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Comment: Re: yes, there are a reasonable number of position (Score 1) 237

by CalSolt (#44333411) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Scientific Research Positions For Programmers?

Do you mind elaborating? If you honestly found software enjoyable (and presumably you had a decent lifestyle and good hours, or could have found it) why did you leave it for medicine?

Do you regret it? Have you been able to use any skills from your previous life in your new career?

I'm facing a similar choice. Thanks.

Comment: Re: Simply put... No. (Score 1) 589

by CalSolt (#42767405) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

I think your argument is valid for Israel but when you are talking about the US the dynamics change. There's really only three places you can launch cheap rockets at the US from: Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. These countries are in our back yard and sphere of influence and we would definitely stop attackers before they launched (see: cuban missile crisis). That means the only remaining place to hit us from is across the ocean. You CANNOT build something cheaply that will be able to cross the Atlantic or Pacific and still be aimed at a target when it gets here. Plus the intercepting missiles won't have to fly as far so they might actually be cheaper. We also have systems to detect ICBM launches since hurling a nuke halfway across the planet takes a LOT of launch energy and is easily detectable from space. Cruise missiles are harder to detect in the launch phase but no one would argue that they will ever be cheaper than interceptors. Cruising 3,000 miles without being shot down is way more expensive than shooting down what is basically a fast aircraft.

Comment: Re:It's convenience and security. (Score 1, Insightful) 835

by CalSolt (#37323482) Attached to: Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die

The old fax machine in the corner where everyone's faxes go and anyone can look through them isn't terribly secure either.

Everyone who works in a medical office is required to be educated about and sign a HIPAA compliance form. Every employee is liable.

If someone is willing to go through enough trouble to intercept a company's email, they'll happily do the same for their fax line.

Phone lines are more difficult to break into than a protocol that is passed over the public internet. At least for now.

Comment: Re:It's convenience and security. (Score 5, Informative) 835

by CalSolt (#37323288) Attached to: Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die

Exactly. Email is NOT secure. You don't know how many servers your email passes through or what they do with it, and you can't guarantee the receiver is protecting the information. Encrypted email is far harder to implement in your network of contacts than a fax machine. Even then, if public key vendors can be hacked/spoofed/compromised, then how can you say encrypted email on a private small business server won't be? Doctors pretty much are obligated to use fax or they will almost certainly end up violating HIPAA.

The IT industry has not been able to provide a superior or even equal solution to fax yet.

Comment: Re:He raises a valid concern and offers a solution (Score 3, Informative) 384

by CalSolt (#36329108) Attached to: Motorola CEO Blames Open Android Store For Phone Performance Ills

Care to start naming names? My friend's phone would experience extreme UI lag then crash every few days to the point where she had to remove the battery to fix it (simple power cycle didn't remove the lag). Went away after I uninstalled Advanced Task Killer.

Comment: Re:Dead on. (Score 1) 470

by CalSolt (#34818104) Attached to: Is Mark Zuckerberg the Next Steve Case?

I think the point is more that it's not that social networking sites aren't viable... it's that the web changes fast.

I think you are applying the lessons of the past a bit too liberally. For the last 15 years or so, "the web changes fast" has been quite good advice. But now it is maturing. The web has found a lot of roles that it fills quite well and, more importantly, has developed its own institutions. Amazon, Google, EBay, Slashdot (whatever their corporate overlords are called, I forget) - these companies have all been around for a while and they all have reason to keep innovating to stay on top.

Like it or not, parts of the web have become so ingrained into our lives that they have become more like utilities than luxury brands. Facebook is here to stay. It has critical mass and it offers really good features- and is working hard on offering features you don't even know you want yet. You see, that's the key. The internet's modern institutions are making money, and they certainly have the motivation and resources to create (or buy) the next best thing. Gone are the days when some guy in his garage could topple the current leader overnight.

The critical difference between Facebook and AOL? It's the same as the difference between Facebook and MySpace. Both thought they were content companies, but then competing content came out and they were made obselete (ie, AOL->Yahoo and the rest of the internet, MySpace->YouTube and then Facebook). Both missed the real opportunities in their niche- for AOL it was offering (broadband) internet access and for MySpace it was social networking.

The beauty of Facebook is that they don't pretend to be a content company. Rather, they are a utility, one that will integrate and improve the presentation and accessibility of any future content type. I'm not saying Facebook is invincible, because its income looks a bit small for the number of eyeballs it has and there's always the risk of mass user revolt over privacy concerns, but I'd give it a better than even chance.

Comment: Re:Return on Investment (Score 2, Insightful) 405

by CalSolt (#34059808) Attached to: Time To Rethink the School Desk?

Oh great, the old "education is much better in the 3rd world" argument. Please. If their education systems were better than ours, they would have better economies.

Here's the reality. In third world countries they sit around memorizing things all day. So when it comes time to take a math or history or english test, they blow it out of the water. But when it comes time to solve a problem, take risks, or do something new, they're... at a complete loss because they don't know what "creativity" is.

The American system is actually pretty damn good. Maybe not in terms of the worst students, but certainly in terms of the best students.

Comment: Re:Um... shouldn't traffic lights come first? (Score 2, Insightful) 483

by CalSolt (#33322010) Attached to: Building a Traffic Radar System To Catch Reckless Drivers?

If you haven't already realized, Slashdot is a terrible place to ask this kind of question. People here have a strong individualistic, anti-government slant.

Anyway, I think the best thing you can do is install some red lights, then post police officers in motorcycles around these lights. Every time they see someone break the red light rule, flag them down and give them a ticket. At first the officers will be constantly busy and will be raking in a lot of revenue. Word will spread fast, and eventually you will see people obeying the rules, at least in the intersections where police are known to be. Videotape the intersection with an HD camera for documentation. Later you can buy radar guns for the traffic officers.

You have to make sure the money from tickets goes to the general fund, NOT the police department. Otherwise this will cause all sort of problems.

Beyond that, you should hire a company (or start your own) that can work with you and the city council to implement technological solutions like red light cameras and speeding cameras. The best solution however, is policing because it is proven and the simplest to implement off the bat.

Comment: Re:Target practice? (Score 1) 379

by CalSolt (#32152524) Attached to: Geostationary GPS Satellite Galaxy 15 Out of Control

One idea would be to spray large amounts of even smaller debris- fine dust- into these orbits. Perhaps from the moon. It would increase drag for everything, and anything that didn't have active boosting capability (ie, anything that wasn't an active satellite) would eventually fall back to earth, including all debris. The downside would be that satellites would have to carry more propellant to maintain their orbits, increasing the needed booster size and thus overall cost. Not pretty but feasible, effective and fairly benign. If enough debris accumulates up there in the next century we just may have to do this by virtue of not having any other choice.

Another option might be to require that all satellite components be made of or be alloyed with iron so that future satellites and spacecraft could generate magnetic fields to deflect the debris.

Comment: Re:"finally"? (Score 1) 648

by CalSolt (#32028750) Attached to: When We Finally Meet Aliens, They Will Probably Be...

On the contrary we already know how to geoengineer our planet but we are still working on interstellar travel.

In fact, we have already geoengineered our planet several times. The most obvious one is the increase in atmospheric CO2 and thus global warming caused by burning fossil fuels. This was an accident of course. Another example is the creation and then subsequent repair of the ozone hole by first releasing CFCs then stopping. Smaller examples include programs to seed clouds to prevent/encourage rain or even cloud formation. Beyond that I think we are pretty close (~50 years) to developing global weather pattern models accurate enough to predict the effect of various variables on rainfall, currents, jetstream, etc. It won't be long before we realize, for example, putting a desert in x location will cause y results. And things like creating deserts or forests or lakes? Yea, we can definitely do that already, we've just had very few good reasons to. If the political will existed we could probably start spraying sulfer into the upper atmosphere within the next 5 years which would result in a significant and quick (and cheap) temperature drop. If we really had to we probably are resourceful enough to be able to seed a watery planet with algae and bacteria that has been toughened in a space environment and will go on to start converting the planet's atmosphere to oxygen.

On the other hand, a star ship? That's a joke. Orion (the nuclear weapon propelled ship) is fraught with problems, not least of which is that 50% of the energy of each blast must be wasted by design. What material can withstand repeated nuclear explosions at close range without vaporizing, especially in vacuum? What kind of ultra magical structural material will be able to withstand and transmit the stresses of intermittent high-g acceleration? Will nukes even be enough to move such an enormous structure through space at close to light speed? It seems far more sensible to me to take all those uranium and plutonium cores, de-enrich them, and use them to create a huge number of fission reactors which would then fuel a fusion reactor which would drive the ship via heavy-ion plasma. That kind of technology is pretty far off, as is the kind of productivity that would make such a project even remotely affordable without bankrupting our planet. We spent $200 Billion in today's dollars getting a few people to the moon in a dinky can! I'm pretty sure it's gonna be really hard to send thousands of people at light speed across the dark expanse. I'm pretty sure geo engineering is a hell of a lot easier.

If you fail to plan, plan to fail.