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Is Programming a Lucrative Profession?

rantingkitten Re:If you're in it for the money, do something els (844 comments)

do you want to have your tonsils removed by a surgeon, who is, "in it for the money . . . ?"

As opposed to someone who is doing it for the love of cutting people? Yeah.

more than 4 years ago
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SETI Founder Outlines Ambitious Future Plans

rantingkitten Re:Not the best use of resources right now... (281 comments)

Would it really be *that* expensive? The cost is certainly non-negligable, but we can put probes on the moon with fairly high precision. It seems to me that a bunch of (relatively) inexpensive probes could land and unfurl radio dishes. By themselves, this wouldn't do much, but if you have enough of them spread out over a large enough area, and networked them (via lunar-orbiting satellite), they would effectively operate as one large radio antenna. That's the idea behind stuff behind the Very Large Array and so forth.

Again, not exactly cheap to do, but probably not nearly as expensive as one might think.

more than 3 years ago
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Designing the Computer UIs In Movies

rantingkitten Re:"Science" in movies not built for realism (371 comments)

It was just an example. And I'm not sure how the computer would know whether the oven was on unnecessarily, either. Maybe you turned it on to pre-heat it and then stepped out for a minute to smoke / get something from the car / take a phone call / talk to the neighbor / whatever. How would the computer know the difference between that, and you actually leaving, unless it was just using a timer?

Anyway, as I said, it was just an example. My point was that we're not far off from a computer being able to monitor and report on the condition of most things in the house, and probably our being able to address the computer verbally.

As another example, recently I went to Miami for a few days, and realised I'd left the thermostat on unnecessarily. It would have been nice to call "the computer" and say "Computer, at what temperature is the thermostat right now?" "Current setting is 75 degrees." "Computer, lower the thermostat to 60 degrees until further notice." "Acknowledged."

more than 3 years ago
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Humans Nearly Went Extinct 1.2M Years Ago

rantingkitten Re:Summary is wrong (356 comments)

Not really, it isn't. We humans have largely removed ourselves from the machinations of natural selection by dint of compensating for nearly all "problems" with technology. Disease resistance in this day and age just doesn't make any significant impact on an individual's ability to reproduce. There are a few exceptions that kill before the person reaches child-rearing age, but those are so few and far between, percentage-wise, that even if some grand genetic magic wand were waved that eliminated that problem in humans, it wouldn't make any real difference.

I speak here about industrial or developing societies, not that one tribe of twenty people out in some unexplored jungle, so don't bother pointing that out. But of the six and a half billion people on this planet, the majority of them are in some sort of agrarian or industrial society. We are not hunted by any creature, and we do not hunt for survival. By wearing clothes and building shelters and purifying our water and cooking our food, we have eliminated basically any environmental pressures on ourselves. And, we do not live in small, isolated communities. We adapt our world to suit us, rather than adapt ourselves to suit our world. Our ability to reproduce and raise offspring is no longer determined by our genetic fitness to our surroundings.

Unless you can think of some diseases that kill significant numbers of people before they get a chance to reproduce, "disease resistance" makes no difference to our genetic makeup. And I remind you that we compensate for such problems medically far faster than genetic drift and natural selection ever could.

more than 4 years ago
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Designing the Computer UIs In Movies

rantingkitten Re:"Science" in movies not built for realism (371 comments)

take Star Trek and the computer that's absurdly context- and plotsensitive, you can ask questions like "Computer, were there any anomalies detected?" and it'll point out a vital plot clue in less than 5 seconds.

I don't think that's far-fetched, though, and I don't think it's that far down the road. Assuming computers reach a point where they can more or less understand spoken words, why wouldn't a computer tied into various sensors and ship's systems be able to answer that question? And you'll notice that even the computers on Star Trek aren't perfect -- if you say something the computer doesn't understand, it'll ask you to rephrase it.

In ten or twenty years it'll probably be possible. You'll be able to call your computer at home, using the phone, and say "Computer, did I turn the oven off?" or "Computer, did I remember to lock the door?" and it'll give you the answer.

Personally, I find talking to be a terrible way to interact with a computer, but there are certain niche cases where it would make a lot of sense.

more than 4 years ago
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Why the IRS Should Automatically Fill In Returns With What It Knows

rantingkitten Re:An invitation to defraud (613 comments)

Gee, the government might not be able to force quite as much money from the citizens, and would therefore have less money to squander on idiotic crap nobody wants, needs, or asked for. That'd be a real crying shame.

If everyone paid based "only" on what the government knows about their income, the government would still have plenty of money. If they're hurting for cash that bad, they should take a big red pen, go through this list, and eliminate 50% of it.

Golden Field Office. Inter-American Foundation. Japan-United States Friendship Commission. Management Assistance Team, Management Service Office. National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Center for the Book. Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. Executive Office for Weed and Seed. Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Tribal Affairs Office. Federal Duck Stamp Office. Six agencies, that I can see, doing the same exact job as the FDA. It goes on but I'm tired of looking at this list.

In short, I have no problem if the government gets less money. Who cares? You're also discounting the lost productivity and contribution to the GNP by having the entire labor force of the country throw away hours or days of their time filling out useless paperwork to tell the government what it probably already knows. I have no numbers but it seems to be the odds are pretty good that the act of filling out tax returns is vastly more expensive to the nation as a whole than a couple of people failing to report their two-thousand-dollar investment earnings.

more than 4 years ago
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Mozilla Firefox 3.6 Released

rantingkitten Ugh (284 comments)

One of the major goals of the release was to improve startup time and general UI responsiveness, especially the Awesomebar.

What would really improve responsiveness of the Awesomebar is to get rid of it, or at least let me turn it off. I find it utterly and completely useless, and detrimental more often than not. I just want the old, sane behavior of checking the first few letters I'm typing and matching against sites I've been to recently where the URLs begin with those letters. I don't want it to search for "do those letters appear anywhere in the URL string, anywhere in the title, anywhere in the bloody bookmarks". Really, there is zero percent chance, whatsoever, that my typing "g" into the address bar means I want to go to a bookmark I stashed away years ago which has "Complete Listing" in the title because, hey, "listing" has a "g". What kind of brain-damaged behavior is that?

Sure, it claims to learn over time, but it doesn't seem to actually do this, and in any event, clearing out your history complete ruins that. Plus, since its suggestions are wrong so often, I end up going to the wrong site, which it of course counts as a hit on that and adds to whatever asinine "learning" routine it's using.

None of the about:config tricks or plugins actually work to remove this abomination either. For the love of god, let me and the millions of others who hate the Awesomebar turn that garbage off.

more than 4 years ago
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News Experiment To Rely Only On Facebook, Twitter

rantingkitten Re:Can they click links? (70 comments)

Isn't that kind of the point?

Whenever someone tries to defend twitter as a legitimate "news source", it's trivial to actually go to, say, the Irianian or Mumbai pages -- which at the moment seem to be the two big prizes -- and show that really, nothing of any consequence was "tweeted" at all. The feeds themselves are devoid of context, and usually second- or third-hand reports of what some guy who wasn't even there thinks is going on based on -- you guessed it -- actual news sources, but without any of the context or detail of the actual news sources. They rarely amount to anything more than "Situation bad, everyone is fighting."

In an experiment like this, if they're not allowed to click links, it really takes the wind out of the sails of twitter defenders who like to pretend there's any meaningful information on twitter.

Of course, it's at this point where the twitter defender will furiously backpedal, explaining that while twitter might not be news as such, it's useful like RSS, to get a stream of links about where to find news.

At this point, though, the battle is over, as far as I'm concerned, since the question then becomes: Why do I need a bunch of anonoymous nobodies spamming random hearsay about where to find news? I can turn on the TV / radio / check various news websites just as easily as they can, thanks. And I can do it without having to guess at what asinine garbage this or that "bit.ly" or other cutesy 2.0 linkrotter is going to end up.

more than 4 years ago
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For GUIs, Just the Right Degree of Realism

rantingkitten Re:Confusing icon practices (256 comments)

My experience is that people will click with wild abandon when they shouldn't, and be deathly afraid to do anything when there's no real harm involved.

These are the people who will install anything they damn well please, change important settings for absolutely no reason "because it seemed like a good idea", set passwords on things that don't need passwords and then forget them, forward phone A to phone B and phone B to phone A because "I wanted them both to ring if I got a call," and other general nonsense. They have no problem screwing around to their heart's content and breaking everything and never learning.

That same person will also submit endless tickets or place endless helpdesk calls because they were afraid to change a trivial setting that involves a single, labelled checkbox, because "I wasn't sure if that would mess anything up."

more than 4 years ago
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Supreme Court Rolls Back Corporate Campaign Spending Limits

rantingkitten Re:Constitution? (1070 comments)

The courts ruling is correct. The problem is that Congress declared Corporations "persons" under US law.

Isn't one of the roles of the court to check the power of the Congress, and if what Congress says or does is unconstitutional, say so?

Congress has made up all kinds of wacky laws in the past and been smacked by the courts. Just because Congress declared some idiotic law over a hundred years ago doesn't mean the courts have to pretend that's legitimate.

more than 4 years ago
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FBI Obtains Phone Records With a Post-it Note

rantingkitten Re:Law enforcement thinks they're above the law. (187 comments)

Yeah, but my point wasn't really about good cops versus bad cops. I don't really have a problem with cops as such. My point was that, even if the ratio is fifty good cops for every one bad cop, that one bad cop can really make your life hell if he wants, and even with the good cops, there's no point in antagonising them with holier-than-thou, self-righteous posturing, no matter how correct you think you are. Why be a dick about it?

Know your rights and stand your ground, but defiantly shouting "Oh yeah, well, you go and GET the dogs, then!" isn't really going to win you any points with anyone.

This goes for any professional interaction, if you ask me. There's a huge difference between being assertive and aggressive, and while being aggressive makes you feel macho for a minute, that's all it does. Remaining polite but assertive in your stance is far more effective, whether you're dealing with a cop, a baker, a janitor, a cabbie, an executive, an accountant, or your boss.

more than 4 years ago
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FBI Obtains Phone Records With a Post-it Note

rantingkitten Re:Law enforcement thinks they're above the law. (187 comments)

I would like to suggest that your responses are inappropriate and are likely to get you in trouble. You are correct on purely legal grounds but when you're face to face with a cop, your answers sound antagonistic.

In your examples...

COP: "If a dog smells something, I can search without your permission."
YOUR ANSWER: ""So, get the dog!"

Don't challenge an officer. Again, your answer is legally okay, but if the cop thinks you're being an ass, he can make your life miserable. Remember: He's getting paid whether he's standing there giving you a hard time for an hour while he waits for the dogs to show up, or not. You, on the other hand, presumably don't want to wait for an hour and have your car searched.

The better way to respond to the officer's statement is to either say "Am I free to go now?" or just keep your mouth shut and say nothing. Seriously.

I'd hold this to be true for your other examples as well. It's not going to do you any good to talk back or come off as anything but unswervingly polite. That doesn't mean being spineless and letting the cop do whatever he wants. It means poltely but firmly saying you don't agree to a search, and then responding to all of his threats with a re-iteration of that, and "Am I free to go now?"

more than 4 years ago
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What's Holding Back Encryption?

rantingkitten Re:VOIP isn't everywhere? Good! (660 comments)

At home, sure. For small to medium businesses, analogue phone lines are expensive and not nearly as versatile. You want additional lines because you hired some new employees? Now you have to wait for some doofus to come out and install them. With voip, you just configure the pbx or have your vendor do it, in a few minutes. It's all software; there's no messing around with physical wires.

more than 4 years ago
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What's Holding Back Encryption?

rantingkitten Re:VOIP isn't everywhere? Good! (660 comments)

Honestly, I think they should just give up pretending like they can make consumer-level gear. They have their Linksys division for that, and in fact, Linksys makes a number of very simple-to-setup-and-use IP phones. The Cisco-branded ones, e.g., the 7960s et al, are a horrendous mess that no normal end user can possibly use.

As a comparision, to set up a Linksys phone you can have it download an xml file using a variety of protocols, or use its web-based UI to enter the SIP information it needs, which is only a few fields. Troubleshooting is easy and there are many options to handle various NAT implementations and network environments. Flashing firmware is as easy as downloading and running an executable and telling it the phone's IP address.

The Cisco 79xx series, contrawise, have no web-based UI. You have to enter all information on the keypad like you're text messaging, or you can have it download a poorly-documented xml file using TFTP, and TFTP *only*. Changing even trivial settings requires a password. Troubleshooting involves attempting to decipher totally useless messages on the screen or connecting to the phone via telnet and issuing non-intuitive Cisco commands, but even then your options for actually doing anything about the problem are limited. Putting new firmware on it requires something like four different files, using naming conventions that Cisco changes CONSTANTLY, and they keep those files guarded like they're the eleven herbs and spices. The files can only be sent via TFTP, and as far as I can tell, the TFTP server must be on the LAN.

They're completely asinine for anyone to use without spending serious time getting acquainted with The Cisco Way of doing things, and they don't even work that well. Why is Cisco even bothering with this crap instead of letting their consumer Linksys division handle it?

more than 4 years ago
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What's Holding Back Encryption?

rantingkitten Re:VOIP isn't everywhere? Good! (660 comments)

When you create SIP Profiles in Cisco Unified Communications Manager, you can enable/disable some of the RFCs that other vendors may or may not support (or may support differently) which can frequently resolve these SIP headaches.

A lot of people don't do this; they have some Cisco phones lying around from their previous vendor, and simply point them at the new SIP server's IP along with the SIP auth information. It depends on who their previous provider was to determine if they had UCM or have any meaningful access to it.

Frankly, Cisco's SIP stack is completely half-assed. They were dragged kicking and screaming to support SIP at all, which was (is?) a competitor with their own SCCP crap, and when you look at the release notes of the SIP firmware for their phones, their open caveats are often complete show-stoppers, yet they release them anyway. What the hell?

That said, it sounds like the original poster's problem is mostly a lack of proper network design, like they just threw all the phones and computers on the same network without any VLANs or QoS and assumed it'd work. Sadly, this is an extremely common problem with VoIP, because customers don't have any understanding of how it works and just want a plug-and-play solution, not one that's going to require them to expend time or effort into network planning.

more than 4 years ago
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Dragging Telephone Numbers Into the Internet Age

rantingkitten Re:I don't want a "number" (239 comments)

Yeah! I am not a number! I am a free man!

more than 4 years ago
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Robotics Prof Fears Rise of Military Robots

rantingkitten Re:skynet (258 comments)

Yeah, because tags are useful for anything around here. Why do we even have them, and why do people worry so much about them?

I've disabled them and haven't missed a damn thing other than inane gibberish at the bottom of each story saying "yes", "no", "!nuts", and other pointless crap.

more than 4 years ago
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Powerful Linux ISP Router Distribution?

rantingkitten Re:Are you serious, or just killing time? (268 comments)

Do you need a Cisco Catalyst to handle 3 desks on a fairly slow DSL line, who aren't doing outrageous sharing between each other? No.

Sheesh. I wish someone would tell that to our clients. My company provides service to (mostly) small businesses, and half of these little five-man operations have some totally over-engineered Cisco gear acting as their network edge because some smartass, self-styled "IT Guy" told them it was the best. Surprise, he vanishes after plugging it in and collecting his fee, and now the client has all these problems with our SIP service and of course they have no idea how to manage their own equipment, and WE end up looking like jerks because our stuff won't work out of the box with whatever equipment the client has.

Could you do the 3 desk operation with a Linux machine and 4 network cards? Sure. In this example, it's cheaper to pick up a cheap hub, than to take even a salvage machine and put 4 network cards in it.

Here, though, I disagree. At the same company I mentioned, when I joined, we were a three-person operation, and we used a Linux machine with two network cards and a switch as our router. It worked great as we scaled up in staff numbers, particularly when tools like ntop and tcpdump existed to let me see when some joker was ruining it for everyone by torrenting the entire internet. If you never plan to expand, then sure, some cheap little router toy from Dlink or Linksys will do fine, but if you intend to grow, may as well do things right the first time than have to re-engineer your network down the road.

Also, a hub? Who the hell uses hubs anymore? I can't even think of a use for them these days other than packet sniffing, and an inexpensive managed switch will let you do that.

more than 4 years ago
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Martian Microbe Fossils, Not So Debunked Anymore

rantingkitten Re:My psychic prediction (306 comments)

There are too many of us spread out over too large an area for us to do much beyond temporarily stall technological advancement, much less throw us into the stone age or oblivion.

Except billions of us are packed into highly concentrated areas. They're goners. Of the remainder, millions will die from the effects of nuclear winter, of contaminated food and water, and from the simple fact that most people in developed nations don't have the first clue how to survive, in the most fundamental sense of the word, without modern infrastructure. Survivors will be spread far and wide, ragtag groups of clueless people without effective means of communicating with the other groups.

No, homo sapiens as a species is unlikely to completely perish in an all-out nuclear exchange, but in a very real way, the world would end.

more than 4 years ago
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Challenge To US Government Over Seized Laptops

rantingkitten Re:Use Anti-Search Wallpaper! (246 comments)

What I want is something that comes up and looks like a Windows bluescreen and only allows you access after typing a password (no prompt) within a specific period of time. I'm sure that could be done with some cleverness to the grub menu, but I'm not clever enough to do it.

That way, some clown wants to inspect your laptop, you can say "Well, the stupid thing's broken, but sure, here you go." Agent boots the machine and as far as he can tell, he gets the usual Windows bluescreen. I can't imagine anyone caring enough about your crashy computer to bother investigating further. Idly whine a little bit (don't go overboard) about how you don't know how you're going to get your TPS reports back and you sure hope your computer genius neighbor can fix it for added effect.

Hell, most of them have probably had to go through something similar and know how annoying it is when Windows screws up, so you might even get some sympathy.

more than 4 years ago

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