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1
My uncle's factorization algorithms github.com
188 points by daoudc  4 hours ago   19 comments top 8
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wbhart 2 hours ago 3 replies      
This is very interesting. Thank you for devoting your time to putting this on the web. Otherwise it might have rotted in your attic!

It's unclear to me whether there is anything theoretically new in here yet. The algorithms are all familiar to me except for the P^2 + 1 and P^2 + P + 1 algorithms. But don't read too much into that. They are probably well known.

What I can tell you is that there is an extraordinary amount of work in implementing all those algorithms. I do this stuff for a living and it is a tremendously impressive feat for a single individual over any span of time.

I'd be interested in hearing how fast the MPQS is. The state of the art for factoring a number like 840931001586212064794450601167289569811131781103613687750579 on a single core is probably around 6s or so on a modern 2GHz x86 processor.

UBASIC already had a 32 bit x86 assembly optimised MPQS in it, and it performed pretty well actually. So it would be interesting if your uncle improved on that, especially if he had theoretical improvements.

The state of the art for the number field sieve should factor the 79 digit number here: http://www.loria.fr/~zimmerma/records/rsa.html in around 10-20 minutes on a single core, though in general the GNFS is for much larger integers. It seems unlikely that a little UBASIC program could manage those, however.

Having said that, I am still in shock that your uncle actually implemented the GNFS. That is a staggering accomplishment and is something to be genuinely impressed by.

I don't know if you have a gold mine there or the cutting edge life's work of someone from yesteryear.

2
muyuu 8 minutes ago 0 replies      
We are finally coming to the era when the first amateurs who grew up with Personal Computers are starting to die of old age.

Stuff in BASIC coded by somebody in the anonymity of the pre-Internet. Maybe something truly novel in its time or even now. There's something extremely romantic to this, like a rescued roll from the Library of Alexandria.

Naturally, most of that anonymous work will be lost forever. Heck, most of my 8-bit era stuff stored in tapes and 5 1/4 floppies must be dead by now. I had some original Sountracker mod files from Amiga times and when I tried recovering those it was too late.

3
anuml 2 hours ago 1 reply      
The prime numbers group on yahoo is quite good. You might be able to entice someone to explore what your uncle has done.

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/primenumbers

The group contains experts in this field that manage to do a commendable job of responding to questions at many levels.

It's a shame that your uncle didn't have a chance to connect with them.

Good luck.

4
zackzackzack 3 hours ago 1 reply      
This feels like the modern day equivalent of the secret to alchemy being found in some musty trunk in the attic. Does any of this actually advance the field?
5
GuiA 2 hours ago 0 replies      
>Sadly, he was never able to benefit from this work himself, although he tried many times to sell the software developed here. Instead, he entrusted his work to me as his death neared, and he told me that he wanted it to benefit his family. Since there is little hope of me succeeding in selling this, instead, I hope that by releasing it under the GPL it may benefit mankind. I only ask that if you use it, you use it for good, not evil, to liberate and not oppress, and to educate and not to spread ignorance.

Thank you so much for this.

6
aurelianito 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I would love to have an uncle whom I could talk about cryptography with. You were very lucky!
7
Cyph0n 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I can't be of much help, but I'm extremely interested in how this all unfolds. Good luck.
8
josephkern 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This is brilliant. Thank you.
2
Namecheap to Donate $1 to EFF for Every Domain Transfer on December 29th namecheap.com
433 points by flueedo  10 hours ago   82 comments top 17
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nextparadigms 10 hours ago 2 replies      
Namecheap is really taking advantage of Godaddy's misstep. I say good for them! Godaddy deserves whatever is coming at them right now.
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dmarble 8 hours ago 2 replies      
I've been with Namecheap for most of my domains for a couple years now. One of the surprisingly awesome extras:

Dynamic DNS

No more need for DynDNS or another third-party DNS service for this simple but useful feature! Once enabled for a domain, you can simply use an update client to regularly update the IP Namecheap servers point to.

See Namecheap's knowledgebase articles to enable and use it: http://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/category.aspx...

Update clients:

ddclient (unixy) - http://sourceforge.net/apps/trac/ddclient

inadyn (unixy) - http://www.inatech.eu/inadyn/

Namecheap's DNS update client (Windows) - http://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/article.aspx/...

3
danieldk 9 hours ago 3 replies      
That's nice, but it remains to be seen if this is not just cheap (no pun intended) exploitation of sentiments. Some registrars, such as Gandi have always supported various causes (such as EFF, Creative Commons, Debian, etc.). How much does Namecheap donate of regular domain registrations, etc.? What have they done in the past for digital rights?

Also, as some people said before. This attack on Godaddy maybe a godsent diversion for SOPA supporters.

4
ck2 9 hours ago 3 replies      
Just keep in mind if you transfer to NameCheap - make sure you are happy with their full price for renewals - because you will NEVER get a discount for renewing. They only give new transfers in special pricing.

Ironically you'll be able to transfer back to GoDaddy in a year when they make some kind of "come back to us" offer for a few dollars to transfer in.

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nickpinkston 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I've used NameCheap ever since I found out how horrid GoDaddy's service and slimy policies were. NameCheap has always answered my noob questions with haste, and I've never had any issues with them. I have no connections with them other than being a happy customer. If I didn't already have all my domains through them, I'd switch them over.
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jamesbritt 9 hours ago 2 replies      
I couldn't be bothered waiting. I've some domains due for renewal at the end of the year and decided to beat the holiday rush and just move then all over to namecheap.com.

I started the process yesterday afternoon. Still haven't seen anything on the GoDaddy side indicating any pending transfers. I imagine this sort of delay will only be worse come the 29th.

Update: just got a slew of form mail from namecheap. Apparently every EPP/authorization key code I entered, taken from the list generated by GoDaddy, is wrong. Now I have to re-do every transfer.

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jeff18 7 hours ago 2 replies      
I wish you could just give namecheap your GoDaddy credentials and have them move your domains properly for you. I am definitely not looking forward to figuring out GoDaddy's UI for all my domains.
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abcd_f 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Can anyone explain why would one want to transfer a domain from one US-based registrar to another given that all recent domain-related issues are US-centered?
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juddlyon 8 hours ago 0 replies      
This incident will in a public relations textbook as a case study in ten years.
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jgeralnik 9 hours ago 0 replies      
They are being very careful not to mention any specific domain registrars. I wonder who they are talking about...
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arthurgibson 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Why doesn't NameCheap donate a $1 for every domain moved since 12/22 or last week when all the SOPA issues with Godaddy were presented?
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aiurtourist 9 hours ago 9 replies      
I'd like to switch to !GoDaddy, and Namecheap seems popular. Are there any useful pro/cons I should know about Namecheap before switching?
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Tloewald 9 hours ago 0 replies      
And as a bonus they get to stress test their servers ;-)
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shawnz 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd like to point out that name.com (my current registrar) has been an EFF donor for some time already -- but I don't know to what extent.
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Shorel 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I transfered from Namecheap to SpeedySparrow a couple of months ago.

Just consolidating vendors (domain and hosting) to simplify management.

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openmosix 6 hours ago 0 replies      
A similar initiative: fightsopa.org will donate 5$ to EFF for each developer solving one coding puzzle
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gospelwut 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I recall reading that namecheap stores passwords in plaintext? I'd be interested if this was refuted. In any case, I'd be a bit wary to go along with the bandwagon to this particular registrar without further investigation.
4
I Think You're Fat (2007) esquire.com
86 points by glenstein  4 hours ago   48 comments top 17
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buss 3 hours ago 3 replies      
If you haven't figured it out already, this is a terrible, terrible idea. I tried a variant of this for about two years in college and it caused way more problems than it solved (actually, I don't think it solved any problems).

Despite what you may think about the righteousness of the Truth, people get offended. People get offended at even the slightest of things. Even if they're completely obvious.

We have social filters because they help people get along. The people around us don't want to know our real thoughts and opinions because they are often hurtful or awkward. It shouldn't matter, in the normal course of interaction, what I think about you, your clothes, how you talk, or what I think about anything. By filtering out some of my thoughts & opinions, I avoid pouring sand into the gears of interpersonal relationships.

2
vnorby 3 hours ago 4 replies      
I appreciate you linking to this article but I wonder what you were doing browsing the archives of Esquire. To be honest, I did not see much of a conclusion from the article, but I enjoyed reading it. Also, I thought I would let you know that I am writing this comment to get up-voted, so that I can increase my karma. If I increase my karma, people may remember my username, and later up-vote the articles I submit about my company. That will increase traffic to my website. Eventually, the result of this will be that I become rich and famous.
3
wollw 3 hours ago 3 replies      
It isn't easy to be honest but I think that it's dangerous to do this sort of thing. Just because it's wrong to lie doesn't mean every truth should be voiced; knowing when to hold your tongue is an important skill. It might have been honest for him to tell his nanny that he was attracted to her or to tell the editor of Rachel Ray he was looking down her shirt but what good did it do? From the sound of it it only served to make them uncomfortable. The fact that it made him feel like an asshole seems to imply it wasn't making him a happier person anyway. I think it's good to strive toward total honesty, but total honesty doesn't mean saying every stupid thought that crosses your mind. Thoughts are transitory things. By voicing some of the darker ones you risk making a larger issue out of something that you might otherwise quickly forget ever crossed your mind. Just because it's true doesn't mean it's beneficial to speak.
4
mhb 6 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd recommend buying this more thoughtful version by Sam Harris for three bucks:

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/lying/

5
Mz 2 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm excessively honest. It's a tough row to hoe. I've worked hard at learning to live this way without just going around being an asshole all the time. Pulling that combo off is even tougher. One key: Honesty and full disclosure are not the same thing. I am entitled to my own opinion. Other people are not entitled to my opinion (ie I do not have to tell them what it is just because I have one). Learning when to keep my big fat fucking mouth shut is a good thing. "A closed mouth gathers no feet."

In short: Honesty and indiscretion are not synonyms.

6
cyrus_ 2 hours ago 0 replies      
The problem with this is that because lying or omitting the truth is so common, you end up communicating more than you may intend to when you are honest and forthright. For example, it is impossible to comment about being attracted to someone without also implicitly communicating that you want to either go on a date with or sleep with them in most cultures. Or if you do the opposite and tell them you find them hideous, it is generally assumed that you must have told them this because you wanted to cause them distress.

I think this whole thing could maybe work, though, if you take great care to be very aware of what you are indirectly communicating and head off those assumptions. In many cases, this may simply require that you first qualify things with "Don't take this the wrong way, since I'm trying this Radical Honesty thing, but..." or "Can I be blunt with you? [yes] I think..." In other cases, this could be more specifically addressing the feelings you expect to elicit, "I know this is going to make you feel bad, but I think it will be better for you to hear this from me now, ..."

7
fauldsh 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Since when were the words honest and tactless synonymous? There are plenty of ways of telling people something they don't want to hear without being incredibly blunt. This man appears to get off on the while confrontational part of not lying.

I consider myself pretty honest but I don't tell people truths unless they ask my opinion or its a problem for me.

8
maeon3 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Radical honesty is considered abuse, especially when your observations are 100% empirically true and spot-on and everyone can see it including the person targeted.

They wrote about this problem 3000 years ago. "Correct a fool and he will hate you, correct a wise man and he will love you".

9
infocaptor 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This is not a new idea. In Vedic philosophy this has been preached and practiced only by realized person. In fact, practicing telling only truth one becomes realized. For e.g Gandhi adopted this practice of speaking only the truth as that is one of the limb of Yoga.

What happens is the moment you take this resolve to speak only truth, your actions and thoughts become aware. So there is a very subtle refinement going internally as you keep practicing speaking the truth.

But I think it is more appropriate to speak only when you are asked about it. Just telling your thoughts just for the sake of speaking truth does not make sense.

10
cafard 44 minutes ago 0 replies      
Many utterances do not exist in an abstract world of truth or falsity, but imply an intention. This may vary with context. In a group therapy session, "I'd like to kick your ass." may reveal (previously) unspoken intentions and lead to a useful discussion. In a bar, late at night when everyone's been drinking it means more or less "and unless you can prove that I can't, I either shall do so or shall simply make you an object of contempt to the bystanders."

In some neutral situation (is there one?) telling a woman that you are attracted to her simply conveys a fact. Telling your domestic employee this may lead to her pushing the desk against the door every night before she turns in.

11
mikeash 3 hours ago 0 replies      
My wife is the only person I'm nearly totally honest with. I won't say completely honest, but it's pretty close. Far more than I see most people be with their opposites.

Sometimes it hurts her, sometimes I say something and wonder if I should have lied instead, but ultimately I think it makes everything so much healthier between us. If I'm in the middle of something and she's telling me a boring story about shopping for clothes, I'll tell her right out, I'm busy and I don't really care about your clothes shopping. She'll be annoyed but she'll also listen, and doesn't harbor any long-term resentment over it. I don't know that this would work for everyone, but I think it's a good thing to do.

I don't think I have the courage to do this with everyone, though.

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crux_ 2 hours ago 0 replies      
So, it took a while to dig up a working link, but there's a memorable/revealing story I listened to a while ago about a visit to Brad Blanton's Radical Honesty workshop... worth a listen.

mp3 link: http://fancyandawesome.com/cm/?tag=starlee-kine

Original source: The Moth podcast.

(( Spoiler: it goes beyond being merely unflattering towards Blanton, to downright disturbing. ))

14
AznHisoka 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I think being honest, and talking about elephants in the room would open up some relationships. It would make people feel less alone in their thoughts. We all share similar thoughts but sometimes we feel we're weird as heck b/c we're the only one with such thoughts.

For me, it's less about talking/gossiping about others, and judging others. I'm talking about universal stuff like the unfairness of life(genetic lottery), death(do 80-year olds go to bed thinking this might be the day? do older parents wake up, thinking this might be the day their parents are dead?). Opening up about what we're thinking.. not about others, but about life.

15
chrisguitarguy 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I really enjoy A.J. Jacob's writing. His books[1] are great, well worth the read if you need some fun non-fiction.

1. http://www.amazon.com/A.-J.-Jacobs/e/B000APL8HO

16
RexRollman 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Great link. I also read Sam Harris's Kindle Single, Lying, earlier this year and enjoyed that as well.
17
josephcooney 2 hours ago 0 replies      
A counter-point (kind of) - On the Decay of the Art of Lying, by Mark Twain
http://grammar.about.com/od/60essays/a/lyingessay.htm
5
Ember.js Live Collections awardwinningfjords.com
20 points by wycats  1 hour ago   4 comments top 3
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daleharvey 50 minutes ago 0 replies      
I experimented with backbone and ember recently, the integration with handlebars to do in place updates and the quite comprehensive observer / bindings mechanisms in ember look powerful and definitely needed for more complex applications

Backbone seemed to provide everything needed for reasonably simple one page javascript apps

But both seemed to suffer the same problem, they are quite monolithic, everything is build around the fact your app is a 'backbone' or an 'ember' application, they arent just libraries that provide specific functionality.

They both seemed to miss out really basic functionality that I run into all the time building these type of applications, the example here shows one of the problems, when I am not looking at the recent tweets, I dont want to be polling the data source, I havent seen a good example in either of how to properly setup and tear down views, I came up with something incredibly simple that helps, I will try and blog about it soon.

Also I find the general tone of the article pretty rude and condescending

2
gojomo 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Would be neat to mix this with an animated list-insert/resort, like David DeSandro's 'Isotope'.
3
halayli 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Nothing is this article demonstrates a feature that doesn't exist in backbone.js. In fact, backbone.js feels much cleaner.
8
What future space combat would really look like spacebattles.com
222 points by dikarel  9 hours ago   153 comments top 27
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ohyes 5 hours ago 5 replies      
Space combat seems pointless to me.

What exactly would they be fighting over?

Presumably you want to reach space for resources, so asteroids, planets and moons with minerals, stuff like that. You might also want planets/asteroids/moons that are 'good' for colonization (easily terra formed or already life sustaining).

You probably wouldn't see many fights where you are firing at the resource itself. No one with the money to fire at earth, will actually fire at earth, because it is more valuable as an inhabitable planet. If each side can obliterate whatever is being fought over, you basically have an instant MAD scenario.

Similar with moons/asteroids. I'm not going to fire a massive kinetic weapon at a moon or asteroid (and blow it to pieces) if my objective is obtain that object to profit from it. More likely I'll pay people very well to infiltrate and sabotage it, repeatedly. I wouldn't even bother trying to invade.

Why not an invasion force?
Well, you could send an invasion force, but that would be fairly pointless. It is easy to defend an entrenched position that your enemy does not want to shoot at (sabotaging just the defenses might be too obvious, and i think would have too high a possibility of failure). On top of this they can use massive force to repel you, and you cannot (you don't want to obliterate your objective). So an invasion fleet is probably not likely.

A far more likely scenario would be to simply drive your competitor out of business. If they keep getting sabotaged, it becomes unprofitable for them to operate (it becomes a 'cursed' outpost, wages go up, you have to make repairs). Then you can easily take their stuff (or buy it on the cheap when they are going out of business).

This gets you into interesting things, you would end up with extensive background and history checks, genetic tests to prove that you really are who you say you are, mental/psychological screening, mind-reading, brainwashing, complex hacking of the computers that do background checks, genetic 'doping' to make a person pass as someone else, brainwashing.

Your competitors will also likely try to assassinate you if they every figure out that you are the one ordering the destruction of their outposts (it should be easy to figure out, as there will be few entities with resources to profit from this).

2
jasonkester 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I think Banks' The Algabraist got it about right.

In fact, that whole book is crammed full of good "things we currently believe to be true about physics extrapolated as far as theoretically possible" ideas:

  "How do you navigate this thing?"
"Point."
"Point?"
"Yes, point. It's all about having enough power.
Fiddling around with calculations about DeltaV is really
just a sign that you don't have enough power."

3
amalcon 6 hours ago  replies      
There are three fundamental problems I see here:

1) Why put humans on warships at all? Algorithms are probably better at it. Computers would obviously do the heavy lifting anyway (calculating burn times). An algorithm knows no fear, shows no mercy, and does not flee or surrender unless programmed to do so. The only thing left is target selection, and it doesn't seem worth bringing a human along just for that.

2) If you don't need to put humans on warships, then you quickly realize you don't need a warship at all. Just send a bunch of missiles from wherever the warship would have launched. It's harder to take them all out at once with a "mine" or something. You also get to build more missiles if you don't need to build the warship. Sure, you might attach a collective nuclear rocket "booster" to many missiles to build that initial velocity. There's no need for that rocket to be anything more than an engine temporarily attached to the missiles. It's also not really required to begin with.

3) If you're sending lots of missiles, there's no reason for them to be any larger than the smallest size permitted by design and manufacturing practicalities. For something that amounts to a liquid-fueled rocket, that smallest size is preposterously small. A liquid-fueled rocket can be fit into an object the size of a soda can with current technology. This makes the notion of point defense completely laughable: divert ten thousand missiles out of one hundred thousand, and you've reduced the incoming energy by 10%.

4
cletus 4 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're interested in "realistic" (meaning: no FTL) space battles read Alastair Reynolds' Redemption Ark (and read Revelation Space and Chasm City before that).

It includes a chase between star systems that goes on for years and "close" (ie within a few light-seconds) combat that involves a lot of interpolation of enemy position, movement and actions.

Personally I still have serious doubts about the viability of any kind of prolonged manned presence in space. Its simply too expensive and the distances involved in interstellar travel are so vast that even perfect mass to energy transformation would make the process prohibitive in terms of cost and time.

But it's fun to muse about.

5
quanticle 8 hours ago 6 replies      
This essay isn't all that realistic. I found this one [1] to have a far more realistic view of what space war would look like.

Tl;dr: it's much cheaper and much more effective to lob comets at your enemy's homeworld than it is to fight with ships.

[1] http://www.gwern.net/Colder%20Wars

6
johngalt 7 hours ago 0 replies      
The author underestimates guns while overestimating "kinetic missiles". Speed imparts a lot of energy, but it wont transmit all of that energy to the target. You'll have a <missile diameter> hole in the ship.

Your ships are closing at 1000km/s and your cloud of missiles have a 10km/s Delta? A cloud of slugs would be almost the same, and you could put up a lot more of them. Of course a hybrid approach is likely, with shrapnel filled missiles. Better to impact like a shotgun than a needle.

Edit: Also gets it wrong on point defense. If you have enough energy weapons to mount an effective defense you'd make yourself such a large/vulnerable target that you'd be impossible to miss. Once again putting a cloud of slugs in the path of an inbound missile would be easier and more effective. With the speeds/distances involved all of the missiles would be approaching from a very narrow cone, and a small deflection would mean a miss.

7
stcredzero 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Against space piracy:

First, it requires that FTL ships be cheap enough that criminals can acquire them. This is another area in which the analogy between the age of sail and the space age breaks down. Sailing ships were skill-intensive but materially cheap. You had to have people with the right skills, but once you did all you needed was wood, rope, and cloth. But spacecraft are going to follow a post-industrial revolution paradigm of being materially expensive as well as skill-intensive. They are likely to require sophisticated, precision-manufactured components and expensive fuels like helium 3, fissionables, or antimatter. Imagine Captain Jack Sparrow commanding a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and you'll get an idea of the kind of difference we're talking about.

If technological trends continue, the degree of technology available to the average citizen and the average criminal will continue to increase. As an individual, I have access to more media distribution than Queen Elizabeth could even imagine. As an individual, I can build a device like a CNC machine or a 3D printer from off the shelf parts.

Skillfully crafted wood, rope, and cloth would seem like miracle items to someone from the stone age. A CNC laser cutter would represent miraculous technological savvy and princely embodied wealth to someone from the 1400's. The equivalent to an Orion ship might well be within the rech of rogue elements of the late 21st century.

That said, space piracy probably won't happen, or at least won't resemble piracy from old movies in the least, but the technology being out of reach won't be the reason why.

8
brmj 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's a thought I've had in the past after encountering a document of this type: Stealth in space is trivial is what you are trying to keep hidden doesn't need to accelerate, support human life or do anything much that generates significant heat, especially if it can stay far away from what it is hiding from. Space is big and hard to hide things in, but it is full of all kinds of smallish debris in the vicinity of a solar system. If you have something of about the right size, orbit, albedo, radar reflectivity and temperature, it ought to be hard to distinguish it from a stray bit of rock or ice too small for anyone to have paid attention to it in the past.

Bearing this in mind, suppose that you built a small, camouflaged satellite which would just sit there at ambient temperature until it received instructions, upon which it would point itself at a given patch of sky, do the finest bits of the aiming using its own passive sensors and then fire a nuclear bomb-pumped x-ray laser at whatever has the misfortune to be there. With something like this, one could probably swat any reasonable craft out of the sky before it had time to respond. You could perhaps also use such things offensively by putting them on orbits that will take them within their effective range of whatever you want them to shoot, though they would stand out a bit more that way.

The only real countermeasure to these I can think of would be to move your spacecraft rapidly back and forth at all times, which is probably infeasible given the amount of reaction mass it would take.

I'm not sure what the implications of all of this are, but I suspect they would be interesting.

9
Tloewald 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It's an interesting topic for discussion, but the writer makes lots of "realistic" assumptions whil ignoring many others. Assuming this level of "realism" -- I.e. no unforeseen technologies -- we basically don't get enormously high delta-v for most kinds of useful ship, so the very high sustained accelerations (e.g. 4G) aren't going to happen. The discussion of perfect intelligence is good but fails to mention that most plausible spacecraft would be detectable at enormous ranges even with their engines OFF. Clearly almost everything will be automated and networked.

I think the writer starts out with the a priori assumption that there will be spaceships with a crew at one end and an engine at the other and works from there. I suspect you'll just have a swarm of networked drones. Why put so many eggs in one basket?

(We're already seeing this approach being experimented with on nuclear hunter killer subs, where firing at an enemy gives away your position, and giving your position away gets you killed -- the US Navy has been working on submarines tha launch drone firing platforms.)

10
51Cards 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Still only part way through and though I don't entirely agree with all the conclusions the thought experiment is proving to be fun.

This however is my favourite point so far as I had never really thought about it this way when watching popularized SciFi.

Another thing about motion in space is that changing your ship's orientation does nothing to your speed and vector unless it is accompanied by firing your main engine, because there is no friction. This means that all those space dogfights where one fighter gets behind the other and the other one has to try and shake it like in air combat are very unrealistic. There's no comprehensible reason why the pursued pilot can't just turn his fighter around and blast the bugger.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series has just been ruined for me. Wait, no, it still had Wilma Deering, so all is not lost.

11
ew 6 hours ago 3 replies      
It was definitely an interesting read, however, I feel that fundamentally, for humans to reach the point where space combat is even feasible we will have solved so many more important problems that there won't be a need for fighting in the cosmos. Earth, in general, is at peace. We are largely struggling against terrorism, radical groups, and internal genocide rather than full scale, nation-on-nation wars.

No two democracies have gone to war, ever, and that's an important indicator of our future. Don't get me wrong, we have A TON of human rights, poverty, and equality problems, but things are rapidly improving directly proportional to our technical capabilities.

By the time we can even construct two ships capable of having a realistic fight in space we're more likely to send them exploring rather than duke it out. All current governments even capable of dreaming of getting in to space work together on the problem, sharing resources and knowledge.

To recap, we'll never go to war in space. I also doubt any other intelligent life with the capabilities to do so will need to attack us because they've solved any problems requiring them to do so.

12
j_baker 8 hours ago 2 replies      
I admit to skimming this, but there are a couple of things I see wrong with this.

1. You can see a spaceship from the next solar system for sure. But it would take years for you to see it.

2. I doubt the future of combat will involve humans. I envision giant fleets of spaceships that are too big for humans to control. Thus, I forsee space combat as being driven by complex algorithms.

13
gerggerg 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Why would space war ships be manned when we're already flying unmanned vehicles on earth? I think we've touched on a reality of intelligent species coexisting in the universe. Space war would consist of staying hidden and probably nothing else.

Plus, certainly people would be fighting over the planets or the technology (or maybe the amulet of Endor) so simply throwing comets and obliterating things wouldn't make much sense except maybe defensively or to help with a gennocide.

Terrestrial battles to take over usable land would probably continue to be the name of the game. Followed with setting up tonnes of drones and sensors for defense.

14
yock 8 hours ago 2 replies      
On the subject of privateers, why is the author so insistent on the danger of crashing ships into planets? What does the math look like when space craft like he describes hits the upper reaches of our atmosphere? At those speeds, could a space craft really penetrate far enough to cause terrestrial damage?
15
dustingetz 7 hours ago 0 replies      
my takeaway: there will be no space battles, because whichever side has more money will always have vastly superior weapons, and they will take what they want. violence will happen in key strategic plays, like political assassinations. it's not like today's earth-combat where we're all mostly equal and everyone has time to launch their nukes and we all die. this is all assuming that one side doesn't simply exterminate the other like a termite infestation.
16
berntb 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Would it be feasible to use a nuclear device as a shotgun?

That is, most of the kinetic energy of the bomb is directed (like discussions for the bombs in the Orion project). The bomb would be optimised to send tungsten bullets off at X km/s.

Then put that as the payload of a missile.

Edit: Fragmentation bombs was discussed in the second page of the article. Hmm... this would need a very tight spread of the heavy pellets, which is probably not possible with a nuclear weapon?

Edit 2: Add a 2nd level of explosive drive to the fragments? They disperse a bit (to make them hard targets) but know where the target will be and when. More like submunitions, I guess.

Edit 3: Rail guns to send (small) kinetic missiles at a high initial speed? These could potentially run in stealth mode for quite some time, before doing final course corrections.

17
philwelch 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't think space combat is even going to happen. Any combatant with the necessary wealth and technology to develop any space-combat capability is going to have significant terrestrial interests and nuclear weapons already, at which point they're already subject to MAD and won't engage in direct combat anyway. At the very minimum, you would need economically and politically independent Moon/Mars colonies, and even they would be so dependent upon Earth trade that they would either not want to start a war or, even if they did, would have Earthbound allies who are significantly more vulnerable than they are, and no less essential to their survival.

The closest we'll ever get is probably the development of ASAT weapons, and even those aren't likely to see much use.

18
Splines 6 hours ago 0 replies      
As mentioned in the post, David Weber's Honor Harrington series operates very much like this. I've read a few of them and enjoyed it. Nuances in space combat in his stories tend to be important.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Weber#Honor_Harrington_se...

Also, it's worth watching this scene from Mass Effect 2. It's amusing :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GqqDCe4Yrs

19
Avshalom 8 hours ago 1 reply      
http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/spacewarintro.php
for all your back of the envelope needs.
20
elmindreda 8 hours ago 1 reply      
My favourite space combat scene is the one on the way to Home in Protector.
21
meric 8 hours ago 1 reply      
"there's no stealth in space, but there most certainly is stealth in an atmosphere."

It would allow for ambushes, and fake-ambushes.

A lone-ship running from a fleet, carrying a local governor, running past an uninhabited planet, away from a chasing enemy fleet. The lone-ship passes right next to the planet and keeps going. The enemy fleet follows. When the fleet is passing next to the planet, will there be an ambush waiting? Will missiles hidden in the moon orbiting the planet emerge and fire in a cloud of <"thunder" replacement>?

The algorithm deems the chance of an ambush springing from the planet atmosphere as "possible", and the fleet retreats.

22
JDulin 6 hours ago 0 replies      
A fascinating read and good outline for what space battles require, but not a predication of what future space combat will look like. By limiting the discussion to only technology that we could build today, the exact scenarios in here will never play out.

Large scale space combat will play out only when humans can build these weapons cheaply, and have an incentive to build them at all. That is decades from now. By the time a human society decides to construct the ridiculously expensive space warships and defenses the author talks about, we will have much more advanced technology (that is probably a lot cheaper to.)

23
orenmazor 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I think Hamilton nailed it when he talked about kinetic weapons and 'wasps' (aka small bots that can move in ways a human occupied ship can't)
24
learc83 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Do any other hacker news readers check out spacebattles.com? I'm glad to see it on the front page, I've been a member there since '01
25
kevinalexbrown 6 hours ago 1 reply      
What if you launch a surprise attack by launching a missile at relativistic speeds?
26
maeon3 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Information and stealth are the biggest assets in space war so maybe that is why we dont see aliens chit chatting all over.  A species wins a war by making the enemy think it has won, while hiding out at a new home base to build up weapons.I see earth as an extension and continuation of that war.  We don't know where our allies are, So that when they discover our position and interrogate us they won't find the rest of the hive.  the winners of war will be the species that hides the best.
27
zmj 7 hours ago 1 reply      
What's the difference between a spaceship and a missile once you remove the human passengers and pilots?
9
After 7.5 years, Firefox finally adds line numbers to view-source: mozilla.org
118 points by ecaron  6 hours ago   38 comments top 10
1
jrockway 2 hours ago 4 replies      
Well, nobody sent them a patch until two months ago, nobody added tests until a month ago, and nobody fixed the broken tests until yesterday. So the title should be more like, "Firefox adds line numbers to view-source the day after someone implemented them correctly."

This is how Free Software projects work; people that want a feature implement it. It's great that you want something and it's possible that your desires will line up with those of someone who can easily implement them ("oh yeah, great idea, i want line numbers too"), but more often than not, the people with experience on some project are more interested in some deeper problem. If you're hacking on the JS JIT, line numbers just aren't important to you; you never "view source" in the browsers and may not even run the browser all that often. It's likely that your "extracurricular hacking" will be on something like a better test harness or better Emacs integration with your development workflow.

It is hard to go from being a user of software to a developer of that software, especially in this day and age of easily-downloadable TV shows, movies, and /b/ memes. That's why it takes 7.5 years to find someone interested in hacking on this feature, them getting themselves up to speed on Mozilla, and then finally implementing an acceptable patch. It would be nice if someone got paid to work on this sort of stuff, but users are comparing Firefox to its competition with things like Javascript benchmarks and WebGL conformance, not whether the browser has line numbers in view source. That's not to say they're not important, but rather very easy to deprioritize when the people that know how to implement that quickly also know how to implement "bigger wins" more quickly.

Ultimately, a free software project lacks feature X because you haven't added it yet. Remember that when you submit complainy titles to HN. Don't rely on someone else to make your life better because you're going to be pretty disappointed when you realize that you don't matter much to the world at large. Everyone else has other things to do too.

2
mmahemoff 5 hours ago 0 replies      
That's quite a while, but actually I think it represents a trend we're seeing in HTML5/webdev, which is increased attention to developer experience.

While fancy components and CSS eye candy will continue to roll out, we're seeing even more work on development/debugging tools, the JavaScript language, and with web intents and web components, the seeds of a more robust reuse model. [http://webintents.org,
http://dvcs.w3.org/hg/webcomponents/raw-file/tip/explainer/i...]

3
FuzzyDunlop 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Next on the long-awaited feature list: word wrap in Eclipse.

I can't say I even noticed line numbers on the page source in Chrome either. The formatting of source on a rendered page can be a bit messed up when the request is served, with tabbing and whitespace ended up all over the place, especially with loops. Then there's minified source if you're using someone else's code.

Most of the time it's easier to note the error, try and identify where it occurred, then find it in your editor. And with things like Chrome's developer console, sometimes using view-source is redundant when you have a DOM inspector and a number of ways to traverse it.

And even then, with a good linter you can avoid making basic mistakes like typos or missing parentheses or whatever, and in some cases even have undeclared variables or functions highlighted (Sublime Text 2 has one that in some places can appear quite fascist in how strict it enforces its policies, particularly with Python). At that point, usage of the browser for debugging code is most useful for capturing errors you couldn't reproduce elsewhere, and errors that only appear in minified code.

Not that I'm saying the browser tools aren't a great productivity boost. Because they obviously are. Just that I rarely find myself using the view source feature, really.

4
thought_alarm 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The wheels of progress turn slowly, to paraphrase someone talking about mozilla.org in 1999.
5
wavephorm 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Just in time for the removal of the "View Source" menu item.
6
millzlane 5 hours ago 0 replies      
They've always shown up in the status bar if you put the cursor on a line. You can also press Ctrl+L to goto a specific line number. Just in case someone didn't know.
7
scotty79 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Great. Maybe soon disable-output-encoding if Firefox XSLT processing will get implemented.

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=98168

8
gcb 4 hours ago 0 replies      
and 7.5 years I still think it's not that useful anyway.

you could always go to a specific line (edit>go to line, or Ctrl+L), which is over 9000% more useful from anyway you look at it.

you also could have seem the line number on the statusbar.

9
moheeb 5 hours ago 3 replies      
I never understood this. I believe even Visual Studio defaults to having the line numbers off.

So even though errors are reported as to which line number they are on the line number is not displayed on screen by default!?

Is there reasoning behind this?

10
DiabloD3 5 hours ago 1 reply      
The line to shout FINALLY! at the top of their lungs starts here.
10
"Hacker Proof - Secured by GoDaddy" Site Hacked. Passwds, CCs Leaked. pastebin.com
70 points by mschonfeld  4 hours ago   18 comments top 6
1
scythe 16 minutes ago 0 replies      
Let's be honest here. Has any "Secured by X company" certification ever actually meant a damn thing? I swear I hear reports about sites like this getting broken into every week. Those banners are basically the equivalent of painting a target on your back.
2
burgerbrain 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Good to see them making use of Tor hidden services.
3
mike-cardwell 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Never a good idea to publicly announce that your service is hacker proof.
4
mschonfeld 2 hours ago 1 reply      
To what extent do you think GoDaddy should be held liable for?
5
elbac 3 hours ago 3 replies      
Can someone clarify exactly what and from whom was stolen?
6
smackfu 4 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm sure people with their CC leaked will now be against SOPA.
11
Would Obama Veto SOPA? Extremely Doubtful techdirt.com
81 points by llambda  5 hours ago   31 comments top 6
1
ams6110 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Throughout his administration, the President has left almost all intellectual property issues up to Vice President Joe Biden

Classic. Leave IP issues to the plagiarist.

2
vectorpush 3 hours ago 1 reply      
leading into what may be a difficult election year, and dependent on money from Hollywood and unions (the big Democratic funders), this is an easy call.

There is no way that Obama hasn't taken the temperature on SOPA by now. Obama's most vocal liberal base will transform into an internet hate machine to rival the likes of the tea party if SOPA is signed. There is also the Ron Paul crew capturing more and more Democratic voters by the day, a signature on SOPA would be an incredible windfall for them in terms of people who would refuse to vote for Obama out of pure anger.

I don't underestimate the influence of these interests in Washington, but SOPA is really unpopular right now and getting more so by the day.

3
jballanc 4 hours ago 3 replies      
There are some interesting points here, but the article misses one very, very important constituency (from the President's point of view, at least): the intelligence community. If the law remains as is and outlaws Tor, Obama will have the head of every intelligence agency in his office telling him to veto the bill or put the nation at risk.

If the law is amended to allow Tor (as was attempted) and then passes, then how long before Tor becomes a household name?

4
pasbesoin 4 hours ago 0 replies      
As I've said before, just look at what Joe Biden's been up to.

This post is on the mark. "The Internet's" problem is that it doesn't have anything to hold over Obama's head. Yet.

5
UncleBeard 5 hours ago 2 replies      
I'll never forget what John Carpenter taught me in They Live. "The golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules."
6
zackzackzack 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Basis for an effective counterargument:
A gut feeling tells me that if somebody did an analysis of Obama's last campaign then they would find that he would have violated the current form of SOPA multiple times. A potential new argument against SOPA would be that it limits the campaigning power of political candidates, especially those running for higher offices.

Not a particularly strong argument, but I don't think a strong case will win this fight. Many different people from many walks of life need to be angry about SOPA before Obama could walk away from the bill easily with "The people don't want this." Nerds on the internet probably won't convince him alone.

12
Geekli.st integrates with Github to let you publish achievements with your code thenextweb.com
23 points by chapel  2 hours ago   discuss
13
"Small-claims flash mob" - Car owner takes legal fight away from lawyers latimes.com
98 points by radley  8 hours ago   41 comments top 9
1
grellas 7 hours ago 5 replies      
In California, if a defendant loses in small claims court, there is an automatic appeal right to have the case heard de novo by a judge of the Superior Court. "De novo" means the case is heard fresh and the small claims proceeding has no bearing on it whatever - in essence, you get to go through the same sort of expedited hearing procedure (no formal pleadings, no discovery, no formal rules of evidence, etc.) but in front of a real judge. The hearing is held, typically lasts no more than an hour, and (usually) an immediate decision is rendered and that is where it ends. Thus, even after this sort of appeal, a lay plaintiff can still have a potentially effective remedy for getting a quick decision.

As I read this piece, however, I was most struck not so much by how the small claims remedy is particularly effective (in reality, this is a highly variable forum at best) but rather by what a joke the typical class action settlement can be. While that vehicle has occasionally proven effective in high profile cases, for the run-of-the-mill class action case you can often get a plaintiff's firm that is pretty much gaming the system to get a fee windfall for itself even as it puts a relatively low priority on the remedy it gets for the class of victims supposedly being represented. That is why remedies rarely take the form of significant cash payouts to members of the represented class and why the first instinct you have whenever you get one of those class notices is to simply throw it away rather than bothering to read all the fine print that might lead to your getting a $10 recovery or some such thing.

It is interesting to see how enhanced connectivity in our modern era is threatening to disrupt the cozy sorts of settlements so achieved through this vehicle. Probably the biggest losers will be the plaintiffs' class-action lawyers themselves, who might wind up having their back-room settlements more easily rejected and be left actually having to work hard to get a real recovery for the victims in lieu of taking a quick and inadequate deal that benefits primarily the lawyers.

2
ajays 6 hours ago 2 replies      
Can we use Small Claims to fight other injustices? How about going after companies that sell your email address?

Edit: for the downvoters: it is a genuine question.

3
waqf 7 hours ago 1 reply      
As I understand it, what usually happens to small-claims cases against large, well-funded corporations is that you win the first round, then the corporation appeals and suddenly you're in grown-up court and have to pay a lawyer.
4
ebaysucks 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The problem with litigation, even if affordable in the first round, is that it can be appealed and the judgment is only recognized and enforced in the jurisdiction of the court.

Compare this with low cost arbitration: Internationally recognized, final, binding and a lot of procedural freedom.

Disclosure: I am launching judge.me, a binding internet arbitration service that charges $299 fixed price and offers awards that are recognized and enforced by court systems in 146 countries.

5
jaylevitt 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Great idea, but what happens when every major purchase includes a EULA that requires binding arbitration, like so many contracts already do?
6
pothibo 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I love this Heather Peters. She's one clever lady that just hacked the judiciary procedures in a novel way. Impressive

EDIT: I see many other claims that could go through the small claims, one thing that does come to mind however, is it possible to go through small claims when you buy online and you don't get what you want? (Avenger controller for example)

7
icefox 6 hours ago 1 reply      
While the "small-claims flash mob" is interesting, I have a problem with the original problem. Buying a car isn't a small purchase (for most people) so you would think they would have done some small amount of research or just read the sticker on the car window. The article makes it out that every civic hybrid every sold counts in the lawsuit. If the car has been out for years pretending you don't know what the mpg that it will be getting is just grabbing for money. Or was there details left out of the article?
8
padobson 7 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm for doing away with all other forms of civil court all together. Let's handle patents and copyrights and divorces this way too.
9
nvk 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This is brilliant!
14
Facebook deleted their Python SDK repository without warning techhouse.org
109 points by lincolnq  9 hours ago   33 comments top 14
1
douglasp 7 hours ago 5 replies      
I work at Facebook.

My short response is that the repository is public once again, with a notice that it is deprecated. I personally apology for the churn.

My long response is that we haven't supported this SDK for some time and with our recent move to OAuth 2.0 across the board, the SDK does not support the latest cookie format. The reason we made the repository private was to avoid confusing developers with a public SDK that just didn't work and that we already said we didn't support.

You may be wondering why we don't support this SDK. The answer is very simple, resources. What we have been doing all year is reduce the surface area of our platform to a place that we can actual provide good support. This is the reason that we are removing FBML (https://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/568/), deprecating the REST API (https://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/616/), moving to support OAuth 2.0/HTTPs (https://developers.facebook.com/docs/oauth2-https-migration/) across the board and deciding what SDKs we are really going to support.

Based on this, we are going to do two things. First, we have made the repository public again, with messages that it is now deprecated. Feel free to clone and mod to taste/work. We really want to support a Python SDK, but we need to get all our resources focused on the SDKs we can actually support well. I have no doubt that the developer community can and will provide an SDK to fill this need in the interim. Second, we are going to post something on our developer blog to make sure everyone is clear about what SDKs we support (at this time we are only supporting the PHP SDK, the Javascript SDK, the iOS SDK and the Android SDK).

2
Pewpewarrows 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Rule #42 of Deployment: Never rely on any external resources.

This isn't just to prevent getting caught with your paints down when a developer deletes a repo from a hard-coded URL. PyPI itself is known to go down more than [insert NSFW comment here]. You can either keep a local hard-copy of dependencies in your repo (ugly), or run an internal PyPI server using something like Chishop (which is now called djangopypi) [1].

Best-practices rant aside, thanks lincolnq for providing a backup fork of the project. And thanks Facebook for deleting a resource that developers have become reliant on without any notice whatsoever. Although that really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that's had the displeasure of using their excuse for an API.

[1] https://github.com/benliles/djangopypi

3
dmpayton 8 hours ago 1 reply      
And yet, they're sponsoring PyCon 2012.

https://us.pycon.org/2012/sponsors/#sponsor-89

I have nothing but contempt for Facebook at this point. As a user I don't trust them, and as a developer I can't stand them.

4
dinedal 8 hours ago 0 replies      
"Hey, we don't have time to update the Python SDK, what should we do?"

"Just delete it."

5
Toddward 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I seem to recall Facebook announcing at the beginning of the summer that they were discontinuing support for the Python SDK. I'll try to track down the relevant article.

EDIT - Relevant HN link: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2737965

6
dguaraglia 7 hours ago 3 replies      
I contacted one of the developers (Casey Muller) a few days ago when I noticed the repository had disappeared. I'm quoting from his reply:

"""This is pretty lame, apparently it was really out of date and we're having trouble finding the resources internally to support it.

For now we're pointing people here: https://github.com/pythonforfacebook/facebook-sdk
"""

Although I think the sudden disappearance wasn't a smooth move, I guess the community will have to step up and maintain the library. Nothing wrong with that, it was open source to begin with.

7
llambda 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Alternatively this fork seems active and is functioning for us: https://github.com/pythonforfacebook/facebook-sdk
8
liuliu 8 hours ago 0 replies      
That's why I always fork important libraries that my application relies on especially Facebook SDKs as most of them need some tuning to work in the first place (!). Yes, it takes some efforts to keep the library up to date, but it also avoid any broken changes introduced to your deployment without warnings.
9
cookiecaper 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I have a fork here: https://github.com/sjuxax/python-sdk

This is the only significant change: https://github.com/sjuxax/python-sdk/commit/9aa42acaef53a7f5... , to fix crashes when handling profile picture downloads. It's hackish but it was all I needed for my project so I rolled with it.

This version of the library installs as sjuxax-facebook. I'm not sure if it still works, I haven't tried to use it since October.

10
thinkbohemian 8 hours ago 4 replies      
Linking directly to the Git repo can lead to bad things, this being one of them. Ruby has rubygems, a managed version-ed dependency system that is one layer removed from source control. Does python have a system like Rubygems?
11
bryanh 7 hours ago 0 replies      
12
steve8918 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm trying to understand why Facebook would delete the SDK without any type of notice or deprecation. Was it possibly a mistake of some sort?
13
bluemoon 8 hours ago 0 replies      
We just had to deal with this, there is a fork of the repository here https://github.com/pythonforfacebook/facebook-sdk I think part of the reason they removed the repository was because there were some changes to the way they handled the cookies, this fork however fixes that and does work.
14
BiosElement 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't see why this is the end of the world really. Sounds like it was just a basic depreciation, but frankly I don't see why anyone would expect it remain online forever.
15
RealTime Network Data from german 28c3 Hacker Congress build with node.js ccc.de
18 points by axx  3 hours ago   discuss
16
Introducing filer.js ericbidelman.tumblr.com
79 points by cleverjake  8 hours ago   10 comments top 3
2
superchink 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Pretty slick. Anyone thinking of using this for anything serious, though, should note the disclaimer:

“The HTML5 Filesystem API is only supported in Chrome. Therefore, the library only works in Chrome.”

3
DonnyV 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Pretty neat but not sure why you would use UNIX commands for the method names. Good clear names go a long way when adopting a new library.
17
While we have GoDaddy's attention scripting.com
30 points by davewiner  3 hours ago   4 comments top 2
1
georgieporgie 56 minutes ago 1 reply      
Assuming the author submitted this, the sentence starting with "On what planet is a customer" appears to be a fragment.
2
dlsspy 2 hours ago 1 reply      
...we've lost our focus on the real problem.

This isn't internic. It's just a company in a commodity market whose service and policies people seem to dislike, but are about as far from a monopoly as you can get. They are relevant because we keep talking about them.

18
Should Wikipedia run ads that ask for money, or ads that make money? aaronklein.com
36 points by aaronklein  4 hours ago   41 comments top 21
1
neilk 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This FAQ is linked in the comments of the OP, but I thought it bears rereading. It's not just conflict of interest, it's also privacy, and the fact that the community just plain doesn't want advertising. In fact, Spanish Wikipedia already forked once, out of concerns that Wikipedia would become too commercial.

http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/FAQ/en#Why_doesn.27t_Wik...

It's true that other projects manage to combine collaboration with some traditional revenue sources such as advertising. But, rightly or wrongly, this is the community's choice, and it seems to be how the general public feels about the site too. There's something about a mission to promote knowledge that people want to keep mentally, physically apart from commerce. A friend of mine (non-techie, non-wikipedian) describes Wikipedia as a "sacred space".

Finally, and this is my own take on it, I think there's something valuable about having the reader community take ownership in something, rather than just be eyeballs to be packaged.

Disclaimer, I work for the WMF, although not on fundraising.

2
jballanc 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Why is it that people automatically equate "Capitalism" with "doing whatever it takes to get your dollar", instead of "producing a better product than the competitor"?

If competition is essential to capitalism, and if "capitalism won", then why doesn't the author create a competing service? Certainly, if Wikipedia is doing something so obviously wrong, then it should be trivial to out compete them in the marketplace, no?

Ok, maybe the author doesn't have the time to put in the effort that would be required to create a competing service. In that case, maybe we can ask the nice people at the Encyclopedia Britannica to help? Oh, or maybe the people that work on Google Knol? I think maybe they could shed some light on how "capitalism won"...

3
JonnieCache 3 hours ago 3 replies      
One of the best things about wikipedia, some might argue the best thing, is that it is free from all the conflicts of interest invited in by money changing hands in exchange for services.

This applies to all free culture, including the OSS world. It would be a tragedy to change it.

(Obviously in the OSS world, people do pay for services, but the important thing is you can always choose not to. Just as you can choose not to send money to wikipedia.)

4
InclinedPlane 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Ads that ask for money: the readers are wikipedia's customers.

Ads that make money: the readers are wikipedia's product.

Incentives matter.

5
decklin 2 hours ago 0 replies      

    Capitalism won, try it.

I don't think this is true here at all. The obvious real-world analogy is news. I would much rather listen to NPR or the BBC than watch CNN or a local broadcast station -- I don't care if the latter has "won" by making money, I care about the quality and editorial independence of the content.

6
orthecreedence 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Ask for money. If this model works for them (it seems to), then there's no reason to change it.

Also, by having "sponsors" you open yourself up to "change this article to be like this, or we'll pull our support from Wikipedia." This may seem like a far-fetched scenario, but unless you only use the ad revenue for extra income and don't depend on it at all, you are vulnerable (no matter how many levels removed you are from the advertiser).

It's also extremely difficult to have a steady source of income and not become dependent on it (like ads). My point being that even if they did run ads, they would have to still depend only on community donations if they didn't want to be held on the puppet strings of the capitalist dollar, which is a hard thing to do.

Note that I'm not against capitalism, but once you depend on it for your income, you and your free speech are at its mercy.

I completely agree with Wikipedia for not running ads. It would open a door that once opened is very difficult to close.

7
spodek 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Reminds me of a time I saw Craig of Craig's List on a forum in the mid 2000s. People asked him why he didn't put ads on the Craigs List. With negligible effort his company could profit hugely.

He politely pointed out that most of the companies that tried to maximize profit that way went bankrupt in the recession. Meanwhile his company was chugging along, free to do what it wanted, delivering a product its customers loved to a global audience with minimal staff, costs, or conflicts of interest.

People don't give you money for nothing.

Note to the original blogger, statements like "Capitalism won, try it," when referring to one of the most successful projects on the net, don't make them look bad. They make you look like you missed something. But that's just my perspective.

8
gojomo 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Imagine Google made a live read-only Wikipedia mirror, with AdSense advertisements. Then, donated all resulting revenues to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Would that action be lawful evil or chaotic good?

What if it multiplied the WMF budget by 20X or more while reducing server expenses?

What if Bing did it? Blekko? DuckDuckGo?

Does it help at all that by the CC-SA license, the preferences of the Foundation or community really shouldn't matter: this is a completely legal tactic? (Could that help solve the potential financial-motivation-crowding issues: the fact that such a bonanza occurred "against the community's wishes"?)

9
coffeeaddicted 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Wikipedia competes with other companies not just on market share and money, but even more on attention from people actively supporting it by editing the information. I see no immediate gain they could get in market share by making money with ads as they are already having the biggest share of any encyclopedia with their current way of working. But I'm rather certain they would lose a lot of editors and would even give a competitor a chance to gain those people. As little as many people might care about seeing Google-ads, no one helps Google for free. Swarm driven websites have to care about attention from people far more than about money as long as they are able to cover their costs (and they are able to do that as long as they have the swarm behind them).
10
gwillen 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This question is a litmus test. Anybody who is unable to correctly answer this question, and articulate the reasoning for the answer, is not equipped to operate successfully in the age of free culture.
11
jarin 4 hours ago 2 replies      
They should place one ad in the sidebar, with a "request for comments" link right above it. Run that for a week, post the results, and let the community decide.
12
austenallred 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I disagree with others making the conflict of interest argument. I don't see how it would create a conflict of interest if they applied a hands-off, self-serve (call it laissez-faire if you must) advertising strategy -- in fact this would create much less of a conflict of interest than accepting direct donors.

But that point is moot. The true risk you run is alienating contributors. The beautiy of Wikipedia is that they have (almost) completely eliminated the influence that Wikipedia itself has on the content. It set up the rules and lets the crowd do the work, and lets the crowd be incentivized by the contribution it is making to society, like most other crowd sourced projects. It has created (or is striving to create) an autonomous encyclopedia.

If Wikipedia were to have ads, even if it weren't a for-profit company, it feels like contributors should receive something in return, a la BleacherReport.

Bottom line: It's not about conflict of interest, if Wikipedia accepts advertising it starts to feel like a business, and the incentive of contributors to keep contributing is greatly lessened.

13
johnohara 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't know what the answer is for wikipedia. But I do know that I use dictionary.com less frequently because of the ads.

An extreme example of how far this goes was the Apple iPad ad that ran on yahoo.com a week or so ago. It WAS the upper fold of the front page. Fixed in place at 974px by 500px just below the search bar and logo. Bam. Here I am. Buy me now. No doubt paid some bills but made me think "this organization has a price."

My impression is wikipedia values the way users interact with its content and would rather not introduce distractions.

14
johnkchow 3 hours ago 0 replies      
These ads serve a secondary purpose of reminding people that Wikipedia's wealth of information originates by public knowledge. A lot of people tend to take knowledge for granted, and I personally feel humbled and grateful for Wikipedia from their ads.
15
JustinSeriously 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I've always wondered why Wikipedia doesn't include affiliate links to Amazon on all their book and movie articles.

I think their current logic is that affiliate links force them to choose which online store they want to support, which is something they appear loath to do.

Look at the page they send you too when you do try to buy a book in an article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:BookSources/0802130984 . It's so large and completist that it has two tables of contents, and it's so obsessively non-preferential that it does a good job of hiding the one amazon.com link that most people are probably looking for.

Personally, I've bought 100s of books and DVDs after reading their Wikipedia articles, and I'd be happy to let the WikiMedia Foundation get my affiliate dollars.

16
Yahivin 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Wikipedia should absolutely not run ads that make money. Even if they put the strictest protections in place to prevent advertisers interfering with the content it would still cast doubt in the eyes of those using the service.

If Wikipedia were to become dependent on a revenue stream generated from advertisements for products then over time they would become beholden to those interests.

17
aorshan 3 hours ago 1 reply      
You can't run ads that make money while at the same time expect people to believe you are completely impartial.
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antimora 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I used to donate to the fund, but ever since I saw their budget that doubles every year (now it's around $20 Million), I started having reservation on giving. I don't mind supporting Wikipedia service, but I feel the money is now being spent on some other initiatives.
19
Craiggybear 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Well, they could do both. Adverts imply a non-impartial editorial stance so I totally get why they see that as the thin end of the wedge I respect that totally, which is why I'm happy to donate now and then.

Why not?

20
webfuel 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I wish they had an opt-in ad program so people who don't want to donate can still help.
21
shingen 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Both, ads that make money while asking for money.

This plea brought to you by Encyclopedia Britannica, please support Wikipedia with a donation.

19
End artificial scarcities to increase productivity might.net
87 points by p4bl0  8 hours ago   34 comments top 14
1
tptacek 7 hours ago 4 replies      
Bogus scarcities we've addressed at our office:

* Macbook power bricks (we were having arguments over them, because people would borrow them from other desks; now we have a stack of them).

* Macbook video dongles (same; note: it's not enough to just have one attached to every monitor, like the article says, because sometimes people need to take them out of the office)

* Whiteboards (everyone has one on their desk now)

* Hard disks (same deal; they're so cheap, we just buy new ones any time there's any storage issue, rather than have people scavenge for space on their existing drives)

* Books (everyone gets infinite free books, and to head off time-wasting discussions about who bought what book so they can borrow it, the policy is, you order the book & it's yours full stop; we have many copies of several key books in our office)

We're probably missing lots and lots of opportunities to trade small amounts of money for substantial amounts of time. What are other people buying? An obvious next example would be "soda", since people trek down to the convenience store to get bottles --- but I feel like stocking soda is also a bit unhealthy.

2
cletus 4 hours ago 1 reply      
It's interesting to view how Google works in this light:

- the micro-kitchens are restocked once or twice a day and have all manner of drinks and snacks;

- micro-kitchens are only so far from every desk (they're in every building in MTV and on every floor in NYC);

- stationery cabinets are also in close proximity. Take whatever pens, whiteboard markers, etc ou need;

- tech stops are a little further away generally but have self-service for many things (power bricks, cables, mice, keyboards) although I wish the self-service was open out-of-hours;

- you can file tickets for things and it just turns up at your desk;

- you have a credit card you can expense things with (nobody likes keeping and submitting receipts for small items);

- if you need a book just expense it;

- all of the conference rooms have display adapters and power bricks (although there could be more of these);

- whenever there is a mass desk move (it happens a lot) your labelled boxes and equipment gets moved on the weekend and at your new location there'll often be a triage station with cables, power bricks and the like; and

- whiteboards are plentiful.

I'd always viewed this as not penny-pinching, which I guess it is (apart from the micro-kitchens, which I'm sure are a significant cost) but its interesting to view this in terms of reset and transit costs.

Another important part of this (IMHO) is not making people make decisions about stuff they don't care about, which has a cognitive cost.

Imagine if a company gave you a book budget of $X per year. Even if it's more than you would likely spend the very fact that you have a limit makes you think about what else ou might need later rather than just "do I need this now?"

3
mechanical_fish 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this article would be stronger if it didn't open with its weakest example: The problem with whiteboard pens is that (a) they wear out over time as the ink dries, so you can't solve your problem by buying and distributing them in one large batch; you need to constantly and continuously resupply them over time; and (b) they can be instantly ruined by misusing them, e.g. by not capping one tightly when you put it down.

So I'd argue that whiteboard pens are frustratingly close to the category boundary between "things that are so cheap that you should just buy them in bulk and spread them all over the environment" and "precious personal tools, where the optimal strategy is to buy the best that you can afford, carry them around with you in a special holster, and never let anyone else touch them on pain of death". The latter category includes things like a chef's knife, a mechanic's micrometer, a microsurgeon's favorite tweezers, and your cellphone.

Whiteboard pens are legendarily annoying because they're not clearly in one category or the other, so no matter whether you fanatically carry around a personal set or choose to rely on their ubiquity you're inevitably going to end up kicking yourself at one time or another.

4
nostromo 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Here's something I did recently to make my morning routine go faster and better. I labeled everything I need to do to get ready for work in the bathroom with a number. It helps me remember to do things I kept forgetting to do before: things like apply Rogaine :'( and take Resveratrol -- and it also has shortened the amount of time I take to get ready.

My friends joke that I'm OCD, but I argue that an OCD person wouldn't need the labels to nail down a routine. :)

5
orijing 7 hours ago 0 replies      
When I read the heading, I expected this to be a rant about patents and the imposition of artificial scarcities to various industries like music, software and pharmaceuticals, where the marginal cost of production is negligible compared to how much they cost customers.

The article was a pleasant surprise; instead of arguing the trite, it made a point that was rarely made. For me though, I just write off these "wasted" minutes of walking up the stairs to get the scissors as "exercise."

6
dangero 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Another big productivity helper is to be less hesitant to discard a piece of hardware that is not working well. Repairs often take more time than you expect. It takes discipline to do this because as a tech person you tend to like to troubleshoot things. Examples are things like a router that needs to be restarted a lot or a keyboard with a sticky key. Sometimes it's just acknowledging that you spent money on something that never really worked well enough and you should just throw it out and buy something better. I find that often times I hold onto something because I know I paid a lot for it, not because it's working well.
7
georgieporgie 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Stupid things I've seen:

* Server space. We had a shared server where, for some reason, /home had been placed on a tiny partition. Someone must have thought this would encourage responsible use of space, but in practice it just prevented real work from getting done. It was a 2000's solution to a 1990's problem.

* Coffee. It's extremely valuable to have one or two varieties of coffee on hand, hot and fresh at all times. Assign someone this task. We had infighting over pots left empty, and angst over cold left-over coffee in the morning. All because the office manager thought it was beneath her to make coffee.

* Books. I have never worked at a company that had a book allowance. When asked, I was told it just wasn't in the budget. Meanwhile, I've been sent, along with coworkers, to awful, multi-day conferences for "training" (it wasn't training, it was a conference).

8
p4bl0 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Reading this recalled me that someone working at a big company once told me that he often had to look for a whiteboard pen for 5 to 15 minutes, and that it was ridiculous because 10 minutes of his salary cost his employer more whiteboard pens than he would ever need… Yet, small budget cuts which target this kind of cheap stuff seems very common.
9
zdw 6 hours ago 0 replies      
In general this is good, but needs planning - ever walk into a place with multiple 'redundant' printers, and none take the same ink, half are out of color and the others out of black?

For example, there's a cost to having data in more than one place and keeping it coherent. Before version control reduced this friction, I kept having issues where my desktop and laptop would have newer versions of files in one place or the other, so I stopped using both and switched to just a laptop. I know people who keep everything on a USB drive for similar reasons.

But for something you just need to grab and use, and doesn't have data persistence, sure.

10
scotty79 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Whenever I was missing a pen I was buying 10 or 20 cheapest ones and allowed them to dissipate around in my environment so that whenever I needed a pen, finding one would take me few seconds at most. It required no forethought and no organisation. Inefficiency due to low cost was negligible.
11
Monkeyget 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I am reminded of Snow Crash where the government has turned into an hyper bureaucratic system. It describes in several tedious pages an addendum to the office rules for toilet paper an TP pooling. But fear not, productivity was not lost since employees were expected to read the new rule within a specified quick time.
12
yarone 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Also, sometimes it's important that there's a forcing function / mechanism of some kind that gets things to stay put.

Ex: Pens used at cash registers that are intentionally giant / ugly / unwieldy so you don't walk off with them. See here: http://karentl.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/design-artifact-plas...

13
dustingetz 5 hours ago 1 reply      
hahah. i buy my own stuff at work if its scarce. most notably kleenex; being sick is miserable, who wants to use cheap-ass sandpaper on their nose when they already feel like shit? thank you, i'll spend $4 for super-extra-soft tissues.
14
reddit_clone 6 hours ago 2 replies      
First world problems. (Is it so important that you may have to reach over to grab your toothpaste or do you keep two of them near both sinks?)

Reduce the clutter and spend some calories reaching for things man.

What you really need is a body slave so that you can be free to be maximally efficient.

       cached 28 December 2011 03:02:01 GMT