23 October, 2007

Calculatorial catch-22

One more interesting thing on the topic of calculators (to be done with it): if the calculators were around in Rome, we could be still using Roman numerals (you know, I, V, X and so on). Positional system made it easy to do arithmetics, but if the calculator does it for you, what's the difference (this may be actually a nice gift to get at thinkgeek ;)).

On the other hand, if we were still using Roman numerals, there probably would be no calculators -- and not much else of the current technology. Makes one wonder what else in our current methods of thinking are obstructing the progress.

22 October, 2007

Fixing firefox slow/high CPU issue

After installing the new version it became incredibly slow on my XP system, CPU usage shot up to 50% (i.e. took all of one of the cores), I couldn't type without swearing. Reverting as far back as 0.5 didn't help, so it had to be the settings issue.

And here's what solved it for me:

- go to C:\Documents and Settings\<your user name>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles and make a copy of your running profile, just in case (copy the whole folder that is called something like <letters-numbers>.default).

- now go into that folder and remove all 0-bytes-long files called prefs-1.js, prefs-2.js and so on, and then remove all the 0-bytes-long sessionstore-1.js, sessionstore-2.js, and so on. Make sure all files you're deleting have 0 length, so that nothing important gets deleted (and if it does, that's what was the backup for!)

I suppose the problem was in sessionstore files, as I had 9999 of them, probably preventing the poor thing from creating any more.

P.S. The best tool to mess with files like that is the Far Manager.

19 October, 2007

More on calculators

Thinking about singularity is fun, but the over-dependence on calculators could be exploited by humans as well. As far as I know, most (all?) of the electronic components (and end-user products) are made by just a few companies. Therefore, it wouldn't be hard for them to make an agreement so that all calculators sold worldwide are "tainted".

In what way? For example, the calculators could compute 15% incorrectly -- i.e. if someone wants to know how much a $65 sweater costs at a 15%-off sale, she'd get not $55.25, but, say $56.35. Looks pretty close, right? But with hundreds of millions of items sold with 15% discount, the little errors are going to accumulate to a significant surplus for retailers, which they should be glad to share with the electronics makers.

And suppose some egghead sues them:

Judge: So, Mr. Mathnerd, could you state the nature of your complaint.
Mathnerd: Well, 15% of $65 is $9.75, not $8.65, so 15% off $65 should be $55.25, not $56.35
Judge: And how do you know that?
Mathnerd: I submit to this court exhibit A, which is a Quizno's napkin with my manual calculations. Anyone can do the calculation for themselves and see that I'm right.
Judge: What is this? Some filthy napkin, I'm not touching this! But I can certainly check your math!

Judge pulls a calculator, pushes a few buttons... $56.35!
Mathnerd: But...
Judge: Stop wasting the court's time! Case dismissed!

Nobody will hear your screams

05 October, 2007

CVC §21800(b)(1) is sweeping across the Golden State

(for the spoof).

A little known provision of the California Vehicle Code is spreading like a wildfire by the word of mouth. More people have learned about CVC §21800(b)(1) last month than about Ron Paul and, unlike his presidency, it is available for public benefit right now.

Rhonda Manning, 17, of Santa Rosa, Calif. wasn't concerned about CVC §21800(b)(1) for the most of her driving career. She even hadn't known what the Vehicle Code was -- up until last week when she was carpooling with her friend from softball practice. When Ms. Manning was nearing a 4-way stop intersection, another car approached from the street at her left almost simultaneously with her. Before Rhonda and the other driver begun the usual pantomime of waving each other through, her friend suggested her to use the CVC §21800(b)(1), thus avoiding the delay and a potentially costly misunderstanding.

"Last year insurers have lost $8.7 million to claims resulting from collisions at 4-way stop intersections" -- Melany Griffith, a San Diego area auto insurance agent says -- "People try to be nice, wave each other through and then still go at the same time. If only there was a way to decide who goes first!"

CVC §21800(b)(1), which demands that the vehicle on the left should yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on its right (making an exception for T-shaped intersections) does just that. "It is so cool!" -- Rhonda says -- "Sometimes older people can barely see me waiving and now I don't have to!"

So it is no wonder younger drivers fall in love with CVC §21800(b)(1) at first sight. Some even go further, indicating that they are "in the know" by maneuvering in accordance with CVC §§22107 and 22108. That is, signaling their turns and doing so 100 feet in advance. "At first it felt a little weird" -- admits Rhonda -- "you know, having to pause the conversation with my friend on the phone because I can't hear her when I, like, use my hand with the phone to switch the turn signal. But I feel so much better now, I get so much respect for what I do, so I may stop using the phone completely while driving."

And the auto insurance industry is taking notice. Currently, CVC §21800(b)(1) isn't mentioned in the Driver Handbook, on which the DMV written tests are based. "We are lobbying to include the language of CVC §21800(b)(1) into the Drivers Handbook" -- says Mrs. Griffith -- "So all new drivers will know about it and will use it to our mutual benefit".

It is expected that the amendment will get no objections from the Governor, in whose native Austria a CVC §21800(b)(1) analog has been helping to solve ambiguous road situations for several decades.