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Boeing and BlackBerry Making a Self-Destructing Phone

Phat_Tony Great Feature - Fro Blackberry (75 comments)

I've gotten a chance to try out a few friends' work-issued Blackberrys in the smartphone era, and I've got to say, a convenient way to destroy the thing entirely sounds like the most useful feature RIM has added in a long time.

about a month ago

The IPv4 Internet Hiccups

Phat_Tony We're the part that got dropped (248 comments)

We lost probably $30k in lost sales, and employees unable to do their jobs yesterday. Liquid web is going to lose a ton of customers over this. I don't know if it was their "fault," or if it was the top tier providers in their area they contract with. But as I understand it, if we had been with anyone really big who had us colocated in facilities way far away from each other, this would have been extremely unlikely.

about 5 months ago

Even In Digital Photography Age, High Schoolers Still Flock To the Darkroom

Phat_Tony Re:It's an artform (240 comments)

Or you can just learn how to expose film properly before you ever set foot in a darkroom, and then spend your time in the darkroom learning about dodging and burning, cropping, using multicontrast papers and filters, ferrotyping tins, different developers, etc. to get the look you want, in which case you get feedback within minutes and can keep printing until you get what you want.

It's true it's not the fastest way to check framing, exposure, depth of field, focus, etc. Although it can also force people to put more thought into those things, since the stakes are higher.

about 7 months ago

The Man Who Convinced Us We Needed Vitamin Supplements

Phat_Tony Re:Vitamin takers ignore absorption pathways (707 comments)

You can find current articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, etc stating medical items as facts that are 10, 20, 30 years or more behind the current state of research at the time.

You still see newspapers running articles saying that post-menopausal hormone supplements reduce the risk of heart-attack in women (they increase it), that plastic cutting boards have lower risk of harboring dangerous bacteria than wood (it's higher), that low-fat diets help with weight loss (they make it harder to lose weight than higher fat diets), that all fat is unhealthy (it's not), that foods like rice cakes and baked potatoes and simple pastas are great diet foods (they're terrible, they have high glycemic response, you'd be better off eating a candy bar as far as weight loss is concerned), I could go on and on. The article you reference is simply written by someone who doesn't keep up on the current state of the research.

"Current state" meaning around 2008.

I don't have time to recount all the science, but here's one link to a 2009 meta-study.

I'm not exaggerating at all. I'm not claiming my views are so well established that they're in the 8th-grade health textbook, that will probably take 100 years, but the science behind this in peer-reviewed research journals is well established. Expect at least 10 years for the media to pick up on it, if we're lucky.

about a year and a half ago

The Man Who Convinced Us We Needed Vitamin Supplements

Phat_Tony Vitamin takers ignore absorption pathways (707 comments)

One of the biggest problems with vitamin supplements is that neither the takers nor the manufacturers (nor doctors prescribing supplements) pay any attention to absorption pathways. They also tend to ignore variants, which is a problem with a broader category of nutrients than just vitamins. There is a pretty decent scientific basis for the idea that good levels of vitamins are healthy, but supplements are usually taken in ways that are likely to make things worse rather than better through crowding out other essential vitamins and minerals that get absorbed through the same pathway.

Take zinc. It was found that zinc can denature viruses, so a viral sore throat can have its symptoms somewhat alleviated by zinc lozenges. But zinc is absorbed through the same pathway as copper, and the sort of large doses of zinc that people are taking for cold remedies is probably crowding out reasonable levels of copper absorption. And guess what copper's critical for? White blood cells and your immune system, the functions that can really do something about colds. Usually there's some bit of news, that the media gets wrong, then the general public gets even more wrong, and what the average consumer does in respect to a new scientific development ends up being completely counter-productive. Thus the news that zinc can denature viruses on contact turned into people taking zinc supplement pills with ads on the side of the bottle about taking them for colds. But pillsâ"as opposed to lozengesâ"do not result in significant concentrations of zinc where the virus is, and then they end up weakening the immune system by crowding out copper absorption.

Vitamin E is another excellent example. "Vitamin E" is 8 different vitamins that serve very different roles in the body. But they are absorbed through the same pathway and are highly subject to crowding-out. Basically, due to a terminology problem that the 8 distinct vitamins got lumped together as "Vitamin E," people who take vitamin E supplements end up deficient in 7 essential vitamins, unless they're taking reasonable doses of multitocopherol supplements, which isn't what much of anybody takes.

This tendancy to lump things together has lead to another super popular modern marketing disaster, Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is not a type of fatty acid, it's a class of fatty acids encompassing many different molecules. It turns out that only the fish-derived versions demonstrate any of the health benefits, but basically every food in the grocery store touting "Omega 3" all over the label is using plant sources, where they might as well be adding a gram of canola oil or corn oil for all the health benefits you'll be getting. Everything touting the helath benefits of flax seeds have no scientific basis, the the science is quite clear that the Omega 3 fatty acids in flax do not exhibit any of the hormone-like beneficial properties such as reducing inflammation that the fish Omega 3 fatty acids have.

I strongly suspect that in the long-term it will turn out that taking appropriate supplements is a very good idea for health, but right now, the science hasn't explored the area thoroughly enough to make solid recommendations given the complexity of the subject, and what little we do know has very little effect on what manufactures make and advertise and what consumers actually take. Which probably leads to the negative outcomes.

If you want to try to figure out, based on what we know, what the best guesses might be about what supplements to actually take, try reading up on the work of Bruce Ames and Andrew Weil. They don't have easy answers, but Bruce Ames did brilliant research, and Andrew Weil makes practical best-guess recommendations based upon the current state of the science.

about a year and a half ago

Mystery Intergalactic Radio Bursts Detected

Phat_Tony Re:War! (259 comments)

How long might it take us to become a threat? Interstellar space-faring aliens may have civilizations millions or billions of years old. They may have seen annoying upstart civilizations seem as harmless as one gnat to all the world's militaries, but then leave them alone for just a few tens or hundreds of thousand years, and all of a sudden they're some kind of annoyance. How often do they happen through this part of space? The universe is a big place. Monitoring may be resource intensive and error prone. They might just consider it good practice, in discovering new life, especially with some modicum of intelligence, to stamp it out as they find it to reduce risk to their way of life.

about a year and a half ago

NSA Data Center Brings Concerns Over Security and Privacy and Jobs

Phat_Tony 5 Zettabytes? (138 comments)

I'm surprised I don't see anyone here questioning this 5 zettabyte number. The biggest drives currently manufactured are 4 terabyte 3.5" drives. 5 zetabytes would require 1.25 billion of those drives. A great price on a 4TB drive right now is $190. I doubt there's enough margin in them to make this possible, but let's just say that based on the insane quantity they get them for $150 each. That's $187 billion for the drives alone, nothing for the computers and racks and air conditioning and all. The NSA's budget is estimated at 8 billion a year. $187 billion is 23 times their yearly budget. It would be about 3% of total federal spending for a year... just for the drives. Total facility costs would certainly run many times that... it would probably cost more than an entire year's military spending to build a 5 zettabyte data center.

Also, you can fit about 500 terabytes in a server cabinet. That means 10 million server cabinets. A server cabinet is about 15 cubic feet of volume. So just the cabinets alone would run 150 million cubic feet. And that's just storage, not even including computers. And it's not like you can pack them in solid, of course. If you can make a datacenter with one third of its total volume being server racks, that would be amazing. The largest building in the world is only 472 million cubic feet, this would have to equal or surpass it.

Also, the entire world wide market for hard drives is only a little over 30 billion a year... this one project would consume over 6 times as much value in hard drives as every other use in the world combined for the year.

Unless the NSA has developed their own mass storage technology that no one else knows about and is radically superior to anything commercially available, I'm guessing someone's exaggerating or got their numbers wrong.

about 2 years ago

Current favorite still-image camera type:

Phat_Tony Re:"35mm DSLR" (316 comments)

What I think the poll options are intended to mean, for those of us into photography who keep picking at them:

1. Small format film camera
2. Medium or large format film camera
3. Permanent lens digital camera.
5. Compact System Camera (or SLD, Single Lens Direct-view. The name for this category is still solidifying.)
6. Cell phone camera
7. Cowboy Neal
8. I'm going to complain about lack of options

What's wrong with what he said, for the nitpicky:
1. "Film camera (35mm or smaller film)" Nothing wrong. Covers the majority of film cameras, 35mm, APS, 110 roll film, Kodak Disc, etc.
2. "Film camera (film > 35mm)" Again, nothing wrong. Covers all the common aspect ratios of 120 roll film, including all those popular medium formats like Hasselblad, Mamiya, Yashica, Rolliflex, etc. (or many of these can take medium format sheet film). It also covers on up to viewcameras - press cameras (Graflex) and studio cameras, 4 x 5, 8 x10, etc. Or George Lawrence's 8' x 4.5' camera.
3. "Fixed-lens digicam of some kind" The nitpick here is with the use of the term "Fixed-lens," which in photography, "fixed" usually refers to a lens of "fixed focal length," meaning a prime lens, not a zoom lens. It doesn't usually mean a lens that's permanently attached to the camera. Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have permanently attached zoom lenses.
4. "Digital SLR in conventional 35mm size." 35mm is actually an unconventional size for a digital camera sensor. There are certainly several full frame DSLR's out there, but they're the high-end exception. Most are APS-C sized, and then there are the Olympus and Panasonics with 4/3, and probably some other sizes out there. While this list divided film cameras by film size into a comprehensive dichotomy, this classification of digital cameras leaves a lot of cameras homeless, that probably should have fit into this category - aside from APS-C and 4/3, there are a few digital rangefinders, there are Medium Format digitals. 5. "Micro 4/3,Q, or other newfangled mount." The problem here is the attempt to use new mounts to cover a new body type that's become popular. The name for this is still up in the air, but Compact System Camera may be winning. It's the Olympus PEN's and OM-D's, Sony NEX, Panasonic Lumix G series, Nikon 1, Pentax K-01.
6. "Whatever came with the phone." Or came in a phone. Whatever.

about 2 years ago

Drawings of Weapons Led To New Jersey Student's Arrest

Phat_Tony Re:Great! (630 comments)


I'd say about a quarter of the kids I knew in school drew pictures of guns or tanks or other violent things.

Adam Lanza was also an honer student. While about 25% of kids draw weapons, only about 10% of kids are honor students. For higher specificity on their correlational targeting, they should arrest honor students.

more than 2 years ago

Oracle's Sparc T5 Chip Evidently Pushed Back to 2013

Phat_Tony Re:Oracle? SPARC? (98 comments)

Five years ago your comment would have made a lot of sense to me, but now you're talking about how everyone's gone X86 during the first massive movement away from X86 the industry's seen... smartphones and tablets are all computers that run on ARM processors, they're cleaning X86's clock in the only rapidly expanding market. And ARM's next core design is aimed at servers.

For the first time, Windows compatibility is mattering less and less as many users only use the web and web apps on their computers - opening the door to competing processors for the first time since the late 80's. At the same time, PC's continue to represent a smaller and smaller share of new CPU's, which are migrating to data centers, smartphones, and pads, which are even less dependent on X86 compatibility.

For the first time, the computational penalty of X86 instruction set translation for RISC cores may not outweigh the compatibility benefit for a significant portion of users. Increasingly, customers don't care about compatibility with existing X86 codebases. Like ARM, anyone with a new processor with compelling performance per watt might actually be able to sell the thing, without everyone assuming it's worthless if it won't run Windows.

Also, I wouldn't quite characterize POWER as a strictly legacy product, since IBM introduced the latest iteration, the power 7+, in August 2012, and is currently selling 15 different systems using Power7 processors. Not to mention the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, and not-even-out-yet Wii U that are all POWER based systems.

more than 2 years ago

Favorite way to add capsaicin to a dish:

Phat_Tony Re:Simple but effective (348 comments)

Dave's Insanity and it's many varieties are very effective. For a friend's birthday we just got him a bottle of Dave's 2012 Private Reserve ghost pepper sauce. At 650,000 scoville units, it's no slouch. Really hot. I got to try it, and while I apply it with a toothpick, the guy we gave it to will eat a couple of teaspoons of it with a meal.

I joke that next year for his birthday, we're just going to kick him in the teeth, it seems about as pleasant of a gift to most people.

Still, if you're just looking for pure, ludicrous, incapacitating heat, it goes way beyond anything Dave's Gourmet has made. The above, the hottest sauce ever by Dave's, is only about the 45th hottest on Scott Robert's list of hot sauces/extracts. Blair's owns the top of the list, selling things right up to pure capsaicin, 16 million scoville. More of a novelty than anything else.

more than 2 years ago

Apple Is Now the Most Valuable Company In History

Phat_Tony Re:Selll your stock. (398 comments)

That's a common theory, but Apple's P/E is 15.6. For context:
Microsoft: 15.4
IBM: 14.5
GE: 18.2
Walmart: 15.2
Toyota: 17.87

Do most of the biggest companies in the world also hold most of their value in the expectation of further rapid growth?

Apple makes unreal amounts of money. Their profitability increased so fast, it outpaced their stock value despite its growth. Early this year Marc Andreessen made the investment news pointing out that Apple's profits had so far outpaced their stock price that they had the P/E of a steel company that was about to go out of business.

Compared to other companies, their stock price is pretty much what one would expect it to be for a company that investors expect to stagnate right where it is.

more than 2 years ago

How Would You Redesign the TLD Hierarchy?

Phat_Tony Re:I wouldn't (265 comments)

You nailed it in pointing out that the current TLD system is already a "point of stupidity." The point of having different TLD's would be to allow otherwise identical URL's to be usefully differentiated by a TLD. In practice, this is very rarely the case. Most domain owners do not want otherwise identical domains at other TLD's, so they feel they need to register their domain at a bunch of TLD's and forward them. The nearly ubiquitous need to do this among major websites demonstrates that the whole idea is flawed. Most of the public only knows about ".com" and basically think that means "on the internet." Only a few geeks are even aware of what the TLD system was intended to accomplish.

The best answer to the TLD problem is to abandon it - grandfather it out. Stop adding new ones. They should do this by making the final period a non-special signifier in addresses. Anyone can pick anything they want and put any number of periods in their address they want. Every current address would still be unique and valid. But you can register new addresses with no TLD, just use whatever non-owned string makes the most sense for you. If you like TLD's and actually think they're useful, nothing's stopping you from registering new sites with a period followed by the three letters of any current TLD or any new one you want to make up. The process of handing out new addresses with no TLD fairly - you know, like "http://www.google," or "http://sex" would be a bit messy, but grandfathering out official TLD's would be the best system for the future internet.

This will never happen though, because there's too much money in selling new imaginary property with every new TLD they roll out. The majority of that money is not coming from people looking to take advantage of a new useful identifier, but from people looking to defend their identifier from others in the new domain - revealing the whole problem with the TLD sytem.

more than 2 years ago

Black Death Discovered In Oregon

Phat_Tony So Not News (404 comments)

There are usually several cases of Bubonic Plague in the US every year.

It is treatable with antibiotics.

more than 2 years ago

Phil Zimmermann's New Venture Will Offer Strong Privacy By Subscription

Phat_Tony Re:What do SEALs have to do with privacy? (219 comments)

They may have any amount of legitimate expertise to contribute. Even if it's just on the business/managerial side of things and not the software/encryption side, not that that's necessarily the case.

But you know one big thing they contribute just by being there? This company will be accused of being anti-American, of "helping the terrorists win." There's nothing that will help inoculate them against that as much as having a couple of combat veterans as founders.

And to those who will say the presence of veterans means you can't trust this organization because they will provide a backdoor for the feds, the people in our armed forces hold a range of political opinions, they are not all clones. And there are a lot of them who agree with a libertarian or traditional conservative view of highly restricted government power and lots of freedom. A lot of people in the military are there to fight for our freedom, and that includes opposing the Orwellian encroachments of our own government.

more than 2 years ago

% of my digital storage that is solid-state:

Phat_Tony Re:Zero Because: (280 comments)

I added a $60 64GB OCZ SSD drive to my computer for just the OS and applications, and the speedup is amazing.

Twice now, things got crappy and I realized the thing was full because some idiotic program was writing out some inane 30GB cache file to it, and I had to fix the program to not do that or else redirect the cache file to my spinny HD's. Otherwise it's been great. Really fast, and I hardly ever hear my HD's spin up unless I'm working with large files.

more than 2 years ago

University of Pittsburgh Deluged With Internet Bomb Threats

Phat_Tony Re:Defense (238 comments)

There's another option here. Think, what if you were a bomber who wanted to maximize the terror you could cause? How about get a good voice scrambler and an anonymous email account and then call and email in bomb threats through several layers of proxies, TOR, etc. They evacuate buildings, cause fear, lots of inconvenience. Keep sending the threats, just keep doing it over and over, more frequently, relentlessly, until they end up with no choice but to ignore you, after incalculable time and expense on the fake threats. Maybe for fear of liability for NOT evacuating for threats, they will go to extremes, but just keep sending them until they're disrupting half the class schedule if they have to... make them cancel major sporting events, whatever it takes to make your threats impossible NOT to ignore. THEN, once they're ignoring you, you actually blow some people up exactly when and where you called in a threat.

Then start up with the threats again, and now what do they do?

The idea that a real bomber won't call in the threat to maximize impact isn't valid, because this scenario involves calling in the threat, and maximizes fear over a random non-reported explosion.

For very few actual bombs, you will cause much more fear and inconvenience this way.

more than 2 years ago

Aging Eyes Blamed For Seniors' Health Woes

Phat_Tony Re:Does staring at a Computer Screen all day count (149 comments)

Everybody in this thread - The natural 25-26 hour schedule is completely normal for most diurnal mammals. They've done research with humans giving them NO time queues for days, and it turns out EVERYBODY falls into a slightly over 24-hour schedule.

The conclusion here is that our chemical engines are too imprecise for us to evolve a dead-on circadian cycle. So instead evolution gave us an unaided circadian cycle that's calibrated with a mean of about 25 hours, so that people with a naturally extremely short cycle are still just over 24 hours, and it goes up from there. Then we get a natural reset cue to adjust the cycle every day to keep it in sync with the world. The primary component of the reset signal is sunlight exposure in the morning. If you get up at a reasonable time (near or after sunrise) and GET OUTDOORS for about 15 minutes, then you will feel like going to bed at the right time to get enough sleep and want to get up at about the same time the next day. We and our ancestors spent tens of millions of years with no choice but to receive natural light in the morning, so it was a pretty good system before we evolved to live in our parent's basements and stare at little screens all day.

I suffer big time from this - every day I want to stay up and get up about an hour or so later than I did the day before - but not if I'm spending much time outdoors, especially in the morning. When I'm backpacking, wholly cow do I just want to go to bed when it gets dark, and get up just after sunrise. If we spent the day exercising outdoors like evolution intended, we wouldn't have this problem... but good luck being able to/wanting to do that all the time. But if you just drag yourself out of bed and take a 15 minute walk outdoors, even if it's cloudy or right around sunrise, problem solved. It does get tricky if you have to be at work before sunrise. Or if you work night shift (which I did for about 2 years) you're just *'ed.

I think the light exposure causes melanin production on about a 14 hour delay, making us want top go to sleep about 16 hours after exposure. This is why melanin supplements near bedtime are somewhat functional as a surrogate for actual light exposure in the morning.

Or as an alternate solution, since the day gets longer by about 1.7 milliseconds per century, by my calculations you could just wait about 200 million years for the earth to get in sync with your natural clock.

more than 2 years ago

Canonical Puts Ubuntu On Android Smartphones

Phat_Tony Re:Ubuntu is Linux for Hipsters (155 comments)

I've been saying that this is where Apple's going for a while. Either the iPhone 5 or the one after it will only have a Thunderbolt port, no other dock connector (the Thunderbolt port can take a USB2 or Firewire to Thunderbolt cable for everyone with old computers/pc's and all.) And I be that after Mountain Lion, about two years from now, iOS and OSX will merge into one OS. The OS will know what hardware it's on and provide an appropriate user interface.

Phones will have all the power and storage most users need for everything they do. All many people will need is their iPhone and docking monitor, and the phone will behave like a phone when it's not docked, and like a computer when it is docked. At that point, yes it will cannibalize their PC sales, but the writing has been on the wall for PC sales since before the PC as we know it was even invented -since 1965 when Gordan Moore formulated his law. It's been inevitable that all the computing power and storage the average user needs will eventually be cheap and tiny, it's just amazing how long we've managed to come up with higher needs for power and storage space. But for the past 10 years usage requirements haven't kept pace with progress. Lower and lower end machines increasingly handle everything most users do. Apple is a smart enough company that they'd rather cannibalize their own sales and be the market leader in something than hold back on selling an inevitable progression for fear of cannibalization, like Kodak.

I wish Ubuntu luck with being first to market here, but I think it's a little early (not quite enough power and memory in this generation phone to be a good desktop), not a complete solution (this doesn't let you run the monitor off the phone and replace the guts of the computer entirely, it just lets you use a desktop interface for the phone when it's docked to a computer), and probably not going to be hugely successful.

more than 2 years ago



Do digital jails stop kids from learning security?

Phat_Tony Phat_Tony writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Phat_Tony (661117) writes "The security blogger who broke the He Kexin age story has a well-written piece up on the affect of technical and legal technical safeguards on modifying and exploring our digital devices. From the article: "As the nation watches, we're pondering the consequences of transforming computing devices from machines that we control into machines which exert control over us. As we give away our freedom to tinker, we give away the chance to raise a generation which will lead the information age.""
Link to Original Source


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