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Comment: Re:Clarify this sentence, please? (Score 1) 82

by MikeTheGreat (#48551573) Attached to: Book Review: Spam Nation

Exactly! There's no 'quandary' here - the price difference is entirely intentional. In order for there to be a quandary there needs to be some uncertainty on someone's part.

(The book review author doesn't really spell out what the quandary is - the companies may not know exactly what they're going to do but if that's the quandary then it needs to be spelled out, rather than left to the reader to guess at)

Comment: Clarify this sentence, please? (Score 1) 82

by MikeTheGreat (#48550163) Attached to: Book Review: Spam Nation

Should the reality be that the unauthorized pharmaceuticals are effective, then the pharmaceutical industry would be placed in a quandary.

What quandary would that be? That they'd face (illegal) competition?

A quandary is a situation where you're confused about what to do. Facing cheaper competition doesn't seem like it would be confusing. Difficult or challenging, yes. Terrifying, possibly. But not so much confusing.

If the pharmaceutical industry had the choice of either selling lots and lots of drugs (through the spammers) at a discount that might put them in a quandary. Should they risk being found out (and potentially have everyone buy the cheap stuff (thus reducing their overall revenue and profit)) or should they NOT sell their product through the black market, thus passing on the money they could get from that. That's a situation where it's not really clear what the best thing to do is.

Interesting book, sounds like. And thank you for the review - I've got it on hold at my local public library now!

Comment: Re:Chronic offenders without a record? (Score 1) 218

by MikeTheGreat (#48525117) Attached to: 'Moneyball' Approach Reduces Crime In New York City

So the idea is that there are records in the system about them, but the phrase "criminal record" means specifically that they've been arrested, tried, and found guilty?

That makes sense, but seems like it could/should be phrased better. Maybe something like 9,000 chronic offenders (PDF), virtually all of whom have criminal conviction records.

There's a house in our neighborhood that kinda goes in this category. The residents are low-level ne'er-do-well types. They run a bicycle theft ring but haven't been caught (they're very good about filing ID numbers off bikes, for example), they dabbled in cooking meth, they've hosted a squatter encampment in their backyard, etc, etc. Part of the reason they're such a problem is that they never *quite* get arrested so they're chronically causing more problems.

The main thing that's relevant to this thread is that the article made it sound like they were using lots of 'Big Data' to figure out what to do, but then threw in stuff like "uncooperative witnesses" or "record-free chronic offenders" which both sounded a lot like "people we put on the list just because". I'm glad that the problem was in my understanding, not that they really were doing arbitrary stuff.

Comment: Re:This is quite different from existing systems. (Score 1) 110

by MikeTheGreat (#48501183) Attached to: Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

This system ([...]) has fascinating challenges all of it's own, mainly related to traffic control, safety, and where to put the shelves after you are done. (A fixed location is very inefficient, but neither do you want to stick the shelf in the first available space.)

Without actually stopping to look up any details I'm going to say the following: It seems like the memory-management algorithms that operating systems use ought to at least shed some light on this problem. It seems like a lot of the same problems are present in both situations: you can move 'pages' of product into and out of the processing units (i.e., people in the factory, CPUs/cores in a computer), you want to keep frequently-used shelves/pages nearby (as opposed to out in the slower-than-cache RAM), etc, etc.

I guess the major difference is that the factory can arbitrarily re-order the sequence in which it accesses the shelves in order to ensure high efficiency. (Obviously there are limits so that you make your delivery deadlines, but if you wanted to put off packing a particular box for several hours it's probably fine).

(I wonder if the 'longest-common-substring' algorithms are useful here - "For the 15 minutes we're going to pack just boxes that have a Frozen DVD, Barbie , GI Joe Tank as a 'common core' that people then add an item or two on to)" )

Comment: 100K people - breakdown? (Score 1) 112

by MikeTheGreat (#48343957) Attached to: Amazon's Echo Chamber

Would you have a breakdown of where those 100K people are, what they do and (roughly) how much the get paid?

I'm curious because paying 30,000 people to do minimum-wage, seasonal work for 3 months before Christmas in their shipping center isn't the same as 30,000 programmers earning 6 figures each on annual contracts.

(Also - didn't Amazon try and claim that since they ship a lot of things they should get credit for keeping UPS/FedEx/etc drivers employed? I'd like to know if that's included in the 'indirect' employees or not (and if so, how many) ).


Mysterious Feature Appears and Disappears In a Sea On Titan 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the interplanetary-game-of-battleship dept.
schwit1 writes: Cassini images taken in 2007, 2013, and 2014 of one of Titan's largest hydrocarbon seas find that a mysterious feature there keeps appearing and disappearing. Quoting: "The mysterious feature, which appears bright in radar images against the dark background of the liquid sea, was first spotted during Cassini's July 2013 Titan flyby. Previous observations showed no sign of bright features in that part of Ligeia Mare. Scientists were perplexed to find the feature had vanished when they looked again, over several months, with low-resolution radar and Cassini's infrared imager. This led some team members to suggest it might have been a transient feature. But during Cassini's flyby on August 21, 2014, the feature was again visible, and its appearance had changed during the 11 months since it was last seen.

Scientists on the radar team are confident that the feature is not an artifact, or flaw, in their data, which would have been one of the simplest explanations. They also do not see evidence that its appearance results from evaporation in the sea, as the overall shoreline of Ligeia Mare has not changed noticeably. The team has suggested the feature could be surface waves, rising bubbles, floating solids, solids suspended just below the surface, or perhaps something more exotic." That the seasons are slowly changing on Titan is probably contributing to the transient nature of this feature.

Are the World's Religions Ready For ET? 534

Posted by Soulskill
from the Alf-as-messiah dept.
Science_afficionado writes: At the current rate of discovery, astronomers will have identified more than a million exoplanets by the year 2045. That means, if life is at all common in the Milky Way, astronomers could soon detect it. Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change, lead Vanderbilt astronomer David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about how people will react to such a discovery. He realized that people's reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs, so he decided to find out what theologians and leaders from the world's major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled Religions and Extraterrestrial Life, published by Springer this month. He discovered that from Baptists to Buddhists, from Catholics to Mormons, from Islam to the Anglican Communion, religious views on alien life differ widely.

Comment: Re:try SLASH (Score 1) 57

by MikeTheGreat (#48028333) Attached to: How To Find the Right Open Source Project To Get Involved With

No worries on the search - I embedded the link to the slashdot stories AND quoted it above :)

I agree that the 24 bit counter was incomprehensible. Apparently it's a standard choice in MySQL, though, which explains why it's an issue - one can just pick 'mediumint' and bam - 24 bit integer.

I'm mystified as to why one would want to do that - does MySQL actually pack the integers in such a way as to use those extra 8 bits for something else? On a 32 bit machine you're going to need to either ignore (zero-pack) those extra 8 bits or else extract whatever you put there before every operation (addition, comparison, etc) that you do.

Anyways - those were good times :)

Comment: Re:try SLASH (Score 1) 57

by MikeTheGreat (#48025009) Attached to: How To Find the Right Open Source Project To Get Involved With

16 bits? Dude, that's ridiculous.

Ok, just so everyone else on slashdot will stop laughing at us I looked it up:

From TFS:

Last night we crossed over 16,777,216 comments in the database. The wise amongst you might note that this number is 2^24, or in MySQLese an unsigned mediumint. Unfortunately, like 5 years ago we changed our primary keys in the comment table to unsigned int (32 bits, or 4.1 billion) but neglected to change the index that handles parents. We're awesome! Fixing is a simple ALTER TABLE statement... but on a table that is 16 million rows long, our system will take 3+ hours to do it, during which time there can be no posting. So today, we're disabling threading and will enable it again later tonight. Sorry for the inconvenience. We shall flog ourselves appropriately. Update: 11/10 12:52 GMT by J : It's fixed.

There we go - a 24 bit index caused the crash :)

Open Source

How To Find the Right Open Source Project To Get Involved With 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-going dept.
An anonymous reader writes Writing on, Matt Micene shares his thoughts on getting started with an open source project. "I came back from OSCON this year with a new fire to contribute to an open source project. I've been involved in open source for years, but lately I've been more of an enthusiast-evangelist than a hands-on-contributor to an open source community. So, I started some thinking about what to do next. When I was involved in projects before, it was due to a clear progression from user to forum guru to contributor. It's a great path to take but what do you do if you just want to jump into something?" Matt goes on to lay out several steps to help new contributors get started.

Comment: Re:Watson is not AI (Score 1) 161

Back in college I had a professor who said that he was glad he didn't work in AI. Asked to explain further, he said that the definition of "intelligent" is pretty much "a machine can't do it", so as soon as you've got a program that can do something everyone else immediately says "Huh! I always thought that needed intelligence. I guess not!" He then illustrated his opinion by saying that it had previously been thought that you needed intelligence to take the derivative of something, until someone wrote a program to do it.

Obviously, it was an informal, off-the-cuff, and mostly tongue-in-cheek comment, but there's definitely some truth there too.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay