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Comments

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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

Dr_Barnowl Re:Just get a case (540 comments)

The voice reco right now uploads your voice sample to Google's server farm where they apply the very best processing they can to it. And it still sucks balls.

It's become clear that it's going to take some kind of revolutionary breakthrough to make voice recognition actually good.

I compose my thoughts better when usnig a keyboard than when speaking as well. I can pause for thought and and change things.

I like the swipe functionality that comes with the standard Google keyboard now, but even that isn't perfect.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

Dr_Barnowl Re:To answer the question directly (112 comments)

"Funny" doesn't count towards your karma score, so some people like to reward otherwise funny posts with ratings that do grant karma.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find Resources On Programming For Palm OS 5?

Dr_Barnowl Re:Dear Slashdot (170 comments)

I would really have liked a PalmOS cart for my Nintendo DS ; the form factor would have made it an awesome little organizer, it had a touch screen, etc, and the CPU power would probably have been good enough to run the original OS ROMs in an emu.

There were rumours of it happening (maybe I even started them by discussing it on BBs...) but alas, it never came to be.

One thing I really liked about the PalmOS stuff, which other software suites took ages to catch up with, was the way they all integrated. Some of the things that make me go "Oh, cool!" in Android apps now are the sort of things that PalmOS had 16 years ago.

2 days ago
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Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

Dr_Barnowl Re:Scale? (167 comments)

Seems to be working just fine...

Syphilis does better, as a disease, than Ebola for the same reasons you win at Pandemic-type games - the slow progression, the low-profile.

Ebola doesn't spread nearly as much, because it's non-airborne and rapidly fatal to a large number of people who contract it. This is why it stays confined to the butt-end of civilization.

Syphilis does more harm overall because it has numbers in it's favour.

People tend to focus more on Ebola because of the high mortaility rate. It has a couple of pretty horrible "What if?"s - principally, what if it goes airborne? I'm not sure a virus with such a high mortaility rate that's been around so long would actually ever go airborne though - from an evolutionary perspective it's a terrible combination.

A virus with high mortaility and rapid spread will rapidly kill all susceptible individuals within it's catchment area, so it's likely that such things have never really gotten off the evolutionary drawing board. The last thing that came close was the Spanish Flu, which was a more fatal mutation of a fairly innocuous airborne pathogen, rather than a more mobile mutation of something unpleasantly fatal like Ebola.

Of course, the above is true of a pre-air-travel world, because rapid spread would kill off everything in the travel radius - because the travel radius was dictated by walking pace, or driving pace... or the speed of ocean liners. In this day and age, it would be much easier for such a thing to have a serious impact.

about a week ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:MS Office will still reign supreme (164 comments)

He is a fuckwit that raises the point ; what if this is just a dastardly plan to get public orgs to pay for an upgrade to Office 2013? It could be regarded as the low-risk option - and lower versions do not support ODF 1.2.

about a week ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why ODF? (164 comments)

More like ODF is readable without having to buy software. Software that will read ODF is available for free - and without installation either, since you can upload files to a web renderer now.

The theory being that requiring people to purchase software from a particular vendor disenfranchises those that cannot afford it and those that choose not to do business with that vendor.

about a week ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why ODF? (164 comments)

Yeah, this is because Office reuses so much of Windows, not just limited to basic API calls to get files and use control widgets and such, but rendering of fonts, etc.

LibreOffice has a much better chance of consistent document rendering on multiple platforms.

The Cabinet Office announcement does make a distinction between documents for collaboration and those for viewing ; PDF/A and HTML should at least have a reasonably consistent rendering (depending on how fancy you get with stylesheets in the case of HTML - IE, is of course, still a total arsebasket in terms of compatibility).

about a week ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why ODF? (164 comments)

The main reason you might want a human readable format is for collaboration ;

So many of my customers have collaborative content editing requirements as follows

* All changes to be auditable
* Changes to be peer reviewed before going into the released content

Which basically screams out to be put in a version control system ; the problem is that merging sucks for binary blob formats.

You can close the gap either by creating better merge tools that understand your blobs, or moving the document structure to line-based text that merges well ; for a document of any complexity, you're going to need the improved merge tools, but line-based text makes sense for those who can read it without the GUI tools.

As programmers we fill the role of that improved merge tool for the content that we manage ; we forget that for most people, parsing and grokking even something as simple as nicely prettified HTML is akin to reading Sanskrit blindfolded from stone tablets wearing gloves.

I agree though, I want to move most of my technical authors to Markdown so that I can have an easy platform for converting their content to multiple formats for consumption.

about a week ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why ODF? (164 comments)

OOXML wasn't designed as an exchange format at all ; every indication is that it's just an XML serialization of the internal data structures of Office. (The "Strict" version that nothing can write was produced after removing some of the more egregious kludges that have accumulated over time in Office).

The only thing it was designed to achieve was to provide some reasonable doubt that it might be an "open format", at a time when open formats were starting to become all the rage.

Because it gave that reasonable doubt, people were able to shy away from the difficult problem of how to migrate to a different office suite. Because Office allegedly "supports" ODF, that reasonable doubt is sadly still there.

about a week ago
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why ODF? (164 comments)

The last time I tried it, Excel ruined ODS documents with any kind of complexity... like... formulas. Almost like it was on purpose.

about a week ago
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Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (156 comments)

Well, efficiency informs us on cost. Let's couple those costs with efficiency and use the same fuel source.

Natural gas power stations vs hydrogen (from reformed natural gas)

Gas power station = 60% efficient [1]

So a battery vehicle powered by electricity generated from natural gas :

Gas turbine efficiency * transmission line efficiency * battery cycle efficiency

0.6 * 0.94 * 0.95 = 53%

Fuel cell vehicle powered by hydrogen reformed from natural gas

Natural gas is primarily methane. Methane releases 810kJ per mole [2] on burning, and contains 4 moles of hydrogen atoms which would form 2 moles of hydrogen gas. Assuming we remove the carbon from a mole of methane, we get 2 moles of hydrogen molecules. Energy of combusion of hydrogen gas is 286kJ/mol [3], so that's 572kJ/mol per mole of methane or just over 70% of the energy. I'm going to be very generous and assume that steam reformation costs no energy and that no hydrogen is lost in the process.

Methane reformation to hydrogen efficiency * fuel cell efficiency

0.7 * 0.5 = 35%

Therefore starting with the same fuel as an energy source, storage tank to wheels, the fuel cell car requires at least 50% more fuel. Therefore it costs more per mile, and that's before any of the other engineering considerations.

Please don't try to tell me that the cost of electricity produced from natural gas is completely decoupled from the cost of hydrogen produced from natural gas.

[1] Gas turbine plants
[2] https://www.wou.edu/las/physci...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

about two weeks ago
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Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (156 comments)

The horse is still high enough. Twice as high as the pony that fuel cells rode in on, at the least.

Making electricity from a power plant with a traditional thermal conversion cycle (40% efficiency, at best) and making hydrogen by electrolysis (50% efficiency) and using it to power your fuel cell car (again, about 50%) yields

0.4 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.1 or 10% efficiency for the fuel that went in. That's half the efficiency of a traditional internal combustion engine.

Efficiency of an ICE averages about 20%. And I'm being generous with that because that does not take into account the losses from refining raw fuels (like coal, which can be burned unrefined).

Not sure what the efficiency of making hydrogen with steam reformation is, but logically you're throwing away a lot of the chemical energy in the original compound, because in a combustion cycle you'd be burning the carbon as well as the oxygen, and if you want the "green" benefits you also have to spend resources sequestering the carbon byproducts so produced. If it's above 80% efficient (which would seem on inspection to be impossible because of the lost carbon), then you have a vehicle that is clean at the tailpipe but just barely more full-cycle efficient than an ICE based vehicle, all other things being equal. Which they aren't because of the expensive platinum catalyst, heavy cryogenic high pressure tanks, etc, etc, etc.

Battery cycle is about 95% efficient. So even if you burn fossil fuels (40% efficiency) and suffer transmission losses (in the US, 94% efficiency), you still get a car that is more efficient than both ICEs and fuel cells.

0.4 * 0.94 * 0.95 = 35% efficiency

So at less than twice the efficiency of ICEs, electric cars are not the magical panacea that they are painted to be, but they are much better than ICEs and fuel cells. The major play available is in the first stage - the electricity generation. When you start replacing those coal fired power stations with other sources of electricity, they start to get much much greener. And they don't demand the construction of an entirely new fuel distribution infrastructure with difficult engineering challenges.

I remain certain in my position that hydrogen energy is primarily an investment of the fossil fuel industry, designed to help prolong the market for "vintage biomass" as long as possible, either by actually putting hydrogen cars on the road, or diverting investment away from battery technology.

about two weeks ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Dr_Barnowl Re:Comparisons (272 comments)

The parts of our brain structure that are most associated with our cognitive abilities evolved from the parts that processed smell. Whales clearly communicate using their song, so what's to say that the parts of their brains that process sound (which would be the bulk of their sensory needs) aren't undergoing the same transition?

about two weeks ago
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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

Dr_Barnowl Re:Decoy (211 comments)

And the retroreflecting prism arrays sent to the moon, that anyone with a big enough laser can bounce a beam off and determine what the distance of the moon is at the moment, were presumably put up there by Elvis on his way home. Hell, it's just a few pairs of his rhinestone trousers that fell out of his trunk.

about two weeks ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Dr_Barnowl Re:Comparisons (272 comments)

i) They aren't fish, they are mammals
ii) They have social grouping activity, the thing that separates the smart animals from the dumb ones, and the thing responsible for the growth of humans into the dominant species

about two weeks ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Dr_Barnowl Re:You're more right that you know (272 comments)

70% of US corn is fed to livestock. Because of all the economic subsidy that corn receives this means the price of meat in the US is artificially low.

US meat consumption is multiple times that of the next nearest nation ; even if you cut your meat consumption by half, you'd still be eating a lot of meat, and you'd free up vast tracts of agricultural land to grow other crops.

about two weeks ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Dr_Barnowl Re:The White House isn't stupid.. (272 comments)

To expand on the sibling's post about Saddam switching oil sales to Euros :

The economy of the US is propped up by a vast debt. We're not talking loans to banks, or China. We're talking petrodollars.

The de-facto currency that oil is traded in was for a long time, the US dollar. Which meant that nations speculated in it, hoarded it, retained reserves of it for the purpose of trading oil.

This meant that the US printed more dollars with impunity, as long as oil markets expanded, meaning the government enjoyed the ability to spend vast amounts of money backed not just by US wealth and productivity, but the wealth and productivity of the whole world.

Then it was proposed that it would be a good idea to start trading for oil in currencies other than the US Dollar. The US financiers were terrified by this.

If the nations of the world no longer needed their dollars to buy oil, they would seek to exchange them for other things of value. And if the nations of the world no longer needed US dollars to buy oil, they would no longer want to accept them in exchange for things of value, so the bulk of the balance would have to come home to the US to be exchanged for things of value there.

This would cause US inflation, devaluation of the US dollar, and vast tracts of US interests suddenly being owned by foreign nationals. The incumbent administration (or rather, their financier friends) could not permit this, so they made an example of one of the countries that dared to make noises about trading their oil for Euros.

It's no coincidence that Iran is having it's feet held to the fire at a time when it is once again proposing to open a non-dollar oil bourse.

about two weeks ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Dr_Barnowl Re:Other loud noises (272 comments)

i mean why have 6,8,or 10 children? when you can only feed 2 or 3(without assistance)?

Historic precedent, based on two factors -

* High levels of infant mortality
* The need to provide for one's retirement

These countries don't have functioning social care systems. Your children are the only care you're going to get in your dotage. That, combined with the historic trend of high infant mortality, means that high numbers of children are perceived as a form of great fortune. They don't have the career driven lives of the West that are leading our populations to shrink because we're producing fewer than one child per person. Even if the healthcare systems improve and infant mortality rates drop, there is some time before the culture catches up.

about two weeks ago
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Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Dr_Barnowl Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (156 comments)

The costs of the primary fuel are paramount - the cheapest way to get hydrogen is from steam reformation of natural gas, not from electrolysis. Therefore that is the source that will be used, because the economic cost determines what happens in the market.

Subsidies of fuel cell vehicles are likely the result of lobbying from the fossil fuel industry, since they have the most to gain. As the sibling poster says, battery electric vehicles right now are suitable for over 90% of journeys, and battery technology continues to improve, with faster charging and better capacity and longevity.

And as you yourself point out - fuel cell cars raise the cost of the primary fuel - whatever it is - by a factor of four. It's still the same dichotomy we have now with battery versus chemical fuel.

You can either have a vehicle that has a long range and a rapid refuel time at the cost of ALL the journeys you make being expensive regardless of their length.

Or you can have a vehicle that has very cheap journeys 90% of the time at the cost of additional refuelling time on some of the longer journeys. Given the state of the technology now, it's more like 20 minutes every four hours, than four hours every 20 minutes. And to be honest, I think I could benefit from a 20 minute break after four hours of driving.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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Eric Schmidt urges regulation of mini-drones

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  about a year ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the CEO of Google thinks that drones should be regulated. Drones are certainly a hot topic, with appearances on both side of the divide in Cory Doctorow's novel Homeland — with the authorities using them to distribute riot gas, and the noble hackers using them to post the video of them doing it. Is Eric really concerned over how the public will use drones against each other, or is he more concerned that they might eat into Google's pie somehow?"
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UK Government - "Pay a £20 fee to acquit yourself of file-sharing (maybe)"

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the UK government plans to introduce a £20 fee if you wish to appeal against an allegation of copyright infringement, within 20 days of your accusation. Note that this doesn't guarantee acquittal, as only "excuses" covered in the Digital Economy Act will be valid even for consideration. This scheme could be in place as early as 2014, so John Smith, General Secretary of the Musicians' Union says "We urge ISPs to begin building their systems now and to work constructively with rights holders, Ofcom and government to get notice-sending up and running as soon as possible,". What are the thoughts of Slashdot?"
Link to Original Source
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EU Proposes HFT Transaction Tax

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the UK opposes a proposed new tax on transactions with at least one end Europe. Why is this "News for Nerds"? The proposal includes tax on derivatives, an instrument the High Frequency Trading stories we've been chowing down on recently. With the proposed tax being 0.1% or 0.01% for derivatives, the story highlights the sheer volumes involved — it's speculated that the tax would earn some €57B a year ($78B), around 80% of it from the City of London. A transaction tax like this is something frequently proposed in Slashdot HFT discussions. The UK says that it will veto the tax "unless it was imposed globally" — should the USA follow suit and impose a similar levy targeted at the trading desks of the NYSE?"
Link to Original Source
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Sony to convert online bookstore to open format

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that Sony are to convert their online bookstore to the EPUB format.

While this format still supports DRM, it's supported on a much wider variety of readers. Is this a challenge to Kindle? It's nice to see Sony opening up to the idea of open standards ; even if you still have reservations about buying a Sony device, you might be able to patronise their bookstore sometime soon."
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Google to release another open-source OS

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  about 5 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that Google are planning to release another operating system : Google Chrome OS.

This is apparently going to consist of the Google Chrome browser, running in "a new windowing system". The browser is the platform, much like it is in the Palm Pre smartphone, part of the intention being to provide a fast boot time.

They are setting their sights first on the growing market for netbooks, with ARM and x86 compatibility planned out of the starting gate.

A "browser OS" would probably do just fine for the majority of users, but I don't think I'm ready to give up my heavy client-side platforms just yet. What will be interesting to see is the Microsoft response to this — they have enjoyed an alleged "96%" share of the netbook market OS recently, so anything designed to eat into that will not be popular in the Redmond boardroom."
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EA releases license deactivation management tool.

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "Electronic Arts have posted a link to a SecuROM De-authorization management tool. Once downloaded, the tool will search your drives for EA games infested with the draconian online DRM system, and help you download their respective individual de-activation tools.

This isn't a perfect solution, since it's still possible to run out of activations in the event of hardware failure or other source of data loss, but since the announcement that this particular DRM system will be dropped for The Sims 3 , it would seem that EA has had a minor epiphany about DRM."

Link to Original Source
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British IRS loses database of every child in UK.

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "News breaking in the UK is that the HM Revenue & Customs (the UK version of the IRS) has lost in the post discs containing the entire Child Benefit database. Every child in the UK is entitled to receive Child Benefit, so this covers some 25M people (out of the UK population of some 60M), 7.25M families, and contains names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account numbers and national insurance number (aka SSN).

The lost data has failed to turn up under a search by HM Customs (famous for rooting contraband out of tight spaces) and the UK police.

This is data loss on an unprecedented scale. Many of the people questioning the Chancellor of the Exchequer at this moment are using the issue to raise questions about the UK government plans for a national ID database.

The data was apparently "password protected". The word "encryption" has also been used, but not in connection to the data, so it could well be something as simple as a passworded ZIP archive. The data was placed onto a couple of optical media and sent to another government office, for audit purposes, via the internal post system provided by a third party courier. This was not the first occurrence of the database being transferred in this way.

While there is no evidence so far that the data is being put to nefarious uses, this will cause total chaos in the UK banking system ; affected accounts are being flagged and mothers across the country will be phoning their bank in a panic."

Link to Original Source
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Swedish company trials peer-to-peer cellphones

Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "TerraNet is trialling a p2p based mobile telephony system. Phones are used to route calls onto other phones, constructing mesh networks of "up to 20km".

The BBC reports the natural tendency of the big telecoms providers to want to squash this. I can see other problems though. The advantages in an environment with sparse cell coverage are obvious, but network effects mean that the number of connections in a heavily populated mesh grow exponentially. What happens to your battery life when your phone becomes a node? And while the company is optimistic that they have a viable technology model from IP licensing, the demand for devices supporting this is going to be proportional to the number of devices that it can connect you to.

On the plus side, it would provide some great experience with mesh networks."

Link to Original Source
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Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports in prose and in video that Robert Soloway, an alleged user of zombie spamming networks, has been arrested in Seattle. He will be charged with aggravated identity theft, the first such charge since the relevant law was passed in 2003.

While it's highly encouraging to see spammers brought to book, the spam level has not noticeably decreased since his arrest, testimony to the more prevalent spam output of eastern European and Asian sources."

Link to Original Source
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Dr_Barnowl Dr_Barnowl writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The CEO of Sun Microsystems blogs that "no amount of fear can stop the rise of [...] free software". While he avoids specifically mentioning a certain software company by name, he links directly to the interview in Fortune that started all this brouhaha.

He makes a special point that Sun "... decided to innovate, not litigate."

You have to wonder who else from the corporate world may pitch in at this point."

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