Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment: Fundamentally breaking the net? (Score 1) 378

by King_TJ (#48617593) Attached to: Sony Leaks Reveal Hollywood Is Trying To Break DNS

This is totally unacceptable, IMO. I don't care if it's the MPAA suggesting it or the FBI or InterPol, or ??

There should be plenty of ways to deal with hosted content on someone's server without resorting to breaking core functionality of Internet services like DNS!

You could make hundreds of analogies (most of which would probably not be all that great), but to use the ever-popular automobile analogies for a minute? This is a little bit like trying to stop illegal sale of goods by a business by tearing out all of the street signs around them (in an effort to prevent people from finding the store)!

Comment: Re:A few thoughts on why this might have failed .. (Score 1) 190

by King_TJ (#48612845) Attached to: Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work?

That's arguably true... I think your point has a lot of merit.
I don't think it's the whole story though.

Uber is "trendy", without a doubt. But people still only use it because they have a real need to get from point A to B. I think people like to do that at the lowest possible cost, as long as we're talking "apples to apples" types of transportation. (You might well pay more to ride in a car than take a cheaper bus that gets you to the same place, but that's because of all of the disadvantages of using a bus instead of a car.)

So no... I don't know that everything else like Uber was "destined to lose". I think competitors that couldn't differentiate from Uber in any meaningful way were destined to lose though. (That's why Lyft is struggling.)

A service like Uber that has an equivalent app and costs 50% less though? That has room to compete, potentially.

(But whatever.... for SOME reason, Slashdot readers decided I was "off topic" and got modded down for adding my own thoughts about the topic.)

Comment: A few thoughts on why this might have failed .... (Score 1, Offtopic) 190

by King_TJ (#48601219) Attached to: Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work?

I know someone, above, said "Hey idiot... it's about the lack of drivers!" I'm not going to even attempt to speak to that, because I don't know enough details to know if Sidecar's business model would attract "enough drivers" or not?

Off-hand though, I do know I've taken shuttle buses before where the driver only accepted cash and charged around $8 to drive me to an airport from a hotel, and he didn't have more than 1 or 2 other passengers when I got on the bus. So that tells me that yes, some people will gladly drive you around for lower rates than are charged by a typical taxi service or Uber.

I think one of the big obstacles to a Sidecar type business might simply be the fact that you're expected to essentially "make an offer" for what you'll pay. If you advertised a fixed rate that was clearly almost 50% lower than the competition -- it would probably do a booming business (provided it was advertised sufficiently, etc.).

I know where I used to live, several restaurants experimented with a "pay whatever you like" program for food, and truthfully? A large percentage of people who'd otherwise eat there avoided it while they did that. I think that's because, by and large, Americans are adverse to haggling/negotiating on prices. Sure, we have a culture that expects it'll happen on BIG purchases like a car or a house -- but for the "every day" stuff, not so much. (Even with cars, people are flocking to the "no haggle/no pressure" pricing models.) Even with something as simple as hiring a babysitter for a couple hours, people are always hesitant when the sitter says, "Just pay me whatever you think it's worth." Will you offer too little and offend the person, or cause them to prefer not to work with you in the future? Will you pay more than most people, essentially ripping yourself off?

Now add the fact that with a need for a ride someplace, you're probably in a compromised position. This isn't like going out to dinner where ultimately, you can just take it or leave it. You probably have a real NEED to get someplace by a certain time deadline. The last thing you want is to be late, simply because you didn't offer enough money vs. the next guy for a ride and got ignored.

Comment: Re:Expert? (Score 1) 417

by King_TJ (#48566365) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

This is true, but I also think you're talking about an interesting situation from the standpoint that as the creators of these AI machines, humans would essentially be "gods living among them". As the A.I. learns and becomes "self aware", it realizes who is responsible for its construction, maintenance and care.

Given human beings general interest in self-preservation AND the fact that I think most of us interested in building A.I. capable machines envision them aiding us in some way -- I don't imagine many people would want to build one that humans don't have easy to use "kill switches" for. (No matter what your A.I. enabled computer thinks, if it has to get power from plugging it in to the wall, or some kind of charger? Humans always have the upper hand to shut it down.)

Regardless? How many HUMANS go around with a dislike for their creator/god and an active interest in defeating them?! Sure, many say they simply don't believe a god/creator exists -- but that's because there's not any physical evidence to show otherwise. A.I. enabled computers/machines wouldn't have this situation. So it seem likely to me they'd conclude we're better to partner up with (or even worship?) than make enemies of.

Comment: re: music, journalism, publishing (Score 1) 398

by King_TJ (#48548815) Attached to: Displaced IT Workers Being Silenced

Ummm.... no.... Two completely different issues.

The H1-B issue with the I.T. field is all about people skilled or trained to perform a job that's in high demand in the U.S. right now, yet getting short-changed in their ability to find employment doing it, because companies are receiving legal passes to hire outsiders at big salary discounts.

In the industries you're referring to, you're talking about businesses who were traditionally free to place big markups on offering their intellectual property to the public while simultaneously slapping numerous restrictions on its use or redistribution. TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES causes their business models to increasingly become obsolete, so rather than adapt, they spent too much time trying to strong-arm people into continuing to ignore the changes, and keep on doing things the way they were always done. When this (predictably) became a losing battle, they acted like the injured parties.

Comment: Cry me a river, advertisers and marketers! (Score 4, Insightful) 698

by King_TJ (#48548637) Attached to: French Publishers Prepare Lawsuit Against Adblock Plus

Seriously, I *work* for a communications marketing company, and still, I think the whining and gnashing of teeth over plug-ins like ABP is misplaced!

You can't realistically expect to stop people from blocking your ads with software any more than you can stop people from pressing "mute", channel change buttons, or just the "on/off" switch on the television when commercials come on!

The truth is, ad banners, pop-ups, pop-unders, animated page overlays and the rest of it are just distractions. If you create one that's minimal enough so most people can't be bothered to actively use a tool like ABP to filter it? Then you've probably just made an ineffective advertisement that people aren't even paying attention to in the first place. Advertisers who "get" this and have worked hard to build more effective ads are prompting people to "fight back" with these blocking tools. The takeaway we probably all SHOULD be getting from this is that this form of marketing isn't a very good one.

The fact that many site operators out there can barely make enough revenue to cover their costs of hosting means there's a strong interest in keeping the current business model in place and pretending it works. But truthfully, I think things would work out far better if marketers would agree to sponsor web sites likely to have an audience interested in one of their products. Just flat out pay their hosting for them, in exchange for the site making it clear your company is doing that for them. THEN you'd win the respect of the userbase and generate good P.R. and sales.

Comment: Re:H1-B debate? (Score 3, Interesting) 398

by King_TJ (#48546991) Attached to: Displaced IT Workers Being Silenced

Yep. The obvious "fix" that nobody seems to be taking very seriously yet is making it much more difficult to get permission to hire an H1-B worker.

Corporations are ALWAYS going to push for a plentiful supply of these as a cost savings measure, but it's ultimately the government who issues them. It's about time they start putting pressure on companies to PROVE they're unable to hire from the talent pool of American citizens before qualifying to go the H1-B route.

Comment: A lot of hype, but a solid core concept ..... (Score 2) 461

by King_TJ (#48531723) Attached to: Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies

I think it's great that someone is trying to advance battery storage technology. Tesla finds itself in a position to have a real vested interest in doing so, for the sake of improving sales of its vehicles AND because it opens up a whole new area they can market products to (PV solar owners who want to charge batteries for power storage to use when the sun isn't shining).

The hype come in with all of these statements about power companies being scared by it, and it putting existing business models in peril.

Frankly, that's a load of B.S. for the foreseeable future.

For starters, this stuff has very high up-front costs. There's no way around the fact that storing enough electricity to power an entire home for a whole night (or longer if it's rainy and cloudy all day, so solar isn't generating a whole lot of power) requires some big batteries. Right now, most people could honestly see a lot more savings/return on investment by reducing their power consumption before even thinking about any of this stuff. (How many homes are still full of older appliances that use as much as 2-3x the amount of power as new, high-efficiency alternatives? What about buying the most efficient furnace or heat-pump or A/C unit available? People say they can't justify or "afford" it because you know... it might cost several thousand dollars to upgrade it. But even $7-8K for a new central A/C and furnace isn't even coming close to what one of these battery storage systems will cost you. And what about replacing all those incandescent or halogen bulbs in the house with low wattage LED versions?)

The people buying this stuff anywhere in the near future are just the "early adopters" who have other motivations besides proof of pure financial savings. Heck, even if you could eek out a small net savings with this stuff -- you could *probably* just invest that money wisely and see more return that way.

Comment: re: electricity "wasted" (Score 1) 327

by King_TJ (#48522827) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

Yeah, technically that's a good point ... except I think what you'd see happening instead is the power generated by your PV solar going on out to the grid and getting used *somewhere*. But that somewhere might be far enough away that transmission line losses, and need for the power company to supplement it via a "step up transformer" along the way means it wasn't saving them any money over just generating the power centrally themselves and delivering it.

So from the power company's standpoint, they're not too happy about all of that happening on their grid....

Comment: Current system assumes only so many users..... (Score 5, Informative) 327

by King_TJ (#48511509) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

I just purchased a solar panel system for our home, and I've been learning a lot about all of this stuff during the process.

The problem with the author's suggestion is that he's concerned about a problem that, by and large, we haven't quite come to yet. Solar adoption is still such a small percentage of the total number of electric consumers that the "saturation point" hasn't usually been reached yet. The entire "net metering" model for solar isn't really sustainable if you get more than a single digit percentage of homeowners in a given area going solar. I think that will hold true EVEN if you could convince all the new solar installations to use west-facing panels to time shift their power production hours.

Right now, practically everything about PV solar adoption centers around government regulations creating an "artificial" incentive for it. For example, in my home state of Maryland and a number of others, they have an SREC program in place (solar reclamation credits). How does it work? Basically, they made a rule that the state's utility companies have to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity generation via "Green" sources like wind or solar. If they fail to hit that target, they must purchase these SREC certificates in a sufficient quantity to offset it. (In reality, they're always going to pay for the SRECs rather than adopt more alternative energy generation themselves -- because for them, it's still the more cost-effective and sensible option. They don't want to spend a bunch on new infrastructure and land to place it on, just to meet those percentage targets.) For every megawatt of solar power your home solar panel setup produces, you earn an SREC which you can turn around and resell to the power company (directly, or via one of several auction web sites designed for the purpose). There's even one offering to buy 10 or 20 years' worth of your SRECs in advance, at some discounted price, giving you more "up front" cash to pay off your system's initial installation cost - should you find that the best option.

Don't forget the Federal tax credit of 30% of whatever you spent to buy the solar panel system, and states like mine who kick in another $1,000 or so. This stuff just doesn't make the same financial sense with all of these constructs removed from the equation.

The real elephant in the room that everyone's ignoring is the fact that power DISTRIBUTION is the limiting factor for the power companies. As soon as too many people start putting power from solar back onto the grid at one time, in one area? They can't really do anything with it, so it gets wasted. Yet the "net metering" rules require that pay you back for it anyway, at full retail prices. For a SHORT time, you might be able to postpone this by switching more panels to face west instead of south, but soon enough - it will become a problem again.

Honestly, I predict that what we'll see playing out is government withdrawing all of the tax breaks, followed by the value of your SRECs dropping to very little as they ease up on the requirements the utilities must meet. This will put the brakes on solar adoption, making it one of those things that only paid off for the people who got in on it early - or who have a situation where it STILL pays off (due to especially high power costs). In Hawaii or parts of California, for example, I believe the utilities sometimes bill as high as 90-some cents per kilowatt-hour used. In Maryland, by contrast? I pay closer to 11 cents.

Comment: Early opinions seem positive to me .... (Score 3, Insightful) 390

by King_TJ (#48480857) Attached to: First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

I've seen this trailer shared around Facebook all morning and many of my friends who are long time Star Wars fans are optimistic, based on the little bit shown.

Personally, I feel like part of the reason the original 3 movies were viewed as so superior to episodes 1-3 had a lot to do with the limitations of the technology of the time preventing everything from being "overdone".

Starr Wars featured enough visually amazing things (from the Imperial Star Destroyer coming on the screen and viewers slowly realizing just how massive it was, to each one of the interesting robots) that appreciating them fully required not cluttering the scenes up with too much other eye candy or content. Back in 1977, that wasn't an issue because it was difficult and time-consuming enough to create these things that nobody would make the mistake of putting too many of them in one scene.

The computer CGI capabilities of today made it too easy to make scenes too "busy" and cheapen the value of individual creatures, backdrops, weapons, spaceships or robots. The prequel movies felt like they were trying to see how many thousands of objects they could render at the same time in some of the battle scenes. (EG. Jedi knights chopping and hacking away at robots in wave after wave.) Believability suffered.

If they go back to simple sets like the desert of Tatooine and stop going "CGI crazy" with every single background, I think there's a good chance they'll achieve the original Star Wars feel we all know and love. (And yeah, no insipid characters like Jar Jar either.)

Comment: 640K should be enough for anybody, right? (Score 1) 215

by King_TJ (#48472413) Attached to: Consortium Roadmap Shows 100TB Hard Drives Possible By 2025

I think you're neglecting the fact that with larger storage capacities come new options.

Sure, right now you see a lot of people with a 1TB drive that's not nearly full. But I also see quite a few people who fill up really large amounts of drive space with photo, music and video libraries. With enough cheap storage, more people can store music in an uncompressed, lossless format (like FLAC) instead of compromising sound quality with MP3 or AAC just to save space. Digital cameras have gone from 1 or 2 megapixel to 14-18 megapixel in many cases, generating much larger image files for still photos, too. And even your commercial video games are taking up exponentially more drive space than they used to, as developers decide to tell stories with full-screen hi-res video, vs. scrolling a few lines of text up a screen to summarize things, and as they build large 3D worlds you can run around in and fully explore.

Another culprit for sucking up disk space in a corporate setting is DropBox. Companies using the paid "Teams" version wind up with everyone's copy of the software downloading and syncing ALL of the content stored in the shared folders. So instead of just keeping YOUR data, you now have a copy of the whole team/division/company's data you're all storing there. (Yes, you can use "selective sync" to trim this back down. But except for folders you know you have no use for at all, it's preferable to sync it all so you have immediate access to anything your co-workers intended to make available, even if you're not by an Internet connection.)

Comment: You're doing it wrong, then .... (Score 1) 284

by King_TJ (#48467589) Attached to: Is LTO Tape On Its Way Out?

Mag tape is definitely on the way out, because it's slow and the drives require regular maintenance to keep them working reliably. Sure, it meets your "requirements" - but I'd argue that MOST businesses really don't need to do things the way you've proposed in order to have a more than reasonable amount of data security.

I've never been a big fan of flash storage as archival backup. Even for consumers only needing a backup of a small photo collection or what-not? Putting it on thumb drives winds up being a false sense of security when the cheap Asian flash chip fails suddenly, with no advance warning, as soon as the drive is plugged into a USB port to access it.

But I can still pull archived ZIP files off of CDRs we burned in 1996-97 -- in response to your "But go pull the post-close EOY General Journal from 1996 off of one, I dare you." comment.

And most of what you're really talking about isn't backup/archiving, but rather, disaster recovery (having multiple copies of the data in different cities and states). There's no reason TAPE makes that any easier than other forms of media. In fact, today's easiest way to accomplish that is using cloud storage with reliable services who already have redundant data centers and backups done at all sites.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"