33 years old
Male
from England

• ### Did you have any free time?

6 years ago

pal_sch

Not anymore.

1000 player per server bomberman.

• ### How to use the new design;

6 years ago

pal_sch

3) Fail to notice the difference.

• ### The right to privacy

pal_sch

I'm having real trouble coming to any solid conclusions in this area.

Part of me sees us heading towards some sort of panopticon singularity, where people's entire lives are surveyed at some level. Most of my reasons for believing in this is how flippant people are about their own privacy and how eagerly they put their own lives on view. The current culture seems to be trending away from an assumption of privacy, which worries me deeply.

At the same time internet culture privileges freedom of speech and expression above all. Now I'm pretty close to a free speech absolutist, but at times the claims of what are covered by this disturb me a little. For example, people who think that copyright should be overridden by any speech claim. These same free speech defences are used by those who share private and personal information, even when such violations of privacy can lead to real harm.

The conflicts between speech/expression and privacy are even more obvious in the press. They have been a focal point of the Leveson inquiry here in the UK, where the press have deeply violated the privacy of various figures of interest. The thing is, the lines they crossed are only occasionally legal. Other than certain hacking cases they fall well within the bounds of the free press, even if admittedly just this side of stalking and harassment. Except they fall well outside what we would consider decent human behaviour.

My main problem here is in drawing a line. Where does my right to privacy conflict with your right to talk about my private information? When do I forfeit my privacy? How on earth do you deal with breaches of privacy? You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, so do you have some sort of prior restraint law, requiring people to get clearance to publish about you and letting you get injunctions against them doing so? How does that mesh with the internet where everyone is a journalist and every site is a publisher?

28 replies

• ### Bitcoin and cryptocurrency

pal_sch

I've been reading about Bitcoin for a couple of weeks now and still can't come to any conclusions about it.

Bitcoin is a decentralised cryptocurrency based on the bittorrent network and opensource software. It's extremely hard to describe simply so bare with me here, or just skip the next few paragraphs if you already know about it.

A cryptocurrency is a currency backed inherently by some cryptographic scheme rather than by a government. The core idea has been around for a while, but (relatively) recent technological advances in p2p networking and internet connectivity means that now such a scheme can be entirely decentralised.

When you download a Bitcoin client (and there are many, most open source) you are connected into a p2p network in the same style as a bittorrent network. Your identity on this network is a public/private keypair as used pretty much anywhere encryption is required. You can think of this as your bank account; the public key being the account number you give others who might want to pay you (or receive payments) while the private key is your account access details used to confirm payments.

You instantly start downloading a core database of every Bitcoin in existence, each of which is assigned to someone's public key, as well as every single transaction since the coins were first 'mined'. At the moment this database is in the hundreds of megabytes (288MB on my disk) and growing reasonably slowly as new transactions are carried out and new coins are mined. [For the record, I have the client and have run it previously, but don't currently and don't and never have owned any coins.]

Coins are added to the network over time at a pre-set rate. Coins are 'mined' in a process designed to show proof-of-work. Proof-of-work as a concept came about as an anti-spam measure. The idea was for each message you sent you would have to generate a non-trivially difficult hash for the information you were sending and then attach that to the message for it to be accepted by the recipient. This would make the sending of an email take a couple of seconds of computation time; trivial compared to writing most emails but death to spamming thousands at once. Or to mass-mail lists, which is why the idea never took off.

Bitcoin uses the same idea only with much harder problems to generate hashes of blocks. These blocks are used to keep track of transactions but are otherwise useless. Together they form the blockchain which tracks all transactions in the network. The first transaction assigned to any newly generated block is the person who successfully 'mined' (calculated) that block paying their account a set number of coins. This number is currently (I think) 50, but can be adjusted by the network, along with the difficulty of the mining calculation, in order to control the rate at which coins are added to the network.

This rate has been pre-calculated to be deflationary in the long term. A set number of coins are to be produced (21 million of which some 6+ million are in existence) at a decaying rate over time.

Transactions are fairly simple. You state that you are transferring X coins from your key to someone else's. The encryption using your private key means only you (or whoever has that key) can make such a transaction. You broadcast this into the network where other people confirm it by testing that the encryption is right. This work can be compensated by paying transaction fee's to those who make the confirmations. The transaction is added to the block chain and propagated to the entire network. I think the time for a transaction to be universally acknowledged is roughly one hour.

There are a number of shops and services that accept Bitcoins as valid payment, as well as a number of currency exchanges that let you change coins for real world money. It's recently enjoyed a lot of hype among the Boing Boing crowd and various libertarian groups giving it what is known as a fucking insane exchange rate (as I speak) of \$22.8 for one coin. And this is before the deflationary pressures are meant to kick in. It's a good thing each coin is divisible down to six decimal places.

Going by the current number of coins (6.463 million) and that rate estimate, right now there are nearly \$150 million in the Bitcoin economy. That's getting towards real money.

Anyway, that's the introduction. You can start reading again now.

I can't work out if this is a good idea or not, if it is legal or not, if it is fair or not or any number of other questions this stuff raises.

This page has a lot of different viewpoints, most of them interesting. It's notable than the top answer decries it as a scam and I do think it's got an element of that around it. The way coins are generated means there is no central bank to control things or ensure the currency has value, but at the same time there is a dedicated early adopters community who have got a lot of potential capital tied up in this. Today you are lucky if you mine a single block without a dedicated GPU mining rig (eg) but people who entered at the ground floor enjoyed easier calculations that gave out more coins in order to front-load the economy. Add to that that the coins' value are rapidly increasing as the hype does as you have a lot of people likely to make a lot of money from this, even if it has no long term viability or use for the majority of people.

The legal questions are insane. Is this actually a currency? An investment? The key-pair accounts are effectively anonymous and you can generate a new one as easily as you can access an encrypted webpage, or at worse download a film from a torrent.

Continued in second post.

13 replies

• ### I have a password again!

8 years ago

pal_sch

I'm going to be naughty now and post the password associated with this site for the last two and bit years.

r

Seriously. And no, it didn't work. The site refused to accept it as a valid password. The last two years I have been logging in through my associated google account. I only know it was r because it was confirmed to me in a tech support email.

It was a result of being rather too paranoid (I think I'd just read Little Brother or something like that). I used a random password generator to produce what should have been a secure password which I could save in an encrypted password manager rather than having to memorise it. What it spat out;
r<DE@\\lV=L&f!6b\'
It turns out this jumble of characters was seen by the database software as an attempted attack and was sanitised down to just the leading r. Except that only one part of the database did that. The part that stored the password for retrieval still had the full thing in it's records and sent me it if requested.

It wasn't until the most recent updates that I could even change the password. Which I have now done.

And no, you can't see that one.

• ### LabView guide: Part 1

8 years ago

pal_sch

This is only the beginnings of a beginner guide to LabView and G (the actual name of the language; generally G and LabView are used interchangeably). This software is fairly common, but very few people will actually need to know how to use it. Most of this comes from it's ease of use; a well written program inherently has an easy to use interface. But a lot of it comes from the fact that most programs are written by in house or contract developers and are only ever seen as software interfaces that come with new hardware.

This is a shame because the language itself is really interesting. It's a lot of fun working with it, like playing with a pathological programming language where getting an end result is only a part of the entertainment. The nature of LabView/G mean that certain programs are nearly effortless and elegant, while other programs which take a dozen lines of C can cause brain damage in trying to get them to execute in LabView.

The software is proprietary and bloody expensive. Although a lot of the programs developed in it can be shared through Sourceforge and other sites most can't be executed without access to the core software and a valid license. For the most part take this guide as entertainment rather than actual instructions to be followed.

The rest of the guide is below the fold.[cut]

LabView is primarily a hardware/software interface language. Most interfaces are going to be fairly unique so I'm only going to cover some of the basics.

This is the entire program, called a Virtual Instrument or VI. The panel on the right is the front panel, the user interface where the program is executed, where you enter and view data. On the left is the block diagram where the programming is done.

The front panel can easily be altered and adapted in almost any way you care to. In this case I've left most defaults, only changing the labels on the input and output. Here the Iterations value sets how many numbers to generate, while the Output is an array of the Fibonacci numbers. The box next to the output selects which value within that array to view, indexed from 0.

As you may have noticed, this is a very graphical language. The block diagram is effectively the program and contains all the logic. The values literally flow through the wires and each operator. A lot of how this is set up is purely convention and for clarities sake. The basic conventions;

1) Programs flow left to right. This helps follow the logic considerably, although it isn't a required rule. In general the various operators and other objects have inputs on their left and outputs on their right. You can see this in the plus operator, with two inputs on the left and a single output on the right. In this case I've put all the inputs on the left of the main loop and the output on the far right.

2) Keep programs compact but without obscuring or overlapping lines. Ideally a complete program will not take up more than a single screen. Fortunately there are lots of ways to compact more complicated programs using SubVIs, but that can be covered later. Equally important is keeping the wires clear and from overlaps that may confuse following the logic of the program.

3) Document like crazy. In this case I haven't, but a good program will use clear names for any inputs and outputs as well as good further documentation. You can add text anywhere on the program, front panel or block diagram.

In any case, lets look at the make-up of this VI in more detail.

The core of the program is a single For loop. The loop's description in context help;

The loop acts as a container, with the program to be run put inside it.

Continued in the first comment.

• ### Outcasts

pal_sch

New BBC sci-fi drama that just aired tonight. Hadn't heard a thing about it until it showed up on iPlayer. Second episode airs tomorrow.

Basic plot is relatively simple so far. A group of humans colonised a planet about five years travel away, with the first group arriving ten years ago. Apparently not many other groups have made it there, and the first episode involves what may be the final transport arriving. Not in good condition.

Meanwhile on the planet a disease (properly nightmare fuel) has devastated the children and there are some, shall we say, political problems. Jamie Bamber's character, Mitchell (who is pretty far from Lee Adama here), is organising a group of the original pioneers who got them through the early days - and weirdly including a member of So-Solid crew - into a breakaway faction for not entirely clear reasons. Given Mitchell's wife is a security officer... dramadramadrama.

It's more of a colony/pioneer show than glossy sci-fi. We see some control centres and cool medical stuff, but the only internals from the spaceship are static laden videophone conversations with the captain. The only weapons are modern assault rifles and handguns with a few splashes of paint. Not a great deal of action either; a few shots are fired from pistols but that's mostly it. As a first episode it's pretty slow and talky. Also depressing. Not many series openers kill off two main characters along with a spaceship full of extras... But hey, it's a drama and not all sci-fi is Firefly. One point I didn't care for was the ham fisted poetry. Kids don't recite Blake like that.

Cast are pretty good. Liam Cunningham and Hermione Norris play the two senior roles solidly, while Amy Manson and Daniel Mays make the most of their screentime to establish what I'm assuming are the central characters for this series. Bamber is... different, but good.

The writing is far more BBC drama than anything else. It's from the teams behind Spooks and similar shows. and you can feel their fingers on it. I'm not 100% sold, but hopefully some of the promised (and teased) developments will pull it away from that. According to interviews it's supposed to pick up around episode three, which would be next Monday. I'm willing to give it that long.

7 replies

• ### Medical and research ethics.

pal_sch

Hopefully this will be a fairly general thread, but lets start with a nice narrow and bloody hard question.

There are lots of ethical issues around clinical and medical research, but lets start with the big bad pharmaceutical companies. I'm constantly backed into defending them, despite having massive misgivings about the system myself. I can rarely see things in the bright line terms others use to condemn them universally, and I have nothing but respect for 99% of those who work in the industry.

While there are obvious problems with for-profit medical companies (IMO, at every level from basic research to front line care) there are also lots of areas where such companies can provide practical advantages, even because of their less ethical nature.

Take this example. Dirty lifesaving vs ethical obscurity.

He has pilot data showing that a cheap, generic drug has a potentially life saving medical application. He now has a grant from the NIH (i.e., not industry) to study it in a major trial. A for-profit company has a copycat version of the generic drug that is virtually the same but is still on patent and is thus highly expensive. The question is whether he should study the generic version or the proprietary one.

If the experiment proves that the generic version of the drug is effective, he will get a very nice paper in a medical journal. And that will be the end of it. We have a million studies showing that clinical practice is minimally influenced by journal articles alone. In contrast, if he studies the proprietary drug, a profit making company will send out their armies of marketers to physicians and get many of them to use it, making a great deal of money for themselves in the process…but this will also save lives, because aggressive marketing and promotion such as the industry does has been proven to affect clinical practice dramatically.

In this case the seemingly unethical aggressive promotion of expensive medication by a for-profit company has potential serious medical advantages over having discovered a cheap treatment.

9 replies

• ### So...

9 years ago

pal_sch

I've been putting this off for quite a while now, but I kinda need to put it out there.

I'm no longer a student. Stopped a year into my PhD with no current plans or options to return. Situation was a little complex and I don't want to go into it publicly, but it was definitely on my head and not anyone else's.

On the plus side, I'm just about caught up on my sleep debt now.

In any case, for the moment I'm looking for some part time and volunteer work along with being active in local political groups. I'm considering options for next year and might go back to university for a different course, but details are still up in the air.

So I have some time to play again.

• ### British Electoral Reform

pal_sch

Disclaimer: I'm involved in a group campaigning in favour of reform.

So there is a promised referendum on the voting system in the UK next year (proposed date; May 5th). Seeing as I'm looking to be pretty heavily involved in the debate and campaigning around this referendum, I figured it would be good practice to explore the idea and politics involved here.

The basic outline of the proposal;

There will be a referendum allowing people to choose between the current First Past The Post (FPTP) system and Alternative Vote (AV, also known as Instant Runoff Voting/IRV). Both options have single candidate constituencies, so the voting system is otherwise independent of any other reforms passed at the same time. There are currently proposed reforms to both consistency size (reducing total number of MP's) and borders.

FPTP has each voter pick one candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins.

AV has each voter rank each of the candidate in order of preference. If any one candidate gets a majority (50% + 1) of first preference votes, they win. If no one candidate gets a majority, the candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed according to the voters next highest preference. This continues until one candidate has a majority.

The problem is it isn't a proportional system.

That last point has pushed a few traditionally pro-reform groups (including some Greens) towards opposition of the system, claiming it doesn't go far enough. My personal view is that campaigning for a no vote is more likely to kill any future reform than a yes vote, even if the system isn't perfect. A partially proportional (AV+) or fully proportional (STV) system will probably work better built on an existent acceptance of AV.

The other danger here is combining the push for a referendum with other Conservative friendly reforms, which have pushed the Parliamentary Labour Party towards opposing the bill in Parliament, so blocking the referendum from ever happening. I'm pretty sure that without a referendum being called, the current coalition government is going to collapse (the promise of reform was one of the most important components of the Lib Dems entering the coalition, and one of the few that keeps the less libertarian wings happy), so I doubt that the Tories would sink the bill in the way they have proposed. But the campaign itself looks to be tricky if Labour are not clear in their support for AV from the start.

There are also obvious communication problems to be solved. Educating people about AV before the referendum is going to be one of the biggest goals of most of the groups I'm involved with or have discussed this with.

6 replies

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

7 years ago

Try going into about:config and flipping browser.urlbar.trimURLs to false. Should help with the messed up links.

• 7 years ago

Thanks for the plug for "Failstate." Just noticed it.

• 8 years ago

I stand corrected on that thread regarding the reversal of intolerance when it comes to homosexuality. You made a lot of good points. Thanks for clarifying it for me.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

8 years ago

Phone. Ordered it Thursday night with 2-day shipping. Order was processed on Friday, and apparently FedEx doesn't do the weekend thing. So two days is Tuesday.

And I'm going to be out of town most of Tuesday, taking my mom in to the optometrist to get her eyes dialated.

So probably won't get the phone until Wednesday.

• 8 years ago

Cool story.

Now I wish I had read it before the edit (accidental rhyming!).

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

8 years ago

• 8 years ago

gave you a -1 on accident, gave you a +1 in your journal to negate the.

• 8 years ago

hey, i'm doing a "controversial subject" essay supporting funding for space exploration, could you link me some relatively lengthy articles on colonization possibilities for moon / mars?

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

8 years ago

That post so deserves a +1 Zing! but that probably wouldn't be apropos.

• 8 years ago

That post so deserves a +1 Zing! but that probably wouldn't be apropos.

• 8 years ago

That post so deserves a +1 Zing! but that probably wouldn't be apropos.

• 8 years ago

Hey, at least it was an entertaining, hunger-fueled rant.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

8 years ago

I think that Swoop backs up his own claims better, simply because he tries to set up a standard for suck rules that is consistent.

Best. Typo. Ever.

• 8 years ago

Is it possible for Darky Dark not to be a complete douche when it comes to discussing politics?

• 8 years ago

Ugh, i don't feel like starting over but it seems like the only choice.

• 8 years ago

I'm the kind of the guy that grinds the fuck out of first level enemies. not even to the first laguna flash back and squall is level 72.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

8 years ago

• 8 years ago

OK, cool.
I've decided recently i need more metal, rap and jazz in my life.
Going one genre at a time.

• 8 years ago

Hey, i was wondering if you think Pantera, Michael Angelo Batio, and Gojira are worth time looking up?

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

8 years ago

There was some self censorship (they don't like you giving a talk to other 10 year olds with the phrase 'triple breasted whore' involved)

That would have been the greatest book report ever, dude.

• 9 years ago

Ah. I see. I don't blame you.

Especially with as often as this place crashes.

• 9 years ago

Actually I spent quite a while with that survey when it came out. I skipped the debate it had here because it was frankly inane

When did that happen now?

but that doesn't mean I haven't thrashed it out elsewhere.

Do tell.

9 years ago

I dunno dawg. Ginger orphans are a serious epidemic.

• 9 years ago

well shit.
I guess a day of music i won't enjoy may be what's best for me.

• 9 years ago

....
are you for reals?
IT'S AN ALL DAY CONCERT : (

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

Oh hey, it worked!

You want an account, just hit me up. Public registration is disabled because I hate spam.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

Test:
$latex.php?latex=e^{\i \pi}%2$

• 9 years ago

Random friend requests will find themselves in limbo. Make an intelligent comment on a journal and I will accept it.

When the hell did I manage that? =D

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

That is so much better than my Saturday.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

You are my favorite drunk physics guy.

Just FYI.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

Theater I saw it in had technical difficulties and had to restart the movie about 10 minutes in.

Right at the part where Tony hacked the screens at the hearing , the theater's screens went dark and silent.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

Yeah. I'm a recent college grad with a BA in Computer Science.

I went to a liberal arts college.

I didn't really get anything that can do anything for me career-wise.

I just want a full-time entry-level computer job so I can get my parents off my back about getting a job.

It's times like this that make me really want to live outside of Iowa.

• 9 years ago

Hmm, now that's a good idea. I may indeed have to demand that

• 9 years ago

Thanks for the explanation

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

Latest Firefox nightlies have built-in textbox resizing.

• 9 years ago

Question!

So I was browsing the 360 forum on the site here, looking to see if the Perfect Dark arcade release had garnered any attention, and saw your post in there.

Are you planning on getting it? I remember loving this game, putting endless hours of my childhood into it. From what I've read, the balance between staying true to the original but still working out the kinks is perfect on the final product.

• 9 years ago

Usually they do, I haven't had much of a problem with the .co.uk version, but .com... Gah! 'Nuff said really.

Glad you enjoyed the concert. I shall have to keep an eye on that band in the future.

• 9 years ago

Suggestion for a thread meet-up then?

• 9 years ago

I see you like York. There are several very nice pubs there too.

• 9 years ago

Just sayin'.

Yeah, I noticed that. And you used all caps. I was all, "Whoa, pal's srs" and whatnot.

• 9 years ago

Edited post. Pav brought up Jackie Chan for the sake of point scoring, I was merely responding from a different view using the same and related information.

Post edited 1/06/10 3:00PM

• 9 years ago

Actually I would like to read some Ian M. Banks novels, like the Culture, but I've got alot of other books tiered up to read first. Mostly all SF both hard and fantastical. Still got all the Dune prequels to go.

• 9 years ago

Mostly a hypothetical, but why is it that dark never seems to reply to your posts?

• OroborosNZ Projector

9 years ago

Hey, cheers for the tip, pal_sch, good to hear from you as well.

... Actually... You strike me as being a guy who watches some dark movies... Have a go at this.

Post edited 11/13/09 2:05AM

• NaraVara Politics Forum Mod and P

9 years ago

I just assumed you resented my implication that the Ukraine is weak.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

The nightlies are getting a new version of the Javascript interpreter thing.
But the string that says what version of Javascript the browser has changed format from the old version, causing GM to break.

• KWierso AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

9 years ago

Cheaters never prosper.

Except when I'm incredibly bored, and feel like sending you an invite anyway.
It'll take a few days for it to get processed.

• Alexicoff

9 years ago

Yoo you're the only phys student I could find on here hah. How's england? I was hoping to go there to do my Mphys

• 9 years ago

How often do people in real life say to you/in relation to you "What he said"? As often as it happens on the internets, I have to wonder if it's as or more prevalent in reality.

• 9 years ago

Thanks again for the advice. Next time I'm near a Barnes and Noble and I'll be sure to pick that book up.