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fermion (181285) writes "This weeks "Who Made That" column in The New York Times concerns the built in pencil eraser. In 1858 Hymen Lipman put a rubber plug into the wood shaft of a pencil. An investor then paid about 2 million in today's dollars for the patent. This investor might have become very rich had the supreme court not ruled that all Lipmen had dome was put together two known technologies, so the patent was not valid. The question is where has this need for patents to be innovative gone? After all there is the Amazon one-click patent which, after revision, has been upheld. Microsoft Activesync technology patent seems to simply patent copying information from one place to another. In this modern day do patents promote innovation, or simply protect firms from competition?" top
fermion writes "Given that the Obama Administration now has the power to Terminate Americans on Demand, it might be time to think about defending ourselves from such a near term scenario. One might think that a Stinger would be the ideal defense, but radical gun control promoted by the liberal government makes that a difficult option at best. Therefore we are forced to execute a more passive defense in the form of anti-dron apparel from Adam Harvey. I am sure this will become the new little black dress." top
Linux forcibly installed on Congressman's computer
fermion (181285) writes "This American Life runs a story this week on Intelectual Ventures, a firm some consider the leader of the patent trolls . The story dwells into the origins of the term patent troll and the rise of the patent troll industry. Much time is spent presenting Intelectual Ventrues both as a patent troll firm and a legitimate business that allows helpless inventors to monetize patents. It is stipulated that Intellectual Ventures does not in fact sue anyone. It is also alleged that the Intellectual Ventures create many shell companies presumable to hid such activity. Intellectual Ventures is compared to a Mafia protection racket that may never actually burn down a business that does not pay the dues, does encourage such burning to occur." Link to Original Source top
fermion (181285) writes "An initial report has been released by the BEA concerning the details of the last minutes of Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. According the report the autopilot disengaged and stall warning engaged at 2 hours 10 minutes and 5 seconds into flight. Less than 2 minutes later the recorded speeds became invalid. At 2 hours 14 minutes and 28 seconds, the recording stopped. The final vertical speed was recorded around 10,912 ft/min." Link to Original Source top
fermion (181285) writes "The Wall Street Journal has an article detailing the gaming life of Jared Lee Loughner. While it seems to avoid explicitly blaming gaming for the murders, it does appear to allude to a link. For instance "In the 7th grade, he and a friend, Alex Montanaro, began playing the multiplayer online games Starcraft and Diablo, which featured complex virtual worlds where players assume roles and play against other people around the globe, Mr. Montanaro said in emails over the weekend and Monday." Is the fact that he played a certain game in grade 7 in any relevant to his alleged shooting of a nine year old girl in 2011? The article further details his increasingly erratic online posting, which apparently inevitably leads to assassination. What is really depressing is that Education Week seems to make a directly link between utilizing online communication and expression of violent behavior.
fermion (181285) writes "The Regster is reporting on the Safari 5 Reader. This feature, in the form of button marked "Reader" strips all ads, all branding, as well as consolidating content spread over several web pages into a single frame. Some say this is an attack on Google and others that will compete with the new iAds. Some say this is just a way to remove distractions that keep users from enjoying web content. What is clear is that this a bold move, one that makes the attack on flash seem tame. The race no longer seems about speed. It is nowabout using the HTML tags to render content in the most user centric manner." Link to Original Source top
fermion (181285) writes "The Republican House Leadership has jumped on the social media bandwagon by creating American Speaking Out. On this site anyone in the world(all one has to do is enter the universally known 90210 postal code) can posit ideas, vote them up and down, and comment. Right now the top ideas are to stop the pork, roll back, reduce the military and tax churches. While the later two are rather excellent ideas, I am not sure what 'roll back' means. Perhaps repealing all amendments to constitution after #12. As far as stopping the pork, I doubt any representative would have a job if money was not sent back home on a regular basis." Link to Original Source top
fermion (181285) writes "The New York Times claims that Apple has bought Intrinsity, the company allegedly behind the A4. The story is heavy on speculation, light on citations. Intrinsity may be the company that provides the technology for the A4. Intrinsity employees are changing thier Linkedin profile to list Apple as their employer. The Intrinsity website "appears to have pulled down." The only verification of the sale are the infamous "people familiar with the deal". How does this purchase, if it happened, relate to the rumored purchase of ARM?" Link to Original Source top
fermion (181285) writes "The man who killed three women at a gym, and then himself, was evidently a frustrated analyst who could not get a date. The legend of the lonely geek living in the parents basement, alone, without success, without sex, is rampant on/.. Here is perhaps the more realistic example. An apparently successful person, with his own home, job, and a minimum of social skills,but not able to find another to be with. Was the lack of a sex life an excuse? As always, it is the quiet ones. A neighbor is quoted as saying ""I never saw any women over there, and he wasn't bad looking,I don't understand it. I just assumed he was gay."" top
fermion (181285) writes "Growlaw has an article on how Alpha is different from Google. It seems that Wolfram reckons Alpha as an authoritative source of information and has created a special terms of service to insure that users do not violate the rights of the apparent legal entity known as Alpha. Wolfram claims that "in most cases the assemblages of data you get from Wolfram|Alpha do not come directly from any one external source. In many cases the data you are shown never existed before in exactly that way until you asked for it, so its provenance traces back both to underlying data sources and to the algorithms and knowledge built into the Wolfram|Alpha computational system" which is capable or generating unique copyrighted information. Wolfram states that lack or attribution is a violation of copyright and an act of academic plagiarism. Parents and teachers are warned that if the kiddies use the service and violate these terms the parents or teachers will be held responsible. This is not completely unreasonable, as Alpha is likely a unique creation, and deserves full legal protection. What might be a bit controversial is the attack on deep linking:"It is not permitted to use Wolfram|Alpha indirectly through another website that has created a large number of deep links to Wolfram|Alpha, or that automatically constructs links based on input that you give on that site, rather than on Wolfram|Alpha"." top
fermion (181285) writes "Forrester Research published the Customer Experience Index 2008 Snapshot: PC Manufacturers. From the summary "Apple leads and Dell lags.". The NYT blogs the finding with specific data. Apple has a rating of 80%, MS Windows PC manufacturers are in the 60's, and Dell drags in at 58%. The blog suggests that MS outsourcing OS support to the manufactures might be a mistake, and they may want to explore direct support through retailers like WalMart. If MS were to be truly agressive, they might again follow Apple by implementing plans to open company stores. In this time of rising unemployment, I am sure there are many available MCSE that would be happy to help." top
fermion (181285) writes "The register reported that the open-to-anyone-and-any-application Android Store has terminated the availability of a popular tethering app. The Android Store, which was supposed to be devoid of a not-so-benevolent dictator preventing such useful apps from reaching the market, evidently caved to T-Mobile's displeasure at the bandwidth sucking app. The control of the store by T-Mobile appears to be real and material, as indicated by a quote from Google: "Google enters into distribution agreements with device manufacturers and Authorized Carriers to place the Market software client application for the Market on Devices. These distribution agreements may require the involuntary removal of Products in violation of the Device manufacturer's or Authorized Carrier's terms of service". It appears, as many suspected, the the G1, and by extension the Android stack, as the Authorized Carriers deem profitable." top
fermion (181285) writes "In the past students have felt especially abused when suspended from school for posting inappropriate material on facebook or sending threats through email and the like. Well imagine what Hillary Transue thought when she was put in jail for posting satirical content. In this case it turns out that the judge was paid by PA Child Care to incarcerate juveniles. PA Child Care, coincidently, ran the jails. The judges involved and have plead guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion, but have not admitted to any quid pro quo. Other judges have been appointed to deal with the cases of 5000 juveniles whose sentences are now in question. One presumes that the costs of such proceedings are not going to be fully covered by the Judges or PA Child Care. This might be a reminder to teens that the law is not as cut and dry as they think, and that what they think is tolerable behavior might in fact be criminal when viewed by a judge. It can be argued that a few days suspension is an appropriate slap on the wrist to discourage such behavior. If a further reminder is needed, the system that allowed these judges to trade children's lives for profit is still intact." top
fermion (181285) writes "The NYT is reporting that Steve Jobs is on medical leave until the end of June The reason cited is that the health issues are more complex than originally thought and these issues are a distraction for the company and employees. This seems to be standard press released language for things are worse than we thought, but hopefully by gettting him out of the spotlight the constant publicity that negatively effects stock price will go away. By my count, this means that Jobs will be away from Apple for 5 months. My question is will he be back, or is the Apple strategy for a peaceful and smooth transition of power. In other, is his replacement in fact an interim chief executive put in place while they perform a quiet search for a permanant CEO." top
fermion (181285) writes "According to the NYT a judge has decided that Fox owns the copyright to Watchman, not Warner. Is this an example of copyright law becoming so complex that companies can abuse the court system to prevent competition, or just extreme incompetence by Warner. In the current business environment, either explanation is believable. Yet it is unbelievable that seasoned producers would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create a movie that they can't even release. It seems the judge didn't want to bring this to a jury, and maybe daring Warner to appeal, or Fox to settle." top
fermion (181285) writes "If seems that Google Android and T-Mobile has not learned from the bad experience and wrath Apple incurred with roaming charges on the iPhone. It seems that application can switch to roaming and data operation without the user knowledge. Also, according to The Register, there is no way to switch off roaming. Given the backlash that Apple experienced over international roaming charges, one would think that T-Mobile would have built a phone to prevent such unexpected charges. On the other hand, while iPhone lives under the protective graces of Apple, the G1 is a much more laissez-faire business model, and perhaps has no reasonable expectations of such intervention to protect the user."
fermion writes | more than 7 years ago
I notice a tag popping up around slashdot, namely hex09f911029d74e35bd84156c5635688c0. The context of the tag is irrelevant to any civilized person, but I was intrigued with the prefix hex, presumably to indicate the number was base 16. I wonder if the use of the prefix, instead of the more traditional 0x, was due to the increasing distance between the technical elite and the hardware
As I am sure we all know, a digital computer represents all information by either an on or off state, which is typically represented numerically as 0 or 1, respectively. As the digital state is often implements as an analog current, there is often some firm threshhold value, above which the state is said to be on.
Therefore to represent a peice of information, such information must first be encoded in as a number, then the number encoded into a series of off or on states to represent that number. This is where binary notation comes from. Using only 0 an 1, in principle we can represent any number as easily as using the 0-9. For instance, using base 2, the number representing in decimal form as 4 would be 100. Perhaps a bit verbose, but quite adequate when one can complete thousands of operations every second.
The verbosity, however is a problem for humans. For instance, to represent the decimal number 9 requires us to write 1001. While a digital device has no problem with this, and humans working to hardwire code have no problems, as the amount of information to encode becomes greater, humans wish to have more information density.
Which is where Octal, or base 8 representation emerges. Octal notation groups three states, or bits, in one. In octal instead of only using the digits 0 and 1, we use 0-7. This means that to write the decimal number 7 instead of writing 0b111, we write 0o7, i which the 0o prefix means octal.
Octal was nice when bits were base of the computers, but soon information grew so much that we began to group bits together. The smallest traditional grouping of bits is the nibble, which contains 4 bits. This means the biggest number that can be held is 0b1111 or the decimal number 15. This lead to the idea that we might want a numbering system that can represent numbers up to decimal 15, and the hexadecimal system was used. In this system, digits go from 0-F. Therefore the decimal number 7 is written 0x7. The decimal number 15 is written 0xF, 0o17 or 0b1111. One can see that even though the computer does not care, it is easier for people.
Hexadecimal was quite used prior to the mid 80's. While programming tasks were easily handled through the alphanumeric keyboard, with minimal special keys, formatted text processing required copious use of the entry of special codes. Even in programming, it was useful to direct many function directly through the hardware using hex.
So, obviously, with the huge bit capacity, it is quite easy to see why we use hexadecimal to represent numerical values. What is not so obvious is why we represent using the longer form hex09f911029d74e35bd84156c5635688c0 rather than 0x09f911029d74e35bd84156c5635688c0.
fermion writes | more than 11 years ago
I love my Apple computers. I have a G4 tower in the back room. I have powerbook that I injured a while back but still serves me faithfully. I have a newton 2100 in my pack, a broken newton 2100 and another old newton in storage. I have a Mac Classic, a perfoma, and all manner of half assembled portables and desktops. I reluctantly gave up my Apple/// because of space considerations, and I regret it to this day.
It has been a strange ride over these 20 years. Shape tables on the Apple ][. A EPROM burner in another Apple ][ to program an EEPROM for use in a Z80 controller for flight. Printing WYSIWYG documents for the first time from a Mac to an imagewriter. Horrible fonts and resolution. Embarrassing. But such excitement to not have to embed the Epson codes directly into the AppleWriter document.
And then Macs that actually ran fast enough to do work. And then Macs with harddrives, separate monitors, expandable innards. Appletalk replaced with ethernet. And then SCSI gone and all my stuff had to be replaced with Firewire stuff.
But through all this time I have never felt betrayed. Until today. Yesterday I happily installed the MacOS update. I have complained a bit in the past week about the fact that they combined security and feature updates, and I hope they have learned from this experience, even though the probably have not, but i am over it. Sort of.
But today I noticed something strange. Moving advertisements on my web pages. Could it be that my preferences for images got messed up? No, checked my pref files everything as I left it. Could it be that more sites are manually changing images? Unlikely but i looked at the page source just to be sure. No, nothing there. The source for the web pages is essentially what it has been for these sites. Check for flash, try some scripts, then give up with a static images. So could it be Flash? I don't have flash on my computer. It eats up too much time. Do a search for the file, not there. Forgot where the file was stored, so i just go back to double checking preferences and the source of the web pages. Maybe I missed something. It sure looks like flash, though.
Finally get a brainstorm and go to the macromedia site. Yep, it starts playing a flash movie. I definitely have been infected by the annoyware virus. But how, and where it is? I finally find a web page with the directory location. It is in the library directory. Not the user one, but the main one. The one that needs administrator access. Find the file, check the date. It was the date and time I installed the MacOS update.
Now, i have no proof that the update came with a flash payload. I could have accidently installed it some other way. All I have is circumstantial evidence and i do not want to make false accusations. But the install time was during the time i was installing the update. I go through great pains not to install flash and avoid sites that require it.
On the other hand flash is becoming tricky, and someone may have set up a trojan that got it onto my computer. Could have been Apple could have been someone else.
And the only thing that the knowledge base lists is Safari enhancements. Which of course brings a whole separate set of problems, like what if I don't want to use Safari.
I am telling you. I am so close to getting a Intel piece of crap, installing Linux on it, and just running the command line with the occasional X for the rest of my life. It was not so bad when all we had was the command line.
fermion writes | more than 11 years ago
"A right of free correspondence between citizen and citizen on
their joint interests, whether public or private and under
whatsoever laws these interests arise (to wit: of the State, of
Congress, of France, Spain, or Turkey), is a natural right; it is not
the gift of any municipal law, either of England, or Virginia, or of
Congress, but in common with all other natural rights, it is one of
the objects for the protection of which society is formed and
municipal laws established." --Thomas Jefferson to James
The following is some thoughts on altering the/. moderation system. I do not believe any of these ideas are novel or unique, but the application of these ideas may help with issues such as scalability and the promotion of long term discussions within an article posting. The main concepts in this modified moderation proposal are moving to labels instead of numbers for moderation, continuously variable starting moderation points based on karma, and non linear moderation scoring.
First, I believe/. should move to labels for moderation in leu of the current numbers. These labels could be 'horrible', 'unrated', 'default', 'fine', 'great', 'terrific', and 'super' , respectively corresponding to moderation of -1 to 5. The labels will need to be tweaked with the idea that labels will reflect the status of a comment. For instance, a current '1' comment would be unrated because this is the default posting for a logged in user. I do not use the karma labels to avoid confusion.
Underlying these labels would be an expanded, and scalable counter. To determine the range of the counter, one would set the increment for a category. If we select the increment to be 20, for instance, the counter would go from 0 to 101. A comment at 0 is 'bad', a comment at 101 is 'terrific', and everything else is evenly divided into groups of 20. For instance, the structure might look like
In the discussion below I will assume that moderation counter starts at zero. I will also refer to the increment as defined above. As an aside, is feasible to make the increments nonlinear, and there are reasons to do this, but I believe the such functionally can be incorporated into the moderation procedure.
The next issue is the starting moderation based on Karma. Currently logged in users start at 1 and eventually get a point. If the user is subsequently very bad, they will lose the point. This system is effective, but imprecise. I feel it gives a new user excessive benefits, delays additional benefits until the user reaches top status, and does not quickly punish bad behavior. My suggestion is that anonymous users start at the low end of unrated, which in general is 1. All registered users would have their starting moderation calculated based on karma, as described below.
If we assume that the underlying karma count sets a neutral karma to zero and goes positive and negative with increasing and decreasing karma, we might calculate default moderation as
default_moderation=offset + karma*scale.
This equation has two variable. The first is offset, which is where we give logged in users a boost over anonymous users. For instance, if the offset is equal to the increment, a new logged in user will still start with 'unrated' comments, but a single moderation would guarantee the comment would become 'default'. The other variable is scale. To be consistent with the current system, this should cause a user with maximum karma to in the 'great' rating. This could be done by having each label change in karma add half the increment. Therefore, a karma of 'positive' and 'good' would make the moderation increasingly 'fine', while a karma of 'excellent' would have moderation in the middle of great. The application of this is that the default moderation is a continuous function based on karma, which we assume also changes continuously with user behavior.
Moderation itself should not change from the point of view of the moderator. The moderator will still choose a label and moderate. However,/. will now have fine control over the points awarded. For instance, each moderation might only award 3/4 of an increment. Or perhaps we want to encourage users to look for new good comments rather than just continue to moderated existing highly moderating comments, so we might only award 1/3 of an increment to any comment that is already 'terrific' Maybe we see that most comments posted in the first 5 minutes of an article are useless, so the moderators on those articles on get to award 1/3 of an increment until the comment reaches 'fine' status. Maybe we want to encourage moderators to look at new comments, so a moderator will only be able to award 1/4 increments to any comments that is past a certain time threshold. It may be decided that a funny comment is less valuable than an insightful comment, or an overrated tag is less valuable than a insightful tag. In summary, because moderators will still only have a certain number of moderations, regardless of the actual points awarded, the moderator can be discouraged from certain actions by making those actions less forceful.
There are several possible pitfalls in this proposal. First, the moderation of a comment will not necessarily lead to the change in moderation status for an article. This may confuse moderators. Second, communicating the variable moderation points may be prohibitively difficult. If such information is not communicated to user at the time of moderation, this proposal may not be an improvement over the current system. Third, an increased amount of computation may be necessary to display as moderation page. This increased load on the web-server may prove excessive.
A final comment on the '3 day limit' for moderation. I believe this limit is excessive and does not encourage the important activity of moderation. My suggestion is based on when the user logs into/. First, if a user does not log into/. within 24 hours of being awarded moderation points, the moderation points go back into the pool. If the user logs in within the 24 period, the user will then have 24 hours to use the points. If the points are not used in that period, they go back into the pool.
fermion writes | about 12 years ago
Dear is my friend--yet from my foe, as from my friend, comes good:
My friend shows what I can do, and my foe what I should.
--Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller
I received an email recently about my sig. The email asked what was a freak. I wanted to answer that question in my journal. In addition, I also wanted to discuss why I chose to put Freaks in my sig instead of Fans.
First, what is a freak. If we look at the FAQ, we see that a freak is a person who has chosen you as a foe. This, in my opinion, is a much more significant event that another choosing you as a friend.
To get excessively philosophical, the act of choosing a foe is also an act of preparing for conflict. For some people this choice may be a petty expression of violence. However, for others it may a genuine declaration of the willingness to grow, learn and become a more complete person. As the quote above indicates, a foe can be the ideal way to discover what one should do. I hope to have the time to look at comments carefully enough to chose quality foes.
fermion writes | about 12 years ago
I have been meta-moderating a lot lately. It is interesting to see how people use their moderation points, especially in modding down a post.
If we look at the section of the FAQ on how moderation works, we see that we are to concentrate on modding good posting up, while reserving our negative points for for spam, true trolls, and the like.
Yet once again I saw a perfectly reasonable post marked off-topic, and I had to mark it as unfair. It was not exactly on-topic, but it was a valid and useful reply to the comment. Why a moderator would waste points marking it off-topic is beyond me. Were there not enough good comments that day? Are there some whose only mission in life is to to promote personal agendas? I do not know.
I try very hard to limit my negative moderation to truly harmful posts(goatse, etc). It seems if a post relates incorrect information, that post will invariable attract comments that correct the error, and those replies will usually get modded higher than the original comments.