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Comments

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Scotland Could Become Home To Britain's First Spaceport

Simon Brooke Political background (151 comments)

Relax, everyone. This is a non-story; it isn't going to happen, and no-one seriously expects it to.

We're having a referendum in September on whether to separate from the UK and become an independent nation. The UK government has woken up - very late - to the realisation that it's quite likely to lose, and consequently will also lose its only nuclear submarine base, 90% of its oil revenue, and probably its permanent seat on the UN security council. Consequently they're panicking and offering us all sorts of unlikely bribes. The spaceport won't happen because

  1. If we vote 'yes', it's not going to be an urgent priority of the Scottish government;
  2. if we vote 'no', this and all the other promised bribes will be quietly forgotten.

So relax. The fact that there's no money and no commercial use for it, and that we're too far from the equator, doesn't matter; no-one seriously intends to build it. It's a media stunt, pure and simple. It isn't going to happen.

about two weeks ago
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The Future of Wearables: Standalone, Unobtrusive, and Everywhere

Simon Brooke Personal Hub (56 comments)

Probably the future of wearables is the personal hub.

The problem with wearables is that a radio capable of sustaining a connection to the outside world - be it 4g or wifi - needs a fair bit of power and consequently quite a lot of battery. So devices have to be fairly chunky, or else have to be recharged more often than you'd like. But your bluetooth mouse probably goes months on one charge - mine certainly does. So the solutions is to have a device mounted discreetly on your belt or in your handbag, or carried in a pocket, which just acts as a personal hub/firewall, doing backhaul for your wearables. It doesn't need a screen. It doesn't need apps. But once it's paired with your wearables, you can use a device which has no backhaul capability to make phone calls or to access any service on the Internet.

This is an extension of how Google Glass or your Pebble watch already uses your smartphone. The smartphone acts as a personal hub. But if the display you actually use is the one on your Glass or the one on your Pebble, you don't need the big, fragile, power-hungry screen on your smartphone any more; so the personal hub can be cheaper and much more durable than any smartphone.

Once you've got that concept, there are other services that a personal hub can supply to your wearables, for example storage.

about three weeks ago
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The Future of Wearables: Standalone, Unobtrusive, and Everywhere

Simon Brooke Re:We are so bad at predicting the future but stil (56 comments)

Everyone knows that the year of wearable computing is the year after the year of Linux on the desktop.....

The only problem with that is I have now had Linux on my desktop for TWENTY-ONE YEARS.

about three weeks ago
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Climate Change Skeptic Group Must Pay Damages To UVA, Michael Mann

Simon Brooke Re:Modern Day Anti-Evolutionists (497 comments)

Ain't going to happen, sadly. As the temperate zone moves closer to the world's poles, and the regions we're currently growing cereal crops on become progressively more arid, there is simply less area of land (square miles or kilometres or however you want to measure it) on which crops can be grown - and that's ignoring the costs of clearing and draining that land, and all the effects of ecocide.

At the same time as this is happening, of course, all our critical infrastructure will become unusable unless we make huge new investments in flood walls. For example, I work for a major international bank, which, obviously, has its critical data infrastructure replicated in seven cities across the globe. Only one problem: in six of those seven cities, our data centres are within ten metres of current sea level. Most major financial centres are old port cities, and all old port cities are on the coast. So over the next fifty years we have to either all relocate our trading infrastructure, or else abandon it. What I expect will happen is that we'll delay and dawdle until it's too late, and then our whole civilisation will collapse under the combined pressures of hunger, refugees, and rising water levels.

We're already past the point where there's any hope of the planet being able to support even half its current population in 100 years time. The real policy question is how we now radically reduce the population without war, pestilence, famine and death.

about three weeks ago
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Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars

Simon Brooke Google needs Detroit... (236 comments)

Exactly as much as Henry Ford needed horse-buggy makers, and no more.

about a month ago
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Building the Infinite Digital Universe of No Man's Sky

Simon Brooke Re:Text adventure game (100 comments)

Yeah i think it has 8 galaxies with 256 star systems in each all in 64K

Errr.... no. The BBC Micro had 32K, but in the mode Elite ran in the screen was eating about 20K of that. So it had 8 galaxies with 256 star systems in each - each with names, systems of governance, markets, et cetera - about twenty different ship types, and the physics and rendering engines - all in less than 14K.

I still think that's awesome. And, while I'm very impressed with what I've seen of No Man's Sky, the procedural universe of Elite Dangerous looks even more spectacular.

Full disclosure - I spent most of my final year of university playing Elite.

about a month ago
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First Phone Out of Microsoft-Nokia -- and It's an Android

Simon Brooke Re:So what? (193 comments)

If Windows Phone were a good platform, or even an average sort of platform, why would Microsoft (who get it for free) sell a phone with anything else installed?

I've (personally) never used Windows Phone, so I don't have an opinion; but their choice of Android for this device is hardly a ringing endorsement of their in-house technology.

about a month ago
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Microsoft Wants You To Trade Your MacBook Air In For a Surface Pro 3

Simon Brooke Re: Not likely. (365 comments)

My Asus machines have out lasted my ownership and the second owners are still using them.... Since when does everything fall apart because it's not apple? Lol Next time look at the Apple desks at the Apple store and realize that most of those people are receiving support or repairs

Work bough an Asus Zenbook Prime, one of the BEST Ultrabooks out there. Dollar for dollar, it beats the Macbook Air at its own game. Spec sheet wise, ditto - it simply outclassed it in every way we could measure - for the same price, you got a computer with a higher res screen, good construction, etc.

Just like mine...

But you know what? The power cable broke off the adapter! We ended up with an interesting jury rigged thing involving a Kingston Traveller power supply and lots of pigtails until our hardware technician saw the mess, and redid it nicely with solder and heatshrink tubing making a nice cable.

...also just like mine (except on mine it broke the motherboard, so the tech had to do some exceedingly fine soldering and bodge on a new external socket). The Macbook power cable connector is a thing of enviable excellence and pure common sense. Damaged power connectors are a main cause of laptop failure, and Macbooks just don't have the problem. Whatever you think of Mac software, the hardware is the best around.

about a month ago
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Microsoft Wants You To Trade Your MacBook Air In For a Surface Pro 3

Simon Brooke Re:Not likely. (365 comments)

Absolutely. I thought long and hard about a MacBook Air before I bought the (superficially very similar, and nearly as expensive) Asus Zenbook which is my current laptop. My reason for not buying the Air was it seemed silly to buy a Mac when I was just going to strip MacOS off it to put Linux on... but I just stripped Windows off the Zenbook to put Linux on. About six months after I bought it, the Zenbook fell off the arm of a sofa onto its power connector, and although I've bodged a repair it's a bodge. If I'd bought a Macbook Air I wouldn't have the problem.

Macbooks are the best built laptop hardware available just now, whatever you may think of the software (and, if like me, you don't like Apple's software, you can just ditch it and put something of your preference on instead). Microsoft Surface? H'mmm, don't know, I've never actually seen one. But I very much doubt they're in the same league.

This is a very cheap offer for Microsoft to make, because my bet is they won't get a single taker.

about a month ago
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X Window System Turns 30 Years Old

Simon Brooke 1986 (204 comments)

I first saw X on Apollo workstations in 1986. At that date all the Sun workstations in the lab still ran a windowing system called 'News', if I remember correctly. I saw X on both Suns and Silicon Graphics workstations before 1988, and on DEC Station and RS/6000 machines shortly thereafter. We also had PERQ machines in the lab but I don't believe they ever ran X. In those days I used Xerox 1108 and 1186 machines, which didn't run X.

The first machine I personally owned which ran X was an Acorn R260 running Risc IX (BSD 4.2) in 1990. I switched to Linux at kernel 0.99pl11 in 1993, which is to say more than twenty years ago.

Gosh.

about a month and a half ago
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Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

Simon Brooke Re:Since when does Qt "work" with OS X? (636 comments)

That's a matter of taste. For me everything on MacOS X looks like candy-covered shit on acid, but that's my taste.

I hated NeXTStep, too.

about 2 months ago
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Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

Simon Brooke Re:Good bye source compatibility (636 comments)

Since Qt works with Objective-C and Objective-C works with Swift, doesn't Qt already (automatically) work with Swift?

about 2 months ago
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EU Launches World's Largest Civilian Robotics Program; 240,000 New Jobs Expected

Simon Brooke Re:240,000 jobs for robots? (171 comments)

Automation may improve productivity, but what is productivity? It's been calculated that Chinese peasants in the Han Dynasty worked an average 13 hour week, and medieval European peasants didn't work much more. Now, OK, they didn't have access to decent healthcare, and because of poor transport they were vulnerable to poor local weather causing famine from time to time. And, of course, they didn't have MTV or Facebook or even iPads. But on the whole they were much better fed (on much better food) than you are now. If you could have a simple life with a comfortable home for thirteen hours a week, would you? I know I would.

I'm not against automation. Automation means that we can get back to working thirteen hours a week, without having to give up MTV and Facebook and iPads, or even modern healthcare. But we can only do that if the surplus value created by automation is widely shared, rather than being captured by elites.

about 2 months ago
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Security Researchers Threatened With US Cybercrime Laws

Simon Brooke Re: See... (156 comments)

That's a really bad analogy. Peering at someone's credit card - even if it is under a napkin - is quite obviously very bad manners indeed. If you're saying unauthorised penetration testing is like peering at someone's credit card, then it's clearly wrong.

And speaking as someone who has his own little toy server out in the cloud, I'd very much prefer to do my own damn penetration testing, thank you.

about 2 months ago
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Is It Really GPS If It Doesn't Use Satellites?

Simon Brooke Re:Ahm.... (298 comments)

Dead reckoning - navigation where you have no accurate fix - has been around for literally hundreds of years, and it is spelled 'dead reckoning' - because it's reckoning (of position) without a live fix. When I learned to navigate small boats fifty years ago, it was still pretty standard - because sun sights are awkward, and in any case using sun sights alone you can't get two position lines at the same time, so you have to do a running fix (which involves some dead reckoning). Even in coastal navigation you can't always get bearings on two good landmarks at the same time.

about 2 months ago
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U.S. Drone Attack Strategy Against Al-Qaeda May Be Wrong

Simon Brooke Re:Correlation vs correlation (433 comments)

You're not thinking at all, you're just emoting.

If you were thinking you would realise that drone strikes on a civilian population - on women, on children, on funerals, on weddings - recruit a thousand terrorists for every one they kill. Of course the CIA and the military promote this policy. More terrorists means more money for the CIA and the military, terrorism and counter-terrorism are inherently symbiotic. But foreign policy should not be dictated by the needs of inter-agency pissing matches in Washington DC.

about 2 months ago
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Why I'm Sending Back Google Glass

Simon Brooke Re: Pretty obvious (166 comments)

I have never, ever bought an Apple product of any kind, but considering build quality the MacBook Air is probably better value for money than the very similar Asus Ultrabook which I do have.

about 2 months ago
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eBay Compromised

Simon Brooke Re:link? (193 comments)

I suspect because the part of their system which changes passwords is seriously overloaded. I'm trying to change mine, but so far can't even get the page to load.

about 2 months ago
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Water Cannons Used Against Peaceful Anti-TTIP Protestors: the Next ACTA Revolt?

Simon Brooke Re:Silly Peasants (142 comments)

The whole purpose of these treaties are to carve out new opportunities for special interests and rent seekers to harvest wealth from the small folk like you and me. Whatever you think of the benefits of free trade, these treaties are created to prevent it, and for no other reason.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Simon Brooke writes "Scotland is in electoral chaos this morning after a complex failure of an election count. Human factors account for some of the problem — two different voting systems were in use for national and local council seats, and voter confusion seems to have contributed to 100,000 spoilt papers. However, the electronic counting system has also failed, and in seven areas of the country the counting has had to be suspended, and in at least one the electronic counting system has been abandoned in favour of manual counting .

PS: Filed under 'power' because there's no 'elections' or 'politics' section!"

Journals

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Post Scarcity Software

Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 8 years ago I've written an essay which is important, at least to me, called Post Scarcity Software, on the shape of programming languages and software environments for the twenty-first century. If this interests you please read and comment!

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The US: the largest lunatic assylum on the planet?

Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 8 years ago

I've been moderating again this morning. Or at least, I've been trying to. In the end I just gave up. It isn't worth it, and I find I don't even know how to do it.

The discussion? this one. As one relatively sane participant put it:

Every year we get another story or two like this and they still have their hands over their ears going "LA LA LA - I CAN'T HEAR YOU."

How right he was. We find posters claiming:

With people like this, what hope is there for rational discussion? They're all completely, raving, off their trolleys, certifiable crazies! Am I suppose to think any of this is insightful? Interesting? Informative? It isn't trolling or flamebait - they really believe these things. It certainly isn't funny.

When a bunch of people get sufficiently divorced from reality, moderation simply becomes meaningless. I just give up. The whole United States seems to be one big lunatic asylum. And the lunatics have taken over.

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Moderators! Get a grip (and a dictionary)!

Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Yet again I'm metamoderating, and I came across this post. What's wrong with it? Nothing at all. It's both interesting and informative. So what's the problem? Well, it had been moderated insightful. Insightful it is not; it contains, as far as I can see, no insight, just good solid interesting information. So I had to metamod it unfair.

Moderators, if you see something that's informative, for heaven's sake moderate it informative. And if you aren't certain what a moderation option means, for heaven's sake don't use it!

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More metamoderation options

Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 10 years ago OK, I'm metamoderating again. There's this post here. It's been modded 'Offtopic'. Is this fair? Well, actually, of course, it is, so I'll metamod it as fair. But it's a bit damned harsh.

Perhaps, as well as Fair and Unfair we could have Harsh and Generous...

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More muddled moderation

Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 10 years ago OK, I'm metamoderating again today, and I'm just stagered by the bloody stupidity of the Slashdot moderating population.

Here's what's raised my ire:

More info in Japanese press release

See here for the Japanese press release.

Highlights: 8MB flash memory (4MB for data), 512kB RAM, runs at 24MHz or 48MHz, touchscreen uses Decuma handwriting recognition (Decuma is a Swedish company with Sony VC money; Decuma is also used in Sony Clies & cellphones). FM/Midi sound, vibrator; PIM, mail client supports POP/SMTP.

Can communicate with SD form-factor PHS card, Wi-Fi card, Bluetooth etc. Tri-color LED, sound and vibration alerts for incoming data.

I figure it's a much more useful device in Japan where connectivity is ubiquitous, than the US. But it will have a tough time competing with the likes of the J-SH53 and its successors.

OK, so what's wrong about that? It's very informative. Well yes, it is, and if it had been modded '+1 Informative' I'd have happily OKed it in metamod. So what's wrong? Some charlie had moderatied it '+1 Insightful'. Well, I mean, I ask you... Can you see anything insightful in that? It's a pure information piece.

Hello?

Wake up!

Insightful is not the same as Informative. It's different, and different in a way which is useful. If you don't know what these words mean, please find out what they mean, before you moderate.

Here endeth the rant for today

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Immoderately irritating

Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 10 years ago OK, I don't write in my journal. Except that today I do. And I do because I'm irritated by the metamoderation system.

OK, what's wrong with metamoderation? Metamoderation is the best bit of Slashdot. It's the reason that Slashdot is the best and most usable news and discussion system currently available in netspace -- I include Usenet, which in turn is better than all other Web-based discussion forums except Slashdot.

What's good about metamoderation? Moderation of contributions allows a system in which anyone can post any dross they like, and yet the reader can still read a reasonably coherent, well informed and interesting discussion. You can't, on an open, internet based system, prevent people posting dross. That is why Usenet is being destroyed by trolls. But with effective moderation the trolls can be excluded from the discussion without preventing them posting in the first place and without censoring their posts.

The problem, of course, is who gets to decide what is a useful contribution and what is not? The Slashdot solution - more or less everyone who is willing - has to be the right solution both because

  1. There is simply too much traffic for any 'elite corps' of moderators to be able to do an effective job; and
  2. The community moderating itself steers the discussion and level of debate in the way the community wants.

The problem with almost everyone moderating is that the trolls also moderate, and they will moderate in deliberately perverse ways. So quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The answer, of course, is we do, through meta-moderation: again, a self-balancing mechanism. Brilliant!

But...

not brilliant enough.

'Funny'

In my opinion, things moderated as 'Funny' on Slashdot almost never are (and equally, the things I find genuinely funny on Slashdot are very rarely moderated as 'Funny'). So these days I don't metamoderate 'Funny' moderations (and I have the 'Reason modifier' for 'Funny' set to -1). I'd like to be able to say in my profile that although I'm happy to metamoderate in general, I'm not happy to metamoderate 'Funny'.

Perverse moderation

Not all moderation which you don't agree with seems perverse. Sometimes you'll see a post that has been moderated as 'insightful' and you don't feel it's very insightful. You may metamoderate to say you don't agree, but it's not perverse. It's just that the judgement of the moderator is different from yours, and that's OK - normal slip in the system.

But sometimes you see moderations which clearly are perverse. A 'goatse' poast, for example, moderated as 'insightful'. Or a post expressing a perfectly reasonable point of view moderated as 'Troll'. It would be useful to be able to say why you either agree or disagree with a moderation. Simply 'agree' and 'disagree' doesn't feel to me enough.

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Simon Brooke Simon Brooke writes  |  more than 11 years ago

OK, I don't keep a journal on Slashdot. Live with it. If you want to know what I'm thinking, you'll find my comments here, on my own websites [personal] [work], or you can regularly find me on Usenet groups like scot.general or uk.rec.sailing. You'll also find me in some other places on the Web, almost always under my own name (I can't be bothered with 'handles'). You'll find my open source contributions here. Yes, the email address is genuine; yes, I do read it.

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