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New Watson-Style AI Called Viv Seeks To Be the First 'Global Brain'

Shag Prior art? (161 comments)

My wife Viv worked as a flight coordinator. "Give me a flight to Dallas with a seat that Shaq could fit in" would not faze her in the least.

about two weeks ago

SLS Project Coming Up $400 Million Short

Shag Re:pfft, 3.5% overrun (132 comments)

if the 400 million is really the only overrun that's an astonishing record for the federal goverment

This. Compared to the James Webb Space Telescope - a ten-year, $500 million project that has turned into a 21-year, $8.8 billion project so far, that's chickenscratch.

(But I still want them to finish JWST and launch it.)

about a month ago

Ars Editor Learns Feds Have His Old IP Addresses, Full Credit Card Numbers

Shag This just in: PNRs include notes (217 comments)

I know, Occam's Razor would explain this by simply having all airline employees be psychic, but in fact, when you call and talk to someone, they note what you talked about, then when you call and talk to an entirely different person who magically knows what you talked about before, they're just reading that note. OMG!

about a month ago

Domain Registry of America Suspended By ICANN

Shag And nothing of value was lost. (113 comments)

Like others, I've had to deal with these guys for ages. It was because of them that I put MY address on WHOIS records of domains I host for un-clued people (back when I was in hosting) - otherwise the domains would have gone their way.

about a month ago

Wikipedia Editors Hit With $10 Million Defamation Suit

Shag Re: Old and irrelevant (268 comments)

Seems appropriate.

about 2 months ago

Wikipedia Editors Hit With $10 Million Defamation Suit

Shag Re:RTFA (268 comments)

Try again. He was convicted then acquitted of bribery . He was convicted and served time for extortion . Two different cases.

I was a little baffled by the "convicted then acquitted" construct at first - I presume this means convicted, then acquitted on appeal?

/IANAL (thank $deity)

about 2 months ago

Long-Lasting Enzyme Chews Up Cocaine

Shag Re:Daily lethal doses (73 comments)

Well, I guess I'm a mouse. And now, thanks to you, I'm a self-aware mouse!

about 2 months ago

Dell Exec Calls HP's New 'Machine' Architecture 'Laughable'

Shag Re:Mr Dell's just upset (173 comments)

Well, there's a difference between that raw retail part you bought, and an identical mobo in a pre-built PC. A guy I knew did IT at a big paper in... Annapolis, if I recall. Several years ago, they upgraded to shiny new all-in-one PC's all over the newsroom. I don't remember the brand - either HP/Compaq or Gateway, probably. Anyway, a few months in, they start failing, one after another. Turns out a bunch of them had components that had all been in one shipping container in a warehouse - and that container was under the leaky spot in the roof. By the time they were built, the boards had dried out and nobody noticed, but the damage had been done.

Your retail part, on the other hand, has been in its happy little shrink-wrapped box from the day it was born.

about 2 months ago

Synaptics Buys Key Apple Supplier

Shag Re:really be an opportunity for us... (38 comments)

Of course he had to open his mouth and remind Apple of the opportunity for them to start doing driver chips in-house...

about 2 months ago

Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California

Shag This is just K-12 for now, yes? (519 comments)

Perhaps it's more of an issue at the primary and secondary levels - at universities, it takes a while to get tenure, and the bad apples should be sorted out by then (although there are certainly those who get tenure, then do things they probably shouldn't). It does make me wonder whether there'll be a push for something similar at the university level, though. Given the horror stories in the press about how adjuncts and lecturers are treated, moving away from a tenured faculty (claiming "cost" and "responsibility" reasons, or whatever) might fit just fine.

about 2 months ago

NSF Researcher Suspended For Mining Bitcoin

Shag Other than profit, difference from SETI@home? (220 comments)

I remember a decade ago when we'd install the SETI@home screensaver on every computer we could get our hands on. (Putting it on a Power Mac G5 and setting the machine to not go to sleep bumped my electric bill at home up 50% for a couple months.) I guess the difference here is that a profit is being made.

about 2 months ago

$10k Reward For Info On Anyone Who Points a Laser At Planes Goes Nationwide

Shag Re:$10,000 for handing in amateur astronomers (264 comments)

Any "amateur astronomer" who tries to do their laser-assisted star tour somewhere as light-polluted as the surroundings of a typical airport needs clue.

about 3 months ago

Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

Shag Re:Yet another C variant? (636 comments)

They've already got LLVM and Clang, no? Or did you mean better than those?

about 3 months ago

Apple's Revenge: iMessage Might Eat Your Texts If You Switch To Android

Shag What a horrible misquote. (415 comments)

Just to be clear, "an Apple support person" did not say that. Nor would they. Ever. A tech calling Apple's engineering team clueless about anything? Surely you jest.

The original writer, Adam Pash, was clearly paraphrasing what the tech "explained" (his word) in his post at - and even used bullet points to group the general themes, rather than quotes, to make it abundantly clear it wasn't a direct quote. The tech probably said something like "the engineering team isn't yet sure what the best course of action is," or something similarly honest-yet-noncommittal. Pash decided to simplify that as "clueless."

Selena Larson on ReadWriteWeb, for her part, changed "explained" to "told" (slight difference there, the latter being more direct, which this wasn't), and then our own redletterdave (or perhaps timothy) managed to change it to a direct quote. What is this, some twenty-first-century game of telephone? And we wonder why people still don't take online news seriously. Sigh.

about 3 months ago

How To Find Nearby Dark Skies, No Matter Where You Are

Shag Scary map (55 comments)

I grew up in the Northeast Corridor (severely light-polluted), but for over 10 years have been on the "Big Island" of Hawaii and for almost 10 years, on Mauna Kea, so I'm used to 1-3 on the scale. Now I'm looking at moving back to be closer to family... hope I can find somewhere not TOO lit up.

about 4 months ago

The Best Way To Watch the "Blood Moon" Tonight

Shag Not bad - sorry your scope is so small. ;) (146 comments)

I'm stuck spending the night at an 8.3-meter with a bunch of people who're tinkering with something called "Visible Aperture Masking Polarimetric Interferometer for Resolving Exoplanetary Signatures” - VAMPIRES for short. Unfortunately, we're not lasering the moon, or doing spectroscopy of it during totality like we did last eclipse (you can measure elemental abundances and pollutants in Earth's atmosphere that way, nifty). But at least we're somewhere that it all happens 2 hours earlier in the evening than on the west coast. :)

about 4 months ago

Hacker Holds Key To Free Flights

Shag But what did he end up flying on? Not that easy. (144 comments)

Most airlines have assigned seats. Most airlines have computers that know who's supposed to be in each seat and also know who's bought tickets. So on most airlines, that fake boarding pass is going to be pretty tricky. And using passbook is just a more hip way of the old "print a fake boarding pass" trick.

You could make a "no seat assignment" boarding pass, which often happens when a flight is booked full except for rows that are blocked (exits, front row of economy blocked for the handicapped, etc). Then you go to the gate, ask the gate agent for a seat assignment, all perfectly normal... except that you're not going to be in the computer, so at the very least, there's an element of social engineering.

You could make a "no seat assignment" boarding pass for an earlier/later flight, and if the computer at the gate were so dumb it didn't know about any flight but the current one, you might be able to "stand by."

Making a "no seat assignment" boarding pass for a different airline entirely ... well, they'd probably want to know why you had been sent over to them. And they'd probably want someone at the other airline to sign off on it. Odds might be a tiny bit better if the airline you chose was a partner, but not in a joint venture involving shared access to customer records. If Delta and Alaska both have flights between a pair of cities, make a fake boarding pass for the one that leaves first, show up at the other one after it's left, claiming you missed your flight and asking to stand by.

Of course there's also the non-rev standby category, but for that you need to fake an airline ID and uniform... and that's a lot more risky.

So I'm guessing this guy may be flying an airline that lacks assigned seats, and maybe isn't all that great at IT in general... which means congrats, you're getting flights on either Ryanair or something even worse, for £0 instead of £1 they usually charge. ;)

I don't know when I'll have the opportunity, but next time I'm heading through a certain airport where I have lounge access and am friends with the lounge staff, I'll see if I can make a few "modified" boarding passes and see what happens when they scan them, just for amusement. Like if I'm in economy on a domestic flight to Los Angeles, make one that says I'm in business class on the upper deck of a 747 to Tokyo, and see what they say when it doesn't show up in the computer.

about 5 months ago

State Colleges May Offer Best ROI On Comp Sci Degrees

Shag Comparing Berkeley to Berkeley? (127 comments)

Berkeley is, if the (UK) Times Higher Education Supplement Rankings are to be believed, one of the top 10 universities in the world - and top three in engineering and technology. I'm pretty sure that constitutes "elite" standing. But in this article, it's treated as a "top-tier public university." Is it both?

about 5 months ago

UN Court: Japanese Whaling "Not Scientific"

Shag Re: The meaning of 'conservation' (188 comments)

American deer are plentiful not only because their natural predators got beat back, but in large part because of conservation efforts by hunters all around the country that has preserved plenty of natural habitat for them to flourish in. This is the meaning of 'conservation' - we are not trying to turn the world into a petting zoo, we like to eat venison.

Or as someone high-up in a sustainability organization once said to me after a beer or two, "Sustainable development is about your grandkids being able to shoot Bambi, too."

about 5 months ago



Type Ia Supernovae as Not-Quite-So-Standard Cosmological Candles

Shag Shag writes  |  about 6 months ago

Shag (3737) writes "Type Ia supernovae are used as cosmological "standard candles" to measure distance because of their strong similarity to one another. This has made possible, for example, the research into universal expansion that led to the Nobel-winning discovery of "dark energy." For years, astrophysicists believed white dwarves exploded when they accreted enough mass from companion stars to reach a limit of 1.38 times the mass of our Sun. A decade ago, the "Champagne supernova" (SN 2003fg) was so bright astrophysicists concluded the limit had been exceeded by two white dwarves colliding. Now a new paper from the Nearby Supernova Factory collaboration suggests that type Ia supernovae occur at a wider range of stellar masses. Fortunately, there appears to be a calculable correlation between mass and light-curve width, so they can still fill the "standard candle" role, and research based on them is probably still valid. (I took data for the paper, but am not an author.)"

A distinctly non-Apple unboxing experience

Shag Shag writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Shag (3737) writes "My wife is a huge fan of James Bond movies, so this year's 50th anniversary "Bond 50" boxed set was the perfect birthday present. To keep her from guessing what it was, I provided an "unboxing experience" very different from the typical iProduct, featuring 4 boxes, 9 layers of wrapping, and additional weights. But like those other folks, I took photos of the process... unsurprisingly, she's vowed revenge."
Link to Original Source

United Nations names Ambassador to Aliens

Shag Shag writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Shag writes "Although searches for extraterrestrial intelligence have thus far come up empty, the United Nations appears to be preparing for eventual "first contact." Many media outlets are carrying the story that Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist who heads the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna — already charged with things like keeping track of satellites to prevent Kessler Syndrome and coordinating the international response to any earth-impacting asteroids — will be the first person to meet with aliens if they do show up."
Link to Original Source

Adobe co-founders, Blue Gene get National Medal of

Shag Shag writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Shag writes "Adobe co-founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke and IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer are among the recipients of the 2008 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, announced today by President Obama and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The awards will be handed out at an October 7 White House ceremony."
Link to Original Source

Thirty Meter Telescope to be Built in Hawaii

Shag Shag writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Shag writes "The planners of the Thirty Meter Telescope have chosen a plateau near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii as the site where the telescope will be constructed. (Cerro Armazones, in Chile, was the other possibility.) The telescope will use a mirror of hexagonal segments, like those first used at the Keck Observatory, but where each Keck telescope mirror is made up of 36 segments, the TMT mirror will have 494. Construction is expected to take close to a decade, once the permitting process is completed."
Link to Original Source

Finding planets by our nearest neighboring stars

Shag Shag writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Shag writes "A lot of astronomers look for planets around other stars, but a team in California have come up with a plan for finding Earth-like planets around Alpha Centauri B, one of our nearest neighboring stars, less than 5 light-years away. Manned spacecraft would take 100 millennia to get there at speeds we've already achieved, but if the faster speeds necessary for interstellar travel are ever attained, this star system could be an excellent first stop."
Link to Original Source


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