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Comment: Welcome to the free market (Score 1) 311

by jd (#47762443) Attached to: Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

Where providers are free to gouge and customers are free to... well... complain on Slashdot, but that's about it.

It's only actually free when there's freedom. Freedom to choose between genuinely different providers is a start. If they go to the same tier 2 provider, then the that will define the prices and services, so isn't a choice at all. If they ARE the tier 2, then they're the ultimate source of services and pricetag for all the tier 3s out there.

But there has to be more, since bandwidth throttling dictates bandwidth availability downstream. You can't sell what isn't there - unless you're Time-Warner or Comcast, of course. Try that with a physical product ("It'll cost you $elebenty, payable now, no refund, and if it doesn't do what we claim, that's not a lemon, that's the fault of some unidentified someone doing something somewhere somehow and we'd rather screw you than bother them"). So, freedom to know what you're actually buying and freedom to use statuary rights to obtain that product or a refund.

This is actually one reason I'm a little unhappy with free software. It has been telling vendors that it's ok to not provide what is offered. Not so much by actually doing that - free software has been, in general, superb about being up-front about what it can and cannot do, known defects and limitations, etc. More by saying in the license that the producer is entitled to lie through his teeth without consequence. A quick look at Oracle's conduct shows that vendors have paid very close attention to that clause.

Free Software relies on there being a viable alternative, that users can go elsewhere if dissatisfied. The resilience to fixing bugs in GCC and GLibC, in present and prior administrations, demonstrate that when viable alternatives are scant, such software is too complex to fork or replace unless it gets really, really bad. Which it has occasionally done.

When it comes to cable companies, it's infinitely worse. You're not in a position to run fibre from your home to an alternative tier 2 in another State. Partly because of expense, partly because laws governing interstate activities make it impossible for private individuals, and partly because the cable companies would raise all hell, three quarters of bloody murder and a dash of pint of high water to stop you. Which would not be hard for them, all they need to do is to persuade the tier 2 provider to not sell the capacity. If that failed, they could keep you tied up in knots with the FCC over whether you were an unlicensed telecom operator or not. Mind you, some of you might like knots. I dunno. If all else failed, they could SWAT the people running the cable, get you listed for suspected terrorist ties, or just repeatedly run a backhoe through your cable until you got the message.

You have no choice. You have no freedom. The cable operators have been redefining "monopoly" and "telecommunications" to whatever serves their purpose, not yours, and on multiple occasions. They have been free to do so because everyone likes simplified services and nobody in the States is going to vehemently oppose the "market at work". Even when it clearly doesn't. Not until it is far, far too late to stop things happening.

And we're way past it being too far. It was too far when telecos started replacing copper for fibre at select spots. Supposedly to improve service (which never improved). The reality was that DSL companies competing with the teleco all went out of business where this happened. No great surprise, you can't run DSL over fibre and everyone knew it. It was too late when telephonic "service of last resort" stopped being mandatory in many States. It was too late when ADSL was all private users could buy, SDSL was only sold to select businesses.

It was too late when rival multistate networks got bought up by the Big Telecos with not a murmur from anyone.

It was not because these were fatal in themselves, it's because people had become too stupid and too utterly dependent on being spoonfed by corporate giants (who are far less efficient than any big government ever thought of being, except at defrauding customers). The time for people to learn to think had passed. There wasn't anything left to think about. There were no examples to learn from. All that was left was a self-inflicted oblivion.

It's as if a hundred billion endpoints all screamed out and then fell silent.

And no Consumer Jedi to notice or care.

Comment: Re:Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 1) 190

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47753497) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

This is interesting stuff. Where do you recommend buying thi s equipment?

Since we buy new we have shopped reputable dealers. Since what we wanted was small and self-contained we were able to find a dealer with something suitable already on the lot that he was having trouble unloading, so we got it at a good price.

The trick is to research the manufacturers on the net, first, to find out which have a track record of producing good products.

It's been a while since we last bought one, so our research is out of date and you'll have to do your own. There is some turnover in the industry, so a company that is good for decades may cheapen their product, merge, or go out of business.

Our current one is by Sunnybrook, which has since merged into another company. (Pity: They did great trailers with solid aluminum framing, great layouts, and high quality throughout. Only problem was the imported tires - which we replaced with Goodyears after a few thousand miles.)

Before that we had a Prowler from Fleetwood, which has since gone out of business. (They had had a great rep, but our instance, and others from their last few years, had issues with water leakage.)

Comment: The footage doesn't matter. (Score 1) 299

by jd (#47752663) Attached to: Put A Red Cross PSA In Front Of the ISIS Beheading Video

The publicity is everything to the terrorists. Censorship is, in some ways, even better for them, as rumours (which they can start) can make unseen footage far worse than reality and the Streisand Effect works just fine, bringing people into discussions.

No, this isn't something you can fix in the middle. You have to fix the users, instead. You have to damp down emotional responses and increase rational duscussion. There is no terrorism without fear, there are no causes without fear.

Eliminating the instinct (it's not an emotion, it's baser than that) of fear us impossible - and probably unwise if possible. But damping it, and raising calm rationality, is possible.

And it will not only make video nasties unimportant, it will make the terrorists who make them an endangered species.

You can't fight terror with blinkers or peril-sensitive sunglasses, or even with weapins. Because terror is in the mind, be it their mind or yours. And to fight in your mind the ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, a warplane is a very messy, expensive and stupid solution. You can only fight mind with mind.

Comment: Re:My opinion on the matter. (Score 2) 776

by jd (#47752559) Attached to: Choose Your Side On the Linux Divide

Skepticism != Cynicism.

When the distinction becomes blurred, you no longer have skepticism.

All things should be questioned. That doesn't mean forever.

All things should be subject to scrutiny. That doesn't mean wasting cycles.

Once an issue is settled, it's settled until new data brings it back into question.

Things should be fixed before they break, not after, but only with something verifiably better. If it's not verified, it's not better.

Enough of the common sense that you yung 'uns lack. Back to the boot process.

The original boot process was never great. A very limited range of states, temperamental scripts, poorly documented behaviours, wide variation in precise behaviour between implementations, potential vulnerabilities, ghastly completion time, horrible dependencies, etc.

This has been replaced with an alternative that is new, shiny and creates exactly the same problems but in a completely new way.

A pox on both your houses.

Still, six is better than the two runlevels offered by Windows, which are even slower, even less stable and even less secure. What's worse than pox. I know, Ebola on Windows.

The lot of you are a disgrace. All three systems are less designed than congealed. And the Unix man pages were written by Vogons. Drunk Vogons. Practicing poetry whilst smashing snails with hammers.

Comment: Re:Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 1) 190

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47745369) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

Considering you're talking about multiple properties already, I dont think your cost scale exactly matches everyone elses.

Even (especially!) in Silicon Valley you don't accumulate multiple properties by being spendthrift.

How much did you spend on your hobby equipment? Or your last couple vacations?

Even in pricey California you can buy a good NEW travel trailer in the 20' range, loaded, for about $15k. That will sleep four if they're friendly, two quite comfortably. If you're willing to go small you can get into the $7k range. Special order skipping the microwave, oven, and air conditioner can drop it further. Buy used for far less, if you know what to look for, are willing to accept the extra maintenance risks or put in a bit of sweat equity fixing it up, and you can get to silly price levels. (I wouldn't, though, due to allergies.)

The trick is "travel trailer", not "RV" or even "Fifth Wheel", and going small. (You can easily drop the price of a medium-sized house for one of the class-A land yacts.) Pickup campers, on the other hand, tend to live on the pickup truck because it's such a pain to remove it, so the rig might as well be an RV.

In addition to the price difference, the trailer/tow vehicle combo beats the heck out of RV in the long run: The house and the runing gear wear out at different rates - with an RV when one dies they both do. Unhooking the tow vehicle gives you a vehicle at your camp. Keeping it small also gives you the ability to camp in a lot more places than something large (like some federal and state parks of the more wilderness sort, which have twisty roads and small campsites tucked into out of the way places.)

The trailer/RV/whtever approach may not make sense JUST for earthquake preparedness. But if you find camping or cross-country travel enjoyable (and are getting a bit too fragile to do it with tents), using the money you'd otherwise have spent JUST stocking earthquake supplies can make the camping budget far more managable. It also lets you get two benefits for ONE chunk of your time getting things set up.

(I also find it's lots of fun to set it up with techie toys. B-) )

Comment: Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 4, Informative) 190

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47743519) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

We have a self-contained travel trailer that doubles as natural disaster supplies. Stocked with canned and boxed food for weeks, 14 gallons of propane (always more than 7, since you swap tanks when one of 'em empties and top 'em off after a trip) can keep the fridge going for months, and we have a couple spare tanks.

40 gallons of fresh water are good for three days of camping WITH showers. In a natural disaster you can skip the showers and stretch it for a month or so. A couple hundred amp-hours of batteries (i.e. two of 'em) can keep things going for a while and can be charged from solar panels (or the vehicle engine) as well. (And we're just starting to convert the lighting to LEDs, for about a 8-16x improvement in power consumption vs. incandescents.)

The townhouse also has canned food for months and a case or two of bottled drinking water (as does the ranch house, which also has a well if we ever get a generator, windmill, or solar panels & inverter that can run it when grid power is out.) It also provides redundancy if the trailer is damaged, just as the trailer provides redundancy if the house collapses or burns.

Travel trailers are not very expensive. Set them up for a weekend's camping, park them far enough from the house that expected disaster cases don't zap 'em both, and they'll give you your "three days until help arrives" in style, or a month's survivalist roughing-it. They also have the advantage that, if they don't get damaged in the initial event or you have warning, you can hook 'em up and move to a safer or more convenient location. All "for free" if you like occasional camping, or cross-country ground travel without having to rent allergenic hotel rooms. B-)

Comment: WELL said. (Score 1) 132

What "we" are worried about is the rich cultural and political elite losing their seaside mansions ...

Well said, sir. (I already commented in the article so couldn't mod that up. I had to settle for "friend"ing you. B-) )

Also: In the spirit of "Never letting a crisis go to waste", it's also an opportunity for the 1% to incrase their power over the 99%, and find ways to rip them off. (Carbon taxes. Government mandated carbon credit exchange schemes, with markets provided, and billions in transaction fees raked in, by "entrepenuers" like Al Gore and Barak Obama.)

Comment: Bigger quakes are longer. (Score 3, Interesting) 132

"Why do Californians think they can "feel" the strength of a quake? It's complete nonsense because you cannot feel its distance."

It's not nonsense at all. Bigger quakes last longer. The duration of the shaking is a good measure of the actual strength, and can be read directly off the seismographs, while more accurate estimates take a while to compute from these and other measurements.

That's why you see initial estimates as "duration magnitude", later revised to "moment magnitude" which more accurately measures the energy from measurements of the distortion of the underground structures due to the stress changes. You'll notice that it's SO good that the adjustment is usually only a couple tenths of a scale point - less than a 2:1 difference in energy.

The rip starts at some point along the fault and propagates along it in fits and starts, much slower than the compression and shear waves from the individual releases, as the motion from the relaxing stresses in the section that let go increases stresses in the next section. This keeps up until the effect reaches a point where the stress isn't enough (at the time) to make it let go. (You get aftershocks when the more gradual readjustments add "straw to the camel's back" and get it going again - or start one on another nearby section or another nearby fault.)

The strength of the wave decays with distance. But the duration increases as the wave takes multiple paths, scattering off underground structure. So a distant earthquake doesn't "feel" shorter than a nearby one. Longer-but-weaker. Also, the P wave propagates much faster than the S wave, is weaker, and doesn't "stretch out in time" much at all. Time separation is greater with distance. They feel very different. (Mnemonic: First the P wave makes you pee, then the S wave ...) So with enough experience one could ballpark both the strength and the distance from the feel of the quake.

For instance: Loma Prieta, a 7.1 moment magnitude (6.9 early duration magnitude estimates), propagated along aobut 22 miles of fault. It lasted 8 seconds, though as you got farther away the shaking got up to 45 seconds before it became too weak to be noticed. I was standing in front of Palo Alto City Hall when it got there, and my perception was first (P wave) "a truck is going over this overpass - wait', I'm not ON an overpass", then (S wave) "being in an airplane experiencing 15 seconds of mild turbulence." (Most ground-bound constructions {except for mobile and modular homes, which are built to be shipped on highways}, weren't built to withstand "15 seconds of mild turbulence". B-b ) I was listening to a San Francisco radio station: Seconds after the shaking started, the announcers got in two sentences (first about feeling an earthquake (P wave), then that it felt big (start of S wave)) before the transmitter failed (a bit into the S wave) - and the shaking was far from over.

The scale is logarithmic base 10, so a 1 point difference in scale is a 10x difference in energy, and thus time. This makes it EASY to guess the magnitude (if your sense of time doesn't distort to much from the excitement). A 6.1 would be 1/10th the energy of Loma P., so also about 1/10th the time, and Nappa to Oakland is comparable to Loma Prieta to Palo Alto, so call it a second and a half of the strong shaking.

On the other hand, for the first quake I felt after moving to CA I was nearly on top of a small one. (I think it was a high 2.x or a low 3.x.) Very sharp single shock - like a car hitting a concrete building while you're inside - followed by "echoes" as the wave moves on rapidly and EVERY building makes the sound of being hit (followed by a chorus of car alarms - shock sensors were common then). Sensation: Being in an elevator when it hit a misaligned section of the guide track. Three-stage perceptual distortion, as I realized that I was standing on the ground and my brain momentarily remapped my motion as a memory of the surroundings moving, as if they were painted on canvas scenery that was being shaken, then I realized it was an earthquake and it all remapped back - though the memory of the remappings was still there. (Next I wondered how much this phenomenon contrubuted to magical thinking among the cults California is noted for harboring.)

Comment: Well, that does it for Facebook. (Score 1, Insightful) 193

by jd (#47740745) Attached to: Facebook Experimenting With Blu-ray As a Storage Medium

Not that I had any trust in them anyway.

Blu-Ray, and indeed any modern optical storage, is very short-lived precisely because it's designed to be cheap. The laser disks used to store the Doomsday Project in Britain were still readable after 20 years. Modern optical storage decays typically within 5. Less, as the density goes up. And failures take out far larger percentages of the storage.

Magnetic tape is still the only trusted long-term backup medium. I wouldn't suggest it for something like Facebook purely because of seek times, but it's hard to think of any viable alternative.

With Blu-Ray, to guarantee to avoid complete disk loss, you'd have to be re-archiving the entire archive annually. That adds an enormous invisible cost to the project. They're not going to do that. Which means there's guaranteed loss of backups. How much depends on the exact storage conditions but it won't be pretty.

As for better ability to withstand conditions, it again comes down to the nature of the storage. Optical disks are highly vulnerable to a lot of things that hard drives are not. Overall, optical storage usually performs very badly in comparison, as the things hard drives are vulnerable to are cheaply avoided but the things optical storage can be attacked by are usually a lot harder to deal with.

I'm sure you're aware that none of the above formats (tape included) are considered "archival quality" - they just don't have the sort of durability required by that categorization. No known digital format does and there's nothing you can do to stabilize them. It's a big research area. For now, tape is considered the only method that is economic and durable, with the lowest loss of data per failure.

Comment: Re:Raptor? (Score 1) 106

by jd (#47740703) Attached to: Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

They often do. Before, they always did. Absolutely standard practice.

It would be better if the government wouldn't buy anything, even from vendors of vendors, without full accounting. If you can game the system with shells, you might as well not have a system.

Having said that, there's a lot of creative billing because of the specifics of how the paperwork is done, and there's a lot of creative bidding where costs are deliberately deflated or ignored (all for the very best of reasons, I'm sure) with the upshot that the actual cheapest bid isn't necessarily the one that's cheapest on paper, and where actual costs can be 2-3 times the provisional guesstimates.

And, no, contractors actually don't charge a lot. People get out of government work and into purely private enterprise not because the jobs are better (they're usually far worse) but because the pay can be double. That's why government contractors get such a bad image. That's not where the talent pool is. The "get up and go" got up and went. The brain drain is not pretty.

If government wanted people with skills doing the skilled jobs required, they need to outbid the Googles of the world. They need talent with the calibre to get the job done right. The first time. Talent that doesn't have fighter pilots blanking out from lack of oxygen because they actually bothered to design things that work. Talent that doesn't have glass-cockpit aircraft carriers dead in the water because of a division by zero error in a Windows application.

The starting price needs to be higher. Much, much higher. Not only to be realistic, but to be realistic with the people needed to MAKE it realistic.

Comment: Re:Fuck Lockheed (Score 1) 106

by jd (#47740675) Attached to: Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

Nobody is going to increase their expenses voluntarily. Especially on something like a rocket, where local disasters are very public and very expensive. And doubly not in a situation where increasing the cost of the contract would be a political nightmare likely solved by the contract moving to someone else buying from Russia.

When money talks, nobody asks questions.

Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry up is not nailed down. -- Collis P. Huntingdon, railroad tycoon