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Comment: Re:Amazon Elastic Cloud? (Score 1) 233

by Animats (#48439281) Attached to: Does Being First Still Matter In America?

decades ago, Cray Computers were assembled by people (housewives) who were allowed to spend no more time than they could be maximally effective in, using wires cut to millimeter-precise lengths.

Yes, and there's a Cray I at the Computer Museum here in Silicon Valley, upholstered base and all. You can sit on it if you like. It's not useful for much else.

All modern supercomputers are composed of a large number of microprocessors. The interconnects are faster than with ordinary hosting/cloud operations, but the CPUs are the same. The biggest supercomputer in the world, in China, is 3,120,000 cores of Intel Xeons, running at 2.2GHz each.

The question is whether the problem you're solving needs tight interconnection. If not, you can run it on a large number of ordinary computers. Weather may not be that tightly coupled; propagation time in air is kind of slow.

Comment: Re:Not the holder's money (Score 1) 91

by postbigbang (#48430569) Attached to: UNSW Has Collected an Estimated $100,000 In Piracy Fines Since 2008


The university can fine you for parking violations, smoking where you're not supposed to, being in wanton possession of whatever.

Should they want to turn your name over to another entity with whom you've performed allegedly bad behaviour, they can do that. Or not, should it suit them.

Comment: They'll be replaced by robots soon. (Score 1) 476

by Animats (#48428561) Attached to: As Amazon Grows In Seattle, Pay Equity For Women Declines

Don't worry, most of those jobs will go away soon. Amazon's newer warehouses use Kiva robots to move merchandise around to picking stations. Picking is still manual; the computers do all the thinking, the humans just pick up what the laser pointer points at. But Bezos owns a robotics startup working on automating that. At Amazon, being replaced by robots isn't a future problem. It's here now.

Customer service is already mostly automated. It's can't be long until customer service chat is with a computer, not a human. Then Amazon will need fewer people.

Comment: Re:With a RTG, it couldn't have got to the comet. (Score 2) 490

by Ford Prefect (#48424513) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

The SNAP-9A used in the Transit 5B-2 navigation satellite launched in 1963 weighed 12.3 kg and produced 25 watts of power. That looks about like a perfect fit for Philae, and I'm sure more efficient thermocouplers are available today that could further reduce the weight.

They could also have made Rosetta much larger, and possibly have got to its destination much faster, by launching on a Saturn V rather than an Ariane 5.

(Unfortunately, the jumbo-sized booster was unavailable - as was the RTG.)

Comment: Re:I'm quite surprised it wasn't (Score 1) 490

by Ford Prefect (#48424499) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

Like the GP, I was also surprised to hear that a probe so far from Earth was solar powered, I wouldn't have thought there was enough light that far out even without the shadows. Sure it's an assumption but it's not baseless, previous deep space probes such as Cassini, pioneer, and voyager are all nuclear powered.

NASA's Juno probe, currently en route to Jupiter, is also solar powered.

RTGs are great, but availability is limited.

Comment: Re:morality a hindrance or help? (Score 1) 194

by postbigbang (#48422849) Attached to: Is a Moral Compass a Hindrance Or a Help For Startups?

Ends justifying the means gives rise to lots of bad stuff. I'll avoid politics as a citation. Instead, I'll choose organizations that focus on morality, their customers, their employees, as well as their investors.

In each case, if you pick amoral customers, employees, or investors, any one of the three will bring you down, because each has a greed stake, rather than a value stake, in the outcome of the working machine that is the organization.

Those managing the organization can pick moral or amoral, each with decidedly different outcomes. Tossing aside morality for short periods will upset the equations of long term success. If you're going for short term success, then it's your soul that counts. If you have one.

Comment: Re:That is not what the halting problem say (Score 2) 316

Mod parent up.

That's correct. The best known demonstration of this is the Microsoft Static Driver Verifier, which every signed driver since Windows 7 has passed. It's a proof of correctness system which checks drivers for buffer overflows, bad pointers, and bad parameters to the APIs drivers use. It works by symbolically tracing through the program, forking off a sub-analysis at each branch point. It can be slow, but it works.

Microsoft Research reports that in about 5% of the cases, the Verifier cannot reach a decision. It can't find a bug, but it can't demonstrate the lack of one either. After 45 minutes of case analysis it gives up.

If your driver is such a mess that it's anywhere near undecidable, it's broken. Those drivers get rewritten with a less ambiguous design, usually by adding more run-time checks. Problem solved.

(Remember when driver bugs crashed Windows all the time? Notice that's not happening any more? That's why.)

Comment: How much longer will Foxconn need Apple? (Score 4, Interesting) 107

by Animats (#48415375) Attached to: Nokia's N1 Android Tablet Is Actually a Foxconn Tablet

This is the problem with outsourcing manufacturing and keeping the "brand". Eventually, if they're good, the outsourcing company takes over. It's about time for this to happen to Apple. The hardware is approaching maturity. The last rev of the iPhone was only a minor change over the previous one, and the technology was comparable to HTC's product of two years ago.

Comment: Re:Sue Them or Give Up (Score 1) 139

by Animats (#48398641) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Dealing With VoIP Fraud/Phishing Scams?

There is no technological solution. (The phone system as a whole is just so old).

No, it's the new part of the system that's broken. The big hole on caller ID is where VoIP enters the switched telephone network without cryptographic source identification.

When caller ID was generated by physical wires strung through the holes of a Dimond ring translator (this was ROM, 1950s style), there was no way to spoof it from outside the central office.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234