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Ask Slashdot: Best Anti-Virus Software In 2015? Free Or Paid?

ponos BitDefender renewal (467 comments)

I would just like to mention a rather dubious automatic yearly renewal I got with BitDefender. Although I normally wouldn't mind being given a reminder, in that case I only discovered the item in my VISA card statement. Annoyingly, they didn't even apply the discount that was running at their website at that moment, so I was charged something like $89 for a product that was selling $49 or so.

Anyway, be sure to check this if you are running or planning on buying BitDefender.

5 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can I Trust Android Rooting Tools?

ponos Fundamentally not secure (184 comments)

I had the same thoughts when I tried installing CM on an old Android device. In the end, the platform was never meant to be secure or really open to user scrutiny. I suppose with a considerable amount of effort you could achieve some sense of security by inspecting all major components, but if you are inclined to invest a considerable amount of effort, then you probably want much better security and are looking at the wrong place. Phones/tablets are fundamentally insecure, and this is probably by design.

about two weeks ago
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Fewer Grants For Young Researchers Causing Brain Drain In Academia

ponos Re:Quarterly forecast (153 comments)

I don't really think that is true. Just read Science and Nature on a regular basis. Lots and lots of new insights and discoveries by mostly US centers. It can and should be better - we're on a Red Queen type journey and much of our problems can be solved either by dropping us back into the Bronze age or moving forward understanding our world and how to live in it. Standing around staring at the scenery isn't going to get society very far.

Although I don't doubt for a second that US centers produce first-tier research, I am also inclined to believe that publishing in Nature is far easier when you come from a big US center. So, it is, in a way, a self-sustaining situation. Friends who have been to famous US centers (Dana-Farber, NIH, MIT), find it far more difficult to publish when they come back to Europe, and that is even after having established connections around the world.

With respect to TFA, I would just like to add two parallel phenomena that possibly contribute to the apparent "lack" of funding for young scientistis:
- Research is becoming exorbitantly expensive, therefore grants are more likely to be big and only distributed to the people at the top. Funding twenty young researchers with 100k is unfortunately much less productive than funding a big consortium with 2M because the barrier of entry (equipment, regulatory overhead etc) is very high.
- The PhD "inflation" means that today a scientist is considered senior/lab head after one and maybe two post-docs. It used to be that after the PhD someone would get a tenure-track job and the associated funds. Today this step occurs at a later age. Naturally, researchers under 35 are seen as "beginners" while a hollywood star or athlete is seen as a veteran at age 35. Such is life for the modern scientist...

about three weeks ago
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How Long Will It Take Streaming To Dominate the Music Business?

ponos Re:Time to buy vinyl? (169 comments)

In a much smaller house?

about three weeks ago
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How Long Will It Take Streaming To Dominate the Music Business?

ponos Time to buy vinyl? (169 comments)

This economy baffles me. I rent a house, lease a car, subscribe to a Adobe software, pay-per-view TV, stream music, and play online-DRM games and god knows what else. The day I stop having income, I don't own a thing. I am not by any means going back to the age of carrying chunks of gold on my person, but I get the impression property is quickly being replaced by service in too many aspects of our living. Although practical and convenient, this can only amplify the financial insecurity of the middle/lower classes.

Well, if the shit hits the fan, I can always listen to my vinyl collection.

about three weeks ago
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Vinyl Record Pressing Plants Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

ponos Re:Not really missing vinyl (433 comments)

I'd generally agree about the quality of the speaker, but even in pure mathematical terms a piano is a very complex instrument with hundreds of moving parts and multiple configurations (pedals, chords etc). In fact you can connect most electric pianos to a hifi of your choice, but I don't think it's enough. I would try this, but I don't have a high-end speaker handy ;-)

about a month and a half ago
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Vinyl Record Pressing Plants Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

ponos Re:Not really missing vinyl (433 comments)

If it were that simple, we could also completely emulate any instrument like a piano or a violin. Electric pianos can do wonders (I own one) but they can't copy the real thing (which I also own). The point is that a turntable is, in that sense, a complex transformation, like an instrument. You may like it or hate it, but it isn't that simple to emulate.

That being said,I'm sure people have mentioned the simple pleasure of actually owning stuff (instead of a virtual license to some bits on some server). Vinyl has that.

about a month and a half ago
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Eizo Debuts Monitor With 1:1 Aspect Ratio

ponos Re:ATC (330 comments)

EIZO has a series of displays specifically targeted to air traffic control with 2048x2048 at 28". They also make displays for medical uses, surveillance etc, with redundant connectors and PSUs.

about 2 months ago
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HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show

ponos Re:Yes! (242 comments)

There was some sort of sexual adventure between a male bot and a woman, but the story, although situated in the Foundation "universe", does not take place in the Foundation series itself. Actually, the story takes place in the distant past, before the appearance of the Foundation.

about 3 months ago
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Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

ponos Macbook Air with touch? (252 comments)

Why not just add touch to the 11" macbook and be done with it? Not that I like touch, most of the time it's a horrible idea, but it would tick most of the right boxes: size, keyboard, touch, battery life etc...

about 3 months ago
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GNOME 3.14 Released

ponos The list of features is quite telling... (250 comments)

The Gnome environment has a direction. One that does not interest me. Things like "multitouch" are clearly not important to me, but all three users using Gnome on their tablets might care. I am even more surprised to see the new "Weather app" up in the list of exciting new features. The hours I spend daily looking at the weather forecast will now be much more pleasurable.

Anyway, I really want to like Gnome but don't see anything that matters to me. Linux Mint and the Cinnamon environment seem more suited to my needs and, I suspect, to the needs of the "typical" linux user. In a parallel universe where Apple fans decide to use Linux, Gnome will be there for them.

about 4 months ago
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Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?

ponos Re:Local voice recognition (253 comments)

You really don't get it. The vendors want that data; it's not a burden for them to be processing it on their servers.

Sending everything I say to a server far away is a good reason not to use voice recognition on my phone. Then again, I already send my unencrypted voice over the network when I speak to someone. How hard would it be to implement some decent encryption? Hardware-assisted encryption is already commonplace.

about 4 months ago
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Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?

ponos Depends on the software (253 comments)

It all comes down to software. Nobody knows what future software might do. Imagine, for example, some pretty decent AI running locally on the phone, accurate (and fluent) voice and face recognition and powerful augmented reality or virtual reality applications and you really start pushing the envelope.

Then again, you could already do all that on a desktop but nobody seems to care enough to develop that kind of stuff. So, here I am in front of a multi-gazzilion-FLOP desktop running the same Office application I used ten years ago and listening to MP3s (which I first encoded on a Pentium in the previous century).

  Which is why we may, or may not, see the need for better phone specifications, depending on the evolution of their software ecosystems.

about 4 months ago
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Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

ponos Re:Not sure (126 comments)

This IPO is interesting because it's a test case for how well China can provide a code of laws assurance to the worldwide investor. So far, so good. But the Chineese system has a similar habit of disenfranchising shareholders, and in this case, it could happen in the blink of an eye.

It's too early to say how it would function in an hypothetical situation. Clearly, that question will have to be settled in the coming decade: what happens when a Chinese company does not behave well? For the moment, people are just hoping for a quick buck, just as with most IPOs.

about 4 months ago
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Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

ponos Re:Comparable? Not really. (126 comments)

Until recently, multiple classes of stock were prohibited for NYSE-listed companies, which tended to discourage doing this. (The classic exception was Ford, which has two classes of stock, the voting shares controlled by the Ford family. This predates that NYSE rule.)

Thanks for sharing this information. This explains some things.

about 4 months ago
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Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

ponos Re:Comparable? Not really. (126 comments)

The market is fully capable of pricing the fact that Alibaba stockholders don't actually own a direct claim on Alibaba's Chinese assets and can't elect its board. Truth be told, shareholders don't "own" any company; they own whatever rights are specified in the share agreement........

You are right of course. Personally, I'm a bit bothered by stocks that don't give dividends (as a rule!) or voting rights. I know it's common and Alibaba is not the only example. Investing without any kind of control and without expecting dividends (I don't know if it's the case for Alibaba) only seems to reinforce the perception that stocks are some sort of casino. I prefer the vision of stock ownership as holding a small piece of a real business: contributing to decision-making and getting a part of the profits just like you would if you owned a percentage of the restaurant next-door. I feel that this would reinforce much more responsible corporate behavior and saner investment strategies. It's a pity that many technology companies operate this way.

about 4 months ago
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If We Can't Kill Cancer, Can We Control It?

ponos Re:How about the linked article? (140 comments)

Your criticism of the study I mentioned is reasonable, but in the domain of cancer treatment, a hazard ratio for death (a hard endpoint) of 0.67 is good and, in that sense, if you require much stronger evidence and even better trials you may deprive patients of a useful drug in the meantime. The FDA wants to strike a balance between getting an effective drug to patients as soon as possible and not letting pass ineffective treatments. So, as with most things in life, the kind of evidence I cited is often considered "good enough" even though imperfect.

The evidence for the impact of point mutations can be found in several domains, but the simplest observations comes from hereditary syndromes like Li-Fraumeni. A single change in a nucleotide of the TP53 gene and cancer risk increases to almost 100% in affected individuals. This has been repeatedly observed in many different famliies and also in different syndromes (say, retinoblastoma and RB1 gene). Anyway, the evidence for what is called the "somatic mutation theory" is overwhelming and, despite thoughtful criticism, it is probably accepted as the most plausible theory of carcinogenesis (for the moment!). That's why projects like "Cancer Genome Atlas" get massive funding.

So, yes, point mutations are extremely important. Aneuploidy is also important, but in contrast with a well-described mutation, like the BRAF V600E in melanoma, it does not present an immediate, specific target. As I said, people are working on aneuploidy and maybe something new will come from that, but I don't think it's a "low-hanging fruit".

PS Note that somatic mutations do not exclude aneuploidy and vice versa...

about 4 months ago
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If We Can't Kill Cancer, Can We Control It?

ponos Re:How about the linked article? (140 comments)

"Nevertheless, having a targeted treatment is often better than no treatment at all."

Perhaps, but I doubt there is any good evidence for this. Weak effects and noisy data don't mix well, we are probably taught all sorts of incorrect things based on spurious results. I would suggest getting away from these targeted treatments of at most limited benefit and work on figuring out how to turn aneuploidy as a drug target.

FDA approval typically requires randomized controlled trials, so when a treatment is available it has been tested at least against placebo (if that was the best available treatment at the moment of approval). That's why I say "better than no treatment". A drug that is not better than placebo usually does not make it past the approval stage (and if it does, approval can be quickly revoked, for example bevacizumab in breast cancer: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11...)

What sort of evidence would you expect? For example, the study which established the targeted agent trastuzumab is available online: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/1.... Bias and noise are unavoidable, but with my knowledge of statistics the result seems reasonably clear.

Anyway, with respect to your other comment, aneuploidy is not an obvious target but people are working on it and on drugs that interact with the mitotic machinery. Let's hope they will be successful.

about 4 months ago
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If We Can't Kill Cancer, Can We Control It?

ponos Re:How about the linked article? (140 comments)

Well, if the cancer cells are aneuploid (like the vast majority apparently are) and thus genetically unstable we shouldn't expect a targeted treatment like this to be effective for long.

Many targeted treatments have been disappointing in actual practice and very few are effective in the long term (imatinib is a good example). Nevertheless, having a targeted treatment is often better than no treatment at all. Furthermore, due to different, non-overlapping toxicites, these treatments are often feasible in patients who have received chemotherapy in the past or together with chemotherapy (trastuzumab, for example).

In the end, cancer is entropy. That's why it's hard.

about 4 months ago
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If We Can't Kill Cancer, Can We Control It?

ponos Re:Baking Soda May Help! (140 comments)

2) Consider the annual sales and profits of Big Pharma. Then the same for Big Food. IF there's a simple cure using natural food and basic ingredients that big pharma cannot patent, what's Coca Cola, Pepsico and other similarly large companies waiting for to steal big pharma's lunch?

Actually, if a cure was "known" Big Pharma "A" would want to produce it first and charge $$$$$, before Big Pharma "B" does it. It's not like Big Pharma works as a single organism. Multiple companies, competition and all that. Furthermore, don't forget "little pharma". The drug mentioned in the article comes from a little drug company, Agios, not some multi-billion behemoth.Several new drugs have been created by start-ups and were later sold. In fact, Big Pharma mostly does the last part of the pipeline (human trials, FDA accreditations and marketing) but the first part of the drug-discovery process often comes from little inventors who are not afraid to take risks.

I happen to know two people who are in the drug "startup" business and would be quite happy to make $$$$$ selling a cure for cancer to Big Pharma. These are the people that actually do in vitro/in vivo experiments and, trust me, if compound ZZZ were very effective they would be very happy to test it immediately, even if it meant loss of billions for other companies.

about 4 months ago

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