* Posts by Michael Wojcik

3044 posts • joined 21 Dec 2007

Laughing gas and rubber: A recipe for suborbital flight?

Michael Wojcik
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Re: A recipe for immense pollution more like

Is there any danger of orbital lift rocket engines becoming "commonplace"? A chicken in every pot and a rocket in every back yard?

I'm not going to bother with the back-of-the-envelope calculations, but I'll bet we'd have to launch a metric shitload of these rockets to achieve anything like the pollution emitted by, say, Centralia, PA.

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Trolls prevail because good men do nothing: boffins

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Do NOT Take Them Seriously

Trolls, by definition, post to wind people up.

That's how the term was commonly employed (to describe contributors) on Usenet in the early '90s, which I believe is the arena that popularized it. I've read speculation that "trolling" was actually introduced as an erroneous homophone (an eggcorn) of "trawling" - i.e., figuratively dragging a net trying to snare angry responses or hasty corrections, but I've never seen evidence to support or refute that.

These days, however, it's often employed loosely - as this article does - to mean any sort of contributor who hopes to elicit some sort of angry reaction. The Dillon & Bushman paper is explicitly about online bullies, who share very little with the Usenet trolls of yore, people like David "Snopes" Mikkelson or James "Kibo" Parry. They did wind their audiences up, but as a joke, not to cause distress; and they didn't make a practice of personal attacks.

It's an unfortunate degredation of a once-useful term of art, but that's how these things go. September never ends and kids these days aren't careful with their terminology like we were. Why, when I were a lad, we were lucky if we got five words a day.

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Michael Wojcik
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The researchers really have no clue....

Read the paper, have you? Or are you perhaps just full of crap?

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Welll that's a stupid report...

Did you actually read the paper, or just the article? I haven't, because I'm not inclined to pay $20 to read it right now and I'm not teaching this year so I don't have online access to the university library to get it for free. But I did read the abstract, and as far as I can tell, your argument has nothing to do with what Dillon and Bushman are claiming.

Certainly, you have my sympathy, as does anyone in your position. I've been observing online hostility since circa 1990; I even discussed it a bit in an article I wrote for Works and Days back in '94. I hold language degrees, and much of my theoretical work touches on violence committed through language use.

But work like Dillon & Bushman contributes toward understanding and addressing precisely those kinds of situations. They're specifically investigating whether the Bystander Intervention Model, a sociological model developed to investigate how bystanders get involved in "real-world"1 violence and injustice, works for online discussion as well. That's a useful thing to know, for people who want to study online verbal violence and for people who want to address it.

1An unfortunate term, since obviously discourse that occurs online is obviously also part of the real world.

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And the buggiest OS provider award goes to ... APPLE?

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Which begs the question

You descriptivist!

Hardly, with that rubbish about "whale" having some sort of independent meaning.

Language does not require different ontological cateogories for different words and phrases. They all have the same status: they are signals used by interlocutors in a dance that attempts to get their audience to converge on a meaning sufficiently similar to their own. To that end speech communities converge toward (but never quite to) a set of interpretations (denotations and connotations, generally weighted and context-sensitive) for any given word or idiomatic phrase. Different communities will have somewhat different sets, and every language user belongs to multiple communities and code-switches. That is all words are. They do not have existence independent of use, much less meaning.

That said, I too endorse the shibboleth of using "beg the question" for "raise the question"; just as a matter of style. It's unnecessary elevation. It's not quite as bad as, say, using "I" in the objective case ("between you and I" - a vile barbarism much loved by scriptwriters these days).1 But it sounds affected and it's unnecessary, even if it didn't grate on people familiar with the etymology of the expression.

1That is properly a matter of usage, the pronoun "I" traditionally being used specifically and exclusively for the nominative case. (It's not a "grammatical error", because grammar is not offended. There's a well-formed prepositional phrase there. It's simply an error of using a word in a form that is not traditionally the preferred one.)

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Michael Wojcik
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there is no such thing as a totally secure system

... because the phrase "totally secure" is meaningless. "Secure" is a relative attribute: it indicates the work factor faced by an attacker1 attempting to make the system do something it's not supposed to do, or fail to do something it is supposed to do, under a particular threat model.

To paraphrase John von Neumann, anyone who speaks of a "secure system" in absolute terms is in a state of sin.

For the same reason, "security" is not solely defined by the system itself. Both what the system is "supposed to do" and the threat model are defined externally and can change. Thus you cannot speak accurately of a system's security as if that is an attribute of the system.

1In this context, "attacker" can be "accident".

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W3C recommends Pointer Events standard – but it's a touchy subject. Right, Apple?

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Meanwhile away from the Lilliput town of Webdev...

The flat truth...they don't exist.

Well, fuck you too. I do the occasional bit of Javascript, and I'll happily pit my skills and knowledge against any of you "real programmers".

I've written a reputation-graph engine in Javascript, and the demo for a fast string match-rank algorithm with context-sensitive cost operators. Wrote an Earley parser in it.

Read Douglas Crockford's chapter in Beautiful Code, on implementing Pratt's top-down operator precedence algorithm in Javascript, and explain to me why Crockford is not a real programmer.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Why does a scripting language need threading?

To keep the UI responsive while performing computationally intensive tasks in the background.

Since Javascript1 is a dynamic OO language, that's easily done with dynamic encapsulation and timer callbacks. Of course, "easily" doesn't mean "obviously", particularly for people who grew up with preemptive multithreading and never learned anything else.

But threading is certainly not necessary.

1"ECMAScript" is technically correct - Javascript is merely an ECMAScript implementation, currently owned by Mozilla - but clearly that battle was lost before it began.

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COSMIC FATTY from the DAWN of TIME simply can't exist – astroboffins

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Naming Convention

SDSSJ010013.021280225.8 (SDSS J0100+2802 in short)

Though "Bruce" would be even shorter.

Mind if we call it "Bruce" to keep it clear?

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: How it got big and bloated real quick

Lenovo and HP teamed up to install adware and printer drivers on it.

A billion years is rather short for an HP printer driver installation.

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'Utterly unusable' MS Word dumped by SciFi author Charles Stross

Michael Wojcik
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Quill pens were dominant in Europe for about a millennium and a half, and in European colonies for the last few centuries of that era. That may sound impressive, but paper as a medium only came into vogue in the last third, only gradually displacing parchment and vellum. Meanwhile, considerable writing was done outside Europe using other instruments, most notably brushes in the Far East.

There are certainly those who would argue that c. 1500-1850 Europe and North America represents a large concentration of "the really great authors", but it rather strains credulity to claim that "most" used quill & paper.

Since "really great" is obviously subjective, I glanced through a few lists like this one (which is based on other lists, not the author's own predelictions). Looks to me like about 15% likely composed with quill & paper - and that's a very Eurocentric list.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Sometimes fonts and layout DO matter

Obviously formatting and other aspects of visual presentation can convey information and have rhetorical force.1 Anyone with a passing understanding of written language acknowledges that.

But that does not mean that conflating content and presentation is a good idea. Cognitive studies have demonstrated the drawbacks of switching between tasks, and composition studies confirm that jumping between content creation and formatting impedes the writing process. For the majority of writers there are very few cases where attempting to deal with both verbal content and visual presentation simultaneously is an effective way to work.

And, of course, The Demolished Man is a relatively late entrant into the field of literature that uses formatting this way, coming as it does at the end of High Modernism. Props to Bester for doing it (ironically, SF as a genre tended to lag in literary innovation, at least until the "New Wave" was firmly established), but the fact that it was published in '53 isn't especially noteworthy.

1For audiences that can perceive them. Some visual formatting can be transposed, in fairly obvious ways, to other registers for visually-impaired users; with other types it's more difficult. There's scads of research on the topic, of course.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Quiet news day?

Clearly no one found the topic interesting, which is why there are no reader comments.

Really, Reg - can't you find something controversial to publish?

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: vi + ms + troff (+ tbl + eqn + pic + scripts + sccs + etc. as required)

WYSIWYG was just something a disaster that happened to other people, wasn't it?

FTFY.

WYSIWYG, by yoking content and formatting, did more to harm the composition process than probably any other technical innovation in the history of writing (which is, of course, all of history).

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Yes but....,

Passive Voice (consider revising)

Does Word's Style Advice for Idiots feature ever say "Active Voice (do not revise under any circumstances!)"?

Really, "consider revising" is either the most useful or most pointless piece of composition advice possible. For a competent writer, "consider revising" probably constitutes at least nine tenths of the labor of writing.

Kazuo Ishiguro, discussing his writing process in an interview, once mentioned that on one recent day he'd spent the entire morning looking at one passage and eventually adding a comma. Then that afternoon he took the comma back out. Obviously most authors aren't so particular (consider someone like Anthony Trollope, who wrote all his novels to a strict schedule created around his census-taking duties - no days of zero-sum punctuating for him!), but many a composition study has shown that decent writing is mostly revision.

Coincidentally, the same is true of decent programming.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

I chose to use LaTeX, the first one written straight in LaTeX, and the second one via Emacs in org-mode. And yes, the correction/edition process was painful. They want to use Word, I certainly don't.

Oh yeah. I've been there (except I use LyX as my main LaTeX editor, with some editing in vim) too.

Fortunately my MA thesis - the longest thing I've yet written in LaTeX - was deposited as PDF so there wasn't any back-and-forth with Word. The Graduate School would just send me a list of formatting changes that needed to be made,1 and let me worry about adjusting the LaTeX.

One of the nice things about submitting to e.g. ACM journals is that they all use LaTeX as their submission format. That seems to be pretty widely true in the sciences. The humanities are mostly stuck on Word.

1In time-honored tradition, these would be things like "bottom margin on title page is 1.1 inches, must be exactly 1 inch".

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Google opens 'Inbox' heir-to-email trial to biz users

Michael Wojcik
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Agreed. Automatic PEM, S/MIME, and PGP/GPG support would be about a million times more useful to me than some machine-learning sauce (which I don't want anyway, as I am actually capable of deciding for myself what to do with my email). And they'd be even more useful for users who don't understand them and have better things to do than learn about them. Wide deployment would put a huge dent in phishing, for example.

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Linux chaps want to recycle your mobe as a supercomputer

Michael Wojcik
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Re: What an amazing idea...

Was it a system with [blah blah blah rubbish]?

It's a system that was purchased by my employer; I didn't choose the specs. I still have computers in use with single-core CPUs and less than 1GB RAM. I don't think I have any with drives smaller than 1GB, simply because such drives typically died a while back and replacements are all larger.

And no, no multiple monitors. As I've noted in other posts, I had a multiheaded system back around 1990. I've not seen any need to return to that configuration.

If you dont believe that more of something is automatically better...

Then you're probably capable of critical thought. And indeed I am. You should try it sometime. (Also, may I suggest learning how to use the apostrophe?)

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Vint Cerf: Everything we do will be ERASED! You can't even find last 2 times I said this

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Not really much of a problem

You can't quote fairy Tales as a basis for truth....

And no one in this thread has done so.

If you have some free time, could I suggest you learn to read? And then maybe you'd like to study how to write.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: The technology exists

Sometimes the problem is physical media. Sometimes its that the data is in a format that no one recognizes, or that was implemented by some obscure software that's nowhere to be found.

Emulators solve some problems, but by no means all of them.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: data vs information vs meaning

"view all the web pages, look at all the pictures, read all the documents and emails, and categorize them in a useful manner."

Surely that's what Autonomy was sold for?

There are quite a few companies operating in this area, many of them for specific markets or industries (legal and medical are the big ones). And there's free software you can use to build your own system, from simple stem-and-index systems like the old MIT Savant software to general frameworks for processing unstructured data like UIMA.

Even Windows, in its default configuration, will scan and index all the file formats it recognizes. Similar systems exist for Linux and UNIX.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Not such a new concept

Yeah, Cerf's way behind on this one. The ELO's Acid-Free Bits recommendations predate his "vellum" proposals by ten years, and as you note people have been complaining about losing data due to format and encoding obsolescence since at least the 1980s, and probably before. And as other posters have noted, there's an entire industry around recovering this stuff.

Doesn't make his point less important, of course, but it's certainly not novel.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Not really much of a problem

How many life stories do you have to reconstruct to realize that people then are pretty much people now.

Ah. This sort of story never fails to bring out the sophomores in droves.

"Digital Humanities" research is already turning up all sorts of important historical information using corpora of documents from the past couple millennia, which have been scanned, OCR'd, and corrected.

An example I may have mentioned here before: I saw a presentation some years ago at MLA on identifying the time period of the modal shift in imitatio christi - when people went from saying "what did Jesus do?" as a moral touchstone to "what would Jesus do?". The presenter had done searches through a number of massive corpora of late-medieval and early-modern documents for variations of those phrases in Latin and vernaculars, and found good evidence that the shift occurred relatively rapidly in, if memory serves, the late sixteenth century.

So what? Well, in the Christian-dominated European cultures of the era, the imitatio christi modal shift - which happened among the "organic intellectual" members of the working class, so yes, very much the plebs - is a hallmark of modernity. It happens when Christians no longer see the present day as equivalent to the historical moment of Jesus' life, but instead a new and different milieu. And that's just what "modern" means.

That's a change in the historical episteme that we couldn't track without computer analysis of huge text corpora. The vast majority of content produced online every day may be dross as individual pieces, but in aggregate it can tell us a lot about ourselves.

And anyone who looks at the actual research people are conducting with it now, instead of indulging in idle armchair speculation, would know that.

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Superfish: Lenovo? More like Lolnono – until they get real on privacy

Michael Wojcik
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Re: It's a chap called Joel Birch I feel sorry for

"There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things." (Phil Karlton)

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'NSA, GCHQ-ransacked' SIM maker Gemalto takes a $500m stock hit

Michael Wojcik
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Re: @Mark 85 - Works For Me

It's simple, Mark, most Americans are voting the same people so they must be OK with whatever they do.

Sure. The lack of alternative viable candidates with different policies has nothing to do with it.

But, hey, simple people will continue to recommend simple solutions.

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Horrors of murky TrueCrypt to be probed once more

Michael Wojcik
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Re: A social medium solution

Anyone who has any sense and wants to send terrorist information

History suggests this is very nearly the empty set.

Terrorists succeed by dint of brute force (in particular, by recruiting heavily and then making extraordinarily inefficient use of resources), playing the long game, and relying on their opponents to do much of the actual work (viz the "democracies" eagerly ramping up their police states to profit the rich and powerful, and encouraging fear among the populace in the process). They rarely display anything more than a bit of cunning. Research, planning, careful thought - those are not prized in the terrorist communities.

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Linux clockpocalypse in 2038 is looming and there's no 'serious plan'

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Too late!

> Your bank's central IT system?

Which part exactly?

Please be precise.

Also please keep in mind that some of us have actually worked in banks.

Oh, please. We do bank migrations all the time with source code that's more than ten years old. Twenty isn't particularly unusual. Generally no one knows what half that source code is for, or how much of it represents programs actually in use. And that's when they have source code; at least a couple times a year I see queries about decompiling binaries that no one can find the sources for.

I've seen customers running OS releases that are more than ten years old.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Too late!

"Anything else can be patched by changing time_t to unsigned."

Tried, tested, and proven.

For some applications. Not all. Go read the archives of comp.lang.c from 1999 - people identified many codebases that relied on treating a time_t as a signed int and getting a positive value. Typically that had to do with comparing for <0 rather than (time_t)-1 to check for errors.

But who am I to disagree with the Reg readership hivemind? As usual, it knows all.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Too late!

I cannot think of a single thing I have which relies on time values and is over ten years old, let alone twenty, but that's just me.

Right. It's just you.

I have a 23-year-old HP Laserjet 4m here which I just used today. I have a 22-year-old Panasonic VCR which, alas, is not Y2K-compliant, but fortunately I no longer need it to know the correct date (as I no longer use it to record). I did, though, do some programmed recording with it as recently as 2003; that required a little fudging of the date but fortunately nothing worse.

We did this for Y2K issues with a sliding window

Many applications were adapted for Y2K with a sliding window. Many others could not be.

All you need to do is read RISKS regularly to understand that complex systems fail in complex ways, problems are worse than you think, and there are no silver bullets. But apparently (and unsurprisingly) IT is still full of people who don't get that.

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Royal Mail's Colossus move gets ex-WREN's stamp of approval

Michael Wojcik
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Re: B-Dienst

Well, you know what they say about people who expect technical accuracy in a Gavin Clarke story: they'll be disappointed 1,600,000,000,000,000 times out of 1,600,000,000,000,001.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Hollywood Angle

don't you notice they always win in Vietnam war films?

Are you sure about that? All of these films depict the US winning the Vietnam War, do they? Or is it perhaps that you are just an idiot?

I suppose if you're going to post something patently stupid, you might as well do it anonymously.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: encrypting a message 1,600,000,000,000,000 times

I figured Gavin just meant Lorenz had a great MTBF.

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Want a MEEELLION-year data storage? Use DNA of course

Michael Wojcik
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Re: You could duplicate it ...

But how do you (or even can you) embed some kind of Rosetta Stone that bridges the gap between this material and the advanced content?

That's not what the Rosetta Stone provides - the analogy isn't apt. The Rosetta Stone is useful because it presented the same message in multiple encodings (languages), some of which were known to the readers. Obviously it's possible to do that with DNA storage.

The larger problem - making the message recognizable to readers who aren't familiar with the encoding - is underspecified. More-complete versions are unsolvable, moderately difficult, or relatively easy, depending on the constraints.

The unsolvable version: Make a message such that arbitrary readers, with just the assumption that they possess technology sufficient to sequence DNA, can with high probability recover a large portion of the message, and interpret it to a meaning that's close (within some epsilon) to the meaning intended by the author. That's simply not achievable. There's no guarantee that such a reader will recognize the DNA structure; that it will have an understanding of communication such that it perceives a message; that it will be capable of comprehending human psychology; etc. It's even conceivable that such a reader wouldn't recognize Reed-Soloman. Any sufficently alien intelligence is ineffable.

The simple version: Make a message that can be decoded by a reader with a good understanding of human communication and the culture of the present moment, and access to a broad corpus of cultural products from the present. Reduce the interpretation requirement to recovering at least a substantial portion of the message with high probability and good accuracy. This is simple: write a message using a straightforward encoding such as ASCII,1 using one of the dominant natural languages (eg English). Write it using straightforward prose with a lot of redundancy. You can also employ a Rosetta-Stone mechanism by translating it into other natural languages. Here we can safely assume Reed-Soloman2 will be recognized. Even if your language(s) of choice is no longer in general use, the corpus of cultural materials should suffice to make the message intelligible.

Between those two you have the moderately difficult versions. You can assume an alien intelligence with relatively little access to human cultural materials, etc. So add information and redundancy to the message, by including more data and by making better use of the channel. For example, if we assume the reader has, or can recognize, some form of visual two-dimensional communication, we can DNA-encode monochrome line drawings with a procedure like this:

- Pick two "flag" sequences for delimiting drawings and rows. Make them clearly artificial and low-information-entropy, such as a thousand adenines (let's call this "AK") and a thousand cytosines ("CK"). Those should attract the attention of anyone sequencing the string.

- Within a picture, use the other two bases (T and G) for your two "colors". (We can assume this is prior to ECC without loss of generality, since we've already assumed the reader recognized and decoded the ECC layer.)

- Start and end the image with AK.

- Sequence a row of (one-bit) "pixels" at a time, delimited by CK. All rows are the same length, so that the reader can recognize the rectangular shape.

Now, this image may be interpreted under various affine transformations. The reader won't know which base is "black" and which is "white" (which is irrelevant), or what the orientation of the "rows" are. So the picture may be reflected in either or both dimension, and so on.3

There are all sorts of ways of increasing the total information entropy and decreasing the entropy density in the message, both of which make it easier to derive an interpretation. Some encodings (pure-binary numbering systems, for example) are more "natural" than others because they don't depend on arbitrary language or cultural features and can be derived from basic mathematical forms, so you use those where feasible. And so on.

1Even if the requirements for this scenario didn't more or less ensure that ASCII is recognizable, it's easy for a reader with access to print text to decode ASCII by symbol frequency.

2Or any other purely mathematical ECC, such as group codes. We wouldn't want to use an ECC mechanism that depends on features of the input, such as a predictive matcher primed for the language in question (which is how humans correct for typographical errors and the like).

3A perverse reader might start with the assumption that it's written bostrophedon. But I think such a reader would also try a consistent row ordering, and pick the correct one based on preferential edge appearance.

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So long, Lenovo, and no thanks for all the super-creepy Superfish

Michael Wojcik
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My work laptop is a Dell, and while I could name a few brain-dead design failures it suffers from,1 it's serviceable.

And Dell's the only manufacturer I know of besides Lenovo that still sells machines with isometric "pointing stick" mice. I hate touchpads, so that's a must-have for me. (If anyone knows offhand of other brands that have 'em I wouldn't mind hearing about it.)

So yes, I expect that when my current Lenovo personal laptop needs replacement, I too will be going with Dell. It's sad; I've had a range of Thinkpads dating from the first year IBM came out with them. And I had some of IBM's earlier laptops and luggables - like the PS/Note - before that.

1As has every single Dell machine I've ever seen - is there something in the water there? Bizarre case-opening mechanisms. Reset buttons without mollyguards positioned right next to drive-eject buttons. Lousy power connectors. The latest laptop has a blue LED on the power cord that shines with the glare of 1000 suns and isn't affected by the (otherwise very nice) turn-off-every-single-goddamned-light hotkey. Soon I will simply give up and wrap the fucker with electrical tape.

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Big Brother in SPAACE: Mars One picks first 100 morons to suffocate, er, settle on Red Planet

Michael Wojcik
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Re: DREAMING IN TECHNICOLOR

There isn't a single problem facing the Earth as a whole for which the answer isn't "We need to get out into space as soon as possible".

What utter fucking nonsense.

First, there are very few problems "facing the Earth as a whole", and for most of them "getting into space" doesn't help at all. A supernova in our neighborhood or false vacuum collapse are two obvious examples.

A big chunk of space rock is not a problem for "the Earth as a whole". It could be a problem for a big segment of the biosphere, including us, but the Earth as a whole won't care at all.

And the biggest problem facing humanity as a whole is our general tendency to be lousy to each other. Getting into space isn't going to help that; however much room we have, the alternatives are to be alone or be in groups, and history is pretty conclusive that neither option works very well.

The usual arguments for "getting into space" are access to more resources and resistance to extinction. We have plenty of margin for doing a better job with the resources we have right here, and personally I could not care less if the species disappeared tomorrow. And the only manner in which anyone can is purely imaginary, since - by definition - they wouldn't be around to experience it. It's a philosophical aspiration.

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Apple LIGHTSABERS to feature in The Force Awakens

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Retrogression of the "Force".

Igniting your lightsaber by pulling a cord could be the first thing a padewan learns in the the temple

Man, I wish lightsabers were pull-start. One of the best things about the rather haphazard1 Pioneer anime El-Hazard: The Mysterious World (the original series; everything went down from there) was that one of the characters had a pull-start magic weapon.

This might have been an homage to Army of Darkness, which was released a few years earlier, and also features a pull-start hand-heldreplacement weapon. And in the same year we had Dead Alive, with an improvised pull-start weapon - the best thing Peter Jackson ever directed.

1Wait for it...

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Mozilla's Flash-killer 'Shumway' appears in Firefox nightlies

Michael Wojcik
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Re: I thought that HTML5

Why do we need summat that plays SWF files now…?

As I've pointed out in the last N stories about Flash, it's hugely important for the existing corpus of electronic literature. No doubt it's still being used by some authors for new work, though even five years ago there was widespread acknowledgement that it was a dangerous medium.

Take Homestuck, for example; while Andrew's transitioned to HTML 5 for later chapters, significant portions of the earlier material are still SWF and likely to be unless and until some enterprising team decides to recreate them in another format. And Homestuck is widely considered the most important hypertext novel yet written, as well as being the longest web comic, and an important cultural phenomenon in its own right. It might not be your cup of tea, but it's quite important to many people, whether fans or scholars (or both).

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So who just bought the rights to .blog for $30m? A chap living in Panama

Michael Wojcik
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Oooh, I know this one!

Very little is known about Primer Nivel's plans for dot-blog

Sell it at a substantial loss in four years? That's it, right?

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: re:e-mail validation

any competent web designer must be able to see things from the customer's point of view

Yes, "myhandler" should buy a copy of Dave Platt's Why Software Sucks and learn something about what web application development actually requires.

But based on the tone of his post, I suspect the material would be lost on him anyway.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Is the TLD important?

There is a new blog created every second - or 175.000 per day. Surely .blog will be top of mind, when deciding on a domain name.

Surely? My guess is that most people buying a new domain name will take the first choice, which will likely be .com. Those who decide to buy a .blog will probably do so because the name they want is already registered in .com, and consequently their new blog will see very little traffic.

I'm thinking most of those 175K daily creators won't even know blog is an available gTLD.

WP has a 25% market share of all websites.

Yeah, and there's no way that will ever change. Or will it?

I won't be at all surprised if personal blogs turn out to be a passing fad and the creation rate drops off drastically over the next few years. Already we're seeing a backlash against the "my students made blogs!" crap that infested college-comp classes for a few years.

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Ex-NASA boffin dreams of PREDATOR-ish tech in humble microwaves

Michael Wojcik
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Re: @Kunari 60% Power

I want a microwave that allows me to vary the power output of the magnetron. Does such a thing exist?

Panasonic sells, or used to sell, an "Inverter" line of microwave ovens that actually reduce the magnetron power. I have one that I've owned since 1999. Still works well, though steam has rusted parts of the inside of the cabinet.

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Traditional enterprise workloads on an all-flash array? WHY WOULD I BOTHER?

Michael Wojcik
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Re: What's a snowflake application?

One that's fragile and delicate, and melts down at the slightest provocation.

So... a better question would be, what isn't a snowflake application?

On a more serious note, my assumption was the writer meant applications with unique designs and thus unusual requirements, in the sense of "no two snowflakes" and all that. Not that it matters, though, since the overall sense seems to be clear: most applications don't need extremely fast storage access.

Or, more generally, most applications don't need extremely X Y, for any noun Y and adjective X.

Even more generally, most W don't need X Y Z, for nouns W and Z, adjective Y, and adverb X that indicates rarity or exception. That's true by the definition of X. It indicates the case is rare, and so doesn't apply in most instances. So formally the whole claim is a tautology.

Informally, of course, the argument is that AFA is the solution to an extraordinary requirement. Everything else is implied by that. And that seems like a plausible claim to me, based on my experience.

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BLAME ENGINEERS: Workstation sales soar by 8.9 per cent a year

Michael Wojcik
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That's where unixoid systems shine, they have powerful command processors which enable you to express your intention in very little code.

What, you mean like bash? And the array of SUS text-processing utilities? And scripting languages like Awk, Perl, and Ruby? And fast character-mode editors like vim?

I run all of that on Windows. It's my standard Windows development environment.1 A little Cygwin installation and presto.

So I guess that means any Windows system can be quickly transformed into a "workstation".

1When Visual Studio or Eclipse offers significantly more productivity than the entire shell and command set, I'll consider using an IDE. And, of course, using the same tools on Windows, Linux, and UNIX makes cross-platform development simpler; my user experience doesn't differ much these days among those platforms.

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Net neutrality: Growing flames of criticism lick FCC chief's secret plans

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Net neutrality

Please try to remember that there are TWO kinds of Net Neutrality.

There are far more than that, and most of them are uninformed rubbish. Anyone who thinks "net neutrality" does much of anything to help speaker and audience converge on similar concepts is deluded.

For most people, it seems to mean "I want more / cheaper X online without interference from Y", where X and Y are selected at random from large and growing sets.

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Uber: Sorry we're really awesome and all that (oh yeah, and for leaking your personal info)

Michael Wojcik
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Re: False Pride

The real issue, I feel these days is, all the innovative start-ups based on IT infra think they are 'IT start-ups' and feel obliged to keep all their internal infrastructure on the edge (connected to the web).

And think that because they have some programmers who know a bit about one area of IT ("I can make an iOS app!"), they don't need actual system administrators, a CIO, data-handling policies, etc.

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Skin colour's irrelevant. Just hire competent folk on their merits, FFS

Michael Wojcik
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Walter Benn Michaels

While I'll refrain from engaging in the larger debate,1 I was pleased to see Tim's citation of Michaels' The Trouble with Diversity. I haven't read that one yet myself, and I certainly don't always agree with Michaels2. But I've been reading him since the days of "Against Theory" and "The Contracted Heart", I've seen him present a few times, and I had the opportunity to chat with him in person once.3

He's a very smart guy and very rigorous thinker whose career has mostly consisted of making very careful, well-developed arguments against commonplace notions in literary studies. He's always been controversial and certainly is not well-liked by many, but even most of his opponents seem to admit (however grudgingly) that he's a worthy adversary. He's one of my favorite people to disagree with.

1Because I've heard everything y'all have to say before from my college-composition students, ad nauseum. I'll tune in again when I see some evidence of a discussion informed by the past couple centuries of identity theory.

2Indeed I had a lengthy section arguing against one of his more famous theses in my dissertation.

3At Miami University in the mid-1990s, when Barry Chabot invited him to give a talk, not long after the publication of Our America.

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'Worse than I imagined': FCC commish slams chief's net neutrality bid

Michael Wojcik
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Sure. Unlikability is not a finite resource.

Personally, I don't expect much good or bad to come out of this whole dust-up, regardless of what happens with Wheeler's proposal. Not saying that it won't, just that I think it's improbable that any great change will be achieved one way or the other. Hegemonic capitalism is pretty robust, and slapping a few more regulations on a large and amorphous sector of it, or failing to do so, generally doesn't seem to make much difference in the medium term.

There are exceptions, but they're just that - exceptions.

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ANOTHER US court smacks down EFF's NSA wiretap sueball – but won't say why

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Question

What's the point in it if a bunch of judges, who are appointed by politicians, get to overrule it?

There's nothing like a story about US court cases to bring out the naiveté.

The US Constitution does not possess the power to make and enforce decisions itself. Someone has to interpret it. Various gangs claim they have the One True Interpretation, but all such claims are patently spurious, founded on sophomoric intentionalism and a touchingly simplistic understanding of human language.

Tom, upthread, is waving the flag of Strict Construction or Original Intent or one of the other chest-beating schools of narrow constitutional interpretation. Those aren't majority opinions even among the educated US populace, much less constitutional scholars or legal experts. They're not quite fringe beliefs but they certainly don't represent the shared dream of a downtrodden people under the thumb of a tyrannical SCOTUS.

More importantly, no nation-state government actually functions in accord with the theoretical ideal on which it is based. The world is complicated, and complicated problems do not tend to have simple solutions.

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IBM drops patent bomb on Priceline.com

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Depends on the date

Two of them were filed in 1993, including US5961601, which specifically mentions the web and HTTP. That's pretty early.

US5961601 looks like the really troublesome one, in my quick & dirty analysis. It would appear to cover the REST HATEOAS architectural element in a broad and direct fashion, and it was filed and granted before Fielding's dissertation. That could potentially be very difficult to challenge in court. (Purely in my opinion, and IANAL. And I'm making no claims about its validity or goodness.)

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Russian revolution: YotaPhone 2 double-screen JANUS MOBE

Michael Wojcik
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Re: English, as taught by a Scot

Grammar; it's really confusing because it's got lots of strange rules hidden up its sleeve.

Usage: It's really confusing, and it's often mistaken for grammar.

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