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Comments

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US Patent Office Seeking Consultant That Can Stamp Out Fraud By Patent Examiners

bradley13 This requires external consultants...why? (124 comments)

Is the management at the USPTO so incompetent that they cannot do this themselves? If you are a manager, you know what your people are doing. If you don't, you should be fired. The solutions to this problem are bleedingly obvious, but unpalatable, so they need to spend millions paying someone else to give them the options, that they then won't implement...

about two weeks ago
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If Tesla Can Run Its Gigafactory On 100% Renewables, Why Can't Others?

bradley13 Why? Because... (444 comments)

Renewables are "predictable and reliable"? This quote is all over the net in summaries of TFA, but it does not exist in TFA, nor even in Prof. Lombardo's original article.

It's great that Tesla is putting this effort in. Note that they have chosen a very special location - masses of sunshine, shallow and easily accessible geothermal, etc.. However, as usual - if the title of the article contains a question, the answer is in the negative - no, others cannot do this.

The expense is massive; Tesla is doing this primarily for political "green" points. It takes massive amounts of land. It requires a special location. Few other companies will be in a position to reproduce this.

And - to get back to my first point - renewables are neither predictable nor reliable. Tesla is not going off-grid, nor could they. There have been plenty of previous references on Slashdot to the actual (non-)reliability of wind farms and solar. Even geothermal has its limits, not only location, but for each location there is a hard limit as to how fast can you remove heat.

about two weeks ago
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UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

bradley13 As usual, much ado about nothing (427 comments)

This is an excellent example of where a microscopic amount of critical thinking would go a long way.

CO2 dissolves in water, yes. Atmospheric levels used to be immensely higher, yes. Ocean life very similar to today's survived just fine, yes.

Hence: "should be scaring the pants off us", no.

It is this lack of critical thinking, this "oh noes, the world is ending" that I find totally irritating about the AGW folks. Is the earth warmer that it was 100 years ago? Sure it is, so what? It's a minor increase, climate is dominated by negative feedback loops (blindingly obvious). No need to panic, and anyway, warmer is historically better...

about two weeks ago
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Scala Designer Martin Odersky On Next Steps

bradley13 Re:Would be nice to see Scala replace Java (94 comments)

See my answer above. This is true only when doing very basic programming. As soon as you start working abstractly, creating code that works with arbitrary classes, life is no longer so simple.

about two weeks ago
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Scala Designer Martin Odersky On Next Steps

bradley13 Re:Would be nice to see Scala replace Java (94 comments)

Exactly. It's been a while, but I remember tracking down one bug in a framework that managed other classes. The developer had assumed that all objects were, in fact, different objects. However, with Strings, Java used its cute little cache. In the framework this meant that two objects that should have been different had the same reference (== was true), which led to problems. The details escape me - it's been a while - but tracking this down was not trivial.

It's all well-and-good to say that you should only ever look at the object values and not care about the memory references. However, anyone writing any sort of framework-level code will, in fact, be working with object references. With your own classes, of course, it's no problem. But Java's simple classes (Integer and String certainly, not sure about others) violate the semantics of object management. Worse, it is inconsistent, since it depends on the specific value of the objects (which the language itself should never look at).

As the parent post so aptly put it: this is "the bash-your-head-on-the-table level of stupid design".

about two weeks ago
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Scala Designer Martin Odersky On Next Steps

bradley13 Would be nice to see Scala replace Java (94 comments)

Every time I teach a beginner's course, I am reminded of just how ugly Java really is. Here's a simple example:

- Comparing two "int" variables, you use ==
- Comparing two Integer variables, you probably want .equals()
- But it is possible to have two different Integer objects with the same value - this is when you wand ==
- But Java wants to save memory, so in fact == and equals yield the same result for values from -128 to +127

That's one example, but there are lots more. A more advanced example are the generics that disappear when the code is compiled. I understand the arguments for doing it this way, but I disagree with them - if you have generics, you ought to be able to query the types at run-time. There are lots and lots of highly questionable design decisions - basically, 20 years of backwards compatibility.

It's past time to clean house. Building a new language on top of the established JVM technology seems like a very good idea indeed. Perhaps Scala can fulfill this role...

about two weeks ago
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Willow Garage Founder Scott Hassan Aims To Build a Startup Village

bradley13 Re:In Short? No. (62 comments)

You're off-topic, but absolutely right. It is much harder to create a good user experience on the web, as compared to desktop applications. Or even compared to web applications some years ago (when expectations were, granted, lower).

about two weeks ago
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Willow Garage Founder Scott Hassan Aims To Build a Startup Village

bradley13 Why California? (62 comments)

Just that - why California? One of the most business-hostile climates in the world, but people who live there can't imagine anything else?

about two weeks ago
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Early Bitcoin User Interviewed By Federal Officers

bradley13 Never talk to US law enforcement (92 comments)

This guy actually talked to the federal agents who came knocking on his door? Stupid, stupid...

Assuming these were probably FBI or Secret Service agents, my understanding is that the only record allowed of the interview consists of their handwritten notes. You are not allowed to make a recording. This means that, afterwards, they can put any spin on the interview that they want. If you disagree, they can and will throw you in jail for lying to a federal officer.

The only possible reply to these officers should be "I have nothing to say to you".

about a month ago
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Latest Wikipedia Uproar Over 'Superprotection'

bradley13 That's not to agile's credit (239 comments)

Project management method "X" methods work great, if you have a good technical project lead and a good team; otherwise it sucks.

You can replace "X" with Agile/Scrum, or you can replace it with any other damned thing - it doesn't matter. A good team with a good project manager will get good results. A bad team, or a teach with a lousy PM, will not. The current love affair with Scrum is driven by PHBs looking for a magic way to get good results out of bad teams. It's really that simple.

about 1 month ago
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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

bradley13 Re:god dammit. The Numbers (521 comments)

I'll buy your number for cats - there are hundreds of millions of them, and they love to hunt birds. A power plant that kills a few thousand is completely irrelevant in comparison, but these are clueless "progressive" types, they aren't expected to understand basic math.

I'll pass on the latest climate change panic...

about a month ago
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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

bradley13 TANSTAAFL (521 comments)

Every kind of energy generation has a price. It's the price of civilization. Only in California could this come as a surprise...

about a month ago
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Gartner: Internet of Things Has Reached Hype Peak

bradley13 Gartner cynic here - enlighten me (98 comments)

Do Gartner reports actually have any use? I mean, they put a nice graphic to their "hype cycle", but this is surely stuff that any technical type over the age of 25 understands?

You can purchase their report on the Internet of Things for the low, low price of $1995. If it's like most Gartner reports that I have seen, it will contain nice references to certain companies - my suspicion is that these companies have recently given Gartner fat consulting contracts. If you watch the same report evolve year-to-year, recommended companies change randomly - from a technical perspective - so one presumes that the deciding factors are politics and/or money.

Anyone want to argue against my cynicism? Are Gartner reports actually useful to some people?

about a month ago
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Chinese Researchers' 'Terror Cam' Could Scan Crowds, Looking for Stress

bradley13 Because stress comes from nothing else... (146 comments)

No one is ever stressed out, unless they are planning a terror attack. No job interviews, arguments with the spousal unit, kids run off, financial problems...

The only thing surprising is that this article isn't about something in the UK or the US. Probably that's where it will first be installed, so that more names can be added to the terrorist watch list.

about a month ago
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DEA Paid Amtrak Employee To Pilfer Passenger Lists

bradley13 Theft? (127 comments)

Surely this is illegal? I know that the US has no privacy laws, but it is still theft. Both he and the individuals purchasing the stolen data should be prosecuted.

Of course, it won't happen because "War on Drugs", and anyway, anything the US government wants is ok.

about a month ago
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Google's Satellites Could Soon See Your Face From Space

bradley13 What do they mean (serious question)? (140 comments)

I seriously do not understand what they mean by 50cm (or 25cm) resolution. On the current Google Maps picture of our house, you can clearly see the yellow garden hose snaking across the lawn. The garden hose is maybe 3cm thick. We have stepping stones in the lawn, averaging maybe 40cm by 60cm; each stone clearly occupies multiple pixels. I would guess that a single pixel represents about 10cm.

This is in Switzerland. Are photos in the USA fuzzier? I just zoomed in on a military base, and I can clearly see the lines painted between parking spaces. Those are, what, maybe 10cm? Each line occupies about 2 pixels on my screen.

So, serious question, what is meant by a 50cm satellite resolution?

about a month ago
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About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA

bradley13 The surprise... (227 comments)

Sure, you can stunt someone, butof course our abilities - our potentials - are genetic. The surprise would be if environment has any effect beyond the ability to stunt an otherwise present potential. Why do PC nuts always hyperventilate, when aptitudes turn out to be inborn.

The link between reading and math runs, as nearly as I can tell from this and other studies, over general intelligence. If you have an IQ of 130, likely you are pretty good at both. If you have an IQ of 80, not so much.

about a month and a half ago
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My degree of colorblindness:

bradley13 What would true color vision be like? (267 comments)

A normal human sees three colors. We are incapable of distinguishing true orange light from an essentially infinite number of combinations of color pairs (e.g., red plus a bit of green, or red plus more yellow). All we can say is that two chemicals were stimulated in the proper proportion.

It needn't be this way. Your ears detect individual frequencies. If you hear two tones at 1kHz and 2KhZ, your ears don't average them together and tell you that there is a single tone at 1.5 kHz

What would true color vision be like, i.e., if your eyes could actually tell what frequencies of light they received?

about a month and a half ago
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Alleged Massive Account and Password Seizure By Russian Group

bradley13 Even big companies are stupid (126 comments)

We recently changed our Internet service with Swisscom (details unimportant, but it involved installing a different router). I received a letter in the mail confirming the user name and password in plain text. The password hadn't changed - it is the same one that I chose years ago when we originally selected Swisscom as our ISP. Which, of course, means that they have not hashed the password, but have stored it in a retrievable fashion.

Now, this is fairly minor, because the password isn't good for much beyond logging the router into the ISP. However, so many people use the same password for multiple things that it is still lousy security practice. When I challenged Swisscom about this, their explanation was that it enables them to provide better technical support. Meaning, I suppose, that lots of people forget their password, and this way they can be told what it is, rather than having to reset it.

It's still lousy security practice, and pretty shocking from a major company.

about a month and a half ago
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Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

bradley13 What is handicapped? Disabled? (175 comments)

It was always going to happen - now it finally has. We have the Olympics and the Paralympics - because the athletes in the Paralympics cannot compete against non-handicapped athletes. Now, at least in some circumstances, it is possible to replace missing biological parts with superior parts (at least for a specific task).

Some athletes will take any advantage they can get. For years now, it has been impossible to win certain events without doping (Tour de France). Remember the biologically male athletes from behind the iron curtain who had themselves surgically altered so that they could compete as women?

If this result stands, as prosthetics continue to improve - how long until some athlete deliberately has an accident requiring their leg to be amputated?

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Censorship in the West

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Pussy Riot has highlighted censorship in Russia. With millions of news hits, the entire Internet now knows that speech in Russia will be suppressed with jail sentences.

In Scotland, a blogger finds it curious: A man by the name of Stephen Birrell has just been jailed for eight months, for posting "religiously prejudiced abuse" on a Facebook page. But you won't be able to find out many details, because the press shows no interest. For bonus points, the blogger claims that the few news items that do exist are not findable in search engines.

The blog mentioned above does overstate the case: If you enter "stephen birrell jailed", some news items do show up, but nowhere near the number that do for Pussy Riot. Still, isn't it ironic that the free-and-enlightened West is jailing people for "hate speech" at the same time that it criticizes Russia for much the same action?"

Link to Original Source
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Choosing anonymous proxies

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "There are lots of anonymous proxies out there, and anyone concerned about their privacy probably uses one for at least some of their web-browsing.

The Megaupload story highlights the fact that having servers in the USA is not a great idea. There are also other countries one may not want to trust. Oddly, very few proxy services mention where their equipment is located.

What anonymous proxy services do members of the Slashdot community use? What criteria do you use to select them? How paranoid are you, and for what types of Internet usage?"
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Gibson Guitar raided again

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  about 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Practically everyone has heard of Gibson Guitars. In 2009, they were raided by the feds, who impounded stacks of ebony wood under asset forfeiture laws. No charges have ever been filed.

Well, they're at it again — the feds have again impounded palettes of topical wood and guitars. The wood is clearly certified by FSC. The feds have given no explanation of their raid, but apparently there is some evidence that they are enforcing a law from the wood's country of origin (India), even though no complaint has been made by India or anyone else.

Gibson claims that the feds are bullying them, probably because they continue to fight the asset forfeiture from 2009. There are less favorable interpretations, having to do with jack-booted thugs..."

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Simple email encryption - not possible?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Like practically everyone on Slashdot, I often play "free consultant" for friends. The most recent inquiry: local law will soon require small companies that send accounting information electronically, to do so "securely". Many small businesses outsource their accounting; correspondingly, some accounting companies handle the accounts of dozens of small businesses. Lots of sensitive information is sent by email — which ought to be encrypted.

So my friend asked me — from the perspective of one of these accounting companies — how they can exchange encrypted email with their customers. The problem: businesses to small to handle their own accounts are certainly too small to have read IT — some cousin set up a couple of off-the-shelf computers. This means: the solution has to be (a) easy for a non-technical person to set up and (b) has to work with people who use Outlook, or Gmail, or whatever else their company happens to use.

By now, one might think that there would be point-and-click solutions to this sort of problem. But no — you need certificates, implementations are platform specific, set up requires IT expertise. About the best thing available seems to be PGP (but who wants to do business with Symantec? Anyway, when did they buy PGP — that is just sad).

Can easy-to-use, secure, cross-platform email encryption really still be an unsolved problem? What do other Slashdotters use?"
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Do not show your ID when robbing a bank

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Combine a clever teller with, well, not the brightest bank robber. When poor Nathan went in to rob a bank, the teller told him she needed to see two forms of ID before she could give him the money. Nathan is now enjoying three hots and a cot."
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Best Internet payment method for young teens?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Many of us have kids in their young teens, who want to spend money on various Internet fripperies (browser games, etc.). Kids are too young to have their own credit cards (and that's probably not appropriate anyway), PayPal requires kids to be 18, etc. Yet it would be nice to give the kids some independence, so they don't always have to ask a parent to come and pay for them.

There are a few solutions, like Internet Cash, but the fees are pretty outrageous. What other solutions are out there? How do you handle Internet payments with your kids?"
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RPost suits Swiss Post for secure email

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "RPost owns a pile of software patents around the idea of secure email delivery. They are not a patent troll — they actually do offer a secure email service. However, their patents are classic software patents — simply algorithms. There is nothing non-obvious about them — any competent practitioner would come up with these or very similar ideas. Here are the two patents being used as a basis for the suit: Patent 1 Patent 2

Yet another argument to get rid of software patents?"

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Does GPS tracking violate the 4th amendment?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 writes "Last year, college student Yasir Afifi discovered a GPS tracking device that had been attached to his car. After he discovered it, the FBi showed up and demanded that he hand it over. They told him that they would make his life difficult if he did not cooperate by giving the device back. The FBI had no warrant or court order allowing surveillance.

Now Yasar Afifi is filing suit, hoping to get a ruling that installing tracking devices without a warrant violates the fourth amendment. Unfortunately, his local federal district court is the 9th circuit, which has already decided two similar cases, coming down in favor of tracking.

The key part of the reasoning in the previous cases is this: "attaching the tracking device ... did not constitute a 'search' cognizable under the Fourth Amendment because '[t]he undercarriage is part of the car's exterior, and as such, is not afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy.'” Very strained reasoning indeed, since the point of the tracking device is not a search of the undercarriage, but rather a search of a person's movements."

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Diagnosis of Tucson shooter

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "This article in the New York Times points out that Mr. Loughner, the person accused of shooting 19 people in Tucson, has shown increasing mental disturbances over the past few months, and offers this diagnosis: "the rambling, disconnected writings and videos he has left on the Web are consistent with the delusions produced by a psychotic illness like schizophrenia, which develops most often in the teens or 20s". If true, this means that all of the fans of political conspiracy theories will need to look elsewhere..."
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"Configuring VMware" for the complete idiot

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Another virtualization question... On the side, I play "sys admin" for a micro-company of 3-4 employees. This company has an old VB6 application that they still support, and until now the old Visual Studio and all associated tools have remained installed on the two developers' systems. This summer, it's time to replace the computers, and — because of the numerous problems with running an ancient Visual Studio, Tools, etc. next to more modern versions — I want to create a VMware instance that can be loaded up on the two developer systems "as needed" to maintain the old software. One developer works mainly under Ubuntu, the other under Windows.

This VMware instance, once everything is in place, will access a VSS repository plus home directories across the network. I intend to have it revert-to-snapshop after every execution — it should be able to live on unchanged for years. I have used the free VMware server a couple of times, for example, to set up test instances of various SQL Server environments, but we're talking maybe 8 hours per year of time I spend with it. It's mostly called "accept the defaults and pray".

Could Slashdot experts provide a list of "tips for the complete idiot" on how to set up VMware server instances so that they perform well, and will continue to do so for the long term?"
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Poll: How many lawsuits?

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Lots of users post legal questions, and we all know that sharks never bite lawyers. How many times have you involved in a suit
Never ever ever
I have been sued
I have sued someone
I've done both
I sued myself, just for fun
I am a lawyer — I sue for other people
My name is not "Sue""
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The story of Windows version numbers

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

bradley13 (1118935) writes "Just a very nicely written summary of the history of Windows versions, from Windows 1.0 through Windows 6.1 (called, for reasons only Microsoft understands, Windows 7)

"...it is of course more complex than that, and I am going to attempt to explain it. Reading the rest of this post is unlikely to improve your life in any way, although it will teach you something about the mindset of Microsoft and/or that of nerds in general. Madness may lie at the end of it.""

Link to Original Source
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Office 2007 vs Office 1997

bradley13 bradley13 writes  |  more than 5 years ago

bradley13 writes "In a paragraph near the bottom of Jerry Pournelle's latest mailbag, Doug McAllister gives his opinion that Office 2007 is not a notable improvement over Office 1997:

I have found nothing in Excel or Word 2007 that would justify an upgrade from the 1997 versions of these products. For the most part, they have arbitrarily moved things around and made it harder for me to get my work done. I bought them because the earlier versions are no longer available and I try to stay legal with my software.

This got me to thinking that Microsoft is bad for the economy. They offer new versions of products that have no real benefits. Instead, users spend millions of hours installing new versions and dealing with issues such as I have described with no productive benefit. Microsoft has spawned an upgrade industry that is a drag on productivity as far as I can see.

I have probably used every version of Microsoft Office since it's inception. I was very happy with Office 1997. Office 2003 was most memorable for discarding the well-indexed help system in Office 1997 and putting in with a pretty-but-useless replacement. Office 2007 brings the ribbon, which — despite using it for two years — I find mainly frustrating, since controls appear and disappear arbitrarily, for example, based on window width. If it were possible, I would frankly move the whole company back to Office 1997 in a flash.

What do others think? What significant improvements has Microsoft made to the Office suite in the past 10 years?"

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