Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Autonomy fails when the unexpected happens (Score 1) 286

I watched an interesting video of the Google car handling a 4 way stop. First it waited for its proper turn. Then if other people were being ass-hats it would then start to edge out to signal its intent to proceed.

Interestingly enough the primary cause of accidents involving driverless vehicles is that people aren't anticipating them to follow the rules.

Where I live has stupid slow speed limits combined with aggressive speeding cameras. It is actually very creepy to crawl along with everyone else crawling along when in most other locations everyone would be going around 50% faster. (no exaggeration)

Comment More slashdot shilling (Score 1) 286

Slashdot claims that it is more signal than noise but it is becoming more shill than signal. This is another article written with a clear agenda in mind. This is to promote cars that fit the model of the traditional car companies. They are beginning to freak out at what the driverless car will really look like and are beginning to sponsor anyone who will say that it will look like more of the same.

Here is the driverless car of the future (not the next generation but a few generations of development away). First the car is on the road with all automatic cars, there are no manually driven cars because they have been proven to be more of a burden to society than we were willing to put up with. Crashes are pretty much a thing of the past. The cars have shed nearly all their safety gear and no longer have to pass onerous safety tests. The only remaining safety tests are that the cars need to go a certain number of miles while not breaking down.

So the driverless car uses one of a handful of off the shelf autonomous systems all of which are battle tested and battle hardened. The cars are of a variety of shapes and sizes with many tiny single user cars popular among commuters who are one of the last bastions of private car ownership. Most people couldn't tell you one brand of car from another as they just call them on their phone and it shows up. They no more pay attention to brand or model than people do now with uber or taxi cars. Someone might notice if the taxi were a hummer but any boring midsized sedan and they can't even tell you the manufacture let alone model.

So looking at the manufacturers they are plenty in this world of SDCs. This is because the large companies have lost their competitive advantages starting at the moment that self driving cars began to rapidly evolve. The old car companies were very good at tooling up very cost efficient assembly lines and then making roughly the same car for nearly a decade. But the SDC evolved very quickly much like the cellphone which resulted in whole assembly lines being completely out of date in less than 6 months. Also the delay of the assembly line allowed complete upstarts to pound out whole new generations of cars in less time than it took the old companies to get a single, out of date, model to market.

Then in the end with only bulk fleet buyers making up the market the traditional skill of mass marketing was just another department that needed to be shuttered by the old car companies while the new companies didn't have the same liabilities. Also the new companies integrated every modern manufacturing technology possible without "Proper" testing and review by the senior engineers. This meant that most of the upstarts failed but left knowledge in their wakes that other startups built on resulting in fantastic new cheap ways to make very high quality low cost cars.

But the worst insult to the old car companies will be that as the kids start using self driving fleet vehicles their desire to own a car or even give a crap about a car will approach zero. There won't be 16 year olds with posters of a car that the car company can sell to them when they are 50. Movies like the fast and the furious will make no sense and thus won't sell a single car.

This whole allowing people to override the robot will very quickly be proven entirely stupid when the stats will show that cars in manual mode are some massive multiple more likely to crash than cars in fully automatic mode. Also they will be able to run simulations against the manual mode accidents to show that had the car been in control there would have been no accident.

So to allow people to continue to have any control over what is really a robotic car is the rough equivalent of those steering wheels we buy children for their car seats so they can go vroom vroom and stay out of our hair while we drive.

Comment Here is my Nobel prise winning theory (Score 1) 355

The mathematics of economics appear to be very similar to the mathematics of weather. There are elements that are predictable do to natural climatic conditions. Some elements are driven by distant events such as the formation of hurricanes. There are even black swan events such as volcanoes.

Thus it is very tempting to begin to look at people in a very statistical way just like the weather. In Canada is is probably a good idea to buy a snow shovel in the fall and a bathing suit in the spring. Not always, but a good plan.

Economists can very easily see that most people spend their time living most of their lives in a very simple statistical ebb and flow. Except there is one huge problem with this:
Assholes. Unlike the weather, the world is filled with assholes. This is where economists such as Milton Friedman get it exactly wrong. He seems to think that people will all work together in harmony in an invisible hand sort of way making the world a better place. Except that this is where you get complete assholes such as the people who put melamine into milk to improve its apparent protein levels. Why did they put melamine in milk, because they had previously been watering it down so the milk companies started testing for nitrogen as a way to test for protein. Assholes.

If you haven't dealt with people on Wall Street before then you simply can't take to heart the levels that genuine psychopaths will stoop in order to make a buck. People often think of not playing fair in ways such as deflategate or someone putting their toe over the line when serving at tennis. No, on Wall Street they will happily destroy an entire country and all it's industries so that they can make a few million dollars. They will guide regulations so as to ban competition. They will pay off politicians to empty the government treasuries in their favour.

Think about the rolling brownouts and massive increases in power costs in California, all so that Enron could make a tiny amount of money (vs the costs). By some estimates California lost over 40 billion dollars because of those exploits.

So unlike the weather and the nice pretty mathematics that surround it, economics forgets that these asshole hailstorms will take out all the car windows a week after the asshole tornado targeted the competing glass factory.

Some economists are pointing to game theory to explain even the assholes. But again, here they get it wrong. Take the prisoner's dilemma. But there are all kinds of other players in that game. First there is the DA who will hide exonerating evidence to make a name for himself. Then there is the prisoner who has the other prisoner shanked so that there is now only one player in the game. There is the corrupt police chief who arrested the two prisoners in the first place because he is in the pocket of a competing crime boss. Then there is the private prison system that has pushed the laws and courts so that the bail for the two prisoners is so high they can't afford it and the courts so overbooked that they will then spend months or maybe years in a private jail awaiting trial.

So if you want to win a Nobel in economics and actually come up with a system that has at least weather level predictive abilities then figure out how to model the impact of psychopathic assholes.

Comment Arrogant twats (Score 4, Interesting) 136

The handful of twitter employees that I met were Type A arrogant twats. These were the sort who within 10 minutes of meeting them would tell you all the different ways they were better than you. First it would be the uber degree from the uber university. Then of course it was that they worked for twitter. Then it was their near perfect SAT that got them into that degree. Then it was where they described that they were doing stats except that they wouldn't even use such a pedestrian word such as ML but had to state it like the title of a serious research paper. Then they might tell you their name but not before telling you all the famous people they had recently met.

The feeling I got from them was that there was a coked up arrogance to them. That sort of god's gift to mankind attitude.

What would burn their balls though was when I would say, "Seeing that twitter will eventually peak in usage what comes next to justify that massive valuation? Surely tiny blogging doesn't justify that much value with so little revenue and pretty much no profit."

Usually they would tell me that it was secret. I would then ask if they were working on the secret. This is where their balls got scorched as if they were so important then why were they just working on a bit of data mining?

I met exactly one twitter guy who was only somewhat arrogant and he quit. Still a twat though.

So if I had to guess what their failing was; I would say that it was that they had a tiger by the tail. So they hired people with awesome resumes who went around telling people (and each other) how awesome they all were and thus it became a circle jerk as to how they were going to succeed. But the people they hired were more expert at pleasing teachers and going through checklists in life rather than actually producing anything of value. Had someone of genius assigned them a task they all probably could have done it very well. But on their own they could only massage what already existed.

Basically these were the kids with an A+ in chemistry and memorized the period table at the beginning of the year but had never just blown shit up in their back yard.

Comment Re:I want a pc that fits in my pocket and has a to (Score 1) 266

Actually other than it being by Microsoft that is pretty damn close. The key is that the docking hardware is of such a common standard that I could hook up my iPhone, android, MS phone, etc and they would just go, "Oh look a docking station; now I'm a desktop,"

If I had to make a prediction this hardware probably costs way too much and thus it would be cheaper to go get a halfway decent laptop and/or the thing is going to be so proprietary that it will only work for even a limited number of MS phones of a single brand let alone other OS based phones.

Yet this would be a brilliant thing for them to licence to the other companies, they could have the standard on connecting phones like this.

Comment I want a pc that fits in my pocket and has a touch (Score 2) 266

I want a pc that fits in my pocket and has a touchscreen. It needs to be able to make phone calls and receive texts. It would be nice if I could also listen to music and if it could connect to things via bluetooth. Wi-fi would also be a good feature.

Someone told me that such a PC might already exist.

But in reality there is a PC that I would like that is close to the above. I want a PC basestation that is effectively my phone. Something that is just a keyboard, mouse and monitor but gets its computing power from my phone. I would snap the phone in and boop, I have a good computer, I pull it out and I have a good phone. Ideally though when it was a computer it would actually be a computer with proper mouseclicks, complicated interfaces, and whatnot. But when it was a phone it wouldn't be a crappy little computer but a good phone. But the real killer is that the basestation would not be proprietary to just that company or even just that phone series but general to all makes and models that supported the standard.

Oddly enough one of the things that has hurt the PC market is that about 8 or so years ago most cheap laptops and desktops were good enough for most people's purposes. They could watch 1080 videos without stuttering, they could connect to Wi-fi faster than their ISP would feed them data, and the USB standard means that few devices shortly before or anytime after wouldn't work. Unlike the 90s when this year's computer could do things that last year's couldn't we have nearly a straight decade where 99% of people don't need more power than is available in any of the latest machines.

We are now crossing that threshold with phones. They are crossing a power demand for most people. More than 1080 on a typical phone is nonsense, more than a quadcore 1.5ghz processor is nonsense, more than G wi-fi is nonsense, more than LTE data is nonsense. The few features that people really want are more battery, more durability, and lower price.

So why not take this ever growing pile of power and combine it with the generally minimal needs of the laptop/desktop world?

With a proper keyboard, mouse, and interface tied into a smartphone I know of few people who would need anything more than that.

Then the era of the PC would simply have a new chapter.

Comment The easiest game theory problem ever (Score 1) 479

OK here are the players. One is a consumer who has a VW that will consume 20% more fuel if they get the modification but will generate negligibly less pollutants for themselves.. If they don't get the modification the amount of pollution they will generate for themselves is negligible but they won't use way more fuel. They are the only player in this game, what will most decide?

Comment Product of MBA thinking (Score 1) 327

I have found that most companies where managers are multi tiered and plentiful are typically run by mostly MBAs. Often these MBAs have VP titles in their name and they too are multi-tiered with SVP VP and even JVP. But the classic sign is wonderfully summed up in the movie Office Space with the TPS report. I will be dealing with some manager who will say that they are 6 months behind on their XYZ reports. I will then say, "What value do these XYZ reports have then?" Sometimes they might provide a better trail if there is a future fraud investigation or whatnot but in most cases it is just complete BS information being gathered that does not relate in any real way to the day to day operations or the company's goals.

So you will have this XYZ report that a manager is expected to spend about 1 hour per day working on. They in turn expect their underlings to spend 10+ minutes a day on the report and of course this gets passed up the chain. So a company with 5,000 employees might be effectively dedicating 50-100 employees to the XYZ report. But it isn't just a waste of time but adds stress to the employees and takes away from having a clear sense of purpose. To make it worse there might not be only one; there could also be the ABC report and the LMN training.

The way I like to boil things down is to say, OK what does this company do? Thus is removing XYZ going to impact doing that? I am often building systems for large companies and thus I am often automating the XYZ report. But suddenly I discover that not only is the XYZ report just busy work but the managers who are dedicated to it also would prefer if I would prioritize automating the XYZ report over say the billing system for selling widgets, which is what the company does. So I come back with a cost analysis that shows the value of the XYZ report is negative whereas the improved billing system will generate X extra revenue every week.

But I only do this presentation to the CEO and or board level. I would never tell the managers that the XYZ report is not needed because many of them know that their job is total BS.

One great description that I heard years ago and live by for a long time was that a good manager is there to protect their underlings from the upper management. But then I realized a greater issue. The underlings shouldn't need protection from upper management.

Comment Betting on the weight of Steven King's next dump (Score 1) 174

I am setting up a website where I am going to allow online betting based on the weight of Steven King's next bowel movement. I need to sneak into his house tonight to put pressure sensors under his throne and a turd cam just under the seat.

So everyone come check out http://scaryturdbetting.com/ and give me all your money.

Comment Feel sorry for any scientist who looks into this (Score 3, Funny) 186

It must suck for any genuine scientist who might come up with an interesting idea as it relates to small scale or cold fusion. I can just see the grant request meeting:
So you have filed a grant form on researching neutron production at low temperatures?
Isn't that cold fusion by another name?
Not really but...
You're fired, we are stripping your PhD, and we are having the art department make funny cartoons about how much of a loser you are.
But I only asked for a $2 grant.
We are also requesting retractions on all your papers including ones that have been lab verified by over 1000 independent researchers.
We also just burned your house down and killed your dog.
I don't have a dog.

Comment Re:Cable company propaganda (Score 2) 173

I can point to my family. We moved to a location where nearly unlimited wireless is not a terrible price. There is no need beyond me, the software developer, to have a huge connection. If I had genuinely unlimited LTE or better then I would switch in a heartbeat. I am a pretty demanding data user so if I could cut then few couldn't.

If my siblings lived where I live then I would have helped them all cut their internet by now. My mother has netflix but barely even uses that. I think her monthly data usage is around 2Gigs a month or less. I think that a typical Netfllix family uses around the 300Gig mark in Data.

Where wireless gets interesting is when the antenna is also directional. In some countries where they leapfrogged that last mile of wire they combine cool telco antennas with these can things on the houses that allow for wireless highspeed internet for very little money.

The key is that the cable companies are only seeing the cusp of this trend. They are trying to cut it off before it becomes a problem. Every day they can delay the progress of wireless data for the masses is a huge pile of money. So it is worth it for them to put a huge amount of effort into this project even if it only buys them a year or two.

Now it's not perfect. Ping times go up so gamers wouldn't be happy. But I can use products such as skype and facetime on my data plan and I can't tell the difference between that and a wired internet connection.

It is also very cool when I am in a park and can download a new version of some SDK that I use without really thinking about it.

Comment Re:Cable company propaganda (Score 1) 173

But the independent evidence shows that there is no problem. They are trying to convince the public that their Wi-fi will be imperilled by the evil telcos. When one large group of companies are battling with another group of large companies their lobbying suddenly cancels out and they have to turn to the voter.

Comment It is wrong in many situations and correct in some (Score 1) 281

If the project is the equivalent of moving dirt from pile A to pile B then then many hands make light work until it gets to a point where people are just getting in each other's way. So 20 might be 4 times better than 5 but 1,000 is just a huge waste of resources as maybe 950 would be best kept out of the way.

Then there is the statistical genius issue. If you have one good programmer trying to solve a horrific problem then two or so programmers might allow for some interesting insights that one might not have. But this sort of hits a rate of diminishing returns in that the average programmer isn't that much smarter than any other programmer. Thus 10 might not be much better than 2. Except that if you have 1,000 programmers the simple probability is that one of them is a genius and thus the program might be solved more than 1000 times faster than a single programmer or more realistically it may have never been solved by a handful of programmers, ever.

Then there are the classic programs where people try to architect it into wonderfully separate abstract sections where individual programmers or small groups can work on each piece. This might sound good in reality but all projects have a certain amount of spaghetti to them and thus their reaches a point where each new programmer isn't able to hive off a part very easily without excessive communications with other programmers and thus not really help that much. This is a fairly typical corporate project flow and thus the Mythical Man month does apply to many projects, just not all projects.

Comment Cable company propaganda (Score 4, Interesting) 173

Holy crap. This is completely disproved cable company funded research. Basically the cable companies are not only seeing cord cutting in the realm of people cutting their TV cables but also now many people are going with tablets and phone only internet connections and are cutting their local wi-fi/cable internet connection. This is a disaster for the cable companies.

So they are doing their damnedest to keep the wireless companies from being able to use the bandwidth that is becoming available as various old technologies such as analog broadcast TV frees up more and more of the spectrum.

On top of that any new frequency opened up to wireless will often then be used by the newest and best data technologies so a given bit of spectrum used in 4G will of course pack in way more data than a 3G spectrum of the same "size" and 5G will probably pack in just that much more into anything that newly opens up for it.

Eventually the 2G spectrum will be retired for use for maybe 6G sort of stuff but it is the new spectrums now that are used for the newest and best data streaming.

If you look at a graph of the spectrum opening up, combined with existing spectrum being re-purposed, combined with the ability to not only send data down that spectrum, but cool things like phased array antennas that can basically laser the data directly at a customer that graph will actually show that the typical netflixing customer could potentially go entirely wireless in not that many years.

This basically takes the whole "last mile" concept out and shoots it in the face. Then the last-mile turns into the-last-pile-of-expensive-crap.

Yes there will be some customers who need such absurd amounts of bandwidth that wireless really won't be it but for the average person watching netflix; they really will hit a limit where they then only slowly increase their demands.

So again I cry a little bit for slashdot to see this sort of corporate shilling happening again.

You've been Berkeley'ed!