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Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

SoftwareArtist Apple designs for yesterday (370 comments)

Example: a few releases ago they made scrollbars thinner (making them harder to click), and also made them disappear by default. All this to "free up the space" that was being "wasted" by scrollbars. Now in Yosemite they're getting rid of window title bars in many apps, making it harder to move windows around. This is for the same reason: to free up space being used by title bars.

My computer has a 24" screen. The space taken up by scrollbars and window titles is completely insignificant. The inconvenience caused by not having them is very significant. This is a design decision that might have been justifiable 15 years ago when a 17" monitor was considered large, but today is completely absurd.

about two weeks ago
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Lockheed Claims Breakthrough On Fusion Energy Project

SoftwareArtist What did they actually do? (571 comments)

From the article: "In a statement, the company, the Pentagon's largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years." So if they haven't even built a reactor yet, much less tested it to see if it really works, what exactly is the amazing breakthrough they're claiming?

about two weeks ago
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Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

SoftwareArtist Re:Energy != standard of living (652 comments)

Alaska is much colder, but it's one of the states with lowest energy use. So is Maine. Conversely the second worst state by energy use is Kentucky, which has very mild winters. The list of states with the highest energy use includes both North Dakota (bitterly cold) and Louisiana (nearly tropical). But the one state that is truly tropical--Hawaii--has the second lowest energy use.

Energy use has far more to do with public policy than weather.

about three weeks ago
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Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

SoftwareArtist Energy != standard of living (652 comments)

This is a standard fallacy, that there's a direct correspondence between energy use and standard of living. Take a look at the actual numbers for what a "circa-2010 American standard of living" actually means for energy:

http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/el...

The average person in Wyoming used more than four times as much energy as the average person in California. Do you think that means their standard of living was four times as high? And no, it's not just that Wyoming is a large rural state. California has huge rural areas too. And Washington DC consists entirely of one city, but its per-capita energy use was nearly three times higher than California's.

What this actually means is that California has taken energy conservation seriously for decades, and has had government policies designed to promote energy efficiency. And those policies have worked, really really well. An "American standard of living" does not require ridiculously high energy use.

about three weeks ago
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Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

SoftwareArtist The general issue is decentralization & resile (549 comments)

Exactly. Building any kind of colony in space will probably be easier and less expensive than building it on Mars. If nothing else, it will be a lot easier to send the initial manufacturing equipment there, since it will be a lot closer to Earth. And once it's built it will have lots of advantages: closer to Earth, no gravity well making it hard to come and go, closer to the sun (hence much greater supply of solar energy), and you get to live in normal Earth gravity (from rotating the colony to create artificial gravity) rather than the 38% Earth gravity you get on Mars. We don't even know if humans *can* be healthy living long term in such low gravity.

Way back in 1975, NASA estimated the total cost of building a space colony large enough to permanently house 10,000 people at $190 billion. And that was relying entirely on 1975 technology. This is totally something we could do, if we really wanted to.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Phone Apps?

SoftwareArtist Re:Audible (167 comments)

Agreed. The key is to find good readers, and then listen to their solo projects. The best readers are just as good as most professional recordings.

about 2 months ago
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Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

SoftwareArtist Re:Public cynicism about fusion (147 comments)

There's enough deuterium to last 100,000 years, but we'll go through it all in 1000 years anyway. Never underestimate the ability of humans to be wasteful when they don't have an incentive to be efficient.

Fortunately, solar doesn't have that problem. It gets delivered to us at a nice steady rate, and that isn't going to change much for many millions of years.

about 2 months ago
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Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

SoftwareArtist Re:Public cynicism about fusion (147 comments)

It took somewhere between 1500 and 1700 years from the time the first steam engine (aeolipile) showed up until it was practically applied.

That's not what I mean. That was the time between when someone came up with a cute toy and when someone starting trying to do something useful with it. I'm talking about how long we've had an active fusion energy program spending large amounts of money every year to try to create something practical. When they started out, they thought they could have something in ten years. Ten years after that, they thought they could have something working in ten years. Ten years after that, they STILL thought it was about ten years away. Sixty some years and billions of dollars later, even the optimists are saying it's 20 years away.

Besides, you demonstrated my point exactly. Centuries before anyone tried to develop a steam engine into a useful device, they already had a working proof of concept.

One other thing to keep in mind is that fusion, if we can find a way to make it work, could potentially outshine every other technological achievement in human history up to this point because of the possible applications.

Why do you think that? What's so amazing about fusion that makes it so much better than every other technological achievement in history? Sure, it would solve all our energy problems for about a thousand years, at which point we would have burned through most of the available fuel because, having no incentive for efficiency, we would have wasted most of it. (Yes, I'm cynical about humanity.) But solar energy is equally capable of solving all our energy problems. And unlike fusion, it's a real technology that actually works today.

about 2 months ago
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Princeton Nuclear Fusion Reactor Will Run Again

SoftwareArtist Re:Public cynicism about fusion (147 comments)

Isn't that true of pretty much every technology that's still in the development stage?

No, I don't think it is. Pretty much every technology that has gone on to be successful has started from a simple, working proof of concept and then scaled up from there. That covers everything from the steam engine to the telephone to nuclear energy to the microprocessor. Contrast that with fusion energy: 60-odd years of work, many billions of dollars spent, and we still don't have a minimal working proof of concept.* That's pretty depressing. Can you name any other technology that started out as badly yet went on to become successful? I can't think of one.

Given the history, I think extreme skepticism is the only rational response.

* By a "minimal working proof of concept", I mean a controlled fusion reactor (not a bomb) that produces more energy than it takes to run the reactor (and hence actually functions as a power source).

about 2 months ago
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FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

SoftwareArtist Bad summary but cool project (133 comments)

Don't be put off by the clueless submitter. This is actually a really cool project that goes way beyond existing types of automation. This quote, for example, gives a sense of the kinds of things they're trying to enable:

The tremendous potential that FarmBot creates, allows for many new methods of farming, including the ability to create “polycrops” which mix and match different crops, unlike methods seen on typical farms.... Traditionally this has been impossible, as each different plant species requires different care techniques. For example, some crops require more water than others, while some crops require water at their stalk, rather than at their base. Some plants require more or different types of fertilizers than others. FarmBot’s software makes this process extremely simple, as each plant can virtually be programmed for their individual needs.

about 2 months ago
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T-Mobile To Throttle Customers Who Use Unlimited LTE Data For Torrents/P2P

SoftwareArtist Re:Uh? (147 comments)

On a similar note, I don't know that T-Mobile's music streaming policy is terribly unfair, since they're whitelisting all the major streaming music providers. If they made Pandora free while Slacker had to pay, that's not 'net neutral'. Since everyone who streams audio is included, it's a blurry area for net neutrality.

Here's one they don't include: totallyweirdsounds.com (all Tuvan throat singing, all the time!) Never heard of it? Of course not, I just made it up. But suppose I wanted to start that site. Millions of T-Mobile users would say, "If I use your service, it'll eat through my data cap, but if I get my Tuvan throat singing from Spotify it doesn't." I'd be at a huge disadvantage.

Net neutrality is about providing a level playing field. Not just for established companies, but for everyone. Maybe T-Mobile is doing this with good intentions, but they're creating a barrier to any new music streaming service that comes along. Besides, if they want to raise their customers' data caps (which is effectively what they're doing), why not let customers use that data however they want?

And it's not like they even have all the major services. Google Play Music? Nope. TuneIn? Nope. SoundCloud? Nope. Those, perhaps by coincidence, are precisely the services I stream music from most often.

about 3 months ago
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Auralux Release For Browsers Shows Emscripten Is Reaching Indie Devs

SoftwareArtist Just because you can do something (44 comments)

Congratulations, you're being a troll. They managed to take their existing app written for a completely different platform, and port it to the web in a way that runs flawlessly on my four year old laptop. Without having to rewrite the whole thing by hand in Javascript. I'd call that a big win, and a really cool achievement.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

SoftwareArtist Re:Computer Science (637 comments)

Exactly! Computer Science != Software Engineering. Yes, a software engineer needs a solid knowledge of computer science, just as an electrical engineer needs a solid knowledge of physics. But a degree in CS doesn't prepare you to be a software engineer any more than a degree in physics prepares you to be an electrical engineer.

In my experience, people who get to college and decide, "Computer science seems like a good career, so I guess I'll major in that," tend to become bad programmers. People who major in CS because they love computers and have been programming for fun since they were 12 tend to become good programmers. They're motivated to learn on their own all the things their CS classes don't cover, and likely have already learned a lot of them before they even get to college.

There are some schools that actually offer degrees in Software Engineering. But I don't think I've ever known someone with one of those degrees, so I don't know whether they do a better job of training good programmers.

about 3 months ago
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The Social Laboratory

SoftwareArtist Re:Welcome to the Privacy Free Zone (79 comments)

Everyone I've known from Singapore has been very clear about this: they did not "consciously choose" to surrender civil liberties. They were never given any choice in the matter. They were very unhappy about the lack of civil liberties there and wanted it to change.

Perhaps the people I've known were not representative of Singapore in general. But even so, it's manifestly absurd to claim they consciously chose something they have never been given any choice about and have no power to change.

about 3 months ago
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NASA Tests Microwave Space Drive

SoftwareArtist Re:Carry the one (201 comments)

2. No one is claiming this device is a "free energy machine".

Skeptics are, because all reactionless drives are free energy machines.

That's doublespeak. No one who believes in it claims it's a free energy machine. Ok, you are free to announce, "It's a free energy machine, therefore it can't exist!". But since you don't have any evidence to support your claim, that's meaningless. Either it works or it doesn't. If it does work, it almost certainly is not a free energy machine. No one has presented any evidence to indicate it doesn't conserve energy. If you make that claim anyway, it just shows you're making claims that aren't based on evidence. It tells us nothing about whether this device actually works or not.

It can be hard to get your head around, you may want to actually do the maths to convince yourself.

The only thing that's hard to get your head around is that you just made two assumptions that directly contradict each other. Conservation of momentum follows from Newton's laws of motion. If you assume momentum is not conserved, you aren't allowed to use Newton's laws anymore. But that's what you just did. You first assumed the existence of a phenomenon that violates Newton's laws, and then immediately started applying Newton's laws as if they were valid. If you make two assumptions that contradict each other, all your conclusions are invalid.

3. No one is claiming this device is "reactionless".

Skeptics are.

Same as above. Or to summarize:

Scientists: "Experiments indicate this device seems to work. We're not absolutely convinced yet, and we don't completely understand the mechanism. But if it really does work, we're pretty darn sure it must conserve energy and momentum."

You: "This device doesn't conserve energy or momentum. (Because, well, I just know it doesn't, even though I don't have any evidence to prove it.) Therefore it can't work."

Space doesn't work that way.

Say the device interacts with virtual particles, a la Casimir Effect. The physics of virtual particles is not analogous to regular particles. The net velocity of virtual particles is zero, regardless of the velocity of the EmDrive.

Now you're just making things up. There is no difference between "virtual" particles and "real" particles. They obey exactly the same physics. If a particle/antiparticle pair is created out of the vacuum and then is annihilated without ever being observed, we call them "virtual" particles. But while they exist, they can interact with other particles, and they interact in precisely the same way other particles do. Furthermore, that interaction can sometimes prevent them from annihilating each other, in which case we say they have become "real" particles that were created out of the vacuum by the energy of the interaction.

Actually, the whole concept of "virtual particles" is just an artifact of the mathematics: we don't know how to describe the true vacuum state, so we use perturbation theory to write an infinite series describing how it differs from another state we do know how to describe. And we call the terms in that infinite series "particles".

All of which is really completely irrelevant to the question at hand. A particle/antiparticle pair initially has zero momentum, but they absolutely can interact with other particles, and that interaction can impart momentum to them.

about 3 months ago
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NASA Tests Microwave Space Drive

SoftwareArtist Re:Carry the one (201 comments)

Wow, that was wrong in so many ways.

1. There is no such thing as a "free energy machine".

2. No one is claiming this device is a "free energy machine". You have to put energy in as electricity, and you don't get more energy out than you put in.

3. No one is claiming this device is "reactionless". There's ongoing discussion about the exact mechanism (assuming it actually works). They suggest it may be pushing against space itself, somewhat analogously to how a swimmer pushes against the water they're swimming through. But if it actually does work, it almost certainly conserves momentum.

4. In any case, conservation of momentum and conservation of energy are independent conservation laws that come from different symmetries of the universe. If one turned out to be wrong, that wouldn't automatically mean the other was wrong too.

about 3 months ago
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US Army To Transport American Ebola Victim To Atlanta Hospital From Liberia

SoftwareArtist Vaccine is coming (409 comments)

Only about 10% of drugs that enter clinical trials end up getting approved. "effective in monkeys" != "effective in humans".

about 3 months ago
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US Army To Transport American Ebola Victim To Atlanta Hospital From Liberia

SoftwareArtist Thanks for the pointless scaremongering (409 comments)

The only novel thing is that they're bringing a highly contagious patient on an airplane half way around the world. If you think that's no more risky than bringing an inert, freeze dried sample in a tightly sealed container, well, trust me, it is.

Of course, I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong. Unless the plane crashes. Or experiences mechanical problems and has to make an unplanned landing. Or any of lots of other things that could go wrong, does.

about 3 months ago
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NASA Tests Microwave Space Drive

SoftwareArtist Carry the one (201 comments)

Unfortunately, even though you wouldn't have to supply propellant, you would still need to supply the energy to accelerate it. After accelerating for one year, your potato's kinetic energy is 1.8e12 Joules. That's a lot of energy. Initially you can stick a solar panel on it to power the drive, but once you're out of the inner solar system that won't work any more.

about 3 months ago
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Google's Mapping Contest Draws Ire From Indian Government

SoftwareArtist Re:How much more? (96 comments)

No, we didn't.

Prior to the first gulf war (the one in the early 90s), Iraq had a chemical weapons program. After the war, that was shut down and most of their stocks destroyed. When the inspectors came through after the second gulf war (the one in the early 2000s), they came across old shells on which they found residue of chemical weapons, indicating that a decade earlier they had once contained chemical weapons. They found no evidence that Iraq had actually restarted its chemical weapons program, or had any significant stock of chemical weapons.

If you claim they found anything more than that, please provide a citation.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Petition to Reduce the Term of Copyrights

SoftwareArtist SoftwareArtist writes  |  more than 2 years ago

SoftwareArtist (1472499) writes "There's a petition up at whitehouse.gov to restore the term of copyrights back to what they were in 1976: a max of 58 years. We all love to complain about copyright law, so let's do something about it and complain to the people with power to change it. It needs 25,000 signatures by Feb. 20 to be guaranteed a response. For the Slashdot community, that should be easy! One petition won't change the law, but if we don't tell our elected representatives what we think, it will never change."

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