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Ask Slashdot: Best Data Provider When Traveling In the US? 95

An anonymous reader writes: I am visiting USA 3-4 times a year and I need a data service. I also need to keep my cell phone number, so swapping the SIM card in my phone is not an option. I have bought those 19.95$ phones in Best-Buy to get a local number, but those were voice only. So I have been thinking about getting a MiFi hotspot.

I have been looking at pre-paid plans from Verizon(only 700 LTE band for their pre-paid hotspot), AT&T, T-Mobile etc. perhaps to put in a MiFi hotspot or buy a hotspot from a provider, but have no idea which one to use, their reputation, real life coverage etc. It is clear that all data plans in the USA are really expensive, I get 100GB monthly traffic with my Scandinavian provider for the same price as 6-8 GB montly in the US, which I guess could be a problem with our Apple phones as they do not recognize a metered WiFi hotspot. But that is another issue. I travel all over but most of the time outside the big cities -- and my experience from roaming with my own phone and the cheap local phone so far tells me that coverage fluctuates wildly depending on the operator.

Comment Re:Because this will be unlike Biosphere 2 how? (Score 4, Informative) 55

To answer your question, smaller habitat, no experiment at maintaining atmospheric composition, outside excursions in "space suits" etc. Its not very much like Biosphere II.

As for why not under the sea or Antarctica I can give at least three reasons. (1) cost of building, transporting and maintaining the habitat; (2) all the support and research personnel live in Hawaii, above water; (3) the research objectives don't require putting the experiment in a dangerous or inaccessible place.

Now someday when we have an actual habitat design along with all the actual support systems we plan to send to Mars, a trial on top of a super high mountain would make sense as a kind of Mars analog. But we don't have such stuff to test so we don't need the Mars analog with all the expense and complication.

Comment Re:Just look at the stats of prison inmates? (Score 3, Interesting) 55

You might make an argument that a significant difference exists between inmates in a prison and highly tested, analyzed and trained astronauts with regard to their psychological makeup not to mention willingness and motivation to be confined.

I do think that long term encapsulation is probably psychologically burdensome at best and perhaps damaging to even the best possible astronauts.

Which makes me wonder how much NASA has thought about the psychopharmacology of space travel. There might be some benefit to some kind of sedating anti-depressant for stages of a long voyage that required just routine status checks and basic routine maintenance duties.

Comment Re:Furthermore, Saudi Arabia must be destroyed (Score 4, Insightful) 292

Not everyone in Saudi Arabia are bedouin; in particular the ruling House of Saud is descended from town dwelling Arabs.

I'll go out on a limb and guess that not everyone in Saudi Arabia is worthless. Even people involved in managing their oil. And as for the elite they don't seem to be worse than anyone else who's inherited oil-based wealth; they've managed that for the long term benefit of themselves and their families. If they're ostentatious with their wealth, well they have a lot of it and it hasn't bankrupted them yet.

So there's no rational reason to want to destroy Saudi Arabia. But there's every reason not to want to be so dependent upon them.

Comment Even if practical technology was 10-20 years out (Score 2) 292

Even if you could say with certainty that in 10-20 years the practical technology could be established, wouldn't you be looking at another 30+ years before it was actually a meaningful force in power generation, making fusion more like 50+ years out?

Say they solve the technology hurdles in 10 years. They will then need to build a test plant that operates at a scale large enough to generate meaningful power (a few megawatts). That would probably take 10 years. That plant would need to run for, what, 5 years, to demonstrate that everything works like its supposed to and you can actually make the thing work.

At that point you're out another 10-15 years to plan and build a large, utility scale plant comparable to the ones that exist now -- 1.5GW. This plant would then have to run for 5 years to demonstrate (at least to investors, regulators, politicians, etc) that it works.

So worst case, 45 years later you have a single fusion plant producing electricity at utility scale.

Assuming it all works perfectly and everyone loves it in the next 20 years you might add another 3 plants. 65 years out, you now have 4 plants producing 6 TW, a drop in the bucket.

And all of this is assuming the economics make sense relative to other trends, like residential solar, improved battery storage and so on. After all this, fusion as a source of power seems closer to a 100 years out.

Comment Re:From TFA: bit-exact or not? (Score 1) 161

There used to be a web page called "Your Eyes Suck at Blue". You might find it on the Wayback machine.

You can tell the luminance of each individual channel more precisely than you can perceive differences in mixed color. This is due to the difference between rod and cone cells. Your perception of the color gamut is, sorry, imprecise. I'm sure that you really can't discriminate 256 bits of blue in the presence of other, varying, colors.

Comment Re:From TFA: bit-exact or not? (Score 5, Insightful) 161

Rather than abuse every commenter who has not joined your specialty on Slashdot, please take the source and write about what you find.

Given that CPU and memory get less expensive over time, it is no surprise that algorithms work practically today that would not have when various standards groups started meeting. Ultimately, someone like you can state what the trade-offs are in clear English, and indeed whether they work at all, which is more productive than trading naah-naahs.

Comment Re:Traditional internal facing IT shop .. (Score 1) 191

Managing 800 GB of storage back then was like managing 8 TB today. LTO tapes that only held 100 gigs, only 100 meg ethernet.

IIRC, only about 100 GB was really active, maybe another 50 was warm-ish and the rest was just cold data from old projects and forgotten crap, like today.

The problem was compounded by the client, a cellular company, who would come up with a promotion and then tweak it for the 20-odd markets the ad was supposed to run in. If it was a truly simple ad (which they seldom were), you would have the same base layout (Quark file, graphics, fonts, misc other stuff) times the number of markets.

Where it got fun is when the client wanted to see variations of the ad AND the way it had to change for various markets. If an ad had 5 variations, now you had 100 versions of the same ad and the graphics department never really made use of some of the storage efficiencies offered even back then (ie, graphic elements that never changed only existing once in the filesystem), so you literally would end up with 100 directories with graphics duplicated many times over.

I've noticed that graphics dedupes really well -- one client with 4 TB of raw graphics files gets 80% dedupe on that volume. Wish I would have had that back then. Between thin provisioning and dedupe, it would have made for a lot less equipment at least.

Comment Re:A simple test is in order (Score 1) 415

Well, this is a bit like parents who take their kids to get vaccinated and a few hours later that kid exhibits the first signs of autism. It's an immensely compelling coincidence. You'd have to (a) know that autism symptoms often have a rapid onset and (b) realize that when they do they can follow any commonplace childhood event. Even if you did it'd still be hard to shake the suspicion if it happened to your kid.

Somebody points a IR remote at your friend; he gets up and has a brief moment of orthostatic hypotension -- also known as a "dizzy spell" brought on by a sudden drop in blood pressure -- just at the moment the guy pushes the button. Orthostatic hypotension can happen to anyone, but if your friend isn't otherwise prone to it that can be a very compelling coincidence; and many of the symptoms of hypotension can be reproduced by psychological stress.

If something like that happens to you people will say, "oh, it's all in your head," but the thing is that all suffering is inside peoples' heads. One of the worst kinds of pain you can have is passing a kidney stone, but if you happen to be in a coma at the time you won't feel a thing. Distress produced within the brain is indistinguishable to the subject from distress produced outside the brain. Having an external explanation for that distress can make someone feel like they have some control over what is a disturbing experience, and shooting holes in that explanation isn't going to help unless you can offer them a better handle on it.

Sometimes I think we'd be better off if we just brought back shamans and witch doctors.

Comment Re:Fixed it for you. (Score 1) 440

I'm not "Jeff's" marriage counselor, nor exposed to all the private details of his or any of my other friend's lives. It could just be that birds of a feather flock together, and we're all generally friends because we share similar personalities and weaknesses and that just leads to a high correlation of similar relationship strengths and weaknesses.

If you can't ask your partner for intimacy, then it's not biology, it's communication.

You can ask for sex, but I don't think you can ask for intimacy -- intimacy requires an organic desire that originates within the partners. Sex can kindle intimacy, but it can't create it.

I think one of the challenges, though, of the asking is that if you ask and you get it, what are you actually getting? Are you getting a partner who is motivated out of an organic, genuine interest, or are you getting a partner who's going along to get along?

At best you might get a partner who provides a theatrically convincing orifice for you to orgasm in. At worst, you get an emotionally dead, passive participant, the stereotypical cold fish who just lies there and might as well have a visible thought bubble that says "Are you finished yet?"

When people complain about "not enough sex" I suspect that it's not exclusively frequency that's the complaint, it's at least as much a complaint about a lack of organic, internally originated enthusiasm for sex.

I think some men just don't care (the old joke: "Why do women fake their orgasms? Because they think men care."), and view sex as the same whether she just holds still long enough for him to finish or whether she puts on a garter and fishnet stockings and talks dirty. It wouldn't surprise me that lack of sexual satisfaction among married men today is a function of women who don't feel obligated to go along with "the marital duty" and men being more aware of what their wives actually want, creating a kind of negative feedback loop.

Comment Re:Fixed it for you. (Score 1) 440

It doesn't seem to pan out that way, at least in my exposure to couples in their 40s. Every man I know in his 40s complains about the lack of sex in his marriage, and conventional explanations of imbalanced parenting, housekeeping, substantial physical appearance changes, etc always seem to be contradicted, often in multiple categories, in any given example.

"Jeff" complains about sex being a 1-2 times a month activity, but Jeff does about 60% of the parenting in my experience, is 6 years younger than his wife and is outstanding physical shape and very attractive (when we go out, he's almost embarrassed at how often women hit on him in bars). His wife runs a freelance marketing business and he's a solo practice attorney, so both have jobs of about equivalent levels of responsibility and income as I understand it.

My sense is that any theory of lessened sex drive in women over 40 may be contingent on marital status (ie, married) and childbearing status (have given birth) as strong influencers. Women who never married or never have given birth may have stronger social or biological influences that increase their interest in sex.

With the recent FDA approval of flibanserin (the "female Viagra"), there has been a lot of debate over it with a not insignificant chorus of women supporting it because "they want to have sex but just don't have the desire". I'd also doubt that such a drug would get developed and put through FDA scrutiny if the company and investors lacked decent data that said a good sized market didn't exist for it.

Like anything else, I don't think you can arbitrarily say "all older women don't want sex" or "women over 40 want more sex". It's probably most likely that both things can be true at the same time but with clusters of characteristics around both groupings.

Comment Re:39% without secondary false-positives. (Score 1) 245

I think the inherent scarcity in research resources means that you will pretty much always have a kind of gatekeeper who decides what projects and who's projects gets funded and what doesn't.

It'd be great if that gatekeeper was a neutral party without a vested interest, but I'd wager it likely takes someone inherently knowledgeable in the field to be able to intelligently understand the research requests.

You could have a committee to hopefully limit individual vested interests, but ultimately there are influencers who can stack committees.

I think if you could get researchers to acknowledge these kinds of existential confirmation biases in research selection you probably would be able to build committees with the scientific chops to evaluate research proposals but with enough outsiders that career/standing/theoretical biases wouldn't crowd out proposals with the potential to contradict prevailing theories.

Comment Re:Mirrors (Score 2) 120

I don't think you could make the reflective surface perfect enough to make the drone positively laser-proof, but I think a reflective coating would certainly reduce the laser's effective range. Analogously you can't nuke-proof an aircraft, but in the Cold War they were often painted "anti-flash white" to help them survive a bit closer to a detonation.

"If Diet Coke did not exist it would have been neccessary to invent it." -- Karl Lehenbauer