* Posts by Lathem Gibson

14 posts • joined 3 May 2007

Ships pollute more than planes

Lathem Gibson


If commercial ships were powered by nuclear reactors, they'd generator no carbon output, require no fossil fuels, and could be made larger, so fewer ships could haul the same amount of cargo.

Jack Thompson sets about Halo 3

Lathem Gibson

Two hundred years ago

If you were 14, you were pretty much military age. No battlefield simulators for you, just a quick lesson on how to load a musket, a pair of boots, and maybe a cushy job in the baggage train.

A hundred years ago, if you were an American, if you were 14, you were probably getting ready to go fight in WWI. Even more chance of both suffering and inflicting grisly death.

Fifty years ago, WWII; although they tightened up the regs, and made sure you at least had a convincing fake ID indicating you were 18.

The fact is that for nearly a thousand years, every generation has been less violent than the one which preceded it.

People that blame video games, or private ownership of guns, or easy access to violence in movies or TV, or James Joyce, or Karl Marx, or whomever you want to point at and declare, "That's what's tearing society apart!" is just glib, specious reasoning.

To wit: America (and, obviously, I'm an American) has a population of over 300 million people. Of them, let's assume a sixth of them have had at least some contact with video games during the course of their lives. That would be more than 50 million people "trained with murder simulators."

Also, guns: We'll get even crazier, say that about a sixth of Americans, if they don't own a gun personally, they know where to buy one, steal one, borrow one. Say another 50M people could arm themselves if they so desired.

So, between the gun owners and the game players (assuming some overlap), here in the states, we've got roughly 70M+ citizens who have experience with both video games, and actual weaponry.

By the logic espoused by many authoritarians, American society should look something like Grand Theft Auto at this point. However, once you peel back the shock journalism surrounding the issues of media and gun violence, you see that our murder rate is actually quite on par with the rest of the developed world, and quite a bit better than other countries which have unrestricted gun ownership. (Congo, anyone?)

Statistics on actual crime rates: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_01.html

Coincidentally, one will noticed that in fact, since the advent of really good 3d graphics cards, murder rates have declined by thousands per year, with the exception of the early 1990s, when George Bush Sr. was running the country into the ground.

A final thought, as well: Generally, it's been observed that the vast majority of perpetrators of murder have come from poorer social and economic backgrounds. Most murders are a product of theft, ethic or religious conflict, or organized crime. While there are notable exceptions (mass killings by students, or .00001% of American murders that have happened in the last decade), the profile type of a murderer is that of someone who could not afford, or would have no interest in, video gaming.

A wardriving we will go!

Lathem Gibson

What about insurance companies?

Here in the US, when I insure my car, I've always found a clause in the contract which states that I'm not covered for theft, if the keys are left in the ignition.

Now, it's stupid to compare car theft to using an open AP, but clearly, people shouldn't entirely rely on laws to protect them. Laws, much like locks, serve mainly to keep honest people out. As one commenter pointed out, WEP is a joke from a true security standpoint, but so too is my ignition lock, and no doubt the locksets on most of our homes. The point is that each is a layer of security, which, in most cases, is good enough to deter all but the boldest criminals.

In the case of a wireless access point, the physical realities are that when one broadcasts a radio signal into the air, there is always the possibility someone will have a suitable receiver, capable of picking up and using your signal. If you don't want someone to do so, the burden is most certainly on the transmitting party to calibrate their instruments correctly.

If broadcasting unencrypted signals with only the threat of the law to prevent people from receiving them really worked, would satellite TV carriers do so?

If legislation is appropriate in the case of Wifi at all, it should be placed on manufacturers, requiring them to forcibly enable WEP, at the very least, on all consumer-grade APs. To apply the law so broadly, that anyone connecting, even accidentally, to an open access point, would make criminals out of so many people as to make the law laughable.

Forensics expert sacked for DNA-testing husband's underpants

Lathem Gibson

The main issue...

Is that she was misusing department equipment and materials (albeit expired) for her own personal project. It would be analogous to taking a road trip in a company car, or using the office Xerox to make a copy of a novel for yourself.

As far as the divorce proceedings go, they are tried in civil, not criminal, court. Therefore, chain of custody, warrants, etc, are not handled in the same way as a criminal case.

However, as Paul pointed out above, any testing she performed on her husband's underwear should clearly be ignored, because she had a vested emotional interest in reaching a particular conclusion. For the tests to actually mean anything, they must be performed by a scientist who has no knowledge of the involved parties, with proper control mechanisms, and multiple confirmations.

Boffins chill chip with ion wind

Lathem Gibson

Here's a DIY version

This dude has a neat site in general:


Woman cleans keyboard... in dishwasher

Lathem Gibson

You may think me a madman....

But I heard this trick long ago from some hardware website, and I've been doing it for years. Never bothered to take anything apart or bag the USB connection, though. Just wash them as is, spray them heavily with WD-40 when the wash cycle ends, and then hang them outside from the clothesline. Never had a problem!

Hello, Apple PR. Dr. Freud will see you now

Lathem Gibson

Oh yeah---

Ever try to scrape donations for (fairly large) nonprofits out of them? I got the most enthusiastic PR droid on the phone one day, who was just *delighted* at the prospect of giving our little volunteer radio station a macbook to raffle off as a fund raiser... The woman thought it was a WONDERFUL idea, and that Apple LOVED HELPING CHARITY. She (with heightening enthusiasm) spoke with me for nearly twenty minutes, determining what type of computer we needed, what software we wanted.

And then she gave me another number, for "Community Outreach."

It was a fucking tape machine that said, "Thank you for your interest, but we don't give kit away to anyone. Get bent."

Telstra in Second Life 'Ayers Rock' kerfuffle

Lathem Gibson

This is inane.

WTF? These items are iconic landmarks that go beyond the 'property' of one group of people or another. Does New York have a monopoly on scenic snaps of the Statue of Liberty, or London prevent people from seeing Trafalgar Square without paying admission? Are you allowed to look down while flying over cities, or must we all wear neck braces, to make sure we don't accidentally see the holy interior of the temple of whosits from 10,000 feet?

The major benefit of digital map making and photography is that the whole would *can* see these amazing and beautiful things *without* having to trek there in person, turning sacred and remote cultural sites into tourist traps.

Hell, the first thing I did when I saw Google Earth for the first time was zoom in on all the cities and places I've always wanted to visit. I would have been chagrined, to say the least, if there'd been a big grey blob over Red Square, or the Eiffel Tower, or the Vatican. Probably have it marked "Pay-per-view."

Google wants to really get to know you

Lathem Gibson

Is this where I type for the doogler?

Someday the entire database is going to be filled with nothing but Eastern European porno profiles, the ramblings of people who don't even realize they're transmitting, angrily demanding their records be "taken off this adwords bullshit," and crazy religious and political people hoping their ALL CAPS AND POURLY SPELT MANIFESTOS will bring on a spontaneous conversion.

Kind of like Usenet is now, in other words. Nothing to worry about.

Mobile blocking helicopter to trail Bush in Sydney

Lathem Gibson

Don't take it personally....

Dubya can't even tour Washington without a platoon of marines and a couple attack choppers. People *really* hate that guy!

Indian dealers are squealers over Microsoft piracy raids

Lathem Gibson

Clearing the strawmen with a flamethrower....

1) Stealing: I take your wallet, I've stolen from you. I copy your term paper, I've plagiarized from you. If I make mass copies of software you've written, and sell them for profit, then I've committed fraud by misleading the consumer and screwed you out of profits.

2) Copying: If I make a couple copies of your software for my use, or my friend's use, assuming that neither of us would have ever bought your software at its market price, you have lost nothing, and you've actually gained some advertisement. (If your software is useful enough to make a copy of, even for educational purposes, then at least you're creating mindshare when people swap it around.) Assuming that no one made money, and that all the originals remain with their owners, this is not stealing. If you listen to a song on the radio that you normally wouldn't listen to, and then turn it off before the ads come on, did you steal that song?

3) Corollaries:

People are basically lazy. As long as something works reasonably well, people will continue to do it, as opposed to inventing a new solution.

Counterfeit software works reasonably well, and requires less work for the average person than buying legit versions, and much less work than learning an entirely new OS.

Poorer counties cannot afford the same price plan as richer countries can, and even the richer countries break the rules all the time. Coming down like a ton of bricks on smalltime locals in client states is a well established trait of hegemonic organizations, and is seldom morally defensible. Recall the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company? How about Dow Chemical?

If it weren't for the ease with which early versions of Windows and Office could be copied, it's extremely doubtful Microsoft would have as large a market share as they currently enjoy. Bill Gates may be an outspoken advocate against software counterfeiting, but in practice his company has only recently stopped accepting it with a wink and a nod.

Finally, software companies should watch themselves when dealing with India, or they may soon find themselves in the same position as the American drug companies-- screaming bloody murder (ineffectually) that the Indian laws permit reverse engineering of foreign patent medicines.

The days of artificial price control are nearing their end, and companies that realize this will be the megaliths of the future. The 2/3rds of the world that contain 90% of the poor people have a lot more problems than trying to go against the ancient principals of supply and demand to please the Microsofts of the world.

How to fix your kids' education for $200m

Lathem Gibson

Assuming "rich guys" wanted to fund education.....

...wouldn't they have done so all ready? Barring notables like Carnegie and Smithson, the vast majority of the rich understand that education and knowledge is critical to remaining rich. In a capitalist, zero-sum system, a dollar in my pocket is a dollar out of yours, so why would they want to encourage possible competition?

Much better to keep the kids dumb, because then they'll be much more loyal workers.

Super-fast RDF search engine developed

Lathem Gibson

The metadata issue is nearly ancient...

Here's an example of a "modern" usage of a metadata indexed, semantic database:

Most medical packages. All patients, treatments, diagnosis, drugs, insurance providers, illnesses, etc, are stored in both native-language and machine parseable codes. Having deployed several of these buggers, I can personally attest that the time spent setting up the machine codes *far* exceeds the time needed to input the native language textual descriptions.

In addition to being tedious to remember, the codes are subject to many errors, because of their abstract nature and the unfamiliarity of most office staff with entering them.

Ie-- the secretary who's been at the office since 1972 can remember

"John Smith: Broken leg; set in cast, prescribed painkillers, scheduled for one-month followup" much easier than she can remember "Patient 4829: Diagnosis 203871: Treatments: 8194, 16872."

So, it creates additional programming overhead for the devs writing the program, putting in all kinds of error checking and breadcrumb/autocomplete setups for allowing people to have help and feedback as they enter the numeric codes.

However, the numeric codes are what give medical databasing programs the ability to easily talk to one another, and are thus important. That is to say, the benefits of semantic indexing within the program outweigh the administrative burden of including such data.

For medical systems. For programs that have the possibility of killing people if, say, a penicillin allergy isn't brought to the attention of an ER doctor.

If the process entering a bunch of semantic data for non-essential, hobby and entertainment applications will take hold in any more than a few fields where it's shown to be enormously useful remains to be seen. Generally, one can assume that your average blogger or gamer, fifteen year old or eighty year old, will not be interested, nor have the desire to spend the time to do it.

I think that the semantic web will largely be limited to industry, science, and education. Which will be great for people like us, being able to say "I've got board 18503 that has problem 28974. Solution? 28405-832." But, for the average Myspacer, the knowledge of semantic indexing will be a healthy "0." Just like it is for every other tidbit of the inner workings of the Web.

US missile defences in successful Pacific test

Lathem Gibson

No defence from ICBMs

SRBM, IRBM-- fine, sure, probably something that can be shot down. There's not a bloody thing anyone can do about an ICBM though, because it's much easier to stack more MIRVs into one than it is to shoot all those MIRVs down.

USA has fifty interceptors? No biggie. Just launch two ICBMs, each with twenty five decoys and twenty five real warheads, all mounted on their own reentry vehicles.

The only defence against an ICBM attack is to play nicely and not piss people off too bad.


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