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


Forgot your password?

Comment: Alternatively... (Score 2) 112

by Jesus_666 (#49546261) Attached to: Comcast Officially Gives Up On TWC Merger
Today, we move on. Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but it turned out we don't actually have any. This took us by surprise but a quick poll among our executive staff came to the result that nobody actually knows how we make money or why we're still in business. Money comes in, certainly, and from what I could gather some of it is government money so we seem to be providing some kind of service, I guess. And some of it to the government, it seems. But the exact nature of this service remains a mystery.

Look, I only wanted to merge with Time Warner Cable because the guys over there seem to know what kind of business they're in and I figured it could be a learning experience. Now that that plan has been kiboshed, could anyone tell me what it is that we actually do? I heard some speculation that we do something with the internet but from what I can tell we don't have anything resembling a broadband infrastructure so that can't be it. We do have call centers but when I called one they didn't know anything about the internet, either. Perhaps we're some kind of telemarketing outfit?

Seriously, if anyone has an idea what our business plan is, please drop me a line at ceo@comca.st.

Comment: Re:I'll be Bach (Score 1) 293

I'm imagining how things would go if a widely-sampled piece like Pachelbel's Canon in D was covered by copyright. The labels would be buried under willful infringement suits over more money than the entire entertainment industry is worth. While it would be amusing to see BMG sentenced to pay someone a hundred billion Dollars I'm not certain it would be in anybody's interest.

Comment: Re:And the vendor response will be... (Score 1) 278

by Jesus_666 (#49528795) Attached to: German Court Rules Adblock Plus Is Legal
Some sites go a reasonable middle ground: They replace the ad space with a message like this: "You're running Adblock. Please consider whitelisting us so we can pay for this website. Thank you." And I'm perfectly fine with that. Treating your visitors like human beings and politely asking them to help you out makes a good impression.

Also, Reddit's "You're not blocking ads on our site and we think you're awesome because of it" ads. If you want people to see your ads a bit of appreciation can go a lot further than a technological arms race. It's cheaper, too.

Comment: Re:F.Lux helps with that on monitors! (Score 1) 51

by Jesus_666 (#49513589) Attached to: Colors Help Set Body's Internal Clock
I'm not certain whether using f.lux really improves my sleep (although I'm certainly not complaining if it does). What it does do is make my desktop look more like an object in the room. When a white area on the screen has the same color a white piece of paper would have in the same light that essentially makes using a computer more... immersive. It just feels more natural if the monitor forgoes accurate absolute color representation in favor of more accurate color representation within the context of local light conditions.

It's definitely one of those "try it, you might like it" things. Either it feels great for you or you toss it.

Comment: Re:May finally get servers updated... (Score 1) 118

by Jesus_666 (#49499351) Attached to: Exploit For Crashing Minecraft Servers Made Public

Yeah, the architecture changes screwed the entire modding world. Maybe someday they'll finally have a proper mod API and proper support.

Perhaps someone should write a mod that redundantly reimplements Minecraft on top of Minecraft with as few calls into actual Minecraft code as possible. Still dependent enough to require the actual game but with such little contact area that it's almost completely isolated from changes to the game itself.

Yeah, it'd basically be a fork that attempts to solve the rights issues by requiring the main game. You'd lose anything Mojang adds to the game later (unless it's ported over) but the API could be designed to be long-term stable...

Comment: Re:No. (Score 1) 700

by Jesus_666 (#49478593) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status
Scientology has plenty of experience in lobbying. After Germany decided to deny them tax-exempt status (and then engaged in further actions against the CoS because some of their rhethoric and practices were uncomfortably reminiscent of Germany's past) the Scientologists spent a lot of money and effort on getting the US government to step in on their behalf, even going as far as asking for political sanctions.

I actually think they're not going to lose the tax exemptions in the first place because their lobbyists will pay off the right politicians before it can happen.

Comment: Re:Bring Back Aero Glass (Score 1) 159

by Jesus_666 (#49403315) Attached to: The Most Highly Voted Requests In Windows 10 Feedback Pool
Easily solved. Just have the code in uxtheme.dll (or the modern equivalent) that locks out third-party themes GPO-controllable. Most themes are just collections of graphics files so there's not much danger involved. If you're feeling fancy you could have two settings: One that allows only simple "graphics files and settings"-style themes and one that allows themes to load their own drawing libraries to do whatever they want.

Honestly, I can't see a GPO'd uxtheme.dll as anything but a win for everyone: Corporate users can easily lock down themability and enforce a consistent workplace. Home users can unlock it and install the theme they prefer. Microsoft can evade complaints of "I don't like the flat look" by saying "then don't use it but it's not our job to make a different one".

Comment: Re:So, should I just read reddit? (Score 1) 124

by Jesus_666 (#49396663) Attached to: Thousand-Year-Old Eye Salve Kills MRSA
The German Wikipedia article on generic drugs. I assumed that the English article would contain similar data. That's an assumption I really need to drop; it virtually never holds.

The cites are as follows:

2006 data: The Generic Pharmaceutical Association: ANNUAL REPORT 2008. Generics: The Right Choice for Better Health. February 7th, 2008; downloaded on December 28th, 2012.

2000 data: World Health Organisation: The World Medicines Situation. September 8th, 2004; downloaded on December 31st, 2012.
(Note: I screwed up here by overlooking a footnote in the Wikipedia article. The 45% figure is not from 2000 but from 1998.)

Comment: Re:So, should I just read reddit? (Score 1) 124

by Jesus_666 (#49390363) Attached to: Thousand-Year-Old Eye Salve Kills MRSA
Actually, the United States aren't doing that bad with respect to generics. Almost 67% of all medications prescribed in 2007 were generics, up from 45% in 2000. (Those numbers are from Wikipedia but sourced.)

But yeah, healthcare in America is still way expensive and IIRC doctors are extensively marketed to by pharma companies, which doesn't help them make informed decisions about generics. Perhaps that could be better regulated. (Or perhaps some other approach might help to improve things. Perhaps that approach has even been taken already; I'm not that well informed about the American pharma market.)

Comment: Re:So, should I just read reddit? (Score 1) 124

by Jesus_666 (#49387149) Attached to: Thousand-Year-Old Eye Salve Kills MRSA
I don't think anyone is trying to keep people from mixing up their own version or from marketing this stuff as a cosmetics product. They are trying to keep people from marketing it as a medical product, for obvious reasons (and no, not "because the cartel says so" but because if we allow this stuff without stringent testing we must also allow other stuff without stringent testing, which is a bad idea).

And while this may be a lotion, MRSA is enough of a problem that a large number of people are very much interested in an internal use version of this, ASAP. If it does work, of course, which will require reproduction of TFA's experiment's findings.

And while copper on the skin is not much of a problem, copper inside the body can be.

Of course drugs are way too expensive in the USA, just like everything else health-related. But still, the rules are there for a reason (and other countries have cheaper, yet similarly effective healthcare, which indicates that solutions besides deregulation of drug development and marketing are possible).

Comment: Re:So, should I just read reddit? (Score 1, Insightful) 124

by Jesus_666 (#49385075) Attached to: Thousand-Year-Old Eye Salve Kills MRSA
We have a combination of hundreds of substances known to work topically with unknown side effects. There's a huge number of unanswered questions.

Which parts of the garlic are actually relevant? Yes, garlic is antiseptic, but do any of its components interact with other parts of the concoction? How does the wine play into this? Does this concoction have any long-term side effects? (After all, one of the active ingredients is a heavy metal.) What if it's used repeatedly? Does its behavior differ when used internally? Which parts need to be isolated in order to achieve maximum effectiveness with the minimum number of chemical compounds? (A more complex medication means more chances for people to be intolerant to some ingredient so a chemically simpler formulation actually has benefits.) Under which circumstances should this stuff not be used despite being otherwise indicated? Are there, for instance, any adverse interactions with other medications?

Can you answer any of those questions with certainty right now? I don't think so. You may think that this stuff isn't important but a doctor would want to know whether it's known-unsafe to use this stuff on a patient who is on medications A, B and C and suffers from known medical conditions D and E.

No, big pharma is not nice. But that doesn't mean that they are completely useless and just dick around with flawless medicines in order to make them more expensive. They do a lot of rather expensive testing to make reasonably sure that this stuff is actually safe to use and its failure modes are well-understood.

Comment: Re:Hardware is trusted (Score 4, Insightful) 83

It'd be nice if the next iteration of EFI had a more robust upgrade security design.

Something like this: Firmware upgrades are not possible from inside the OS. At all. Instead there's a switch on the mainboard that is only accessible when the computer has been physically opened. When that switch is on, EFI will refuse to boot any OS and all onboard SATA/SCSI controllers are physically disabled. EFI will scan every USB port* for a FAT32-formatted mass storage device containing a file with a certain filename, which is then displayed for your approval, checked and installed. While the switch is off, changing the firmware should be prevented in hardware, such as by detaching a certain line required to write to the flash chip. (Settings should be stored on an unprotected chip and can be changed while the computer is bootable.)

You're in a corporate setting and need to update 16.000 identical desktop computers all at once? Make sure the computers have an enterprise-ready mainboard that can pull the update from the network (e.g. using something similar to BOOTP). You'll still have to toggle that switch and confirm the prompt. That's as convenient as it should get; after all, if there is any chance that the firmware is modified while an OS is loaded, any successful attack on the OS leaves your firmware in a potentially compromised state.

* Yeah, I know, USB also has infectable firmware. Unfortunately, I don't know of a reasonable mass storage standard that doesn't. And making people physically swap PROM chips won't fly.

Comment: Re:But they help also (Score 2) 366

by Jesus_666 (#49291727) Attached to: Uber Shut Down In Multiple Countries Following Raids

Examples of crap in the list above: taxi drivers must know the area they operate in. Really? What does it even mean to know the area? London black cab drivers have to pass an exam called The Knowledge that requires them to memorise street maps of the city, so at least it's well defined there, but this is nonsense from the pre-GPS era. There's no need for cab drivers to do it all in their heads these days, and I'd much rather they rely on the computer which will always pick the fastest route and can't decide to take a detour because the passengers looks like a tourist.

And then the GPS makes a silly mistake as they are apt to do and the driver can't tell. From my experience, car navigation systems aren't mature enough to blindly rely on.

Another example: drivers must know the radio protocols. Why?! Uber drivers receive instructions via an intuitive smartphone app. Controlling cabs via radio is an obsolete technology yet the requirement to use it lives on.

That depends on the size of the company. If you have a one-man operation that only works via Uber, yes. If you have a dozen cabs and use both Uber and regular phone lines to get customers, having a radio is really useful.

I do agree, however, that self-employed cabbies with only one car should be exempt from that one.

Yet another example: cars must be painted a particular colour. Why? Uber cars are located using modern technology, not by watching the roads for vehicles painted in a deliberately ugly colour. This is another obsolete convention progress has made irrelevant - yet it's mandated.

It's not irrelevant for when you want to identify a parking cab as a cab. Unlike you, I don't think it's wise to completely abolish traditional cabs because some random company had a neat idea. Again, though, this is one requirement they should waive for self-employed cabbies that only work through a broker like Uber.

Then we get to the more questionable things that aren't obsolete exactly, just arguable. Why is it possible to have enough driving violations to be struck off as a cab driver, but still be allowed to drive friends and family around? Surely you're either safe enough to use the public roads, or you're not, and the commercial relationships you have with the people inside make no difference?

Because you don't spend a significant amount of time driving your friends and family around. Generally, people who don't work as drivers spend relatively little time on the road. People who earn their money by driving around have many more opportunities to screw up yet again.

People with a criminal record are banned from working as drivers? ALL crimes? What about crimes that don't involve being actually dangerous, like white collar crimes? Why can't hiring decisions like this be left to the cab companies?

I'd have to talk to a lawyer for that one but my guess is that it's tied to the reliability requirement. If you can't act in the interest of society then you're not expected to act in the interests of your passengers. It's just guesswork on my part, though.

Taxi drivers must know first aid? Presumably someone injured themselves in a cab once and some regulator thought this was a good response. What if that person injures themselves on the street? Why not require everyone to be trained in first aid? This kind of arbitrary distinction doesn't make much sense until you remember that we have these regulators sitting around with nothing better to do all day than craft rules for their tiny piece of jurisdiction.

Everyone IS required to be trained in first aid. Germany has a "duty to rescue" law and you can't get a driver's license without attending a training course on basic first aid, CPR and traffic accident rescue procedures. If you come across an accident you are required by law to stop, call the emergency hotline if possible and do your best to keep the people there alive until professional help arrives. This is also why every car in Germany is mandated to have an appropriate (and non-expired) first aid kit onboard - at least if you intend to operate it on public roads.

It's recommended that people attend a refresher course on this stuff every couple years but few people do. For professional drivers, though, the refresher course is mandated.

(And before you ask about what happens if you make things worse: When resuing someone you're immune from prosecution if you acted in good faith and your measures were in accordance with an average person's understanding of first aid. That's why we make sure that the average driver's understanding of first aid is at least semi-decent. Likewise, you won't be prosecuted if you couldn't act, e.g. because you can't stand the sight of blood. Still, you can't just drive on.)

And so on and so on. It's easy to take a reflexive "COMPANIES BAD GOVERNMENTS GOOD" position in these situations, but my experience of regulators have been that they never reform themselves .... all they ever do is add more and more requirements. Short of a company like Uber showing people how differently things can work, how would progress ever be made?

That doesn't elevate Uber above the law. If Uber has a neat business model, good on them. But that business model can't trump the law. If Uber wants the law changed because certain parts don't make sense with their model they'll have to convince the lawmakers (ie. lobby for it), not just ignore the law and then act indignant when they're busted for doing so.

That's like pirating Oracle Enterprise Database for your company because you find Oracle's prices too high and then complaining when the BSA comes knocking at your door. Oracle's prices may be high but that still doesn't make the copyright go away.

Comment: Re:But they help also (Score 2) 366

by Jesus_666 (#49290359) Attached to: Uber Shut Down In Multiple Countries Following Raids
Isn't that exactly what happened here? Uber decides that the law doesn't apply to them because they say so; the law demonstrates what happens to people who act that way. Uber's sleaziness with respect to the law is punished.

Sure, the licensing requirements in some places might be absurd but that doesn't mean we should root for Uber. A lot of regulations for taxi drivers go beyond "has paid $N"; for instance, German taxi drivers are required to know things about traffic and transportation law that most people don't and also have to prove that they actually know the area they operate in. Uber doesn't require any of this; their drivers have a regular driver's license and that's it. Most of them probably haven't even taken a first aid class in the last five years, which taxi drivers also have to (and regular drivers are encouraged to).

If Uber wanted to compete fairly they'd get in touch with the appropriate people and lobby for an overhaul of the relevant laws to account for self-employed, third-party-brokered taxi drivers that operate on a pre-arranged flat fee bidding system. Those taxi drivers would still need licenses but some parts of the law could be streamlined or made more flexible. On Uber's part all that changes is that they ask for the taxi license number when you sign up and check every five years if it's still valid. That's the way we do things in civilized society. The way Uber does it is essentially organized crime - even if only because they're an organization that brokers deals for people who violate the taxi laws of their country.

(Also, someone pointed out that in NYC you can just wave down a taxi whenever you need one, which suggests an extreme taxi density compared to most other places in the world. NYC might want to limit the number of taxis on the streets, which would explain the extreme license cost - although a more elegant approach might be to simply refuse to issue new licenses until the number of active ones has dropped. This would still work against newcomers but that's inherent to the problem.)

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.