the density of parked cars. I'm picturing something like an Amazon warehouse, but with cars on each shelf. In places where space is at a premium, this sort of ultra-dense shelving system seems like the right way to store a lot of cars. What would also be awesome would be a smartphone app that gives the garage a heads up 5 minutes before you arrive to pick up your car, so that "Ray" can stick it into a pickup spot. For example, if it's in a city and on a subway line, you could choose "I'm on the northbound C train" and the dispatching system is wired into the subway system, figures out where that train is and can estimate accurately how long it will be before you arrive. Then you get a return message about which spot to go to, get in and drive off. Yes it's a bit more technology than self-parking, but the technology is mostly fixed costs, and in many dense cities, those costs are probably much lower than the equivalent number of traditional parking spaces. Also, these costs are likely to fall over time, unlike the cost of space in Gangnam or Manhattan. If it's coordinated right, it's also more convenient.

about a month and a half ago
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Facial Recognition Might Be Coming To Your Car

Dr. Spork Good idea, bad marketing (131 comments)

Think of it this way: this will be a trivially cheap device to install in a car, and it will be pretty much invisible in how it functions, until someone tries to steal your car. It will probably be bundled with other functions that count your blinks and warn you when you're too drowsy to drive safely. This is the kind of device that will pay for itself many times over in insurance savings. Also, if it records your car data in some hard-coded way, that data could be very useful in fighting wrongful traffic tickets. To market it as a spy-on-your-kids tool is not a good move. It sounds sinister and gross. Basically, it should be described as a password device for your car, which you can enter just by looking like yourself, or else typing something in on the owner's phone. If your computer requires a password to operate, why shouldn't you car, especially if entering it doesn't require any actions?

about 2 months ago
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The Military Is About To Get New Augmented Reality Spy Glasses

Dr. Spork Re:How about soccer referees and augmented reality (58 comments)

I was thinking that they could review previous events as the game runs, but I guess they could they could limit it to time after they blew the whistle and are deciding about cards. But offsides calls could absolutely be done in real time.

about 2 months ago
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The Military Is About To Get New Augmented Reality Spy Glasses

Dr. Spork How about soccer referees and augmented reality? (58 comments)

Am I the only one who has been thinking recently that soccer might make me less angry if referees had augmented reality glasses? For example, if they could instantly replay for themselves certain situations and rotate angles (enough data is already collected from cameras to make this possible), they would certainly make better calls! If nothing else, this would be a way to completely nail offsides decisions.

about 2 months ago
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Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Dr. Spork Re:Winter is coming (461 comments)

Germany's CO2 output is spiking, hitting records each year, thanks to the dozen or so new giant powerplants that burn coal. The USA, meanwhile, has dramatically reduced its CO2 output in the last 5 years. Americans are actually shutting down coal plants, as the Germans build new ones. I know that these facts are inconvenient to your narrative, but they are still facts.

about 2 months ago
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Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Dr. Spork Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (461 comments)

Remarkable that they had the wisdom to replace zero-emission nuclear power with a dozen new gigantic coal plants, including several that burn brown coal? Congratulations, welcome to the 18th century! While the greenhouse emissions from the USA are falling like a rock in the last 5 years, Germany's CO2 output is spiking upwards and reaches record levels every year. And for all this, Germans have to pay some of the highest electricity costs in Europe. I'm not saying that Germany can't eventually get their act together, but to me it looks like they're off to a very bad start.

about 2 months ago
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Turing Test Passed

Dr. Spork Re:The 'test' was fixed (432 comments)

Here was a sample of a hypothetical conversation from Turing's original article:

Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day," would not "a spring day" do as well or better?

Witness: It wouldn't scan.

Interrogator: How about "a winter's day," That would scan all right.

Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter's day.

Interrogator: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?

Witness: In a way.

Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter's day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.

Witness: I don't think you're serious. By a winter's day one means a typical winter's day, rather than a special one like Christmas.

I think the problem is that the way Turing was picturing the test, the human interrogators would be as smart as Turing and his friends, people who actually know how to ask probing questions. When you look at the conversation above, you see that he had in mind a program that does things which is decades beyond of what chatbots can do today. Everybody is dissing the Turing test, and if it has a problem, it's in that Turing overestimated people, in assuming that they actually know how to have conversations of significance. I still think there is something deeply significant about the Turing test, but in the one that I'm picturing, the interrogators must all be broadly educated experts on natural language processing with specific training in how to expose chatbots. And there should be money on the line for the interrogators: $1000 bonus for each correct identification, $2000 penalty for incorrect identification, no penalty for "not sure". If the majority of such experts can be fooled by an AI under these circumstances, then I think we should all be impressed.

about 2 months ago
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NRC Human Spaceflight Report Says NASA Strategy Can't Get Humans To Mars

Dr. Spork Snagging an asteroid is cooler anyway! (206 comments)

Seriously, forget Mars. It's like Utah, but cold, and even more boring. We know Mars.

Now, rearranging big chunks of our solar system to get our grubby hand on some sweet sweet platinum, that's the sort of crazy shit that our parents hoped we'd be doing by now. In any case, that's what we should be doing, imo.

about 2 months ago
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Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+?

Dr. Spork Re:No Threat To Thunderbolt (355 comments)

I've been thinking hard about a cable that will bring data to my CPU with the lowest latency. At the other end of the cable would be a guitar with several A/D converters, one for each pickup. Including piezos, that might add up to about 10 192Hz/32bit signals. That's still not a tremendous amount of bandwidth, but latency is much more important in this application. I don't think there is any dispute that the lowest latency lane to the CPU in current PCs is over PCIE. If thunderbolt is PCIE over a wire, it would be a natural technology to finally modernize the electric guitar for the digital age. Well, a guy can dream!

about 3 months ago

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