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Comment Re:In the US. (Score 1) 861 861

Again, this works in the US with big suburbs where everyone has a parking lot with an electric outlet. In other countries (like good old Europe), where most people live in apartments and there is just no way you can plug your car at night, it doesn't work. It is just impossible until you can refill your car in 5 minutes like with gasoline...

There is no requirement to have a garage or driveway next to the house: charging stations can be built next to residential parking spots. And in some countries that is subsidized. I've seen several in the city I live in.

Oh, and many Europeans travel 1000+km on a single streak with their cars on holidays. Again, if the cars you want to sell have to wait 2 times 4 hours to refill in such travel, you're not going to sell many of them.

Some people do, but others always take a flight to their holiday destination. There are also families with two cars, they could have one gasoline car for long trips and one electric car for short distance travel.

Someone I know made a long holiday trip with a limited range electric car by spreading the travel out over a few days. It allows for some sight seeing along the way and it is less stressful than a long trip on a single day. It's a different way of travelling but it's not inferior if you're not in a hurry. It does require more planning, but with the internet at your fingertips that is easier than ever before.

In any case, the question is not whether the electric car will be the best choice for everyone. The question is how many people will pick an electric car and how that will affect the availability of infrastructure for both electric and gas.

Comment Re:GitHub TOS (Score 2) 312 312

Article G7 of the GitHub ToS reads:

We may, but have no obligation to, remove Content and Accounts containing Content that we determine in our sole discretion are unlawful, offensive, threatening, libelous, defamatory, pornographic, obscene or otherwise objectionable or violates any party's intellectual property or these Terms of Service.

GitHub could decide to remove the project as "offensive" or "objectionable", which are pretty generic words.

However, the code itself is entirely neutral: it just requests API access via OAuth. It is the potential use by web sites that could be undesired. I think shutting down the GitHub project would be shooting the messenger.

For me personally, the most shocking aspect of this news is that 23andMe has an API for third parties to access your DNA profile.

Comment Re:Somebody had to write it (Score 1) 312 312

A sensible government would create its own authentication infrastructure instead of relying on an external platform. Unfortunately, the UK government hasn't displayed a lot of sense lately when it comes to privacy.

As someone without a Facebook account, I know it can be problematic when people and other companies just assume you'll have no problem giving up privacy for a little convenience. I think though that a genetic profile is considered more private to many people than their chats and photos, so they'll be less likely to hand it over just as easily. For example the sharing of electronic medical data is something that generated a lot of resistance here in the Netherlands.

In any case, trying to stop this at the technology level is a lost cause, since it is just too easy to write the code. If you'd want to stop it with regulation, you'd have to do it at the policy level: forbid sites to use it. But looking at ineffective half-measures like the EU cookie directive, I have more confidence in end users rejecting genetic access control than in legislation blocking it.

Comment Modern tech for outdated concept? (Score 2) 312 312

The correlation between genes and culture is becoming weaker in the modern world. People have far more interaction than before with people from other backgrounds since travel is easier, many people live in large cities and people communicate online. Therefore, to guard access to an online community based on genetics seems like the wrong solution, since a superficial genetic profile will not predict how well an individual will fit into a community.

Comment Re:Somebody had to write it (Score 4, Insightful) 312 312

I think the author, using the "offensive-computing" nick, knew very well that this would trigger a discussion and that's probably the reason this project was created in the first place.

For this to work, there are two required components: code and data. The code has already been created and if it hadn't been, implementing OAUTH and using a REST API is within the scope of many developers' skills. So the route to avoiding abuse of this technology is by restricting access to the data. Simply put, don't give any web site access to your genetic data.

Comment Re:Antropologist (Score 3, Interesting) 128 128

Often big accidents are not caused by technology failing unexpectedly, but by not following procedures or bad decision making. So it seems to me that an antropologist might actually have useful things to say about the weakest links: human operators and their managers.

Comment Re:Can finally make that multi-million$ game on Li (Score 4, Informative) 57 57

releasing on Linux as an additional platform can be worth it if the extra effort to support Linux is small enough.

Why? So you can spend a fortune porting it, only to be hit with:

If the engine already supports Linux, porting the game won't cost a fortune.

a) the fact that most Linux users are cheapskates and rarely pay for software

The sales stats from the Humble Bundles suggest that Linux users do in fact pay for games.

b) the complaints that it only works on X and Y distros, as opposed to the thousands of others

Games typically ship with their own versions of all the libraries they need, so they don't depend on the way a distro packages libraries. In any case, this is something that would be handled in the engine, so it's not a burden for the game developer.

c) the stupid-ass Stallman hippies who complain that it isn't open-source

Any game developer that can't deal with people complaining won't stay sane long...
Besides, real Stallman followers don't use the term "open source" ;)

Comment Re:I love this story. (Score 1) 361 361

Maybe if you explain what you think 'alternative rock' is, I may be able to identify with some of your taste.

In the 90's 'alternative rock' was the term used for several genres that were not quite mainstream but still had a large following (*). The most recognisable would be grunge with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, but also rock bands with a somewhat similar sound like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Compared to 80's rock, 'alternative rock' was more minimal and less polished.

(*) The cynical description would be music marketed to the masses that desperately didn't want to be part of the masses. But that's more of a reflection on teenagers and marketing than on the music itself.

Comment Re:Philosophy (Score 1) 152 152

The more I think about the article, the less sense it makes.

Data accuracy and completeness are of course important issues, but if you're going to add measures to improve data quality, that should be done when acquiring and processing the data, not when presenting it. So an app sounds like the wrong place to start worrying about the integrity of the data.

Doing statistics properly is not easy: it's not an intuitive subject and it requires a good mathematical background, a lot of care and some common sense. Here at least the article has a concrete proposal: a review and sign off process. Whether that actually helps depends on the quality of the review: does the reviewer master statistics and is there enough time budgetted to do a thorough review?

I have some doubts about painting data presentation as an ethical issue. While I completely agree that clarity is more important than prettyness, overly flashy presentation is far from the only reason why data might be misinterpreted. Perhaps the app developer doesn't understand the domain well enough; hands-on testing with end users would help in that case. Perhaps the end user doesn't understand the data or the processes the data comes from well enough to be able to interpret it accurately no matter how the app presents it. Perhaps the data is so complex that it is not possible to present it accurately in an app format.

Comment Re:Ubiquiti Networks (Score 1) 225 225

Funny I would not want to publish my code either, as apparently it was buggy, they would have been lash wipped by Linus!

Linus will only rant at bad code being submitted to the kernel mailinglist for integration into the mainline kernel. If you publish code on your own website, he's not even going to look at it.

Comment Re:Slashdot Overrun by Luddite Barbarians (Score 1) 163 163

Do we have any hard facts other than the unfounded assumptions of the masses that this information is being somehow data-mined?

I have no information about this doll other than the article, so no hard facts. I do consider it very likely it will be data-mined in some way, since that would actually be useful for improving the product. See my other response above.

So, is a manufacturer that respects privacy while delivering a requested product evil? Or is it just fear of the unknown operating here?

There is no proof they will respect privacy and there is no proof they won't. But when it comes to large companies, I am no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. That's not fear, it's cynicism. I don't like having that attitude, but I can't justify any other attitude to myself either.

Comment Re:Slashdot Overrun by Luddite Barbarians (Score 1) 163 163

The creepy part is not a doll that listens, it is the manufacturer listening as well.

Not if you understand the technology, because you know that in order to do the first, it ALSO has to do the second.

It doesn't require a super computer to do voice recognition, as demonstrated by the $75 retail price (which would cover a few years of server-side processing, unless the article failed to mention a mandatory subscription) and a game like There Came An Echo. My guess is that a modern ARM processor would be able to handle it just fine. If the processing would drain the battery of the doll too quickly, it could be done in an in-home base station (plug server, for example) that communicates over local WiFi. There are advantages to doing the processing on a central server, but I see no reason to claim it is not feasible to do it locally.

The other way it can be phrased, which is more accurate and less creepy, is to say a SERVER processes the audio data in order to form a response. That's not creepy; it's necessary - it says nothing about humans or "the company" (whatever that means) listening in.

How I imagine it will work is that the large amount of data coming in from all the dolls in the field will be used to improve both the voice recognition and the dolls' responses. For that purpose, they would build a big data set that proposed algorithm tweaks can be tested against. Collecting this data from customers rather than dedicated test sessions is cheaper, allows for quicker iteration cycles and produces much larger data sets, which generally improves the results.

The question is whether the stored data will be anonymized early and properly or whether it will be possible to connect the stored data to a specific doll. Even if they would have no intention to violate anyone's privacy, I wouldn't trust them to get this right for a talking doll, when so many institutions dealing with medical data manage to screw it up.

Technology in itself is neither good nor bad, it all depends on how you use it.

Right, so lets not assume anything network connected that requires a server to function is bad. That's what I;m saying.

Once the stored data exists, it is only a matter of time until someone comes up with an idea to use it in an unethical way. It could be an employee, it could be someone in the government, it could be an outside attacker who found a way into the network. In recent years we've read about companies selling data sets, huge data breeches and overreaching spy programs and I don't expect that 100% of those even reached the news. So assuming that a privacy policy will protect your data is naieve, in my opinion.

A completely different concern with an essential server-side component is the same as with always-online games: if the manufacturer pulls the plug, this doll would revert back to being just a plastic doll.

Keep a neutral attitude, and evaluate what it does rather than the scariest thing it MIGHT do.

How would you evaluate it? Even if you have the knowledge to be able to evaluate such a complex process, they wouldn't let you audit their systems.

Even apart from the data collection angle, evaluation is an issue: with a book, a parent can have a quick look at it to check whether its content is something they want their children exposed to. With an interactive online service, how the doll behaves a year from now might be different from how it behaves today. What to do if Barbie suddenly starts begging her owner for a horse or a boyfriend?

I'm not saying the potential for misuse means no-one should buy this doll, that's for every individual parent to decide. What I'm objecting to is being called a luddite over what I think are very valid concerns.

Embracing every new development out of love for technology

It's less wrong because it advances, instead of retards, humanity. The only real enemy is chaos and stagnation.

I generally consider myself progressive, but I don't consider every new thing desirable just because it hasn't been done before.

The wages of sin are unreported.

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