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Comments

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Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

billstewart Re:Cold Fusion isn't like Perpetual Motion (975 comments)

No, constructing something impossible, like a perpetual motion machine, is impossible. Science quite often says "definitely" or "definitely not".

Constructing something highly unlikely but not provably impossible, like cold fusion, is highly unlikely, especially if you're doing stuff by accident instead of actually understanding theory, but what science says about cold fusion is "everybody assumed it wasn't possible, but somebody did it, and then we showed that what they did was bogus but interesting, so we're back to assuming it's probably not possible so you'd better do a really good job of explaining what you're doing if you want us to spend our time looking at it again."

3 days ago
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How English Beat German As the Language of Science

billstewart Re:Santa Ana's losing war (323 comments)

This was the negotiations that led up to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; Santa Ana really didn't want to be stuck with the not-really-conquered tribes if he was going to lose the good land north of them.

3 days ago
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Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers

billstewart Re:2G-wireless GPSs (re: rant.) (155 comments)

Oh, right, I never owned a 90s car :-) My wife's 1985 car lasted until 2001, my 1987 van lasted until 2012 (with one engine replacement), and I never played with the digital busses on either my 2012 car or my wife's 2001 car (which IIRC only had the dumber version of OBD, not the current CAN bus.) I suppose I should try that some time. Both of those cars have the electronic speedometer with analog readout you refer to.

3 days ago
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Lead Mir Developer: 'Mir More Relevant Than Wayland In Two Years'

billstewart Network Transparency Use Cases I use often (224 comments)

Many of the remote management applications I used to do with X are being replaced by HTTP interfaces, optionally with AJAX, or sometimes REST APIs, but there are still a number that aren't.

  • - Remote logins to run Unix shell - xterm really rocks for this (these days usually with X over SSH), as long as I'm using a Linux desktop, and it's a bit lame but workable from a Windows desktop (usually using Xming.)
  • - Windows Remote Desktop Protocol remote logins to Windows servers - RDP mostly works, though running any sort of video over it is painful, and audio's worse, even over Ethernets. VNC would be similar, if I were talking to a Unix machine.
  • - VMware console access to Unix or sometimes Windows VMs - the biggest problem here is that too many different applications are carving away chunks of the screen, so there's only 800x600 or maybe 1024x768 left; and I'm usually accessing the VMware server from a web browser on a Windows machine accessed by RDP through a firewall, so there's no real way to compare video speeds or get audio.

3 days ago
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Lead Mir Developer: 'Mir More Relevant Than Wayland In Two Years'

billstewart Supporting Mobile Devices on X or NeWS (224 comments)

We definitely have to dumb down protocols to run on mobile phones with 1024x768 screens and only 1 GHz CPUs and 1GB RAM, because they can't possibly run anywhere near as fast as they did on 1152x900 screens with 10 MHz CPUs and 4 MB RAM running X10, or 640x480 screens with 25-33 MHz 386 CPUs and (I forget how much, but not enough) RAM and X11 with Motif.

And yes, there were really good reasons for running NeWS instead of X, because some changes in which work you did on which end of the wire could make a huge difference in responsiveness and speed, and using Postscript meant that what you saw was really what you'd get, and it let you deal with problems like mouse tracking latency a lot better.

4 days ago
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Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers

billstewart Re:Auto deals worried? Luxury Cars, biz models (155 comments)

No, besides disliking competition in general, auto dealers and car makers have two big reasons to try to block Tesla sales

  • - Tesla sells high-priced cars, competing with the other high-priced high-profit-margin cars that dealers like to sell. They wouldn't be as worried about threats to the low-profit-margin econobox sales.
  • - They also threaten the whole business model that US car dealers have, affecting who gets what cut of the car buyer's money. This may bother the manufacturers less than the dealer, but it still upsets the whole value chain, especially if those evil Tesla car buyers then resell their old cars on Craigslist or some other Internet site instead of trading it in at the dealer or at least selling it to a used car lot.

4 days ago
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Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers

billstewart Re:Too many discrete components (155 comments)

I'd expect most of them are sensors for the various battery and motor things, or components to connect the sensors safely to the other electronics (opto-isolators, etc. to keep potentially high random voltages and currents from frying the whole system.) Once you've turned the analog data into bits, even with small-volume production it'd be fairly easy to use an FPGA or programmable microcontrollers to do the rest, rather than building lots of custom discrete parts.

4 days ago
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Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers

billstewart 2G-wireless GPSs (re: rant.) (155 comments)

My Garmin Nuvi had some cool features that depended on 2G, like using Google search instead of just built-in, and also checking movies, weather, etc. It also used that to get traffic data, instead of whatever other traffic data services are available. Now the 2G wireless is going away, since the carrier won't renew the contract, so there's no more traffic data :-( But at least it's a separate GPS, so I could replace it if I wanted to. (Instead, I use the AM radio you dislike to listen to Traffic Every 10 Minutes Radio.)

When the satellite XM radio free-with-new-car subscription on my current car ran out, no problem, that just meant there was one button on the dashboard that was no longer useful; the most likely interface to become obsolete is the Bluetooth cellphone support. There'd be a lot more risk of obsolescence if I'd gotten the hopelessly-overpriced navigation/radio/etc. console only that came with the fancy trim package (which also had the bigger engine that I didn't want, and the spare tire I really did need, and pushbutton combination door lock I'd also have liked.) While I like having a remote-control door lock, which is probably already insecure, it's built in to the keys, which means I have to carry a big clunky not-waterproof key system with me instead of a probably-waterproof slightly clunky RFID key like my wife's car has or a simple key like older cars - really annoying when I'm going surfing.

Digital speedometers might be lying; analog speedometers also might be lying, especially if there's a problem with the cable, or you've put on different sized tires.

4 days ago
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How English Beat German As the Language of Science

billstewart Santa Ana's losing war (323 comments)

Mexican history considers Santa Ana to be one of their least competent generals over the years. But after he lost, the US rejected his initial peace proposals, which would not only have given the invaders the land they got, but also the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. While they were officially Mexican territory at the time, the local Native Americans had other opinions about whether they were interested in being run by the Spanish or Mexican colonialists, and groups like the Apaches and Comanches wouldn't have been much more cooperative to the US than they were to the Mexicans.

about a week ago
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How English Beat German As the Language of Science

billstewart Re:German illegal? (323 comments)

Any argument that only has two sides is a boring and overly limited view of reality. Texas was part of Mexico at the time, and there were a bunch of illegal immigrant gringos who came in and wanted to be able to own slaves.

But separately from that, during the various wars in Europe in the early-mid 1800s, there were a lot of German immigrants who moved to Texas and the rest of Northern Mexico. The Texas German dialect is dying out, but you'll still see a lot of German culture in places like New Braunfels, some of the cooking in San Antonio, and a lot of mariachi music is strongly German oompah-band stuff.

about a week ago
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Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

billstewart Cold Fusion isn't like Perpetual Motion (975 comments)

Perpetual Motion violates the laws of physics - can't be done, so any patent application is bogus, either wrong or fraudulent, not worth wasting time on.*

Cold Fusion might or might not be possible - the scientific community at large hasn't seen a valid description of the physics or chemistry, and without somebody understanding the science, it's extremely unlikely that they'll engineer a successful implementation by tinkering around, and unlikely that somebody who's keeping the science a "trade secret" has actually done real science, as opposed to waving their hands around in ways that seem pleasing to their scientifically untrained eye, and the mere fact that they haven't blown themselves up isn't proof that it works.

* ("Free energy" is a different case - it usually refers to quackery, but sometimes is used to refer to things like taking advantage of heat differences in the ocean or earth or other things that you might be able to engineer usefully into a long-term economically viable power source, but probably can't.)

about a week ago
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Why the Trolls Will Always Win

billstewart RTFA, and articles like it (716 comments)

I've read too many articles like this recently to keep track of who said what, but one of them pointed out that women especially get attacked by trolls when they're starting to become well-known and people are listening to their opinions. Kathy Sierra, for instance, started the Head First line of programming books, which I found useful, and got enough sexist trolling that she left the business. It's happened to other authors I know as well. And of course there are the trolls who hate having women in gaming.

about two weeks ago
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Liking Analog Meters Doesn't Make You a Luddite (Video)

billstewart Presbyopia (155 comments)

As a guy in my 50s who now needs reading glasses, I'm finding digital displays increasingly frustrating, especially small cheap LCDs that aren't very distinct unless you're looking at them from straight on. I much prefer digital clocks, but if you can't tell a 3 from an 8 or 0 or a 1 from a 7, they're not very useful, and it's almost always easy to tell the big hand from the little hand. Similarly with digital meters, big numbers with fat segments are still easy to read, small skinny ones aren't.

about two weeks ago
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A Production-Ready Flying Car Is Coming This Month

billstewart Driveable Airplane, Needs Airport (203 comments)

It's not so much a flying car as an airplane that you can also drive. It's useful if you're a private pilot and want to be able to fly to a small airport and drive your plane from there instead of renting one. But it's still airplane physics, not cartoon physics, so you still need to take off from an airport instead of from your driveway like the Jetsons Flying Car my generation always wanted.

Any bets on when the first one gets to Burning Man?

about two weeks ago
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Dubai Police To Use Google Glass For Facial Recognition

billstewart Re:Enforce (122 comments)

The Constitution actually gave the slave states Congressional representation counting 2/3 of a person for slaves, even though the slaves didn't get the right to vote. It was a compromise between the Southerners who wanted to get 100% representation and the Northerners who mostly didn't want them counted at all. Effectively, it meant that a Southern white man's vote counted more than a free state man's vote, because it took fewer Southern whites to get a Congressman.

about two weeks ago
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Linux Foundation Announces Major Network Functions Virtualization Project

billstewart Re:Businessese Bingo and Telecom Workloads (40 comments)

No, the point of being a telecom company is to connect your customers together, move their data where they want it efficiently, and get them to pay you for it. Telecom workloads not only include digging ditches for your access line and running wavelength division multiplexors across them, they also include things like routing IPv4/IPv6, firewalls, load balancing, intrusion detection, preventing and mitigating DDOS, hosting CDNs, routing lots of private networks that all run RFC1918 addresses and maybe VLANs, MPLS, maintaining really large BGP tables, fast rerouting around failures, etc.

We're virtualizing that stuff instead of buying big expensive custom-built routers for the same reasons you're virtualizing your compute loads instead of stacking up lots of 1U machines. Internet-scale routers are blazingly expensive, and we want to use Moore's Law to do the compute-bound parts of the workload cheaply and efficiently and let us build new services quickly because we only have to upgrade the software, while using expensive custom hardware only for the things that really need it, plus a lot of that hardware is getting replaced by things like Openflow switches and SDN, which we'd like to take advantage of, and buying expensive dedicated-purpose hardware means you're often stuck overbuilding because the scale of your different types of workloads changes faster than you can redesign hardware.

Also, the transition of lots of enterprise corporate computing from traditional data center structures to clouds means that the communication patterns change a lot faster, and we need to keep up with them. This stuff does seem to be driven a lot more by the needs of the users (telecom and data center) than by the manufacturers of virtualization software or traditional hardware.

And yes, every bit of business buzzword bingo does flow across our desks.

about three weeks ago
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The Odd Effects of Being Struck By Lightning

billstewart I wasn't fundamentally altered by it. (191 comments)

The main change is that when I hear people say "You're more likely to get hit by lightning than to have X happen" I can say "I've already been hit by lightning."

Back around 2000, I was with a group of people at an observatory up in the mountains, which we'd reached by ski-lift-gondola, after some discussion about whether the weather was turning thundery and we should cancel it because we might get stuck there for the day which would mess up our schedule. The thunderstorm decided to show up, and I was outside the observatory looking at the mountains. A few raindrops started to fall, and a bolt of lightning bounced off the building and hit me on the head. The impact wasn't very hard, maybe like dropping a pen onto a hard floor from 5 feet. My wife yelled at me to get in out of the rain. And we did in fact get stuck up there for a few hours - the gondola system shut down when the lightning struck, leaving a gondola full of kids hanging about 100 feet from the observatory for a while before they could restart it, and once they had them safely unloaded they left it stopped until the storm was over.

The other effect was that I had to tell my wife about the previous time when the group I'd with had almost been hit by lightning, hiking at the top of Colorado mountains when the early-afternoon thunderstorm set in. We'd sat down in a low rock shelter, and some of the folks were having sparks from their fingers to the wet rocks, which were making a bit of a sizzling noise.

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

billstewart Wiretap Legality was Always a Loophole (354 comments)

The original court decisions that allowed wiretaps did so on the basis that telephone companies were third parties in the cases (so they didn't have standing to make 5th Amendment refuse-to-incriminate-yourself complaints, because they wouldn't be incriminated), and were corporations (so the government has the power to audit their business records, and phone bills are business records.) It was basically a loophole that was allowed because it was new technology and the government's lawyers could make some plausible arguments.

That's totally different from any supposed obligation to continue to provide services in a way that makes wiretaps useful. If Apple and Google want to provide good secure end-to-end encryption, they're allowed to. If they want to provide encryption with backdoors in it, the police can subpoena information they collect through those backdoors (though the FTC may have opinions about whether they're making honest claims about security of their products.)

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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US Senate passes Patent Overhaul Bill

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 3 years ago

billstewart writes "The US Senate passed a patent-reform bill, S.23 aka "America Invents", which changes US patents from First-to-Invent to First-to-File. (thomas.loc.gov Status Query, Computerworld Article, National Journal with comments pro and con, SF Chron). Patrick Leahy sponsored it. Passed 95-5, House expecting to introduce similar bill Real Soon. Silicon Valley businesses large and small were mostly against it, IBM was for it. Dianne Feinstein attempted an amendment to remove the First-to-File part, but voted for it anyway after that failed. Barbara Boxer voted against.

The US patent system has been first-to-invent for a long time, while Europe has been first-to-file. There's lots of other detail, largely intended to reduce the amount of patent litigation, improve the coordination with non-US patents, potentially improve the problems with patents on things with prior art and obviousness, and affect some tax issues."

Link to Original Source
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Pirate Bay is now Officially Notorious

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 3 years ago

billstewart writes "The U.S. Trade Representative's first global "Review of Notorious Markets" named Pirate Bay and Chinese search engine Baidu on a list of "notorious" sites for pirated goods and software. Most of the sites on the list were in China, and Pirate Bay's in Sweden, more or less, but other sites were in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Kiev, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Manila."
Link to Original Source
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Elonex announces £99 Linux laptop

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 6 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "Elonex is announcing a £99 Linux-based laptop for the UK education market. PDF Press Release. The debut will be at the Feb 28th Education Show and they won't actually be shipping until summerish. It weighs less than a kilo, has a 7" screen (no indication what resolution it is...), full qwerty keyboard, 1GB flash, 3 hour battery, speakers and headphone jack for playing MP3s. They're co-marketing it along with USB bracelets for kids who want to store more content (presumably supports regular USB sticks as well), and say that that will let kids use whatever laptop happens to be available. It doesn't say what Linux distro they're using, but they've got an online site for downloading more content.

While it's targeted for the education market (and part of a National Laptop Initiative), if they were selling it in the US I'd buy one — it sounds like a reasonable competitor to the Asus Eee, and closer to my toy budget.

One feature I'd really like to see on laptops these days is mechanical — it's having a USB jack that's set in some kind of indented docking space, so you can plug in a USB memory stick without having it stick out where it can get banged. There are some that have slots for compact flash or various SD cards, which can be a reasonable alternative, but memory sticks have become pretty universal."
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Microsoft to unveil virtualization strategy Tues

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 6 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "The San Jose Mercury News reports that Microsoft will be announcing a virtualization strategy on Tuesday, including
  • an alliance with Citrix Systems (owners of XenSource),
  • acquisition of privately held Calista Technologies of San Jose, which has software that speeds up the performance of applications running in a virtualized environment, and
  • lower price for Windows Vista used on virtualized computers. (More at Bloomberg.)
The company confirmed its plans to deliver its Hyper-V hypervisor within six months of the launch of Windows Server 2008 (betas available now), which is expected this quarter. And of course there's hype about competing with VMware."
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XenSource releases product, gets bought by Citrix

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 7 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "XenSource has been in the news twice this week — Monday they release a product, then Tuesday they get bought for $500m by Citrix. Here's Network World's take on the buyout and on the product. It looks like the product is packaging new releases of several of their components — there's a 64-bit hypervisor version 3.1 that uses the Intel and AMD hardware tricks, APIs, management tools, and XenMotion, which lets you move running virtual machines around. According to Xen's product page, the free-beer XenExpress version gets the hypervisor, APIs, and some of the management tools, but not the fancier management or XenMotion, and it's somewhat crippled in terms of capacity (max 4 VMs, 2 CPUs, 4GB RAM, while the commercial versions support 128GB total RAM, larger VMs, and unlimited VMs and CPUs.)

(But will it run Linux?) It will run Linux — one of the data sheets implies that Linux only runs in 32-bit mode, while Windows can run 64-bit. Perhaps there's more documentation that provides more details."

Link to Original Source
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billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 8 years ago

billstewart writes "Network World has an article on networks of pneumatic tubes, which are still around in some cities, and also used in places like hospitals. As the article says, "Try delivering bottles of pills over Ethernet." There have been a number of proposals to take unused city pneumatic networks and run fiber optic telecom lines through them. Unfortunately, according to the article, most of them haven't actually worked out — 9/11/2001 interfered with the plans to do that around Wall Street, and city governments haven't always been cooperative, especially when their water&sewer departments want to run fiber through their own tubes. One company has some patents on doing it — the business model may be obvious, but getting the fiber actually blown through the tubes without damaging it apparently has some non-obvious techniques to it."

Journals

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billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I usually give positive moderations lots of slack - I may think a joke or an article is lame, but if somebody wants to moderate it Insightful or Funny, fine - I'll mark those moderations as Unfair/Unfunny if they're promoting obvious trolls or whatever, but that's not common.

Negative moderations are usually obvious also, but the one that I don't give much slack is "Redundant". If an article really was duplicating existing content at the time it was written, or is just adding a content-free me-too, then it's redundant, but if it's a +1 article written two minutes after the main slashdot article, and somebody posts something similar but much more insightful an hour later that makes it up to +5, the first one is still Not Redundant. Maybe it's Overrated, maybe it's Flamebait, and I'd let those moderations through, but I'll call a "Redundant" as "Unfair" if it wasn't redundant enough.

"Flamebait" gets a lot more slack - sometimes there are articles that I strongly agree with (even if I've written them myself :-) that are aggressive enough that they get Flamebait, and I'll usually let those stand - but I try to ding any moderations where the moderator's calling something Flamebait just because they disagree with it.

The one meta-moderation I have trouble with is when somebody rates something as "Funny" that looks like it was intended to be serious, not funny (and wasn't accidentally funny either.) Does marking the moderation Unfair undo the moderation, decreasing the posting's status? Or does it just ding the moderator's karma, which is fine...?

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Wow! A Journal! It's like Blogging! :-)

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 11 years ago Wow! This says it will go down on my permanent record - that's pretty scary, given the recent Congressional activity....

Blogging is lame enough - it's a way of nagging people who don't write their own HTML into at least writing text and links. Guess I can't flame them too much, given that I've done almost no edits to my web page in years :-) So here *I* am, not even getting my own Blogging software for my web pages, much less writing it myself - I'm just using /.s.

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