* Posts by John Savard

1322 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

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American bacon cured with AR-15 assault rifle

John Savard
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Re: American Bacon

I know I once tried what is called "back bacon", but that just tastes like ordinary pork or ham - perhaps less attractive than either of those. Whereas bacon made from thin slices of pork bellies has a wonderfully appealing flavor, providing the essence of meatiness without MSG.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

John Savard
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Solution Aversion

Because going to the renewable options greens like would make energy supplies more expensive and limited, people are reluctant to acknowledge that global warming is real. While the greens don't like nuclear power, ordinary people to whom jobs and living standards are major concerns would be less likely to have a problem.

I recently read an interesting article about how "solution aversion", making people less likely to accept a problem is real, is operating in the global warming debate. Nuclear power is the option that would make that largely go away.

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GCHQ boffins quantum-busted its OWN crypto primitive

John Savard
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Interesting

This article prompted me to do some searching. Apparently this cryptographic primitive belongs to the Goldreich-Goldwasser-Halevi family. Since it uses the Closest Vector Problem, and works by disguising an easy lattice as a hard one, it seems to me that it might have the same basic flaw that torpedoed the knapsac ciphers - the underlying problem is hard, but disguising an 'easy' knapsack as a 'hard' one was the key, the disguises weren't proven hard to see through.

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Australia to social media: self-censor or face AU$17,000 FINES

John Savard
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Reasonable

From the headline, I was worried that Australia was going to expect sites like Facebook to review everything every user posts, to ensure it isn't bullying, before it can appear. That would have been highly problematic. But the actual measures cited in the article - having policies against bullying, and a working complaints mechanism - seem to me a perfectly reasonable minimum that any responsible social networking site should have.

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Japanese monster manifests new PETAFLOP POWER

John Savard
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"to claim that it's currently word's the most power astronomical HPC facility" clearly should have been "to claim that it's currently the world's most powerful astronomical HPC facility"; how could this possibly have happened?

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Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet

John Savard
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Wait a Moment

I do remember reading a credible news article with what seemed to be good science that came to the conclusion that iron, unfortunately, wouldn't really do much good. I wish I could recall the cite, so I could point people to see it.

Ah: before the ban, according to Wikipedia, there were nine or so serious scientific studies. The current reason this is considered not worth trying is because it seems more likely to promote the blooming of harmful algae than to genuinely spur photosynthesis.

Oh: limestone is calcium carbonate, so, yes, it does remove carbon dioxide from the air when you make it.

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Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about

John Savard
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Not Certain

I note that one list of the countries where this malware was found also didn't include China, so that is another possibility. For that matter, with Sa'udi Arabia as a major target, maybe we should suspect Israel.

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You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes

John Savard
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Maybe This Time

it is more Avast's fault than Microsoft's, but really, they should redesign Windows so that it can not brick, ever. You should always be able to get as far as a startup screen that lets you roll back the last update.

And it should also be possible, during those "do not turn off your computer" screens, to safely abort the update in progress.

And when Windows is shutting down, if it takes too long, there should be a way to change the display so you can see which program is having the problem. There is plenty of room for improvement in Windows' robustness.

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Glasgow boffins: We can now do it, Captain. We DO have the molecular storage power

John Savard
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Potential for Confusion

Not to be confused with polyoxymethylene, used for making guitar picks, and also known by the acronym POM.

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Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers

John Savard
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A Ray of Sunlight

I am so happy to read an article that tells us the truth about what we have to do to allow civilization to continue and avoid a serious disaster. This truth has been mentioned a few times before, but sadly there is still no constituency for it - one has the fossil fuels business as usual camp, and one has the green camp that is dead set against fission, between which we are headed for serious problems.

It used to be we could count on a certain level of intelligence from politicians, and necessary but unpalatable measures would have bipartisan support. Now, it seems the only thing that gets bipartisan support are excessive expansions of copyright.

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Blackpool hotel 'fines' couple £100 for crap TripAdvisor review

John Savard
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The credit company didn't receive a signed authorization from them to hand over the money to the hotel, so how could this possibly have happened? Clearly the system where retailers are trusted to only put actually purchased items on invoices to credit card companies is flawed - or, at least, the particular hotel in question should lose its ability to accept credit card payments in future.

Fine print in contracts is not sufficient authorization to charge a credit card - instead, charges to a credit card should be under the total control of the cardholder, just like taking cash out of one's wallet and handing it to the retailer.

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NOKIA - Not FINNished yet! BEHOLD the somewhat DULL MYSTERY DEVICE!

John Savard
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I don't understand why they're bothering to make an Android tablet using the Atom processor. ARM is the standard for Android that runs all Android apps.

People use x86 because they want access to the huge mass of Microsoft Windows applications, although it's also used for Linux because the Windows market has subsidized the price/performance of x86 chips and x86 lets you use more Linux binaries - people run Linux on the PCs they can most easily find and purchase.

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John Savard
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Re: BUY NOKIA SHARES NOW

Well, it would be if it had the goodness of the other Nokia products that inspired such comments. And if it used an ARM processor instead of going out on a dangerous limb with an Atom.

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Ex-NSA lawyer warns Google, Apple: IMPENETRABLE RIM ruined BlackBerry

John Savard
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Primary Cause Not Mentioned

I thought the primary cause of BlackBerry's failure was that many of its key business customers deserted it after its service experienced an outage of several days in October of 2011.

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If only 0.006% care about BLOOD-SOAKED METAL ... why are we spending all this cash?

John Savard
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Wrong Question

A lot of people do agree the government ought to have more money. More money from people richer than they are, to spend on making life easier for them, and people poorer than they are. So the fact that those people aren't giving their own money to the government in no way implies that they are not sincere in feeling that way.

There are even people willing to pay higher taxes, but not donate money to the government, because they're willing to get along with less in the way of toys, but not to give up their competitive advantage and relative position compared to others. After all, this money spent on buying fancy cars to impress girls is wasted, so if the other fellow couldn't afford a terribly expensive car either, the girls would just have to be impressed with less.

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Not even 60,000 of you want an ethically-sourced smartphone

John Savard
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I Object

The headline of this article is misleading, unfair, and insulting to smartphone buyers everywhere (or at least just in the EU)!

It should actually read:

Not even 60,000 of you want an ethically-sourced smartphone badly enough to actually pay for it.

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Greeks BEST in WORLD – at, er, breaking their mobile phones

John Savard
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Time Is an Illusion

I recognized there was a Hitchhiker's Guide reference there, but it took me a moment to recall the precise one. I was thinking of "Space is big" at first.

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Forget eyeballs and radar! Brits tackle GPS JAMMERS with WWII technology

John Savard
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These days, what with quartz wristwatches, they ought to be able to make at least a guess at their longitude, and at night even the passengers should be able to tell the latitude. No doubt old-fashioned navigation has been largely taken out of the curriculum for navigators due to the ubiquity of GPS, but I would think that some of the basics are still taught and practised. Never mind GPS jammers; what if these systems are shut down in the event of war?

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Trolls pop malformed heads above bridge to sling abuse at Tim Cook

John Savard
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Re: Cognitive Dissonance

Not everyone who believes that there is a God also believes that every word of the Bible is literally true. Just as there are parts of the Bible that imply that the stars are shining spots on a solid dome over a flat Earth, there are parts of the Bible that say that homosexual relations are wrong.

One can throw both of those out, and still believe that there is a God, and that some truth about Him is reflected in portions of the Bible, like the Sermon on the Mount, as well as in some portions of the scriptures of other world religions.

Instead of expecting ancient writings to provide a comprehensive guide to all issues of right and wrong, one can rely on reason plus the principles of love and forgiveness, of honesty and respect for others, that are reflected in what is good, rather than what is bigoted, in the world's religions.

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John Savard
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Terrorists!

It's so sad to see that Western civilization is so badly misunderstood.

Just because we have stopped throwing people in jail for being homosexuals doesn't mean we like this orientation. Most people here are still uncomfortable with the thought of it, they don't want their children to think of it as an option, and those who are Christians mostly believe that the Bible condemns it.

But just because we disapprove of someone doesn't mean we think we're entitled to murder him. So, unlike Ahmadiyya Muslims, for example, Mormons, Christian Scientists, and Seventh-Day Adventists do not live in fear for their lives in countries ruled by Roman Catholics or mainstream Protestants.

While Christians recognize that God must have really spoken to the Jews if the Bible is true, and so they're "People of the Book", historically, Muslims have just looked to them like a violent bunch following a crazy self-appointed prophet. But, unlike the followers of al-Muqanna, they haven't been exterminated.

So the West has values just as the Muslim world has values. It just has tolerance in addition to its values. And being tolerant is not the "beginning of the end" for the West.

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FIFTEEN whole dollars on offer for cranky Pentium 4 buyers

John Savard
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Pipelines

Of course, nowadays more people understand pipelined computers better. The fact that a Pentium 4 had twice the megahertz of its predecessors, but its instructions took twice as many cycles to execute, did not mean that it was no more powerful than they were. Instead, it could still be executing twice as many instructions in parallel at the same time.

But this was before "Hyperthreading" and multi-core processors, so a recompile might well have been needed to take advantage of the extra power.

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Hey, YouTube lovers! How about you pay us, we start paying for STUFF? - Google

John Savard
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Money

Content creators should get paid. But it's so impractical to pay for stuff on the Internet. You can't hand cash to your computer. You need this new-fangled thing called a credit card, and there have been security breaches.

YouTube could start with one important small step it hasn't taken. It worked out a deal with music companies to allow YouTube video users to include copyrighted music from many major labels in their videos, I remember reading a year or two ago. But it isn't possible, yet, for someone posting such a video to YouTube to direct that revenue from ads on that video go to the owner of the song.

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Hey - who wants 4.8 TERABYTES almost AS FAST AS MEMORY?

John Savard
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Latency

A 14 microsecond latency isn't really "as fast as RAM", but a bandwidth comparable to that of RAM is, I presume, significantly faster than that of ordinary flash memory. Which means that while the design is suited to hard drive substitutes, we'll need a new kind of port on our computers before thumb drives start doing this.

Is this level of improvement in conventional flash memory likely to make HP's memristor project irrelevant? I hope not, because it promises more than what a faster flash drive can deliver, but this level of progress in flash drives may reduce HP's chances of getting the initial market it needs.

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Dragon's Outsourcery flaunts UK.gov cloud bazaar credentials

John Savard
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Primitives?

There have been cloud security breaches in the news. Of course, traditional outsourcing has had security breaches too, and doing things in-house is risky, because while you then have control over the hardware, normally you won't have the budget to hire the kind of IT staff required to keep abreast of all the risks.

But because the cloud is new, managers are rightly apprehensive that they'll be seen as being responsible for a mistake if they choose cloud and something happens.

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GCHQ staff 'would sooner walk' than do anything 'resembling mass surveillance’

John Savard
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Sir Lobbain is right

After all, the people who joined GCHQ did so to defend the liberties of the British people, to stop madmen like Hitler from enslaving Blighty. So I'm sure they would not willingly participate in anything Orwellian.

What is unfortunate, of course, is that the threat posed by terrorists does also mean that they could end up like the famous boiled frog that didn't jump out of the pot because the heat was turned up so gradually. Good intentions aren't always a guarantee of good actions.

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HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist

John Savard
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An ex-shark, did you say?

Are you quite sure that it isn't just pining for the fjords?

We get these references on this side of the pond too...

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John Savard
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Re: Oh no!

You got it; it's a reality-TV show. About the family of a contestant in a child beauty pageant. However, apparently the family is not as dysfunctional as one might have expected - except for the strangeness of beauty pageants for little girls, they're quite ordinary and normal.

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John Savard
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Google is your friend; two searches revealed to me that it was "Mega Shark versus Crocasaurus"... which was apparently an American satire of Japanese monster movies like Godzilla.

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‘For the love of Pete, America, learn about decent chocolate’

John Savard
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Re: I can second the fuel prices.

Of course Americans can and should complain about gas prices. In October 1973, contracts with oil companies were unilaterally and illegally broken by Middle Eastern countries in support of a war of aggression against Israel. Similar actions by Latin American countries previously had not been allowed to endure, but here the companies in question were European rather than American, and the countries involved had Soviet backing for their sovereignty.

So proper gasoline prices are what they would be if: a) oil was around $2.50 a barrel, and b) no taxes were levied upon it. Taxes being money taken by the threat of force from the people who earned it by the sweat of their brow, after all.

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Let's make an app that POSTS your POO to APPLE HQ

John Savard
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In the Hands of the People

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple II, which was more expensive than, say, a Commodore 64 - although, to be fair, the Apple II came out earlier than that one. But there were many 8-bit micros intended for the home consumer; the Apple II did compare favorably with the Commodore PET and the TRS-80 in a number of respects, but its difficult to claim that it was all that revolutionary.

While much of what was innovative about the Lisa and the Macintosh must be credited to Xerox, the Macintosh did bring the GUI out of the laboratory and make it available to the public. If not for the Macintosh, there would have been no Windows 3.1.

That's what Apple deserves credit for, and the usefulness of Linux doesn't detract from that.

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RUMPY PUMPY: Bone says humans BONED Neanderthals 50,000 years B.C.

John Savard
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Blaming the Women

The slutty side of human nature?

What with Neanderthals looking like brutish animals to Cro-Magnons, and with primitive people generally being hostile and suspicious towards anyone not part of their tribe, I doubt that most interspecies matings were consensual.

Instead, more likely it's the fault of males of both groups, getting into wars with tribes of the other species, and carrying off women as booty. There's nothing slutty about being an innocent victim of rape.

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John Savard
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Re: The Neanderthal must have been really drunk...

If Neanderthal/Cro-Magnon hybrids were always sterile, where did that 2.3 percent Neanderthal DNA in a Cro-Magnon come from?

Depending on how closely the two species were related, the hybrids may have been sterile some of the time or most of the time, but I don't think scientists know to what extent that may be the case yet.

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COMET 67P is basically TRAILING a HORRIFIC STENCH through space

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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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