New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels
The worst offender is the flex-fuel E85 crap. If you want to run ethanol, run ethanol, build up an engine that is designed to take advantage of it's anti-det properties and runs dramatically higher compression for waaaaay better efficiency. And we definitely shouldn't be doing it with corn (Corn requires nitrogen fertilizer, largely negating the total energy boon of ethanol). We should be looking at switch grass and other fast-growing high yield options that can generate vastly more ethanol per acre with dramatically less costs.
Bio Diesel I actually like, sulfur is all but forgotten, and the increased lubricity actually makes it easier on your engine. But the idea of trying to convert a soy crop to BD100 is going to be dumb. Recycling waste vegitable oil from the food processing industry on the other hand, reduces waste and taps into an existing supply.
Even looking at different sectors than just automotive. I have a couple of dairy farming buddies that use methane recovery from their manure processing system to power generators for electricity around the farm. Less raw methane escaping to the atmosphere, and again it's a by-product of the existing manure processing system.
The linked article sure reads like a shill for the oil industry, but it doesn't discount the point that we need to look at using the appropriate tool for the job. Sometimes that will be biofuels.
YouTube Ditches Flash For HTML5 Video By Default
Cause I got no points and that's a handy tip!
Verizon, Cable Lobby Oppose Spec-Bump For Broadband Definition
Pfft, I'm getting 1.1mbps over DSL on a good day where I am. And my 4g phone, when I can get a signal, pulls maybe 600kbps. A 1/4 mile down the road our neighbor has cable at 30mbps, but he pays roughly 4 times as much as we do. Even with that price tag though, they end their line at the corner he's on, there is no service for us.
Moscow To Track Cell-phone Users In 2015 For Traffic Analysis
Sorry, I should specify that the -government- is currently monitoring traffic via those methods.
Private industry has access to things that elements of the government does not, like your cell phone's position and speed (assuming you have Google's positioning system enabled).
Now, the NSA/FBI/Police may have some way of hacking in to get that, or put up stingers to catch it, but for all of the state DOTs out there, individuals' cell phones are not available. And the systems we have available to measure traffic volume, speed, and primary routes are limited.
Moscow To Track Cell-phone Users In 2015 For Traffic Analysis
They're beating us in this one.
Current traffic monitoring systems use either CC video analysis, ramp meters, magnetic loop, or blue tooth detection. I've heard of systems to pick up tire pressure indicator signals also, but I haven't seen them first hand.
With all of that, we get ~5-7% of the vehicle speed data on select routes.
In 2017 new requirements go into effect to require all vehicles produced for use in the US to include V2V communications systems. Most of these systems also include V2I communications. Even if they don't, I'd expect detecting that a specific V2V entity just drove past is going to be trivial.
So by the end of 2017, we're going to be on parity with all of our current assorted solutions for penetration. By the end of 2018, we'll have double the penetration. By 2020, roughly 20-25% of all vehicles will contain V2V and/or V2I communications.
So what does that mean? It means we could generate optimum route data and re-route traffic based on travel time recommendations before they get onto a major road with limited access and a traffic issue on the desired route.
It also means we can identify true bottlenecks and take completely new approaches to road engineering and project prioritization. This alone is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, funded largely by tax payers. If we can find more efficient ways of taking on these projects, it means less expenditures (or more projects).
But it comes with down sides. A policing agency could in theory query the system to see where you currently are, or where your vehicle was at a specific time. It also makes it possible for the mile traveled road tax, where you can be taxed by mile driven, and those taxes can vary and be distributed by municipalities that own those roads. And of course there is a security concern that a hacker or malicious user could determine your driving habits and use the information to their advantage. I did even hear a member of the law enforcement community asking about such a system's ability to disable vehicles remotely in the case of excessive speed, chases, etc...
Basically, there's a huge shift coming in the US and how we (and the government) interact with our vehicles.
Obama Unveils Plan To Bring About Faster Internet In the US
My property taxes went up a couple years ago because the local residents decided to pay $2 million to have a flowage dredged and stocked with fish.
My property taxes are going up next year because the local residents decided to pay $25 million for a new sports complex at the high school.
Now, it may cost a couple mil to get a city wide fiber rollout, but after the initial build out, the monthly fees should cover peering and maintenance. So I get a 1 year bump in my taxes, and a life time of cheaper and faster internet access?
Now that's something I can get behind!
Ask Slashdot: Linux Database GUI Application Development?
"It turns out that there are zillions of little apps that make businesses run. Some of them are no more robust than an excel workbook on a well known file share. Some are Access applications. Lots of VB6 apps are still keeping businesses running."
I hear ya. Been right there in the trenches for almost 20 years now doing line of business application development/management. The organization I just started with has a product catalog that has over 1000 entries, with tons of additional excel/access solutions that remain undocumented.
But this is a problem. Each of these applications involve risks, maintenance, and support. The more of them there are (and some places have mountains of them) the more maintenance and support cost, the more often those risks present themselves.
The reason these apps exist is because of a business process, and that process was likely designed in a vacuum being held over a fire. It's not that the app is flawed, but the business process itself may be the source of the issue. Working with the business units to identify processes that have multiple IT needs and finding ways to streamline the process, not the apps, will save the company vastly more than sinking time into developing yet another application.
And that's where we get to the rub. There are already hundreds of POS suites, contract managers, document management, BRMs, ERPs, HR tools, taxes and accounting apps, etc... Any core business function that a company may have has likely already been solved with a tool that is vastly cheaper than what it would cost for us to build, with refined business processes built in, and with a significantly lower TCO including maintenance and support.
The world is full of giants. Stand on their shoulders so that your IT department can spend their time on projects that take your business where others can't.
Ask Slashdot: Linux Database GUI Application Development?
If you're just developing for the fun of it, have at.
But if your goal is to have a POS application, stop writing code right now. There exist hundreds of off the shelf POS apps all ready. For Windows, for Linux, thick clients, thin clients, web, desktop, green screen, etc...
Your time would be vastly better spent finding an existing product and adapting your business process to it. Especially if it is something that can tie into your accounting/inventory systems.
As the old saying goes, "Good developers write good code, great developers steal good code."
How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting
Well, part of that is due to the scale. Union membership has been plummeting over the last few decades. We're down to ~14 million total union members in the US.
And we're at ~140 million total non-farm employees in the country.
Assuming that both corporations and unions perform 'evil' at the same rate, we should expect 9 times more 'evil' reports on corporations than we see on unions just as a matter of scale.
Even just some quick google-fu shows that expectation to have some truth. More reports of corporate driven voter intimidation are available than reports of union driven voter intimidation. That isn't to say that unions don't do horrible crap too. Hell, look at that mess in Nevada back in 2010. Uhg. And if union membership wasn't at such a low level and falling, I'd be more concerned about it. But as is, unions are going the way of the dinosaur. They're still making a lot of noise, but their political clout is faltering and they don't have the impact they once did.
Microsoft Ends Mainstream Support For Windows 7
I just sent out the warning shot to my management group. 5 years to get there. 2 years of bickering and foot dragging before we have to have a plan in action so we can get Windows 10 rolling out on hardware replacement.
How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting
Wal-Mart holding a press conference to talk about the corporation's desire for a GOP controlled house is fine.
Wal-Mart's board of directors discussing how legislators interested in their ideas will be beneficial to the company is fine.
Wal-Mart managers calling staff into meetings telling them in not-so vague terms that failure to vote Republican will cost them their jobs is not fine.
Union Organizers holding a press conference to talk about the corporation's desire for a Democrat controlled house is fine.
Union Organizers' board of directors discussing how legislators interested in their ideas will be beneficial to the company is fine.
Union Organizers calling union members into meetings telling them in not-so vague terms that failure to vote Democrat will cost them their jobs is not fine.
See the pattern?
If you use your position of authority to coerce someone to vote contrary to their conscience, it's illegal. If you lobby the public or your peers, and they change their mind, it's legal. This is why I as a manager avoid talking to my employees about political issues, but can talk freely with my fellow managers. I can't fire my peers for disagreeing with me. Generally though, you're best off just leaving political debates out of the office place.
Obama Proposes 30-Day Deadline For Disclosing Security Breaches
"Data apocalypse now"
Disregarding the rest of your post for this nugget.
The thought of a remake of Apocalypse Now as Data Apocalypse Now as a senior CIA agent is being sent into the field with some hard core MI6 bodies to capture and return a rogue agent distributing data in a "information wants to be free!" kinda zeal (only way darker). And over time, embedded with the rogue agent, after the MI6 team gets picked off or falls into a drug induced free-knowledge stupor, starts doubting his missing, maybe data does want to be free?
The thought of a Brit with a laptop saying, "Charlie don't surf!" while browsing the web from North Korea ...
Seriously, that could be a good movie.
Could be. Odds are though, it would be drivel.
How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting
Because clearly that doesn't happen already. It's not like Walmart pulled all of their managers in to give them political commentary about how it would be "bad" for them if the Dems won the 2008 election. How, if the Dems won, or if unions gained any foothold in the company, that clearly it would cause economic downturns that would result in the closing of their stores. Not like they were dancing around the message of "Vote Republican or go find a new job" or anything.
That type of behavior wont change between onsite and online voting.
Now, the concern that an organization would force it's members to either hand over it's tokens, or allow the organization to review their votes could be real. But I would go out on a limb and guess that any organization to do so would have it's ass nailed against the wall by the AG so hard and fast that the need for a colostomy bag would be a moot point.
That said, still not in favor of this ;)
How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting
Not that I'm in favor of this, but... that isn't exactly true.
You can have an audit trail and anonymity so long as the source of the audit trail is known only to the originator.
If each year I am assigned a token at random, and the assigning system tracks only that a token was assigned, then I can look at that token and see it's audit trail to ensure that my vote was recorded correctly.
Anyone else looking at the audit trail of that token would be able to see how that token was used, but not by who.
Not sure I'm on board with online voting, but I don't believe that the audit trail and anonymity are mutually exclusive.
Mercedes-Benz's Self-Driving Concept Car Is Here
I'm not aware of anything like that currently, but I'm on the other side of the equation at the moment. I work for a state DOT, so I'm seeing things primarily from the V2I perspective.
I know that years ago Cadillac had an infrared detection and HUD alert system, but I don't believe it did any analysis of it.
I would be surprised if the major autonomous vehicle players aren't looking at machine learning though. Someone had previously mentioned a vehicle with collision avoidance that would force a vehicle to stop a "safe distance" from a parking gate, making it hard for them to reach the parking ticket box. One would assume with some rather simple machine learning algorithms, combining GPS location, speed, peddle conditions, velocity changes over the last few meters, etc... that you could pretty quickly develop a set of scenarios to disable the collision deterrence system.
I wouldn't be surprised to see more short range infrastructure tools pop up as well. A gate that communicates with your car to establish license plate/ID to eliminate the need to get a ticket at all, and the ramp that can tell the car exactly where the open spots are, and where the spot closest to your desired exit is. etc...
This stuff is coming. It'll take time, but the technology exists, it just needs refinement and price drops to gain wider acceptance. And the 2017 model year will spur a massive growth of the technology.
Ford Touts Self-driving Car, Launches Global Mobility Experiments
I had to take a taxi from the airport to my house once.
It cost as much a my last car payment.
If you live in a major metro area, and you're trying to get to some place in the same major metro area, yeah, taxis are an option.
If you live in the country, or you want to get from one metro area to another, frequent taxi service is not realistic.
Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ
Well let's see... the IRA/English's battle over Northern Ireland (largely drawn across Catholic/Protestant religious lines) cease fire was just over 20 years ago. And the final peace accord was only 17 years ago. That marked the end of 30 years of assassinations, murders, bombings, and attacks all of which were surrounded by religious fervor.
The Gun Powder Plot (Remember, remember, the 5th of November) was driven (and justified) by religious ideals.
The KKK was a main stream Protestant religious organization for a century in the US.
More recently, Christian militias have been responsible for numerous violent clashes and "cleansings" in north-east India (anti-Hindu).
In central Africa, the Anti-Balaka militias are spreading Jesus' word by assassinating Muslims.
You have the 1990's Manipur that left 900 dead and tens of thousands displaced as Christian terrorists decided to enforce their views.
There was the Christian fundamentalist in Oslo that shot up that kid's camp, leaving 77 dead because he felt that immigrants were eroding their "Christian Values"
I'm not here to debate the merits of Islam, but to claim that Christianity as a whole has been perfectly clean since the 1500's is a gross mischaracterization of the numerous religious organizations and individuals that fall under the Christian designation.
Mercedes-Benz's Self-Driving Concept Car Is Here
And here's some counters:
The autonomous vehicle, detecting slippery road conditions, and not being an over confident idiot driving way over a reasonably safe speed would slow down. Making emergency maneuvers less risky.
The autonomous vehicle, using V2V information, knows exactly where that oncoming truck is, and is able to communicate it's knowledge of surrounding risks and travel plan (ie: I'm going to stay in this lane, you stay in yours!) reducing the risk of a head-on collision.
The autonomous vehicle, using V2I information is aware of a precipitous drop off the right shoulder, indicating that there is no easement to pull over onto.
The autonomous vehicle, using wide angle IR/RADAR sensors, detects the movement of a possible obstruction before it gets to the road (seriously, we're already doing this with deer detectors). It can identify the trajectory of the object which gets added to the travel plan.
So we have a vehicle that is already traveling at a slower (safer) speed, has more knowledge about the road, the ability to immediately communicate with surrounding vehicles, and a strongly enhanced ability to identify and calculate threats to the travel plan.
To suggest that a human being would be a better driver in that situation is ludicrous. And I say that as a guy that loves driving, fast, even in snowy conditions, who has never been in an accident.
If I were driving in that situation, with all likelihood either I'm dying, or the snow boarder is dying. If the autonomous vehicle is driving, odds are my trip will take longer, but no one winds up dead.
Mercedes-Benz's Self-Driving Concept Car Is Here
I disagree with your assertion, and it just so happens that I have a software development background that includes voice recognition, visual interpretation, and vehicle communication systems.
Voice recognition is a really cool subject. There are a finite (and surprisingly small) number of sounds that make up the English language. But for each of those sounds there are nearly an infinite number of dialects. This is combated by looking at the context of each individual sound to find known sound patterns. This can still result in thousands of different words, so we look at the context of the sentence. And through out this effort you have to deal with people talking quickly/slowly, while emotional or out of breath, with a southern drawl or a New York accent, or ESL folks that may say put words in an order that makes the context obvious. Heck, we did it for early onset dementia patients. The amount of work it took to dial in the VRE even when we knew the specific user and their inflection/dialect was massive.
When it comes to visual recognition, the AI for a car doesn't need to understand what a dog is, it just has to recognize that there is an IR source on the current trajectory. The AI doesn't need to comprehend what a boulder is, it just needs to recognize that there is an obstruction in the road.
The AI doesn't need to be able to identify that there is a lady wearing a yellow spotted sun dress doing interpretive dance while high on mescaline in the middle of the road, it just needs to identify that there is something in the road and respond accordingly (slow down, swerve, stop, etc...)
The exact same thing is true for humans. For example: the other day I was driving my wife's car. I was pulling out from the gas station and something caught my eye after I thought traffic was clear. So I slammed on the brakes thinking I missed something. Turns out it was a reflection of a dash light on the side window.
Yeah, there will be false positives. A vehicle may decide that a pothole is actually an obstruction, or that the railroad track is the end of a road. But in the vast majority of cases these are targets that the vehicle can identify from a significant distance away. It's not like you're going to be driving on the open road then come screeching to a halt for no reason.
And each of these false positives is something that will be handled through refining the AI system. Through IR, RADAR, real-time 3-d surface mapping, V2I communications, V2V communications, etc...
It's coming, and quickly. And many municipalities and states are looking to leverage the V2I systems. If you have a V2I enabled vehicle in Las Vegas, you can actually get the system to tell you how fast you should drive to avoid hitting red lights. Most major metros already have systems in place picking up tire pressure and blue tooth signals to determine traffic volume and speed, which is how those fancy "12 minutes to exit 123" signs get populated.
As the 2017 cars start rolling out and more data becomes available, we'll see technology leaping ahead. For example, in Wisconsin, our 511 site has a public facing developer API, so even if the state can't invest in some cool new apps and vehicle information systems, individual developers and manufacturers can: http://www.511wi.gov/Web/extra...
Mercedes-Benz's Self-Driving Concept Car Is Here
Time is moving faster than you expect. The model year 2017 vehicles in the US are all required to have a V2V communications systems in place when they roll of the line. Most of the V2V interfaces also support V2I communications.
We will be seeing some radical advances in automation, crash avoidance, and information services to motor vehicles in the next 10 years.
And the autonomous vehicle with self-drive functionality doesn't need to understand 100% of all possible traffic/infrastructure interactions. As soon as it encounters a pattern it is not designed to handle, it can bring the vehicle to a stop.
To be fair though, have you ever done the San Diego - Las Vegas drive? It's nothing but desert highways. It's such a boring drive you're at more of a risk due to falling asleep than you are to any road hazards.
Nancy Pelosi to Democrats: "Be Republicans"
I think I have finally figured out why Nancy Pelosi is working so hard to screw democrats. Her last statement about the FISA bill finally cleared up my confusion. One of her aids said, "For any Republican-leaning district this would have been a huge issue" and goes on to estimate that "as many as 10 competitive races could have been affected by it..."
The implication is simple. Pelosi is pursuing the Republican agenda in order to gain Republican votes. By gaining Republican votes and likely some Republican leaning politicians with a 'D' on their titles, she can turn the Democratic party into the NEW Republican party!
Personally, if I wanted my elected officials to vote Republican, I would have voted Republican.
Nancy Pelosi has put political ambition above the will of the people, and above the will of her own constituents who elected and supported her.
A new law to make breaking the old law illegal?
This is a copy of a post I made in the discussion on the most recent attempt to get the new FISA bill, with Telco immunity, pushed through congress:
Okay, I like Obama's stance on a lot of the issues, but this is just retarded.
"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people."
So Bush's wire taps were illegal, meaning they were/are in violation of existing laws. So we're going to make a NEW law that makes it illegal for Bush to break the existing law?
He already broke the law, why would he care about breaking the law that would prevent him from breaking the law?!!?
Laws are designed to govern people that follow them. People who place themselves beyond the law will not be effected no matter how many laws are created. More laws will not make them change their behavior.
Punishment is the answer. Even if the punishment can not change their behavior it can limit their ability to affect others.
We've already determined that Bush's wiretaps were illegal. He broke the law. The answer isn't to create more laws, the answer is to enforce the laws that we already have!
The whole situation reminds me of a .sig a friend of mine uses. It's not cited, so I don't know if it's his work, or something he gleamed elsewhere:
Laws are not created to stop criminals, laws are created to control the law abiding masses. A criminal is a person that breaks the law, and creating more laws will not stop criminals from being criminals -- it just puts more controls on the law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately the law abiding masses have not realized this basic truth. When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.
"Support the troops" really pisses me off.
There are 2 types of people who support the troops: Those who are veterans, and those who have bumper stickers. Guess which one actually makes a difference.
If you want to bitch and moan about supporting the troops, and the Democrat's time table, go fight the good fight. There are plenty of recruiters with stacks of signing bonuses just waiting for you to walk in. If you're not willing to put your own neck on the line:
Don't talk about sacrifice until you've lost a loved one.
Don't talk about the importance until you've killed a person.
Don't talk about bravery until you've sat with your wall against a wall while small arms fire was coming in.
There are great people of this nation fighting, dieing, and being physically and mentally maimed for life. And to see a draft-dodging deserter like Bush giving speeches about "winning" the war, about being brave and tough, and about the difficulty of the decisions he makes... it rips my guts out to hear him, of all people, utter that crap. No sane person has ever survived a war and thought that war was a good solution. Sometimes, it is necessary, but the cost is so high, so many lives are lost or shattered, the cost of not going to war has to be huge.
Sorry for the rant, I'm just a bit worked up today and someone posted some inane 'yeah-but I support the troops' crap.
Ringdev's Razor: "When there are two possible explanations for a given situation, one that requires a large amount of knowledge, skill, and luck, and another that requires gross incompetence; go with the incompetence explanation."
A Gem of a quote
"Since the dawn of time, the x86 FPU has been organized as a stack
No no no, since the dawn of time, Man has yearned to destroy the Sun!
x86 came much later, right after the COBOL and the other dinosaurs."
A possible MMO contender?
Some MMO ideas...
Everyone has ideas for games, and I'm no exception, so here are a few of mine.
I have a few primary goals:
1) A dynamic world. I want to play a game where my guild and I can change the face of the planet.
2) A non-violent option. I want to play a game where my master crafter can be just as renowned as the greatest goblin slayer or war lord
3) A real economy. No more endless camping of critters to get your 10 million gold piece just to see it disappear from the game when you buy a house.
Ideas on achieving this:
The Dynamic World would take a bit of work. First, every server would start with one or two NPC cities. These cities are safe points, no PvE or PvP in the cities. The city would have it's own NPC guards that would ensure the safety of the immediate area surrounding the wall. So if a PKer or a pack of Kobolds where at the gates, the guards would kill them. But the farther from the wall you get, the less protection they offer. But as players branch out from the city they can build houses and forts. These locations they must purchase the land, and have the option of paying 'taxes'. Taxes would go to NPC guards, or two a contracted guild (with NPC augmentation). Each time a new establishment is created, the evil critters are pushed back. But the critters aren't dumb. Goblin after goblin isn't going to grab their life savings and charge the front line, they are going to leave their valuables in safe places. Places for players to track down and raid. Of course that means charging into the center of the local goblin population. And raiding the local population's primary holding may push them back even further, or cause their numbers to join other goblin groups.
Obviously crafting would be extremely important, because the NPCs are all located at the center of the universe and the wars and exploration are happening as the far reaches. NPC items are also of limited use. So crafters become the tool for the front lines. In order for this to work though you need a new crafting system. With this much importance on crafting, a painfully repetitive system (ala: DAoC) will only lead to scripting. No, it would be much better to have a wider range of production with a lot more input from the player. Remember, a character may solely be a crafter, so making an item has to be just as entertaining as killing those goblins. Creating houses, forts, walls, etc... would all be crafting tasks. Sure, a player could pay a large fee for an NPC to do the work, or they could create a layout plan and pay a PC to do the work for less and with a likelihood of higher quality. Crafters will depend on materials though, so there will be another set of specialties for harvesters (lumber jacks, miners, farmers, etc). Balancing the tediousness of harvesting is going to be a challenge, but there are answers. When mining you can pull out different materials, maybe you can find a gold vein and can mine the whole thing, maybe you find a coal deposit, maybe iron. Searching out these different components can be part of it. The same for lumbar, cutting down that pine tree is fast, but it's wood is soft, going for the 200 year old oak will take a lot longer, but will get you a lot more hard wood.
Which reminds me, reputation is every thing. An in game reputation system is extremely important. Group performance, crafting skill, customer approval, etc...
So we know crafters and suppliers are important, what about the people who like hack and slash? I see a few options: Army duty, Adventuring/Exploring, Guard duty. Army duty is for professional soldiers. Eventually, two separate houses far enough away from the city will declare war on each other, or perhaps two cities will expand far enough to encounter each other, or even perhaps some evil entity will generate the numbers require to wage an all out war. In these cases the Lords of the town/house/group has the option of paying players for spending time in their military. You might be on patrol routes, or on a front line, but in any case you will likely be involved with a good number of battles either group vs group or mass vs mass. Adventurers and explorers are the ones who would blaze paths into the unknown. They may find the caves that the Ogres have been raiding from. They may find new resource deposits. They may perform recon for different factions. And finally, guard duty. A guild could elect to take guard duty for a house or fort. A house owner could offer to pay so much gold to a guild for protection. Now paying people to stand in front of a house is boring, so NPC's would be used for most of the time. The NPC's would warn the guild of suspicious activity, and of the money paid by the house owner, the guild would get a % that reflects the % of time they were on the property or in the immediate area. So your guild could perform guard duty for a house for 500g a month, but if you only have someone spend a few hours at the house a month, the pay out will be only a small percent. But if the property is a hot spot and you have guards their through out the day, you would earn much more of the monthly payment.
Additional adventuring locations could be instanced out. Small quests, unique exploration points, and much of the low level content. The act of leveling would be rather short as the fun stuff is out side the static city in the dynamic world. After clearing out the bakers rat infestation and a couple runs through the city's grave yard and catacombs, it's time to set out and make a mark on the world. The other thing I never liked about leveling is well, leveling. I'm a much larger fan of "do it-improve it". If you swing a battle axe for 10 days, you get better at it. If you cast nothing but lightning spells, you get better at lightning spells. My preference is for a maximum number of skill points, say 200. Any skill tops out at 100. So you can put 100 points into sword and 100 points into shield and have yourself a classic tank. Or you could put 100 points into battle axe and 100 points into armour smithing and have yourself a side business. Or you could put 75 in sword, 75 in shield and 50 in lightning element magic and be a slightly weaker tank with a decent ranged magic attack. Obviously there would be a ton of balancing that would have to go into such a system, but I think it would allow people to do what they enjoy and watch their character improve. And you wouldn't need to 'respec', if you want to switch weapons, just switch weapons and your points will start dropping in the old skill you aren't using and go up in the new skill you are using.
Well, that's my idea.
What we're doing in Iraq
I have a theory. This theory was initially stated in late 2001/early 2002 while at a bar with some friends. At that point in time I had just got out of the Marine Corps and 9/11 was a fresh memory. My time line is a bit fuzzy because this was quite a while ago and many of the realization where made while drinking.
One thing I learned while in the military over seas is the drunk military guys f' things up all over the world. We have troops station in South Korea, Australia, Japan, and tons of other places too. And most of the time, everything is good. Then you get some jack ass who gets drunk and runs down the local magistrate's prom queen daughter and the whole region goes up in arms. So anyways, onto the theory.
After 9/11 the US revved up the war machine and laid the smack down on Afghanistan. Funny things about war time media coverage, other minor stories get pushed aside. Two of those stories though caught my eye. First was an announcement that Saudi Arabia was requesting that we remove all military presence from their soil. Not a big shocker, like I said before, drunk military guys do the damndest things, or so I thought at the time. And second, was a story about a Nigeria diplomat who sold documents to an Italian diplomat that showed Saddam trying to buy yellow cake uranium, that story was followed up by a denouncement (the work of Mr. Plane most likely). But it was rather quite and was nothing compared to the war in Afghanistan.
Any time you have large masses of US military stuck in someoneelse's country, the neighbors get nervous. Turkey was having debates on allowing the US troops to stage and using their air space, and Iran, well, they were moving in a radical direction and wound up electing a former hostage taker as their president (My former OIC was one of the Marines held hostage in Lebanon by that guy). The Pakistani board warlords were armed to the teeth. Saudi Arabia booted our troops.
Now the US is left in a rough spot, with a radical government in control of Iran, and no serious staging grounds on the western side of the country. The US needed to get a foot hold in the region to keep pressure on Iran.
Enter Iraq! A weak military, a dictator Americans would love to see brought down, a fortune in oil to socialize (worked in Kuwait!), and the perfect place to make our next permanent middle east forward outpost.
Scrounge up some iffy documentation on Saddam trying to get weapons grade nuclear material (even if it had already been refuted), and market the hell out of it. I felt bad for Collin Powel, he was trying to do the right thing, get into Iraq with the public behind him with out lying. Bush had no such qualms (or intelligence) and Rumsfeld is a war time chief, he's good at it, but even he can't paint a crap log pretty.
It was at about this point in time that I finally put 2 and 2 together. We were going to war. It would be over fast, 2 weeks top. There would be rejoicing. Then there would be death. Another thing I learned in the Marine Corps. Attacking a guerrilla force in an urban environment with current practices results in very heavy casualties. In field exercises a small skilled force could inflict up to 70% casualties before being overrun. And after being overrun skilled independents could still inflict casualties over and over again with minimum risk to themselves. Not only would there be deaths in the cities, but it would be long term. Remember, the whole reason for being there wasn't for oil, or nukes, or a democratic agenda, it was to put a serious military force with in striking distance of Iran.
And here we are, the war was over in a few days with a hand full of casualties. But we stayed, and slowly over time we are taking more and more hits. Bush refuses to set a deadline to bring troops home, because he doesn't intend to. Creating a permanent military installation is the goal. Sure, as things stabilize more and more our numbers will be reduced, but there will always be a solid presence inside Iraq. At least until the politicians boot us out ;)
And I can't say the plan was a bad one. Iran is a significantly larger threat and terrorist backer then Iraq ever was. And with Iran's leadership making rumblings of nuclear power and anti-Israeli sentiment, I have to agree that having a local launch pad is a good thing.
Unfortunately the execution of this plan was about worth bat shit. The war has been mismanaged, underestimated, and poorly handled since day one.
Things that could have been done better:
1) Don't disband the bath party and Iraqi military. The structure was there, use it. Take charge of it. And let the people replace it with a democracy on their own schedule.
2) Policing. The US should have stepped up and stopped the looting, this would have been much easier had the Iraqi army not been disbanded.
3) Get the infrastructure back up ASAP. During the war the first things we took out was power and communications. It's hard as hell to win a war with out them, and it's rough as hell to run a country with out them either.
4) Win the publicity war. I had friends who were building schools, creating new water cleansing plants, rebuilding bridges and playgrounds. But what do we hear? car bombs and casualties.
5) Lock down the boarders. Come hard and fast and with lots of cash. Use the Pakistani War Lords on the board as mercs. They know the terrain and can drastically cut down on the number of foreign combatants. Make it a simple choice, take the money and help, or we find someone who will to replace you.
That's my babble for the day. It is almost all conjecture, and I am no longer in the military or in any way associated or in contact with the government. So I could be completely wrong, but this explanation makes a lot more sense to me then the 'bad intelligence' theory the white house is spitting out, and much more sense then the 'blood for oil' crap from the Micheal Moore camp.
A gem of a post
My DRM Dream
Quite often the topic of DRM's come up, and I often take heat for having a pro-DRM solution. To clarify I would like to say that I think all current DRM solutions are horrendous. They are either intrusive on consumer rights/fair play, lock the user into one system (Apple), create security issues (Sony), or report activity back to a central tracking system (Music leasing systems). I find these options to all be unacceptable. But I also see the importance of DRM's to the digital market. It is for that reason that I figured I post this here, since I wind up posting about it decently often.
My solution would be a hardware integrated system, which means it would be best implemented with a new medium (ie: HD-DVD/Blu-ray, holo disks, what ever comes next). It would also have to be implemented in all new old media players also (so that a new CD player could play content with this DRM). The driver for the hardware would be closed source, but open standard, and the assemblies would have to be available on all industry standard processors (ie x86, arm, etc). The goal there is to make the 'black box' portion of the DRM as widely available and ubiquitous as possible. Proprietary systems from different vendors just screw users(like the Apple lock in). Since we are going for total solution that also means ensuring that the 'black box' MUST work with Linux, albeit as a closed source driver.
The key to me is loosely defining the boarder between legal activity, and illegal. I don't want the DRM to enforce the law, I just want the DRM to make it more cumbersome to break the law. To do this we need an identifier, likely for a person, family, or household. The DRM would allow you to bind your personal/family/household identifiers to the hardware. And by identifiers I just mean some easy to entry code, maybe like 5 digits 1-6 (so even basic car stereos can be easily set up). Now that you have all of your hardware entered with your keys, you can stick your DRM'd content into it. The content, if marked as being just sold, updates it's acceptable key's with those that are on the hardware. You now have a piece of DRM'd content that is associated with all of your gear. You can burn it to CD, copy it, put it on the internet, what ever, but it will have that association to your gear. (Notice that the 5 digit identifier is not going to be an absolute unique identifier, so no one can 'track back' from the internet who gave who what)
But then comes the question about loaning media to a friend? Sure, pop the media in to your player of choice, if the content's key is not listed on the hardware, it just prompts you for it. That way, you can borrow all of your friends music, but mass distribution is significantly less likely because everyone would have to keep lists of their downloaded content and what identifier goes with each piece.
There are a few things that I don't have figured out, like what if you want to resell a piece of content? Do you need to content the original copyright holder to get the key reset? and what's preventing every user in the world from using 55555 as their household key? But if those issues could be figured out, you would have a system that reduces (not prevents!) casual piracy, and doesn't effect the user's rights under fair use.