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Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July

pz Re: Time for Wine (156 comments)

Really? Fired? Funny, 'cause I'm the boss. If we had an application running under Windows 95, _and it worked_, there would be absolutely zero reason to do anything with that machine when there are other, more important, ways to spend our time. Granted, that hypothetical machine would not be on the net, 'cause we aren't stupid.

The real machines we have running XP, run our experiments (and they have never been on the net for other reasons); until such time as the boxes die, they will continue to run our software, and continue to run it under XP. And then, they will be replaced with the identical backup hardware we have, giving us enough time to get a grant funded to have someone port the code to a more modern system. Until then, we have science to do. Computers, in my lab, are like any other tool that is to be used to collect data and advance knowledge -- pens, screwdrivers, oscilloscopes, whiteboards -- and are not an end unto themselves.

5 days ago
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Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July

pz Re:Time for Wine (156 comments)

Didn't work for us. We have an application that has been developed over about 10 years in VB6. No one has the budget -- either in finance or time -- to port. We looked at Wine as a plug-and-play replacement for XP and the application did not work correctly, 100%. The application is mission-critical, making anything less than 100% compatibility a non-starter. So we're stuck with XP until the next big grant comes in and we can afford to pay someone to port it to a more modern system.

Don't get me wrong, Wine is an impressive amount of work, and my hat is off to the brave folks who have put so much time and effort into it. It just isn't good enough for our needs, unfortunately.

5 days ago
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Serious Fraud Office Drop Investigation Into Autonomy Accounting

pz Re:confusing headline. (53 comments)

And two little letters "UK" at the start of the headline would have eliminated all ambiguity. The headline is an example of prima facie editorial failure.

about a week ago
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LAPD Orders Body Cams That Will Start Recording When Police Use Tasers

pz Re:So what do we expect to see? (219 comments)

A large reduction in taser use, higher reports of police brutality, slightly higher use of lethal force?

My crystal ball says that there will be an unexpectedly high level of malfunctioning video equipment, triggering a big-money follow-on contract with the manufacturer to correct the problem. The follow-on contract will achieve a just-above the threshold of measurability improvement in reliability. Then, later, when the current brouhaha has been forgotten, the cameras will be left to accumulate drawers with the official evaluation that they were fundamentally defective and so no longer required. And, of course, the real problem will be intentional damage to the equipment caused by the officers required to wear them who have something to hide.

But perhaps I've got my cynical hat on ...

about two weeks ago
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The Search For Starivores, Intelligent Life That Could Eat the Sun

pz Karadashev Type II Civilization (300 comments)

Aren't these folks just looking for a Karadashev Type II civilization? That was defined, oh, about 50 years ago, now. By an astronomer.

Talk about not bothering to look at what people in a given field have done before impinging upon your own self-important program. If anyone bothers to read the linked article (I do not recommend wasting your time), it's full of blatheringly idiotic statements about how major advances in science come about. I'm a scientist, in a different field, and we are pushing the boundaries as hard as you can imagine. We look at anything and everything that we can find that is relevant to help us succeed at our, frankly, audacious, high-risk work. And there are one or two people in the field who are blathering idiots like this who keep on talking about pie-in-the-sky visions they have for how things should work ... and they contribute nothing. Meeting after meeting, they provide the same drivel without doing any work, rehashing old ideas. Sure, they have entertainment value, but given the level of commitment and intensity to success that others have in the field, they are an unnecessary distraction and serve only to dilute the efforts, not build upon them.

about three weeks ago
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

pz Re:No big changes (578 comments)

Yes. French was the international language 100 years ago. English was (at that point) an also-ran.

Interesting observation: in modern-day Poland, when you ride the train, there are multi-lingual signs instructing on how do do things like open the windows or operate the toilet. The signs appear in Polish (it's Poland, after all), German (much of Poland was Germany and vice versa), Russian (it was under the Soviet sphere of influence), and French (the international language). No English.

about three weeks ago
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War Tech the US, Russia, China and India All Want: Hypersonic Weapons

pz Re:What does it change? (290 comments)

It's funny that comments from low user ID folks always seem more insightful and measured these days. And it's swb's low ID that makes me respond at all to the posting.

North Korea seems defined by the notions of a rational actor and bound by the notion of self-preservation, whereas Islamic groups seem to better fit the idea of a non-rational actor for whom self-preservation isn't a criteria.

Yes, but, there is certainly a large dose of not-quite-rationality that NK exhibits when dealing with international actors. They don't have the same rule book as everyone else seems to when it comes to how to treat your large, powerful neighbors. It reminds me of how people sometimes become when they spend too much time alone, separated from society: they behave in ways that are explicable, and therefore rational, but distinctly out of pace with expectations, and get labelled, "a bit crazy," or, "kind of odd." NK is like a weird old uncle who lives by himself and keeps rats as pets. Rationality applies, self-preservation applies, but there is most definitely something not right, as if they are delusional about the way the world works.

about a month ago
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Chaos Computer Club Claims It Can Reproduce Fingerprints From People's Photos

pz Re:This is why "biometric" authentication is usele (80 comments)

I always think of security like the Miller-Rabin test for primality (which is really a test for a number being composite): it does not give an absolute assurance, but each time you test a given candidate again with a new challenge, you reduce the probability that the candidate is composite, and each test is orthogonal to the previous ones. You, the designer of the system requiring confidence that a big number is prime, get to select your confidence level by adjusting the number of tests applied.

So too, then, you, the designer of a security system requiring confidence that a given person is who they claim to be, get to select your confidence level by adjusting the number of factors required. A brass key gives a certain level of confidence. An iris/thumbprint/palmprint/voiceprint scan another. An RFID card another. A PIN/password another. Being recognized by a guard another. Each is orthogonal to the rest.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Can I Really Do With a Smart Watch?

pz Better solutions exist (232 comments)

How about the extra-ordinary solution of wearing your phone in a pocket that IS accessible within the clean room? Or in one of those exercise arm-band thingies to hold it on your arm outside the gown? There are also bracelets that you can wear that warn you if you get too far from your phone which are inexpensive, so you won't forget your phone in the clean room

The real question becomes what is allowable for you to wear in your clean room. I'm a little surprised that a watch would be OK, or that bringing your phone in would be OK, but I suppose it depends on the situation.

about a month ago
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Reaction To the Sony Hack Is 'Beyond the Realm of Stupid'

pz Re:The Batman, Theater Attack Comparison (580 comments)

Everything in this decision has to do with LIABILITY. Even if the probability is extremely low, the potential liability is astronomical. It doesn't make financial sense for Sony to allow the movie to be shown.

If the expected value of an attack being carried out at all is reasonably high, in other words, there is a credible threat, then that probability is piled all onto the theater that premiers the film. The probability in a credible threat might approach, say 10% (I'm guessing). As an individual, I would not play 1-in-10 odds when the potential outcome is my death. If instead Sony were to open the film in, say, 10,000 theatres simultaneously, the potential liability for each theatre operator drops substantially for any location, and at 1-in-100,000 becomes low enough to perhaps ignore by an individual going to the movies. However, the overall liability remains at 1-in-10 for Sony. The movie is not going to be shown.

about a month ago
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Jaguar and Land Rover Just Created Transparent Pillars For Cars

pz Re:overwhat? (191 comments)

Agreed. My initial reaction to the CGI video is, "wait, why did they TURN IT OFF?!! That's useful information!!"

I can do without the heads-up stuff they were doing (do we really need to be warned about pedestrians like that, or how many parking spaces are available at a garage that we're passing?), but the A and B pillar pseudo-/virtual-transparency are awesome.

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

pz Re:Not really missing vinyl (433 comments)

Perfectly isn't hyperbole here. That is mathematically shown.

And the part of perfect reconstruction that nearly everyone forgets is that it requires an infinitely long sampling of an infinite-time signal. If you use a time-limited sequence, you do not get perfect reconstruction. I've been in the business of signal sampling and reconstruction a long time, but I'm still having trouble finding an instance of a sampling that spans infinite time (for those who are humor impaired, that was a joke).

More practically speaking, because all digitizations that you come across, or design, have finite time span, it means that the reconstruction accuracy starts to get worse and worse the closer you get to the Nyquist threshold, and the effect is worse and worse the shorter the sequence length. Here's an extreme thought experiment: you have two samplings of a signal just a hair below Nyquist. Just a hair below. The sequences are both pretty short, say 4 samples long.

In the first sampling, you got unlucky, and the samples all happened very close to the zero crossings so that all of the quantized values are 0. Reconstructing that yields a DC value of 0V.

In the second sampling, you got lucky to the opposite extreme, and the samples all happened very close to the peaks, so that the quantized values are alternately +PEAKVALUE and -PEAKVALUE. Reconstructing that yields the original sinusoid at the intended amplitude.

Which sampling is correct? If I just give you the sampled values, there is no way to tell. Any reconstruction from amplitude 0 to amplitude PEAKVALUE would be accurate, and there is no way of knowing for sure what the phase was.

Now, if the sequences were infinite length, then, eventually, no matter how fine that hair was below Nyquist, you'd start to see the beating against the sampling clock, and, eventually, be able to observe samples that spanned the entire range of the sinusoid, making accurate reconstruction possible, including phase. But, again, you'd need an infinite sequence, with an infinite sinusoidal signal.

What are the real-world consequences of this problem? (1) you lose phase and amplitude information of the original -- they CANNOT be reconstructed accurately -- as you approach Nyquist, with the effects getting more and more pronounced as the sequence length gets shorter and shorter. (2) If you really want dead-on accurate reconstruction up to a frequency F, you should be sampling at 5F, not 2F. That also gives you more room to design good anti-aliasing filters on the sampling side, and carrier frequency filters on the reconstruction side.

Remember, people, Nyquist is the mathematical limit, not the practical, usable threshold.

about a month and a half ago
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Once Again, Baltimore Police Arrest a Person For Recording Them

pz Re:its not as if american cops have anything to fe (515 comments)

I would suggest that when someone is being choked and can barely breathe, their words will not be complex, nor will they carry nuanced meanings such as the level of difficulty they are having with respiration. When faced with life-threatening situations, our minds focus, and become exceedingly direct: "I can't breathe" is entirely within the acceptable range of philosophical inaccuracy under those circumstances. You wanted him to say, instead, "my fellow man, I'm having a rather hard time re-oxegenating my blood -- would you mind releasing the pressure on my trachea for a moment?" Or, "I'm panting because you're crushing my thorax, and am unable to draw a full breath -- would you mind removing your knee from my chest?" Or, "my inability to form full words is because you've pinched off my carotids, and I'm facing imminent loss of consciousness -- would you mind removing your bear-sized hands from my neck?"

If someone in a highly stressful situation tells you "I can't breathe" then you should act accordingly to prevent loss of life. Simple as that.

about a month and a half ago
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Bellard Creates New Image Format To Replace JPEG

pz Different Comparison Needed (377 comments)

Although the comparison pages posted in this thread (this is an awesome one https://xooyoozoo.github.io/yo... ) are fun and interesting, they compare the bit efficiency of the two algorithms. That is important yes. But that isn't how these formats are used: when bandwidth is an issue (and it is to web site authors, be they individuals or companies, no matter what anyone on this thread says to the contrary), compression is increased to the threshold of perceptibility, or a little beyond. That is, the provider will increase compression until artifacts are just barely noticeable.

So, the more pertinent question, in terms of image quality, is how the two algorithms compare for equal levels of error, both in number of bits, and also in subjective image quality.

about a month and a half ago
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An Algorithm To Prevent Twitter Hashtag Degeneration

pz Not going to bother (162 comments)

It really would be nice to not see these less-than-stellar pieces from Bennett that contain long-winded, half-baked ideas. His ideas are neither particularly good, nor nearly as insightful as he appears to think, especially when it comes to algorithms. Moreover, they always seem to contain some bit of nearsightedness when it comes to human behavior.

Please, someone, come up with a way of blocking his posts.

about a month and a half ago
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James Watson's Nobel Prize Goes On Auction This Week

pz Re:Of Course It Was (355 comments)

And the time scale we need to talk about for DNA to change is at the very least tens of thousands of years.

Recent scientific experiments and non-scientific efforts in selective breeding of animals and plants would suggest otherwise. Heck, there's even a story on the Slashdot front page at the moment talking about how HIV is evolving in front of our eyes.

For me, the quintessential directed evolution experiment was started by Dmitri Belyaev in Russia to domesticate the wild fox. It took all of 10 generations. Ten. Not thousands or even hundreds. Ten. Domestication represents a huge shift in DNA. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

about 2 months ago
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Clarificiation on the IP Address Security in Dropbox Case

pz Relevance? (152 comments)

Someone, who has no apparent power, wants to correct a judge. Just because they think they're right and the judge had inaccurate reasoning, despite coming to the same conclusion. (There's a good XKCD comic on the subject of correcting people in the Internet.) The critic's opinion will carry no legal weight. The same critic has a history of proposing long-winded, half-baked ideas to correct issues he sees with various societal inefficiencies that have gone no-where. I'm not going to waste my time.

Would someone be so kind as to please remind me how we can block posts from a given author?

about 2 months ago
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Debunking a Viral Internet Post About Breastfeeding Racism

pz Re:Seconded. (350 comments)

You forgot to mention that he has an embarrassingly small sample size and doesn't do any sample correction. He doesn't publish any significance values, so we have no way of knowing if 70% is the same or different than 77%, to the accuracy of the methodology (as well or as poorly thought out as it may be). Then he considers 86% and 67% to be about the same, and subsequently 63% and 79% to be about the same.

I am not a professional statistician -- I hire people to do that sort of work for me when I need definitive answers because I don't know the details. But I know enough to recognize handwaving, and that's all the long-winded original posting is.

about 2 months ago
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It's Time To Revive Hypercard

pz Balance taxes? (299 comments)

I've never balanced taxes. Is this a new thing?

Oh, you mean balance checkbooks and pay taxes. There's much better software to do that these days.

And there are much better ways to teach programming. For a very long time there has been a movement to bring programming to the masses, as if, somehow, everyone would be able to write beautiful, intricate code to solve their most complex problems. Most people can barely match their clothing (note to the reading-impaired: that was hyperbole); why should we expect them to be able to write code?

Writing programs requires clear, linear thought. It requires thinking in terms of structures and systems. The push in the greater population has been toward valuing non-linear thought (although that baffles me), so there's a big mismatch to overcome. Yes, there are plenty of graphical programming languages that reduce the need for precise syntax, but they only REDUCE it, not eliminate it, and they still require procedural thinking which, ultimately, presents an insurmountable difficulty for many people.

Not everyone can or should be a programmer: Not everyone is a writer, Not everyone is a photographer, Not everyone is a painter. Sure, everyone should be given basic skills in writing, and perhaps in drawing or painting as a child, and so perhaps everyone should be given basic skills in programming, but beyond that, why? Not everyone is able to understand calculus; why should we automatically expect that everyone should be able to write Java, Python, or whathaveyou?

about 3 months ago

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pz pz writes  |  more than 11 years ago

The Blackjacks were a small (okay, perhaps not-so-small) band in Boston from the heyday of local music in Boston. Their biggest hit Saturday, which made a splash on the college airwaves, starts with the lyrics in my signature.

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