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PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

Somebody Is Using My Re:PETA Won't be Happy (367 comments)

Because most house cats are actually unable to live that well in the wild. Though they have the hunting instincts natural to their species, it actually requires some experience (usually learned during kittenhood and young adulthood) to put those instincts to best use; most cats cannot hunt well enough to sustain them long enough to gain the necessary skills.

Obviously cats which have lived outdoors - farmcats or free-roaming pets - have a better chance at survival than indoor-only house-cats, but even free-roaming pets fare poorly compared to feral animals that have lived their lives entirely on their own wits.

Cats also aren't safe from predation; owls and hawks won't pass them by when they are young and even after they achieve full size, coyotes and foxes are known to go after them. Housecats also have a poorer chance at finding good shelter in bad weather, and usually have to fight feral cats for territory, which further hampers their chances.

Putting a pampered house cat into the wild and expecting it to survive because "it's a cat" is thoughtless; it will likely live a very short life before dying miserably in a ditch somewhere.

Whether that option is better than euthanizing the animal is debatable and probably dependent on the beliefs of the owner. The proper option is to spend the time and money to get the animal properly placed, but dumping the feline is cruel and shouldn't even be a consideration.

Sad caveat: the ferals and strays in my town are very well cared for by well-meaning locals; many are fed daily, and have had their shots and been neutered. Unfortunately, this care just encourages more people to dump the animals in our neighborhood.

about two weeks ago
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Goodbye, World? 5 Languages That Might Not Be Long For This World

Somebody Is Using My Let me save you some time (547 comments)

Here are the dead and dying languages

1) Perl - because it's a "piecemeal" language with features pile atop one another
2) Ruby - because its difficult to learn if you know C
3) Visual Basic.Net - because C#
4) Adobe Flash & AIR - because iPhone
5) Delphi Object Pascal - because it isn't well-supported

Now you don't need to read the article

about two weeks ago
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MIT Study Finds Fault With Mars One Colony Concept

Somebody Is Using My Re:Practice colony in Antarctica first? (269 comments)

If the goal were to simulate and test the feasibility of a long-term Martian outpost, that shouldn't be too hard to replicate. Mars has the necessary elements, just not as easily accessible as on Earth.

Create an isolated, pressurized base where the only source of oxygen comes from internal systems, not outside. Place a "factory" by the outpost that pulls in water from the environment at the same rate as it would on Mars (obviously it would discard most of it); crack some of the water to get the necessary oxygen. You are now limited to surviving from canned air, just like Martian explorers.

The bonus is that if there is a catastrophic failure of the systems during the test, everyone doesn't immediately die; they can just open the windows.

Harder to test would be the problems caused by low gravity, lower atmospheric pressure and increased radiation. Well, for the latter I guess we could just open the ozone hole for them again ;-)

about two weeks ago
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Killer Whales Caught On Tape Speaking Dolphin

Somebody Is Using My Re:Humans are not only not the only intelligence (152 comments)

The humans are dumb nonsense comes from the fact that animals are smart enough to achieve equilibrium with their environment while humans pave a path of destruction anymore they go.

Says anyone who doesn't have beavers on their property.

Animals do not have any innate instinct towards living in equilibrium with their environment. If they did, imported species wouldn't overrun their new homes (ask Australians how well cane toads and rabbits are finding a "natural balance"). All animals will do what is necessary to breed to the maximum their environment will allow, even if it is catastrophic to that environment. Humanity is unusual only in the sense of our extreme adaptability to differing climatic regions and the fact that - with the use of tools - were have no natural predators to keep our numbers in check.

If anything, humanity is the most environmentally-friendly of creatures, because we alone consider (albeit not often enough) the consequences of our actions upon the rest of the world and sometimes work against our own immediate interests for the betterment of the world at large.

Which is not to excuse our rapine habits, of course; we as a species are a danger to the current natural balance. But let's not kid ourselves; no other animal would be any better.

about two weeks ago
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US Says It Can Hack Foreign Servers Without Warrants

Somebody Is Using My Re:So what they are saying... (335 comments)

I came to say exactly this.

A core precept of US law is that "all people" have certain unalienable rights, be they citizen or not, at home or abroad. The government does not bestow these rights upon us; the US Constitution merely lists the situation in which those rights may be abrogated for the good of a better society. This fundamental belief is also part of the reasoning for US interventionism abroad. While we cannot in all situations ensure those rights to all people, the reasoning (if not actual cause) is that the US should do what it can to prevent those unalienable rights from trampling regardless of whether or not they are US citizens.

However, this reasoning has an important caveat that is increasingly being ignored (though it's not new): the US must act as if those non-citizens have the same rights and protections as US citizens. While it may be impossible to ensure that every foreign national has free-speech, speedy trial or any of the other rights Americans take for granted, still the US government should not and cannot act against those rights. So the idea that foreigners should not be protected by the need for a warrant is blatantly opposed to the core concepts behind the founding of this country.

One of the reasons for this shift in policy is not some malign conspiracy of foreigner-hating tyrants but a critical misunderstanding of the relationship between people and the government by its own citizens (including those who work for the government). Too often that relationship is seen as patriarchal: the government dispenses the rights, and therefore it has the right to suspend them, either in whole or in part, affecting some or all of those under its influence, as per its own whim. This is incorrect; not only is it that "We-the-People" voluntarily allow ourselves to be restricted, but as a "people" those restrictions must apply fairly to everyone, not just citizens. Doing otherwise merely creates divisions that can be too easily exploited against ourselves later on.

It's worth reminding people of the difference.

about two weeks ago
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Brits Must Trade Digital Freedoms For Safety, Says Crime Agency Boss

Somebody Is Using My Re:Trading Freedom for Security? (264 comments)

The end goal is simple; they want to make things easier and safer for themselves.

Government is made up of people, and those people have the same wants and desires as ourselves. In particular, they want their jobs to be less difficult and they want security of employment. These laws help enable these desires. Catching criminals is tough work, but it is easier if you have the ability to watch everyone all the time. Certainly it would be better for them to have these powers written into law so they are all above-board; that way there is no risk to their jobs when they are caught spying.

But like any other person, they are too focused on the immediate goal, unaware of how the accumulating powers of government might be misused in the future (or downplaying the risk because the immediate advantages are so obvious). It is only when the power is misused that they may regret the decision. Unfortunately, history has shown that accumulated power will inevitably be used, which is why these mistakes are all the more tragic.

It's not a conspiracy of the powerful working against us; it's an accumulation of human short-sightedness that puts the wrong tools into the hands of the corrupt.

about two weeks ago
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Brits Must Trade Digital Freedoms For Safety, Says Crime Agency Boss

Somebody Is Using My Re:Trading Freedom for Security? (264 comments)

It's a false comparison anyway.

In these bargains we do not trade "freedom for security" against some threat; instead we trade away our freedoms for a different kind of threat. History has shown that governments can be as dangerous to their populace as the criminals against whom theysupposedly protect. By giving up our freedoms, we are merely trading the types of risk we face: criminals, terrorists, et al. are an extremely rare but potentially quite deadly threat, whereas governments are an all-pervasive threat (to life and property) but the effects are usually much more limited in scope (usually restrictions on how you act or spend your money at first, although governments also have the potential to be far more dangerous).

Governments claim we must give up freedom for security, but we get no security out of the trade; we merely exchange an immediate (if unlikely) danger for a certain one down the road. Unfortunately, evolution has left our species with a poor ability to assess danger beyond the immediate future, a fact of which governments take advantage when they trot out their "facts" and "statistics" about how horrible is terrorism. Scared by the loud noise, we dart for any apparent shelter, often mistaking an alligator's jaws for a sheltering cave.

Let's not all be scared apes; let us look before we leap. The threat from which we need "protecting" is largely bluster and the security we are being promised is an illusion. Neither are worth sacrificing our freedoms.

about two weeks ago
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Lennart Poettering: Open Source Community "Quite a Sick Place To Be In"

Somebody Is Using My Re:Systemd (993 comments)

While I agree with the above, I think that Poettering is incorrect in his assessment that the "Open Source Community" is a sick place to be. This problem is not just limited to that particular group; it is endemic on the Internet. But its not really limited to that either, because people have been making those sorts of comments (e.g., "Man, some days I'd really like to kill my boss") throughout history; they aren't meant seriously and are just a method of expressing spleen. The Internet just provides a larger audience. Open Source advocates, by nature of their dealing with digital products, just happen to be more common and comfortable with the digital medium of the Internet.

So I I think it would be more accurate to say that it is the Human Race that is a sick place to be in.

Of course, I personally think the bigger problem is taking these comments so seriously. It's just "feeding the trolls" by giving them the audience they desire, providing the sort of feedback that only provokes them - and others - into worse and worse behavior in order to get attention. After all, if everybody is already screaming at the top of their lungs, even a "normal person" (is there such a thing?) might feel obligated to use a bullhorn to get his message out.

about three weeks ago
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The Era of Saturday Morning Cartoons Is Dead

Somebody Is Using My Re:Speaking for myself (320 comments)

I disagree; it wasn't the quality (or lack thereof) of the cartoons that killed the Saturday Morning block, or at least not directly. It was dedicated children's-TV channels available on cable. TV studios - and advertisers - no longer found it profitable to spend so much time and money when that market was already captured by channels that were focused entirely on their wants. NBC, CBS and ABC just couldn't compete with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney channels.

If it was a lack of quality that killed Saturday Morning Cartoons then that block should have died in the 70s and 80s. Though we may look upon them now with nostalgia, shows like the Snorks, Pound Puppies (and pretty much anything made by Hanna Barbera) were terrible in every aspect, from their animation, to their characters, to the story and pacing. But as kids, we didn't care because a) we were too young to discern, and b) where else were we going to get four straight hours of cartoons? If we even noticed how bad the shows were, still it wasn't going to keep us from watching. Quality was not the decisive factor in our viewship.

Nowadays, kids /do/ have another option and, unwilling to pay the cost for better shows, the competition drove the broadcast channels out of the market. But had that option not existed, even were the OTA networks still showing crap like "Penelopy Pitstop" or the "PacMan Power Hour" we still probably would have Saturday Morning cartoons today.

about three weeks ago
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FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous

Somebody Is Using My Re:let them suck it (354 comments)

And also don't forget:

No person [...] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation

Which means - and has been tested in court - that not only are we within our rights to secure in our papers, etc. with encryption but We-The-People also cannot be legally compelled to give up the password to said encryption.

"Beyond the law," Director Comey? We are provably /within/ the law. It is your organization which is pushing the limits of legality, not the citizens it is nominally there to serve.

about a month ago
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Euclideon Teases Photorealistic Voxel-Based Game Engine

Somebody Is Using My Re:Static lighting only (134 comments)

As important as the rendering engine may be, the major hold-up on making worlds "photorealistic" is that it takes a lot of work on the part of the artists and level designers to create those worlds. While the video harped on how current-generation engines have lots of repeating textures and models, voxel-based engines aren't going to magically solve that problem. Be they polygon- or voxel-based, the worlds will still have to be put together by artists. Even with voxels, the level designers will still reuse trees, boulders, cars and various other assets because it is too expensive (in time, if not money) to create unique items all the time, especially since the reward is so minimal. Game-design - often requiring three or four years of work with hundreds of artists and modelers - is already expensive enough; adding more polygons or voxels will just add to the time and cost.

The next major graphics revolution will not be from some new engine that produces images through voxels, polygons or ray-casting; it will be with the development of ever-more sophisticated procedural engines which take the workload off the artists, allowing them to create ever more varied and detailed worlds without requiring all the extra effort (and expense). Procedural engines are in their infancy, but in time they can be "trained" to create ever more sophisticated locales without requiring hundreds of man-years of work. Instead, those artists will instead be tasked to add unique flourishes to the generic algorithmically created worlds.

So I look at TFV and say, "well that's nice for specially built static images" (although honestly, I didn't find the rendered scenes all that convincing, especially when compared to some high-end polygon-based engines) but in the end it isn't going to make that much more of a difference since they are trying to solve the wrong problem facing the industry.

about a month ago
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Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

Somebody Is Using My Re:Obama is but a puppet (236 comments)

If robots do all the work and leave everybody but the 1% out of a job who is going to buy all those things the robots are making? And if nobody buys the goods, how do the wealthy stay wealthy? And if the only people who can buy anything can pay millions of dollars, won't that pretty much insure that inflation raises prices to the point where the 1%'s billions are practically worthless?

You can't have a cornocopia economy /and/ have economic stratification.They work against one another.

Mind you, the transitionary periods between the two are a real bitch.

about a month ago
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Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google

Somebody Is Using My Re:Why bother when Carrier IQ and friends exist ? (126 comments)

Do Android phones automatically update to the latest version? iPhones do not, as far as I am aware, and require the user to manually initiate the download and installation of the newest iOS firmware; this - of course - requires the user to be logged in already, at which point the data is accessible anyway.

In other words, it sounds like this proposed vulnerability involves you being on the other side of the airlock hatchway already.

about a month ago
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Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

Somebody Is Using My Re:So everything is protected by a 4 digit passcod (504 comments)

More importantly, you can also disable "simple passwords" in IOS and use a longer and more complex alpha-numeric password. These passcodes can be up to 37 characters long, utilizing any of 77 different characters (upper & lowercase, numbers and some punctuation).

If you are really worried about the security of your data, you should enable complex passcodes. The default 4-number PIN is really there more to stop curious friends from getting onto your device than preventing a determined hacker (or law-enforcement officer) from getting access.

about a month ago
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What To Expect With Windows 9

Somebody Is Using My Re:If it's not like Vista or 8.0 (Vista II)... (545 comments)

On the flip side you can't even receive windows patches without a Microsoft account on windows 8.

While I can't speak for Windows 8.0, you do not need a Microsoft account for Windows 8.1. You will still be able to receive all patches without issue without ever creating a Live/Hotmail/whatever Microsoft account. Plus, you really should be on 8.1 anyway; it is a free update and as 8.0 is end-of-life as far as Microsoft is concerned, you won't be getting anymore patches for that version anyway.

True, you do require a Microsoft account for many other features of Windows 8x, such as the Store, but that is to be expected as they expect the apps to be tied to a particular account (even the free ones, which is annoying). The functionality of other apps will vary; for instance, the OneDrive app (ne Skydrive) will not work unless you log-on with a Microsoft account but others work just as if you were on Windows7.

However, WindowsUpdate works fine even if you never log-on with anything but your local account.

I think Microsoft's attempt to tie its Windows OS to its online services is a terrible idea and probably should run them afoul of another monopoly investigation, but at least this one area Microsoft didn't screw up.

about a month ago
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The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming

Somebody Is Using My Re:Crouching Microtransactions, Hidden DRM (292 comments)

Overall the video game industry is dying

The industry isn't dying; it's just facing many of the same problems that the movie industry faced in the late '60s through the early '80s.

During the so-called "New Hollywood" period, there was a shift as many commonly-loved genres (westerns, musicals, big epics) started to fall out of favor, with a resultant loss of profitability. The big studios started floundering, especially as the increasingly lost control of the theaters. The independent auteurs took up the slack, and now-famous names like Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas made their debuts. Giant epics fell from grace and smaller (and cheaper) movies became more popular. New technologies - often created by the independents, who didn't have the cash to do things the old - and expensive - way, brought new options to moviemakers. Old genres were reinvented and new ones created, reinvigorating the industry, leading to the era of summer blockbusters. Meanwhile, the old studios had to open themselves up to buy-outs from outside investors, and take on new lessons about proper corporate governance.

It is easy to see parallels with the game industry of today. Customers no longer find the popular genres of yesterday quite as fulfilling as they did a few years back and the big developers seem to be having trouble offering new options. Fortunately, the "indie" game developer is reinvigorating the market, and these days there seems to be more excitement about the indie games than big-name titles like Destiny or Call of Duty XXIV. The publishers are also struggling as their traditional means of distribution is changing from retail sales to digital. The indies are also proving it is no longer necessary to spend $100 million on a game, utilizing new technologies like procedural generation to create worlds as grand as those made expensively by hand.

The game industry is not dying, it is just in transition. And like the Hollywood Renaissance of the '80s, I hope the game industry will rebound to bring us bigger and better experiences in the next decade.

about a month ago
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Oculus Rift CEO Says Classrooms of the Future Will Be In VR Goggles

Somebody Is Using My Re:Not likely. (182 comments)

Even if VR really was the awesome teaching tool that the CEO claims it to be, it still doesn't solve the real issue: teaching teachers to use them. And I'm not talking about the basic "dur, how I turn on?" technical issues but helping teachers understand how to use these new tools in their curriculum. What tasks is VR appropriate for (and for which tasks it isn't). When and how do you use VR to help students learn? Seeing as how films and TV are still of dubious use in the classroom, I suspect that by the time teachers would actually learn how to appropriately use VR in the classroom, it will be a long-forgotten fad everywhere else.

Mind, this is no complaint about the teachers or their abilities, who are usually hard-working, well-intentioned and struggling under often contradictory rules and goals. Rather, I take issue with the idea that you can just toss technology at the problem without first understanding how it can help in education (and do a better job than existing tools) and then magically expect educators to understand this new miracle tech. One of the great problems facing US education is that our teachers are not continually be taught and re-taught themselves. For most educators, once they graduate, that's it; they aren't required to update their skill sets throughout the rest of their careers (unlike, say, doctors or lawyers who have to attend continuing-education courses). If we expect our technology to assist the teachers in doing their jobs, we need to make sure the teachers themselves know how to best make use of it.

about a month ago
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How Astrophysicists Hope To Turn the Entire Moon Into a Cosmic Ray Detector

Somebody Is Using My Waiting for the inevitabl (74 comments)

I'm just wondering how long before the anti-science crowd (or the news media, in order to drum-up readership) starts presenting this as some sort of dire threat, like they did with the CERN Large Hadron Collider. That had to be stopped because it might create black holes that would eat up the entire Earth.

How will this new development be presented? "It's focusing all the cosmic rays bouncing off the moon down to the Earth; it could boil us alive!"

Whatever they come up with, I hope they work quickly though; my terror levels are starting to drop. Any lower and I might start thinking again.

about a month and a half ago
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New Usage-Based Insurance Software Can Track Drivers Using Smartphones

Somebody Is Using My Re:Interesting, if optional (137 comments)

It's optional today. It'll be mandatory tomorrow.

Get the consumers used to the idea of being tracked and lead them in the direction you want to go with a carrot in the form of a tiny financial incentive (make up for the lost revenue by increasing insurance rates in general so these "savings" are swallowed up by higher average costs).

Then once you have enough people subscribed to the tracking, start making the tracking a part of any plan for /new/ users (possibly with an option to stop being tracked after a few years, with a substantial rate hike of course). After all, the insurance company has no idea if you are a good driver or not so it is only in their best interest for them to gather as much information on you as they can. After all, the company is taking a big risk by offering you insurance, you understand.

Later, force tracking on any existing users who don't already have it. Stop offering any discounts for its use; if the consumer wants insurance, they better prepare to have their every move tracked.

Meanwhile, make sure to use all this collected information for the company's maximum financial benefit. Sift it for every possible marketing use. Sell it to other companies. Deny coverage because it incriminates the user without checking to see if it is actually accurate. That sort of thing.

This is the way it always works, creeping slowly ahead to the detriment of the customer. The only way to stop this sort of thing is to squash it before it gets started.

about 1 month ago
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Verizon Pays $7.4 Million To Settle FCC Privacy Investigation

Somebody Is Using My Re:That'll teach them (50 comments)

Regardless of how quickly the money keeps rolling in, I'm sure that this defeat will allow Verizon to hike their rates to make up the "deficit".

That this sort of thing is allowed as "opt-out" is ridiculous anyway. Obviously this data has value to Verizon; they should be bargaining with its customers for its use. "Want to save $5.00 per year on your cell-phone bill? Click here to let us market your personal information." That they can essentially just take it from people without recompense unless they happen to object (via an unlikely to be read clause in some fine print at the bottom of a bill) seems a lot like a robber being allowed to take a person's TV unless he actually complains while the theft is taking place. "Um, excuse me, I was watching that..."

If the FCC really wants to appear to be standing up to the telecom industry, they ought to just tell them to make this sort of thing opt-in.

about 2 months ago

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