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


Forgot your password?
Last Chance - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Comment is life zero-sum or positive-sum? (Score 1) 213

“It’s a somewhat depressing evolutionary outcome, but it makes intuitive sense.”

No, it doesn't. Explain how unicellular animals became multicellular without cooperation. Explain how humanity went from hunter-gatherer to landing a probe on a comet without cooperation. No doubt there are exploiters (we have all kinds of infections and parasites), but evolution has given us detectors (immune systems) to combat them.

If someone claims that selfishness is a virtue, demand that they provide actual evolutionary evidence from Mother Nature who has had billions of years of experimental history to investigate their claim. It's time that we collectively responded to Ayn Rand libertarians who would rather live in their imagined apocalyptic hellscape than reality. Demand that they face explain why Mother Nature permits only limited exploitation. Life is relentlessly harsh, sure, but nowhere do I see systems that have evolved in a zero-sum universe. It all seems ever-so-slightly positive-sum, which permits a variety of cooperative strategies to flourish.

Comment the excuse to get a national ID card (Score 1) 365

"privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep"
I consider myself a privacy advocate, but I'm also a computer programmer who desperately wishes for a national ID number unique to every citizen. Last year, I advocated for voter ID cards here in Minnesota ( ) because it seemed like a way to bypass the usual conservative opposition to government ID cards. Finally, conservatives' fear of "furriners" overtaking the country might exceed their fear of religious mumbo jumbo about numbers of the Beast. I'll take progress however I can get it, and voter/immigration paranoia seems like the way I can finally get a national ID number.

Comment programming is always new (Score 1) 314

Details change so fast in the tech sector that nobody's skills stay current. Everybody always learns new technologies, skills, and practices to stay useful and relevant. Spending more time in the programming field only means that you have a larger collection of familiar toolkits to rely upon, not that your existing toolkit is the best fit for the task at hand. One of the reasons that I like the programming field is because there's always something new to learn. I like earning a living while still at "school".
Open Source

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: What sites do you recommend for hosting many small projects?

MellowTigger writes: I work at a non-profit organization. I am looking for a site where we can register an account under our group's name, then spawn multiple projects to solicit programmer help for our organization. The current projects that we have in mind are small and probably not of interest to the wider world, although one very large project is possible. I need a site that emphasizes our non-profit as the benefactor rather than the wider world, since most projects are so specific that wider applicability seems slim. We would need help with various technologies including at least Powershell and SQL. At the moment, my available options emphasize individual projects of public interest, so we would have to spawn multiple independent projects, seeming to spam the host with "pointless" minor tasks.

We already have technical people seeking to donate time. We just need a way to coordinate skill matching, document sharing, and code submission out on the web. What do you suggest?

Comment Re:will they kill the patch/reboot/patch/reboot cy (Score 1) 199

Powershell is just a heavily object-oriented scripting language that combines ideas from a number of places - there's nothing particularly new or unusual about that.

Since it's such a trivially unoriginal thing to do, then surely you can name an equivalent on unix systems? I've wanted to explain to people that it's like this, but I've never had a this that I could point to. Your example(s) would help me a lot.

Comment Re:will they kill the patch/reboot/patch/reboot cy (Score 1) 199

When exactly was the last time Microsoft came up with a new idea that wasn't aping its competitors?

PowerShell. I've spent time on the job writing unix scripts, but I still have a hard time explaining why this script language is so much better than bash or similar alternatives. I have to rely on the explanation that doesn't really explain: pipes pass objects instead of strings. My other name for PowerShell is "the only thing Microsoft ever did right".

Comment Re:Wrong (Score 1) 368

"We're not going to get more resources through magic!"

If all we're pursuing is optimization of current technologies, then no, we're not going to experience the "magic" of totally new concepts.

Comment divestiture (Score 1) 206

Divestiture is unsubtle. That contrast is good, since the harm done by supporting corrupt institutions is often quite subtle.

I avoid shows that I once loved just because they show up on FOX tv channel. I avoid movies at the theater if they come with the FOX studio logo. The misinformation deliberately promulgated by FOX news taints the whole institution. Doing the equivalent of "The More You Know" public service pieces does not erase the harm done by their other programming. You don't get to say harmful things and follow it immediately with "Oh, you know I'm just kidding, right?" You can't play both sides and maintain the high moral ground.

A science show does not counteract Fox News. It's really very important, so it deserves repeating.

Even if I am not personally polled by Nielsen, my participation in the culture that enhances/encourages viewing of FOX products still matters because it has a non-zero influence on the people around me. Eventually that influence does reach Nielsen as the herd slowly moves toward giving attention to any tv program. Higher Nielsen ratings translate to higher advertisement revenue for the institution. Divestiture is an effective political effort because it calls attention to this point of how seemingly unrelated things really do affect each other.

Comment Re:Climate Models Proved Useless (Score 1) 452

Yowza, that's worrying. You say there's been little to no Antarctic warming for a few years as if that's a good thing. Me, I see it as all that energy being dumped into a state change: ice into water. I look at the same information and see an ominous warning signal that global warming is about to take a sudden change for the worse as soon as the state change is complete. Maybe I'm just being pessimistic?

Comment point, counterpoint (Score 1) 262

"Certain employees produce chunks of data - whether words or software code - that later pop up in other messages. The people copied most often, Cataphora concludes, are thought leaders."
- quote from the article

"Oh my god! Did you hear what Larry did? He told Mark that our blue-spotted widget is garbage and that hiding behind the good reviews that Mark paid for isn't going to keep our investors in the dark for long. Can you believe it? Do you know if Sarah or the q/a team has heard yet? Can you imagine what the boss is going to say when he gets word of this? Wow!
- email from A.N.Y. corporation

Comment The Speed Of Dark (Score 1, Informative) 83

This concept has been a real-life concern for many years already. Some autistics fear the consequences of "curing" autism. They have a rather angry relationship with groups like Cure Autism Now. These activists feel that the only way to offer such a cure would be to erase the person that now exists in their body. This dilemma was well presented in 2001 in the book "The Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon.

Submission + - do I own my sensory experience? 1

MellowTigger writes: Suppose I go to watch a movie in a theater. While I watch the movie, a memory-assisting device in my body is recording all of my sensory input: audio, video, tactile. My experience, from my unique perspective in the chair that I use to sit and watch the movie, is now recorded. The sound of my breathing, the smell of my neighbor's popcorn, the whacked out hairdo in the seat in front of me that obstructed my view of the screen.

Is the experience mine? Traditionally, I would be allowed to share my experience with anyone who will listen by describing in great detail my view of the movie. But if my direct sensory experience is shareable, then may I (legally, ethically) do so? It seems to be the technological equivalent of telepathy. Governments claim a position on the legality of sharing information recorded from a camera's perspective. But can it reasonably claim any control over the use of my own body's sensory information?

Comment I'm not returning to SOE (Score 1) 66

If chat logs were handed over to someone who is not SOE, then this transaction is a huge breach of privacy. Phone numbers, addresses, userids and passwords, admisison of illegal acts (smoking pot, drinking underage, sex underage, etc) all of these things are surely in the chat logs. I cancelled my EQ2 subscription about 3 weeks ago because of my own financial concerns. (The economy bites, if you hadn't noticed.) I told my guild about it and that I intended to return once it looks like I had some stability in my economic situation (no rent increases, no layoffs at work, etc). This announcement, though... it guarantees that I won't be returning to EQ2. I think I'm ready to swear off SOE offerings altogether. Is it time that we went back to pc gaming without network ties? That's what I've been doing with my playtime since cancelling my online subscription. I've rediscovered some old favorites. Maybe a smart game studio will see this change as a developing trend to take advantage of. I'm ready for more (good) pc games. When's the last time that you saw a dungeon delver where you got to fully customize your entire party for its adventure? The last I can remember is Wizardry 8 which released back in 2001. I guess it's time to pull it off my dusty shelf and install it for more fun game time without exposing my personal habits so somebody else can profit from selling my information.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982