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Comment Re:Is that even worthwhile? (Score 1) 101 101

Is it even worthwhile to use an app like that to save a few cents on gas?

Not EVERY TIME you need to fill-up, but it's very good for finding which gas stations in your area are consistently inexpensive, which ones play games with pricing (occasionally cheap to bring-in business, then crank-up the prices). And when traveling it absolutely INVALUABLE for avoiding gas-traps that can be $1 per-gallon more than the gas station half a mile ahead...

If I have to spend even 5 minutes looking up gas prices and driving out of my way to go to a cheaper gas station, it's not worth saving 30 cents a gallon on gas.

At $8/hour (a reasonable minimum wage), 5 minutes of effort is worth 67 cents, making even a 5 cent/gallon price difference worth the effort.

Personally, there's nothing I would love more than an app (or maps/navigation feature) that would show me which cheap gas stations are along my route, rather than a dumb radius search that might tell me to do a U-turn and drive a 10 mile loop to save 1 cent/gallon, or going 5 miles away from the highway, when in both cases continuing on my route for 5 miles to the next cheap gas station is most often the far better option. GasBuddy's map is utterly useless for such things, and would take an hour of clicking-on each pin to figure out the answer to that simple and frequent question.

I see Gas Guru is a solid competitor to Gas Buddy. I'll have to compare their terms and see which is slightly less evil.

Comment Re:So what's up with those bitcoins? (Score 1) 96 96

Having a currency with deflation has never been really tested.

"Japan's economy was caught in a deflationary spiral for the past 20 years. It started in 1989, when the Bank of Japan raised interest rates causing the asset bubble in housing to burst. During that decade, the economy grew less than 2% per year as businesses cut back on debt, spending and lost productivity with excess workers (Japan's culture discourages employee layoffs). The Japanese people are also savers, and when they saw the signs of recession, they stopped spending and put away funds for bad times."

"Massive deflation helped turn a recession into The Great Depression. As unemployment rose, demand for goods and services fell. Prices dropped 10% a year. As prices fell, companies went out of business. More people became unemployed. When the dust settled, world trade essentially collapsed. The amount of goods and services traded fell 25%, but thanks to lower prices the value of this trade was down 65% (as measured in dollars)."

"As prices fall, people put off purchases, hoping they can get a better deal later. This puts pressure on manufacturers to constantly lower prices. Constant cost-cutting means lower wages and less investment spending."

A deflationary spiral is a vicious circle where decreases in price lead to lower production, which in turn leads to lower wages and demand, which leads to further decreases in price. The problem exacerbates its own cause.

Comment Re:Passed data with a ton of noise? (Score 1) 356 356

The question is: is the signal-to-noise ratio good enough? If so a cheap cable that passes the data is every bit as good as an expensive one, so long as the packets arrive intact at the other end.

Ethernet already does a lot to counter noise. The signals are differential pairs (so instead of having ground and signal, you have signal+ and signal-). The wire pairs are twisted, which keeps them in close proximity. Interference tends to be common mode noise (so for two wires close together it will affect the signal in each wire almost the same), and differential amplifiers are designed to only amplify the difference between the two wires and will therefore reject common mode noise. Each end also has an isolating transformer, and each end has proper termination (to avoid things like reflections which can bugger up signal integrity). It takes a significantly terrible out-of-spec twisted pair cable to make ethernet stop working.

Incidentally, the signalling for 100baseTX ethernet only has a fundamental frequency of 31.25MHz (naively people would expect 1MHz per 1Mbps but this is not so). 100baseTX uses a 3 level (in other words +1, 0, -1) non return to zero signalling (in other words, a 1 will cause the signal to change level and a 0 will cause the signal to remain at the current level - or it might be the other way around, it's a long time since I did this stuff). Each 4 bits is encoded into a 5 bit symbol designed to prevent long runs of 0s (which would cause the signal level to remain constant for too long). Lots of people call an ethernet connection a "broadband" connection, but it's not, it's baseband (hence the "base" in 100baseTX).

Comment Re: Caps Lock used to power a huge lever. (Score 1) 687 687

I'd have to question that (not that she has to do it or the reasons she was told, but the supposed reality that elders can't read normal text as well as caps). One of the pieces of research that was done here in the 1950s resulted in motorway road signs in the UK being in mixed case rather than all caps - it caused howls of anguish from old-timers resistant to change - but the thing is words with lower case text have more of a shape - for instance "Manchester" can be resolved as the word "Manchester" much faster than "MANCHESTER" - it was found you could read the mixed case before you could even resolve all the letters because you could recognise the shape of the word, given that lower case text has more features like ascenders and descenders. Hence all UK road signs ever since have been in mixed case.

Comment Re:Third Dimension (Score 5, Interesting) 1175 1175

Drones are subject to the same rules that RC aircraft are subject to.

It is however extremely hard to enforce. RC users are generally pretty responsible - they've probably spent many hours building their aircraft, and during this time it has sunk in the dangers they can pose, and usually they've joined a local club to help them learn to fly their new expensive aircraft and the club will also coach them on safely operating their aircraft.

Drone users not so much. Many of the ready-to-fly drones require pretty much zero skill to operate, so people can take off and cause mischief pretty much straight away.

Comment Re:Sugar Daddies? (Score 1) 550 550

I believe in quality over quantity, and /. doesn't have the intelligent conversations with knowledgeable people that it once did. They've nearly all fled.

I learned a huge amount from submitting stories to Soylent and Pipedot, and comparing them to the crud was on Slashdot at the time... Namely, /. likes to publish a completely inaccurate and twisted stories any idiot knows is slanted and wrong, and then 99% of the comments are made-up of people correcting (and ranting about) the bad story. If you don't publish such crap, you can have informative discussions with 1% of the audience...

In addition, it's the very few, high-quality commentors that make the site, not the rest of the horde. You can have a very small community, as long as it contains a few very smart people, and have just as much insightful conversation. I saw it working wonderfully back in the early days of /. but there's nothing of value left here, now. If Pipedot can continue to maintain the high signal-to-noise ratio as it grows, it *could* be better than /. ever was. But who knows what the future may hold...

Comment Re:You just described SoylentNews. (Score 5, Informative) 550 550

You've basically just described SoylentNews, a Slashdot clone that appeared when the Slashdot Beta shit really started heating up.

SoylentNews never aspired to be anything like slashdot. Instead NCommander stated clearly "SoylentNews intends to be a source of journalism", which just resulted in it becoming HuffingtonPost with discussion, instead of a /. replacement.

The only direct replacement for /. that appeared was PipeDot. "pipedot intends to be a better slashdot". https://pipedot.org/comment/2C... Unfortunately, the word hardly got out, and readership over there is pretty low.

Comment Re:Sugar Daddies? (Score 2) 550 550

/. is just an empty name, and it has less value than ever. All the best parts of /. can and have been forked.

SoylentNews is like HuffingtonPost on slashcode, while PipeDot is a working rewrite of slashcode that kept the sci/tech focus and high standards, but hasn't managed to build a big community of users so far. Just pointing /. readers to Pipedot instead would do the job, and rescue millions of dollars from Dice's pockets.

Comment Re:Can email service providers do more? (Score 1) 58 58

Regarding your number 2... Frequently get tampered with in transit? Really? I have, literally, never seen this....

You're lucky there. I see such tampering several times per day, and fixing the problem often takes a lot of time (and soto-voce swearing ;-).

The reason is that I deal with a lot of data that's "plain text", but is computer data of some sort, not a natural language like English (which is sorts stretching the meaning of "natural", but you know what I mean). Or it's in a human language, but not English, and the character encoding uses some 2-byte or longer characters.

The simplest example is computer source code. The tampering is often caused by the "punch-card mentality" coded into a lot of email software, which often doesn't allow lines longer than 80 (or 72) characters, and inserts line feeds to make everything fit. Many programming languages consider line feeds to mean something different than a space, usually "end of statement". Inserting a line feed in the middle of a statement thus changes the meaning, and very often introduces a syntax error.

Even nastier is the munging a lot of other plain-text data representation that mixes letters and numbers. Inserting spaces or a line feed in the middle of a token like "G2EF" usually destroys the meaning in a way that can't be corrected automatically at the receiving end. Usually the way to handle such tampering is to reply to the sender, saying "Can you send me that in quoted-printable or base-64 form?" And you try to teach everyone in the group that such data should always be encoded in a form that's immune to the idiocies of "smart" email handlers.

Text in UTF-8 form, especially Chinese and Japanese text, is especially prone to this sort of tampering, which often leaves the text garbled beyond recovery.

Anyway, there are lots of excuses for such tampering with email in ways that destroy the content. It's not always for nefarious reasons; it's just because the programmers only tested their email-handling code on English-language text. And because they're idiots who think that lines of text should never be longer than 80 (or 72) characters.

Comment Re:Redirecting (Score 1) 188 188

When I noticed that the address was the address of my machine, I did a quick find(1), but couldn't find the IMDB files or the takedown letter. Do you think I should contact Universal Pictures and ask them to send me another copy of the letter, so I can figure out which file to take down?

Actually, I noticed that all of our home machines (we have several, including tablets and smart phones) seem to have the same address. I guess that's to be expected, since ISPs only give us a single address, so we all have to use that silly NAT protocol and try to make sense of the confusion that it always creates. Anyway, I did look around on all of them, and still couldn't find anything with "Universal Pictures" inside. I did find a few files that contain "IMDB", but they're in the browsers' cache directories, and I got rid of those by simply telling the browsers to clear their cache(s).

But somehow I don't think this has taken care of the problem. So who should I contact at Universal Pictures to make sure we get a copy of the letter and purge our machines of their files?

(And for the benefit of many /. readers and mods, maybe I should end this with: ;-) Nah....

Comment Re:Profits are important to allocate resources (Score 1) 93 93

What rate of return would convince you to put your money in an investment if you knew it was going to be 10 years before you received the first dollar back - and there was a 90%+ chance of failure to boot?

Funny thing; those numbers were used back in the 1980s, with interesting results. The topic wasn't drugs, though, but rather solid-state manufacturing, and very similar numbers were widely quoted in east Asia. At the time, it was generally estimated that to build a new solid-state facility would require several billion dollars, and would take around a decade to become profitable, due to the extreme difficulty of achieving the required low level of contaminants inside the equipment. Much of the decade would be spent making test runs, discovering that the output was useless because of some trace contaminant in one part of the process, and redesigning the setup to get past yet another failure. Success wasn't predictable; the 10-year estimate was just the minimum.

But people in east Asia (mostly Japan and Korea) argued publicly that the American companies that controlled most of the production at the time wouldn't be able to get funding for new factories, because American investors would refuse to invest so much money in something with no payoff for a decade. If Asian investors would step in and support the effort, in 10 years they could own the world's solid-state industry. Enough people with money (including government agencies) listened, made the gamble, and a decade longer, they owned the industry.

It's probably just a matter of time before the American drug industry goes the same way. Would you invest in something with no payoff for a decade or more, and wasn't even guaranteed to pay off then because nobody had yet created the drugs that might be created? If you guess that few US (or EU) investors will do this, you're likely right.

In particular, the Republican US Congress is highly likely to continue its defunding of academic basic research, partly due to mistrust of investments that won't pay off during their current terms in office, and also due to a serious religion-based dislike of the biological sciences in general. Without the basic research, the only "new" drugs patented by industry will continue to be mostly small tweaks of existing drugs, which under US law qualify as new, patentable products.

Of course, this is all a bunch of tenuous guesses, based on past behavior of the players. That's what investment is usually like. It's entirely possible that they'll wise up, and not abandon the drug industry the way they abandoned the electronics industry. The US does actually have a few solid-state production facilities, after all, though they're now a small part of the market.

But, as the above poster said, would you be willing to gamble your investment money on the hope that US private drug makers will support the research that the US government is getting out of? Remember that, to corporate management, scientific research appears to have a record of 90% failure; i.e., 90% of funded research projects fail to produce a patentable and marketable product. This is the nature of research, which only discovers facts and theories, not products, and where the outcome of a study is unpredictable before the fact. (If it were predictable, it wouldn't be called "research", it'd be "development". ;-)

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