Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re: Invisible hand (Score 5, Insightful) 535

Actually, poor people can be extremely *profitable* customers, precisely because they have so few options available, they're often forced to obtain goods/services at *profoundly* higher total costs. Being poor is expensive. Someone with a SUV who makes $100k/year can buy Charmin Ultra by the pallet at Sam's Club for a fraction of what someone who lives in a poor neighborhood, doesn't own a car, and has to buy toilet paper by the single roll from 7-11 (because the nearest real grocery store is more than a mile away, and getting there by bus would probably take an hour each way when you factor in waiting times and infrequent service) ends up paying.

Ditto, for things like appliances. You & I can buy appliances somewhere like Costco & haul them home with help from a friend or two in somebody's pickup truck... and probably pay just a few hundred dollars for them. Someone living paycheck to paycheck, by contrast, might end up paying $2,400 for a $500 refrigerator because he can't afford $500 up front, but can (hopefully) scrape $25/week for 8 years (with substantial penalties & additional fees piled on top if his income falters at any point during those 8 years).

Even when you factor bad debt that never officially gets paid in full, the poor are staggeringly profitable because the seller has usually broken even on his hard wholesale costs by the third or fourth month, and everything past that point is pure gravy.

Comment: Re:I don't see how this delivery model can scale.. (Score 1) 110

In Miami, that would be somewhere near State Road 836 and the Palmetto Expressway... both of which are surrounded by some of the most dysfunctional arterial roads in the world (even if the new 826-836 interchange itself is pretty sweet).

Golden Glades? (ROTFLMAO, pounding the floor and gasping for breath).

Turnpike @ 836? Maybe if they bought the FHP office & got their private on/off ramps in the deal. Via 107th Avenue? HAHAHHAHA. That's a good one.

Dadeland? Anywhere near I-95? You can't be serious. Every square inch of this miserable county -- beach to everglades, Homestead to Aventura -- is gridlocked for most of the day.

Comment: Dade County gridlock (Score 1) 110

One-hour delivery in Miami will be a good trick, considering that it can take an hour -- at 2pm or 9pm, let alone 6pm -- just to get from one side of 836 or the Palmetto Expressway to the other.

Miami doesn't have a road network... it has a random collection of point-to-point access routes that fan out like binary trees for the final half-mile beyond some hopeless traffic chokepoint at both ends. Other cities have gridlock in old urban neighborhoods. Miami has hopeless gridlock in brand new neighborhoods whose concrete has barely finished curing.

A few years ago, Miami's Metrorail had record-setting ridership. Miami-Dade Transit Authority responded by cutting back service. Meanwhile, the half-cent sales tax that was sold to voters with promises of building hundreds of miles of new Metrorail track gets pissed away on lighted street signs and... well, nobody knows what else.

And it's totally fair to blame Dade County's incompetent government for it. Broward County to the north is far from perfect, but in most places, the gridlock basically evaporates the moment you cross the county line (and conversely, backs up southbound into Broward as if the county line were a long traffic light.

Comment: The best part... (Score 1) 292

by Miamicanes (#49216765) Attached to: Do Tech Companies Ask For Way Too Much From Job Candidates?

When company HR departments blindly insist that candidates need "5+ years" of experience in some technology that didn't even exist as a recreational github repo 5 years ago. Specific examples I can think of include Java in 1999, and .Net circa 2004. I mean, *seriously?!?* 5 years?!? I don't think James Gosling had 5+ years of experience with Java at that point (and if he did... most of Sun's own Java development team probably didn't). Oh... the punch line... the position was for "entry-level web developer". Ummm... r-i-g-h-t.

Comment: Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 1, Informative) 734

by Miamicanes (#49193005) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

I'd recommend letting your kids decide if they want US citizenship when they grow up.

I think the fundamental problem being alluded to here is that there's a deadline for him to make them US citizens... and the deadline expires at the stroke of midnight on their 18th birthdays. So by definition, it's basically "now or never".

  If he leaves it up to them until they grow up, they'll be in the same legal position as someone who's never had ties to the US at all. He can get them basically free expedited US citizenship by filing some forms now. Frankly, I'd say it's a dirt cheap investment he'd be crazy to NOT do right now.

As others have pointed out, even though the US appears determined to compete in the English-speaking world's mad race to see who can become "Oceania" first, it still has a de-facto global empire that would have made just about any past world leader (besides maybe Queen Victoria and Genghis Khan) jealous, and there are concrete, tangible benefits to being a citizen of the world's dominant empire.

If nothing else, the fact that they COULD -- with minimal paperwork -- live and work in the US as a matter of birthright might someday come in handy for them if they're looking for a job during an economic downturn (especially if they're still early in their careers and don't have a lot of experience). The fact is, sometimes logistics triumph over other factors in a company's hiring decisions.

Comment: Re:Let's stay focused, people (Score 1) 135

by Miamicanes (#49156423) Attached to: Adjusting To a Martian Day More Difficult Than Expected

The problem with relying on that approach is that it completely breaks the ability of Martians to use the same internet as Earthlings. There's no getting around the latency problem, but the availability of nearly infinite (over the span of a single 24-hour window of time, from the perspective of any individual user) bandwidth can go a LONG way towards smoothing over the difference by allowing a degree of adhoc websurfing where the user triggers a load operation, then the proxy proceeds to recursively fetch not only that specific page, but every page and bit of content linked to it for several levels. Kind of like getting deliveries on a remote island where it takes weeks for goods to arrive... but when the ship DOES arrive, it's a Chinese-sized mega-freighter that costs almost the same per trip whether it's full or empty.

More importantly, there's a potentially-lucrative market for such local caching services right here on Earth: cruise ships. When a ship's in port, it can have fiber-speed connectivity. When it's at sea, satellite data bandwidth is limited, but hard drive space is cheap. Instead of sending only videos explicitly requested by passengers on a specific ship TO that ship, you could just bundle up all of Youtube's daily updates requested by anyone on any ship that's a customer, and broadcast them once (plus enough extra data for forward error correction) to every ship watching that particular satellite (so that if a passenger goes to watch a video the next day, it'll already be cached locally).

The same approach would work for providing internet access on Antarctica. Run fiber to an island near the Antarctic Peninsula, then build microwave relay towers to handle inland backhaul. Strictly speaking, latency would be low (since it would be microwave to fiber), but bandwidth during the winter would still be scarce because we're talking about a thousand-mile microwave-relay route from the South Pole to the nearest viable fiber drop... and snow does terrible things to link quality above 2GHz (think: weather radar frequencies. The signals hit snowflakes and ricochet & experience doppler shift) during the time of the year when good internet access is needed by residents the most urgently.

Comment: Re:Let's stay focused, people (Score 2) 135

by Miamicanes (#49152321) Attached to: Adjusting To a Martian Day More Difficult Than Expected

> It's not the length of a day that will impact Mars-dwellers the most, it will be their internet speed.

No, it'll be their latency. I believe the scenario informally tossed around by IETF for "extraterrestrial internet" envisions three categories of latency... a relatively small amount of net bandwidth sent directly between Mars and Earth that enjoys the lowest possible latency, and two roughly equal amounts of bulk bandwidth with much longer latencies. handled by satellites at the L3, L4, and L5 Earth-Sun and Mars-Sun Lagrange points. For semi-adhoc websurfing, your request would get sent along the fast (bandwidth-limited) link, and the response would travel along one or both of the lagrange paths. Someone like Akamai would come up with an open web standard that allowed sites to export themselves in their entirety (and remain synchronized in an rsync-like manner) so they'd run in a local VM on Mars.

Let's use StackOverflow as an example. To kick the whole thing off, SO would take a snapshot of itself (kind of like it already does for and begin uploading it to the server on Mars along the high-latency longer lagrangian bulk-data path. Once the server on Mars had a complete copy, it would become their local mirror. Normal bulk updates would occur frequently and periodically along the longest lagrangian path. Posted questions by someone on Mars (and the text of replies to them) might get expedited and sent along the shorter direct route.

Porn sites and Youtube would do the same thing. If a Martian wanted to visit some smaller site, he'd have to tag them for fetching and wait a few hours for them to become available. They'd probably follow a "Martians Pay" pricing model that split the bandwidth costs among everyone on Mars who accessed specific sites on a regular basis. Popular sites with lots of users (like Reddit and StackOverflow) would be cheap despite having lots of data because the cost would be divided among lots of Martian users. More offbeat sites might force individual users to be somewhat selective and conservative about their bulk-fetches (or at least about keeping them updated in perpetuity if they're only interested in viewing them as a one-shot activity), and might rebate back part of the initial acquisition cost if/when future users go to view the same site (ie, you, the first user, might pay $5 to bulk-grab all the postings of {some-user}, but get $2 of it rebated back when/if some future person pays $3, and you'd both get another buck (and further diminishing rebates) as more people paid diminishing prices to gain access to it.

By the same token, cable networks like HBO and SkyTV would bundle their new video content daily and bulk-upload it to their local affiliate on Mars (who'd make it initially available at some official scheduled time, and thereafter by streaming).

Ironically, the biggest single limiting factor to bandwidth wouldn't be between Earth and Mars, but between the surface of the Earth and a satellite orbiting the earth in geostationary orbit.Between the L3 and L4 satellites, you can use 30GHz of spectrum if you've got the hardware & power budget to do it. Then double it by sending half the data along the path in the other direction. The problem is the "last mile" between orbit and the surface, where it's likely that something more exotic will be required (say, multiple satellites using tightly-focused lasers to ferry the bulk data between earth and orbit, then bulk-uploading their chunks directly to the lagrangian satellites.

In short, the future of interplanetary internet can be summed up as multipath, multilink, and Akamai-like CDNs hosting VMs for earth websites on Mars. The biggest hard challenges aren't the technical ones... it'll be dealing with Hollywood lawyers and the copyright mafia losing sleep at night that their precious content is being cached on Mars with insufficient DRM or that someone, somewhere on Mars, is listening to a song that was improperly licensed.

The resources to maintain this kind of large-scale local cache would be substantial... but probably agreed to without hesitation on the grounds that they'd be likely to make the single biggest difference to morale on Mars than anything not directly related to life-or-death.

Comment: Re: Just y'know... reconnect them spinal nerves (Score 4, Informative) 210

by Miamicanes (#49146987) Attached to: Surgeon: First Human Head Transplant May Be Just Two Years Away

Not exactly. Some organ systems have controls that are a bit more local. That's why a quadriplegic can still digest food and have a beating heart, but needs a ventilator unless he had enough nerve connectivity remaining post-injury to breathe on his own. It's also why someone who's paralyzed can still have sex & enjoy it (even though he can't feel the orgasm).

Comment: Re:Peanuts (Score 1) 411

by Miamicanes (#49036103) Attached to: Your Java Code Is Mostly Fluff, New Research Finds

Most of Java's problems lie with the fact that the designers of its original API made some unbelievably bad decisions early in its development. Like:

* specifying arguments as int or String values, instead of enums... so every method you called that explicitly needed UTF8 had to be surrounded with try/catch (just in case you couldn't remember whether Java wanted you to call it "UTF-8", "UTF_8", or "UTF8" & threw an UnsupportedEncodingException). This particular thorn in my side was FINALLY fixed as of JDK 7.

Before anyone points out that enum is a semi-recent addition to Java, I'd like to remind everyone that even in 1996, you could declare a class with a private constructor, then use it to declare public static final constants of itself that were defined by their own declarations (which, I believe, is what 'enum' actually does behind the scenes, anyway)

* Pre-JDK8, Java's handling of nearly everything related to the concept of a Date/Time (parsing, printing, calculating, the works) was completely fucked. --

* Swing (Enough said. It speaks for itself... and does it almost as loudly and proudly as AWT.)

Even MORE tragic, though, is the way Android's API architects perpetuated the EXACT SAME anti-patterns (string/int constants as args) with the Android API... including brand new framework classes that didn't exist until Android did & had NO REASON to be that way.

Comment: Re:Here's a great idea... (Score 1) 481

by Miamicanes (#48988935) Attached to: DOT Warns of Dystopian Future For Transportation

Let's not forget that Orlando's toll roads are violently expensive compared to the tolls just about everywhere in the US besides New York City.

Orlando also did some really STUPID things, like build 3/4 of the beltway before deciding on the final route for the northwestern quadrant. Take a look at the northern end of 429 & notice (via Google Earth) that 451 used to be its tail end. The idiots allowed developers to build a solid wall of neighborhoods in what was supposed to be its northward path, and they ended up having to back up 3 miles and find a new route north (and demolish & re-route a half mile of 429 to try and make it less obvious to future generations just how badly they fucked up).

Of course, Miami has done some things of epic stupidity, too.. like allowing developers to build homes in what everybody knew was supposed to be the westward route of SR836, leaving the Turnpike-836 interchange with a bizarre layout that makes absolutely no sense in its current configuration (2 mile loop from northbound turnpike to eastbound 836 that doesn't allow exits to NW 107th Avenue (and even 20 years ago, involved a truly bizarre & surreal rigged-up semi-permanent detour through the FHP office's parking lot and a 2-lane road overgrown by trees on both sides that eventually led to 107th Avenue). Or the unfathomably stupid decisions that allowed the eastern terminus of both Gratigny Parkway and the Sawgrass Expressway to dump onto local roads 2 miles west of I-95 (guaranteeing that someday, FDOT will end up spending about a billion dollars apiece to finish them off properly and redoing their interchanges with I-95.

Comment: Re:why google keeps microsoft away (Score 4, Informative) 280

by Miamicanes (#48938735) Attached to: Microsoft To Invest In Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen

No Android device running a stock carrier ROM ever used flash for swap (that I'm aware of), but ~2-3 years ago, just about everyone running Cyanogenmod (or some other AOSP-derived ROM) had swapfiles. And yes, we really DID destroy $80+ microSD cards. It caught almost everyone by surprise, because we all blindly believed the manufacturers' assertions that the flash would last "a lifetime of normal use", failing to note that manufacturers didn't consider paging virtual memory almost nonstop to be "normal use". It was literally a use case the manufacturers never designed for, that didn't even become *viable* until overclocked class 6 and class 10 microSD became fast enough to make swapping to it faster than killing & re-spawning activities.

Comment: Re:why google keeps microsoft away (Score 5, Insightful) 280

by Miamicanes (#48936831) Attached to: Microsoft To Invest In Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen

More specifically, because lots of Android's fundamental architecture was dictated by a perceived need to work on slow CPUs (as in, 400MHz ARMv6) with absurdly low-res displays (remember 240x360?). Literally NOBODY involved with Android's genesis would have believed you if you told them that 5 years after the HTC G-phone's arrival on T-mobile, a phone with 1280x800 display, 1Ghz dualcore CPU, a gig of RAM, and at least 4-8 gigs of flash would be considered uselessly ghetto and hopelessly obsolete.

Remember, the whole reason why Google made the Nexus One was its frustration with the wimpy hardware of the second-gen Android phones, and hints that the third-generation phones were only going to be another half-step better. On the day of its release, the Nexus One was literally leaps and bounds beyond any competing phone, and its popularity forced HTC and Samsung to throw away their roadmaps and race back to the drawing board to come up with the Evo4G and Galaxy S family.

Current things that make Android feel laggy:

* 30hz touchscreen drivers and screen update rates are still the norm. 1/30th of a second is long enough to be perceptible as "lag", and when you factor triple-buffering into the equation, the lag is more like 1/15 second.

* The resolution and color depths of high-end Android phones have completely outstripped the dumb-framebuffer 3Dfx-heritage architecture behind most current hardware. Most video chipsets were optimized for 16-bit color at 1280x800 (more or less), but some high-end Android phones now ship with 2560x1600 displays running at 24-bit color and can barely sustain 30fps, let alone 60fps or faster. Basically, they're optimized for (and accelerate) the wrong thing. They might have great 3D graphics for games, but those capabilities are unusable and useless at higher-res/color. That's why some Android homescreen-replacement apps use 3D acceleration, but become fuzzy during transitions... they drop the resolution and color depth down to what the chips can handle, and don't go back to full-resolution until the transition completes. You can see it for yourself... do the "rotating cube" effect (or whatever you want to use), and notice that the moment the gesture begins, the resolution gets fuzzed in half, then snaps back into focus when you stop.

* Android's primitive (compared to Java since 1.4) garbage collection, which practically forces the OS to constantly kill off apps running in the background to reclaim their RAM, coupled by the real-world problems of trying to use a phone's flash to do Linux-style virtual memory (if you aren't careful, you can literally burn through an eMMC's lifetime write count in a few months. MicroSD is even worse... more than a few guys at XDA have destroyed expensive Sandisk microSD cards with a few days of hard benchmarking and intensive swapping. That's why most Android ROMs no longer make it easy to enable swap, even though it can be a HUGE performance boost. Too many users were destroying flash cards too quickly. Cyanogen with a large swapfile that's tweaked to abstain from killing off idle tasks will nuke a brand new class-10 microSD card in about 3-8 months of normal daily use... and if you did a swapfile with the phone's INTERNAL flash, your phone would essentially get bricked once the counter tripped and the eMMC write-protected itself (because Android can't deal with booting into an environment where it literally can't write ANYTHING to disk).

Comment: Re:Since when is AMT controversial? (Score 1) 179

by Miamicanes (#48936579) Attached to: FSF-Endorsed Libreboot X200 Laptop Comes With Intel's AMT Removed

As I understand it, at the bare-metal hardware level, AMT is basically a networked JTAG programmer grafted onto the ethernet controller that can do things like read & write values into RAM, stuff values into the CPU's registers, update the BIOS NVRAM, and override the normal boot process as long as you have physical ethernet access to the same network as the target computer & can present AMT with credentials it's satisfied with. It basically starts with the foundation provided by Wake-on-Lan & PXE, and adds the JTAG-like capabilities and security on top.

Comment: Accounting formalities (Score 1) 200

by Miamicanes (#48619675) Attached to: NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower

Serious question: how much of that alleged $700k/year-to-mothball is real, hard cash NASA has to spend, vs accounting formalities like "how much would the site be worth if put to its highest and best use" (and taken as a paper loss because the site isn't being used)? Or one-time costs that were incurred for mothballing, but aren't likely to be repeated annually (like shuttering the building, building a fence around it, etc)?

Don't discount the accounting formalities. I once worked for a company where upper management directed us to immediately dispose of about 100 non-obsolete laptops... at a disposal cost of more than $900 apiece. Why? Because they were sitting in a stack in the middle of a mostly-empty datacenter literally covering most of a square block, and some idiot in the accounting department decided that they were costing us $25,000/year to maintain for no reason besides "they're taking up 100 square feet, and we're paying $250/foot per year in rent"... in a building that was about 95% empty & leased for 20 years at the height of the dotcom boom just because "it was there". The fact that even if you take the fictional annual rent for the floorspace seriously, it took more than FIVE YEARS just to break even on the insane disposal fees. And in the meantime, we had to buy new laptops to replace the ones we were ordered to dispose of, because new people were still getting hired. Wait, it gets better. As a matter of policy, we were required to ship the laptops to the disposal center via FedEx. Priority Overnight. Individually. Almost a decade later, I *still* can't grasp how anybody could have possibly thought it was sane, let alone a *good* idea.

Is it possible that software is not like anything else, that it is meant to be discarded: that the whole point is to always see it as a soap bubble?