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Tor Usage More Than Doubles In August

downhole Re:So is this because... (186 comments)

I mostly agree, but on the barriers to people standing for office - yes, there are huge barriers to prominent, powerful spots like President, Senators, etc. But there are lots of lower-level slots that are reportedly much easier to get. State-level Representatives and Senators in most areas, less prominent city-level positions in bigger cities, even some Federal Representative seats. If you want to stand a chance at running for one of the higher-level positions, you generally have to win elections for and serve in lower-level positions for a while. If you do well there and are able to amass some supporters, then you have a shot at running for a higher-level office. Repeat that a few times, and you're in the running for the really powerful positions. It doesn't sound all that bad when you think about it that way - do you really want some guy off the street with no experience in governing anything to be the next President? (uh, no comment about Obama...)

about a year ago

The $200,000 Software Developer

downhole Re:Forget $200k... (473 comments)

The nice part about being a software developer - you can learn it by yourself for free (well, you need a semi-modern computer and an internet connection, but if you're eating and have a roof over your head, that usually isn't much more). So get to it already. Make an application or website or whatever that does something, keep it open-source, and release it to the world. Any popular language/platform will do, and it helps if it's useful to somebody or even popular. Employers like people who can get things done a lot better than the like people who complain that the world won't hand them everything on a silver platter.

about a year ago

The Free State Project, One Decade Later

downhole Re:The Free Staters chose my town as the test bed (701 comments)

You're using the presidential elections of 1916 to determine politics? I'm pretty sure that the policies of both parties have swung wildly in the last 100 years. It's going to take a lot more detailed information to disprove the pretty clear idea that the modern-day Left has taken over California generally and San Francisco especially over the course of the last few decades.

about a year ago

The Free State Project, One Decade Later

downhole Re:Wrong place for this sort of thing (701 comments)

One of the more insightful things I've read on here in a while. I'd only add that if people have such an ironclad notion of honor, then pretty much any type of government would work fine, from Communism to Libertarianism to total anarchy.

about a year ago

Largest DDoS In History Reaches 300 Billion Bits Per Second

downhole Re: Watch your clauses, people! (450 comments)

Yeah, he has a typo, but he isn't writing a newspaper intended to be read by millions and doesn't have any editors. One would think that Mr. AC would at least run spell-check if he was publishing a newspaper.

about a year ago

Bitcoin Hits New All-time High of $32

downhole Re:My BitCoin story (As if you care) (339 comments)

This actually is more interesting than all of the wild theoretical arguments about whether bitcoin is destined to go down in flames or take over the world. Who knows? For now, it is what it is, and it's interesting that you've found good uses for it - I hadn't heard of Gunbroker auctions accepting bitcoins yet. That said, I wouldn't keep any amount of money in Bitcoins right now that I wasn't willing to lose.

about a year ago

Stuxnet's Earliest Known Version Discovered and Analyzed

downhole Re:State sponsored (77 comments)

I think the fallacy with this is that the techniques required to do this sort of attack are out there for anybody to discover. No matter what the US or any other country does, somebody will use it eventually. We (presuming it's the US) just have the level of technical know-how and resources to get it done sooner than most other countries. Somebody somewhere will use it against us in 20-30 years whether we use it now or not, so why not use it now and get some benefit from it while we're still the only ones that can do it? Especially if it allows us to stop something very dangerous from happening without directly killing people or staging massive raids or invasions.

about a year and a half ago

Stuxnet's Earliest Known Version Discovered and Analyzed

downhole Re:Not as big a worry now (77 comments)

As I understand it, 20% is the absolute minimum concentration where it is possible to create a critical mass, and thus a nuclear detonation. I'm guessing that getting an actual detonation at that concentration level requires a ton of advanced warhead design/engineering and boosting techniques, and is still probably pretty low-yield. Probably nobody would actually bother doing it because it's much easier and more reliable to just keep on refining until you get to 90%+ where you can skip a lot of the tricky stuff and get higher yields and lighter, smaller weapons.

about a year and a half ago

Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology

downhole Re:OTOH (372 comments)

Then the benefit of doing it all electronically is that you can easily set and enforce word count limits instead.

about a year and a half ago

For personal printing, not work, I usually use ...

downhole Work (266 comments)

I do all of what little printing I need at work. Enormous color laser printer with every option under the sun, being maintained by professionals on contract beats the crap out of a cheap, slow inkjet with expensive cartridges that dry out or run out all the time, not to mention flaky 50MB drivers. Even keeping a cheap laser printer at home doesn't seem worth the trouble when my printing demand is around a few dozen pages a year. If I didn't work at an office with nice printers, I'd go to Kinkos (or whatever they call it these days) and print there. A few pennies a page there is still a better deal then keeping my own printer going.

I stopped feeling any guilt about it when I noticed how many of my co-workers will routinely print out hundreds of pages of useless garbage at a time. I'm sure my printing needs cost them less then the toilet paper I use.

about a year and a half ago

Hacker Faces 105 Years In Prison After Blackmailing 350+ Women

downhole Re:Unfortunately it's extremely common (473 comments)

Or maybe because he did it to hundreds of strangers over the internet instead of to one person who he was already in a relationship with. Doing it to your partner is generally wrong, but probably not the place for a legal solution except in the most extreme cases. This most definitely needs a legal solution.

about a year and a half ago

Machine Gun Fire From Military Helicopters Flying Over Downtown Miami

downhole Re:waste of money (1130 comments)

I'd say completely out of the question. They would have to completely conquer all of continental Europe first, because it would be insane to devote most of your military capability somewhere halfway across the world while powerful enemies are sitting right next door. The US would go all-in on that fight too, because we know perfectly well that the Soviet conquest of Europe would tilt the odds way in their favor for a more direct conflict with the US. Then, they would need complete control over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the skies above them, and the skies above the US coasts, since ground forces on ships are highly vulnerable to sea and air attack. Meaning essentially the complete destruction of the US and all allied navies, and the bulk of the Air Force as well, which they have zero credible capability of doing. I don't think the Soviet Navy ever had any ambition for doing anything beyond closing the Atlantic to bulk shipping from the US to Europe in the event of a major war in Western Europe, and even doing that is far from certain.

Only after doing all of those nearly impossible things without triggering a nuclear war (also probably impossible) would they have a chance at trying to land troops in the continental US and dealing with the millions of small arms in civilian hands... after the Army throws everything they've got at them, of course.

about a year and a half ago

Lockheed, SpaceX Trade Barbs

downhole Re:Government goes with lowest cost (215 comments)

I'm inclined to disagree with that. I'm sure there's quite a bit of waste, corruption, and featherbedding in the cost of these jets, but there's also a ton of revolutionary technology in them too. The kind of stuff that's so new and untested that you can't estimate costs or anticipate problems properly. That makes for ridiculous costs, but also aircraft that nobody else can match. I'm sure we could do much, much cheaper if we set out to build a F-16 style jet using all old tech, optimized for manufacturing efficiency.

That's what SpaceX did, as far as I can tell. None of their technology is all that advanced, but they've done a lot of revolutionary stuff as far as design and manufacturing for efficiency and low cost. Thus, they're doing the same stuff everyone else is, only for a tenth of the cost. And bypassing all of the red tape involved with designing under government contracts probably helps too.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Typing Advice For a Guinness World Record Attempt?

downhole Re:Why is this posted AC? (307 comments)

I think it matters because you create an identity for yourself. If I reply to your post and you reply back, then I know that it's the same person, and not some other guy who thought it would be funny to pretend to be you. If you reply to my post and some other guy also does, posting as AC, how do I know which one is you? How do I even know if what you are saying is true? With an account, I can click on your name and read all of your previous posts. As an AC, you could be pretending to be somebody else or making the whole thing up entirely.

And of course, it's good for the site, because having an identity gives people an incentive to post quality stuff and not post incoherent nonsense and flames.

I've mostly stopped replying to ACs who reply to my posts, because in my experience, 90% of AC replies are nonsensical flames. If there's anything with less of a point to it than having an internet discussion with someone whose reply to your post is a nonsensical attack, it's having that discussion with an AC, where you don't even know if it's the same person, or if they will see your reply at all.

about a year and a half ago

New York Paper Uses Public Records To Publish Gun-Owner Map

downhole Re:So Proud of Gun Ownership (1232 comments)

How would you feel if they registered all of the homosexuals and printed maps of where they all live? What's that, there's a difference, you say? Indeed there is - gun ownership is a specifically enumerated right in the bill of rights, while homosexuality is not.

Both being recognized as rights is good for society. If you think you can justify one, then why not the other?

about a year and a half ago

Possible Habitable Planet Just 12 Light Years Away

downhole Re:It goes the other way, too (420 comments)

Exactly. We don't know much of anything about any potential alien civilizations. All we can say for sure is that if they are advanced enough to get here, then we would be totally at their mercy. We barely understand why other human cultures on our own planet do things, or even our own culture a few decades ago. What hope do we have of guessing how some completely different species would behave? For all we know, they could want to destroy us just because we might potentially be a threat to them in the future. It would be insanely risky to assume that they must be benevolent by our definitions just because they are so advanced.

about a year and a half ago

North Korea Launches Long-Range Rocket

downhole Re:Why would they stop developing weaponry? (384 comments)

That's true. But then, it's also true that it would have been lost without the US or Britain. Without all 3 fighting together, the allies would not have been able to win. It isn't realistic to imagine any of them sitting out the war entirely, so imagine what it would have been like if any one of them switched sides.

The USSR switching sides would make the combined Nazi-Soviet empire a land-based colossus, virtually impossible to invade.

If the UK switched sides, the sea lanes between the US and the USSR would probably be closed. The USSR goes down, and the US is pretty much powerless and left out, at least until the next war.

If the US switched sides, the sea lanes would probably be closed between the UK and the rest of the world. The UK goes hungry and either makes terms or gets invaded, and with US supplies fueling the Nazis, the USSR would be toast.

about a year and a half ago

North Korea Launches Long-Range Rocket

downhole Re:Why would they stop developing weaponry? (384 comments)

More to the point, even if we had beaten them, what would we do then? There's no way we'd ever have enough manpower to effectively occupy China. All we could do would be to prop up some government we thought we would like, and tell them that we'd invade them again if they annoyed us.

about a year and a half ago

North Korea Launches Long-Range Rocket

downhole Re:Well (384 comments)

So what? Every single country on the planet with a viable military force has some sort of plan for how to attack every other country, no matter how unlikely it is that they would ever want to do it. Such things are a necessary part of figuring out what your diplomatic posture should be in various situations, whether your military as a whole is too large, too small, or badly proportioned, etc. They're also good practice for the planners, and the information they get in making plans for how we could attack country X are probably also very useful if we want to figure out what happens if we want to ally with country X to attack country Y instead.

about a year and a half ago

Over 1000 Volunteers For 'Suicide' Mission To Mars

downhole Re:WATER? (453 comments)

Heat may not be that big of a problem, actually. Heating energy is fairly constant proportional to temperature difference on Earth, because it all has roughly the same atmosphere. You real concern for heating is not outside temperature, but heat transfer rates. On Mars, with no atmosphere to speak of and a requirement to pressurize the living quarters, necessitating no material flow in or out and very thick walls, heat loss to the environment might actually be very low.

Space is even colder, but most of our spacecraft have to be artificially cooled, not heated, because the only heat transfer mechanism in space is radiation to the environment, which is very slow for the temperatures we are working at. Mars would add some limited conduction to the ground and probably very limited convection from the atmosphere. I haven't run any numbers for it, but I wouldn't be surprised if all of the equipment you need to live there (power generation, air handling, etc) generates enough heat that you have to artificially cool the habitat to compensate for it.

about a year and a half ago


downhole hasn't submitted any stories.



Why off-planet colonies are not realistic

downhole downhole writes  |  about a year ago

I seem to post stuff like this fairly frequently in space travel-related stories, so I thought I'd just write it all up here. Summary - Yes, it would probably be a nice thing to have a truly self-sufficient human civilization on another planet so that we are insulated against any catastrophe that might happen to the Earth, but such a colony is basically not possible to create now.

If you're going to be self-sufficient and a backup against the Earth being wiped out, then you must be able to manufacture everything your colony needs in your colony. No country on Earth currently does this now. If one of the continent-spanning countries like the US or China or the EU as a whole suddenly had to exist with no trade at all with any other country, then it would probably be tough for a while, but they could do it. Your colony would have to have a comparable size and level of economic activity for it to be possible.

Let's take IC fabs as an example. If your colony will depend on computers in any way, then you'll have to have one. A huge operation, incredibly expensive even on Earth, demanding lots of specialized personnel. Can you imagine building one on another planet right now? How about building several of them, and having the materials and knowledge base to build more if needed? And that's just one of the highly complex manufacturing facilities you'll need. Steel foundries, aluminum, other metals, casting, forging, pressing, something with hydrocarbons for making plastics, something like concrete, stuff for growing plants and raising animals, thousands of other things that I haven't thought of yet. You would need to move a major country's worth of people, expertise, and capital to your colony planet. You can't just rough it and go without on a planet with no atmosphere.

Right now, we're at the level of moving one robot about the size of a car to Mars. We've got a hell of a long way to go before we can think about setting up even a dinky just-because-we-can colony with a few dozen people that is dependent on the Earth for critical supplies, much less anything that can hope to survive the loss of the Earth. I believe that we'll get there eventually, but it's not something that's even remotely on the horizon right now.

Another way to put it - there is no imaginable catastrophe that could make the Earth less habitable than, say, Mars already is. If we have the technology and the will to set up a real colony there, then we also have the technology and the will to survive whatever might happen to the Earth, and for a lot less expense.

And we haven't even gotten to the type of government and lifestyle that such a colony would need. If you're going to be hard up against the lower size limits, then anything like first-world freedom is probably impossible. If there aren't enough resources to support much of a non-productive population, then anyone too old or disabled to do useful work would have to be sent back to Earth or killed. Reproduction would have to be tightly controlled - too many or too few children at any time could be a disaster, if it either would raise the population beyond what the infrastructure could support, or would not lead to enough workers to maintain the infrastructure or preserve key knowledge. You'd probably need a policy like every woman must bear exactly 2 children before she turns 25, and no more, ever. Education and careers too - you don't want to be a welder, say? Too bad, the colony must have a welder and you've been chosen. Get to work, or else. Getting out of all of that would either require a much larger colony or frequent trade with Earth. But there's not much point in creating an in-case-of-emergency colony that depends on trade with Earth to maintain its lifestyle, so you'd have to go with size.


My take on Global Warming

downhole downhole writes  |  about 2 years ago

All of the Global Warming threads these days seem to instantly generate over a thousand comments, which kinda kills my inclination to post my own point of view, so I'll just post it here instead. Why should anybody care about what I think about it? I figure I'm a smarter than average person, and though I don't have much particular background in climate science, I know a bit about general engineering, what it takes to power the world.

My summary of the actual science on it is that I'm not really sure whether it's happening and manmade or not, but I really hope that it isn't, because if it is, I'm pretty sure that we're screwed. Based on all of the numbers I've seen from the AGW people, I think that our chances of reducing CO2 emmisions by a large enough amount soon enough to make a difference are basically zero. If those guys are right, then reducing the rate of increase isn't going to do anything. We'd need genuine reductions in overall global output of over 10% a year, every year without fail, and we'd need that to start like yesterday.

The root of the problem is the total world population, which has grown massively in the last 200 years or so, to the point that there are now over 7 Billion of us. Keeping those 7 billion people fed decently and relatively healthy requires lots and lots of energy, because generating that much food requires mechanized farming, including mechanized production of fertilizers and transportation of them to actual farms, plus transportation of the products to cities and livestock stockyards, etc. Basically, you have to keep the modern economy, based on relatively cheap energy and transporation, active for all of those people to remain fed. There ain't enough land for them to all be subsistence farmers working with hand tools, because it isn't efficient enough. Even smallish cities can't feed everyone with only food produced less than 50 miles away or whatever it is that environmentally-conscious are trying to do now. Don't mistake what a handful of wealthy hippie-types do because they feel like it for a viable solution for how to feed the whole country. Not to mention all of the other requirements for keeping lots of people alive, like good water and sewer systems, requiring lots of industrial technology, and readily available healthcare, including drugs, which also requires lots of instustrial technology and highly educated people too. Speaking of which, such changes in how the population of the world is fed would undo most of the economic changes in the last few hundred years, eliminating probably something like 90% of the high-tech jobs and economy because everybody would have to spend most of their time figuring out how to grow their own food. Also creating a permanant class structure where most of the population is farmers and a only relative handful can afford to do other things.

What all of that means is that a massive reduction in worldwide energy usage is just not possible. Combine every war and genocide in the 20th century and you get something like a few hundred million dead. The world population is over 7 billion now, and the sustainable population using low-energy food production techniques is probably closer to 1 billion. Do the math, it'll be ugly. The only question would be which few billion people would die, and how.

The only way to cut CO2 emissions on the scales required while still maintaining the modern economy and the world population then would be to displace fossil fuels as an energy source. Any good AGW/Environmentalist type will surely go on and on about wind and solar power, and if you're really lucky, they'll bring up even more oddball stuff. The trouble is, I'm not convinced that any of them will be capable of displacing fossil fuels on a large enough scale in the timeframe that we need. The best I've heard is that a couple of small, wealthy European nations have claimed to be at around 15% wind power. I wouldn't mind seeing some numbers behind that, but even if it's 100% legit, it's still nowhere near enough. Looks to me like, at best, wind and solar are too little, too late, and everything else is a joke.

I believe that the only technology capable of actually stopping global warming, meaning meeting our energy needs without releasing lots of CO2 and being ready to go now, is nuclear fission. There's some stuff out there that looks interesting or has some potential, but it has to be ready to go now - if you can't design a 1GW plant today with whatever technology you're looking at, then you're already too late. Fission has its problems and dangers, but it's real, it works, and it's ready to go. If the people in charge of these things really believed the stuff that they're saying about global warming, they'd demand that we spend as much as necessary to start construction on hundreds of GW of new fission capacity yesterday. The actual worst-case scenarios of nuclear accidents still aren't as bad as what they say that global warming will do. Since nobody seems to be doing this, I can only conclude that everybody involved either 1. Doesn't really believe that global warming is happening or will be as bad as they say, meaning that they're lying to all of us either to increase their own personal power or make themselves feel better or 2. Doesn't really understand the issues of generating and using power, and are more concerned with reinforcing their own beliefs and preferences than in researching how to actually solve the problem. Either way, we're being very poorly served by the current global warming political movement - they're using all of their political capital pushing things that they know or should know cannot possibly solve the problem.

My conclusion - if Global Warming is real, then bend over and hold on, because it's going to happen and we aren't going to slow it down.


Why 9/11 was not a government conspiracy

downhole downhole writes  |  more than 2 years ago

The thing that most people do wrong when arguing about 9/11 is paying too much attention to the technical details of things. Start talking about construction techniques, steel alloys, flame temps, etc. and you just get bogged down in techno-babble that doesn't convince anyone. An argument based on people and their motives, plans, and actions is much simpler and much more effective proof. To form this argument, ask 3 questions that no troofer will be able to answer meaningfully:

1. Who planned the attacks of 9/11?
2. What did the plotters hope to gain from the attacks?
3. Why did the plotters decide that the attack plan executed on 9/11 was the best way to achieve the goals stated in #2?

Number 3 is the key - it just doesn't make sense for anyone else. The whole attack plan was so risky and out-there that only someone who thought they had nothing to lose and needed to impress lots of people would do it.

Let's say the people behind the attack were some shadowy group of Americans. Within or outside of the Government, whatever. And their goal is to trick the American people into going to war for... some reason or other. The whole reason their group is secretive and shadowy would be that they have a lot to lose if anyone ever figured out who they were and what they were doing.

Let's take a quick look at the nature of the attacks, sticking to high-level stuff. Hijacking planes and flying them into buildings - very risky, lots of people involved any way you do it, lots of ways for it to go wrong. If it was by the book, you'd need a couple dozen people who are fairly smart and willing to perform suicide attacks. Going into the alternates proposed just makes it even more complex and involves more people. Setting demolition charges to do something like that requires a team of experts, and there's only a handful of them in the world. Remote control aircraft involves lots of engineering and testing work, someone to buy and set up the hardware, etc, and you still have to do something with the original planes and the people on them. Using missiles requires people to take them out of inventory, load them, arm them, target them, etc. It just spirals into impossible complexity.

So you're a small group of conspirators that needs to keep themselves and their plans secret while carrying out a false-flag terrorist attack that will drive the US to war. What do you do? A truck bomb requires maybe 3-4 people, a few tens of thousands of dollars, and none of them have to die if it's planned right. A Mumbai-style shooting spree takes like 5-6 people and probably not more then a few thousand dollars in gear. There's tons of other cheap and simple plans that involve minimal people and money and are very low-risk for a well-organized group. But we're supposed to believe that our group of conspirators looked at all of those options and said to themselves that some plan involving rigging up remote control aircraft, firing missiles, rigging up demolition charges, and disappearing multiple aircraft carrying hundreds of people, which would require hundreds, maybe thousands of conspirators, many of which had very specialized skills and very specific jobs, and would cost tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars, was a much better idea? Are you guys insane?

In addition to the sheer complexity of the attacks, there's also the implied organization. You can pass off a truck bombing or a shooting as the acts of a handful of nutjobs. That's why that's the kind of attack that Pakistan carries out against India - they don't want to provoke India into a shooting war with them. A complex attack like 9/11 pretty much announces that there is a well-organized group behind it. If you are a group of American conspirators, that's the last thing that you want - ideally, you want nobody to be aware of your existence at all.

An attack like that is carried out by a group that needs to advertise it's existence, to make the other side fear it, to increase it's own prestige, leading to more support, recruits, and money. All stuff that Al-Quada wanted to do, and that no group of American conspirators would ever want to do.

While we're on the subject, I'm also kinda fuzzy on number 2. Exactly how has any group really profited from the wars? Yeah, some companies made money, but if that was the real goal, it would have been a hell of a lot easier to just give that company money straight out of the treasury for some reason or other, which happens all the time to thousands of companies, than to carry out a ridiculously complex false-flag terrorist attack, hope nobody figures it out, and go to war, causing many thousands of American casualties, not to mention foreign solders, insurgents, and civilians, and undego massively complex changes in the international order.

BTW, I'm happy to debate anyone who posts with a username and makes some attempt to address the points I made.

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