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Comments

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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

alispguru Reason is concentration (521 comments)

The "bad for wildlife" question basically comes down to:

* how much mass you have to move
* how much land area you have to occupy

per watt generated.

Coal and hydro lose because they both require a lot of mass (water and coal) and a lot of area (dammed waterway, mines and transport).

Nuclear and geothermal win because they both require very little mass and very little area other than the plant itself - uranium ore has at least 1000 times the energy per gram as coal.

Any kind of solar is in the middle because of the large area needed to capture relatively dilute solar energy.

about a month ago
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Don't Want Google In Your House? Here Are a Few Home-Tech Startups To Watch

alispguru Given the choices, go with Apple (88 comments)

Realistically, your choices are:

* Facebook and their ilk, who will sell your individually identifiable data without a second thought.

* Google, who will absolutely sell your info, probably aggregated. At least they're upfront about it.

* Apple, who views their non-release of your data as a market differentiator and thus a valuable part of their brand.

As long as people choose Apple for privacy, Apple will value privacy and not sell their data.

about 3 months ago
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Bill Gates To Stanford Grads: Don't (Only) Focus On Profit

alispguru Or maybe Do as I say, not as I did (284 comments)

That way you'll never be in my position of wealth and generosity, and my reputation will have less competition.

That's Gates for you - always competing.

about 2 months ago
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Kerry Says US Is On the "Right Side of History" When It Comes To Online Freedom

alispguru Is he ignorant, stupid, or lying? (261 comments)

Unfortunately those are the only three choices here.

about 4 months ago
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Skilled Manual Labor Critical To US STEM Dominance

alispguru Of course do this, but... (367 comments)

Don't go thinking that learning trade X or skill set Y or getting credential Z means anyone is set for life.

There are no simple fixes for the current situation where anybody's livelihood(*) can be reduced in value by automation. All the old middle-class certainties like:

- I own a house, which is an asset whose value will only go up
- I have a college degree, which guarantees me a middle-class job
- I have trade labor skills that have been valuable for many years, and will be valuable for the foreseeable future

are no longer certain.

(*) If you're lucky enough to have monetary assets of $500,000+ that you can invest conservatively, and are disciplined enough to live on only the proceeds, you're pretty safe.

about 5 months ago
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The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science

alispguru There should be a three-line bumper sticker (600 comments)

QUESTION AUTHORITY
Listen to Authority's response
If Authority is right, accept it

Most people stop at the first step.

about 5 months ago
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It Was the Worst Industrial Disaster In US History, and We Learned Nothing

alispguru Coal sludge is bad, hyping it doesn't help (290 comments)

One billion gallons is about 10 billion pounds.

There was 140,000 pounds arsenic in 10 billion pounds of sludge.

Concentration of arsenic in sludge is 1.4 * 10e5 / 1e10 = 1.4 * 10e-5

Or about 1 part in 100,000.

This is why they got away with it. Coal ash sludge is nasty, but not quite nasty enough to be a hazardous substance per se. Hell, one of the best ways to get rid of it is to add it to concrete, which is then poured where people live.

The figure you should worry about is the change in the arsenic level in the river after the spill. I didn't see that figure in the article.

about 6 months ago
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Snowden A Hero? Gates Says No, Woz Says Yes

alispguru Gates and Woz are bad privacy references (335 comments)

Both of them can choose exactly how much privacy they want, because they're both rich. Gates is maybe three orders of magnitude richer than Woz, but both of them are at least three orders of magnitude away from the American median income ($45K or so).

Also, neither of them can just go out in public in the US without being recognized.

That's the problem with the privacy "discussions" in the US - most of the people who can actually change things are members of a minority who gave up big swaths of their privacy, voluntarily, as an entrance requirement for their profession. They can say "privacy is an illusion - get over it" with a straight face, because they haven't had any themselves for decades.

They may be over it, but I'm not, and it pisses me off that they get to choose my privacy level.

about 6 months ago
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Stanford Researchers Spot Medical Conditions, Guns, and More In Phone Metadata

alispguru If it's just metadata... (193 comments)

... then Ms. Feinstein should have no problem with a FOIA request for the metadata for her cellphone.

I bet it would take about an hour to find a call from a lobbyist, received during a break in a legislative session.

about 6 months ago
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Crowdsourcing Confirms: Websites Inaccessible on Comcast

alispguru DNS flaky, Comcast incompetence, Comcast malice (349 comments)

Those are the possibilities, in decreasing order of probability.

As much as I despise Comcast, they are unlikely to deliberately block random DNS lookups.

about 6 months ago
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College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy

alispguru Extracurricular performance correlation? (134 comments)

Do you have a source for that other than "admission folks"? Casual web searching didn't find anything.

about 6 months ago
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Vast Surveillance Network Powered By Repo Men

alispguru I find government scarier (352 comments)

Government can afford to do scanning that doesn't make money.

Government can send people using deadly force after you.

Government can declare itself immune from the law if it makes a mistake.

It's much harder for non-governments to do any of the above.

about 6 months ago
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Who's On WhatsApp, and Why?

alispguru Zuckerberg knows exactly what he's doing (280 comments)

He creates/offers/buys a free service that by its nature can learn a lot about its users. He then gradually relaxes privacy assurances and changes the sharing defaults to "we can do whatever we want with information we collect about you", and sells the info to advertisers.

Anybody who thinks this won't happen to WhatsApp hasn't been paying attention.

about 7 months ago
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Not Just Healthcare.gov: NASA Has 'Significant Problems' With $2.5B IT Contract

alispguru ACES hardware support is OK. Now, software... (176 comments)

I am typing this on an ACES 15" MacBook Pro. We're supposed to get refreshed every three years; I got refreshed at the change to ACES, which was less than three years, but they gave me a year-old MacBook model, which was a little chintzy. They did give us decent docking stations, though, and they do replace and restore when stuff breaks within a reasonable amount of time.

My beef with ACES is their support of NASA-required software. This machine is running 10.8.3, because ACES has not blessed for 10.9 the required third-party software for whole-disk encryption, remote patch support, remote backup, and remote access.

My previous machine ran 10.6 well into the 10.8 era due to ACES' inability to support this steaming load, and I would put the odds of them certifying a load for 10.9 before 10.10 ships to be below 50%.

about 7 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Convince an ISP To Bury Cable In Your Neighborhood?

alispguru I've done it. (324 comments)

I had one critical advantage. Our HOA board members were being complete dicks about the clause in question(*) - so much so that the management company (a third party paid by the HOA to run things in accordance with state law) was sympathetic to me, a new home owner, and advised me on the exact process for changing the covenant.

With their advice, my wife and I created a one-page proxy form which we took door-to-door and got our neighbors to sign, one at a time. It took a month, but we eventually got proxies from just over 75% of the owners.

(*) I have since learned that this is pretty much the natural state of all HOA board members.

about 8 months ago
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If I Had a Hammer

alispguru Other people saw this coming a long time ago (732 comments)

James Albus wrote a book in 1976 called Peoples' Capitalism. He proposed that the government create a mutual fund that invests in automated industries and pays dividends to every US citizen.

Eventually the fund's dividends would be enough to live on, so nobody would be required to work, and everyone would get a minimal share of the proceeds of automating everything.

Imagine that we had started doing this in, say, 1980.

about 8 months ago
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Many Mac OS Users Not Getting Security Updates

alispguru Some of us have no choice (380 comments)

I have a MBP provided to me by a contractor to a Large Government Agency.

It has mandated anti-virus (which kills the battery), mandated third-party whole-disk-encryption (instead of File Vault), mandated third-party remote backup (instead of Time Machine), mandated third-party remote access...

The contractor support team routinely takes a year or more to certify the mandated suite for new OS releases.

I will probably be on 10.8 on this MBP in 2015, considering we leaped forward from 10.6 last year.

about 8 months ago
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The Internet's Network Efficiencies Are Destroying the Middle Class

alispguru You're right - the problem is speed (674 comments)

The internet now makes it possible to blow up industries faster than ever before - so fast we don't have time to retrain and reabsorb the people displaced by the changes.

Any one change is good for the consumer and bad/disruptive for the producers, because the particular good or service is now cheaper.

The problem comes in when everything changes at once, and all the changes make people less necessary.

about 8 months ago

Submissions

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Fortress project wrapping up

alispguru alispguru writes  |  about 2 years ago

alispguru writes "The Fortress project (readable, highly parallel scientific code for the JVM) is shutting down after almost ten years of effort.

This is really sad. I thought that if anyone had a chance to put a stake through Fortran's heart, it would be Guy Steele."

Link to Original Source
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Apple's Exclusion of Apps - for multitasking?

alispguru alispguru writes  |  more than 4 years ago

alispguru writes "AppleInsider claims that Apple's restricting of iPhone apps to their native toolkit is for technical reasons — apps created with their toolkit will play nice with the new iPhone 4.0 multi-tasking. Sounds fishy to me..."
Link to Original Source
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alispguru alispguru writes  |  more than 7 years ago

alispguru writes "With options like the "first programming language" poll, and one extra:

Assembly
Fortran
Pascal
Basic
C/C++
Java
Perl
Other
I Know Only One"

Journals

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There are things WORSE than XML

alispguru alispguru writes  |  more than 10 years ago

As bad as XML is, I would be the first to admit it is possible to create a worse language for representing nested property lists. In fact, I encountered one in actual, operational use in my travels as a migrant information worker and NASA contractor.

The name of this atrocity is Object Definition Language, and it is a standard format for metadata that NASA attaches to many of its major remote sensing imagery products, as well as data from planetary probe missions.

You should really look at the PDF linked above to get the true flavor of this stuff, but I can give you a quick taste right here. S-expressions, XML, and ODL all are syntaxes for representing nested property lists.

S-expressions are what you get if you ask John McCarthy.

XML is what you get when you ask people who know and love HTML/SGML

ODL is what you get when you ask people who know and love FORTRAN.

I'm serious! The simple S-expression

(foo "bar")

would be this in XML:

<foo>bar</foo>

and this in ODL:

object = foo
  value = "bar"
end_object = foo

I got to know about this stuff as part of several tool-writing exercises where we were trying to make complex, deeply nested ODL intelligible to its scientist users. The "solution" we came up with involved parsing the ODL, translating it into XML, then hosing the XML through different XSLT translators to generate pretty HTML.

As a result of those projects, I now know more about ODL, XSLT, and DHTML than I really want to.

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