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Comment: Poisoning fish? (Score 1) 247

by ErikTheRed (#49755599) Attached to: California Votes To Ban Microbeads

Are the fish capable of digesting plastic? One would think that it would just pass through. It's hard to know whether or not to take the matter seriously, as (sadly) the average environmentalist has no idea what the definition of toxic is. One would think that if there were some interesting data the article would at least link it.

The Almighty Buck

William Shatner Proposes $30 Billion Water Pipeline To California 678

Posted by samzenpus
from the pipe-it-in dept.
Taco Cowboy writes The 84-year-old Star Trek star wants to build a water pipeline to California. All it'll cost, according to Mr. Shatner, is $30 billion, and he wants to KickStarter the funding campaign. According to Mr. Shatner, if the KickStarter campaign doesn't raise enough money then he will donate whatever that has been collected to a politician who promise to build that water pipe. Where does he wants to get the water? Seattle, "A place where there's a lot of water. There's too much water," says Mr. Shatner.

How Uber Surge Pricing Really Works 96

Posted by timothy
from the has-a-catchy-name-regardless dept.
minstrelmike writes with this analysis from Nicholas Diakopoulos of the Washington Post: At the core of Uber's wild success and market valuation of over $41 billion is its data and algorithmically fueled approach to matching supply and demand for cars. It's classic economics, supposedly....but is Uber's surge pricing algorithm really doing what they claim? Do surge prices really get more cars on the road?

My analysis suggests that rather than motivating a fresh supply of drivers, surge pricing instead re-distributes drivers already on the road.
Adds minstrelmike: The writer goes on to analyze 4 weeks of pricing info from 5 areas in D.C. and plotted prices versus wait times. "Price surging can work in any of three ways: by reducing demand for cars (less people want a car for a higher price), by creating new supply (providing an incentive for new drivers to hit the roads), or by shifting supply (drivers) to areas of higher demand."

It moves current drivers from one side of town to the other. It does not put new drivers on the road. It can't because the prices change every 3-5 minutes."

The Upsides of a Surveillance Society 254

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-it's-not-all-upside? dept.
theodp writes Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"

Can Civilization Reboot Without Fossil Fuels? 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-start-breeding-dinosaurs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We often talk about our dependence on fossil fuels, and vigorously debate whether and how we should reduce that dependence. This article at Aeon sidesteps the political bickering and asks an interesting technological question: if we had to rebuild society, could we do it without all the fossil fuels we used to do it the first time? When people write about post-apocalyptic scenarios, the focus is usually on preserving information long enough for humanity to rebuild. But actually rebuilding turns out to be quite a challenge when all the easy oil has been bled from the planet.

It's not that we're running out, it's that the best spots for oil now require high tech machinery. This would create a sort of chicken-and-egg problem for a rebuilding society. Technological progress could still happen using other energy production methods. But it would be very slow — we'd never see the dramatic accelerations that marked the industrial age, and then the information age. "A slow-burn progression through the stages of mechanization, supported by a combination of renewable electricity and sustainably grown biomass, might be possible after all. Then again, it might not. We'd better hope we can secure the future of our own civilization, because we might have scuppered the chances of any society to follow in our wake."
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Storing Data To Survive a Fire (or Other Disaster) 446

Posted by samzenpus
from the burning-down-the-house dept.
First time accepted submitter aka_bigred writes Every year as I file my taxes, I replicate my most important financial data (a couple GB of data) to store an offline copy in my fire-rated home safe. This gets me thinking about what the most reliable data media would be to keep in my fire-rated home safe.

CDs/DVDs/tapes could easily melt or warp rendering them useless, so I'm very hesitant to use them. I've seen more exotic solutions that let you print your digital data to paper an optically re-import it later should you ever need it, but it seems overly cumbersome and error prone should it be damaged or fire scorched. That leaves my best options being either a classic magnetic platter drive, or some sort of solid state storage, like SD cards, USB flash drives, or a small SSD. The problem is, I can't decide which would survive better if ever exposed to extreme temperatures, or water damage should my house burn down.

Most people would just suggest to store it in "the cloud", but I'm naturally averse to doing so because that means someone else is responsible for my data and I could lose it to hackers, the entity going out of business, etc. Once it leaves my home, I no longer fully control it, which is unacceptable. My thought being "they can't hack/steal what they can't physically access." What medium do other Slashdot users use to store their most important data (under say 5GB worth) in an at-home safe to protect it from fire?

Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the killing-your-buzz dept.
Bruce66423 writes: A large scale European study shows that students who were unable to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass their University courses. Below-average students with no legal access to pot were 7.6% more likely to pass their courses, and the effect was five times more pronounced when dealing with courses involving math. One of the study's authors said, "We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalization and prohibition decision-making. In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behavior is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before. ... Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka."

Reddit CEO Ellen Pao Bans Salary Negotiations To Equalize Pay For Men, Women 892

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-things-equal dept.
sabri points out that Reddit CEO Ellen Pao plans to ban salary negotiations in an attempt to equalize pay for men and women. "After losing a sex-discrimination lawsuit in Silicon Valley last week, Ellen Pao continues on her crusade to bring gender equality to the tech world, but this time with a focus on her home turf. As Reddit’s interim CEO, Pao said she wants to eliminate salary negotiations from the company’s hiring process. In her first interview since the lawsuit, Pao told with the Wall Street Journal Monday that the plan would help level the playing field. 'Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate,' she said. 'So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.'"

License Details Hint MS Undecided On Suing Users of Its Open Source Net Runtime 198

Posted by timothy
from the full-of-shift dept.
ciaran2014 writes With Microsoft proudly declaring its .NET runtime open source, a colleague and I decided to look at the licensing aspects. One part, the MIT licence, is straightforward, but there's also a patent promise. The first two-thirds of the first sentence seems to announce good news about Microsoft not suing people. Then the conditions begin. It seems Microsoft can't yet bring itself to release something as free software without retaining a patent threat to limit how those freedoms can be exercised. Overall, we found 4 Shifty Details About Microsoft's "Open Source" .NET.

Comment: I've got something like this; it's not perfect. (Score 1) 287

by ErikTheRed (#49333413) Attached to: Ford's New Car Tech Prevents You From Accidentally Speeding

I've got a system in my current car (BMW M5) that uses a camera to read speed limit signs and puts the current speed limit on my heads-up display. It's a cool system, but it's not perfect. It frequently has problems in school zones where it sees the 25 MPH sign and displays that whether the "school zone" rules are currently in effect or not. I'd agree with most of the posters here that allege that speed limits are set by ass-covering bureaucrats with absolutely zero consideration to actual public safety. Slow zones in residential areas are fine - I don't even have to be told to drive between 20 and 25 MPH is a neighborhood with kids out and about. But the speed limits on major roads and highways are ... I would say "childish," but that would be an insult to children. We're living with generations of people who grew up playing video games, and our car's steering, breaks, suspension, steering, etc. are massively superior to what our parents had (or even what we had a decade ago). When speed limits are set too low people get bored and find other ways to distract themselves, which virtually all more dangerous than going faster.

Comment: Luddism never dies (Score 2) 110

by ErikTheRed (#49309221) Attached to: A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute

Like any new tech, data mining and psychological optimizations can be used for positive or negative purposes and will drive its own bevy of bullshit management fads. The author, like most progressives and conservatives, would throw the newly born baby out with the bathwater to go back to a easier, simpler day where they understood everything and before these young whippersnappers with their "computers" and "smartwatches" started making things move too fast for the old people to keep up with. I'm at the point in my life where I've seen almost two generations of essayists crank out screeds like this and while I have that nagging fear that one day I will be the old fuddy-duddy... it hasn't happened yet. Still wish those damned kids would get off my lawn, though...


A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute 110

Posted by timothy
from the straight-to-godwin dept.
theodp writes Now that we have hard data on everything, observes the NY Times' Virginia Heffernan in A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute, we no longer make decisions from our hearts, guts or principles. "The gut is dead," writes Heffernan. "Long live the data, turned out day and night by our myriad computers and smart devices. Not that we trust the data, as we once trusted our guts. Instead, we 'optimize' it. We optimize for it. We optimize with it." To win Presidential elections. To turn web pages into Googlebait. To sucker people into registering for websites. Of the soon-to-arrive Apple Watch, Heffernan notes: "After time keeping, the watch's chief feature is 'fitness tracking': It clocks and stores physiological data with the aim of getting you to observe and change your habits of sloth and gluttony. Evidently I wasn't the only one whose thoughts turned to 20th-century despotism: The entrepreneur Anil Dash quipped on Twitter, albeit stretching the truth, 'Not since I.B.M. sold mainframes to the Nazis has a high-tech company embraced medical data at this scale.'"

Comment: Metered access, here we come! (Score 0) 550

Has nobody stopped to consider the fact that Net Neutrality (or, more appropriately, Net Neutering) more or less guarantee an eventual transition to metered pricing for customers, that metered pricing will be far more horribly abused by cablecos and telcos than any of this hypothetical preferential treatment could be, and that you'll have absolutely no recourse because the conditions will be fixed in place by regulations?

The "why" should be pretty damned obvious: you have a certain small percentage of users who consume orders of magnitude more bandwidth than others, mostly bittorrent users. ISPs deal with this in some legitimate ways like throttling (deprioritizing bittorrent packets so that they're first to drop when congestion occurs or policing the endpoints to a maximum throughput rate) and some not-so-legitimate ways (injecting connection reset packets to disrupt sessions). If you have to suddenly start treating your teenage neighbor's 8,000 pr0n torrent seeds as "equal traffic" then you either have to expand capacity by orders of magnitude to deal with it, driving up costs for everyone, or you have to introduce metered pricing (or worst case is you can just ignore it and everyone in that neighborhood has crap Internet speed). If you are worried about pricing abuse with so-called "fast lanes," that ain't nothing compared to the abuse you'll get with metered pricing.

Yes, cablecos and telcos are run by shitheads who do want to play stupid fast-lane games with their connections, but a certain amount of outrage can eventually correct that or make it livable. Getting rid of that without consequence would be desirable, but with an almost certain consequence of metered access it seems to me like people are doing an extremely poor job of picking their poisons. And for those who don't think metered access will happen haven't payed much attention to the FCC's history...

This is a practical worry about the ISPs, but it's not the worst one. The FCC is also the group of milquetoast, any-way-the-wind-blows political hacks responsible for freaking out every time there's a nipple slip on public television or somebody says a dirty word where The Children's fragile eyes and ears may be burned with hellfire. Because Satan is in boobies and f-bombs or something like that. And the only people they're semi-accountable to is Congress, who has a 9% approval rating. These are the people you want in charge of our Internet. Seriously? Yes, again, the people running telcos and cablecos are shitheads, but whenever there is hierarchy you will wind up with a shithead in charge. The only way you control these shitheads at all is by having as many as possible choose from. In this case, sorry, I think the supporters of Net Neutering have chosen their shitheads extremely poorly.

Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little more time for dreaming. -- J. P. McEvoy