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The Truth About Solar Storms

perpenso More CS Majors ... (58 comments)

If the humanities infrastructure suffers, no doubt there'll be fewer English majors, and more CS majors, so it'll be a good thing, right? Or did someone mean "humanity's infrastructure"?

If we get more CS majors then maybe we can update the voice recognition software to do a better job of picking between phonetically similar words using context.

11 hours ago
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VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

perpenso College is useful for most ... (222 comments)

The jobs could in fact be done by Americans with no degrees at all. This cultural indoctrination that you must have a degree must end ...

In my 30 years of programming experience I have rarely seen a job advertisement that did not say 4-year degree or equivalent, equivalent as in on the job experience, as your experience suggests.

... I've been programming for 30 years as a profession and I have never had a degree, and I'll never submit to the immoral status quo by getting one. I have both the theory, the experience, and the necessary practical skills under my belt, and all without a single degree.

Some of the best programmers I know never finished college. However they are **extremely** rare. They will read and figure out college level material over a broad set of topics on their own time on their own initiative, a broad set of topics comparable to those found in a typical degree program. However most of the self taught do not seem to be that self motivated, they may study some topics that are of interest to them but they will not have the broad understanding that the former or the formally trained typically have. Many of the formally trained are no more intelligent nor any more self motivated, but they had external motivations compelling them to study things that they had little interest in. The odd thing about many of the less interesting topics is that they often have unforeseen application to problems you eventually encounter and/or they are actually more important than you knew.

That said, there are also many in college who really have no interest in programming and are just there to get their "ticket punched", to get a piece of paper. They did not enter the program because of any inherent interest in programming and engineering, rather someone told them it was a good career path. Such individuals do not turn out to be the better programmers either. In contrast those with an inherent interest in programming often go far beyond the work required for class and use the incredible resources found at a university to study things that otherwise would have been beyond their resources.

So if a person has the time and resources to attend college they would do a great disservice to themselves to skip it due to some political position. You get out of college what you put in, and you will have access to resources and people you probably could not find anywhere else. And that includes likeminded peers. Its one thing to collaborate on code over the internet, its another thing to sit side by side staring at the same screen trying to puzzle something out and walking around campus bouncing ideas around. Plus there is also ready access to individuals studying other necessary disciplines. The density of useful knowledge and experience is quite high among fellow students at a university, its just a matter of finding people with genuine interests in their respective fields rather than the ticket punchers.

2 days ago
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Finding Life In Space By Looking For Extraterrestrial Pollution

perpenso Pollution as in atmospheric O2 ... (94 comments)

Well, pollution as in atmospheric O2, not pollution as in SUV exhaust. Atmospheric O2 is not the Earth's "normal" state, its a byproduct of life.

If I remember correctly, Earth's original atmosphere was SO2 based and some photosynthetic creature with a sulfur based metabolism started emitting O2 as a waste product ... and so began global climate change 1.0.

2 days ago
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The Department of Homeland Security Needs Its Own Edward Snowden

perpenso Coast Guard can't be under military command ... (190 comments)

U.S. Coast Guard there is no conceiveable reason this agency should not be under control of the pentagon ...

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the U.S. armed forces from enforcing the law. That is why the National Guard is normally under the command of a State Governor and the Coast Guard is normally under the command of a civilian agency. When under such command they are not considered part of the U.S. armed forces and a Governor can have the state National Guard units enforce the law, for example during natural disasters, riots, etc. Similarly when under civilian command the Coast Guard can enforce maritime law, enforce safety regulations, arrest smugglers, etc.

2 days ago
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Autonomous Sea-Robot Survives Massive Typhoon

perpenso Re:Is this an achievement? (47 comments)

Am I only one who doesn't think this is all that impressive? A manned ship surviving, yes, ...

I knew someone who served on a Fletcher class destroyer in WW2. They survived a typhoon that claimed several other ships. He said the typhoon scared the crew more than combat, and this was a crew that had seen combat from Guadalcanal to Japan. He also said they would spend their last dollar buying a beer for any worker at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, the shipyard that built their ship.

2 days ago
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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

perpenso Re:You are in the no more glass camp. (156 comments)

SpaceX is growing without going public. It has received $200M from investors and $800M from contracts, both development and launch. It has won contracts, both government and commercial. I believe they currently have dozens of launch contracts, most of them commercial, representing several billion dollars in potential revenue. SpaceX seems to be growing and successfully competing quite nicely without wall street.

Regarding tourism, that is just a convenient way to make money in the short term. The current expense of tourism is temporary, and that's OK. As technology improves and experience is gained and costs come down it will become available to a wider audience. The commercial tourism efforts are essentially walking down the willingness to pay curve extracting the maximum amount from the participants. $10 million is extracted from those willing to pay $10 million, $1 million is extract from those willing to pay $1 million, etc. What is one day limited to the 1%'ers will one day be available to the 2%'ers, then the 3%'ers, and that is non-linear growth.

Regarding the long term. One major expense is lifting necessities to orbit. However when asteroids can be harvest then water, oxygen, fuel and raw materials for constructions can be sourced "locally". That will represent a huge cost savings. Look at the various projections for lunar bases. There are huge logistics and cost savings if water is available in the shadows of craters. Again, I'm talking decades not years. And the first such base will probably be a government effort. However I think commercial efforts will dominate earth orbit by then. Short of reactors fueled by He3 a lunar presence would most likely be scientific in nature. A telescope on the far side would be amazing. And practical for spotting those pesky city-killer and dinosaur-killer asteroids.

3 days ago
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Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

perpenso Extended families only ... (610 comments)

Communism works incredibly well but only in very small groups where pooled resources are necessary for survival.

In other words extended family situations where there is a strong emotional bond between individuals who actually know each other to a degree.

3 days ago
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Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

perpenso An implementation detail not a cause ... (610 comments)

partnership with corporate interests in the lead up to WWII.

No, WW1 plus a punitive peace treaty plus social crisis lead to WW2. Partnering with corporate interests was just a tactic for state control of industry. It was an implementation detail not a cause.

3 days ago
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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

perpenso Re:You are in the no more glass camp. (156 comments)

How does private industry justify for investors the expense when a payoff may not even be realized, fortunes lost or it takes another generation to see any profit?

It won't take a generation to see a profit. Consider space tourism, it is currently outrageously expensive but that is OK. The handful of people willing to pay such sums exist. Such willingness to pay is a tried and true factor that supports initially expensive products and services.

Investors won't go for that.

The quarterly focus that you assume is for publicly traded companies. Privately held companies can have longer perspectives.

In fact, the only reason the U.S. even had a space program is because of the funding and taxing power of government.

That is just a phase. A necessary phase, but one that people move beyond. Just as sailing from Europe to North America was once only an activity that governments could afford.

5 days ago
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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

perpenso Re:The only species to have this conversation ... (156 comments)

We've been to the moon. We've had one of more humans in space continuously since 2000.

In some number of decades we could have a manned mission to mars, the technology is getting feasible.

In centuries it is feasible that we would have the technology to colonize other rocks in the solar system. We can't do so today but we can research the technology and discover the science that future generations will stand upon.

about a week ago
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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

perpenso The only species to have this conversation ... (156 comments)

And as for extinction-level events, life survived; we are here. Who are you to decide what life will survive on this planet millions or billions of years from now?

The one and only known species that is aware of this issue and can have a conversation about it and can do something about it, i.e. not limit itself to this one planet. That's a pretty special species.

about a week ago
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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

perpenso You are in the no more glass camp. (156 comments)

That is correct. Evolution is still happening. There were no humans here two million years ago and there won't be any in another two million years. What's the big deal?

To continue with the glass is half full/empty metaphor, you ignore the fact that someday there will be no glass. More mass extinction level events will happen. And the big deal is that it would be a shame to lose the only known intelligent species capable of contemplating and studying the universe in such an event, and lose whatever species may have developed from this intelligent species.

Occupying more than one rock in the solar system greatly increases the species chance of survival. Plus the amount of resources available in asteroids and such dwarfs everything we have acquired from the earth.

The enormous expense involved in manned space flight and habitation is temporary. Yet that expense may well seem paltry if we can get past the bootstrapping phase. I have greater faith in the civilian commercial space industry in this regard than I do with government based projects.

about a week ago
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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

perpenso Space program greatly benefited from the cold war (156 comments)

The space program is a lot more productive now than when we were focused on a retarded war with the Russians. Unlike the 60's, we're actually doing basic science and planetary science missions now instead of chest thumping bravado.

Much of the science and tech of today's planetary missions are the result of military tech and those glory days of NASA manned missions. Those manned lunar missions were preceded by various robotic lunar missions.

The cold war greatly benefited the space program, it funded its tech. That chest thumping got the public behind all that spending on space. NASA and the US space program suffer today because of a lack of interest by the people. Fortunately the civilian commercial space industry seems to be coming along quite nicely.

about a week ago
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Nearly 25 Years Ago, IBM Helped Save Macintosh

perpenso Re:Compilers lose to assembly language programmers (236 comments)

From your description, I think you're better at hand-crafted assembly than most people. I suspect it would take a lot of time and work for me to get that good.

Well I am a little rusty but I have done it off and on for 30 years, 6502, 68000, 16- and 32-bit x86, PowerPC, ARM and a few odd micro controllers. And CPU architecture is something that I enjoy learning about. So yeah, not the average C programmer. I make no claims that the average C programmer who can read assembly for debugging purposes can beat the compiler. Someone who is knowledgeable about the hardware architecture and has some experience with assembly would be required, although the experience does not necessarily have to be on that architecture. I did pretty good my first time out in PowerPC. It also depends on the code. Not all code can be tuned, or is worth tuning. I also tend to think about the architecture when coding in C/C++, that helps too and is a nice side effect of the assembly experience.

Now, how much experience is enough to beat the compiler. That's hard to say. For someone like me who is a "freak" and actually enjoys assembly, there are probably some recent college grads who can do it. I've also seen people with 30 years of experience who have occasionally written assembly when absolutely required who probably will get beaten by the compiler. I think its one of those things you have to have some inherent interest in. When I work on a new architecture I like to re-write some code in assembly for fun and curiosity on my own time, one such example is some vector/matrix math code going back to a 3d graphics class in college. Again, I admit this is "freaky". :-)

about a week ago
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Dell Starts Accepting Bitcoin

perpenso Re:Using bitcoins requires capital gain/loss calc (152 comments)

"Actual" currency is just the middleman to trading goods and services.

No. Goods and services are not only traded using currency. They may be traded using other non-currency assets as well.

Where is the straw man you are arguing against that said the word "only"?

Currency is not **the** middleman, it is **a** middleman.

I'm not arguing against bitcoins. I'm pointing out that it is an asset in various legal jurisdictions and that this has huge implications that are only now coming to light.

about a week ago
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Dell Starts Accepting Bitcoin

perpenso Using bitcoins requires capital gain/loss calc ... (152 comments)

If anything, this demonstrates another example of how bitcoin will never catch on as an actual currency. It's a middleman at best

"Actual" currency is just the middleman to trading goods and services. So I guess dollars will never catch on either.

No. Goods and services are not only traded using currency. They may be traded using other non-currency assets as well. However trading assets has a capital gain/loss tax implication in the U.S.

A recent IRS advisory said virtual currency is to be treated as an assent not a currency. So lets say you receive some bitcoins. At some future date you spend these bitcoins. Since these bitcoins are an asset you have to account for their gain or loss in value for the days that you held them and declare a loss or gain on your taxes. In short spending bitcoins has the paperwork overhead of selling stocks, its not like spending dollars at all.

Ex. You buy one coin at $500 and another at $600. Coins are priced at $800 at the time of a future purchase. You buy something for $1,200, 1.5 coins. Using FIFO (first in first out) your basis for the outgoing 1.5 coins is $500 + $300 = $800, and the basis for the returning 0.5 coins is still $300. You experienced a gain of $400 on the 1.5 coins at the time of the sale and that $400 would seem to be taxable income. Apologies if I botched the math, hopefully the point gets across.

So if you buy a laptop from Dell and the IRS discovers you paid in bitcoins you may be expected to provide some sort of accounting for the coins used, date acquired, value on that date, etc.

about a week ago
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Nearly 25 Years Ago, IBM Helped Save Macintosh

perpenso Re:Compilers lose to assembly language programmers (236 comments)

Assembly is also much less common today because the compilers have improved a whole lot since 1991. It's a lot harder for hand-crafted assembly to beat an optimizing compiler now.

I've been hearing people say "compilers are finally good enough that assembly is obsolete" for about 20 years. Its never been true. Someday maybe. I doubt its a lot harder, however I would agree that it is a lot less necessary. Computers are so overpowered for typical tasks it hardly makes any difference whether one uses C or assembly.

I haven't written any assembly in about 5 years. However every hardware generation or so I compare some assembly code I wrote about 10 years ago to the current compilers. The assembly still wins. I'm not claiming this is typical results. The key to big wins in assembly is not to out micromanage the compiler when it comes to scheduling, rather it is to use knowledge and info that can't be represented in the language nor communicated to the compiler through the language.

FWIW, the reason I haven't written assembly in over 5 years is that I haven't worked on something that is extremely time sensitive in recent years.

about a week ago
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Russia Prepares For Internet War Over Malaysian Jet

perpenso Data is sent by satellite ... (503 comments)

Data is sent by satellite in some newer aircraft. Recall the French jet that went down in the South Atlantic. When abnormal events occurred the aircraft sent some text messages to the airline. Full telemetry would be very expensive. However occasional texts for abnormal events, and maybe an occasional gps coordinate, would be reasonable.

That said, black boxes and such telemetry would be of limited to no value in the Ukrainian shoot down case. The black box won't tell us what type of missile destroyed the aircraft and where it was launched from.

about a week ago
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Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

perpenso Re:Money has very real power (291 comments)

Advertising (i.e. money) has limited power, the true power, the true currency of politics is votes.

Advertising gets votes, ergo it is a distinction without a difference.

You are missing my point. Expensive media campaigns (ie. money) only persuades the indifferent and the uninterested. If you can convince a person that something matter, get them interested, then the media campaign will not change their mind no matter how much money you throw into it. That is why money is inferior to votes.

Advertising doesn't get all or even most votes but it doesn't have to. It merely has to get enough to tip the election which advertising demonstrably can do. You will not find one person who has been involved with an actual campaign who will tell you money doesn't matter. It's not the end-all-be-all but it matters quite a lot.

Ask someone in an actual campaign if they fear, in he U.S., the NRA or AARP because of their money or because of their motivated voters who are highly likely to show up on election day. These two lobbyists are the most powerful in the country because of their motivated members not because of campaign contribution.

A motivated and well informed voter is not swayed by advertising. Only the indifferent or disinterested are swayed by advertising.

First off I guarantee you that a well informed voter can sometimes be swayed by advertising. Happens all the time. Second, there are LOTS of disinterested voters out there.

Of course there are. That is why the 1%'ers have more political power than the 99%'ers. My point is that the 99%'s delude themselves if they think the problem is money. The problem is their own indifference.

One of the biggest ways that this indifference manifests is in party loyalty. If you vote for your party rather than candidates, including other party candidates, then you can be ignored. Your party already has your vote so you can be ignored. The other party can not get your vote so you can be ignored. Roughly 2/3's of U.S. voters remove themselves from the game through party loyalty, being part of the loyal base.

I am regularly asked to vote for local officials who I know absolutely nothing about and even when I care I simply have limited time and motivation to learn about them. People demonstrably tend to vote for people they've heard of over those they haven't regardless of their actual positions on issues. That's how incumbents tend to get re-elected. Guess what a really good way to hear about someone is? Advertising!

Actually its a pretty poor way to get informed, the info is highly biased or misleading.

In the U.S. recently an upstart college professor spent $100,000 in an election and defeated a power incumbent who spent $5,000,000. The professor had motivated voters, the incumbent had money.

That's pretty much the exception that proves the rule. You neglected to point out that the incumbent was a high ranking member of congress who had spent relatively little time campaigning in his district. He screwed up. No amount of money will help you if you don't actually pay attention to what matters.

Actually it proves my point. The winner tapped into a groundswell of motivated voters who were really pissed off. It was not simply that the loser didn't spend enough time in his district. If anything is exceptional in this case it was a large number of motivated voters showing up on election day, that is the formula for reform, for the 99%'era to regain control. Because the true currency of politics is votes.

about a week ago
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Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

perpenso Advertising (i.e. money) has limited power ... (291 comments)

Never underestimate the power of advertising and lobbyists.

Advertising (i.e. money) has limited power, the true power, the true currency of politics is votes.

A motivated and well informed voter is not swayed by advertising. Only the indifferent or disinterested are swayed by advertising.

In the U.S. recently an upstart college professor spent $100,000 in an election and defeated a power incumbent who spent $5,000,000. The professor had motivated voters, the incumbent had money.

As for lobbyists in the U.S, the most powerful are those who deliver motivated voters on election day, not those who merely make campaign contributions.

about a week ago

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