Well that's good. Fantastic. That gives us 20 minutes to save the world and I've got a post office. And it's shut!

Wednesday, May 06


After Texas Shooting: If Free Speech Is Provocative, Should There Be Limits?


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Saturday, March 28


Dear IGN

Please find the twat that reviewed Pillars of Eternity for you and throw him off a cliff.


Dear everyone not IGN: Never read IGN.  They employ twats.

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This blog service has not yet been charged for offences relating to the "warrant canary" provisions in the Australian government's 2015 data retention legislation.

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Thursday, March 19



TPG is buying iiNet.


Not the end of the world, not even close to the end of the world, not even the end of the street, but blah.

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Thursday, February 19


Say No To Lenovo

I was thinking of getting a Lenovo notebook before I settled on the LG, since Lenovo and Apple are the only major manufacturers that still offer any build-to-order options in Australia.

Their Australian pricing isn't very good, though, and they're slow to release new models here, so I passed.  And now I'm really glad about that, because they just got caught putting adware with self-signed root certificates on their laptops.

The adware is bad.  The self-signed root certificates are downright criminal.  They mean that unless you install Firefox (which ignores any existing certificates and installs its own) the certificate owner can do...  Basically, whatever the hell they want.  You have no security and no privacy at all.  Even if you trust the companies involved - and they are obviously untrustworthy for doing this in the first place - it leaves you open to a third-party attack.

That's it as far as I'm concerned.  I'll never look at another Lenovo product, never recommend them, and warn people away if they ask.

Their non-excuses and non-apologies just turn it into a black comedy.  It's like being caught substituting ground-up diseased cockroaches for coffee, and putting a stop to the practice until you can find a source of disease-free cockroaches.

Update: The only tiny sliver of protection remaining was that the passphrase for the private key wasn't known.  But that was hours ago, and it's now been found.  Thanks Lenovo!

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Thursday, December 04


Just Pointing It Out

For a company whose primary retail presence is an online store, Dell's online store is bloody awful.


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Wednesday, December 03


The Difference Between Node.js And Ebola

There's a promising vaccine for Ebola.


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Saturday, October 25


Dear Spammers

Go away somewhere and die, you lying sacks of shit.

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Thursday, July 24


Thoughts On Android And Removable Storage

So a couple of months ago I bought a Sony Xperia Z Ultra, which you can think of as either a ridiculously large phone or a very small tablet (6.4" screen).  It's my first non-Nexus Android device and so my first Android device with removable storage.

The reason I got the Z Ultra now and not before is twofold: First, it apparently didn't sell well and Sony cut the price by about a third; and second, Sandisk have released a 128GB micro SD card, so you can now add a lot of storage to a phone relatively cheaply.

My faithful Nexus 7 stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I've been using the Z Ultra instead while I tried to fix it.  So far I've failed, and I ended up buying a new Nexus, which arrived yesterday.*  I had it shipped to my office because it's much easier, and I went in to pick it up yesterday afternoon.  (I'm taking a couple of weeks off right now.)

And I have some thoughts regarding the experience.

I use my Nexus 7 all the time.  It's my daily go-to-device for reading and checking email and notifications of various kinds.  It has - or had, we'll get to that - LTE and a 10GB data plan, which is very handy to have and saved my bacon a couple of times when wired or wifi internet access was unavailable and I needed to work.  (A power outage once, a faulty router another time.)

Smaller devices aren't big enough; even, as it turned out, the 6.4" Z Ultra.  Larger devices (I have a Nexus 10 and an iPad 3) are too heavy and clumsy for comfortable reading.  The Nexus 7 is the sweet spot.

And while there are a number of low-end 7" tablets, there are no - zero - other high-end 7" general-purpose tablets.  There's the Kindle Fire HDX, which would do for reading, but limits me to the Amazon ecosystem, which is a proper subset of the Android ecosystem, so there's no real reason to do that.  Anyway, the Amazon App store doesn't have Uniqlo Wake Up, and I can't survive without that.**

Except that the Nexus 7 is out of stock from Google (at least in Australia).  It's the device I use every day, there's no direct alternative, and it's out of stock.  Scorptec had the 32GB wifi model in stock (still do, as I write this) but not the LTE.  I'd already moved the SIM card to the Z Ultra, so I was willing to give that up, at least for now.

There's the iPad Mini and the new Galaxy Tab S, but those are both considerably larger (if not that much heavier), and more to the point, cost twice as much.  There's the Galaxy Tab Pro, but that's only available with 16GB of storage.

My Z Ultra has 16GB total storage, of which 12GB was free after purging the sample music and videos.  After installing my standard set of apps (Kairosoft, Final Fantasy, Windbell's stuff, Nova Launcher...) and a decent chunk of my Kindle library, I have just under 4GB left.  And that's with all my media files going to SD card.

Samsung devices with 16GB storage ship with about 9GB free (judging from a review of the S4).  For the device I use for reading, I want my entire Kindle library on board.  The problem there is not just that I have about over a thousand ebooks, but that I subscribe to Analog and Asimov's SF magazines, and they run 60-100MB per issue, a couple of GB total per year, and I have a couple of years of back issues.

And Amazon's Android Kindle app can't tell an SD card from a hole in the ground.

So for the device I use for reading, I have to have at least 32GB built in; no SD card is going to help.  So the Galaxy Tab Pro, which is on sale right now and looks very nice, is of little use to me.  Not enough storage to be my reading device; too big to act as a media device.  (Which is the role the Z Ultra now fills.)


Anyway, I went into my office in the city yesterday to pick up my Nexus 7, talk to some people, and do a bit of shopping.  I took my Nexus 5 with me, but not the Z Ultra, because I wasn't taking a bag or a backpack and the Z Ultra is a bit big even for the pockets in my jacket.  And I really didn't want to drop it.  It's solidly constructed but it's basically a slab of glass.  Dropping it onto the wooden floors at home would be unlikely to even leave a mark, but dropping it onto tile or concrete would be a death sentence.

So, Nexus 5, headphones, off I go.  I want to download a podcast episode to listen to while I'm out.  My Nexus 5 only has a 3G plan, because I originally had a Nexus 4 which didn't have LTE, and I never bothered upgrading.  And it's worked well enough in the past, not blazing fast, but good enough.

But not this time.  I'll spare you the details, but I was out and about for four hours, and in that time I managed to download 91% of a single 17MB podcast episode.  I don't know what was going on with iiNet's mobile network in northern Sydney yesterday, but it was not good.

I tried streaming an episode from TWIT, and I got about one second of audio every minute.

And here's the thing: I didn't have much to listen to on my Nexus 5 because it ran out of room and I went through purging everything.  And the cloud completely and utterly failed me.  It was in fact worse than useless, because trying to download drained 80% of my battery in four hours.

So, here's my thoughts on all this, in point form:
  • Google, get your supply chain sorted, or get out.  I know it's called the Play store, but you can't play at being a hardware provider.

  • Google, again, fix removable storage on Android.  My device is out of space, I add 64GB, it's still out of space.  This is simple incompetence.

  • Google, you say that SD cards provide a bad user experience.  I'll tell you what a bad user experience is: Having a device with no content and a flat battery because you don't have an SD card to store your content.

  • iiNet, what the fuck?  Over a period of several hours, from Hornsby to the Sydney CBD and back by a different route, I never got more than a couple of KB per second.  That's useless.

  • Sony and Samsung, stop selling flagship devices with 16GB of storage and pretending you're doing the world a favour.  The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 cost $400; an extra 16GB of flash storage that would triple the available space retails for $8.  Yes, you can make the device three times as useful for 2% more.

  • Sony and Samsung again, what the hell is it with having to choose between 32GB of storage or LTE support?  Both the Z2 Tablet and the Tab S do this.  Why do you think that wanting mobile internet access means that I also want inadequate storage?

    At least Google and Nvidia got this one right.

  • Sony, this one is just for you.  You replaced the perfectly functional clock widget provided in stock Android with something that doesn't tell the time.  Your clock widget is not a clock.  And since it's a system app, it's impossible to change it back.  That's a special kind of stupid, that is.

  • Amazon, even with Samsung, Sony, and Google being doody-heads on the subject of storage, you can still fix your app.  Hell, your Audible app works just fine with SD cards, even on Android 4.4.  (Even if it freaks out when you upgrade from 4.3 to 4.4 and the rules change, it still works.)

    Just do the same thing for the Kindle app and we're golden.

  • Tor books - why are the margins on Max Gladstone's Full Fathom Five so damn huge?  It's an ebook, if I want huge margins I can make them that way.  What I can't do is make them narrower than you've set them.  And on a smaller device with a 16:9 screen - like, say, an Xperia Z Ultra - the book is basically unreadable.

  • The publisher of Analog and Asimov's SF magazines - why are your magazines 60MB+ each?  F&SF and Lightspeed are only around 1MB.  I mean, I can see that you provide a pre-formatted version as well as a readable version in the same file, but still what the heck are you doing with a magazine that's 98% text that takes 60MB?  The Three Musketeers on Kindle - about 800 pages worth - is under 1MB.

  • Scorptec and Startrack Couriers - thumbs up, keep doing what you do.
The really irritating thing in all this is that it's only a problem because everyone involved is relentlessly screwing things up.  Samsung and Sony's bloatware and crappy storage capacities wouldn't matter if Google fixed Android's removable storage support or Amazon fixed the Kindle app.  The problems with Android and the Kindle app wouldn't matter if Samsung or Sony put enough storage in their devices.  And the limitations of the Kindle app wouldn't matter if Google or Samsung or Sony were doing their jobs.

On the bright side, Poodle Hat is finally on Google Play Music All Access.

* I ordered it online from Scorptec Tuesday afternoon, after checking local stores and Google Play and finding none in stock anywhere.  Scorptec are in Melbourne; it arrived on my desk in Sydney around 9:30 Wednesday morning.

** It's the only alarm app I've found that doesn't give me a migraine.  It sings you the weather report to music by Yoko Kanno.

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Tuesday, March 18


Twenty-Two Stupid People

These people have questions.  They are addressed to Bill Nye.

I'll answer them anyway.
  1. Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

    Yes.  Yes he is.

  2. Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

    No.  I don't believe such a being exists.

  3. Is it completely illogical to believe that the earth was created mature, i.e. trees created with rings...  Adam created as an adult...

    An interesting question.  If we take it that you mean the Universe and not just our planet, and that the false history is consistent (that is, we don't find ancient buried cities and then carbon-date them to last week), the answer is yes, it is completely illogical.  It is known as the Omphalos hypothesis, or colloquially, Last Thursdayism, the idea there being that the Universe was created last Thursday, but it was created old.  The reason that it is illogical is twofold; first, if every conceivable test indicates that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old, it doesn't mean anything to say that it's not, and second it rests on an assumption that time is other than a property of the Universe.  Last Thursday, or 4004 BC, or any other date, is something that happened in the Universe.  Saying that the Universe was created last Thursday is the same as saying that the Universe was created in Poughkeepsie.

    The Big Bang is a little different here: It is the zero co-ordinate of all dimensions of our Universe.  To put it another way, the Big Bang didn't happen in any location, it happened everywhere at once.  That's why we can still see it in the sky no matter where we look.  (It's just that the expansion of the Universe has cooled the image down from gamma rays to microwaves.)

  4. Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the bedrock of physics.  It says that the entropy of a closed system always increases.  Every observation we have ever made has borne this out.  For entropy to decrease locally, there must be an external source of energy, such as a BALL OF FLAMING GAS A MILLION MILES WIDE SITTING IN THE FUCKING SKY.

  5. How do you explain a sunset if their [sic] is no God?

    The Earth rotates.

  6. If the Big Bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk such theories?

    They don't.  We've already dealt with this misconception with respect to evolution.  With respect to the Big Bang theory, there is, again, no conflict.  The Universe is expanding.  That means that it used to be smaller.  At one time it was very small.  It went bang. The Second Law is not violated by this in any way; the Second Law is in effect in every part of the Universe we are able to observe.

    We can see this bang and study its properties in the Cosmic Microwave Background, radiation that comes to us from everywhere in the Universe because it was originally emitted during that event.

  7. What about Noetics?

    People have been experimenting with Noetics (under various names, and with varying degrees of experimental quality) for all of human history.  The sum total of positive evidence for Noetics is zero.

  8. Where do you derive objective meaning in life?

    There is no such thing.  Meaning is the mapping of a internal (mental) representation to external reality.  It is, by definition, subjective.

  9. If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate?  By Chance?

    The first single-celled organism most likely evolved from something simpler that was not a cell.  We know that it is relatively easy to create the building blocks of life under chemical conditions that would have held on the early Earth.  We know that there are self-replicating molecules that are simpler than any living organism existing today.  These molecules do not exist in any quantity today, because life exists now, and they would be immediately eaten.  We do not know the precise path by which abiogenesis occurred, only that no great leap from inorganic matter to complete modern cells is likely, or needed.

  10. I believe in the Big Bang theory.  God said it and BANG, it happened.

    That is not a question.

  11. Why do evolutionists/secularists/huminists [sic]/non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

    That depends on what you mean.  Raëlism, for example, is an atheistic religion that believes that life on Earth was initiated by aliens.  There is a concept of panspermia, under which life on Earth initiated from elsewhere in the Universe, by, for example, bacterial spores carried by meteorites.  This is not scientifically implausible, but nor on the other hand is there is any evidence that it happened.  The Raëlians, however, believe in most of what is told in the Old Testament of the Bible - the Garden of Eden, for example, and the Great Flood - just that it was caused by aliens rather than a supernatural deity.  We know that these events did not happen - there was no Garden, there was most certainly no Flood.  Among atheists, these beliefs are held by only a tiny percentage of crazy people.

  12. There is no inbetween...  the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an "official proof".

    Due to prehistoric interracial monkey business, your DNA is around 1% Neanderthal.  Good hominid fossils are scarce, but not so scarce as you claim, nor are they our only line of evidence.  

    Lucy was a striking find, for both her age and the completeness of her remains, but Turkana Boy while only half as old (1.6My vs. 3.2My) is considerably more complete.  Selam is a fossil of an Australopithecus afarensis child, the same species as Lucy, a less complete skeleton but with a remarkably preserved skull.  Kadanuumuu is another significant a. afarensis find, again only a partial skeleton, but of a full-grown adult.  There are many other partial finds of a. afarensis, and many more of other hominid species.

    On the question of "inbetween", I assume that by this you mean a transitional fossil, between, in this case, apes and hominids.  Firstly, this betrays a misunderstanding, in that all species are transitional, because evolution doesn't stop.  Second, Lucy is not "inbetween" apes and hominids - Lucy was a hominid.

  13. Does metamorphosis help support evolution?

    I'm not sure what you are asking.  Metamorphosis happens; it is neither required nor precluded by evolutionary theory.  The best answer is that it is neutral.

    Update: Geneticist Adam Rutherford says thisThe post-birth transformation of a tadpole into a frog is a means of eliminating competition between young and mature as they’re in completely different ecological niches.

    So the answer is yes.

  14. If Evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as fact?

    There are several misconceptions in this question.  First, creationism is not a theory in the scientific sense (and the Bible is not a theory in any sense).  Second, a theory, in science, is the highest level of understanding we can have, an explanation that has been rigorously tested and found to work.  Gravity, for example, is a theory (the theory is called General Relativity).  Saying that evolution is a theory is like saying that Einstein was a Nobel-prize-winning physicist.  It is not a slight, it's an honour.

    Third, evolution is both a theory and a fact.  Again, this is like gravity: Gravity is a fact; you drop something, and it falls.  The theory is the explanation of how this happens.  Evolution is a fact: We have seen new species evolve, both in nature and in the laboratory.  The theory explains how this happens.

  15. Because science by definition is a "theory" - not testable, observable, or repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?

    Your confusion is understandable, because you are operating under a definition of science that is the diametric opposite of the truth.  A theory is, by definition, testable, observable, and repeatable.  Karl Popper defined proper scientific theories as falsifiable - that is, we can never prove them to be true beyond all possible doubt, but we can prove them to be false.  The purpose of science is to find the false theories (or more generally, false hypotheses) and throw them out.

    This is precisely why we object to creationism and intelligent design: Because they are deliberately constructed so as to be unfalsifiable; they are the opposite of science.

  16. What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

    Mutations can occur in several ways.  Genes can be modified in place or moved (which are information-neutral), the can be deleted (which leads to a decrease in information), or they can be inserted or duplicated (which lead to an increase in information).  All of these types of mutation have been observed on innumerable occasions; mutations are not at all rare.  Despite ongoing protests by the mathematically illiterate, there is no question whatsoever about the possibility of the natural increase of genetic information.  It is possible, it happens, we have seen it happen.

  17. What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?

    Purpose and meaning are something intelligent entities construct for themselves; they cannot be granted externally.

  18. Why have we found only 1 "Lucy", when we have found more than 1 of everything else?

    In fact, we have found zero of many fossils.  The fossil record of bats, for example, is poor, because they simply don't fossilise well. If you want to leave a lot of fossils, you either need to be a vast group of animals existing for tens of millions of years like the dinosaurs, or be a hard-shelled marine invertebrate.  Also, there is only one Lucy for the same reason that there is only one Christina Hendricks - Lucy is defined by what she is, and you can't have two.  Turkana Boy is a far more complete skeleton of an early hominid, but is younger than Lucy.  Lucy is (or was, depending on your criteria) the oldest find of a significantly complete hominid; more often, we only find the skull, or teeth.  Teeth are harder and fossilise better than any other part of our body.  We do have a number of other early hominid skeletons, though not as many or as complete as we'd like.

  19. Can you believe in "the big bang" without "faith"?

    Certainly, in much the same way that you can believe in the Colosseum in Rome when viewing its ruins.  We can see the Big Bang today in the Cosmic Microwave Background.  We know that it happened because it's still there.

  20. How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it?  It's Amazing!!!

    Cymothoa exigua is a species of marine louse that enters a fish's mouth via the gills, destroys the fish's tongue, and then attaches itself to the stub, taking over the tongue's function.  If you search for it, you will find pictures.  It has a face.

  21. Relating to the big bang theory...  Where did the exploding star come from?

    First, addressing your misconception: It was not a star. Stars did not begin to form until around 100 million years after the Big Bang. 

    But the broader question: We don't know.  It is very likely impossible to know.  In fact, it is reasonable to argue that the question is not meaningful - "where" is a question relating to space, and space originated with the Big Bang.  But we know that the Big Bang happened, because we can see it.

  22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

    Because one isolated population of proto-simians evolved into apes and hominids, while other populations evolved into modern-day monkeys.  Speciation - the evolution of a new species - and extinction - the death of an existing species - are distinct events, and you can have one without the other.  When dodos were wiped out, no earlier species was automatically restored to existence; your proposition makes no more sense.

Why do I say these people are stupid?  With the exception of question 16, which involves information theory, none of this touches on my formal education post high-school.  Nor did I have to look up any of the basic facts, though I did check the specifics.  All of this knowledge is readily available; you have to actively resist learning it.

And if you actively resist learning, you are stupid.

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