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US Links North Korea To Sony Hacking

eldavojohn Are You Joking? (182 comments)

> It is not known how the US government has determined that North Korea is the culprit

Of course it's known. The same way they established that Iraq had chemical weapons. The method is known as "because we say so".

Are you joking? I thought it was well established that there were chemical weapons in Iraq we just only found weapons designed by us, built by Europeans in factories in Iraq. And therefore the US didn't trumpet their achievements. In the case of Iraqi chemical weapons, the US established that Iraq had chemical weapons not because they said so but because Western countries had all the receipts.

3 days ago
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Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies

eldavojohn Is Bloomberg the New Buzzfeed? (461 comments)

What the hell is up with the title of this article? Nowhere did I find any indication of anyone being "scared" or "frightened." On the contrary the article presents contradicting information:

Still, the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group representing America’s investor-owned utilities, recently announced that its members will help to encourage electric vehicle use by spending $50 million annually to buy plug-in service trucks and invest in car-charging technology. “Advancing plug-in electric vehicles and technologies is an industry priority,” said EEI President Thomas Kuhn.

Uh, "advancing as a priority" is actually the opposite of fear.

Southern California Edison is planning to spend about $9.2 billion through 2017 to allow the two-way flow of electricity on its system, said Edison International CEO Ted Craver. “We are certainly big supporters of electric transportation,” Craver said. He added: “That electric car isn’t just going to stay at home. It’s going to go other places. It’s going to need to get charged in other places. And I think our ability to provide that glue for all those things that are going to plug into that network is really how we see our core business.”

Again, sounds positive. Actually the only negative thing in the article is that electric cars might cause a load our infrastructure isn't ready for -- to the contrary a solar charging station in the home would mitigate this. Is the new journalism format to title your articles with a thesis directly contrary to all the actual evidence you're about to present?

about two weeks ago
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James Watson's Nobel Prize Goes On Auction This Week

eldavojohn Re:we ARE different (355 comments)

Higher IQs are correlated with a long history of urbanization and economic specialization, where higher IQs provide a selective advantage.

There's no arguing this. But, from what I've read about James Watson, he never said anything close to this. Instead, I can even find on his wikipedia page this quote from one of his books:

He writes that "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so"

So it's related to a long history of urbanization and economic specialization? And also Watson's unequal powers of reason? What is he implying if not to say that genetically some people are born without the equal "powers of reason"? He didn't quite say that due to "a long history of urbanization and economic specialization" instead he said due to geographic separation followed by their evolution. Watson's position as a genetic researcher commenting on something that is almost certainly attributed to socioeconomic status is strange, wouldn't you think? Was he commenting on this as an economist or perhaps historian?

I also like how you link to wikipedia pages but not their internal discrepancies on your open and close case that IQ is inherited. Including this quote from your first link:

Eric Turkheimer and colleagues (2003) found that for children of low socioeconomic status heritability of IQ falls almost to zero.

From this source.

You present a perfectly acceptable and fairly logical argument about the advancement of some cultures outpacing others. One need only read "Guns, Germs & Steel" where this sort of thing is discussed in a very sound and well researched way. Do we raise our pitchforks and chase after Jared Diamond with fervor? Not at all. Then again, his arguments didn't rest entirely upon some imaginary gene expression he just hadn't found yet.

Your "political correctness" claim is largely rubbish. While it may appear a knee-jerk reaction, this is the case of people objecting to a statement with no underlying scientific basis while Watson makes claims that we should be able to isolate the "Intelligence Gene." Have we had success in isolating such a gene from the Ashkanazi? Furthermore Watson implies (though never directly says) that lack of similar genes is what keeps Africa repressed -- while making zero reference to the reverberating effects of hundreds of years of European colonizations and their leeching of wealth & resources.

about three weeks ago
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James Watson's Nobel Prize Goes On Auction This Week

eldavojohn Of Course It Was (355 comments)

Your comment is extremely racist.

You're goddamn straight it is. The point is that any population -- no matter how high and lofty it is can be the target of stupid shit attributed to their genetic structure with "just so" fallacies. He makes inflammatory statements, doesn't even offer correlation as evidence for them and completely ignores socioeconomic conditions of even the past two hundred years.

How hard is it to turn James Watson's high minded lofty DNA superiority complex against his home city? Not hard at all, it turns out. Simply cherry pick from painfully recent history the horrible stereotypes and wars that their ancestors have and totally ignore any outside forces like ... oh, I don't know, the slave trade ... and then just "painfully" wish you were wrong. Notice how I apologized for having to be the one to first acknowledge something I'm not proving.

What blows my mind is that Africa was for tens of thousands of years in the same state that the rest of the world was in -- hell it's the birthplace of homo sapiens. And the time scale we need to talk about for DNA to change is at the very least tens of thousands of years. 25 million years of human evolution and James Watson measures 'genetic skin-color-intelligence correlation' from his apparently very short knowledge of history. Let's be generous and say he actually considered the past two thousand years which would be odd that he chose not to acknowledge that Europe's age of colonialism had something to do with Africa's current state.

Just like my post listed zero gene expressions, I'm not aware of any he's presented backing his statements. Furthermore, how would one divorce the nature versus nurture in such a test? The long history of racial discrimination the world over would need to be carefully controlled out of the experiment and the fact of the matter is that you can't. I'm not a Nobel prize winning geneticist and even I recognize this.

about three weeks ago
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James Watson's Nobel Prize Goes On Auction This Week

eldavojohn Chicago, Illinois: The Real Problem (355 comments)

Do you ever notice how enamored with American football the Chicago population is? How much money they dump into the Chicago Bears? Oh, how I wish that I would be wrong but often science is meant to be inflammatory. The testing simply shows that the people of Chicago are slovenly drunks who cannot help but repose in sloth upon their reclining chairs in their own pitiful squalor. How can we help the people of Chicago when all of our policies revolve around thinking of them as good decent hardworking people?

About a third of the Chicago population is German. Genetically, therefore they have instilled in them a 'Crazy Fourth Reich Fever' that millennia of conditioning by the BLACK Forest of Germany and they simply only want to fight and invade other peaceful peoples that are doing nothing but contributing to the advancement of the human race. Alas, my mind is tortured that nature could be so cruel as to instill a fine specimen like the German with such brutal and total warring instinct. But we simply cannot be able to even begin to help Chicago out of shit-hole status unless we come to terms with their genetically corrupted DNA structure. I know this may seem shocking to you lay people but I have suffered as Galileo has suffered. Science requires I tell you the truth that I seem to have no scientific basis for yet I know deep down in the pit of my Swedish-American stomach to be true.

Another third of the Chicago population is Irish. Genetically the Irish have evolved in an inherently beautiful land that has caused them to drink heavily whenever outside of this land. This is to deal with the squalid landscapes of Chicago. Blame them not, they are only following the unavoidable bonds of nature that tie into their DNA and make them wholesale worthless drunks. There is no hope for them and, verily, we cannot hope to even get them into rehab until we understand that there simply is no rehabilitation for them. Their origin country has a short pitiful record that I can't seem to find records on regarding any suppressors or instigators prior to being a poor island nation hell bent on alcoholism. Oh, if only my scientific inklings were wrong! How I wish I wasn't the one that has to break the news to you. Woe is all that I can feel for having to inform you that genetically the Irish are inferior.

The final third of the Chicago population is Polish. The Poles of Chicago are a daft and rotund people but it is not their fault. The DNA has been shaped by thousands of years of unhealthy food. The cold winters of Poland and Chicago force them indoors where they cannot possibly be industrious but have to sit at microscopes and furrow their brows in a vain attempt to understand these things that I have discovered. Even my high minded Libertarian business attitude can't provide enough jobs for these idle drones. Genetically they suffer from 'Polack Slack' and our policy towards helping them past working on the dock and losing weight will forever fail until we come to accept this. It pains me so to break this news to you but down in my genetically superior innards this idea has been borne and I know it to be true. I know it.

The tests indicate that our great nation would probably be more effective if Chicago and its descendents didn't exist at all. Genetically they will forever be poor and stupid, attached to the glass teat clamoring for more concussions while wallowing about in their fetid sties. Drunk and unable to form simple sentences, our once prosperous country will be held back from truly succeeding.

Ball's in your court, James.

about three weeks ago
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Window Washing a Skyscraper Is Beyond a Robot's Reach

eldavojohn Re:It seems like squeegeeing is the wrong approach (203 comments)

For a human, using a sponge and squeegee combo is probably the most effective way to clean a window. For a robot, I would imagine that the answer is something more like a pressure washer, with a hood which covers the work area and reclaims the wash water. The water would then be filtered and reused until the particulate count rose too high, at which point it would be flushed and replaced with fresh. A sheeting additive would be used to cause the water to run off without spotting.

This probably wouldn't replace human window washing entirely, but it seems like it has the potential to replace at least some of the washes.

I've often wondered if anyone has ever tried a project to make a building which washes itself, using a robot designed for the building, and a building designed for the robot. I can imagine many problems with such a project without even undertaking it, mostly related to critters taking up residence in the mechanisms and/or tracks, but if it operated continuously that might well eliminate some of those objections. A universal window washing robot has a more complicated task than such a device would.

Did you even read the article? You'll find it discusses how the old World Trade Center Towers had built in devices that were made specifically for the building that would automatically go up and down cleaning it. The only problem was they missed the corners and creases of each pane and the rich people at the top of the building didn't want the grimy borders to their new expensive view of NYC.

It sounds like you have a lot of ideas for building a nice big heavy expensive machine that moves up and down a building. Burst forth and implement your idea, I think you'll find that the the weight, the power and the water feed to these devices will push you towards what has already been implemented and did not do a satisfactory job. Humans had to follow up behind the built in robots to clean spots they had missed.

It's funny, I read articles on Slashdot about how AI is the one thing that threatens man. And we can't even implement AI and pattern recognition to replace a window washer -- oh the incongruity!

about a month ago
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Interviews: Ask Rachel Sussman About Photography and the Oldest Living Things

eldavojohn Your Thoughts and Use of Post Processing? (35 comments)

So I'm not too knowledgeable on photography but one thing I'm aware of is that professional photographers do a lot of post processing. To the point of Adobe Lightroom or higher being so mandatory with DSLRs that they sometimes package it with lenses (especially the ones that distort like a wide angle lens). Do you post process your photos? To what extent? How do you feel about people who use advanced techniques like even adding color to their photos? For example, I came across this photo which was odd to me because I've been to that place and it's beautiful but not like in that photo -- it doesn't need fake pink clouds to be beautiful. It would seem to me a shame to have a tree live 2,000 years and then a human uses a fish eye lens on its knotted trunk to make it seem more old and gnarled and then later adjusts the darkness of the sky to give it a Halloween feel, etc. And then since that's the most artistic shot of it, that's how we remember it.

about a month ago
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The Students Who Feel They Have the Right To Cheat

eldavojohn Be the Change You Wish to See in the World (438 comments)

When I was younger and I first came across this quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

I always thought it was bizarrely tautological. If you wish something to be different and you personally can make a choice for it under your control to be different, then you make the correct choice. For example, I don't throw a soda can out the window of my car while complaining about pollution on the highway. Other people obviously don't care but I control the drop in the bucket I'm responsible for and I make the ethical choice.

But as I got older, I actually found and still find people that think they should be forced to do it the right way even while complaining about the abuse. Case in point, a friend in the medical profession was actually complaining about tax dodges while setting up his own backdoor Roth IRA. When I asked him about abusing the very rules he was decrying, he simply shrugged and said he doesn't make the rules he just follows them. He acknowledged it's shady as hell but pretty much felt like his hands were tied.

It was deeply troubling ... I get a similar feeling about this article. I understand it is sometimes harder to play by ethical rules than legal rules when everyone around you is benefiting from misconduct but ... it seems this is yet another example of the caste system thriving in India. It's simply stupefying on the "My dad is Li Gang" level.

about a month and a half ago
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Interviews: Ask Warren Ellis a Question

eldavojohn Self Censorship in Your Industry (58 comments)

I've never really enjoyed main stream comics but the imprints that dodge the archaic Comics Code have pulled me in with various titles -- some of yours even. According to your wikipedia page you left Hellblazer after DC refused to print a controversial comic of yours in such an imprint:

He left that series when DC announced, following the Columbine High School massacre, that it would not publish "Shoot", a Hellblazer story about school shootings, although the story had been written and illustrated prior to the Columbine massacre.

Is this common in comic books/graphic novels? Have you experienced this elsewhere in your career? Do you feel that DC and other big publishers are too afraid of another Fredric Wertham to toe the line?

about a month and a half ago
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Huh, it has been quite awhile since I posted here

eldavojohn Red Three Standing By (8 comments)

I've largely left Slashdot ... still read it occasionally but if I read one more highly moderated Jane Q. Public post I will diminish and go into the West.

Can't resist asking questions when I see a fresh interview though ...

about a month and a half ago
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Interviews: Ask CMI Director Alex King About Rare Earth Mineral Supplies

eldavojohn China's Complete Supply Chain (62 comments)

Recently this year the WTO ruled against China's practices in the rare earth market but some pundits have stated that this ruling doesn't matter because China controls the whole supply chain of rare earths. Would you care to comment on the efficacy of the WTO's ruling? Can you explain what part of the supply chain the US is missing? For example, we're missing mines but if we had mines we're missing refineries but if we had them we're missing ... etc. What throughput of each mineral in our domestic supply chain would we need to put the US government at ease?

about a month and a half ago
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Interviews: Ask CMI Director Alex King About Rare Earth Mineral Supplies

eldavojohn The True Cost of Various Environmental Laws? (62 comments)

The minerals themselves aren't necessarily rare in an absolute sense, but they're expensive to extract.) The most economically viable deposits are found in China, and rising prices for them as exports to the U.S., the EU, and Japan have raised political hackles. (At the same time, those rising prices have spurred exploration and reexamination of known deposits off the coast of Japan, in the midwestern U.S., and elsewhere.

My understanding revolves around only the crudest idea about modern mining methods and the resulting tailings & water usage they often employ. I assume that in China, they get around these costs by just damaging the environment (like dumping tailings where ever instead of having dedicated settling and filtering ponds). Could you give us some back of the envelope calculations (they could be percentages or additional yearly operating costs) of what these environmental regulations mean for mining operations in the United States versus China? There's an awful lot of talk on Slashdot and other news sites about how cost prohibitive the EPA makes business in America but I've never seen an expert in the industry actually talk hard numbers. Any ballpark estimates would be greatly appreciated. In your experience, are any of these laws and regulations less or more effective than others?

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can You Say Something Nice About Systemd?

eldavojohn What Does Systemd Mean to Me? (928 comments)

"What Does Systemd Mean to Me?"
By
eldavojohn

Systemd has a nice ring to it. The way the syllables roll off my tongue pleases me greatly. It could be the title of a great anime series. It could even be the lost name of an ancient forgotten god-king. It might even be the name I give my first born. It sounds much more authoritative and genuine than sysvinit or upstart or inetd. For instance from my non-technical fourth grade perspective this is what I interpret the others to mean:

  • sysvinit - A cheap knockoff of systemd. Sounds sort of like a sexually transmitted disease phase like syphilis virus initialization.
  • upstart - Sounds like you don't know what the hell is going on. "This young upstart" ... leave it to the pros, greenhorn. Leave it to systemd.
  • inetd - What are we, fishing here? You netted? You netted what? At least tell us what you netted. Is it a record breaking fish? Also, nice try with the cheap 'd' knockoff at the end. Leave it to the originals. Leave it to ... systemd.

Contrary to your base assumptions, systemd does not actually boot faster on my Pentium II (Intel inside) system. I just like the way it sounds.

  • Personal Experience - I actually stood up at dinner last night and slammed my fist down on the table and yelled at my wife that "WE WILL ONLY USE SYSTEMD IN THIS HOUSE FROM NOW ON" and I flung her iPad against the wall, shattering it. And then I got down on my knees in tears -- having seen the light -- and swore fealty to systemd.
  • Working Examples - Three nights ago I stole away into the night across town to the Olafsen's house (a predominantly Norwegian family) and (being predominantly of Swedish descent myself) spray painted on the front of their new home: "SYSTEMD BOOT HOME" in blood red paint. This was a Nice Thing in a "never forget" sorta way. I then got down on my knees in tears and applied the spray paint liberally to my upper lip -- the same condition in which I write this post for you, dear reader.
  • Links to Supporting Documentation - [1]

about 2 months ago
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Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

eldavojohn Designed in US, Built in EU, Filled in Iraq (376 comments)

The summary seems to have left out the most interesting tidbit:

According to the Times, the reports were embarrassing for the Pentagon because, in five of the six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been "designed in the US, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies".

Where were they found? Next to the plants set up by Western companies that filled them in Iraq, of course. Who has control of those plants now? Why, ISIS of course. Don't worry, though, the people who thought it was better we didn't know about these things are assuring us that all those weapons were hurriedly destroyed.

about 2 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

eldavojohn Does This Look Cancerous To You? (187 comments)

*holds up mirror for Florian to gaze into*

about 2 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

eldavojohn What Is Your Relationship with Microsoft & Ora (187 comments)

You were a valuable unbiased source of information on software patents and patent litigation. Particularly the German court's struggle with them. However it came to light -- in a rather surprising way -- that you were paid or possibly employed by Microsoft and Oracle. I have heard much about this and it often casts a negative light on your blogging but I would like to hear your side of these relationships. I can conceivably understand how you could accept money that furthers your ideals but it is difficult to comprehend how I can be assured this does not influence your writing, position, selected details and bias. Are you able to lay my concerns to rest?

about 2 months ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

eldavojohn Where Do These Stats Come From? (546 comments)

Nearly half of the software developers in the United States do not have a college degree. Many never even graduated from high school.

What? I pored over the article and the US BLS link in it to find the source of these statements. Aside from a pull quote that appears as an image in the article but isn't even in the article itself and is unattributed, could someone find me the source of this statistic?

Because I'm a software developer in the United States with a Masters of Science in Computer Science. All of my coworkers have at least a bachelor's degree in one field or another. And my undergrad very much so started with a sink-or-swim weed out course in Scheme and then another in Java. Yes, they were both easy if you already knew how to code but ... this article almost sounds like it's written by someone with no field experience. Granted that's a low sample set, I'd like to know where the other half of us are. Everyone keep in mind that a Computer Science degree is a relatively new thing and there very well may be elderly coders doing a great job without technically a degree in computer science.

The only way I can see the misconception spreading is that people who use Wix to drag and drop a WYSIWYG site (for you older readers that's like FrontPage meets Geocities) erroneously consider themselves "software developers".

about 4 months ago
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Interview: Ask Christopher "moot" Poole About 4chan and Social Media

eldavojohn Come, Regale Us with Tales of Yore (220 comments)

You founded 4chan. Care to elaborate on any of the undoubtedly countless times shit has gotten real?

You know, things you wouldn't tell WSJ when you were seeking solvency but are juicy crazy stories?

about 4 months ago
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Interview: Ask Christopher "moot" Poole About 4chan and Social Media

eldavojohn Moot.it C&D (220 comments)

We're super big fans of C&Ds here and I would like to know what happened with your C&D to Moot.it. How did it come about and what was the resolution?

about 4 months ago
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Interview: Ask Christopher "moot" Poole About 4chan and Social Media

eldavojohn Canv.as Decommissioned (220 comments)

Canvas (site, not the HTML5 element) and DrawQuest were killed earlier this year. I used it briefly in its beta form and thought it was a neat idea. Any chance you could elaborate on why it was shut down? The e-mail I got was brief and vague -- were you facing copyright issues? Monetization problems? Image space issues? Care to spill your lessons learned?

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Star Wars: Episode VII Cast Officially Announced

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 8 months ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Word was leaking this week of some familiar faces in London hanging out together. Finally today an official cast listing was handed down from on high to us mere mortals (Google Cache and Onion AV recap available). From the short release, "Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film." Let's not bicker and argue about who shot first but instead come to an agreement on expected levels of almost certain disappointment. No, this will not feature the Expanded Universe (EU) — you can now refer to those tales as "Legends" which are not part of Star Wars canon. Instead prepare yourself for what will likely be the mother of all retcon films."
Link to Original Source
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Russia Proposes Banning Foul Language on the Internet

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "In a country where it's illegal to insult a government official, State Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina has proposed an amendment to ban swearing on social networks, bulletin boards and all websites. The website would be blocked if the offending material had not been removed within 24 hours. The name of the law this would be added to? "On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development." Mizulina's title in regards to this legislation? Chairwoman of the Committee on Family, Women and Children (No joke!). Of course, Yelena Mizulina is no stranger to unwarranted censorship as she was behind the law banning gay propaganda to minors and invoked laws to try to silence critics on twitter. The article also notes, 'United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov put forward a similar initiative on 25 July. He proposed to tighten control over social networks and allow people to dating sites through their passports.'"
Link to Original Source
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Jimmy Carter Calls Snowden Leak Ultimately "Beneficial"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to RT, the 39th president of the United States made several statements worth noting. Carter said that 'America has no functioning democracy at this moment' and 'the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far.' The second comment sounded like the Carter predicted the future would look favorably upon Snowden's leads — at least those concerning domestic spying in the United States — as he said: 'I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.' It may be worth noting that, stemming from Zurcher v. Stanford Daily, Jimmy Carter signed the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 into law and that Snowden has received at least one nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize."
Link to Original Source
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According to YouGov Poll, Snowden Support Declining Among Americans

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A recent poll from the YouGov consisting of one thousand responses shows that Snowden's support among Americans has shifted. Now, according to the poll, more Americans think he did the wrong thing rather than the right thing when asked 'Based on what you’ve heard, do think Snowden’s leak of top-secret information about government surveillance programs to the media was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?' The results and breakdown can be found in this PDF. Without getting into racial or political breakdowns, the results now show that 38% say he did the wrong thing, 33% say he did the right thing and 29% remain undecided about the results of his actions. Instead of charging the populace into action Snowden may be facing apathy at best and public disapproval at worst."
Link to Original Source
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Death of Trees Correlated with Human Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disease

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "PBS's NewsHour interviewed Geoffrey Donovan on his recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that noted a correlation between trees (at least the 22 North American ash varieties) and human health: 'Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people's health. And if that's true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.' The basis of this research is Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer, which has systematically destroyed 100 million trees in the eastern half of the United States since 2002. After accounting for all variables, the research found that an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease in the 15 states infected with the bug compared with uninfected areas of the country. While the exact cause and effect remains unknown, this research appears to be reinforcing data for people who regularly enjoy forest bathing as well as providing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits."
Link to Original Source
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Book Review: Core HTML5 Canvas

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Core HTML5 Canvas is a book that focuses on illuminating HTML5 game development for beginning and intermediate developers. While HTML and JavaScript have long been a decent platform for displaying text and images, Geary provides a great programming learning experience that facilitates the canvas element in HTML5. In addition, smatterings of physics engines, performance analysis and mobile platform development give the reader nods to deeper topics in game development.

author David Geary
pages 723 pages
publisher Prentice Hall
rating 9/10
reviewer eldavojohn
ISBN 9780132761611
summary An introduction to game development in HTML5’s canvas that brings the developer all the way up to graphics, animation and basic game development.

This book is written with a small introduction to HTML and JavaScript. While Geary does a decent job of describing some of those foundational skill sets, I fear that a completely novice developer might have a hard time getting to the level required for this text. With that in mind, I would recommend this book for people who already have at least a little bit of HTML and JavaScript development in their background. This book may also be useful to veteran developers of an unrelated language who can spot software patterns easily and aren't afraid to pick up JavaScript along the way. You can read all of Chapter One of the book here if you want to get a feeling for the writing. Geary also has sample chapters available on his site for the book, corehtml5canvas.com and maintains the code examples on Github. If you already write games, this book is likely too remedial for you (especially the explanations of sprites and collision detection) and the most useful parts would be Geary's explanation of how to produce traditional game elements with the modern HTML5 standards.

I have very few negative things to say about this text – many of which may be attributed to personal preferences. This book is code heavy. It starts off with a sweet spot ratio for me. I found I spent about twenty to thirty percent of my time scanning over HTML and JavaScript snippets inserted occasionally into passages. However, by the last chapters, I found myself poring over lengthier and lengthier listings that made me feel like I was spending sixty to seventy percent of my time analyzing the JavaScript code. To be fair, the author does do a good job of simply referencing back to concepts learned in other chapters but I wouldn't mind a re-explanation of those topics or a more in depth analysis of how those concepts interoperate. I also feel that it is risky to put so much code into print as that greatly impacts the shelf life of an unchanging book. The book itself warns on page 51 that toBlob() was a new specification added to HTML5 between writing the book and the book being published. I feel like this would warrant much more English explaining what you're accomplishing and why so that the book does not age as much from being tightly coupled to a snapshot of the specifications.

The code listings in this book are wonderfully colored to indicate quickly to the eye what part of the JavaScript language each piece is. I'm not sure how many copies suffer from this but my book happened to have a problem on some of the pages whereby the comprising colors did not line up. Here is a good example and a bad example just a few pages apart.

This was infrequent but quite distracting as the code became more and more predominant. Lastly, Geary briefly introduces the reader to amazing performance tools (jsPerf in Chapter 1 and again Browserscope in Chapter 4) early on and demonstrates how to effectively exercise it on small pieces of JavaScript. In the particular example he shows how subtle differences in handling image data can affect the performance inside different browsers (even different versions of the same browser as I'm sure the JavaScript engines are repeatedly tweaked). Since games are always resource intensive, I wondered why the author didn't take these examples to the next level and show the reader how to write unit tests (not really covered in the book). That way each of these functions could be extracted to a common interface where it would be selectively chosen based on browser identification. While this might be unnecessary for images, it would be a nod toward addressing the long pole in the tent when you look to squeeze cycles out of your code. Oddly, as more concepts are established and combined, these performance exercises disappear. I understand this book was an introduction to these side quests with a focus on game development but this was one logical step I wish had been taken further (especially in Chapter 9: The Ungame).

About a year ago, I started a hobby project to develop a framework for playing cards in the browser on all platforms. The canvas element would be the obvious tool of choice for accomplishing this goal. Unfortunately I began development using a very HTML4 attitude with (what I now recognize) was laughable resource management. This book really helped me further along in getting that hobby project to a more useable state.

The first chapter of the book introduces the reader to the basics of HTML5 and the canvas element. The author covers things like using clientX and clientY for mouse events instead of x and y. A simple clock is built and shows how to correctly use the basic drawing parts of the HTML5 specification. For readers unfamiliar with graphics applications, a lot of ground is covered on how you programmatically start by constructing an invisible path that will not be visually rendered until stroke() or fill() is called. The chapter also covers the basic event/listener paradigm employed by almost anything accepting user input. Geary explains how to properly save and restore the surface instead of trying to graphically undo what was just done.

An important theme through this book is how to use HTML elements alongside a canvas. This was one of the first follies of my “everything goes in canvas” attitude. If you want a control box in your application, don't reinvent the partially transparent box with paths and fills followed by mouse event handling over your canvas (actually covered in Chapter 10) – simply use an HTML div and CSS to position it over your canvas. Geary shows how to do this and would have saved me a lot of time. Geary discusses and shows how to manage off-screen canvases (invisible canvases) in the browser which comes in mighty handy when boosting performance in HTML5. The final parts of Chapter One focus on remedial math and how to correctly handle units of measure when working in the browser.

Chapter Two shows the reader how to build a rudimentary paint application with basic capabilities. It does a great job of showing how to expand on the basic functions provided by HTML5 and covers a little bit of the logic behind the behavior. Geary goes so far as to show the reader how to extend some of the core components of HTML5 like CanvasRenderingContext2D with an additional function. He also cautions that this can lead to pitfalls in JavaScript. This chapter does an excellent job of exploiting and enumerating core drawing functionality to achieve the next level in using these lines and objects for a desired user effect. Prior to reading this chapter, I hadn't viewed clip() in the correct light and Geary demonstrates the beginnings of its importance in building graphics. In Chapter Three, text gets the same extensive treatment that the basic drawing elements did in Chapter Two. In reading this chapter, it became apparent hat HTML5 has a lot of tips and tricks (perhaps that comes with the territory of what it's trying to achieve) like you have to replace the entire canvas to erase text. Being a novice, I'm not sure if the author covered all of such things but I was certainly appreciative for those included.

Chapter Four was an eye opener on images, video and their manipulation in canvas. The first revelation was that drawImage() can also render another canvas or even a video frame into the current canvas. The API name was not indicative to me but after reading this chapter, it became apparent that if I sat down and created a layout of my game's surface, I could render groups of images into one off-screen canvas and then continually insert that canvas into view with drawImage(). This saved me from considerable rerendering calls. The author also included some drag and drop sugar in this chapter. The book helped me understand that sometimes there are both legacy calls to old ways of doing things and also multiple new ways to accomplish the same goal. When you’re trying to develop something as heavy as a game, there are a lot of pitfalls.

Chapter Five concentrates on animations in HTML5 and first and foremost identifies a problem I had struggled with in writing a game: don’t use setInterval() or setTimeout() for animations. These are imprecise and instead the book guides the reader with instructions on letting the browser select the frame rate. Being a novice, the underlying concepts of requestAnimationFrame() had eluded me prior to reading this book. Geary’s treatment of discussing each browser’s nuances with this method may someday be dated text but helped me understand why the API call is so vital. It also helps you build workarounds for each browser if you need them. Blitting was also a new concept to me as was the tactic of double buffering (which the browser already does to canvas). This chapter is heavy on the hidden caveats to animation in the browser and builds on these to implement parallax and a stopwatch. The end of this chapter has a number of particularly useful “best practices” that I now see as crucial in HTML5 game development.

Chapter Six details sprites and sprite sheets. Here the author gives us a brief introduction to design patterns (notably Strategy, Command and Flyweight) but it’s curious that this isn’t persisted throughout the text. This chapter covers painters in good detail and again how to implement motion and timed animation via sprites with requestNextAnimationFrame(). This chapter does a great job of showing how to quickly animate a spritesheet.

Chapter Seven gives the user a brief introduction to implementing simple physics in a game engine like gravity and friction. It’s actually just enough to move forward with the upcoming games but the most useful section of this chapter to me was how to warp time. While this motion looks intuitive, it was refreshing to see the math behind ease-in or ease-out effects. These simple touches look beautiful in canvas applications and critical, of course, in modeling realistic motion.

Naturally the next thing needed for a game is collision detection and Chapter Eight scratches the surface just enough to build our simple games. A lot of fundamental concepts are discussed like collision detection before or after the collision happens. Geary does a nice job of biting off just enough to chew from the strategies of ray casting, the separating axis theorem (SAT) and minimum translation vector algorithms for detecting collisions. Being a novice to collision detection, SAT was a new concept to me and I enjoyed Geary’s illustrations of the lines perpendicular to the normal vectors on polygons. This chapter did a great job of visualizing what the code was achieving. The last thing this chapter tackles is how to react or bounce off during a collision. It provided enough for the games but it seemed like an afterthought to collision detection. Isn’t there a possibility of spin on the object that could influence a bounce? These sort of questions didn’t appear in the text.

And Chapter Nine gets to the main focus of this book: writing the actual game with all our prior accumulated knowledge. Geary calls this light game engine “the ungame” and adds things like multitrack sound, keyboard event handling and how to implement a heads-up display to our repertoire. This chapter is very code heavy and it confuses me why Geary prints comments inlined in the code when he has a full book format to publish his words in. The ungame was called as such because it put together a lot of elements of the game but it was still sort of missing the basic play elements. Geary then starts in on implementing a pinball game. It may sound overly complicated for a learning text but as each piece of the puzzle is broken down, the author manages to describe and explain it fairly concisely. While this section could use more description, it is basically just bringing together and applying our prior concepts like emulating physics and implementing realistic motion. The pinball board is merely polygons and our code there to detect collisions with the circle that is the ball. It was surprisingly how quickly a pinball game came together.

Chapter Ten takes a look at making custom controls (as mentioned earlier about trying to use HTML when possible). From progress bars to image panners, this chapter was interesting and I really enjoyed the way the author showed how to componentize and reuse these controls and their parts. There’s really not a lot to say about this chapter, as you may imagine a lot of already covered components are implemented in achieving these controls and effects.

Geary recognizes HTML5’s alluring potential of being a common platform for developing applications and games across desktops and mobile devices. In the final chapter of the book, he covers briefly the ins and outs of developing for mobile — hopefully without having to force your users to a completely different experience. I did not realize that native looking apps could be achieved on mobile devices with HTML5 but even with that trick up its sleeve, it’s hard to imagine it becoming the de facto standard for all applications. Geary appears to be hopeful and does a good job of getting the developer thinking about the viewport and how the components of their canvas are going to be viewed from each device. Most importantly, it’s discussed how to handle different kinds of input or even display a touch keyboard above your game for alphabetic input.

This was a delightful book that will help readers understand the finer points of developing games in HTML5’s canvas element. While it doesn’t get you to the point of developing three dimensional blockbuster games inside the browser, it does bite off a very manageable chunk for most readers. And, if you’re a developer looking to get into HTML5 game design, I heavily recommend this text as an introduction."

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Jeremy Hammond of LulzSec Pleads Guilty to Stratfor Attack

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year and a half ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "After facing thirty years to life imprisonment and pleading not guilty to charges last year, Jeremy Hammond has pleaded guilty to his alleged involvement in Anonymous' hacking of Stratfor. The self proclaimed hacktivist member of LulzSec who has compared himself to the late Aaron Swartz explained his reasoning in his plea: "Today I pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This was a very difficult decision. I hope this statement will explain my reasoning. I believe in the power of the truth. In keeping with that, I do not want to hide what I did or to shy away from my actions. This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline. During the past 15 months I have been relatively quiet about the specifics of my case as I worked with my lawyers to review the discovery and figure out the best legal strategy. There were numerous problems with the government’s case, including the credibility of FBI informant Hector Monsegur. However, because prosecutors stacked the charges with inflated damages figures, I was looking at a sentencing guideline range of over 30 years if I lost at trial. I have wonderful lawyers and an amazing community of people on the outside who support me. None of that changes the fact that I was likely to lose at trial. But, even if I was found not guilty at trial, the government claimed that there were eight other outstanding indictments against me from jurisdictions scattered throughout the country. If I had won this trial I would likely have been shipped across the country to face new but similar charges in a different district. The process might have repeated indefinitely. Ultimately I decided that the most practical route was to accept this plea with a maximum of a ten year sentence and immunity from prosecution in every federal court. Now that I have pleaded guilty it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites. Those others included military and police equipment suppliers, private intelligence and information security firms, and law enforcement agencies. I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.""
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Aussie Research Shows Windfarm Sickness Spreads by Word of Mouth

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Just like the many stories surrounding alleged "wifi sickness" research is now showing that windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth instead of applying universally to windfarms. Areas that had never had any noise or health complaints were suddenly experiencing them after 2009 when anti-wind groups targeted populations surrounding windfarms. From the article, 'Eighteen reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 had all reached the broad conclusion that there was very little evidence they were directly harmful to health.' While there's unfortunately no way to prove that someone is lying about how they feel, it's likely a mixture of confirmation bias, psychosomatic response, hypochondria, greed and hatred of seeing windmills on the horizon that drives this phenomenon."
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RSF Calls Out Countries and Mercenaries in Report on Online Spying

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Reporters without Borders has released a report on governments and the companies they employ to spy on their own citizens online. Syria and China were singled out as the worst with Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam not far behind. In addition, RSF named names when it came to the corporate entities (a market worth 5 billion dollars) that provided specific services to these oppressive governments: Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat. The report is aptly titled "Enemies of the Internet" and, though lengthy, provides a detailed examination in the destruction of online rights as well as very specific attacks each government employs. RSF also noted the many attempted solutions to these problems and a link to their online survival kit."
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North Korea Kills Phone Line, 1953 Armistice; Kim Jong Un's Funds Found in China

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "Last week, North Korea promised a "preemptive nuclear strike" prior to a UN vote on new sanctions. Despite the threat, the sanctions were unanimously approved. North Korea has responded by killing a Red Cross hotline with Seoul and claims that it has canceled the 1953 Armistice although the UN notes this cannot be done unilaterally (North Korea attempted the same thing in 2003 and 2009). While everyone thought that Kim Jong Un would ride out the sanctions on slush funds, the United States claims to have found his funds in Shanghai and other parts of China totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Beijing has reportedly refused to confiscate these funds despite voting for the very UN resolutions sanctioning North Korea that read: 'More specifically, States are directed to prevent the provision of financial services or the transfer of any financial or other assets or resources, including “bulk cash”, which might be used to evade the sanctions.'"
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China Now Using "State Secrets" Label to Cover Up Polution Records

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "More problems have surfaced as people attempt to bring soil pollution problems to light in China. From the article, 'When Pan sued the Hebei Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, he was given access to the environmental impact assessment that the environment ministry claimed it had done in the village. Pan discovered that the assessment, carried out by the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, had names of people who had left the village two decades previously and even a person who had been dead for two years — all "expressing favor" for the project. Pan surveyed 100 people in his village, showing them the purported environmental impact study. The majority of them gave him written statements that declared: "I've never seen this form," according to documents seen by Reuters.' Reuters has also discovered that China uses "state secrets" labels to hide environmental studies and pollution numbers as well as using strong arm tactics to silence residents attempting to do their own studies."
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Researchers Put Numbers on China's Twitter Censorship

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "One of China's main twitter services used by 30% of all Chinese internet users is called Sina Weibo (weibo is the Chinese word for 'microblog') and something that is quite different from the West's twitter is, of course, the enforced censorship. Researchers at Rice University in Houston have estimated numbers for how censorship works and identifies the "velocity of censorship" in China's microblogging censorship. Most of the posts are marked as "permission denied" between the five minute and ten minute marks after posting. Their research shows that "If an average censor can scan around 50 posts a minute, that would require some 1400 censors at any instant to handle the 70,000 posts pouring in. And if they work 8 hour shifts, that’s a total of 4200 censors on the payroll each day." The research indicates you would need a small army to meet stringent censorship policies when servicing China and to avoid being shutdown like Fanfou (another weibo). Keep in mind that this is not simply identifying keywords and blocking the post based on those words. The researchers noted that a phrase like “Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee” will result in you being unable to submit your post to Sina Weibo. So the research examines the speed of ex post facto censorship which presumably requires an employee or perhaps government employee to identify "non-harmonious" posts based on their intrinsic content."
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Growing Public Unrest Leads China to Admit to "Cancer Villages"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about a year ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A new report from China's environment ministry has resulted in past due self realizations as well as possible explanations for "cancer villages." The term refers to villages (anywhere from 247 to 400 known villages) that have increased cancer rates due to pollution from nearby factories and industry. It revealed that many harmful chemicals that are prohibited and banned in developed nations are still found in China's water and air. Prior research has shown a direct correlation between industrialization/mining and levels of poisonous heavy metals in water. As a result, an air pollution app has grown in popularity and you can see the pollution from space. And yes, we all share the same planet. China has also released a twelve year plan for environmental protection."
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North Dakota Proposes Ban on Natural Gas Flaring after One Year

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A North Dakota lawmaker has proposed a bill that would ban flaring at oil and natural gas sites after one year of that site's operation. ISS footage has revealed that now large swaths of North Dakota are illuminated at night due simply to flaring from Bakken oil and natural gas drilling. Democratic Sen. Tim Mathern, proposer of the bill, said "It’s bringing a higher quality of life to western North Dakota, it’s putting an end to waste (and) it’s addressing the issue of climate change" and "This is taking a, what I’d call, a step-wise approach in addressing health and waste." In 2011, waste from global flaring equivocated to a fourth of the United State's natural gas consumption. The major difference between this bill and current law is that no exemptions whatsoever will be made. Mathern claimed that 30 percent of natural gas is flared in western North Dakota compared to the national average which is in single digits."
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North Korea Conducts Third Nuclear Bomb Test

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "A magnitude 5.1 earthquake was detected and it was confirmed by the DPRK to be a third nuclear test. KCNA news claims that the test was safe and cited the threat of the U.S. for conducting the test saying, 'The test was carried out as part of practical measure of counteraction to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK's legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.' RT is posting a feed of the many condemnations from governments and organizations."
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In 2011, Fracking Was #2 in Causing Greenhouse Gas in US

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to Bloomberg, drilling and fracking results in greenhouse gases second only to coal power plants in the United States. From the article, 'Emissions from drilling, including fracking, and leaks from transmission pipes totaled 225 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents during 2011, second only to power plants, which emitted about 10 times that amount.' According to Mother Jones, we now have more giant methane fireballs than any other country in the world and we can now see once dim North Dakota at night from space."
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American Verizon Worker Outsourced His Own Job to China

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "According to the BBC, one Verizon worker took outsourcing to a new level and just decided to pay one fifth of his six digit salary to a Chinese firm to do his job for him. Apparently, by giving his VPN credentials to the Chinese worker(s) replacing himself and sending his physical RSA token to them by way of Fedex, he tripped Verizon's security checks and was discovered by his superiors. What's interesting is that they found "hundreds" of invoices to the firm in Shenyang and suspect this man of being hired across multiple businesses to employ "his" telecommuting software language expertise. From the article, 'The software developer, in his 40s, is thought to have spent his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay.' Everyone can relax, there was no mention of Slashdot."
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Book Review: The Nature of Code

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  about 2 years ago

eldavojohn (898314) writes "I kickstarted a project undertaken by Daniel Shiffman to write a book on what (at the time) seemed to be a very large knowledge space. What resulted is a good book (amazing by CC-BY-NC standards) available in both PDF and HTML versions. In addition to the book he maintains the source code for creating the book and of course the book examples. The Nature of Code starts off swimmingly but remains front heavy with a mere thirty five pages devoted to the final chapter on neural networks. This is an excellent book for Java and Processing developers that want to break into simulation and modeling of well, anything. It probably isn’t a must-have title for very seasoned developers (unless you’ve never done simulation and modeling) but at zero cost why not?

First off, I feel like defining the audience of this book is very important to avoid disappointment. This book is not for someone who’s already developed games or modeled highway traffic or knows how to build their own physics engine. No, this book is geared at the people who are familiar with one language (preferably Java or Processing) and want to get a taste of all of the above. This book is possibly suitable for a someone new to the world of programming who is willing to put in the extra effort of coming up to speed on Processing in tandem with the text. After all, Processing is a comparatively forgiving language with a dead simple API to interact with the mouse and draw/animate objects.

I’d also like to address the “exercises” that are found throughout chapters and at the end of chapters in this book. They are excellent. I picked a couple and invested actual time in fleshing them out and I feel like Shiffman succeeded in inserting a wide range of difficulty. Leading along through each chapter, it is easy to successively complete each new exercise while the end of the chapters present stretch exercises. In addition to that, applicable chapters urge and provoke the reader to utilize newly learned concepts into what Shiffman calls “The Ecosystem Project.” Where the user is basically defining an ecosystem and continually adding new animals, new movement patterns, new behaviors like predation and finally artificial intelligence.

Lastly this book can be found in many formats and I read the first half as HTML with animated diagrams. While the animated diagrams were awesome and added greatly to the text, I still found myself enjoying the dead tree book much more. I know I will soon be a dinosaur with shelves of needless weight that people will mock but I cannot make the jump to reading on a screen. The book’s binding and paper quality is average as it appears to be from Amazon’s CreateSpace. Diagrams that would animate are shown in the book as having progressively darkening shadows of the paths of objects and is fairly easy to envision movement. I did love the HTML version’s moving examples though!

The introduction of this book brings up a few fundamental concepts on randomness like random walks and Perlin noise as well as a bit of statistics. For being labeled “Introduction” this chapter is fundamentally important and the aforementioned concepts are referred back to throughout the rest of the book. The book immediately dives into code snippets of a very simple nature that are easy to run and understand. Great detail and careful explanation are found throughout these opening chapters. The user is given informational boxes going further in depth to certain concepts. This was done really well in the first five or so chapters and was rare if even present in the final chapters.

The first chapter is devoted to vectors. It does an excellent job of explaining why they are so important as well as define and code mathematical concepts that affect vectors. A great aspect of this chapter is that the author fleshes out PVector functionality before your eyes to better understand Processing and object oriented programming. New (to beginners) ways of representing and implementing velocity and acceleration using vectors are explored at their most basic levels.

The second chapter moves naturally enough to forces on objects and begins to delve in basic physics formulas. Newton’s Laws are modeled as well as friction, aerodynamics, fluid dynamics and gravity. Shiffman does a great job of keeping these unruly topics in easy to understand language while at the same time offering the scary looking formulas. He even goes so far as to insert an informational box imploring the reader to not be afraid of scary looking formulas by breaking down friction. I feel like one of the strengths of this book is showing how a complex looking formula can be deconstructed to easy English and then further implemented roughly in a model in Processing. While this modeling is by no means completely accurate or state of the art, it is a good introduction and would likely suffice for simple games and web design.

The third chapter brings angles into the mix by concentrating on oscillations. While it does a great job of talking about the important aspects of trigonometry, the text does really follow through with recalling these concepts. For instance, the mnemonic device SOHCAHTOA from geometry class is briefly explained and subsequently dropped. We use it in later chapters but it is used implicitly and may be difficult for people who are not intimately familiar with it to see the trigonometric reductions employed for simplified coding of the visualizations. Shiffman does an excellent job at starting with something that looks like a complex system, breaking it down to its component vectors and showing incremental changes to the code that iteratively improve on the visualization at hand. In doing so he gives an example of how a modeling programmer should think and work through known physical behavior to derive something that works visually in Processing.

Next up is particle systems. The reader is introduced to simpler ways of maintaining a set of particles as we start to focus on multiple particles with complex interactions. Shiffman opts to keep it simple and shies away from coding aspects like ArrayList versus LinkedList versus HashMap. Instead minimal space is spent on side ventures and the particle systems are surprisingly easy to get off the ground. The user is introduced to polymorphism, inheritance and more advanced class constructs so that the user can reduce the amount of code required to activate, handle and delete heterogenous groups of particles. For a beginning developer this chapter is great at walking them through these more advanced concepts and helping them see a direct benefit to the code.

So far, Introduction through Chapter Four of the book, everything has been great. Shiffman points out that there are a plethora of physics libraries out there in any imaginable language of any imaginable quality. And, consequently, it’s unlikely you’re going to forge forward with the aforementioned concepts and find yourself making the next engine for latest blockbuster space shooter game. As a result, Chapter Five is an overview of how to interact with physics libraries and use your Processing sketch as a facade that just queries said library for position. Box2D is the first library he tackles and with good cause — it’s the same engine used by Angry Birds. And that’s great because it is certainly empowering to know that if you can skin a simple game that adds a few game rules to physics, you can make a billion dollars. I learned a lot from this. I have never interacted with a physics library like this before and it was easy to produce fluid and impressive results. But it felt like glue code and it also felt like this text could be deprecated with a large update to Box2D (or it’s Java and Processing equivalents). This really is a necessary and helpful chapter for this book but I felt sad that we had so quickly given up on rolling our own physics library. After Box2D, Shiffman presents VerletPhysics and provides a helpful resource for when you should use one over the other. Also, the terms for interacting with the libraries are slightly different but represent the same concept (side note: I wasn’t a big fan of the convoluted names these two libraries used to designate objects and object types).

Chapter Six shows the reader how to emulate an autonomous agent by introducing “desired” vectors to each object. In this case it is a race car trying to reach a target. As the object moves, the desired vector is a updated. Examples of code are provided that show the object overshooting its target and Shiffman progresses on his path of slightly improving it by algorithmically adjusting the desired vector by introducing a slowing magnitude upon approach of the target. The actions of the object become more complicated as a flow field is suggested instead for behavior. The author explores path following and how to introduce a bit of wandering around straight line like an ant following a pheromone trail or a person walking along a wall. Simple examples of group behavior like even spacing in a crowded group or flocking in a sparse population within a large space. Lastly this chapter covers a very important aspect of code: performance. By now the reader has seen many examples where code can run slowly and this chapter’s continual pairwise updating of all objects on the screen brings up Big O Notation. I wish Shiffman would spend more time on this or at least provide a separate box with more technical information on it like he did with other concepts.

The seventh chapter takes an interesting turn into cellular automata. While an interesting chapter and an interesting concept, it feels a bit disjoint from the rest of the text. While there is a way to tie it back into the long running ecosystem project. The most important aspect of cellular automata is that they are fun visualizations where as other concepts in programming that revolve around mutating state might not be as readily visible (like finite state machines or Markov models). This is the first chapter that feels a little rushed and more like a brief foray into a potentially deep field. The Game of Life is covered but only in its simplest aspects and I feel like this chapter could be better.

Chapter Eight dives into fractals. Again, like the last chapter, it is a bit short but I enjoyed this chapter. They are a great visual way to introduce newcomers to recursion and get them excited about it. On top of that, Shiffman shows how fractals appear in nature. Koch curves and Sierpinski triangles as fractal visualizations. Shiffman has a great informational box discussing the “monster” curve and tantalizes the reader with the paradox that an infinite recursion of the Koch curve results in an infinitely long line in a finite area of paper. This sort of stuff is what makes reading a book like this enjoyable and drives people to delve deeper into this concepts. I only wish the book had more of this. Also crucial to recursion in this chapter is a processing feature new to me: pushMatrix() and popMatrix(). As these are built out into trees, the author moves on to L-systems as devised by Aristid Lindenmayer. It’s amazing how this simple grammar could result in a simulation of an algal growth.

The ninth chapter helps the user through a high level overview of genetic algorithms. I think one thing this book lacks is caution or warning about jumping into concepts or using concepts just because they sound cool. While genetic algorithms sound cool and futuristic, I have rarely found them to be at all useful on a professional level. Shiffman does a great job of explaining precisely how selection is determined by defining the constraints of the environment as well as the evaluation function. Unfortunately I find that these things are often hard to define and it’s warnings like these that the text lacks. Nevertheless, there are a few good examples picked out for coding — unsurprisingly they use the laws of physics we just discussed and a number of computable variables for valuation. The best example is the rocket ship which is introduced after the standard monkeys trying to type the works of Shakespeare at a typewriter. Shiffman does a great job of explaining genetic algorithms and it’s certainly a neat topic that’s fun to think about but I’m not sure it’s a good practical fundamental aspect of coding. It definitely works for the simulation side of coding so it should stay in the book but again it feels rushed with a lot of the simulation application left to the reader in the ecosystem project. I think that a much longer chapter that models predation — like wolves and rabbits — might work a lot better. You could even tie in a little bit of math and show situations where not enough mutations cause the hunter or prey to settle in on local maximums.

The tenth and final chapter briefly covers neural networks. Again, this chapter felt rushed and was missing a lot of the great explanations that were present in the first half of the book. The scant thirty five pages covers peceptrons, neural networks, training vehicles with them and even backpropagation of multilayered neural networks to hand more complex classification demands. In an effort to give this chapter some fun visualizations, the last thing Shiffman covers is the animation of the operation of a neural network. I’m intimately familiar with all these topics but the pace at which this chapter moves might be too much for a starting developer. I feel like there’s a huge opportunity in this chapter to more thoroughly explain neural networks and to get readers more excited about classification systems in code.

All in all, the book was thoroughly enjoyable and I really enjoy that it is a creative commons work with both a github for the source code and the raw book. Although the latter chapters could use a lot of additional work this book is a great beginning tool for people who wish to start modeling nature in visualizations quickly and easily.

You can purchase a physical copy of The Nature of Code from amazon.com or you can name your price on a PDF directly. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews — to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page."

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Journals

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Rhode Island's "Kingdoms of Amular"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 2 years ago There's some ugly drama surrounding the collapse of 38 Studios. That has caused baseball's Curt Schilling to walk away from video games and publicly state that it will end up costing him his fortune. Everyone is in a very bad position right now. 38 Studio's top creditor is the state of Rhode Island. Aside from some stranger assets, there is a partially finished MMO called Project Copernicus as well as the source code and artwork for Kingdoms of Amular. So why doesn't Rhode Island seize this source code and artwork? They could auction it or, better yet, give it to the people who paid for it.

Now we all know this isn't going to happen. The source code will be shelved and it is unlikely it ever contribute to society ever again. The people who coded it have been fired and have moved on to the next thing in their lives while the bankruptcy proceedings play out in the news. But if I fail to repay a loan on a car, repossession services come to take the car. If a studio gets $75 million from a state to make a video game, where are the state's repo men to reclaim the video game?

The current situation is unavoidably bad for everyone involved. Schilling is blaming the governor, developers are moving for the second time in two years, gamers are missing out on the sequel to Amular and money is missing everywhere. But most notably each resident of Rhode Island has paid $75 to the video game industry and will likely never see it returned to their pockets. A coworker who thoroughly enjoys the game said that it's RI's fault for investing in such a fickle and risky industry. Maybe he's right? But the game is reasonably entertaining.

So what could a state do with source code and artwork? The obvious thought would be to auction it off and recoup losses. But what company wants to buy up those assets for more than a pittance compared to the loan? The game didn't sell as well as they thought it would, your developers would have to learn thousands of lines of new code, the artists that could expand the art in the same style are thrown to the wind and there's already a polished title out there. To me, the obvious solution would be to instead package Amular and Copernicus (at least the PC versions) as learning software for high schools and universities in RI. Art students could work on reskinning it, developers could work on just getting it built and Rhode Island would at least be able to show its residents something for which they had paid.

Furthermore if RI really wanted to recoup its losses, they could likely make several million back with a Kickstarter project to open source everything from 38 Studios. The only people who might not like this idea are those in the games industry who claim the MMO and RPG markets are already thoroughly saturated. Perhaps the current publisher and those with distribution contracts of Amular would object. But those executives have already taken the citizens of RI and Curt Schilling for a ride so why should RI care? The only downside would be a massive influx of Amular clones on the PSN, XBLA and PC fronts. But this is an opportunity for gamers, Rhode Islanders and open source in general to expand and set precedence that when a company folds all that hard work and late nights with Mountain Dew and pizza should not be wasted and shelved.

You can tell me that this will never happen -- not with Amular, Copernicus or any of the thousands of titles from failed development studios -- because you're right. It hasn't ever happened and it most likely will not. But Rhode Islanders paid for these titles and the repo men should arrive and bring that back for Rhode Island to decide what to do with it. At least those that have paid for it should be able to decide if what their hard earned money paid for should sit collecting dust or live in immortality.

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Phygg: Reader Voted Prepublication Academic Papers

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago

There's a new site called Phygg.com that is a cross between the arxiv physics feed and Digg.com in that you can read papers up for prepublication and then vote them up or down. I think this poses an interesting new step in peer review and academic journals in that it gives the public a chance to participate in reading and voting on papers. From there, the journals can separate the wheat from the chaff. While it's not exactly innovative (digg + arxiv = phygg), it'll be interesting to see if people take to it and how good the general public will be at reading lengthy physics papers. MIT's Tech Review has a short blog on the launching.

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Arcade Fire's HTML5 Experience

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago There's a neat site for Google Chrome users that shows how artists will be able to liberate themselves from Flash and use HTML5 when the standard is finalized and browser independent (if ever that happens). If you're bored and have five minutes and have speakers/headphones, I hope your childhood address shows enough up on here to make it worth your while. My parent's farmhouse had nothing but my hometown had a couple images that brought me back.

Of course prior to this we would have to use flash to enjoy the Aracade Fire's sites.

Hope someone else enjoys this as much as I do.

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Futurama is Back!

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago Tonight on Comedy Central, the first two episodes of the sixth season of Futurama were shown. It's been highly anticipated on Slashdot and as a fan I was satisfied with the return to television. I really liked the first episode and found the second episode mediocre.

*Spoiler Alert*

The first episode, Rebirth, had a lot of elements that Futurama episodes of yore contained that made me love it: social commentary, extrapolation of current technology into future technology, apparent deaths, sci-fi twists and a bit of character development. The trivial elements are certainly present like Fry's homeresque stupidity and cheap jokes but that's not something that distinguishes Futurama from other comedies. I think that the professor's quirky inventions and old age behavior remain strong in this series and for some reason never loses its humor with me. The professor can (and often does) invent anything that is necessary for the plot as well as sending the crew anywhere in the universe to deliver a package. Rebirth has a lot of those classic elements when the professor plays god with bringing the crew back to life as well as going to the cyclophage habitat planet to sacrifice Leela. If this sort of predictable formula annoys your or bores you, Futurama probably got old a while ago but for me the high quality of animation, music and voice acting really make willing to belly up for every contrived new world that is conjured. Rebirth also addresses Fry and Leela's loneliness and isolation but has a cheap cop out (the ones in love turn out to be robots) at the end to avoid any permanent character development at the end.

Episode Two, In-a-Gadda-Da-Leela, was less satisfactory for me because it dealt with an old card: Leela engaging in coitus with the Zapper (and his insecurities). While some parts made me smile, it just wasn't as funny or memorable as the older episodes. Some parts had their moments (Obi Wan Kenobi GPS with a different voice saying the wild cards was a favorite) but the overall story and plot didn't really pass muster for me. I enjoyed the cheesy black and white "The Transcredible Exploits of Zap Brannigan" (reminded me of many MST3K episodes) and of course you have to love Zap heavy episodes with his ill formed sentences and logic. But aside from that, we get a cookie cutter invention from the professor and nothing too impressive with the explanation and resolution of the V-Giny death sphere. I think a lot more could have been done with that.

All in all, not bad. I was hoping for more secondary characters that I've loved from the first four episodes like Roberto or Scruffy. These secondary recurring characters have always been a favorite of mine and a strength of the show. I guess I can't expect them to put one in every episode but I was disappointed there weren't a whole lot from the movies and none from these two episodes. Definitely worth my time to watch and for those of you outside the United States, you can find torrents out there online by searching for Futurama S06E01 and S06E02. I hope they make it all the way through this sixth season and I also hope Comedy Central ponies up for a lot more after that. If there's one show with usable potential, it's Futurama and its endless possibilities. I mean with the amount of money being dumped on other crappy shows, you'd think a fraction of that could be afforded for a show with a highly devoted following. Then again Firefly is long gone.

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Google's Exit Announcement as Covered in China's News

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 4 years ago When it comes to understanding what the Communist Party of China is thinking, it seems one of the few inputs we have is two of China's state run news sites (their English mouthpieces): China Daily and (the official press agency of the PRC) Xinhua. What follows is a brief news analysis of articles from these two sites over the past two days (note I do not speak Chinese and am therefore only digesting news from China in English).

From an article on the fourteenth Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, is quoted as saying:

"China's Internet is open," said Jiang. "China has tried creating a favorable environment for Internet," said Jiang while responding to a question on Google's possible retreat.

"China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law," she said. "China's law prohibits cyber crimes including hacker attacks."

And also on that day, they seemed to write off the hacker attacks on Google as a global problem while quoting an unnamed 'senior Chinese information official' (later given only as 'Wang') as saying:

"China's Internet is open to the world.... China is a victim of and firmly opposes cyber attacks," he said, noting the number of overseas cyber attacks on Chinese mainland websites in 2008 had increased by 148 percent over the previous year.

This last article is quite interesting in that it shifts the attention back to pornography and illicit materials, blaming those squarely on other countries. It is assumed this is to reinforce their stated right to enforce censorship on Google. And even placing the onus on other countries to:

"take active and effective measures to strengthen management of the Internet and make sure their problems do not affect other countries' cyber order."

Of course, the China Daily article ends with verbage like 'providing a favorable environment for the healthy development of minors' and calls on the government to 'ensure that information flow on the Internet is smooth and timely, and secure and orderly.'

Now, on to today, the fifteenth of January. It seems the goal here is to deflate the impact that Google's exit would have. China Daily has a story of none other than Steve Ballmer's compliance saying:

"I don't understand how that helps anything. I don't understand how that helps us and I don't understand how that helps China," Ballmer said.

Earlier on Thursday, Ballmer told CNBC Microsoft had no plans to exit China: "We've been quite clear, we're going to operate in China, we're going to abide by the law."

Really, this article is a consolidation of American news reports on Microsoft's plans in China. A clear sign that Microsoft is willing to play ball, why can't Google?

Then later, the Ministry of Commerce attempts to take the wind out of Google's sails by saying that not only have they not heard anything from Google yet but:

"Foreign investors should have confidence in China's market as China has the world's biggest Internet population," said Yao. "Any decision by Google to withdraw from China will not affect Sino-U.S. trade relations."

China Daily also appears to call Google's bluff and curiously offers new quotes from the prior day's briefing with Jian Yu:

"Relevant measures taken by the Chinese government are consistent with international conventions."

China Daily paraphrases experts as saying that the 'government will by no means compromise.' Another news article shows no support from the twenty other victims of the attack (aside from Yahoo, who hasn't been mentioned until now) that Google reported and they wrap that up with concerns that an exit from China will hurt Google's stock.

The best part might be the sour grapes editorial from a reader that claims 'Google.cn simply cannot compete with its main domestic rival, Baidu.com' which is completely true in search. But overlooks the previous day's comments from users as saying they were concerned about their Google mail, their access to Google Maps, Google docs and the slough of other services Google provides aside from search.

All of this sounds like a pretty firm "We're shocked you would consider this and don't understand why you are making such a mistake. We will continue to censor to protect our citizens and will not budge an inch for you. Ball's in your court." Well? Will Google act, stall or fold?

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Aussie Scientologists Strike Back

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Like a lot of countries, Australia doesn't quite know what to make of Scientologists. Okay, some Aussies just can't stand 'em. Australia's Daily Telegraph sends about an effort called Youth for Human Rights, a thinly veiled Scientologist front launched to teach kids about human rights. So, if L. Ron Hubbard (scifi author and founder of the Church of Scientology) made your list of Human Rights leaders, where would you put him? This "informative" resource puts him ahead of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I little bit of legwork casts more evidence of Youth for Human Rights real motives. With a whois turning up registration at 1332 L Ron Hubbard Way. Are you familiar with that address? Xenu-Directory is. So what's the problem? Well, these videos and booklets are being distributed and aimed at Year 6 students and there's absolutely no indication in the material that this is linked to the Church of Scientology. In fact, a warning has gone out to not use any of these materials inside the classroom. Perhaps Australia's inquiry by Senator Xenu ... I mean Xenophon into the CoS is long overdue and it's time everyone look more closely at their international efforts.

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The Music Service Oddity that is BlueBeat.com

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago Back in 2007, Slashdot covered a story about Media Rights Technology suing everyone for not implementing DRM. Ha ha, weird right? Okay, fast forward to today and it looks like BlueBeat.com (owned by MRT) is under a lot of fire for selling Beatles tunes and I'll bet EMI is having a field day with that. Most interesting about that is that "The ID3 tags of the Beatles songs sold on BlueBeat.com list âoe2009 BlueBeat.comâ as the copyright holder." Okay, that's another topic entirely.

My question is simple though ... what is going on with BlueBeat.com? BlueBeat offers a large selection of MP3s for 25 cents (only 160 kbps though) and you can stream entire albums as many times as you want on their site. So I began my investigative googling looking for MRT to be owned by someone in Germany or Russia and to be completely illegal in the US. But it seems to be a legit operation out of Santa Cruz, CA. So what gives? I mean, BlueBeat has the same crazy terms of service that iTunes does which they can change at anytime but there are so many things wrong with this picture:

  1. A music service undercutting everyone else by 75%.
  2. A DRM-less product from a company that initially sued everyone for not using DRM -- a company called Media Rights Technology!
  3. You can stream whatever you want from the site, whole albums or songs!
  4. The company doing this is in the United States of America. Where individuals are fined to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for sharing songs. What then, does BlueBeat imagine will happen to them legally?

So what am I missing here? Has MRT lost it? Is this a marketing tactic where they receive a DMCA take down, adhere to it and send e-mails to users asking them to delete their MP3s as their ToS says they can do? And from there just keep hosting songs that labels are too lazy to DMCA away? Something stinks but if you bought 100 songs for 25 dollars from BlueBeat and then kept using them, who would be breaking the law? You or BlueBeat?

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The Patent Lawsuit Explosion in Eastern Texas

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago We've discussed Eastern District of Texas court in more than a few stories about patent cases. To illustrate what kind of problem we're talking about here, a local Legal Journal has given us last week's review of cases filed in regards to patents in Eastern District of Texas.

They include:

  • Aircraft Technical Publishers vs. Avantext Inc. et al which entails 'the reproduction of computer-based information and data concerning the airworthiness requirements and other directives relating to non-commercial aircraft.'
  • Realtime Data LLC dba IXO vs. Morgan Stanley et al which entails 'the rights to four U.S. patents relating to data compression.' (6,624,761, 7,161, 506, 7,400,274, 7,417,568)
  • SFA Systems LLC vs. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. et al which entails an Integrated Computerized Sales Force Automation System. And how do you infringe on that? 'By making and using supply chain methods, sales methods, sales systems, marketing methods, marketing systems and inventory systems.' SFA claims, "As a result of the above Defendants' infringement of the '525 Patent, SFA has suffered monetary damages ... in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer such monetary damages in the future unless Defendants' infringing activities are permanently enjoined by this court," the complaint states."

Three cases every week should clog up the system. One has to wonder at the number of case titles ending with "et al" and also in relationship to software patents. A patent system that allows patents for data compression combined with Eastern District of Texas Court might be what we need for this powder keg to ignite and the power drunken sot that is the USPTO admit it has a problem.

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The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago Stanislaw Lem was arguably the greatest non-English science fiction writer before his death three years ago and left behind many science fiction novels with messages of satire and intrigue. The Futurological Congress is no different. The book has several motifs throughout it but I found the most prominent to be that we are living in an increasingly medicated society whereby the future may be wonderfully dystopian--in that the horrors of our existence are simply hidden by drugs on top of drugs on top of drugs. With a movie due out shortly by director Ari Folman, it seems like a good time to revisit this often overlooked short classic sci-fi work.

Our hero and narator, Ijon Tichy should be a familiar name to Lem fans or anyone familiar with Lem's Space Diaries in either English or Polish. Tichy acts as a mechanism of sanity in many of Lem's novels just trying to figure out what the devil is up with a messed up planet he lands on or a particular device/person. By this manner, Lem allows himself much discovery on the reader's behalf and by these means can relay the current state of events to the reader without jarringly interrupting the natural flow of things too much. Through this novel's course of Tichy's discoveries, I was suspended from being disturbed by spoon fed explanations most of the time but the word play that occurred in this particular story got to be a bit much and tedious for a sub-150-page paperback hence a missing point in its score.

Tichy is now a member of the Futurological Association and is invited to attend the Eighth Futurological Congress in Nounas, Costa Rica. From the get go, Lem is full of satire with the immediate lampooning of such self-appointed associations (and maybe even academia) by pointing out that there are two kinds of individuals in these associations: the ones that attend every single meeting/conference and those that don't leave their offices period.

One of the themes throughout the book is a borderline anti-American sentiment about the development of munitions and bombs. I'm familiar with Lem's ability to criticize both sides of the Cold War in a single paragraph although The Futurological Congress seems to focus more heavily on American military and pharmaceutical faults. Lem must have been well aware of kidnappings in Latin America when he wrote this book because that's one aspect he got right about the future of that area. Due to heavy activist presence in Costa Rica trying to capture and ransom Americans, a military attache is accompanying the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica to speak at the congress but in the middle of his speech an unfortunate delegate from India reaches into his breast pocket to grab a handkerchief to wipe his nose. This delegate standing next to Tichy is immediately dispensed with by the bodyguards of the ambassador and, thanks to 'humanitarian ballistics,' Tichy only gets a spattering of blood on him instead of the bullet passing through the target and injuring more people.

Some background on Lem may help you understand this satire. He was born a Catholic Pole with Jewish ancestry and seemed to run the gauntlet of oppression. He survived World War II with fake papers as a mechanic/welder and due to his "bourgeois origin" could not study at the Polytechnic during Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland after the end of the war. He became an Atheist stating, "for moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally." Knowing this, his satire and bitter critique of all things may not surprise you. On his way to the conference--aside from meeting an orgy of liberated publishers--he encounters an 'anti-papist' who is a Catholic on his way to kill the Pope with a gun of a massive caliber. The anti-papist's surprising motive is none other than The Holy Bible where Abraham is ordered to kill his son Isaac by God. Except that the anti-papist would be killing a father, the most holiest father. And this would be a great personal sacrifice and the "utmost of martyrdom" as the anti-papist "would suffer terrible torment and his soul eternal damnation." Again, Lem predicts today's world, we have no limit of people eager to misinterpret scriptures of any religion.

Back to the conference--since there's 168 attendees from 64 different countries, each person gets four minutes to present their paper. And everyone is only really interested in their own work and telling everyone else about it in a bit of a narcissistic way. This leads the first member to spend his four minutes thusly:

Stan Hazelton from the U.S. Delegation immediately threw the hall into a frenzy by emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5, 9 hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22!! Someone jumped up, saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. I turned to the number key in his paper and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.

The Futurologists in this novel are probably best described as each one being a less optimistic Ray Kurzweil in that they all seem to be spouting their own version of obstacles humanity is soon to face and consequently their ideas to remedy it. For instance the second delegate from Japan unveils a 10,000:1 model of a housing complex some 800 stories tall with self sustaining everything and mobile in the ocean! It's the future! In fact, everything is recycled! Even the food is recycled waste and excrement from the people. The sausage left out in the hall is actually reconstituted human waste (at which point everyone in the audience stops eating and shuffles the food underneath their seats). This sets the tone for a few of the minor themes of the novel and gives you an idea of how Lem takes subtle jabs at everyone. For example another United States delegate takes the floor to talk about population problems that are rapidly developing. He outlines seven solutions: "mass media and mass arrests, compulsory celibacy, full-sale deeroticization, onanization, sodomization, and for repeated offenders--castration." The book makes other references to population control and one character notes that continuing trends of population would eventually result in human beings exploding outward at the speed of light. Nature is addressed in an equally hilarious means as later in the book all animals have been extinct and replaced with what appear to be better controlled robots.

While in his room, Tichy makes the mistake of drinking the water and discovers that the water is spiked with a powerful hallucinogenic drug. He assumes it's the work of the revolutionaries and decides not to tell anyone but as the violence outside escalates and he mentions it to a fellow futurologist, he discovers that it is the rise of chryptochemocracy! With the hotel's staff, he quickly equips a gas mask as it becomes clear that chemical warfare is afoot ... of a psychedelic nature. Planes are called in equiped with LTN bombs. LTN stands for "Love Thy Neighbor" which is pretty indicative of today's munitions and their goals with surgical strikes. Hilariously enough, the very hotel in which the congress is convening is immediately bombed by mistake.

After pages of chemical warfare that affect the crowd's temperament and counter chemicals that affect the crowd's temperament, Tichy and a friend find oxygen tanks and masks and descend to the sewers where the hotel staff is relaxing comfortably with their own oxygen tanks and masks.

Unfortunately, Tichy and his companion do not have enough oxygen to last the night and therefore must take shifts suffering hallucinations. What follows from this point is a series of hallucinations that Tichy has ending in him coming to in the sewer. Tichy has several of these bizarre hallucinations ending in him being shot by revolutionaries in the sewer. He comes to certain that he is still hallucinating and refuses to believe anyone he is not. As a result, they freeze him until they can find a cure for his mental illness and he is unthawed many years later in a reality where 'psychemicals' keep everyone happy. This overmedicated society disgusts and frightens Tichy at times. It has gotten so bad that a company now exists where you can order a psychem that allows you the satisfaction of doing evil upon another person. Murder's no longer a problem, you just get reanimated. The worst possible offense is using psychems on an individual without their consent.

Tichy attempts to adapt and I couldn't help but be reminded of Fry in Futurama with similar humor employed nearly thirty years before it. As Tichy reconnects with his futurologist friend (people stopped dying as technology caught up a la Kurzweil), he discovers something unsettling about the drugs everyone is taking. He discovers that there's mascons that act as blockers to your senses and replace it with a superficial reality. And we start to understand why everything is so mysteriously idyllic while at the same times animals have been extinct for many years and the planet is at an overburdening 26 billion people. Tichy's friend hands him two vials that will unblock the layers of mascons. You see, the 'architects' of this current psychem reality have patched and repatched side effects of psychems and mascons with more psychems and mascons in the air and water supply! I'll leave The Matrix-like vials and harsh transition from utopia to dystopia for people interested in reading the book.

This book was a joy to read and although the very end is a bit dissatisfying to me, the satire and pessimism inherent to Lem's writings have influenced me and continue to influence me heavily. I like to think that Lem borrowed from sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick and that other science fiction authors like Douglas Adams have borrowed from Lem despite the language barrier and difference in culture. While Lem may not be the icon that Lovecraft, Clarke and Asimov have become, I certainly hope that people recognize his large corpus of works for more than just Solaris as I've enjoyed many novels by him. Lem offers a rare dark comedy in science fiction with The Futurological Congress.

You can pick up the English version of The Futurological Congress at Amazon . And catch the Ari Folman movie where the present day will be live action while the unfathomable future will be animated to adapt to the stark impossibilities the book portrays.

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Fan Mail from sstephenson@ecinstall.com

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago Sometimes I get fan mail and sometimes I get really awesome hate mail. Today, a man by the name of Steve Stephenson (also sent from blappo@gmail.com) at www.ecinstall.com decided to send me three pieces of mail despite my lack of response:

Subject: Why must you lie on Slashdot? Or is it that you're stupid?
So, the question is, are you just a REALLY bad reader, or are you that guy who has to lie because intelligent discourse is beyond his intellectual capability?

Subject: God, why are you such a lying piece of shit?
"Excuse me, how did we go from sarcasm and suing: (1) get another job, (2) sue people, or (3) invent some magic spell?" WE didn't, YOU did. WE understood what he meant from the start and didn't have to resort to straw men and lies like you have

Subject: God, you've PROVEN you don't read what you're responding to
HE ALREADY STATED, IN THE POST YOU ARE "REPLYING" TO THAT HE ISN'T PUBLISHED BY OREILLY.

"First, O'Reilly isn't really my publisher"

RIGHT THERE.

How fucking stupid are you?

Yeah, I was wrong, I would like to send my apologies to Steve Stephenson who is employed at ecinstall.com and can be reached at sstephenson@ecinstall.com.

I was confused with his publisher, I am completely straightened out thanks to your extreme language. You, truly, you sir are the epitome of "intelligent discourse" as yo put it. Never have I matched wits with someone so intelligent. I only wish more people like you would send me mail so I could finally decide to stop visiting Slashdot when I am bored.

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Slashdot Ads Hit an All Time Low

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago It amazes me that Slashdot would allow an ad like this one to run on the front page of Slashdot. You know you're a credible news source when right below your headlines is "Barack the Magic Negro (Offensive?)"

Guess those trolls are willing to pay top dollar to get through to the Slashdot crowd these days. I guess if it pays the bills it's ok.

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Massive Music Contributions to Wikimedia Commons?

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago I have a large music collection. Well over two thousand compact discs. I have also over the course of many years transferred them to a high quality lossy MP3 format--with impeccable ID3 tags. Given the recent news of Wikipedia preparing for a media explosion, I thought about exercising the fair use doctrine and may begin to methodically upload Ogg snippets of these songs--30 seconds or 10% of the length of the song (which ever is shorter). I could probably divide my music into three groups:

  1. Music with historical significance--a very small group.
  2. Music with no historical significance although popular enough that people may be interested in hearing samples of it--a very very large group.
  3. Music with not only no historical significance but so obscure that no one could ever possibly care--a decent amount (example Zager & Evans' In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) album).

So before I start this endeavor and devote a lot of time to it, I have been trying to find the answers to a few questions you might be able to help me with: Will all of this be torn down? Just from group 3? Just from group 2? Does Wikipedia care about the "encyclopedic worthiness" of audio files? If there is a page for a fairly obscure album like Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team, would they like clips from every track on the album or just the popular tracks like "Huddle Formation?"

All the info I can find out there seems to be photo oriented and revolve around license disputes when marked for deletion ... but I feel I am sitting on a large volume of music and could spend some extra time carefully documenting it on Wikipedia for everyone's benefit. Is it worth my time or will I face an epic culling (like the anima/manga fans) in the future once word gets out about it?

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Attend Rifftrax Live Online January 15th!

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago For those MST3K fans out there who have adapted to Rifftrax, there is a Rifftrax Live Online Free Event tomorrow in which you can watch the crew riff live. It takes place 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. Afterward they will take some Q&A live from the audience.

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Harvard Physicist Explains Lies on Google's Carbon Footprint

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 5 years ago You might recall the article from Sunday about the cost of Google's search engine on the environment. Well, the physicist that did the original research is revealing that he made no such conclusions in his research. "I have no idea where they got those statistics," he is quoted as saying. This article takes answers from him and Google on the Times Online article that was stretching his research into the realm of fiction.

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Empirical Data on the "Slashdot Effect"

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 6 years ago You may wonder what exactly happens to a site when Slashdot sends its legions of page requests to it. Well, The Metric System blog has an analysis of what happened on November 6th when they received 31,218 page views. You see the breakdown by site and you also see an increase in traffic by 89,094%. While this may by anecdotal, it's the first time I've seen hard numbers on the Slashdot/Digg effect.

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Free MP3s From Amazon

eldavojohn eldavojohn writes  |  more than 6 years ago I hate to sound like an Amazon fanboy ... what with their 1-click patent crap and all ... but if you've read my comments related to anti-DRM you know I love their MP3 service. It's completely DRM-less (unlike Apple's) and has quite the selection. Well, today I discovered that the yet to be released David Byrne & Brian Eno album has a free MP3 listed for download on Amazon.

This excites me as I hope to see all music distributors (labels, retailers, sites, etc) move towards a model similar to that of Afternoon Records site where the artists pick one or two songs from each album to be distributed for free. Although this doesn't satisfy the N'Syncs and Britney Spears of the music world (where one pop single should sell an entire album of 95% filler), it completely draws me into purchasing more and more music from artists that write their own music.

These selections still seem few and far between on Amazon (Brian Setzer, Ted Nugent & The Apples in Stereo are the only others I can find at the moment) but let's hope this spreads.

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