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* Posts by John Savard

1289 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

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MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less

John Savard
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Never mind weight and food

If we were going to send a small number of astronauts to Mars on a multi-year journey, there's an obvious anecdotal reason women would do better.

A mixed crew could be torn apart by sexual jealousies.

An all-male crew would be aggressive and irritable from doing without sex for so long.

An all-female crew, on the other hand, would be glad to have a rest and get away from men annoying them all the time!

But historically, women have stayed home minding the babies while men got to do the things that got glorified and remembered. Despite the great strides women have made towards equality of late, it's unclear that Mars will be allowed to contribute to balancing this past injustice. After all, the whole point of sending humans to Mars is to out-macho the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans,

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Apple grapple: Congress kills FBI's Cupertino crypto kybosh plan

John Savard
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Odd

Very few voters would have wanted the DMCA, but Congress had no problem putting that into law. So I don't think it would take very much for Congress to give the FBI whatever it wants, even post-Snowden. But it would be even more effective if they could do it without letting the public know that they're doing it.

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Hey Apple, we're gonna tailor Swift as open source – indie devs throw down gauntlet

John Savard
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Lacking Confidence

Since the Swift language has some good features, a multiplatform open-source version would be a nice thing.

However, Apple quite rightly lacks confidence in its ability to compete with Microsoft (and/or Google, in the case of the Android platform) without its own proprietary world. Vendor lock-in is needed because while the Macintosh and the iPhone are perceived as superior products, Apple is not able - no one would be able - to consistently maintain the level of superiority needed to justify the kind of premium prices they want to charge, to be the kind of company they want to be.

The problem with Apple is not that it lacks confidence, but it has too much confidence. If it had no confidence at all, it would make clone Wintel PCs and clone Android phones. If it had a more reasonable degree of confidence, it might make products that contribute something useful, but which are relevant to everyone, not just a few for whom money is not a consideration.

But at least Apple has managed to survive all these years. The Amiga and the Atari ST did not survive, and Nokia and Blackberry didn't do so well either. So while I'm disappointed in Apple for being irrelevant to most people, maybe charging high premium prices is the only way to survive in competition with the mass-market giants - to be able to be more innovative than they are on a base of much smaller sales.

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IBM: Please, take our chip unit. We'll give you $1.5 billion

John Savard
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Puzzling

To a layperson, this certainly sounds puzzling. After all, the chip-making unit has nonzero asset value.

But IBM is getting something for its $1.5 billion. Global Foundries is promising not to cut it up and sell it for scrap, but instead to continue running it despite it losing money, and even make chips for IBM with it.

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Scientists skeptical of Lockheed Martin's truck-sized FUSION reactor breakthrough boast

John Savard
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Nice to have details

Saw the image on the Aviation Week page during a search about alternatives to the Tokamak geometry.

Among other things turned up in a previous search was a suggestion that since curving the linear path into a circle causes instabilities, why not just have a really long straight-line plasma, so that the leakage from the ends is small? And to reduce the length from 2 km to 600 metres, they suggested putting lithium deuteride plugs at the end, so using a blanket is an idea that's been around for other forms of fusion reactor.

And I see that the Stellarator is another alternative idea that still has life; today's more powerful computers make it possible to design them, it is said.

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It's not always about you: Why the Apple Watch is all about China

John Savard
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Re: Please explain

One way that stroke order does matter is in cursive styles of Chinese handwriting. If the strokes were made in a different order, because they're connected in those styles, the character would look completely different. Yes, the Chinese can read printed characters in which stroke order is not indicated, but they're very legible and well-formed.

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Lies, damn pies and obesity statistics: We're NOT a nation of fatties

John Savard
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Wrong Graph

I'm sorry, but the graph in the article simply does not do anything to refute the claim of a recent obesity crisis. The question at issue is whether we are much fatter now than we were in 1960 and 1970, not whether things have gotten worse since 2000, when this crisis was already in full swing.

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US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: US is losing science race

John Savard
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I Wish It Were True

If Russia or China were spending billions on pure science, so that America risked these nations pulling ahead of it, that would strongly motivate Americans to do something about it.

As it is, though, while it is true that America is not doing what it should in this area, it's not a race that anyone else is running either; all humanity will be the loser, as advances in science to help us feed and house an ever-growing population will not be forthcoming.

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Intel 'underestimates error bounds by 1.3 QUINTILLION'

John Savard
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How Can This Be?

With a function like the sine, a conventional implementation which is very accurate for values between plus and minus pi/2 (plus and minus 90 degrees) can still go wrong if you try to take the sine of a very big number.

While the sine of a big number still has a mathematically exact value, usually errors in that case don't matter, because floating-point numbers have limited precision, and usually their accuracy is not greater than their precision. So if you try to take the sine of 3.52 times 10 to the 52nd power, the entire range of the sine function can be produced by just changing stuff beyond the least significant bit.

Using a copy of pi to an enormous precision allows such cases to be taken care of accurately, but that's a waste of time for the normal purposes to which trig functions are put.

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Hey, non-US websites – FBI don't have to show you any stinkin' warrant

John Savard
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Turnabout

Now, if the directions were reversed, and somebody in a foreign country hacked computers in the United States, he could be extradited to the United States. The FBI, after all, is not the NSA, it is not a military espionage outfit, and so its agents are still private citizens who are not above the law - if they hack into computers in a country that isn't at war with the U.S., or at least close enough to an enemy country, not extraditing them could lead to problems in diplomatic relations with the ally involved.

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Doctor Who becomes an illogical, unscientific, silly soap opera in Kill The Moon

John Savard
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Not for those reasons

Ah, and if humanity decides that saving the lives of their own innocent children is more important than not killing an innocent bird hatchling, then they don't deserve to take the training wheels off their bicycle! To me, that's the flaw in the episode, as this particular moral conundrum is unlikely for anyone to take seriously.

That the Moon's mass would change because of whether a creature is alive or dead - well, the Incredible Hulk has more mass than Bruce Banner, so this is a typical comic-book level scientific solecism. For the Doctor to leave the moral decision up to an individual representative of humanity - well, if he let the U.N. or the politicians decide it, the result would have been predictable, and where's the dramatic tension in that?

So it sounds to me like it's rubbish, all right, but not for the reasons, and not as bad rubbish, as the reviewer makes out.

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EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else

John Savard
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Re: So why's the EU got it in for Google?

There was an incident where one maker of Android phones ran into trouble when it acquired a maker of non-app store Android phones. However, in that case, Google's action was not seen as heavy-handed, because the OEM app store for those phones happened to deal in pirated Android apps. So you also can't simultaneously sell both Google Android and forked Android.

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John Savard
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Double-Bind

Obviously companies that sell phones in markets other than Europe would suffer worldwide consequences if they violated their contracts with Google. It should be Google, not the phone makers, they go after to compel revelation of the agreements involved.

Also, so that force majeure can be used as an excuse, not fines, but actual prison time has to be threatened. I can understand the goal of fostering competition, but they're not doing it right - the likely result would instead be that no one would be able to buy an Android phone in Europe that can access the Google app store - they'd have to make do with the cheap Chinese kit.

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Oracle will 'kill MySQL' and steal its users? Ha ha, haha, ha. Seriously, we won't – Oracle exec

John Savard
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They're Smart Enough

to know that if they killed MySQL, most of its users would just go over to Postgres. Or to a fork of MySQL, which, after all, is (or was in earlier versions) GPL licensed (or something similar; I vaguely recall the Apache license as a possibility) open source.

Instead, though, that they might direct the development of MySQL in such a way as to have it entice users to consider migrating to Oracle, is to be expected.

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Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really

John Savard
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Now They've Caught Up...

with OS X, of course.

Given the Mac's pathetic market share - however successful the iPhone and iPod may be - for Microsoft to still be suffering from Mac envy at this late date is a little ridiculous.

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Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week

John Savard
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Well

While they could just give up and call it Microsoft OS/86 9.0, but that's extremely unlikely.

Since the name Android is taken, if the interface formerly known as Metro is emphasized, there's always Zombie. But in reality, of course, they'll try and call it something positive.

And it's true that "Windows" is getting old. Now that you can even get a decent GUI for free with Linux, and any GUI has applications running in their little windows, a name is needed to emphasize the unique beneficial features one gets from Microsoft.

And what could those be?

Well, the fact that a lot of third-party software is written for it. So they could call it "Standard".

Or maybe they could license the brand name "Akzidenz Grotesk"?

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Hollywood's made an INTELLIGENT science vs religion film?!

John Savard
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One Mistake

A creature that has the gene for an eye, but no eye? Where would that gene have come from?

Yes, one would have to find a creature that didn't have eyes, and find a gene in that creature that was changed to produce the first precursor to the eye. In real life, I think that work has already been done.

While natural selection does explain how an organism's interaction with nature provides the input of information needed to create complexity, it wouldn't have been discovered if people didn't realize that complex structure was something that needed explaining in the first place - so Paley's watchmaker argument, although refuted, wasn't as stupid as all that.

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Troll hunter Rackspace turns Rotatable's bizarro patent to stone

John Savard
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A Pity

Actually, using an invalid patent to obtain payment should be treated as fraud - but in order to get settlements to be repaid, quite properly, a higher bar of proof is required - it would have to be proven that the company knew the patent was invalid. Otherwise, they could claim to have acted in good faith.

The patent office should never grant an invalid patent in the first place; checking for prior art and obviousness is their job.

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Read The Gods of War for every tired cliche you never wanted to see in a sci fi book

John Savard
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More Wheels

Vehicles on Mars have extra wheels - sort of like beasts of burden on Mars having more legs. And "The Gods of Mars" was Burroughs' second Martian novel. But somehow I think it would be a stretch to see anything in common between this and Barsoom, except for being light-weight action-adventure.

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Would Apple godhead Steve Jobs have HATED the Watch?

John Savard
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Innovation

Well, Apple did innovate with this new watch. One can control it by turning the stem; it's shocking no other digital watch maker thought of it. However, a stem is awkward to grip; a digital watch ought instead to have a knob with the edge sticking out like a transistor radio instead - that wasn't practical for mechanical watches. Or has Apple's patent covered that?

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BBC Trust candidate defends licence fee, says evaders are CRIMINALS

John Savard
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Evil

The telly tax in Britain is a flat tax, and means that poor people can't afford to have a TV set, which, in countries without such a tax, is often their only means of entertainment. Plus, lately, the tax has been applied to computer equipment because it can be used to watch streaming video, which cripples the adoption of technology, and forces companies to intrusively monitor employees.

There should never have been a telly tax, just as the government should never have gotten in the business of collecting tithes for the Church of England.

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Intel's DDR4-friendly Xeon workhorses bolt for workstations, servers

John Savard
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Baker's Dozen

Eighteen cores. I like that; this means that units with 16 cores might be available (relatively) inexpensively. Although at present, the mass market apparently will have to be satisfied with a measly six cores, with eight cores only available to enthusiasts with deep pockets.

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Hawking: Higgs boson in a BIG particle punisher could DESTROY UNIVERSE

John Savard
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Optimism and Pessimism

A particle accelerator larger than the Earth is unlikely to be funded even in a positive economic climate, at least until technology advances. However, can you prove that some alien race hasn't already made this mistake? Something like "solanite" from Plan 9 from Outer Space.

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Limits to Growth is a pile of steaming doggy-doo based on total cobblers

John Savard
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Re: Watch the Funny Man!

We're not all going to die at once, together with our descendants. That's what was meant.

It certainly is true that just because the Club of Rome made a right bosh of it that we're entitled to assume we have nothing to worry about simply because it's too hard to figure out how much in the way of mineral resources we really do have.

It is true that making use of mineral resources isn't as easy as it once was; this is why people are looking for minerals in places like Africa instead of just getting them from easy places closer to home. And there is a problem with some forms of energy; we're having problems figuring out how to make cars work just as well as they did with gasoline by using electricity instead. And even using thorium breeder reactors for electricity, we might eventually run out sooner than we would if we had fusion power, which we don't.

So it's not true we have no problem at all, although the problem is vastly smaller than the Club of Rome seemed to think. As far as running out of stuff is concerned.

But what about growing food? Increasing land area through artificially-lighted multi-storey greenhouses will be much more expensive than just using arable land that is just sitting there. At seven billion people in the world, and assuming we want them all to have a decent diet (i.e. the same as enjoyed in North America or western Europe), we've already crashed into a limit.

The problem of feeding the entire existing human population is not as trivially solvable as the problem of ensuring that the goldfish in one aquarium are fed; the resources available to humanity are not essentially infinite, vastly in excess of any reasonable needs. We should already be thinking of that as a problem, and be working on the technologies needed to fix it.

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The Schmidt hits the clan: Google chief mauls publishers' 'abuse of dominance' claims

John Savard
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Gateway to the Internet

The "Gateway to the Internet" is exactly what Google is for many people - simply because it has done its job as a search engine so well.

I remember the days when I used the book "The Internet Yellow Pages" and AltaVista to find things. I still keep a lot of bookmarks in my browser so I don't have to Google whenever I go on the Internet. But Google is indeed how I usually find anything new, using other search engines only a tiny fraction of the time.

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Jony Ive: Apple iWatch will SCREW UP Switzerland's economy

John Savard
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COSC Quartz Chronometers

Well, from Googling some things I saw in this thread, I've learned that COSC has a more stringent requirement for quartz crystal watches that it certifies as chronometers - and a French company, Girard-Perregaux, makes most of the watches sold in that category.

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John Savard
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One moment...

Rolex just might be in danger anyways. Rolex is not in danger from Timex because, in addition to showing you are wealthy, Rolex watches also tell the time.

But that's all they do. Whereas a smartwatch does other things in addition to telling the time.

At the moment, a smartwatch is a new product category; it's not something everyone feels they need to have, so it doesn't do things that are essential. But that might change.

At that point - when there are smartwatches out there for $29.95 instead of $299 and up - Rolex might have to make a $10,000 smartwatch instead of a $10,000 watch watch just to stay in the game at all; people don't buy luxury goods to look as though they have more money than sense.

So, yes, Rolex isn't in immediate danger (and the "neptune", which isn't tethered to a smartphone, might be more of a menace than Apple's iWatch) but it does have to look over its shoulder and make plans of some sort.

Eventually, a watch with GPS built in and a rubidium oscillator as well to keep its workhorse quartz crystal calibrated, plus full smartphone capabilities (hey, how about being able to sign up for Iridium with it) might be what some of the wealthy will spring for...

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Work in the tech industry? The Ukraine WAR is coming to YOU

John Savard
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Re: Sanctions

Cuba and North Korea are hardly examples of countries with strong economies. The sanctions against them have limited their military capabilities - although, in the case of North Korea, not enough to stop them from being a threat to South Korea.

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John Savard
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Re: Morals, ethics, principles...

I expect that you would put your own interests above those of other people. Which is quite legitimate when you are working hard and minding your own business. But that's not the same thing as having a license to bully other people or steal from them. Georgia and the Ukraine are sovereign states, and for Russia in any way shape or form whatever to use force to intimidate them from seeking, if they so choose, closer links to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the European Community is an act of aggression, analogous to the sort of behavior which would be criminally prosecuted if engaged in by a private individual in a civilized society.

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John Savard
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Re: Morals, ethics, principles...

Ossetia was part of Georgia. Georgia had adopted a hands-off policy towards that area, but a Georgian policeman was murdered by shots fired from there, which made it necessary for Georgian forces to investigate.

But this turned out to have been a staged provocation which Russia used as a pretext to annex that territory, with claims (that Russia itself admitted afterwards were false) of thousands of ethnic Russians being massacred by Georgians.

Unlike some people, when I read the news, I pay attention, and remember what I had read.

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John Savard
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Re: Morals, ethics, principles...

IBM disconnected itself from its German operations well before Pearl Harbor; the only thing it didn't do, because it couldn't, was physically haul its facilities out of the country. Since it couldn't get away with destroying them either, at least it didn't give them to Germany for free by abandoning them.

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John Savard
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Re: Country / company

If there was justice, Putin, whose choice to needlessly wage wars of aggression without any justification against Georgia and the Ukraine has resulted in one or more deaths in each of these countries would meet the same fate as Hideiki Tojo.

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Intel goes high-fashion with wearable supermodel

John Savard
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Oh, Dear

Couldn't they have gotten the obsidian from the conflict-free western Ukraine?

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VIA looks to be counting down to launch of Atom competitor

John Savard
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And then there were four

And doesn't IBM or Cyrix still hold a license too?

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The IT kit revolution's OVER, say beancounters - but how do they know?

John Savard
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What do beancounters know?

Well, while they may not be technology experts, they can still know the same things that everyone else knows. And it is a fact that over the last several years, computers haven't been improving as fast as they used to, which is why we have quad-core chips but not 10 GHz chips in our desktop computers.

Although it looks like that's set to go to six-core and eight-core chips thanks to Intel's latest generation.

And the excitement and sales have been in mobile devices, not desktop PCs; that, too, has received lots of publicity.

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Don't buy that phone! It ATTRACTS CRIMINALS, UK.gov will tell people

John Savard
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Facepalm

Groan

"They might use sophisticated devices to "grab" the security coding when the owner uses their key so they can use it themselves."

What, electronic car keys don't use a secure challenge-response protocol?

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iCloud fiasco: 100 FAMOUS WOMEN exposed NUDE online

John Savard
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Hostage crisis?

They've released pictures of 17 celebrities, but claim to have them of 100 celebrities. Are they going to release more pictures unless Hollywood stops... doing something? Or unless the government frees imprisoned hackers? Like ISIS is threatening to kill journalists one by one?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this. It could just be a bandwidth issue.

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HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat

John Savard
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GPS

How devilishly clever of the North Koreans to demonstrate their ability to jam GPS signals - or to test their ability to jam GPS signals - on South Korean ships during a military exercise. Not.

Now the U.S. knows they have this ability, and will be working on countermeasures, which will no doubt be ready in time for when such an ability might have proved actually useful.

Of course, possibly North Korea had an immediate tactical goal, such as trying to get one of those South Korean vessels to sail into their waters as a "provocation", or to be captured. Otherwise, it's the sort of shallow posturing that North Korea seems to have made its trademark.

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Facebook, Google and Instagram 'worse than drugs' says Miley Cyrus

John Savard
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Wow!

"The paper hypothesises that the many opinions found online can expose people to ideas that challenge their world view, make them feel less exceptional and, when opinions are strident or include hateful content, offend them."

Of course, this wording makes me suspect that El Reg is already making fun of the Italian group, since this sounds like (they're failing to realize that) what is really dangerous is living an overly sheltered life.

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Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?

John Savard
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The Missing Piece

Obviously what is proposed is only part of the solution.

Since letting people build desirable housing close to London cheaply will decrease the value of existing properties in the area, obviously the government will have to compensate those people who, in the past, paid inflated prices for their houses due to the artificial restrictions now being repealed.

That way, a government can solve the housing crisis without "losing the Home Counties for decades".

Of course, they will lose the votes of whoever the money to do this would have to come from.

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Feds salute plucky human ROBOT-FIGHTERS

John Savard
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Fond Memories

The title of this article brought back fond memories of the favorite comic book of my youth, Magnus: Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. - this was an American comic book, thus available in Canada. I don't know if the original Russ Manning art series was licensed by one of the British comic magazines, although I do know it also appeared in a German translation.

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Harvard boffins 'reverse-engineer' Chinese censorship

John Savard
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Independent Action

This is not surprising. In China, the Roman Catholic Church is not allowed to operate, but a state-controlled imitation of the Catholic Church is offered to religious believers. This is why they persecute Falun Gong, because it was not under state control.

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Experimental hypersonic SUPERMISSILE destroyed 4 SECONDS after US launched it

John Savard
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Re: Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site?

Well, Ronald Reagan brought about the collapse of the evil Soviet Union. Unfortunately, subsequent Presidents didn't work out a deal with Boris Yeltsin where the U.S. would inject cash into Russia to undo the collapse of its economy... in return for Russia giving up all its nuclear weapons,.

Then Vladimir Putin could have been dealt with in the same manner as Saddam Hussein - by regime change, and Georgia and the Ukraine would have been safe from aggression.

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John Savard
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Re: even a tomahawk can be loaded with a nuke.

About the only nuke one could put on a real tomahawk would be one using Americum - you can make a bullet-sized A-bomb with that. Of course, there's a cruise missile called a Tomahawk, and that certainly could have a nuclear payload.

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John Savard
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Re: Why?

Actually, they're mad at us because we keep Israel in existence. Which is a violation of God's eternal plan, under which the Jews should be under Muslim rule, so that, like Coptic Christians in Egypt, their daughters could be raped by members of the Muslim community without recourse at will. It is a violation of the Pact of Umar, the condition under which their lives were spared, to attempt to use this as an excuse for rebelling against Muslim rule.

Take a look at Boko Haram and the Christian girls it kidnapped in Nigeria, or Islamic State and the Yezidis.

So the U.S. is not, and never has been, the aggressor in this situation. Not even the Crusades were pure aggression, because Islamic forces attacked Europe decades before the First Crusade. (However, the Crusades were an unwarranted attack launched after peace had been achieved.)

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Hack skirmish grounded Sony exec's flight after FAKE bomb scare

John Savard
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Unbelievable

If these juvenile computer vandals don't realize how seriously this sort of thing is taken after 9/11 in the U.S., it is very doubtful that their l33t haX0r ski11Z are going to keep them from finding out soon enough. Particularly if they're foolish enough to try pulling even more stunts instead of calling it a day and covering their tracks for good.

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Intelligence blunder: You wanna be Australia's spyboss? No problem, just walk right in

John Savard
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If the Director General

If the Director General had been terminated for cause, all those people who just waved him in without checking against the computer... would presumably have been told by someone that the former Director General had been terminated with prejudice (if not the extreme kind) and was to be regarded as someone not to be let in!

Since no big alert went out that the Director General was no longer the Director General, what were they to think? Manual systems quite properly take precedence over computerized ones - otherwise, some hacker could make anyone he liked Director General of ASIS for at least a day.

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Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79

John Savard
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Without the IBM PC

Some 68000-based machine, perhaps an imitation Macintosh like the Atari ST or the Commodore Amiga, would have ended up the standard. Or an earlier command-line based machine, maybe even a CP/M derivative, would have done that.

The IBM PC had one thing going for it besides the IBM name; it made going to 16 bits inexpensive and safe. Somebody else would have done that, and the market would have coalesced in another direction. Maybe Motorola today would be where Intel is now, but micros would have eclipsed mainframes without the IBM PC, as the technology was growing at a great pace in any case.

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China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft

John Savard
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Re: Laugh if you want

Well, it does seem to have happened at the National Research Council in Canada. I haven't heard about suspected Chinese government hacking at the CIA or the NSA, although I have seen news items about it at lots of other places.

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John Savard
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Re: Doom to failure

That actually would be a brilliant idea. But I doubt that it will happen.

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