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Comment: Ubuntu Support plans? (Score 1) 107 107

While we're talking about monoliths, I don't usually build my Linuxes from scratch - I either use Ubuntu, or occasionally a Red Hat version, or sometime soon one of those cloud-vm-thingies. (I also run Raspberry Pi, but I don't expect it to have a full-sized kernel.) So when will Ubuntu start supporting the newer kernels? 15.10, or some updates to 15.04?

Comment: Re:Therac 25 (Score 4, Insightful) 140 140

What happened is that people who used the system very day, day in and day out, became so fast at entering the machine settings the rate of UI events exceeded the ability of the custom monitor software written for the machine to respond correctly to them.

Which is still to some extent a UI issue.

But the literal "killer" is what happened next:
  1) The machine detected that it had screwed up.
  2) But the UI reported this by a cryptic error message: "MALFUNCTION nn" - where the 1 = nn = 64 error codes not only weren't explanatory, but weren't even included in the manual.
  3) And if the operator hit "P" (for "proceed") the machine would GO AHEAD AND OPERATE in the known-to-be-broken mode, giving the patient a fatal (high-power, not-swept-around) electrons rather than a 100x weaker flood of x-rays, with NO FURTHER INDICATION that something is still wrong (unless you count the patient sometimes screaming and running out of the room.)

If 2) and 3) aren't user interface problems, what is?

Comment: Re:pardon my french, but "duh" (Score 4, Insightful) 140 140

Well that may be so. But as you get older you get less patient with people wasting your time.

Let's say you're 90 years old. You're using a webmail system which does everything you need it to do. Then some manager has a brainwave and suddenly all the functions are somewhere else. How much of the 3.99 years the actuarial tables say you've got left do you want to spend dealing with that?

It's not just 90 year-olds. Take a poll of working-age users and find out how many like the MS Office Ribbon; how many people are cool with the regular UI reshuffling that takes place in Windows just to prove you're paying your upgrade fee for software that's "new"?

Comment: Re:Therac 25 (Score 1) 140 140

According to wikipedia, that had software problems that ended up killing people What's that got to do with UI changes and user experience?

The original post was about bad user interfaces causing harm to people. Changes breaking the user experience was only one of the issues.

In Therac's case the bug WAS primarily in the user interface:
  - Due to a race condition, if a button happened to be pressed at the wrong moment and the menu filled out in a particular order, the device would configure the electron beam for x-ray generation rather than electron beam generation (high electron beam current, no scanning) but not position the target, flattening filter, collimator, or ion-chamber x-ray sensor in the beamway, resulting in a configuration that irradiated the patient with beta radiation, rather than x-rays, at 100x a normal dose.)
  - The machine DID detect that there was a problem. But it reported it as "MALFUNCTION nn" - where nn was a number from 1 to 64 and not explained in the manual. If the operator entered "P" (proceed), it would then go ahead and operate in the improper mode anyhow.

Both the second part and most of the first part sound like user interface problem to me.

Comment: Re:Therac 25 (Score 2) 140 140

I was working as a developer when the news of the Therac 25 problems broke, so I remember it well. You actually have it backwards; it wasn't bad UI design at all.

The thing is mere functional testing of the user interface would not have revealed the flaw in the system. What happened is that people who used the system very day, day in and day out, became so fast at entering the machine settings the rate of UI events exceeded the ability of the custom monitor software written for the machine to respond correctly to them.

If the UI was bad from a design standpoint the fundamental system engineering flaws of the system might never have been revealed.

Comment: Projects on github should "git fetch" NOW! (Score 1) 88 88

Someone started uploading all the HackingTeam source code to GitHub ... There are also some signing keys for kernel drivers in here.

IMHO:

Anyone with a project hosted on git hub should pull a backup copy NOW!

Hosting this leak on git hub could lead to moves by authorities to contain it - which could have the side effect of making GitHub and/or some projects on it unavailable - temporarily or permanently.

Better safe than sorry.

Comment: Also driver and closed-device rooting projects? (Score 1) 88 88

... will this help bona fide security researchers with their work on fighting exploits on all platforms ... ?

I wonder if this will also help people trying to write open software for closed devices? Signing keys, driver sources with spyware installed, ... Not only does it expose the malware bypassing the user's security, it may also expose the internal details of how the devices are driven and/or how to compromise the malware's and devices' anti-user "security".

(I have often wondered how many of the closed-driver devices have the code closed just for business reasons and how many are closed because that's where the spyware has been installed and they can't let the source out - even sanitized - because that would lead to the spyware's exposure.)

Comment: Also to try to head off "the common man". (Score 1) 367 367

The goal is to intimidate the makers of such designs. Arrest first and ask questions later, when such designs get out.

It's also to make it harder for "the common man" to arm himself - in case a Schelling Point is reached and a LOT of people suddenly decide that they need to arm themselves against the government or its puppeteers. By slowing them down, and reducing the number and quality of designs available, the powers that be have more time to react and try to divide and reconquer.

Of course intimidating designers is a big part of that.

Comment: Which is why OpenBSD is hosted in Canada (Score 1) 367 367

This is not the first time they did this. In fact it has quite an interesting history in cryptography that was classified as a munition for just this reason.

Which is why OpenBSD is hosted from outside the US. (It's NOT just that Theo happens to live in Canada.)

Comment: Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 1) 277 277

Actually the exact opposite is true.

Which is necessarily true in any kind of fashion, even if it's anti-fashion. Hipsterism is a kind of contrarianism; the attraction is having things that most other people don't even know about. But strict contrarianism is morally indistinguishable from strict conformism.

Now outside of major metropolitan centers like Manhattan when people say "hipster" they mean something else; there's not enough of a critical mass of non-conformity to cater to an actual "hipster" class. What they're really talking about is "kids taking part in trends I'm not included in." In other words its the same-old, same-old grousing about kids these days, only now by people who've spent their lives as the focus of youth culture and can't deal with their new-found cultural marginalization.

As you get older the gracious thing to do is to age out of concern, one way or the other, with fashion.

Comment: Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 2) 277 277

I thought hipsters all owned iPhone and Macbooks, and shopped at The Gap. I.e. they are all about conformity, fads and Buzzfeed.

No, those things are actually anti-hip. As soon as something gets big enough for Buzzfeed it's for a different audience.

"Hip" implies arcane knowledge possessed by a select few. A great band with a small local following is "hip"; when they make it big they're no longer "hip", although they may still be "cool". The iPhone is pretty much the antithesis of hip, no matter how cool it may be. If I were to guess what hipster phone model might look like, it might be something low-cost Indian android phone manufactured for the local market and not intended for export -- very rare and hard to get outside of India. Or even better, hard to get outside of Gujarat. Or even better only a few hundred were ever manufactured then the company went bankrupt and the stock was sold on the street in Ahmedabad. Provided that the phone is cool. Cool plus obscure is the formula for "hip".

It follows there is no such thing as "hip" retail chain. It's a contradiction in terms. A chain may position itself in its marketing as "hip", but it's really after what the tech adoption cycle refers to as "Early Majority" adopters.

Hipsters reject being the leading edge of anything; as soon as something becomes big, it is no longer hip. This means they're not economically valuable on a large scale, which some people see as self-centered and anti-social. Compare this to cosplayers; the media always adopts a kind of well-the-circus-is-in-town attitude when there's a con, but while they're condescending toward cosplayers the media can't afford to be hostile because those people are the important early adopters for economically valuable media franchises.

Let me give you a more authentic hipster trend than the one you named. Last year there was a fad for hipster men to buy black fedora hats from Brooklyn shops that cater to Hasidic men. While as soon as something gets big enough to draw media attention it's dead to hipsters, this fad illustrates the elements of hipster aesthetic: (1) resurrecting obscure and obsolete fashions; (2) exoticism or syncretism; and (3) authenticity.

Now from an objective standpoint there's no good reason to favor or disfavor fedoras as opposed to, say baseball caps. It's just a different fashion. Likewise there's no practical reason to value a hat from a owner-operated store in Brooklyn over an identical one purchased from Amazon. But it does add rarity value, and that's the key. Something has to be rare and unusual to be hip. As soon as hipness is productized it appeals to a different audience.

Comment: Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 3, Insightful) 277 277

Is this just another term for hipsters? People who seek out things that everyone else has dismissed for (usually) good reasons.

No. Because the "good reason" usually is "most people aren't doing that anymore." The article is about things that *never* become cool, not things that were cool in grandpa's day.

The real problem with being a hipster is that the ideal of non-conformity is inconsistent with the idea of fashion.

Comment: Re:Drop the hammer on them. (Score 5, Insightful) 1218 1218

"Drop the hammer on them."

That's the easy part. The hard part is dealing with what happens after the hammer has been dropped.

Someone once said that the definition of a bad policy is one that leads to a place where you have nothing but bad options. I believe everyone (not just the Greeks) thought back in 2000 it woudl be good policy to bring Greece into the Eurozone. But now we've now reached the point where otherwise rational people are talking about "dropping the hammer", as if having an incipient failed state in Europe is a small price to pay for 600 euro in your pocket. The frustration is understandable, but the the satisfaction of dropping the hammer on Greece would be short-lived -- possibly on the order of weeks depending on the scale of financial disruption.

The unhappy truth is that bad policy choices fifteen years ago means all the options available today lead to long-lived, complicated, and expensive consequences.

Comment: Same here. (Score 1) 646 646

I have similar issues:
  - Towing several tons (travel trailer or 23 foot trailerable-with-extreme-trailer deep-keel coastal-water-ocean-capable sailboat) up and down mountains and cross-country.
  - Going to/from the ranch - over 250 miles one way (over the Altamont grade, across the central valley, and through a pass in the Sierras) - with the last 0.7 miles sometimes hubcap-deep mud.
  - Carrying ranch groceries for several months and/or other supplies or equipment from the nearest supermarket etc. - 27 miles away.
and so on.
  - Off-roading to visit ghost towns and other historic sites in the Nevada Desert - where "running out of gas" - in the absence of cell phone service - might mean your skeletons are discovered in a couple years.

On the other hand, for trips about 3/4 of the year and NOT towing, a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric vehicle with sufficient range, serious regenerative braking, and adequate cargo capacity for two week's groceries and luggage for two, would be ideal. Charge it up at each end (off a windmill/solar at the Nevada end) to start full, use regenerative braking on the downslopes to power across the valley or up the next up slope. For a hybrid: Top off the batteries while cruising the central valley and use batteries plus engine to avoid being a creeping traffic hazard on the mountain roads.

My cycle would be almost identical to a Silicon Valley worker who mostly commutes 25 miles each way and occasionally vacations at the Lake Tahoe ski resorts or Reno or camps in the Sierras. A single vehicle that could do both - rather than needing two vehicles to accommodate the use pattern - would be ideal.

Comment: Range and Price (Score 1) 646 646

Until recently, production electric cars cost way too much, even when you figure you're saving most of the cost of gasoline over the lifetime of the car. (A 50-mpg Prius will use about $20k in gas over 200-250k miles; a 20mpg minivan will use about $50k, so I guess you can justify that Tesla if you were going to buy a gas-guzzler and didn't need the space.) Hobbyist electric cars can cost a lot less, if you want to do all the labor to retrofit a very used car with electric motors and batteries, but I don't.

But even now that prices are coming down, the range on the lower-cost cars isn't enough for me. It's fine for going to the grocery store, but my office is 40 miles away, and so is The City, so on the days I'm not telecommuting or want to go into the city for something, I need a guaranteed range of over 100 miles so I'm not worried about having to coast home on electron vapors or stop for half an hour at a charging station if there wasn't one near my destination. Battery range declines as the batteries get older, so that means I'd probably need a 150-mile range when it's new to be sure I can get to work when it's older.

Maybe a couple of years from now it'll make sense to buy an electric car; we'll see how long my wife's car lasts, and whether it's worth getting an electric when we need to replace it. The real cost includes adding an extra electric meter and 240v power to my garage space and the cost of storing the stuff that's currently in my garage, because Silicon Valley real estate is too expensive to actually use a garage for putting cars in...

Unfortunately, most lower-cost electric today talk about monthly lease prices, and hide all the other costs; one of the ones that was advertised on the radio did mention something around $5K up-front and 25 cents a mile if you drive over 10,000 miles a year - the reason I'd be buying an electric car is to make my commuting cheaper, and my gasoline car currently costs about 25 cents a mile (10 cents amortizing the purchase price over 200k miles, 15 cents for gas.)

"Poor man... he was like an employee to me." -- The police commisioner on "Sledge Hammer" laments the death of his bodyguard

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