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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: It's about time (Score 1) 86

by Powercntrl (#49279131) Attached to: Nintendo Finally Working On Games for Smartphones

For the current generation of very young kids, their first taste of video gaming is Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Candy Crush, Temple Run and the like, played on their parents' mobile devices. They're not going to ask for a Nintendo when they're older; they'll ask for an iOS or Android device. The days of selling "kiddie" handhelds with QVGA screens and $40 games are numbered. I'm just glad Nintendo has finally decided to start rolling with the tide, rather than face being washed under, like Polaroid.

United States

How To Execute People In the 21st Century 1081

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept. writes Matt Ford writes in The Atlantic that thanks to a European Union embargo on the export of key drugs, and the refusal of major pharmaceutical companies to sell them the nation's predominant method of execution is increasingly hard to perform. With lethal injection's future uncertain, some states are turning to previously discarded methods. The Utah legislature just approved a bill to reintroduce firing squads for executions, Alabama's House of Representatives voted to authorize the electric chair if new drugs couldn't be found, and after last years botched injection, Oklahoma legislators are mulling the gas chamber.

The driving force behind the creation and abandonment of execution methods is the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life. Arizona, for example, abandoned hangings after a noose accidentally decapitated a condemned woman in 1930. Execution is also prone to problems as witnesses routinely report that, when the switch is thrown, the condemned prisoner "cringes," "leaps," and "fights the straps with amazing strength." The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands. The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted. The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and "rest on [his] cheeks." The physical effects of the deadly hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber are coma, seizures and cardiac arrest but the time lag has previously proved a problem. According to Ford one reason lethal injection enjoyed such tremendous popularity was that it strongly resembled a medical procedure, thereby projecting our preconceived notions about modern medicine—its competence, its efficacy, and its reliability—onto the capital-punishment system. "As states revert to earlier methods of execution—techniques once abandoned as backward and flawed—they run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen in the same terms."

Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the canceling-my-retirement-vacation dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from io9: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy. Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. 2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. 3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. "It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."

Comment: Re:This ex-Swatch guy doesn't have a clue (Score 5, Interesting) 389

And back in 2007 you'd be telling us the iPhone would present no threat to BlackBerry. And before that you'd have told us that the iPod would pose no threat to other mp3 players. The sheer amount of fault predictions that Slashdot nerds have made about Apple are hilarious.

You're revising history as much as Apple revises their products. A $599 phone (with no subsidy discount), locked to one carrier, that can't run 3rd party applications, doesn't support MMS, has poor call quality and no 3G support was no threat to Blackberry. A $399, Mac-only, MP3 player that lacks USB was no threat to other MP3 players.

The iPod didn't become a genuine threat to competitors (and a runaway success) until hell froze over and Windows support was added. The iPhone didn't become a threat to competitors until Apple allowed AT&T to subsidize it. By the time the products had overcome their respective major roadblocks to widespread adoption, the current versions resembled their initial predecessors in name and physical appearance, but most of the missing capabilities the nerd peanut gallery derided them for, had been addressed.

If anything, this is a cautionary tale that while the Apple Watch may eventually be yet another blazing success story for Apple, the model that goes on sale on April 24th will be nothing like the updated version that catapults it to mainstream popularity. Of course, it could also flop. As they said on Mythbusters, "failure is always an option." Either way, it will be an amusing show, and I'm sure plenty of people will have their own revisionist history to write when it succeeds or fails.

Comment: Re:BBC article (Score 1) 87

iGadgets are prevalent, and soon shall be the most common means to access web sites. Get used to it or get used to be ridiculed for being an clueless old fart too stupid to figure out how to use a "view standard version" link or to realize that most sites automatically redirect to the standard version when a desktop browser is detected, as the parent's link did.

Many mobile sites don't offer the option to switch to "desktop view". Of those that do, it's fairly common to get thrown right back to the "mobile" view, after clicking on another link. The transition can also fail in any number of frustrating ways. I've seen sites that automatically re-direct back to the "mobile" view, or take you to the main homepage of the site, rather than shown the "desktop version" of the article you desired. Lately, user agent spoofing doesn't seem to be as effective; it seems sites are using some other browser metadata to determine if the user is a mobile device.

The irony is that a sub-$100 Windows 8.1 tablet with a 1280x800 resolution has no trouble viewing the real web, but a modern flagship smartphone with a Quad HD 2560x1440 display (hell, that's better than my laptop), gets stuck browsing the mobile web. I can only conclude that some web developers must simply hate smartphone users.


Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.

Comment: Re: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (Score 1) 237

by Powercntrl (#49103195) Attached to: Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan

Oh, oops. Looks like they now have a family plan that includes 2 lines and unlimited LTE data for $100/mo now. That's $20/mo less than I've been paying, so I just switched to it.

Damn. Sorry about that, Cricket looked like it may have been a viable option for some people, but... well. Just... sorry. And thanks for prompting me to look into that; it's new since I looked last week.

T-Mobile has actually been running the two unlimited lines for $100 promotion, for a few months now. It's a good deal if it suits your needs and depending on what your state's wireless taxes cost, since taxes and fees are extra. T-Mobile should tell their customers when switching to a newly-released promotional plan would save them a few bucks, but that'd be akin to AT&T lowering your monthly rate if you didn't use your upgrade eligibility. In both cases, the carriers are just hoping a customer's ignorance will continue to fill the coffers.

Again, if you need truly unlimited, Cricket isn't an option. That's still no reason for people who use more modest amounts of data to pay extra for a higher data tier or unlimited plan that they don't actually need. Heck, a big part of the popularity of Ting (a Sprint MVNO run by Tucows) is that it can be extremely inexpensive for very light users.

Comment: Re: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (Score 1) 237

by Powercntrl (#49103047) Attached to: Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan

Now that both phones are paid for, the bill is an additional $50/mo lower; mind you, we paid $650 apiece for the phones, but there were cheaper options if we wanted them; that's not relevant here, though, since you have to buy your phone on Cricket, as well.

I think you're getting the current Cricket, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, confused with the old Cricket (a regional CDMA carrier). They allow you to use any AT&T locked or unlocked GSM phone. The coverage is the same as AT&T's native (non-roaming) network. I use a iPhone 5S originally from Verizon, on Cricket; I certainly didn't have to buy one of their phones.

According to their rates chart, they don't offer unlimited.

T-Mobile and Sprint are the only games in town if you really need truly unlimited data. Once that becomes part of your selection criteria, you know what your options are.

I say nearly because Cricket will cut you off after 5GB, while T-Mobile will throttle, and Cricket no longer offers tethering, so really. No. they're just not a viable option.

Cricket throttles at 128Kbps, the same throttle speed as T-Mobile and Sprint. It's just as unusable on all carriers. You are correct, however, that Cricket does not offer any form of wireless hotspot/tethering add-on. They also don't do anything to stop you from tethering if your phone natively supports it, or if you've enabled it by way of rooting/jailbreaking.

More-or-less, MetroPCS (which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of T-Mobile) offers exactly what you're getting now on the same network, for $120/mo. That's two lines at the base price of $60/mo each, a $5 family plan discount on each line for having two lines, then a $5 fee on each line for adding mobile hotspot functionality to both lines.

What you'd lose is the ability to roam in the few places T-Mobile still has roaming agreements (looking at their map, I can't imagine where) and the ability to finance your next handsets. Is that worth $30/mo?

Comment: Re: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (Score 1) 237

by Powercntrl (#49102689) Attached to: Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan

It goes beyond that, even. With a traditional cell phone contract, your bill doesn't change once you pay off the phone, because you never actually pay off the phone, because you aren't financing it; instead, the plan price is increased to subsidize the phone price, so you actually keep paying for the phone, even after it's been paid for several times over. With the finance agreement, once you pay off the phone, you stop paying for the phone.

The crux of the issue is, T-Mobile used to offer both options. You could choose a traditional 2 year contract and subsidized handset, which was priced competitively against offerings from the other "big 3" carriers. It actually worked out to your advantage if you wanted a shiny new flagship handset every two years.

They also offered a less expensive month-to-month option, with no handset subsidies. This existed before T-Mobile started calling themselves an "un-carrier" and removed the contract plans.

As I pointed out in my original post (now modded into oblivion, likely by T-Mobile shills), if you already own your phone outright, there are cheaper places to bring it to. As an example, I pay $35/mo with absolutely no bullshit fees or taxes, for unlimited talk, unlimited text and 2.5GB of high-speed data (with the typical unusably slow throttled "unlimited data", thereafter). On T-Mobile, their nearest comparable plan (3GB) would cost $60/mo and they'd tack on all the fees and taxes, too.

Let's ignore the taxes and assume a flat $25/mo price difference. With the money I'm saving by being on Cricket instead of T-Mobile, in 2 years, I've saved a total of $600. Using the iPhone as an example ($650 full retail price), the typical contract subsidy is $450. There's more than enough profit in T-Mobile's pricing to give you a handset upgrade every two years and still keep $150 more profit than Cricket. T-Mobile just uses clever marketing to trick you into thinking you're already getting the best deal possible!

You're an un-customer to the un-carrier.

Comment: Re: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (Score 2) 237

by Powercntrl (#49101863) Attached to: Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan

No it's not the same as the traditional cell phone contract. With the traditional cell phone contract, whether I buy an $800 iPhone or a $100 cheap Android phone, I would still owe the same termination fee. With t-mobile, I pay the cost of the phone and I'm done.

Then you fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Here's T-Mobile's old terms:

$200 if termination occurs with more than 180 days remaining on your term; $100 if termination occurs with 91 to 180 days remaining on your term; $50 if termination occurs with 31 to 90 days remaining on your term; and the lesser of $50 or your monthly recurring charges (including any applicable taxes and fees) if termination occurs in the last 30 days of your term.

Unless you were signing a contract for a dumbphone or an entry-level low-end smartphone, you generally came out financially ahead over paying full retail price for a flagship handset, even if you left the carrier immediately after signing up.

What if you actually wanted a cheap phone? Well, here's the kicker - T-Mobile always allowed you to establish month-to-month service if you brought your own phone (or purchased one outright). All they've done as the "un-carrier", is put a positive marketing spin on eliminating discounted handsets. In other words, providing less consumer choice.

Comment: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (Score 0) 237

by Powercntrl (#49101063) Attached to: Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan

Congratulations, you fell for T-Mobile's newspeak. Their "un-carrier" initiative basically meant taking everything people hate about wireless service, making it slightly worse and giving it a new name. They don't do contracts with those evil pro-rated early termination fees, no sir-ree! Now it's a finance agreement, which is totally not the same thing as a contract! Of course, they did get a slap on the wrist for being a bit misleading in that regard. However, they're still getting away with advertising "unlimited data" on all of their plans, when it's abundantly clear that the throttled data speed is completely unusable, once you've used up your high speed allotment.

Here's a few suggestions:

Check your data usage settings on your iPhone. Don't allow app updates over cellular data. Apps can also individually have their background data turned off. If you use Facebook, set it to not auto-load videos over cellular data.

Complain to the FTC. They recently went after Straight Talk for offering "unlimited" plans that aren't, and T-Mobile's throttle speed is so slow, it's essentially no different than being cut off completely.

Consider switching to Cricket (now owned by AT&T). You can get a 5GB plan for what you're paying T-Mobile and it runs on AT&T's far superior network.

Lastly, do the math and see if it's just worth the extra few bucks a month to upgrade to the real unlimited plan. If your time is valuable, it might simply make more sense to cough up the dough, rather than hunting open WiFi hotspots and carefully monitoring your cellular data usage every month.


Mars One: Final 100 Candidates Selected 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-step-closer-to-the-end dept.
hypnosec writes "The Mars One project has picked the final 100 candidates for the next round of the selection process. Initially, 202,586 people applied and ultimately around 40 will undertake a one-way trip to Mars. “The large cut in candidates is an important step towards finding out who has the right stuff to go to Mars,” said Bas Lansdorp, Co-founder & CEO of Mars One. “These aspiring martians provide the world with a glimpse into who the modern day explorers will be.”

Comment: Get a newer iPhone (Score 1) 223

by Powercntrl (#48982403) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Gaining Control of My Mobile Browser?

It sounds like you're describing what it's like to browse the Internet on the older iDevices which have 512MB of RAM. If you're dead-set on sticking to iOS, it's time to open your wallet up and make a generous donation to Apple. Or, as suggested by the rest of the peanut gallery, switch to Android.

Comment: It wasn't all about data (Score 1) 458

by Powercntrl (#48947391) Attached to: How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft

For me, opening cell companies to reasonably priced data (by jumping in at the right time and locking in with AT&T) is what Apple did to open the market.

At the time, Sprint actually offered unlimited EVDO data (they called it "Power Vision", back then) as a $10/mo add-on. They even had a 500 minute plan as part of their "SERO" offering for $30/mo which even included unlimited data. I had Sprint back then, and while EVDO speeds are a sad joke today, they absolutely smoked the EDGE speeds the iPhone got on AT&T's GSM network. Also, no one was using it back then to post pictures of their lunch and watch Justin Bieber videos, so the data speeds were relatively consistent. Sprint's phones, on the other hand, were fucking awful.

What Apple bought to the market was a smartphone that people actually enjoyed using. But, by popularizing smartphones among the masses, they've opened a Pandora's box of data usage that has truly made $10 unlimited, unthrottled data, a relic of the past.


Ask Slashdot: What Makes a Great Software Developer? 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the highlander-style-combat dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: What does it take to become a great — or even just a good — software developer? According to developer Michael O. Church's posting on Quora (later posted on LifeHacker), it's a long list: great developers are unafraid to learn on the job, manage their careers aggressively, know the politics of software development (which he refers to as 'CS666'), avoid long days when feasible, and can tell fads from technologies that actually endure... and those are just a few of his points. Over at Salsita Software's corporate blog, meanwhile, CEO and founder Matthew Gertner boils it all down to a single point: experienced programmers and developers know when to slow down. What do you think separates the great developers from the not-so-fantastic ones?

Live free or die.