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Movie Review: Ender's Game

szquirrel Re:overrated, anyway (732 comments)

I'm serious here. Did anyone feel any compassion for the people that Ender killed? No. They were cardboard cutouts of evil that existed solely so that Ender could overcome them as part of his character development. But not KNOW that he had killed them. Because Ender has to be innocent.

Yes, and the innocent boy wipes out an entire sentient species. Meanwhile his psychotic, megalomaniac brother brings about world peace but only as a means to seizing supreme world power for himself.

It's not about survival or teen nerd wish fulfillment, it's about how our much our intentions matter as compared to our actions.

1 year,21 days
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Users Revolt Over Yahoo Groups Update

szquirrel Fantasy Football too (331 comments)

There's a similar though smaller revolt going on over the changes to Yahoo's Fantasy Football. The nasty thing about the Fantasy Football changes is that they didn't roll them out until two weeks before the start of the season, after lots of people had already paid as much as $250 to join pro leagues.

Yahoo went so far as to post an announcement to every league that they won't be going back to the original format (but they really appreciate your comments!).

about a year ago
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The Grasshopper Can Fly Sideways

szquirrel Did SpaceX take on anybody from Armadillo? (127 comments)

When I see vertical-takeoff-vertical-landing my first thought is Armadillo Aerospace and their years of work on those rockets. Now that Armadillo is largely mothballed, have some of their guys turned up at SpaceX?

about a year ago
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Why Hasn't 3D Taken Off For the Web?

szquirrel Re:A better question (320 comments)

Why? For e-commerce. Especially for products that are made to order, anything that cuts down on return rates ("this isn't what I thought I saw on the website") is worth putting some money into. I'm working on exactly this sort of project right now and we finally made the decision to cut 3D because support is so patchy.

End user support isn't the whole problem though. You also need 3D models with enough detail to look smooth but small enough to deliver over the web. If you can even get 3D models for a product they're usually the designer's CAD files which are huge and not easily converted to a format used by a gaming-type 3D engine.

about 2 years ago
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T-Mobile Exec Calls For End To Cell Phone Subsidies

szquirrel Ask a silly question... (355 comments)

But how is a $548.99 subsidy not illegal dumping?

more than 2 years ago
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13-Year-Old Password Security Bug Fixed

szquirrel Here's what's affected (130 comments)

The impact of this is actually pretty wide. Crypt_blowfish has been gaining popularity as a hashing algorithm in PHP thanks to Openwall's PHPass framework. Four years ago most PHP projects that I know were still using MD5 or SHA1 to hash passwords. Today those MD5 and SHA1 hashes can be brute-force cracked by free software running on a $200 GPU in a matter of days if not hours. So even a buggy version of Blowfish is still better by far.

So yeah, it's a wide-ranging bug but not a world breaking one. For starters it only affects passwords that use 8-bit characters, so passwords typed by anyone using a US-English keyboard still produce the same hashes as the correct Blowfish implementation.

For passwords of length n*4-1 (3, 7, 11, 15, ...), 8-bit characters in certain positions will result in some characters being ignored by the hash function. This makes it possible (though still not easy) to produce a collision, i.e. multiple different passwords that result in the same hash.

It's bad, but I want to stress that using even a buggy crypt_blowfish for password hashing is still a quantum leap over the single-hashed MD5 or SHA1 that you were seeing literally everywhere in the PHP world just a few years ago.

more than 3 years ago
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13-Year-Old Password Security Bug Fixed

szquirrel Re:crypt_blowfish (130 comments)

Anyone care to speculate on the likelyhood of widespread blowfish use by public sites?

Wide. Many major PHP projects have been moving toward Openwall's PHPass algorithm that uses Blowfish as its preferred hashing algorithm. Note that even with this bug it's still better than the unsalted MD5 or SHA1 hashes that most projects were using previously. Today any of those old hashes can be brute-force cracked by a $200 GPU in about a day.

more than 3 years ago
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Firefox 4, A Huge Pile of Bugs

szquirrel Please don't block on Acid3 (481 comments)

Let me fix that for you:

As a side note, it's unlikely that Firefox 4 final will pass the Acid3 test, despite this being a very popular demand amongst silly people who don't understand web development.

The Acid tests are demos, not unit tests of HTML compliance. I would rather see real progress in areas where FF is truly weak (like, say, the crappy SVG renderer) than worry about those last three pips on Acid3.

more than 3 years ago
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Shadow Scholar Details Student Cheating

szquirrel Re:also he may be a liar (542 comments)

Except that his story isn't that hard to believe. I can remember busting out 20-page papers overnight when I was in college and I'm not a particularly fast writer. It's easy to imagine that someone with enough practice and motivation could churn out papers like this for a living.

Today I code web applications and I recognize the process he describes. He has essentially built a research paper "framework" that lets him quickly build products that fit a baseline set of requirements. In fact it sounds like he rarely even has to come up with a true finished product, essentially building one proof-of-concept after another. It's amazing how fast you can work when you honestly don't care about the details.

How many code geeks will spends hours and days and weeks over meaningless bullshit projects just because they can? This guy does the same thing with words and he found a way to get paid for it.

about 4 years ago
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Shadow Scholar Details Student Cheating

szquirrel Re:No science? (542 comments)

The writer of TFA clearly specializes in writing. He/she probably has a good academic prose style, and good research skills, along with a jstor subscription or nearby university library. Quite possibly, he did a liberal arts or social science degree, which gave him the necessary practice; but found the job market unexciting with those credentials.

Go back and read TFA. I'm saying this not to be an asshole but because it's genuinely fascinating.

The author states that:

* He went to college to be a writer and found out that there's more than one way to get paid for what you write.

* He uses mainly Wikipedia (for background), Amazon for the free pages, and Google Academics for the abstracts. Everything else he spins from educated guesswork and outright bullshit with lots and lots of filler.

* He doesn't edit his work at all, this helps him work faster and heads off requests for him to "dumb it down".

* His clients often thank him for making typos (presumably because it looks more authentic that way).

He's not producing high quality work for top honors, he's producing "good enough" work for the sake of graduating at all. It may pay to get A's but C's get degrees, etc.

I've said for years that not everybody needs a college degree. I would guess (I would hope) that this guy is helping along the raft of mediocre graduates who won't ever really use their degree except as resume fodder. Unfortunately this just devalues college degrees even more so that employers keep on requiring degrees for jobs that don't really need special training.

He's right about one thing, blame the colleges that are more interested in collecting tuition fees than in producing actual, competent scholars.

about 4 years ago
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US Students Struggle With Understanding of the 'Equal' Sign

szquirrel Re:Confusing symbols (1268 comments)

(TFA doesn't say if there were directions, like "Solve for the missing quantity in parentheses" or something like that.) I bet more people would have understood if they used something like x. Maybe they were trying to avoid "scary" variables for middle schoolers, but that's actually exactly when I remember learning what they were--if not, the year before.

Proper directions make all the difference.

When I was a kid math classes weren't on different tracks until middle school. Near the end of sixth grade I was given a test to see if I could handle the highest track which taught algebra. But of course, I had never seen algebra before so the test itself had to explain some basic concepts. Which it did. In surprisingly clear and simple language that had me solving for "x" in minutes. Each page introduced a new algebraic concept and I was eating it up.

The test was designed to be more work than a kid could finish in the time limit but I got pretty damn far. The irony is that I spent the next year in a basic algebra class that taught me very little I hadn't already learned from that tracking test.

I wish I still had that test. Whoever wrote it deserved a medal.

more than 4 years ago
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Some LA Coffee Shops Are Taking Wi-Fi Off the Menu

szquirrel Re:They just need to treat it like it's a privileg (312 comments)

For Jimmy's Indie Brewz, locations 1, the wifi is probably just some router on a DSL line. Integrating a code system would either mean forking over $$$$ to his POS vendor, if they even offer that, or hoping that his cousin is one of those "linux hackers".

If Jimmy doesn't know how to run his WiFi then why is he trying to sell it? I know nothing about coffee; if I tried to sell coffee I would go bankrupt. Even if you "sell" WiFi access for free as a loss leader, it's still a product. Stick to products you understand or hire someone who knows the product you're trying to sell. That's Business 101.

more than 4 years ago
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Nexus One Name Irks Philip K. Dick's Estate

szquirrel So how does Ridley Scott feel? (506 comments)

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is a wretched book. Nobody but the hardest-core SF geek would give a shit about it today if David Peoples and Ridley Scott hadn't turned it into a movie that was 100x better. So just who is riding who's coattails?

It's not as if only PKD's brilliant, visionary mind could have come up with putting a number after the word "nexus" to make a cool-sounding name.

more than 4 years ago
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An End To Unencrypted Digital Cable TV and the HTPC

szquirrel Kill your cable (345 comments)

I finally got tired of the $75/month, the cable box meltdowns every three months (Scientific Atlanta FTL), and the generally craptastic quality of over-compressed video from Brighthouse. Six months ago I told them where to shove it and never looked back. Now I get TV series on DVD from Netflix, occasionally catch a new show on Hulu, and use some good ol' rabbit ears to get my local channels (which look great in over-the-air digital, better than they ever did through the cable).

Screw cable. I'm done with paying for a raft of crap I don't need to subsidize their other businesses. And I'm certainly done with their obsessive consumer lock-in.

more than 5 years ago
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Old-School Keyboard Makes Comeback of Sorts

szquirrel The Model M is much more than a keyboard (519 comments)

It's a geek badge of honor. I own a few and I love them like my children (okay not really, maybe like my pets) but part of that comes from the effort I put in to scrounge them and clean them up myself. I do like the feel of typing on a Model M but what I love is the feeling of gravitas (figuratively and literally, it's really heavy).

Vintage hardware is neat but most of it is of no practical use today. Is there any other part of a 20-year-old computer that you could still use for day-to-day tasks? A Model M lets you feel old-school without actually having to live in the bad old days of floppy disks and 300 baud modems.

I type on my wife's Mac keyboard and it's fine. I type on a rubber dome keyboard at work and it does the job too. Maybe I would feel differently if my job required pumping out hundreds of thousands of words very quickly, but for most people (and, I suspect, most Model M owners) that's not the case.

Nostalgia is fun. It's okay to have a "throwback" keyboard if that's what you want. Not every technological choice we make has to be justified by greater efficiency or superior ergonomics. Relax and feel the Model M love.

more than 5 years ago
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What Has Fox Got Against Its Own Sci-Fi Shows?

szquirrel Or perhaps they just aren't good (753 comments)

I love Joss Whedon and I still carry a huge torch for Firefly but I watched two episodes of Dollhouse and they just weren't very good. The characters are totally one-dimensional, the action is boring and the dialogue isn't funny. Compared to Firefly it's hard to believe they came from the same guy.

And I'm sorry, but you lost me at the word "Terminator". I have zero interest in seeing yet another retread of that franchise. Find another stone to squeeze blood from.

more than 5 years ago
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Nintendo Asks For Government Help To Fight Piracy

szquirrel Re:The USA is not your mom (296 comments)

Nintendo of America (NOA) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nintendo Co., Ltd. (NCL), of Kyoto, Japan. Also, NES stands for Nintendo Entertainment System, not the name of a company.

PEDANTIC FAIL.

more than 5 years ago
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Nintendo Asks For Government Help To Fight Piracy

szquirrel The USA is not your mom (296 comments)

I can absolutely dig Nintendo's position on large-scale bootlegging, but isn't Nintendo a Japanese company? Let them ask their own country for help leaning on China. We already have enough people bitching about America acting like the world's policeman.

more than 5 years ago
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Coming Soon, 250 DVDs In a Quarter-Sized Device

szquirrel Standard measurement units (209 comments)

10 terabits per square inch

None of your tech mumbo-jumbo, please. Just tell me how many Libraries of Congress per width of a human hair.

more than 5 years ago
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Darwinism Must Die So Evolution Can Live

szquirrel Re:That is, as the Brits say, bollocks (951 comments)

Lots and lots of Protestants don't take Genesis as literally historical either. That's a more common view among Anabaptists, most of whom don't consider themselves Protestant.

"Protestant" is not the same as "Not Catholic", as any Orthodox adherent would gladly tell you. Hell, "Catholic" doesn't even mean what you think it means. It's just an adjective meaning "whole" or "complete". I assume that you're using it to mean the Roman Catholic Church but this is a situation where the exact terms do matter.

Also, please don't confuse the ravings of a vocal and well-organized minority with the beliefs of the majority just because we're not all out in the streets fighting the culture wars. Some of us have more pressing matters to worry about, like keeping our jobs.

IAAAACAAPTYVM (I am an Anglican, a Catholic and a Protestant, thank you very much).

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

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NC State Almost Doubles Light Efficiency For Pico Projectors

szquirrel szquirrel writes  |  more than 2 years ago

szquirrel (140575) writes "Researchers from North Carolina State University sponsored by ImageOptix Corporation have developed new a polarization conversion system that makes LED-lit projectors much more efficient. Unlike an ordinary polarizing filter, which wastes more than 50% of the light passing through it, the new system splits, aligns, and recombines the polarized beams to use 90% of the original unpolarized light. Tiny projectors could shine twice as bright or twice as long with much less cooling and the system is even small enough to embed in a smartphone or tablet."
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