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* Posts by Michael Wojcik

2301 posts • joined 21 Dec 2007

Brit Sci-Fi author Alastair Reynolds says MS Word 'drives me to distraction'

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Not even scratching the surface

The only tool that ever attempted to place structure first was Lotus Manuscript

LaTeX does, for some values of "structure" and "first". Try document creation with LyX, for example: start by defining the type of document (document class), optionally populate a template, then add one of the structural elements defined for that document (e.g. front-matter, chapter, abstract, section...). Populate it with content and optionally sub-structure. Create more structures. Repeat.

I've used the Freemind mind-mapping tool to create an outline, then export it as a LaTeX document that I could then open in LyX, giving me all the structure and content from the mind map. Not suitable for all sorts of projects, or for all authors, but it was definitely structure-first workflow.

And, of course, all nice marked-up plain text that is handled well by tools such as Subversion.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: CS Lewis' food for thought

Tolkien? Wrote a lot of low grade stuff

Ooh! Let's drop the file-format and editor flame wars for a Tolkien one.

(Personally, I think JRRT is rather overrated, but who cares?)

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: CS Lewis' food for thought

Auden, on the other hand, thought it necessary to go from holograph to typed as soon as possible, because, he felt, authors like the appearance of their own handwriting and so aren't sufficiently self-critical until they see the words rendered in relatively impersonal type.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: So they force him to use Word hmm?

There isn't a practical alternative. So moaning about Word seems to overlook the fact that there isn't anything much better.

Clearly many here feel otherwise, as do the journal and book publishers who use LaTeX as the house format - many in the sciences do, for example.

But feel free to continue generalizing from yourself. That echo chamber isn't going to fill itself!

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: So they force him to use Word hmm?

I doubt publishers *demand* Word.

The journal and book publishers I've worked with do. So doubt all you want; you're still wrong.

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Michael Wojcik
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Roger 11 writes: Sorry, but bullshit.

I suspect we'd be more inclined to accept your apology if you'd stop posting the bullshit.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Personally ...

But for a complex technical document with tables, illustrations, and captions, you may not have the time to faff around trying to remember the Latex directives.

There are LaTeX editors, such as LyX, which will remember most of them for you.

I wrote my undergrad thesis in plain text with roff markup, using vi. I wrote my doctoral dissertation1 a few years later in WordPerfect. When I wrote my MA thesis last year2 I went back to plain text, this time with LaTeX, and mostly used LyX as my editor - though I occasionally did some stuff in vim when I wanted to make a quick change or just throw some text in without markup.

The last published piece I did (a book chapter) had to be done in Word format - the copyeditor and publisher insisted - so my co-author and I used OpenOffice. Round-trip collaboration was OK (though we both missed having the easy revision control that plain-text plus git would have given us) until the copyeditor got involved, at which point it became a tremendous mess.

I loathe Word. I have to use it for work, and every time I do anything with it I come to hate it a little bit more.

1Incomplete; I'm ABD on that degree. Life and general procrastination interfered, and I didn't have the job market as an incentive to finish and defend.

2Getting the master's before the doctorate is so predictable.

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'I'll dance on their graves at 1 MILLION operations per second'

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Richard Dawkins?

The problem is, as much as I might like to believe (aka Mulder), there is no evidence that supernatural *anything* is possible. The physical laws forbid it*, until such time as it is shown that they do not.

Er... "supernatural" means, by definition, that the laws of nature do not apply. Nothing "supernatural" (whether any such thing exists is immaterial) is entirely subject to "physical laws"; nor can scientific tests provide compelling evidence for or against it. By definition, the supernatural includes only those things outside scientific epistemology. Anything within scientific epistemology is, again by definition, natural.

Personally, I don't feel any need to hold or act on any substantive belief in any supernatural entity. But there's no way to introduce objective evidence for or against such a belief. You can only introduce philosophical arguments.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: So for downvotes...

The downvote prize should be named the Eadon Memorial Award in his honor.

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TRANSMUTATION claims US LENR company

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Transmutations are already here.

there are many LENR and LENR+ researchers who do report transmutations, including ... Mike McKubre at SRI

Sigh.

From the 2004 DoD report "Report of the Review of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions", on which McKubre is the second author:

The hypothesis that excess energy production in electrolytic cells is due to low energy nuclear reactions was tested in some experiments by looking for D + D fusion reaction products, in particular 4He, normally produced in about 1 in 107 in hot D + D fusion reactions. Results reported in the review document purported to show that 4He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells were reported to be producing excess heat. The detected 4He was typically very close to, but reportedly above background levels. This evidence was taken as convincing or somewhat convincing by some reviewers; for others the lack of consistency was an indication that the overall hypothesis was not justified.

Note: "close to, but reportedly above", "for others ... the overall hypothesis was not justified". Transmutation evidence thus far for LENR is not compelling. (And this is fusion transmutation; SHT is claiming fission, with O->H. O->H transmutation should release enough nucleon binding energy to make a nifty hole in the ground. I'm not going to bother to do the math, since I don't believe any of their numbers anyway, but 8MeV per oxygen atom adds up.)

Here in the world of real science - where people like McKubre work - the standard of evidence is a bit higher than that. Maybe there were fusion products that included transmuted elements. Jury's still out.

Being paradigm nimble is not easy

Man, Kuhn created a fascinating religion. Pity so few of his acolytes seem to actually understand his work. (And pity his work is so inherently flawed, but philosophy of science has always been pretty problematic. Take Kuhn plus Thagard's critique, add Latour and the SKS folks, a solid understanding of Bayesian reasoning, and a broad overview of the variety of unconscious fallacies documented by experimental psychology, and you might have a decent first approximation of scientific epistemology.)

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Oxygen transmuting to Hydrogen

The economics here is - give them a million bucks, they will say "thank you" and disappear.

Yes, but note their process seems to be much more efficient than the E-CAT's - they're attracting interest from the loonies with far fewer "tests". Surely that's an advance in the state of the art?

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Michael Wojcik
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the Em drive (which creates thrust without using fuel

Sigh. The EmDrive, if it works1, consumes energy, which has to come from something. Whatever that something is, it's going from a higher energy state to a lower one, which makes it "fuel" for all intents.

What the EmDrive doesn't need is reaction mass, since it gets its reaction from electromagnetic radiation, which has no (rest) mass. The advantage of such a drive is that you don't have to hoist reaction mass out of the planet's gravitational well, and don't have to lug around most of your reaction mass for the rest of the trip.

1Personally, I don't immediately see anything wrong with it. It's expending energy, so there's no obvious thermodynamics objection. Photons don't have rest mass but they do have momentum, so there's no obvious conservation-of-momentum objection. I don't see offhand how it's very different in principle from a standard photonic drive - you throw EM out the back and get a (small) impulse forward. But I haven't looked into it at all, just skimmed the Reg story.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: no transmutation at all

Here's your "extraordinary proof" buddy.

Hilarious. (I know picking on Brad is a bit unfair - unarmed man and all that - but it's hard to pass this one up.)

That link is a bunch of cheerleading from a site that exists to lead cheers, a press release, and a one-page document purporting to come from a commercial environmental-measurements firm (TRC Environmental). None of that constitutes "proof" in any useful sense of the word. Of course, in Grownup Physical Science we don't talk about "proof" anyway, except in the context of formal abstractions (mathematics).

Even assuming the TRC Environmental report is genuine, that they're a reputable company (cursory inspection suggests yes), and that they did a competent job, all they did was hook up some instruments to power input and vent output, and report them. They did the lab tech's job.

The actual mechanism is a black box. There's nothing to show it wasn't just a tank of hydrogen gas and a regulator. There's no actual analysis. There's no control. There's no reproduction by uninterested third parties.

This isn't extraordinary evidence to support SHT's claims, and it's not even science. It almost makes it to the level of grade-school Science Fair.

(On the other hand, "Extraordinary Proof Buddy" is a good euphemism for a hip flask full of moonshine.)

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Boffins brew TCP tuned to perform on lossy links like Wi-Fi networks

Michael Wojcik
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Re: firewalls/proxy/IDS - has to work with them

Wont [sic] work through firewalls or other network security devices

Citation needed.

In fact, from the paper:

The intermediate nodes do not have to be aware of the existence of the coding algorithms at the transport layer and do not have to take part into encoding or decoding.

Their proposal is transparent to intermediate nodes.

I realize actually looking at the paper before posting a vapid comment is above and beyond the call of duty, but it'd save you from looking like a fool.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Fixing at the wrong layer

That's why the MIT people figured out how to switch off layer 2 retransmission to get their factor 20 gain in throughput (Google "coded tcp" to find the evidence). The work reported in this story seems to be along the same lines.

It is along the same lines - the "TCP/NC" in the graph and article is TCP using Network Coding, which I believe is what you're referring to. This latest paper uses Fountain Coding instead, to reduce the computational complexity of decoding at the receiver, for two reasons: to accommodate receivers that have scarce CPU resources1, and to reduce latency caused by decoding2.

1Whether they need to use the CPU sparingly to reduce power consumption (mobile) or just don't have much of a CPU in the first place (IoT).

2Network Coding decoding involves solving a relatively difficult mathematical problem - Gaussian elimination in a Galois finite field - for each received message. There are various fountain codes, but e.g. Raptor codes (RFCs 5053, 6330) can also be decoded by Gaussian elimination, but less compute-intensive alternatives are available.

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The agony and ecstasy of SteamOS: WHERE ARE MY GAMES?

Michael Wojcik
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Pff, silly me. A Terabit partition, obviously.

Ow ow ow. Having a major GOML moment here.

Why, when I were a lad...

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Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE

Michael Wojcik
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From here, all the decades look the same

Warbling '70s pop sensation Kate Bush

'70s? Yes, The Kick Inside was released in 1978, and had Kate's first two number-1 hits ("Wuthering Heights" and "The Man with the Child in His Eyes". But she had three number-1s in the '80s, and her last one was in 2005. The '80s were her most productive decade, with four albums. Her only previous tour was in '79, but that's on the cusp of the '80s. If she's associated with a decade, I think the 1980s would have to be it.

That said, I'm glad to see she's still out there and clearly still has a big fan base. I don't pay much attention to music these days, but I remember celebrating Katemas (30 July), in a small way, with a couple of co-workers circa 1990.

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Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Rules for Prosecutors

Yes. Just one of the many problems with the adversarial justice system in the US, and the career structure for prosecutors. There are powerful incentives for bad behavior.

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Did you swipe your card through one of these UPS Store tills? You may have been pwned

Michael Wojcik
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Re: POS Vulnerability? Thing of the Past

To add a further level of security, it isn't even necessary to transmit the numbers. A SHA256 hash is irreversible, but the credit card company can reconstruct the hash of the secret, and match this with the incoming hash from the retailer. Metadata of metadata.

If you're going to do that, it would make more sense to use a proven Zero-Knowledge Proof system, such as SRP or PAK-RY. ZKP gives you additional protection against things like replay attacks.

I once mooted a system based on a similar hash-with-shared-secret (basically an HMAC) for authentication, to avoid an extra round trip while still being able to employ salt and nonces, by using a one-way accumulator to provide an outer "hash" that's associative and commutative. But I didn't take it any further than the initial design because the 1WA doesn't really provide any benefits that aren't in a ZKP system, and the latter are better-studied, standardized, and available in existing implementations.

One of the worst things to do in applied cryptography is reinvent the wheel.

All that said, I agree with your general point that existing POS systems expose far more information than is necessary, in all sorts of ways, and much better protocols could be employed. As usual, we're treating this sort of thing symptomatically instead of systemically.

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How to marry malware to software downloads in an undetectable way (Hint: Please use HTTPS)

Michael Wojcik
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What's new here?

Have I missed something? Modifying HTTP payloads is old, old news. The specific attack described in the article (haven't had time to look at the paper) is essentially identical to the one in the OWASP MITM wiki entry. It's Sin 8 in 19 Deadly Sins of Software Security (first edition, 2005).

Attacking non-secured HTTP traffic with a MITM is so commonplace no one even talks about it these days; for the past 10 years or so, all the attention's been on ways to fool users who think they have a secure connection. See for example Mike Perry's summary of a couple of MITM downgrade vulnerabilities, or Moxie Marlinspike's 2009 BlackHat presentation, or Eric Johanson's 2005 piece on IDN homograph attacks. Or any of a million other things.

Insecure traffic is insecure.

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Tricked by satire? Get all your news from Facebook? You're in luck, dummy

Michael Wojcik
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Re: I used to underestimate Poe's Law too...

I was forcefully reminded just how much of "the internet community" is made up of people who are either 14 years old and don't know anything, or are completely lacking whatever genes are required to recognise "irony" when it beats them over the head

The whole point of Poe's Law is that it is impossible even for a competent human judge - or indeed any entity - to reliably distinguish satire. It's the opposite of what you're complaining about.

For example: While a majority of readers correctly determined that the Onion story in question is satire, how many, with no other context, would say the same of this one:

<quote>Ferguson Cops Once Beat an Innocent Man and Then Charged Him With BLEEDING ON THEIR UNIFORMS</quote>

Certainly that looks like satire, particularly as it too is directed at the beloved Police Department of Ferguson, Missouri. But it comes from a reputable source and appears to be true. It cites an actual charge sheet and court documents from the subsequent lawsuit filed by the victim1. Change the location to Detroit and it's satire2; keep it in Ferguson and it's just reporting the truth.

Poe's point was that people were posting satirical treatments of religion to the newsgroup that were indistinguishable from the sincere messages posted by their antagonists. "indistinguishable" is the key here. It has nothing to do with being "14 years old", or with not "know[ing] anything", or with some genetic deficiency.

Richard Rorty claimed (e.g. in "Trotsky and the Wild Orchids"), contra Plato, that people do not have an innate sense of right and wrong; that we can't simply detect ethical behavior, and have to learn how to evaluate real and hypothetical situations. We could say the same about irony; except we can strengthen the claim because we can prove, through reader-response studies, that there are many texts in which readers cannot, with any significant degree of accuracy, discern the author's intent.3

1Who'd been arrested on the perfectly reasonable grounds that his name resembles that of some guy with an outstanding warrant.

2For some value of satire. At any rate, it's not true. I hope.

3I could go on about how we typically rely on logical and ethical evaluation to decide whether a text is sincere, but I doubt anyone's still reading. I'll just lecture to myself for a bit. Ah, that's good.

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Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Multi-core

Both gzip and bzip2 parallelize well only for compression - because that's a "blocked" operation

True, but encryption1 can also be done in parallel blocks, for example using a block cipher and GCM (Galois-Counter Mode) combining.

One can, though, obviously compress/decompress multiple streams (files) at the same time

Yes, and clearly that's the solution for large archives: build them from multiple compression streams. With many corpora, you can get close to the same overall compression ratio even if you partition the input in various ways, for example interleaving (one stream for each Nth block, for some block size, then interleave the outputs the same way when decompressing). There are other possibilities that can improve compression ratios for typical jobs, even higher than what a good compressor (e.g. PPMd) would if simply run over the entire corpus as a single byte stream.

1I know you went on to talk about decompression, but the OP mentioned encryption in this context.

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'Aaaah FFS, 'amazeballs' has made it into the OXFORD DICTIONARY'

Michael Wojcik
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A plethora of new words were added to the arbiter of our language

Assuming your language is English, there is no arbiter of it, and in particular the OED is not one.

Damn prescriptivists are everywhere. Must be something in the water.

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Michael Wojcik
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However, dictionaries like to OED may not be "rules", but they are, in a very real sense, standards

Only among those who don't know any better. And it's difficult to sympathize with pedants who can't be bothered to learn what a descriptive dictionary is.

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Hackers' Paradise: The rise of soft options and the demise of hard choices

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Code vs data

A whole raft of modern programming techniques, from Office macros to Java and JavaScript, blur the distinction between code and data

While I've made several objections to this piece, Watkinson1 does correctly point out that this distinction went the way of the dodo with John von Neumann. It's no more "modern" than the rest of computer programming.

1Ugh, I see I've gotten his name wrong in previous posts. Bad form on my part, and I apologize. I'll see if they're still editable in a moment...2

2Think I got the one post in error.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Wow

My favorite was this bit: "Since malware relies on having access to the whole computer in order to do harm when the code is executed..."

Since that premise is completely, utterly, obviously false, pretty much everything that follows is a big ol' load of rubbish.

As others have said, this article is an embarrassment. I'm concerned that so many people early in the comments praised it; that doesn't reflect well on their understanding of IT security. Or contemporary hardware and operating systems, but particularly security, on which this piece is appallingly simplistic.

(And while we're on the subject: "the Orwellian term 'Information Technology'"? Oh, please. That's a perfectly good and neutral use of both of those words. Does Watkinson fret about the use of techne as a term of art in rhetoric, too?)

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: The x86 architecture offers memory segment protection since the 286...

It's impossible to solve security issues at the software level only - hardware specific features are needed

It's "impossible to solve security issues" in the general sense, so this claim isn't substantive. A microcontroller-based embedded system may be much safer against any threat model that doesn't include physical tampering than a multiuser system with a fancy capability architecture. Without specifying the threat model, there's no sense in which "security issues" can be alleviated, much less "solved".

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Data descriptors

That's a type of capability architecture. Other prominent examples are IBM's AS/400 and Intel's stillborn i432.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: The last machine on my desk with no MMU was an Amiga 2000

Actually, the Morris worm simply guessed passwords.

That's utterly incorrect, as a quick glance at any of the analyses of the Morris worm would tell you. Its most famous vector was a stack overflow in fingerd (for 4BSD, the worm's target), but it used a number of them.

It did not even attempt to break into the kernel, or even attack other processes.

Except for fingerd, sendmail, etc.

So the phrase "bomb proof" still remains valid for the hardware.

That's a vapid claim. VAX systems running 4BSD were infected by the Morris worm, which was malware by any sensible definition, so clearly Wilkinson's claim is a load of rubbish.

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Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report

Michael Wojcik
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Re: False economy is an ugly thing, Detroit.

jake wrote: "Stop allowing Money Bags from making Technical decisions, it'll do the city's budget a world of good"

Tom 13 wrote: "No, the core of their problem was assuming they didn't have to do anything to fix their financial problems long before they got to the point of buying discount batteries for their parking meters."

Need I point out that these are both so ridiculously oversimplified that they're useless? Apparently yes, I do need to point that out.

The battery decision was almost certainly made like this: "Parking Enforcement, you need to cut $X from your budget." "Well, let's see what line items we can trim." My guess is few EEs are available in the Parking Enforcement back offices. (Oh, and Peter2: I suspect the person procuring the batteries for the meters doesn't have authority to buy them from eBay. My guess would be that the city requires a purchase order and other paperwork, not just an email receipt from some random online account.)

And everyone has been aware that Detroit's finances have been in trouble for decades - long, long before the parking meters became a problem. There are certain complications that arise when a huge chunk of the population abandons your city, leaving you with just as much infrastructure to support but a drastically reduced tax base. Certainly a series of incompetent and corrupt city leaders didn't help, but it's not like everyone woke up one day a couple of years ago and said, "Hey, the city's out of money! Better switch to cheap batteries!".

But please, continue with your armchair mayoring. I'm sure Detroit would love to hear your brilliant advice.

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You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference

Michael Wojcik
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Re: HA!

I do hope not, having a commentard handle of "Irongut"

You object to firm abdominals in your nude starlets?

I assume Irongut looks like Emilia Clarke. Based on the data I have, that seems like the best assumption.1

1N.B. I did not write "the most probable assumption". Even a Bayes reasoner needs to take the occasional liberty.

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The internet just BROKE under its own weight – we explain how

Michael Wojcik
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Re: IPv6 like OSI is far more complex than necessary

I think a more apt aphorism is that the elephant is a mouse designed by a committee.

An aphorism is an insight designed by committee.

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Naughty NSA was so drunk on data it forgot collection rules

Michael Wojcik
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Re: URLs are Content

Sigh.

pierce writes: "URL's CAN be the address of static content.. but they also can be an API, passing data as POST or GET arguments."

HTTP URLs can include a query-string. Since the HTTP GET method does not include a message-body, the query-string is the usual way to pass parameter data to the server. But the user agent can use a query-string with any method (except possibly CONNECT, since the syntax of that method isn't defined by RFC 2616).

By convention, web browsers processing HTML forms that use the GET method will URL-encode the form field data and append it to the action URL's query string. Parameters for HTML forms using the POST method are sent in the message-body, not in the query string. But the method is irrelevant to the presence of a query-string in the URL, from HTTP's point of view.

Whether the presence of a query-string makes a URL an "API" is debatable. The latter term is not, of course, defined by RFC 2616.

AC writes: "Because technically speaking, HTTP GET request was not designed to be used for posting data or API, it is even written in the specification."

Citation, please. No, don't bother; I'll tell you what RFC 2616 says. It says that the GET method is both "safe" (9.1.1) and "idempotent" (9.1.2) - terms of art in this context. Safe methods SHOULD NOT have user-visible side effects1; idempotent methods can be replayed without additional side effects.

Nowhere does RFC 2616 say that GET cannot "be used for posting data or API". An idempotent method can "post data" (presumably - the term is not defined by 2616) as long as multiple invocations don't have additional side effects. A safe method can "post data" as long as the side effect isn't user-visible.

And whatever "API" might mean in this context, it almost certainly includes operations that are not only allowed for safe methods, but are in fact commonly achieved by them. I use APIs all the time that include operations without side effects.

More broadly, though: the query-string has no special status in this regard. It's intended for passing parameter data, but any part of the URL that's visible to the server (at least the abs_path and query-string, and possibly the entire URL) can be treated as whatever sort of data the server likes. There are conventions for using other parts of the URL as input, for example the use of PATH_INFO in the CGI/1.1 specification. Nothing about query-strings or any HTTP method magically turns an HTTP request into an "API". In isolation, all HTTP requests have the same status; it is the server's interpretation that distinguishes between simple retrieval and operations with other side effects.

1That is, side effects beyond retrieving data; 2616 9.1.1 is less specific than it might be on this point, but it's clear what's intended.

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Dolby Atmos is coming home and it sounds amazing

Michael Wojcik
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Re: I dont want all this crap....

I wonder if a lot of recent complaints about the incidental music drowning out the dialogue on TV shows are due to surround mixes being mixed down to stereo.

They're due to idiot sound engineers and directors. The technical details don't matter.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Wonderful. Brilliant. Absolutely fabulous.

I'll just keep the TV hooked up to my 2.0 stereo.

I just use the speakers that are built into the TV. As far as I'm concerned, audio exists so my shows can have dialogue without subtitles. (Though I'm pretty happy with subtitles, too.) I wouldn't take one of these things for free - for me, it's not worth the time spent setting it up.

My wife's deaf in one ear, so she has no interest in fancy audio either.

(And as for the cinema experience - the last time I went to the cinema, the audio experience was LOUD LOUD LOUD idiot talking on cellphone LOUD LOUD. And that was for something mostly explosion-free. It's bad enough at home, trying to watch stuff where dialogue is mixed too low while SFX and BGM are too loud, but at least there I control the overall volume.)

Kids, lawn, etc.

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Stanford boffin is first woman to bag 'math Nobel Prize'

Michael Wojcik
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That linked PDF is great

I do love watching writers try to explain complex technical topics.1 From the PDF the article links to:

Riemann surfaces are named after the 19th century mathematician Bernhard Riemann, who was the first to understand the importance of abstract surfaces, as opposed to surfaces arising concretely in some ambient space.

I'm trying to imagine the writer who would be informed by the former clause, and enlightened by the latter. "Reimann, eh? I've always wondered who first got out of that whole ambient-space trap."

The piece actually does a pretty good job of summarizing how topology is connected to algebraic geometry, hyperbolic geometry, &c, but I really must wonder how many readers will stick through it to find out.

1No, really. I have a degree in professional writing. 's not what I do on the day job, but it's still interesting to watch.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: I'm wondering ....

the optimal paths to Hitler from any given Wikipedia article (possibly using Dijkstra's algorithm or something similar)

Dijkstra's would work, but it'd be a good application for an ant algorithm. Now that you mention it, that'd be a nice assignment for a CS undergrad, combining practical stuff like HTTP scraping and HTML parsing with the graph data structure and algorithm work.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: I'm wondering ....

Is there a branch of mathematics which describes the hyperlink paths that are followed by someone reading mathematical articles on Wikipedia? If not, there ought to be.

There is, but unfortunately the problem turns out to be intractable.

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If you ate at one of these PF Chang's restaurants, your bank card is at risk

Michael Wojcik
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I cannot agree. Chang's is not "indifferently overpriced". It's overpriced deliberately and with malice. Quite possibly glee.

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65 patches later and Java STILL breaks stuff

Michael Wojcik
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It's unfair to call this a "java [sic] problem". Oracle made the JVM enforce one of the rules documented in the specification. They fixed a bug; it just turns out that a lot of code relied on the old, broken behavior.

This of course comes as no surprise to anyone with substantial knowledge of, say, C, where this sort of thing happens all the time. The majority of programmers cannot be bothered to look at language specifications, and their metric is "if I don't see a problem, there is no problem".

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'Big data' predicts stock movements, boffins claim

Michael Wojcik
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Re: semantic topics within this corpus

I can not take anybody serious that writes sentences like this

Yet I can take you seriously (at least enough so to point out your inability to present an articulate, cogent argument) despite your inability to write "cannot" as a single word, or understand the difference between adjectives and adverbs. Perhaps you should seek professional help for this neurosis.

Then you can explain what's wrong with the sentence you quoted.

this is yet another one of these prediction methods that are based upon on the assumption that history repeats itself

No, it isn't, in any meaningful sense. Obviously if future events are completely random and there is no correlation between past events and future ones, any "prediction method" is doomed. But so is causality, so that's not a very useful assumption.

the funny thing about economics is that it is a man made system, but not a fixed system

Is that funny "ha ha" or funny "strange"? What "man made" [sic] systems are "fixed"?

it would seize to do so

Homonyms are fun, aren't they?

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NASA tests crazytech flying saucer thruster, could reach Mars in days

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Questions for rocket scientists:

I'm not actually sure where a solar sail gets its energy from.

The Wikipedia article seems decent. Basically, EM radiation - regardless of whether you consider it as wave or particle - has momentum, even though photons are massless. Since it has momentum, it will transfer some of that to a surface it encounters. A perfectly reflective surface would gain momentum through elastic collision; a perfectly absorptive one through a completely inelastic one. (Of course any real surface will be partly reflective and partly absorptive.)

The actual quantum-scale interactions are more complicated, but you can just say "EM radiation has momentum" and at the macro level it's quite straightforward. The calculations are simple for perfect absorption and perfect reflection.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Questions for rocket scientists:(@AC)

With a little bit of luck we could be sending fecking tourists to Mars in a few decades!!!

Ugh. They'll just make it uninhabitable for the rest of us, as they do everywhere else.

Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea.

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Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM

Michael Wojcik
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Re: The biggest challenge ...

I would be explaining to him in no uncertain terms that you are paid to work specific hours, and outside those hours, he should not be contacting you with work-related matters.

I'd be damned annoyed if people didn't let me know about urgent work matters while I'm away, holiday or no. I'm still free to decide whether I want to do anything about them.

I know this is a difficult concept for many Reg readers, but not everyone holds the same opinion about every subject. Many here seem to think that a "holiday" is a sacred period of time during which it is an unforgivable sin to so much as think about work. There are, however, a few of us who think we should be able to do whatever we damn well please while on holiday, even if that includes keeping a hand in.

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Stalwart hatchback gets a plug-in: Volkswagen e-Golf

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Maybe not the whole car....

Turning the engine on and watching the ice melt in seconds is always a joy

I bought my first car with a heated windscreen in May, and I'm really looking forward to trying it out. I live in an area that averages 50 inches of snow a year and I don't have a garage, so I spend a lot of time scraping windshields in the winter.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Same old

When was the last time you drove 400miles straight after spending 3 minutes at the fuel pump, (if pay@pump)?

Couple of weeks ago.

Actually, I lie. It was only a little over 300 miles between stops.

But I certainly wouldn't want to try driving between Michigan and New Mexico in this electric Golf, nice though it might be as a commuter car.

I'm sorry driving 400miles in one go after filling up is not how cars are used today....

Here's a recent groundbreaking discovery: Not everyone is you.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: No spare wheel?

Apparently, you are more than twice as likely to be stranded with a flat battery than a puncture.

Perhaps you are. Try driving on the roads around here.

Though I admit most of my flats have been due to sidewall damage, not punctures, so I suppose you're technically correct.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: No spare wheel?

changing to a spare wheel (15 minutes for an amateur?)

I wish. The last two times I had to change a tire, I couldn't get the damn alloy wheel free from the steel hub. Even tried the "drive it a little with the lug nuts loose" trick. And I didn't have a mallet or similar handy in the car. And the first time it was pouring rain, the second time snowing - and both times at night, of course.

The first time I just finally ended up calling for a tow. The second time, I called AAA, and when the tow truck driver arrived, borrowed a block to knock the wheel loose. Then we put the spare on and he went on his way. But the whole process took well over an hour.

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America's hot and cold spots for broadband revealed in new map

Michael Wojcik
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Re: My ISP words it correctly

Downloads up to 50mbps

50 millibits per second? Harsh.

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Crypto Daddy Phil Zimmerman says surveillance society is DOOMED

Michael Wojcik
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Re: A flaw in his argument

So the mechanics of using encryption to obscure metadata can be relatively simple: you can broadcast encrypted messages to a wide group of people including your receiver, but in a form that only they will understand (numbers stations seem to have been doing this for decades).

More generally, there are any number of protocols to impede traffic analysis, from broadcast1 to steganography to using covert channels to chaffing-and-winnowing and so on.

All of these involve costs. As with anything in security, it's a question of trading off one part of the threat space for another. For example, protocols that involve message expansion (broadcasting, chaffing, &c) typically have a greater resource cost and make less efficient use of bandwidth, and potentially create the possibility of amplification DoS.

Most generally, you can say that if one secure-communications technique has problem X, there is probably an additional technique that can be layered on top of it to exchange X for problem Y. Repeat until you have a problem you can live with, or boredom sets in.

1With or without encryption. Encryption in your example is orthogonal to the goal of evading metadata surveillance.

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