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Navy Tests Unpowered Exoskeleton

joh Good idea (79 comments)

A bit like a good backpack that helps you to carry most of the weight on your hips instead of on your shoulders which frees your upper body from most of the loads (instead of projecting it from your shoulders through your backbone to your hips through your legs to your feet). Extending this to actually support the weight by an exoskeleton right down to the shoes with no need to have the load go through your legs is just logical. It's just a matter of designing and engineering well-fitting, lightweight support structures with joints in all the right places. Not really easy, but may easily be worth it. I sense a real business opportunity here...

The problem with carrying weight is that the human body has no ideal attachments for that. The only obvious place is hanging it from your shoulders but this of course means the load is going through most of your body (only carrying it on your head would be worse). Hips are workable only with a really well-fitting belt and of course you need hips that project over whatever is around them... and even then you need a tight fit to avoid the belt slipping down, which can be painful. Doing the same with actually supporting the load from the ground (via your shoes) would be indeed the best way to do it.

Ironically the most simple cart (or bicycle!) works very much the same way with much less engineering trouble by replacing all the complex joints with simple wheels... So I think this will be limited to very special applications.

about two weeks ago
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How English Beat German As the Language of Science

joh And what does this mean? (323 comments)

It means that Germans are able to read German stuff AND English stuff while many scientists from the US are just able to read English things.

By the way, learning a second language as early and thoroughly as possible does something to you. It breaks the unconscious 1:1 connection between concepts and words and makes you understand that even the best language is just a poor crutch. There have been countless studies about that. It even helps a lot with not reacting by instinct to things you hear and read because you have learned to differentiate between words and meanings and helps you to grow a kind of conscious processing layer between them. I've learned to never trust the words of someone who knows only one language. Chances are that most of what he treats as thoughts are just unconscious reactions. Things like knowing that the word "freedom" has the same roots as the German "Frieden" ("peace" as opposed to "war") actually helps you with understanding the world instead of just parroting noises.

Not so long ago you would never have been considered educated if you couldn't read and write at least two, maybe three or four languages. And I think there's more to that than just quantity. It's a bit like being able to see with two eyes instead of one, you gain the insight that there's actual a room in front of you and not just a picture. It adds a quality that is very hard to acquire when words, ideas and concepts are all the same to you in a totally unconscious way that you soaked up mostly in childhood (basically very much like an animal).

So: I think that learning a second language may easily be the most important thing you can learn in the long run.

about two weeks ago
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Google Rejects 58% of "Right To Be Forgotten" Requests

joh Re:Google crawls and indexes the public Internet (144 comments)

Your examples are flawed. There isn't a database with a complete record of all license plate movements. Google isn't creating any content, it's telling you where to find it.

And Google does that by building a complete record of all the public Internet. Or do you think Google is going out and crawling all of the Internet only after you've typed a search string?

The public Internet is as public as the license plates that are driven around are public and as conversations in the open are public. What Google does is like scanning all streets all the time or listening in to all public conversations all the time. And then save it and index it and make it searchable for everyone.

These examples aren't flawed, they're fairly correct. If you think they're flawed you don't understand what Google does.

about two weeks ago
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Secretive X-37B Military Space Plane Could Land On Tuesday

joh Dream Chaser? (81 comments)

I wouldn't be surprised if the USAF would grab Dream Chaser for that. It's basically a much larger version of the X-37B and even is meant to be launched on the same launcher (Atlas V) since it doesn't need that frigging huge payload shroud that the X-37B hides its wings under during ascent.

After Sierra Nevada being denied NASA money they're basically beggars who can't be too choosy anyway.

Whatever the USAF needs the X37B for, Dream Chaser would be even better suited for it and again: same launcher, same launch costs with a much better payload (both size- and mass-wise), potential for a crewed version... I wouldn't even be surprised if NASA knows that too and didn't see any good reason to support something that the USAF can (and wants to) pay for just as well.

about two weeks ago
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Google Rejects 58% of "Right To Be Forgotten" Requests

joh Google crawls and indexes the public Internet (144 comments)

That's Google's job.

Still, stay with me and compare what Google does with this:

Some company develops a fleet of drones that hover over all public places, record everything that is said or done there and put it into a database indexed with all the metadata, searchable over the Internet. Is this OK? It's just public data!

Some company deploys lots of license number scanners that scan all public streets and record all cars driving through and indexes all that data together with GPS data and makes it available to everyone. Is this OK? It's just public data!

Someone develops an extensive system of crawlers that scan all of the public Internet and puts this into a database, searchable by everyone. Is this OK? It's just public data!

Face it, Google Search is a virtual drone that hovers over you, invisible, where ever you are in the public Internet. This virtual drone notes every page with your name in it and happily delivers to everyone a complete list of every page you wrote something with your name attached to it (or somebody else saying something about you).

Just because Google does what it does not mean it should be free to do as it pleases. If anyone would do the same with public data like license numbers or conversations held in public or all photos from cameras in public places you'd be up in arms.

"The right to be forgotten" should actually be named "the right to not be stalked in the public Internet". Just because something is public does not mean everybody should be allowed to record, scan and index all that data and make it searchable for everyone.

Note that "the right to be forgotten" does NOT mean that any data is removed. It just means that URLs you don't want to be shown when someone searches for your name is shown in the list of hits. Not more, not less. The data itself is still there, and you will even still find it with Google if you search for actual facts instead of the name of that person.

It's like a public search engine for license numbers that does not allow searching for license numbers (and then getting a full tracking profile for that car) but still allows searching for locations and then find all license numbers that drove through this location.

about two weeks ago
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Texas Ebola Patient Dies

joh Numbers are meaningless these days (487 comments)

Assessing things in a rational way is just sooo 20th century (or may 19th even). These days people want to have their lowest instincts confirmed and will pick everything that does the trick and then will stop looking. The 21th century will be the century of believing. Of course being rational would be the only way out of the mess we have created but since we created this mess by being not rational I doubt very much we will change now.

Now, Ebola. Ebola is more like HIV than the flu when it comes to catching it. There was a recent study that showed that even living in the same household as an Ebola patient only lead to infections if there was physical contact. It's basically a matter of having bodily fluids coming into contact with broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth etc.).

about two weeks ago
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Hackers Compromised Yahoo Servers Using Shellshock Bug

joh Millions (69 comments)

There are millions of servers out there that have not been patched yet.

To be more precise: There are uncounted servers out there that have a teeming population of parasites anyway.

But Yahoo has always been and still is the most incompetent of the big players, every time they screw up I'm surprised they still are around, since I never hear from them in between. There's not even a Yahoo phone... Not even that!

about two weeks ago
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Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google

joh Different things... (126 comments)

As others already said, iOS had mandatory full device encryption (that you even can't disable) since 2009, when the iPhone 3G added hardware for that. What was added now is a different thing (encryption of single apps data with the key dropped from memory as soon as the device is locked).

Full device encryption is not enough since the key needs to be in memory as long as the device runs (or no process will be able to access the file system when the device is locked).

Also Apple's full device encryption uses a key saved in a safe enclave in the SoC, while Google's uses the PIN or password you setup for unlocking your device. If you use a PIN, this is easily brute-forced. If you use a strong password you have to type this in every time you want to use your phone. With a swipe pattern you can't use encryption at all.

Still, it's a start. I would like to see some performance tests though, encryption in software isn't free.

about a month ago
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Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

joh "Privacy" and "unbreakable" are different things (236 comments)

Really. When the NSA is able to dissect an iPhone to read out the encryption key right from the chip or can brute-force their way in with huge efforts this is still useless for mass surveillance. You can expect to be able to buy a consumer product that is secure against this kind of effort about as much as you can expect to buy a consumer car that is secure against an attack with nukes.

But this does not mean that this kind of encryption doesn't help with guarding your privacy. Very much as a car not being secure against nukes does not mean it is "unsafe".

It's a fairly practical approach to make breaking the thing so expensive and bothersome that it will only be used with very good reasons just for reasons of time and cost. Making effortless mass-surveillance harder is a good thing.

about a month ago
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Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

joh Re:There is no "almost impossible" (236 comments)

That's not the problem. You can always restore the phone from a backup or set it up as new phone. "Unbreakable encrypted" is not the same as "bricked".

about a month ago
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iOS 8 Review

joh Re:No good for older iPhones (216 comments)

Which 2010 phone isn't abandoned? Will the first Samsung Galaxy S get Android L?

about a month ago
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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

joh Recycling may well figure in here (393 comments)

A "bad" battery won't land in a landfill. At least the raw materials will be recovered (there's a lot of Li that you don't have to buy then) and there's also lots of mechanical and electronic parts that will be still fine. Refurbishing and recycling could save a lot of cost compared to new batteries.

Building lots of them will also make them cheaper, as with everything.

about a month ago
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Why Apple Should Open-Source Swift -- But Won't

joh What for? (183 comments)

There's no shortage of programming languages. Swift isn't anything special. It mostly has value for its integration with Apple's environment and this isn't Open Source either, so what would Swift being Open Source actually be good for? I really can't see why anyone would want to use Swift anywhere than on OS X or iOS when the real value isn't in the language anyway but in the frameworks and the integration with them.

(And I'm not even saying that Apple's approach is better. It's a different approach and has its own advantages and disadvantages. But if you have a closed system using its advantages makes more sense than trying to square the circle.)

about a month ago
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Reported iCloud Hack Leaks Hundreds of Private Celebrity Photos

joh Re:Easy fix (336 comments)

Or just don't use that service. Photo sharing by iCloud is NOT mandatory. In fact it is optional.

By the way, Apple offers two-factor-authorisation with iCloud. I bet that nobody of those celebrities used that. I wouldn't be surprised even if they used the very same password for iCloud and everything else.

about 2 months ago
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Exomoon Detection Technique Could Greatly Expand Potential Habitable Systems

joh Re: Who Cares? (66 comments)

Why is it so important to go there? When we find a planet or a moon with habitable conditions and signs of life (like free oxygen in the atmosphere) there's a LOT to study, just spend enough money on space-based telescopes. And at some point we may be curious enough then to put real effort into going there.

That point is that we will NEVER do that without a destination. Finding one is the first step and even without going it's worthwhile.

about 2 months ago
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Study: Firmware Plagued By Poor Encryption and Backdoors

joh Crowdsource it (141 comments)

We really need a program that offers bounties for finding such vulnerabilities and backdoors. Put a tax up for companies selling networked devices, pay bounties from that when a third party finds something and pay the money back to the respective companies after a year or two when nobody finds any vulnerabilities in their products. This would make actually putting some effort into secure products commercially viable while giving good hackers a way to earn their living in a good way. Win-win.

Right now we're rewarding companies that sell shoddy products while driving clever and well-educated people into the criminal underground. This actually is the worst setup one could think of. Make a sane, well-regulated market out of that and things will improve quickly while at the same time creating careers for people who deserve it.

about 2 months ago
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3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

joh Re:Not So Fast... (393 comments)

Only the secondary payload (a small satellite). The primary payload (a Dragon capsule to the ISS) was delivered without a hitch.

about 2 months ago
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Ancient Skulls Show Civilization Rose As Testosterone Fell

joh I wouldn't be surprised at all (387 comments)

High testosterone levels lead to dominant behaviour, aggression and generally a fixation with power and getting pussy. Cooperation and quietly working on things with others certainly takes a back seat then. It's individual success in terms of mating and dominating over success that is actually useful in the long run and with "boring" things.

That said, not being surprised in no evidence. In best /. fashion I haven't read the fine article, but I would want to see some mechanism that actually LEAD to lower testosterone levels. Evolution? Maybe, seems a bit short, but these are time frames that indeed were long enough to lead to lactose-tolerance to dominate in dairy-eating populations all over the world, so I wouldn't count out evolution rearing its head here. Mutations that supported drinking milk and eating cheese quickly dominated. Maybe other mutations that supported being more peaceful, not getting into pointless fights, and getting things done in a goal-oriented way instead of being fixated onto telling others what to do while holding on to five women without actually knowing what to do except fucking a lot also dominated for very good reasons.

And really: The lone fact that a LOT of people are totally capable to live their lives in dense populations without really fighting others all the time gives some weight to that. Maybe high testosterone levels are just incompatible with population growth and dense populations. Maybe they cause too much trouble to be successful (in an evolutionary sense) when all is said and done. Maybe the quietly working type of guys who are happy with one women and want to be left alone and leave others alone may be not as successful as the dominant asshole individually but there may be just much more of them and they don't get killed as often and raise more children altogether. Maybe even the fact that spraying your genes around isn't of much help when you can't support 10 women and their offspring and single women aren't that good in supporting their children plays a role here.

Every Genghis Khan may have fucked a lot, but he also will have killed a lot of men willing to fight and all the while those men who just got the bread home every day and just fucked one women were breading like rabbits and actually helped their children to prosper when you sum it up. Evolution isn't about individuals but about numbers of individuals actually surviving until maturity (and beyond, since a newborn child alone isn't going to survive for very long).

about 3 months ago
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Microsoft's Nokia Plans Come Into Better Focus

joh Re:Sigh, that's another waste of time then. (149 comments)

It might work for enterprise users (I'm sure that's a /really/ big market!!) but lack of decent apps, or even popularly used apps is the nail in the coffin for me as far as their mobile Windows OS is concerned. The phone hardware was good, the OS completely lacked.

Such a shame.

Why does the OS lack when there's just a lack of apps? Seriously? The OS is fine.

It's just that a THIRD platform (after Android and iOS) has very little hope of getting a foot into the door. MS obviously hopes that it can change that in the long run by fusing Windows and WP as a platform. I think the gap is too large to make this work, but it's really neither the hardware nor the OS that is the actual problem here. Still, MS has more than once proven that it has the patience to turn things around (they all but missed the Internet once and a few years later IE was moving towards a monopoly) and they surely hope they can pull something like this off again.

I'm not very optimistic here, but the OS wars aren't over yet.

about 3 months ago

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