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An Accidental Wikipedia Hoax

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve It happens (173 comments)

I'm not very good at the HMTL linky thing, so I'll skip that, but interested parties may want to check the Wikipedia article on the late Ron Stewart, former hockey player in the NHL. If you go through the history of edits and look at the original article, you probably don't have to know much about hockey to realize that the article content is absurd with multiple references to his supposed love of pottery and other ridiculous claims. Yet the absurd and unsubstantiated claim from the original article that his father was a lumberjack and Stewart grew up in Mobile, Alabama (there is no way an NHL hockey player of his era could have grown up in the Deep South of the USA and made it to the NHL) persisted for over 3 and a half years before finally being removed. The current article on Stewart seems factual.


Ford, GM Sued Over Vehicles' Ability To Rip CD Music To Hard Drive

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Anything can happen in a US court (304 comments)

As an American with an above average grasp of the US legal system thanks to a long time friend who is an attorney, I can tell you that anything can happen if this case goes to court. Should the AARC lose? Yes. But will they? Who knows? Juries aren't made up of people who understand technology. If Ford and GM's lawyers botch the case or the jury has quite a few members who are obsessed with punishing rules breakers, the AARC can win. I agree that it seems likely that an undisclosed settlement will be reached. The AARC probably knows that most likely it won't prevail so getting something is better than losing in court and getting nothing and GM and Ford would prefer not to take the risk that a crazy jury will rule against them and view a limited settlement as the best option available. Even having judges decide cases is no guarantee against craziness. I know of one case where a court was overruled by an appellate court who accused the original court of making up the law out of nothing on the case in question. My attorney friend told me that he agreed with the appellate court ruling but he'd never seen a court use that kind of language before in slapping down another court.

2 days ago

Ridley Scott to Produce Philip K Dick's The Man In the High Castle

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Syfylys passes on an actual classic (141 comments)

This is why you put an executive in charge of a channel that actually likes the genre. Bonnie Hammer only saw SciFi Channel as a stepping stone to a more mainstream network (USA), and installed another idiot who didn't really care for the shows they were peddling when she left.

This. The fact that Syfy (hate that spelling) passed may actually be a good thing, but I can't really offer a thought on what it means that the BBC passed. Maybe it was a cost issue for them. Syfy's recent track record is not good unless Sharknado and it's ilk are all you are after.

2 days ago

Samsung Delays Tizen Phone Launch

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Windows Phone? (108 comments)

How did Windows Phone get in that group. That's the 3rd largest ecosystem and growing rapidly with multiple billions behind it. It has shipped and is shipping. Unitwise it is over 1/3rd of of iOS sales. Definitely 3rd place but not marginal, or non-existant.

Are they "growing rapidly" in any developed market like the USA, Canada, EU, Japan, Australia, New Zealand? The only person I know who has one lives in Taiwan and she admitted to me she bought it for cost reasons but would have preferred an Android or iPhone. And billions of what, exactly, behind it? If you mean sales then that is certainly not true. If you mean Microsoft is throwing billions of dollars at trying to get suckers to buy them, maybe. They don't even advertise Windows Phone on TV any more in the USA and at least a few years ago they were doing that.

2 days ago

Netflix Reduces Physical-Disc Processing, Keeps Prices the Same

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve I hear ya, Nom du Keyboard (353 comments)

I feel the same way you do, Nom du Keyboard. My biggest complaint about Netflix streaming is that they don't have what I want to see. Now I admit that my tastes are not typical, so I get that if I want to see some Japanese sword fighting film from the 1970s, I'm probably going to have to get a DVD. But when I actually want to see a Hollywood movie, I am always finding that I can't stream it from Netflix. If they stopped their disc service, I might as well stop being a customer at that point. Other than 2 TV shows from a few years ago that I missed when they were on, I've found Netflix's streaming offers to be very poor. I would like to know what people watch who love the streaming from Netflix because there sure are plenty of them.

about two weeks ago

No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:I can't ever work for IBM again .. (282 comments)

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that those terms won't be enforceable in what they call "right to work" states in the USA. In those states I know of businesses that try to enforce restrictions like that, but the only reason they work is because the employees don't know their legal rights, not because the restrictions are actually legal in those states.

about two weeks ago

Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Let us keep our thoughts with our Kremlin frien (667 comments)

Russia or the separatists in Eastern Ukraine might have done this -- although no-one is sure what they would stand to gain from it. Ukraine's own military might have done it (they've done it before and denied it vehemently until it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt).

Nobody seriously thinks that Russia did this, per se. Do many of us think that they armed separatists who did it? Yes. Really, you're going to play the "But what would they have to gain?" card? It's not about gain, it's about incompetence. It's generally thought that the separatists thought it was a Ukrainian military plane. As far the old "Ukraine has done it before" charge goes, I talked about this one last week, you are referring to the Siberian Airlines flight 1812 shootdown of Oct. 2001, no doubt. Well, at first Ukraine sort of admitted it, sort of denied it. There's still talk in some circles that President Kuchma, a buddy of sorts of Putin, agreed to take the heat on this one in exchange for some sort of future favor, although I have no idea what he got out of it. Ukraine played up their hillbilly role by basically saying "We think a reflection off the water caused this terrible accident. We so stupid! Not know what we do! Duh!" Well, it's certainly possible that their military did it, but I can't rule out that they just took the blame to save Putin's face. I've been to Ukraine and in those days, there was a lot of scraping and bowing in the direction of Mother Russia so I certainly think it's possible that Ukraine just claimed to do it to make Russia look good.

about two weeks ago

Russia Prepares For Internet War Over Malaysian Jet

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Propaganda won't help this time (503 comments)

I agree with your post in general, but I want to point out a couple of exceptions. In English you're supposed to say "Ukraine" and not "the Ukraine" since Ukraine is an independent country and not a part of the USSR. The only people who know the difference and insist on "the Ukraine" are Russian sympathizers, so you're actually picking a side you may not wish to pick by saying "the Ukraine". Rules for languages other than English may be different. Don't agree with me? Then go to a website for a Ukrainian embassy in an English speaking country and you will see that they only say Ukraine and not "the Ukraine". I've been to Ukraine. I know.

Right now there's no evidence that any US citizens were on the plane, so the US seems to have not lost anyone in the crash. As far as what the Netherlands will do, well, to me they are sort of the kings of wussies in Europe so while citizens are going to be upset, based on posts here I get the distinct impression that Dutch people or at least the ones on Slashdot always pick the wrong side in a dispute. I wouldn't be surprised if the Dutch in particular view Russia as the aggrieved party in their dispute with Ukraine and start to push for the explanation that Ukraine did it and won't admit it.

about two weeks ago

Malaysian Passenger Plane Reportedly Shot Down Over Ukraine

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Seems like old times (752 comments)

And those even older may remember Korean Air Lines Flight 007 and Korean Air Lines Flight 902 (both shot down by the Soviet Union). It seems they have done it again.

There was also Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 in 2001. Rumors have existed in certain circles that incompetent Russian soldiers shot it down by accident and Ukrainian President Kuchma agreed for Ukraine to take the blame in exchange for some sort of favor from Putin. Ukraine officially denied responsibility but they did offer compensation to the victim's families which is the usual legal dodge of not officially admitting guilt in case you get sued. My money in this case today is that Russia shot the Malaysian Airlines plane down. I expect US aviation experts to come to that conclusion and for Russia to deny it and insist that it's all part of the standard "Blame Russia" theme the West is currently playing.

about two weeks ago

Today In Year-based Computer Errors: Draft Notices Sent To Men Born In the 1800s

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (205 comments)

While the linked to article, a US TV station news site, does call it a "draft notice", I suppose I should explain to the non-US people here that this is not technically correct. There has been no draft in the US since the end of the Vietnam War. For roughly 40 years now, the US has had an all volunteer army. What Selective Service is required to do is to contact US citizen males on their 18th birthday and advise them that for the next 10 years they need to let Selective Service know their new address every time they move because in theory, in a national emergency Congress could pass a law reinstating the military draft and Selective Service is required to maintain accurate records of those who might theoretically be subject to such a draft. Whether such a draft would ever be done again is a great question, given how Congress currently seems incapable of passing anything non-controversial, let alone something as controversial as reinstating the draft. A crackpot Congressman or two has tried to get the draft reinstated and it's never had enough support to even get a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. Whatever this is, technically speaking it's not a "draft notice".

Not to digress, but for those who don't know, the draft was very controversial during the Vietnam War, with the rich and powerful were able to get their sons exceptions to the draft or get them plum assignments in the National Guard that wouldn't require them to actually go to Vietnam. Listen to Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son", which was written about the practice. There was so much animosity about the unfairness of the draft and the compulsion to fight in a war that nobody but a small number of politicians seemed to want that the US switched to a voluntary system, but one of the deals cut to move to this system was that Selective Service had to know where to get young men should the draft ever get reinstated. And yes, female US citizens are not subject to this at all.

about three weeks ago

Maldives Denies Russian Claims That Secret Service Kidnapped a Politician's Son

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Consipricy nuts, go! (100 comments)

Actually, the only question I have is why the US didn't just say that Maldives law enforcement was responsible for the arrest in the first place. It could've been spun as good PR for both countries - "Cooperation Between US, Maldives Law Enforcement Leads to Arrest of Card Hacker" or somesuch. That would've quelled any questions about who was responsible for the arrest in the first place as well.

How do you know that they didn't? The only thing we saw in Slashdot a few days ago was some article without any sources that seemed to claim that US agents were going buck wild in Maldives and made the arrest themselves. I, and others, pointed out in that thread that the article was likely a very badly written summary and I was sure that the Maldives made any arrest and only after a valid arrest warrant came through. Yes, I told (some of) you so.

about three weeks ago

The Lovelace Test Is Better Than the Turing Test At Detecting AI

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Computer Chess (285 comments)

Oddly computer chess programs may already meet this criteria. The programs usually apply a weight or value to a move and a weight and a value to the consequences down stream of the move. But there are times when the consequences are of equal value at some event horizon and random choices must be applied. As a consequence sequences of moves may be made that no human has ever made and the programmer could not really predict either. As machines have gotten more able the event horizon is at a deeper level. But we might reach the point at which only the player playing white can ever hope to win and the player with black may always lose. We are not in danger of a human ever being able to do that unless we alter his brain.

I disagree with your conclusions about computer chess, although you are quite right that it seems unlikely that if chess is ever "solved" (this is the correct term for what you talk about) so that the white player can always force a win that humans will be capable of remembering the data required to always force a win. And chess is a theoretically solvable game.

Computer chess at the highest levels like Deep Blue is little more than a highly specialized data base lookup. The laws of chess require you to have to make a move within time constraints, so if the program can't pick between equally good choices, it would have to rely on some kind of random choice that the programmer would have allowed for (ie. use a random number generator or pick the line likely to result in more exchange of material, etc.). In the early days of computing it was thought that for computers to get really good at chess, they would have to be able to use some kind of AI, but damn IBM for realizing that they could cheat and simply throw massive amounts of processors, computer memory and massive databases of moves at the problem rather than having to actually do real AI work for computers to beat humans at it. That Deep Thought is just a variation on Deep Blue where it's really good at searching through databases of stored information rather than being able to actually do any real kind of AI work. Basically Deep Blue and Deep Thought are brute forcing a solution through technology rather than actually breaking any kind of AI ground, although they may have some really cool and nifty search algorithms to do the job that others lack.

Yes, it's certainly possible for any chess game to get "out of book" and get a sequence of moves where the outcome isn't known, but that can easily by handled by programming approaches that have existed for decades. For example, a program may look to see if the opponent has left a piece undefended by mistake and simply grab it if it doesn't seem to be a deliberate sacrifice (ie. "If I take piece A, will that leave me vulnerable to a next move attack by a different piece?"), you can try to simply exchange material, evaluate positional strength and play to that (ie. "I'm strong on the king side and my opponent is weak there, so I'll push for a king side attack") and so on. These kinds of approaches have been in the best computer chess programs for decades now and there's nothing novel about them.

about three weeks ago

TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve You're actually disproving your own arguments (702 comments)

Keep in mind, that TSA has yet to have stopped a single bombing. The only reasons we've not had a plane go down is due to lack of effort, not any increase in security. The few attempts that have been made, made it through the TSA with ease and it was the efforts of passengers or the stupidity of the attacker that saved the plane.

The famous "few attempts that have been made" originated in foreign countries, not in the USA. You admit that there is a "lack of effort". Huh. You'd like us to believe that this is because "teh TSA am stoopid" or something that amounts to that, but in fact it very well could be that the bad guys have decided that the likelihood of getting a bomb on a plane is not "100%" or close to it like you seem to believe but quite a bit below that. I'd say maybe a 5-10% chance of getting through security successfully. Suicide bombers are a limited quantity and the chance of failure could be a disaster because if the would be bomber gets caught by the TSA, the US government now has access to the type of bomb being used and may be able to get the failed terrorist to talk. This is exactly what happened with Richard Reid.

People have car alarms not because they believe that it makes their car impossible to break into but because it raises the bar so that it may be more trouble than it's worth. Actually I think the TSA is working because if it was truly as bad as you and other complainers claim, there would have been a successful attempt already. I think the bad guys have decided that the risk is too high that they won't get away with it and the success would not be worth the risk of getting caught.

I wish I could find out when the last time is that you even flew to/from/within the USA. I had a friend a few years ago who would go into a full blown hissy fit and rant about the TSA, making pretty much the same arguments as you. He last flew around 1998 and he is very likely to never in his life get on a plane again. It has nothing at all to do with the TSA - he has no reason or desire to ever travel by plane. Yet from all his complaining you'd think that he was some kind of hard core road warrior who was at a different US airport every week. I have found that in general the people who complain the most about the TSA are the people who fly the least.

about three weeks ago

Eric Schmidt and Entourage Pay a Call On Cuba

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve It's not illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba (190 comments)

Let's get this clear - it's not illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba. Not at all.

Got that? Good. Now what is illegal, thanks to President Kennedy, is for Americans to spend money there without prior authorization from the US Department of Treasury. This is how the US government "gets" people who go to Cuba without permission. See, Kennedy signed the order during the Cold War and to prevent the Communists from arguing that the US was repressive and taking away the freedom of its citizens to go to Cuba, Kennedy simply made it illegal to spend money there unless you got special authorization to do so. Very rarely are US citizens truly forbidden from traveling anyway. I think in the past there may have been a few places where we actually legally couldn't travel to, but I'm not sure if any exist any more. I suppose it's worth mentioning that generally it's only when a Republican is president that the US government gets interested in prosecuting citizens for spending money in Cuba without prior authorization. This has not been a high priority of the Clinton or Obama presidencies.

Granted the bit about being able to travel to Cuba legally but not able to spend money there without prior authorization is a fine line and essentially the legal cases against such travelers have involved the US government arguing (probably without proof) that the traveler couldn't go there and not spend money. It's all a crock. It's not well known but my understanding (I have no personal experience here) is that the Obama administration has made it much easier for US citizens to go to Cuba legally via authorized cultural travel groups so there's not really a reason to just skirt the law and go without permission. The Bush administration had much tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba and a history of prosecuting citizens who got caught going there without prior authorization.

about a month ago

China Builds Artificial Islands In South China Sea

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:The hypocrisy (192 comments)

You raise some good points and you may be right, but I wondering if this is actually a sign that the CCP is losing control over the PLA (People's Liberation Army). For years to keep the military at their beck and call, the CCP has been working the propaganda machine into overdrive. My experience is that the average Chinese person, at least those in the big cities and not rural people, doesn't really trust the government or believe everything they say, but the propaganda works really well for those who join the PLA. I feel that China's military is pretty unprofessional and looking to start trouble and this is because they've been indoctrinated to believe that everybody is against good old China because of jealousy and if China doesn't fight tooth and nail for everything, they'll wind up with nothing. Throw in a few references to treaties they don't like that were signed in the 1800s (none of which are in force today, by the way) to bolster the claim that they've always been the victim and you have a military that acts like a rabid dog. Also, it doesn't help that the constitution of China pledges the PLA to defend the CCP, not China itself. So the CCP is at once both the state and more important than the state at the same time. It may be that all these years of indoctrination are bearing their inevitable ugly fruit now and they have to keep them busy building islands so they don't try to force an invasion of Taiwan, something that would possibly result in the US and Japan attacking China over.

about a month ago

TrueCrypt Author Claims That Forking Is Impossible

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Pissing war (250 comments)

This is a pissing war. Both sides may be sincere and well intentioned, but it's still a pissing war. Here's a manager type summary. I'll use TC to represent the TC developer who responder and Forkers for the person representing the people who want to fork it.

Forkers: We'd like your permission to fork your code and get the rights to it. We could just fork it without your permission and others no doubt will if you refuse to comply. We want your trademarks and your OK to put the forked code into a different license then you used. We've started looking at your code and while we do agree that there are problems there that desperately need to be fixed, we feel strongly that fixing your broken code is a million times easier than writing this from scratch. So will you play ball with us?
TC: Our code is so broken that you need to start from scratch. That's why we abandoned it - didn't think it was possible to fix without doing a complete re-write. So no, we're not going to "play ball".

about a month and a half ago

Why China Is Worried About Japan's Plutonium Stocks

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Logical Consequences (398 comments)

China worried about the logical consequences of its own provocations against Japan as well as failing to heel those of North Korea (who essentially only China has open lines of communication).

Actually, I think you're wrong on both accounts. The military in China is a little bit crazy. Did you know that they are pledged by the constitution to support the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) rather than China itself? Think about that for a while. The civilian CCP government does control the PLA (People's Liberation Army), but for years now the PLA has been gaining in influence. I'm not sure even the CCP government really cares all that much about its provocations any more because they don't believe anybody will stand up to them, not even the USA.

China and North Korea are stuck with each other. Russia had the good sense to get out of that crazy game of financially supporting them early in Yeltsin's presidency, and that left China holding the bag. China doesn't have as much influence as you might think, nor do they use what little they have as well as they could. It's not well known by the public, but China has a lot of business deals with North Korea where basically they get rare earths and other minerals for below market rates. These deals are very important to China and are the main reason they prop up North Korea. China is really tired of North Korea behaving badly and causing trouble in its backyard, but they fear even more a united democratic Korea that might (who knows?) have US troops stationed in it near the Chinese border. So like it or not, they are committed firmly to the status quo because it represents a "least evil" option to them. When China says that they want a nuclear free Korean peninsula, they are quite sincere about that. They don't trust North Korea to maybe not use a nuke against them in anger or by mistake as their missile systems might simply go the wrong way and blow up in China by accident. But they aren't willing to do anything to get rid of the Kims and the Kims aren't getting rid of their nukes because they believe that their family survival depends on it. The only ways that North Korea is ever going to be nuclear free is that either the US is going to attack them and gamble that they can destroy their few nuclear missiles before they leave North Korean airspace or (much less likely) the regime will collapse quickly for some unforeseen reason and the new government will get rid of the nukes.

about a month and a half ago

Why China Is Worried About Japan's Plutonium Stocks

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Japan is already a nuclear power. (398 comments)

It is quite likely they have a few that they don't talk about just as Israel has a few they don't talk about. And while we're at it, South Korea probably has a couple as well.

Actually, it's not likely at all that either Japan or South Korea "have a few they don't talk about". Do I believe that both countries could possibly produce a nuclear weapon? Yes. But untested nukes are useless because they may not work. Neither country has ever carried out a test. Believe me, if they did, you would know about it. South Korea seems a bit iffier here because they've had some satellite launch problems so I've got a hunch that they may not necessarily be ready right now to make a nuke. With time? Yes. Absolutely. If I had to bet on it right now, I'd bet that Japan could probably produce one that would work correctly on a first try. The only only other country in Asia that was ever rumored to have nuclear weapon capability was Taiwan because they were strongly suspected of helping Israel and South Africa do nuclear testing decades ago, but as a Taiwan watcher I can say that if they ever had the capability, they abandoned it and it would be very difficult to impossible for them to quickly get that going again. In fact, I feel pretty confident that they don't have even one nuclear weapon and there is a chance that they simply don't have as much knowledge as Israel and South Africa did at the time. South Africa willingly became a nuclear free state but if you look carefully you find things where SA government officials admit that they know how to make nuclear weapons, but they chose not to do so.

about a month and a half ago

Nokia Extorted For Millions Over Stolen Encryption Keys

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Sounds like the Keystone Cops (89 comments)

For those who don't understand the reference, the Keystone Cops were incompetent policemen in a series of American silent movies. I read the article linked to in the article and basically Nokia dropped the money off in a paper bag in a parking lot and the police watched the pickup and then completely lost the blackmailer. To this day they have no idea at all who got the money and it seems that Nokia has only the word of the blackmailer that they wouldn't use the keys for nefarious purposes.

about a month and a half ago

Mozilla To Sell '$25' Firefox OS Smartphones In India

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Your wish is available now (82 comments)

A mobile OS that isn't Apple's Garden of Pure Ideology, or linked directly to the mothership in Redmond if you actually want to do much of anything would also be nice to see.

Good morning, Mr. Rip Van Winkle. There are mobile phones that run an OS called Android that you seem not to have heard of but exactly meet your criteria. You might want to check that out. You can actually buy those in the USA right now.

about a month and a half ago


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