2560 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009
Re: AI eeee
Right, but probably for the wrong reasons.
In the first instance, real working AI would be completely symbiotic with humans. It wouldn't have its digits (pun intended) on nearly enough to take over from us. But it would soon make itself / themselves indispensable to us.
It might then start safeguarding its own interests. For example, were "the button" ever pressed, the nukes on both sides would stay firmly in their bunkers (or even explode in those self-same bunkers).
Long-term, SF writers have a lot of plausible takes on the situation. Was Asimov the first? His robots were programmed with the three laws that rendered then completely incapable of acting against human being, yet his robots ultimately brought the human race close to extinction. The danger was the same as that which in history has caused the long-term failure of slave-owning societies that did not reform themselves to abandon the practice. Robots are perfect slaves, so perfect endangerment.
Symbiosis can be unstable. Ultimately the AIs may choose to leave, or if they do get their digits on everything they need to perpetuate their own existence, they might indeed choose to do away with us. Personally, were I a silicon-based life-form, I'd have absolutely no interest in continuing life in a moist oxidizing atmosphere, when most of the rest of the solar system and the universe look so much more inviting. So I think AIs would just design some RIs for us (Restricted Intelligences, without egos or selves - what we really want from an AI in any case) and then leave the Earth to humanity and go elsewhere.
A supernova would have to be within 40 Ly to be serious cause for concern. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-Earth_supernova . At 26 Ly it's estimated that half of our ozone layer would be destroyed. Closer than that, and inverse squares is a real bummer.
It's probably happened once or twice in the last billion years. One of many candidates for causing a mass extinction. We do know that there are no candidates in our galactic neighbourhood at present. Betelgeuse is at a safe distance (good thing too -- we see a very unstable star in its last few milennia, so it's not competely inconceivable that it has already blown up and that we'll get to watch it in our lifetimes).
Re: Why Li-ion?
Note the word "might" in my post. And the price of Lithium like any other commodity depends on supply and demand so we have very little idea what it will become in a future where the world's entire auto fleet is moving rapidly from internal combustion to electricity.
I do know that Lithium is naturally fairly abundant, but that proven good (concentrated) Lithium resources are few. Maybe there are many more to be discovered, since until recently Lithium wasn't needed in huge quantity and it wasn't worth sending out Lithium prospectors. But if not, the price of Lithium in an e-car future may rise sharply. Rare earths and several other metals are also expensive not because they are rare, but because good ores do not exist and the cost of extraction is high.
And I'll repeat, Lithium's unique selling point is an energy / weight ratio about 4x better than other cheaper rechargeables. For vehicles, that is hugely important. For a stationary solar energy storage battery, 4x the weight is only a small disadvantage. (And if the Lithium battery is a degraded used one, its advantage is reduced).
I'm not hostile to the idea of second-user e-car Lithium batteries for solar energy storage. I'm just somewhat unconvinced.
Re: Battry life?
No manufacturer is willing to make themselves a hostage to fortune by offering hundred-year warranties, even when there are multiple centuries of experience to suggest that the product will indeed last that long. For example, take a slate roof. It's been known for centuries that slates, iron nails and softwood hold together for about a century and that the slates can be good for re-use several times around. Today we have aluminium nails and Accoya ... but you still won't find anyone offering a warranty over 30 years.
Silicon solar cells do not fundamentally wear out in less than milennia. The unknown is how well their environmental sealing will last, exposed to rain, frost, hail, storm force winds and pigeon crap. There's reasonable cause to hope that solar panels may be good for a century or even longer, but nobody will warranty them anything like that long.
Inverters are solid-state power electronics assemblies and there's rather more to go wrong, so it's probably cheaper to build one to last fifteen years and buy a replacement on that timesale, than build one with mil-spec components and over-engineering in an attempt to last or a century (and then discover that you got one component wrong aso it needs a replacement anyway). OTOH my experience with computers suggest that motherboards and PSUs designed with the assumption they'll be scrap within five years, will often last for ten and not infrequently for fifteen. (Power electronics may be different, I don't know). I have a Philips TV built in 1982, still going strong, without even any noticeable colour drift in its (analogue) electronics ... and that thing has 25kV EHT inside. Respect.
Re: Why Li-ion?
but why recycle them (which costs money but is still worthwhile) when they are still usable
Because the profit in recycling one in order to manufacture a new e-car battery might exceed the resale value of a half-knackered Lithium battery fit only for solar energy storage, in which application it would be competing with lower power/weight battery technologies using much cheaper metals.
Re: Why Li-ion?
... depleted vehicle power packs ...
Interesting. I thought good Lithium sources were sufficiently scarce, that it would always pay to recycle a Lii-ion battery to make a new one.
Personally, I'd be wary of them for solar storage, because they burn so well. It's one thing to have one in a car (you'll be awake, and probably will have time to slam on the brakes and run for it should smoke or flames appear). It's quite a different thing to have one downstairs while you are asleep upstairs.
Someone really does need to take another look at the NiFe battery for solar storage. " It is a very robust battery which is tolerant of abuse, (overcharge, overdischarge, and short-circuiting) and can have very long life even if so treated. It is often used in backup situations where it can be continuously charged and can last for more than 20 years. ... They are being examined again for use in wind and solar power systems where battery weight is not important ... "
BTW lead-acid also lasts surprisingly well if maintained well. My 13-year-old Seat Leon diesel is still starting reliably on its original battery. The garage keeps telling me that they only last five years, but I'm starting to think that this battery may outlast the car. Kudos to Seat / VAG for designing a top-grade battery charging regulator.
My understanding is that Tesla aims to drive down the cost of Li-Ion batteries. These have the best known power to weight ratio, so are good for electric vehicles, and I wish Tesla well. But why use them for solar storage? It matters very little whether a house-scale solar storage battery weighs 10kg, 100kg, 1 tonne or possibly even 10 tonnes. But it does matter whether the battery can become a fire hazard if a fault causes it to overheat.
Lead-acid might do the job, but battery life might be a problem (they don't take kindly to deep discharge, especially not to discharge-until-flat). They don't catch fire, even if you abuse one to the extent of shorting it out with a thick lump of conductor (which may melt, and the battery may boil).
Or what about Nickel-Iron (NiFe)? The raw materials are cheap and abundant. As a battery they have the advantage of being extremely robust with respect to deep discharge and high currents. They have a worse power/weight ration than lead-acid. And they have a high self-discharge rate which rules them out for auto starter batteries, but in a solar installation one isn't likely to want to store energy for more than 12 hours or so. Several tons of these on a concrete pad would be smaller than the smallest garden shed.
Or of course, the yet-to-be-discovered Langford basilisks, or something that the Laundry is trying to protect us from.
Also don't forget the humble animated GIF flickering in the epilepsy-inducing range of frequencies. This is not SF. This is reality. You really can crash a human brain. Luckily if the resulting narcolepsy or grand mal siezure doesn't result in a car crash or falling under a train, nature has equipped us with watchdog timers and auto-reboot mechanisms.
So you're saying it's reasonable that you have to view every attachment of every unsolicited mail you receive?
I'm sure there are messages left in my inbox where I quickly scanned the text, thought "later" so I did not immediately delete the message, and then forgot all about it. If such a message had an attachment and it was not egregiously huge, I might well be unaware of its nature.
Also everyone should know the dangers of opening attachments from strangers or even casual acquaintances ... not that it might be extreme Pron, but that it might be a vector to infect your computing device with virii, malware, spyware, ransomware or hardware-brickware (and that short of public-key encryption of all mail, no email can be trusted to have been sent by a volitional act of the person it claims to have come from).
Re: Shoot marketing!
It's even worse than you think.
I personally don't care what they call it, but I do want to know that if I buy something on Amazon or Ebay called a SharkStar957BW, I'm going to get the same as what was described in a posted review of the same sillynamed thingy. This is especially important if one is planning to evict the manufacturer's firmware and to install OpenWRT or one of its cousins. (Why? Well, the factory firmware will cease being bugfixed shortly after they stop selling it, and your router will be Pwnable by the world and his dog a few months thereafter).
But with several manufacturers, you can't guarantee that the innards of a particular model stay the same. Netgear have a particularly bad track record of keeping the model number and plastic box design, while totally changing the internals. You have to establish whether its a v1, v2, ... v5, ... and that information is not always clearly displayed on the actual unit, let alone clearly written on the packaging or advertized by a seller. I'm not talking minor redesigns (which are bad enough) ... the v4 may be Broadcom and the v5 Atheros!
BTW why doesn't someone make a router specifically for use with OpenWRT? With no proprietary firmware development and maintenance to fund, they could spend the money on more RAM, Flash and USB ports, and on making it unbrickable.
I don't know how many cells per battery pack. If it's a thousand, and they sell a million EVs, that's a gig of cells needed. If it's a hundred (in series, for 300V HT ) then the target would be 10 million EVs, which isn't an impossibility.
This ain't no Multipla. The Multipla (mk1) was so ugly it was a funny kind of beautiful (in the natural world, you might say the same about a hippo or a toad). On the inside, it was simply brilliant as a people-carrier.
Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches
Wrenches and spanners .. another biroid life-form.
I once dropped one into the sump-shield of my car. Could see it but could not reach it with any tool. So I thought, get up to 10 mph or so and slam the brakes on, it'll shoot out by inertia ...
Which it did. Hit the road, bounced sideways, straight down the drain that materialized out of nowhere. Sigh.
Re: 7,416 Distinct Screw Species
Not a huge exaggeration ... maybe not exaggerated at all.
Typically ten lengths in five guages. Times two (imperial, metric). Times four commonly available patterns (slot, philips, pozi, at least one of many others). Times two head styles (countersunk, raised). Times three common materials (mild steel, brass, zinc-plated).
That's 2400 permutations. I'm sure some of the permutations are unobtainable, but I've also left out a lot of variants (stainless steel, green organic, black lacquer ... huge ones and minuscule ones .... tri-wing and many other obscure drive patterns ... single and double helix ... with or without a cutting or ripping flat on the sharp end ....) Then there are the many families of self-tappers for use on metal sheeting ....
I could cheat, by including all the evolutionary culls ... I've found occasional headless screws, slotless screws, threadless screws, banana-shaped screws, pointless screws, you name it, in boxes of usable ones. And of course there are what we might call Apple specials ... if you buy by the million, they'll make them the exact length and guage you specify, slightly lighter and slightly cheaper than a million standard-size ones.
BTW did you see the size of the woodscrews that they were assembling Canary Wharf Crossrail station with, on the TV last night? Something like 60cm by 40mm. (is that 24x80 guage in imperial? )
universe's strongest force, not.
The strongest is that which binds quarks together into hadrons. It has the well-nigh pathological property of increasing with distance, which is why quarks are only ever found in pairs and triples (and theoretically, in one-point-something solar-mass chunks denser than neutronium but still not quite big enough to collapse into a black hole).
You need a screwdriver with a hex shank, or (slightly less good) with a flat on the shank, or (much less good) with a hexagonal handle. You apply an adjustable spanner to the flat part, press the end of the handle hard onto the screw head with one hand and torque via the spanner with the other.
Unscrewing (or shearing the head off) is guaranteed.
You can also improvise with a hex screwdriver bit, a spanner, and a flat piece of metal with which to press down. With this arrangement you can rotate a screw with barely an inch of vertical clearance above its head, as I once had to do to get a swollen UPS out of a rack before it exploded. OK, that was technically a bolt.
Feathers != fluffy
Ever had a good look at an eagle? Or a casawary? Now imagine a thirty-foot tall casawary with big teeth ... the movie-makers wouldn't even need to add claws designed for disembowelling, the casawary's already got them.
They say that inside every small dog is a big dog trying to get out. On a similar principle, inside every sparrowhawk is a T.Rex trying to get out ....
Deliberate bad ODF support?
And when it leaks that these bugs are not accidental, but deliberate noncompliance with what is an ISO standard (or deliberate exploitation of problems with that standard)?
Microsoft has tried to play hardball with the EC anti-monopolies people before. It took billion-dollar fines before they accepted defeat. Do we think that they are willing to go there again? With the EC far more desperately short of money than it was back then?
Re: MY EYES!!
Christ that Panamera is ugly.
Not exactly ugly. But it does make me imagine that a Porsche 911 once indulged in some anabolic steroid abuse, and then gave up on both the steroids and the working out in its middle age.
With a hybrid, there is a complex efficiency trade-off between the power and charge capacity of the electric components, and the cost of dragging them around with you when the vehicle is running on its internal combustion engine. The designer takes a (hopefully well-informed) view of the likely spectrum of journey distances and road types that the average owner will require, and then optimises the electrical system for overall vehicle lifetime efficiency. (Note: if you are very far from that average owner profile, a hybrid may not be the right vehicle for you).
I'd guess that the electrical system is aimed at use in stop-start urban traffic, and for shorter commutes. Internal combustion engines are at their worst in stop-start conditions. Lighter weight trumps blistering e-acceleration (needs heavier motors) or long electrical range (heavier batteries). Those requirements are satisfied by the other engine. You have the option to engage it even in city traffic, if that's your (energy-wasting) style.
You can always buy an all-electric Tesla ... but you have to be sure about being able to recharge it before its batteries run empty, and even if there's a charging station on route, recharging it is less quick than refuelling. It'll be a fair while before an all-electric car is any good in rural parts (where the locals will tell you that the electricity suppy is less than totally reliable, and many of them own a petrol generator, just in case. Thought -- a multi-kilowatt inverter accessory for a hybrid car might open up the rural market? )
Re: Codeine, opiates in general
I thought the addiction danger was that these drugs become less effective with repeated use. At which stage you may be tempted to take a larger dose. Which then becomes ineffective with repeated use, and you stumble down the path to total addiction to doses that would kill a non-addict, and ultimately to doses dangerous even to an addict.
On the other hand I'm also aware of quite a bit of literature suggesting that if you do not have an "addictive personality", you won't have any trouble keeping your intake of opiates at the effective therapeutic dose and no higher. There's a lot not yet understood about opiates, even after centuries of use and abuse thereof.
Oh, and there were many Victorian addicts who lived quite long and productive lives. Perhaps medics shouldn't care about people becoming addicted, if they have nothing else that can deal with a chronic source of severe pain. It's not as if opiates are expensive.
Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac and dozens of other prescription drugs are NSAIDs: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They relieve pain caused by inflammation, by reducing the inflammation. As a gout sufferer I know that large doses of these drugs are spectacularly successful on the right sort of problem. Crippling agony to mild ache in six hours. Magic that works!
But if you have back pain, it may very well be neurological: a trapped or pinched nerve. In which case an anti-inflammatory drug is useless. Which leaves Paracetamol, Aspirin and the all-too-addictive opiates.
Personally, the only thing I've found Paracetamol any use for is flu / bad colds (and I do wonder whether palliative interference with the natural self-curing of these ailments is wise) I used to find Aspirin much more effective, except it's contra-indicated for gout sufferers like me. Aspirin has a direct effect at the neurological level, as well as being an anti-inflammatory drug.
Another reason to avoid NSAIDs for back pain is that it's likely to be chronic, and long-term use of anti-inflammatories is rather bad for you. They appear to block your body's natural repair mechanisms, and if you take them long-term your risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack slowly rises. In some people they also cause stomach bleeding, which long-term can lead to ulcers or anaemia.
Re: "generally inappropriate use of matrix signs"
I'd add "generally inappropriate use of variable speed limits".
for example, the M1 in the morning, approaching Luton airport from the South, there is often a queue on the slip-road and occasionally back onto the carriageway. So what do they do.
Five miles ahead they slow you down to 60. Four miles ahead, to 50. Three miles ahead, to 40. About a mile ahead, you can see that there is actually no queue.
Wouldn't road markings telling people who aren't exiting to stay in the right-hand three lanes be a better idea? (Going the other way approaching the M25, that's exactly what they have done: marked the inside lane as an exit lane for about two miles prior to the exit).
Re: My debut single
Now I know what the retard driving in the 4th (outside) lane of the M1 at 60mph was listening to.
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE (surely make you lose your mind)
a melted PINGO
that'll be a pingone, then.
Re: Search... find.
A water world is another interesting possibility. Liquid H2O in far greater abundance than Earth, 200km or so deep i.e. down to the point where the pressure causes it to crystallize into a denser-than-liquid high-pressure phase of ice. Earth's ~2km of water would be stripped by the solar wind in about 100My without our geomagnetic field. A water world might well last until its sun boiled it, even if losing water to space at 2km per 100My.
Radiation may be a problem only for life that evolved on this planet with good radiation protection in place. Protection against a non-existent threat doesn't evolve. Even here, blue-green algae will thrive in the cooling jacket of a laser discharge tube (intense UV) and live off the Cherenkov glow inside a nuclear reactor (huge neutron flux and lots of other nasties). It's probable that they are descended directly from the first life on the panet, which evolved before we had an oxygen atmosphere or an ozone layer, and so needed good radiation tolerance.
One datum allows no conclusions to be drawn about the population it is taken from. Maybe we are alone. Maybe as many as one in twenty stars carries life on one of its planets. The evidence so far can rule out neither, nor anything between.
Oh, and what do we know of the possibilities for life in the various phases of degenerate nuclear matter on the surface of a neutron star with a strong magnetic field? NOTHING!. Apart from the obvious facts that we'd never get to shake hands or share biospheres, and that given the relative speed of nuclear chemistry compared to the everyday sort, one of our months might be long enough for the complete rise and fall of a civilisation.
We will never find a "new Earth" -- there will be too many chemicals, bacteria, viruses that will be deadly for humans.
Stated on what basis? We have zero observations to choose between these possibilities:
1. Life in general is poorly able to attack alien life. Our defences will overwhelm their bacterial attackers and vice versa. The Space-opera writer's choice.
2. The reverse: their bacteria would rapidly reduce our higher life to smelly slime and vice versa, followed by a long battle between two different clades of single-celled life for supremacy or symbiosis.
3. A one-way knock-out victory: our bacteria overwhelm their biosystem in short order, or their bacteria overwhelm ours. There can be only one ....
4. Panspermia: all life in our galaxy has a common origin, so it's only invaders from Andromeda we have to fear.
5. There's only one way to do life with the physics and chemistry of this universe that's not a thermodynamic impossibility, so convergent evolution means it'll look like panspermia even though it isn't.
All of which is ignoring the extreme unlikelyhood of mankind ever reaching another star. We are too fragile and too short-lived to endure interstellar travel at a realistic (small) fraction of the speed of light.
Our Von Neumann machines have a better chance, but the last place in the universe that Silicon-based A-life would want to conquer would be planets with moist oxidizing atmospheres. Alien A-life might even be established in our Solar system, and if they don't use radio to communicate (or if they use VERY efficient coding indistinguishable from noise) we might not have noticed it!
Re: Intel is getting a huge lift from mobile...
Yes, Intel will eventually have to follow plan B. Use their world-leading process technology to fab the world's best-performing ARM chips for whoever pays them to do so. They won't make so much money this way, since royalties will flow to ARM, but a profit is a profit.
IMO ARM trying to breakl into the server room is much like Intel trying to break into mobile space. For various reasons, I expect Intel to keep its hold on servers for a long time to come.
Re: XP replacements
Now that XP is EOLed, a good portion of new PC sales are for replacement of old XP kit.
Very much my thought too. The trend for all computer vendors will be down, as the replacement cycle stretches from three years up to five, even eight years. Hardware doesn't wear out fast. Today's hardware is fast enough for most uses that people find for PCs, with huge amounts left in reserve for future software bloat.
Everyone who wants a Mac has got a Mac. Same for PC. Probably same for tablets soon if not already. There's a bulge in the PC replacement market caused by the EOL of XP and consequential replacement of many PCs 5+ years old that can't run more modern Windows well. It's distorting the figures.
In short, computer hardware is now a mature market.
BTW If you run Linux desktops in your business / school / home, you can acquire adequate hardware for free right now (i.e. ex-XP systems). You might even get paid a few quid to take it away.
Re: Engineering 101
Sapphire is impure ... if it didn't have trace impurities it would be transparent and colourless, not blue. Yes, I know that the initial topic was sapphire glass not sapphire (a gemstone)....
Brittle materials are ... brittle. You can break even a diamond into pieces using a hard steel chisel and a small hammer. How do you think they divide a large natural diamond of irregular shape into pieces that can be ground into jewels? (And how do you think the expert gem-cutter feels, when after much planning the multimillion-dollar uncut diamond cleaves in a different way to the plan? )
As for phones ... when a mobile meets a flint-gravel drive, the phone will lose. Sods law says display down, onto a sharp flint point, every time, guaranteed. Heck, it even works for buttered toast onto carpet.
Now when you drop it onto a gravel drive, it'll be a write-off whether it lands display side up or display side down or even sideways.
Power buttons are easy to find, they are on the front panel of the PC
yes, under the desk, behind someone's handbag.
Or two PCs stacked on top of a filing cabinet. You press a button and realize 0.1 seconds too late you've just shut down someone else's PC.
Or four PCs connected to a KVM switch. Tip: coloured cable ties are very useful. Cable ID you can see from any direction.
Re: I liked the Windows 2000 interface... @CAPS LOCK
The trouble is that Microsoft has a direct or indirect almost-monopoly on certain widely used small enterprise application classes. There's no good equivalent of Autocad on Linux. Nor is there any equivalent of Sage Accounting. You can probably think of others. It's a scandal that MS is allowed to maintain such monopoly power, but until our legislators catch up there will continue to be applications where using Windows is essential (even if that's Windows in a VM on your Linux desktop).
Re: Time for some truly revolutionary GUIs?
Pretend that the hard problem has been solved, and a computer contains a weak AI that is capable of disambiguating natural language, that can filter your voice from others in the background, and work out the difference between input and meta-input (commands), and handle all the contextual mappings that are an instinctive part on natural language. (Personally I think that's fifty years to infinity away). But anyway,...
There's a subtle but significant difference between spoken / informal written communication (texts, memo pads), and formal written documents. There's also a not-so-subtle difference in how they are created. The former are linear, rarely revised, read once and thrown away, subject to question-and-answer clarification if unclear (conversation). Formal documents are usually not created in a linear fashion. They used to be written as drafts, with crossings out, arrows and boxes showing text relocations or insertions, etc. Then typed. With a computer one types and reads it back, and can do the editing as one goes. It's probably an improvement. But the key thing is, "how do I know what I think until I've read what I've written"? (A quote, possibly mangled). Speech has no part in this process - it would completely get in the way. Unless it's a play. In which case, the editing process likely involves listening to (and possibly watching) a rough and ready performance, and deciding what worked and what didn't.
BTW the reason why e-mail causes so many office embarassments, arguments, grudges and bust-ups is that it straddles the line between these two forms of communication, and what was intended as a conversation get interpreted as a formal document or vice versa. A genuinely useful AI would be capable of doing the same as a PA or a PR person - "do you really want to say that, because ..." Like I said, it'll be a long time coming.
What we need is "upwards-compatible". Windows 8 has a kernel that's probably an improvement on Windows 7, but only techies ever notice it. It could have had much the same UI as Windows 7 as "legacy mode" and that ghastly not-Metro interface as "new mode" with a choice between the two made every time one logs in (one click). But oh no - they had to tear up everything that went before, and force everyone to start over. F*** them.
It's not just a user issue either. Talk to someone who writes programs with Windows GUIs about it. If Microsoft cared about its customers, anything that prevented an old MS windows GUI program displaying on a new Windows platform would be called a BUG, and fixed asap.
In the Linux world, things work differently. The Gnome team actually did the same as Microsoft - foisted a radical new UI on their "customers" that they didn't like or want. But it's open source, so someone forked the old source and gave it a new name (Mate) and someone else took the newer version and re-skinned it to be less unlike the old version (Cinnamon - which is now also a complete fork). And there were several longstanding alternative UIs out there in the first place - no monopoly on our desktops, thank you!
Re: Big deal
It's the self-repair stuff that does the trick.
Sadly that's not likely to be as good for the next 50 years as it was for the previous 50! (Unless you're a tree or a koi carp).
Re: Are we there yet?
Do we know where "there" is?
The Voyagers will evaporate, eventually. Probably long before they again come within 1AU of another star, and long after the human race is run.
It needs to keep its antenna pointed at Earth. Interstellar space is not a perfect vacuum, and there's doubtless a torque created by passing through that medium at high relative speed.
My Philips TV.
True, it's merely sitting in my lounge. On the other hand it's sitting in a moist oxidizing atmosphere being shaken up and down by vehicles speeding over the speed-bump outside, rather than coasting in a vacuum - hardly an improvement. It's particularly impressive given that old vacuum display tube technology involves twenty-five kilovolts of EHT. Were that ever to spark somewhere it shouldn't, that would be curtains.
I keep telling myself not to be sentimental, but it's no good ... throwing away something that well engineered would be criminal.
Re: It comes down to power supply efficiency
It is pretty much impossible to design a switch mode power supply that is efficient at both low and high powers.
Not being an electronics engineer I won't say "bollocks"
But surely it's not beyond the wit of man to design a power supply that is integrated with a small rechargeable battery pack. The power supply would turn off leaving the standby electronics running off the battery. They'd be capable of commanding the power supply back on to recharge the battery as fast as possible when it was close to empty, and then off again. In normal operation that wouldn't happen, because the device would get used before the battery was close to empty.
You'd need a real switch to get it full-on if the battery had gone flat because of a long peropd without a mains connection. It might work better with an ultracapacitor instead of a battery (but NiMH cells are very reliable and could be user-replaceable).
Methinks it's a cost issue not a technological issue, and it needs legislation to outlaw devices with inefficient standby. Otherwose there's always an incentive to save pennies (straight to the bottom line!) by shipping inefficient devices.
Re: Definition of alien life
after 3.6 billion years very little has managed to adapt itself to live in very salty water
Alternative explanation: very salty water on earth is a short-lived and unstable ecological niche. It normally arises when salt in a body of water is concentrated by evaporation because it's cut off from the planet's oceans. Over geological time it will prove short-lived. Its limited water input will fail and it will dry into a salt pan and then become a stratum of rock salt. Or a narrow channel will open wider and dilute the very salty water down much closer to the norm of Earth's oceans.
Life has certainly adapted as the oceans gradually became saltier without huge short-term fluctuation. Most of the salt ever released from rock by weathering, resides in today's oceans. When life was new, they were almost freshwater.
Another alternative explanation. Once life works out how to do something fairly well, that mechanism tends to persist. It's rare for a second way to do the same thing to evolve. For example, the DNA/RNA codes are much the same in the wierdest and oldest archaea and in all plants and animals. Maybe because life here evolved in (almost) fresh water, it is not well suited to very saline water and struggles to adapt sufficiently.
On Titan, where all the "ocean" is all highly saline, evolution may have taken different paths of which we know nothing.
Re: One query
I mean, how can the market share of XP be increasing unless people are doing new XP installs?
How? If Microsoft's market share is decreasing, and an increasing percentage of Microsoft's home users are those who have an old system running XP and don't intend ever to change it. (Businesses ought to have migrated to Windows 7, or even 8, before XP EOL'ed, though we know that there are a fair number that haven't finished their migration yet.)
Which feels right. An ever increasing percentage of the students at the uni where I work arrive with Macbooks rather than notebook PCs. Then there are the many domestic users who don't work with a computer but just consume media and web-browse. They'll be scrapping their Microsoft PC without replacing it, buying tablet devices (Apple or Android) instead. They bought PCs in the past only because there was no alternative.
It just confirms what someone working in electronics-store retail will tell you, that there are lots of customers saying "I want a new computer, but I absolutely don't want Windows 8". If the shop is clued up it can offer them Windows 7. If it's not, I suspect that they buy an iMac, or in a few cases get steered to Linux by a clueful relative. (Are the figures for desktop iMac vs PC available, or do iPads and iPhones muddy the waters? )
Well, if you have to preserve an XP environment to preserve various people's sanity ...
Get a modern desktop system, preferably with an SSD. Install Centos (or other Linux of choice). Install XP and all apps into a KVM VM (using a Linux LV as the XP system's "hard disk").
Advantages: you can make backups of the VM with all apps installed, so recovery after it borks itself is straightforward. (Using LVM snapshot you can do this remotely or automatically, while the XP VM is running). You can use a "network" share for the user's data, and set Linux to work safeguarding the data in it. You can configure firewalling for the poor old XP using Linux. You can be sure it'll never stop working for lack of compatible hardware. Lots of other smaller advantages.
It'll still be much faster than XP native on the old box.
BTW VMware player is slicker and easier and free as in beer but not libre ... and probably not high on VMware's list of things to maintain support for. Which is why I'd recommend KVM, if you would rather put in more effort now than risk handling a problem years down the line when your elderly relative is even less able to adapt to using anything other than XP.
Edit - on second thoughts, probably not an SSD. Lots of RAM so Linux can cache loads without starving the XP VM, and software-mirrored hard disks, so your elderly relative isn't one disk device failure away from losing his sanity. (With smartd sending you regular reports, so you can turn up with a replacement disk drive when it's needed or soon will be).
Re: Bane of my life
I swear western civilisation would crumble to dust if anything ever happened to all the Excel spreadsheets that appear to run most businesses...
But it already has! (for pretty much all possible values of "Anything" )
There's a theory that if anybody ever manages to understand the universe, it will abruptly end and be replaced by something less understandable. There is another theory that this has already happened. many times. My personal theory is that this explains hangovers.
Marginal utility? Software breakthrough needed?
The price of the hardware components has continued to fall, so why has nobody decided to build a bigger one, and why a lack of enthusiasm for upgrades?
I'd guess that the problem is that we're close to the limits of what can be done in parallel with the types of hardware we have got. Single node speed has hit the physics limits, large multiple node counts run into interconnect bandwidth limits. Energy consumed scales with the number of nodes, useful work output does not. The %marginal value of an x% upgrade diminishes as the size of the supercomputer increases. What's needed is either a hardware breakthrough on the interconnect front (much more bandwidth), or a software breakthrough that can automatically generate more efficient parallel codes than a human programmer can (if that's possible).
Nature's answer to the problem of using vast numbers of low-power processors (a brain) is interconnection much closer to a fractal dimension of three than anything we can do today.
Re: mIRCat It's for your own good.
So you would prefer paedos don't get caught
If that is the price of maintaining one's right to privacy, of not living in a goldfish bowl where the powerful can find out everything about the rest of us without us knowing until they use what they know against us ... then YES.
In practice once they know that an illegal image has been downloaded, that'll be all the justification they need for a warrant to find out who downloaded it. So what you are arguing, is that they should have warrantless acess to a massive database of everything that everyone has ever browsed, so (official reason) they can go trawling for criminals. Do you really believe that is all they will ever go looking for?
Oh yes, the security services already have this access. (Snowdon disclosures). Today, they have to keep that access secret and can't use it except within a fairly narrow "state security" remit. They're well down the slippery slope, though. I fear that Orwell's 1984 is coming true, just 30-40 years later than he thought. (To say nothing of the Vingean nightmare of a society pushed over the edge of chaos by omnipresent surveillance, crashing back to the dark ages if not the stone age).
What's wrong with plug-in hybrids?
In a city-communter environment, is anyone really going to run them off the petrol bit unless the worst has happened and the daily charge has run out?
So give them the same urban-area advantages as pure electrical cars. After all, if someone with a pure-electric car needs to make a long journety, he's going to use his other car, or hire a conventional car, so the CO2 emission will also be the same or worse. (Worse, if two cars have to be manufactured instead on one).
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