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Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die

internic Re:Here's the real problem he has (479 comments)

Oops, Word does have a Word function, which does seem like maybe it implements a 3-way merge in some sense. But personally I've found it a bit hard so get exactly what it does in general, since it only seems to ask for two Word documents to do the merge.

I think that if each contains tracked changes from a common base document then what you get is a 3-way merge. However, if each file contains a revision as the base document with (distinct) tracked changes on top then it's not really clear to me what the heck "merge" does. Since Word doesn't seem to have a notion of recording a history of committed revisions, it doesn't have a way of figuring out the last common ancestor to automagically handle the merge properly.

So if you never have a situation where someone submits changes to an older revision then you're probably okay, but I find this sort of thing happens a lot and with Word that situation is...confusing at the least.

about a year ago
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Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die

internic Re:Here's the real problem he has (479 comments)

I think the reason for this has to do with Word's commenting and revision tracking features, which are convenient as the document is passed around amongst the publisher's editorial staff.

I've been forced to return to using Word recently, and I find the "track changes" feature to be pretty disappointing, actually. As far as I can tell, it only supports a sort of "diff" via the "compare" function and lacks any concept of a 3-way merge. I find this makes it a real pain integrating together changes from different people (especially if they're on different revisions). Since I'm a n00b as far as this feature goes, it's quite possible I'm doing it wrong, but to me Word seems pretty bad for this purpose.

In fact, I find myself pining for my last workflow, using LaTeX with Mercurial, which I think is saying a lot about how poor the new one is.

about a year ago
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Should the U.S. bomb Syria?

internic Re:should slashdot be asking if the U.S. should bo (659 comments)

Iran and Syria are the only countries in the Middle East with Shiites in power, and Iran is the only country that actually has a majority of its citizens Shiites.

Iraq is also majority Shia and Shiites are the group with the most political power there. Other than that, I think the content of the above post is pretty accurate.

1 year,21 days
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Soda Makes Five-Year-Olds Break Your Stuff, Science Finds

internic Re:Sugar High? No such thing. (287 comments)

Yeah, I think here you have the double whammy that it's "common knowledge" and that it seems to fit with a basic knowledge of biology (i.e., simple sugar causes a very quick rise in blood sugar and blood sugar provides energy), so it's very easy to believe. I just happened to see an article on such a study at some point.

Honestly, I've been tricked so many times by "common knowledge" at this point that I actually often stop and google before making anything like health claims. Another example of this is when I looked up the "fact" that vitamin C prevents the cold. Turns out there's no evidence of that (at least not under vaguely normal circumstances), but I always took this as medically validated fact.

about a year ago
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Soda Makes Five-Year-Olds Break Your Stuff, Science Finds

internic Sugar High? No such thing. (287 comments)

Actually the existance of the sugar high has been hotly debated, and as far as I'm aware most of the scientific literature suggests that it doesn't exist.

Of course I think those observations are mostly about double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trails where neither the child nor the observer knows the child has gotten sugar. I don't know if the results of this survey-based cohort study are due to the placebo effect, spurious correlations, or actual new effect.

(Caveat: I don't know that much about biology/medicine, so take all that with a grain of salt.)

about a year ago
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Obama Proposes 'Meaningful Progress' On Climate Change

internic Re:Circular Reference (583 comments)

I doubt that minimum wage changes affect prices much. But by raising the cost of labor, they certainly affect unemployment among the least well off, because there are fewer jobs that are profitable to hire out at, say, $9 per hour than at, say, $6 per hour.

While that is what naive intuition (or ECON 101) would suggest, reality sometimes doesn't conform to our simplisitic expectations (especially in economics). Apparently more recent empirical studies cast some serious doubt on the idea that a higher minimum wage has a significant upward effect on unemployment. AFAIK it is the subject of some disagreement among economists.

about a year and a half ago
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Missouri Legislation Redefines Science, Pushes Intelligent Design

internic Re:Teaching The Controversy - Properly (813 comments)

This has always been my question. I was very pleased to find my objections conveniently represented in graphical form.

For that matter forget alchemy, if we adopt this idea then presumably it should apply to all subjects. History would be especially problematic. Quite a few people believe in things like aliens influencing early civilizations, Atlantis, or worse yet doubt the reality of the Holocaust.

about a year and a half ago
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Free Wi-Fi: the Movement To Give Away Your Internet For the Good of Humanity

internic Re:Bad idea. (505 comments)

What is the practical difference between "closed wifi" and "open wifi with a mandatory log-in"? In both cases you must obtain a credential (and thus implied permission) to use the network. You've just moved the access limit from the radio to the wire side.

The practical difference is that someone can use it without having to knock on random people's doors to find someone willing to share the necessary key/credentials. It's an automated process. That's a huge functional difference. (Whether it's effective is a different question.)

In general, though, the reason this movement will fail is the same reason why people want it to work. Selfishness. The same person that says "I would like to have wifi without paying for it when I am somewhere not home" has already said "I don't want to pay for my own 3g/data plan so I can have network access when I am not home".

There's a very good alternative motivation, the same one that drives all sorts of stuff engineers, computer scientists, and natural scientists do: efficiency. We've got all these cables laid; why not use them? And we can maybe get better speed (and better reception indoors) in the process. Other practical questions aside, I'd like it if I could use other people's wifi/broadband connections and they could use mine because it would make more efficient use of existing infrastructure and cut down on congestion in the limited brands of spectrum allocated for such RF broadcasts.

I personally have little desire to freeload off anyone. I had actually even considered if there would be a way to setup some service where people could offer access to their wifi to other users of the service (essentially "I'll share my wifi if you share yours") and/or offer a mechanism to pay something to defray the broadband bill of the open wifi operators. The specific goal I had in mind was eliminating free riders and sharing costs along with access.

In the end I decided it probably wouldn't catch on if it were only for the initiated (others running open wifi), and payment would be too problematic because 1) it would be practically difficult to charge a reasonable fee due to flat transaction costs on things like credit cards and 2) it would probably end up with people spoofing access points to phish for credit card numbers. The point is, though, that not everyone who wants this stuff is interested in being a moocher.

It should also be said that companies offering wireless data service and wired broadband tend to be relatively uncompetitive cartels, so it open wifi allowed consumers as a group to effectively get a better deal from these companies (utilizing the bandwidth they pay the ISP for while avoiding unreasonable wireless data charges) that would be good too.

about a year and a half ago
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Free Wi-Fi: the Movement To Give Away Your Internet For the Good of Humanity

internic Re:Hypocrite (505 comments)

The differentiation you're making is important, that the network can discriminate based on what the packet is but not whose it is. I think even then, though, there's the possibility of trouble. If network QoS decides what sorts of uses get what sorts of service it still means the network operator is in the position of making value judgements on the different uses. This is a fundamental departure from what I (admittedly a layman) understand as the central design principle of the Internet: smart endpoints and dumb pipes enabling novel and unforeseen uses.

I understand the idea of QOS is supposed to be just ensuring low latency or jitter for connections where those things matter (steaming, games, VIOP, etc.) at the expense of things where they don't matter much (http, ftp, torrents, etc.), But when there's congestion some things are going to get priority and some are not. Some sorts of protocols may be pretty specific to a certain group/device, so that the QoS decisions on them in effect amount to putting certain users ahead of others. And then there's the question of new, previously unknown uses. If someone devises a new sort of service that requires low latency or jitter but is not recognized by the network, it will presumably be placed below recognized things like VOIP and streaming, and if it competes with existing tech in those spheres it will be de-facto discriminated against.

So, it's certainly bad for the network to discriminate between certain users, but I think it can still be problematic to discriminate between different sorts of communications.

about a year and a half ago
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What Is Your Favorite Halloween Treat?

internic Try "Sexy" not "Slutty" (267 comments)

Since you apparently like them to wear the costumes, you'd probably be better off describing them as "sexy" rather than "slutty". Would you tell a woman, "That outfit looks great! I love it when you dress up like a dirty $2 whore." ?

The thing is saying they're slutty suggests disapproval of the behavior (and probably of female sexuality in general); it's an insult (though it can be taken in good fun sometimes, like any insult). I assume you don't actually feel this way, so then choose a different word that better communicates how you do feel.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with female sexuality; in point of fact, I rather enjoy it.

about 2 years ago
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Battlestar Galactica Community Game Diaspora Has Arrived

internic Range of Engagement and Entertainment (121 comments)

They did the usual movie./TV sci-fi thing of having all the ships, including the big capital ships, engage at ranges of a few hundred metres, instead of a few million miles. And no real explanation of why they didn't just nuke each other with guided missiles instead of shooting more or less conventional guns at each other.

Well, clearly the short answer to why they didn't nuke each other at long distance is that it wouldn't make very interesting television. As far as I recall, BSG didn't really discuss what factors determined the tactics of space battles. If you played the game Mass Effect, I was impressed by how much detail was in the codex about space battles and how the physics and practical considerations shaped the tactics.

In that case they have FTL travel and "kinetic barriers" (i.e. shields), but they state that most engagements would occur at thousands or millions of kilometers, since the main weapons are large rail runs that fire slugs of material at very high speeds (e.g. 0.1 c) as a kinetic weapon. Then it's just a question of the speed at which a ship can fire slugs versus the speed at which it can dodge its opponents' slugs. They do, however, outline certain tactical situations where ships may be forced to engage at close range (e.g. defending a planet). The ships have very effective laser-based missile defence systems, so guided missiles are only useful in a large barrage that can overwhelm the system. They also make the very astute point that dissipating heat (generated by engines, defence, and weapons systems) may actually be one of the biggest problems in a space battle and limit the length of engagements.

Of course, when you finally see space battles in that game (and the following ones) they appear more-or-less as in your typical space opera. My impression was that they threw out all the good sci-fi they'd written about earlier because it would make for uninteresting battles, although now that I think of it they may have fit them all into those tactical exceptions.

about 2 years ago
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What Is Your Favorite Ancient Olympic Game?

internic Re:Tug of War (207 comments)

I would think that in most cases a "serious sport" is totally pointless. Most of the sports serve no purpose other than enjoyment (of the competitors and/or spectators). Some sports may involve skills transferable to more practical endeavours, fighting or generally tasks involving endurance, but even then the scope of their practical usefulness seems pretty limited.

Personally, I enjoy watching beach volley ball occasionally. I find that volleyball is more interesting and dramatic when there are only a few players on each side. I don't know how important the beach aspect is, though it certainly adds some difficulties and makes dives a more frequent occurrence.

more than 2 years ago
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Congress Wants To Resurrect Laser-Wielding 747

internic APS Study Found These Systems Lacking (302 comments)

I remember that the American Physical Society (the professional organization of physicists) studied various boost-phase missile defense schemes years ago. They found that the various options, including air-borne lasers, weren't likely to be very useful in realistic scenarios (even under otherwise optimistic assumptions).

The press release says:

The Airborne Laser currently in development has the potential to intercept liquid-propellant ICBMs, but its range would be limited and it would therefore be vulnerable to counterattack. The Airborne Laser would not be able to disable solid-propellant ICBMs at ranges useful for defending the United States.

Few of the components exist for deploying an effective boost-phase defense against liquid-propellant ICBMs and some essential components would take at least 10 years to develop, said Study Group co-chair Daniel Kleppner. According to U.S. intelligence estimates, North Korea and Iran could develop or acquire solid-propellant ICBMs within the next 10 to 15 years. Consequently, a boost-phase defense effective only against liquid-propellant ICBMs would risk being obsolete when deployed.

You can also read the full report. I don't know how the relative states of the technologies stand today.

more than 2 years ago
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Surface-To-Air Missiles At London Olympics

internic Curious Games (395 comments)

A curious Olympic Games. The only winning move is not to play

more than 2 years ago
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3,500 Year Old Florida Tree Dies of Natural Causes

internic Re:Sigh (206 comments)

I agree that ultimately what is the oldest living thing comes down to a question of semantics. A distinction that's often made is clonal versus non-clonal organisms. I've seen Methuselah called the oldest non-clonal organism. The creosote bush that you mention is a clonal organism, as is Pando, a clonal colony of aspen thought to be something like 80,000 years old.

more than 2 years ago
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Kepler Confirms Exoplanet Inside Star's Habitable Zone

internic Re:600 light years... (257 comments)

Remember, though, that the mass itself is not really the important part. The question is what is the surface gravity. Using your assumption of identical density (maybe not likely, but I don't know offhand what density is likely), the mass of this new planet in terms of the density rho will be M = rho*4/3*pi*R^3. The gravitational acceleration at the surface will be
a = (G M) / R^2
Combining that with the expression for the mass gives
a = G*rho*4/3*pi*R^3 / R^2 = (G*rho*4/3*pi) R.

All the stuff inside the parenthesis is assumed to be the same for both planets, so if we want to write it in terms of the surface gravity of Earth, g, and radius of Earth, r, then we'd have
a = g*(R/r). Thus, the surface gravity (under the assumption of identical density) is only 2.4 times greater.

Of course, if you're going to visit this place and plan to leave again (maybe not so useful without warp drive, given) then you might also be concerned with the energetic depth of the gravity well. For an object of mass m to escape to interstellar space from the surface will require an amount of energy
E = G*M*m/R
and in terms of the earth value E_earth this would be
E = (E_earth)*(R/r)^2
meaning it will take about 6 times as much energy as getting off Earth.

I was actually just thinking about this issue the other day while playing Mass Effect, because I was wondering if they'd done their numbers right on the planet properties (they had).

more than 2 years ago
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How Watchmen Killed 'R'-rated Fantasy Movies

internic Re:Not the same thing (771 comments)

My girlfriend and I both read and liked the comic, and we were both pretty happy with the movie. We went with a couple of friends who had not read the comic but actually were the ones who suggested seeing the movie. They really did not like it. From talking to them, the problem seemed to basically be one of unfulfilled expectations. They knew it was a movie about superheroes and were expecting a typical superhero movie, which is to say an action-packed movie with pretty light themes. What they got was something that was dark and more dialog and ennui than action, so they were not happy.

Maybe if they'd been expecting something different going in they would have liked it better or perhaps not. Maybe there were other people who it would have suited better, but they decided not to see it assuming it was just another dumb superhero movie. I don't know, but I wouldn't discount the effect of mistaken expectations.

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Barbershop Punk: A Movie About Net Neutrality

internic internic writes  |  more than 4 years ago

internic (453511) writes "Barbershop Punk is a documentary that follows the story of Robb Topolski discovering that Comcast was forging packets to throttle torrents and how that led him to the center of the debate over net neutrality. I'm risking what is arguably a slashvertisement because I think this could be important to us geeks as the film that might finally make this technical issue accessible to the non-geeks."
Link to Original Source
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internic internic writes  |  more than 7 years ago

internic (453511) writes "In 2003, a 17-year-old Georgia boy named Genarlow Wilson was convicted of felony aggravated child molestation for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a party. Yahoo is reporting that, after serving 28 months of the manditory minimum 10-year sentence, a judge has now reduced his sentence so that he can go free, calling the case, 'a grave miscarriage of justice.' But it seems that he's not going free after all, because Georgia's attorney general is appealing the case. The New York Times and ESPN have covered the case in the past characterized it as unjust. Georgia state law has already been changed to make these actions a misdemeanor, but the change is not retroactive. The Yahoo article also points out that, 'If he had instead had sexual intercourse with the teen, he would have fallen under Georgia's "Romeo and Juliet" exception'. Along with the prison sentence, Wilson's conviction earns him a spot on the sex offender registry."
Link to Original Source

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