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Tim Connors: Wrong technological fixes to problems vol. #8123

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
Arizona state apparently spent $1B to attempt to automate the detection of people crossing a 53 mile section of the Mexican border.

If we expect the lifetime of such a project to be 15 years before the infrastructure completely falls apart and needs to be renewed, then in that same 15 year period, we can employ 33333/15=2222 staff at what seem to be typical US wage rates (neglecting inflation. But since the US economy is a basket case, I might be justified in doing that). In that 53 mile space, we could space 2222 guards every 40 metres in a line, or a bit more sparse if you wanted a grid of guards to detect tunneling.

<hint of sarcasm="maybe">

I'm sure most government spending is useful, and I'm sure the expense of the project could be entirely justified. I'm sure the article is just ill-informed.

</hint of sarcasm>

Tim Connors: Vale Purrple

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
I'm not having much luck selecting cats for longevity rather than character. Still, I'd rather character than longevity.

Purrple has been living with mum since Phred died, because cats always deserve fellow playthings, and I wasn't about to get another cat. The signs of her (presumably) cancer started showing in October, but the tests the vet did didn't reveal anything (he wasn't searching for cancer though). On Monday this week, she started showing other signs - that of kidney failure. In the end, she went the same way Phred did.

I didn't get to see her in the end - the curse of long distance part time veterinaries. He made the call, it could either be sew her back up, give her drugs, and transport her back to us, or put her down.

And it's only just hit me. I had to type that up.

Tim Connors: Reqium for a species

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
Yikes. I'm reading Clive Hamilton's "Requiem for a species. Why we resist the truth about Climate Change". (all tyops are mine)

To date, governments have shunned geoengineering for fear of being accused of wanting to avoid their responsibilities with science fiction solutions. The topic is not mentioned in the Stern report and receives only one page in Australia's Garnaut report. As a sign of its continuing political sensitivity, when in April 2009 it was reported that President Obama's new science adviser John Holdren had said that geoengineering is being vigorously discussed as an emergency option in the White House, he immediately felt the need to issue a "clarification" claiming that he was only expressing his personal views. Holdren is one of the sharpest minds in the business and would not be entertaining what is now known as 'Plan B'— engineering the planet to head off catastrophic warming — unless he was fairly sure Plan A would fail.

It is far easier, on the face of it (and certainly, politically), to perform geoengineering than to slow down the generation of CO2. So cheap that one country can afford it, instead of it being such a huge (political) task that not even all of the worlds countries acting cooperatively will be able to pull it off. So great, lets go servo the eco-system. Control Systems are easy, right? They never break into unwanted oscillations while you're still learning their response function.

The implications are sobering. In August 1883 the painter Edvard Munch witnessed an unusual blood-red sunset over Oslo. He was shaken by it, writing that he 'felt a great, unending scream piercing through nature'. The incident inspired him to create his famous work, The Scream. The sunset he saw that evening followed the eruption of Krakatoa off the coast of Java. The explosion, one of the most violent in recorded history, sent a massive plume of ash into the stratosphere, causing the Earth to cool by more than one degree and disrupting weather patterns for several years. More vivid sunsets would be one of the consequences of using sulphate aerosols to engineer the climate; but a more disturbing effect of enhanced dimming would be the permanent whitening of daytime skies. A washed-out sky would become the norm. If the nations of the world resort to climate engineering as an expedient response to global heating, and in doing so relieve pressure to cut carbon emissions, then as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to rise so would the latent warming that must be suppressed. It would then become impossible to stop sulphur injections into the stratosphere, even for a year or two, without an immediate jump in temperature. It's estimated that, if we did stop, the backup of greenhouse gases could see warming rebound at a rate 10-20 times faster than in the recent past, a phenomenon referred to, apparently without irony, as the "termination problem". Once we start manipulating the atmosphere we could be trapped, forever dependent on a program of sulphur injections into the stratosphere. In that case, human beings would never see a blue sky again.

Please read his book. The book goes down many paths -- human pyschology, politics, science. It's bloody depressing, but people need to understand why we not going down a better route.

Tim Connors: Health and Safety

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
It has always frustrated me that the medical profession and unions and the like are always pushing the health and safety barrow so much without critical thought.

Putting up safety fencing to the point that no one pays attention anymore, because they assume the safety fencing will always be everywhere (I am reminded here of work. You have to pay a lot more attention now lest your attention lapses when you go near a fence with a hole in it because the engineering simply makes it impossible to make everything safe). (I could rant how the unions have forced legislation on how brightly lit my office has to be, to the point where it hurts my eyes if I don't wear sunglasses, but I'm going offtopic here)

Putting sensors in cars that are so safe that you don't need to pay attention anymore, so that most people drive like they're driving a Volvo (I fear and loath the research into automatically driven cars − unless those cars all limit themselves to 40km/h or they legislate against cyclists and kangaroos from roads, the research will be a failure, safety wise). Rear view cameras being mandated in cars simply because a few people in 4wds are too stupid to look backwards before running over their spawn? How is that going to protect against a child that is lying underneath the car?

But when it comes to mandatory helmet legislation, it seems the medical profession are just blind and dogmatic, and lack any critical thinking skills.

The head of Montreal’s trauma unit, Dr Raziz, really needs to come out to Australia and have a look in the trauma unit of Melbourne's hospitals some time. There he'll see that helmets do very little against cars that hit helmeted cyclists; after all, the standards only test to impact speeds of 19.5km/h - a fall of 1.5metres without any additional velocity components of heavy blunt metal. Helmets do nothing when a cyclist is ejected over the handlebars face first into the tarmac, because their handlebars got caught in the wheel-well of an excessively high 4wd. Cars are driven recklessly by drivers who have never gotten used to, nor tolerated cyclists because most cyclists had been driven off the road 20 years ago precisely because of the legislation that people like him were trying to push. When you only look at one small part of the picture, you only see a very small part of the picture. Get out there and look at the big picture. Getting more people cycling is the solution.

Something that makes people feel safer, but is not actually safer (bicycle helmets) just leads to risk compensation. Forcing people to wear helmets is anything but safe. The choice to wear helmets should be your choice, and your choice only (or your parents, if you are of an age that it is deemed that you can't legally decide for yourself).

A far more effective piece of legislation to introduce would be to ban vehicles from having a bonnet of height more than that of your typical sedan. The aggressivity ratings of 4WDs is unacceptably large, so they have poor crash compatibility with other road users. If only the legislation worked to minimise risky practices rather than forcing passive safety and adopting other practices that lead to risk compensation.

Tim Connors: Conga line of suckholes

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
I've got a higher respect for ex-leader of the ALP, Mark Latham than I currently do have for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

Conga line of suckholes indeed.

Ben Leslie: Google Maps Fun

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
Google maps is fun. Google maps API is even more fun!

Just so many cool things to do. My first Google maps hack lets you draw routes on the map (or sat image) and print out the distance associated with it. I've got some other cool things coming up, but I thought I'd get that one out now.

Oh, it is currently centered on work's new building, but zoomed out to see most of the city.

Ben Leslie: Python Generators

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
Didn't understand the coolness of python generators today. I wanted to generate a list of

files in a directory. Previously I had to write a class and do __iter__ tricks. Now I can

simply do this:

def file_walk(path): for dn, ignore, files in os.walk(path): for fn in files: yield dn + os.sep + fn

Ben Leslie: Python decorators

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
I love Python because it is so easy to write unreadable code in.

I wanted to handle sub-commands and didn't want to go to all the hassle of

maintaining a dispatch dictionary. So I decided I could be really seedy and



However this sucks if someone picks function that wasn't intended as a subcommand.

Python decorators to the rescue! My main problem with the dispatch dictionary was

having to update commands in two places. So with decorators I can do this:

commands = {}

def command(fn):

commands[fn.func_name] = fn


def foo(args): pass

and then


and I don't have to be so seedy. Of course I'm sure people still won't understand

what I'm doing, but thats ok ;)

Ben Leslie: Hoary Hedgehog

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
Today I decided to join the droves trying out hoary. I would love to say it was simple seamless experience, but it wasn't.

Not that it was particularly painful find you, just a couple of little annoyances.

Firstly SATA didn't quite work for me. My BIOS has somethign called "combination mode", which seems to make the SATA disks appear like normal ATA disks as well as SATA disks. Which confused the hell out of the kernel. By setting it to "Normal" mode in the BIOS this problem went away.

The other problem was buggy media. The CD seemed a bit scratchy but after retrying about 5 times it finally worked.

Anyway seemed to work and let me get at a terminal. I haven't got rid of the GNOME stuff and installed ratpoison yet, but this will mainly be a remote

login box anyway, so I don't care too much about the GUI.

Ben Leslie: Switching ALSA audio outputs

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
While its all well and good mixing audio output, so you can hear both the CD you are listening too, and

the audio stream from a VLC stream, it can get kind of confusing listening to two things at once.

So I to write a simple shell script which would mute the currently active output

stream, and unmute the other, which I could then easily bind this to a key in ratpoison.

I thought it would be easy, which it was, but the result is fairly gross. Surely someone can show me a better way

to do this:

#!/bin/sh if [ `amixer cget iface=MIXER,name="PCM Playback Switch" | tail -1 | cut -d\, -f2` "==" off ]; then amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="PCM Playback Switch" 1 > /dev/null; amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="CD Playback Switch" 0 > /dev/null; else amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="PCM Playback Switch" 0 > /dev/null; amixer cset iface=MIXER,name="CD Playback Switch" 1 > /dev/null; fi

Ben Leslie

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
Yay, I got my paper into LCA 2005. Hooray!

In other news I picked up my big day out tickets today. Hooray!

Finally, I leave you with a great (very nerdy) quote from Ted Ts:

The way the kernel will deal with C++ language being a complete disaster (where something as simple as "a = b + c + d +e" could involve a dozen or more memory allocations, implicit type conversions, and overloaded operators) is to not use it. Think about the words of wisdom from the movie Wargames: "The only way to win is not to play the game".

Ben Leslie

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
So instead of going to SLUG last night, Jamie and I went and played pool at the Clare Hotel. Anyway, long story short, it turns out we aren't the only

ones who play the penis game in Sydney.

Ben Leslie: FTA is bad mmmkay

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
This is just depressing.

Ben Leslie: Rage -- ZZ Top

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
JJJ should simulcast rage again.

Ben Leslie: have cable!

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
of course i dont have a computer yet. i have a nice new powerbook on order which should show up soon.

so anyway this post is coming courtesy of my palm pilot connecting to cable via new dlink 624+ wireless router.

Ben Leslie

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
This is a cool (though for very nerdy reasons), piece of art.

Ben Leslie: Meme meme wonderful meme

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
So I was explaining to Suzy exactly what a meme was the other day, but now I have a more thorough example to show. It seems that the "23rd post, 5th line" meme, is a mutation, of another "grab nearest book, 23rd page, 5th line" (or more likely the mutation went the other way around.) The point of the story is look at how that meme managed to adapt to the livejournal environment to ensure its continued replication. (Or so the meme freaks would have you believe ;)

Anyway, the meme lives on and I will give it to you in book format, from the "PCI System Architecture; 4th Ed." (yes, I am that lame...)

"and the return of the bus to the idle state. It defined how a device must respond"

So there you go, benchmark still hasn't finished and Angel still isn't on TV yet.

Ben Leslie: Screwing over business

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
So I am waiting for benchmarks to run, so I will actually update

this thing.

These latest wage rises are really quite silly for two main reasons:

1/ It really doesn't help the low income worked by much (which

is what the ACTU has been saying).

2/ It screws over small and medium businesses, which will end

up putting people out of work because they can't afford the

wage rise.

This article in the Australian explains it better than I will, but the short version is, for the $19 wage rise businesses will end up paying more than $19 per employee due to on-costs. And of the $19 families will see less than $4 once you take out the tax and the loss of other benefits.

This is really dumb, basically everyone loses, well, except that is for us. By not having to pay as many benefits out, and by raking in extra payroll tax from business, the government will be able to afford to gice middle-income earners a tax break, and get themselves reelected, or am I being too cynical?

Ben Leslie: The Free Trade Agreement

Mon, 2014-08-25 01:26
I'm sure you all realise that one person's crusade is another person's "whatever", but can I urge you all to read of the problems with the FTA.

This bill was all about being able to sell wheat and stuff to the US, but in return we have to agree to the United State's draconian copyright and digital rights management laws. This will make it illegal for certain software to be developed in Australia, with the chance of programmers being branded criminals and through in gaol.

Of course with all the other problems in the world I'm sure

this will go largely unnoticed :(.