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Cellphones

Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be 262

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.

Comment: Needs functionality (Score 3) 381

by RR (#47439801) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?

As with the existing technological hassles in my life, I would use a smart watch only if it did something significantly new.

In the old days (1980s), my laptop would go weeks without a battery charge. Now, my laptop barely makes it through a day, if I'm not actually using it much during that day. But my new laptop is vastly more capable, with high-DPI IPS display and 802.11ac WiFi and the ability to run a C++ compiler many times in a single hour.

In the less old days, my phone would go a bit over a week without a battery charge. Now, my phone usually makes it through a day, but not if I'm using its GPS or its processor extensively; and it's much bigger. But my new phone has a camera that doesn't entirely suck and a lot of apps, some of them useful, and visual voicemail. Still, I wouldn't have bought it if it didn't have another compelling feature: Really cheap unlimited plans.

That's 2 devices that I have to plug in every day to keep using. A smart watch would be a third. So far, I haven't heard of any compelling features. The current crop has what? The ability to show notifications. Which my phone already does when I leave it on the table next to my mouse, and which I'm already consciously choosing to ignore when I want to maintain focus. And Samsung's watch has its trademark heart rate sensor, which works only if you're not exercising.

I can imagine some uses for a smart watch, in concept, if it could do stuff independently of the phone. A camera that you don't even have to dig out of your pocket (or purse, if you have a Samsung). A communications device that you can carry without pockets. A security/control device (if it doesn't come from Google, Apple, or Microsoft, and runs free software). The concept is interesting. It just needs good execution.

China

China Builds Artificial Islands In South China Sea 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the mine-now-I-take-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes about a Chinese building project designed to cement claims to a disputed region of the South China Sea. Sand, cement, wood, and steel are China's weapons of choice as it asserts its claim over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei have sparred for decades over ownership of the 100 islands and reefs, which measure less than 1,300 acres in total but stretch across an area about the size of Iraq. In recent months, vessels belonging to the People's Republic have been spotted ferrying construction materials to build new islands in the sea. Pasi Abdulpata, a Filipino fishing contractor who in October was plying the waters near Parola Island in the northern Spratlys, says he came across "this huge Chinese ship sucking sand and rocks from one end of the ocean and blasting it to the other using a tube."

Artificial islands could help China anchor its claim to waters that host some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The South China Sea may hold as much as 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. China has considered the Spratlys—which it calls Nansha—part of its territory since the 1940s and on occasion has used its military might to enforce its claim. In 1988 a Chinese naval attack at Johnson South Reef, in the northern portion of the archipelago, killed 64 Vietnamese border guards.

Comment: It could, but does it? (Score 2) 155

by RR (#47293031) Attached to: Computational Thinking: AP Computer Science Vs AP Statistics?

The main purpose of AP Statistics (and AP Calculus) seems to be to teach limited subsets of the functionality of the TI-89 calculator series. The programmability features of that calculator are never taught in American schools.

Not that AP Computer Science is much better. Its main purpose seems to be to teach the Serious Programming Language du Jour, currently Java. Any algorithmic learning has to happen in between the struggles with that language.

I'm not pleased with the College Board's position in American society.

Social Networks

LinkedIn Spam Lawsuit Can Continue 50

Posted by timothy
from the unrepentant-spammers dept.
Charliemopps (1157495) writes "A lawsuit filed in September 2013 in the Northern District of California alleged that LinkedIn misled its users about the number of times it would attempt to invite their contacts using their name. LinkedIn tried to get the suit dismissed but Thursday Judge Lucy Koh ruled the suit can continue."

Comment: Re:It's Time To Move On. (Score 5, Insightful) 218

by RR (#47187497) Attached to: Microsoft Fixing Windows 8 Flaws, But Leaving Them In Windows 7

Richard Stallman is full of crap if he is claiming that Windows is endemically, technically less secure. Anyone remember the Pwn2Own games? Anyone remember what OS fell first every time? Thats right, fully patched OSX (think that changed ~2012). This could turn into a debate lasting days, but suffice it to say that from a technical level Windows is pretty secure.

You totally misunderstand Stallman's point. Stallman is not arguing that open source leads to better quality software. That would be Eric Raymond. Stallman is arguing that you can't trust Microsoft. More of an Auguste Kirchhoffs interpretation. And I don't see what OSX has to do with free software.

Stallman objects to closed source philosophically, and Windows especially. In addition to being proprietary, Stallman is arguing that Windows has features to report your use of Microsoft software and potentially lock you out (Windows Activation), to add or delete software without warning (Windows Update), to track you across any device around the world (Microsoft Account), and to keep you from using the computer in inappropriate ways (Protected Media Path, Driver Signing, Secure Boot). I don't see how he's wrong.

Somebody in the Chinese government seems to have noticed, and is now trying to get Windows banned there.

My hope is that all who take this like will grow up and abandon their zealotry before they enter the workforce.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." - George Bernard Shaw

Comment: Re:Don't Worry, We Spent All the Energy Already (Score 2) 339

by RR (#47123491) Attached to: The Energy Saved By Ditching DVDs Could Power 200,000 Homes

I know this is a joke, but seriously I think our houses are much more efficient that it used to be. I have no idea how much an old tube TV cost to run, but the new 40" tvs are rated at about $10 a year. ... So really as we move to solid state we are going to increasingly see significant reduction in electricity usage, of course offset by more technology.

Yes, that was Jon's point, and it has been observed by economists as the Jevons paradox. As we get greater efficiency, we use more. An old TV was terribly inefficient, but you generally had only the one, and it wasn't running all day. Now, a typical house has a TV in every inhabited room.

The real fun will begin if electric cars and distributed renewable energy become popular. Then household electricity consumption trends could become extremely nonlinear for a while.

Comment: Re:wrong direction. (Score 1) 132

by RR (#47121891) Attached to: OpenSSL To Undergo Security Audit, Gets Cash For 2 Developers

Seems to me LibreSSL is the way to go, but I can also see why the corporations would just use it as a side-stream for hints on what to fix. They have enough resources to rewrite openSSL from the inside rather than the the LibreSSL tear-down approach.

I don't think companies really "have enough resources" to rewrite OpenSSL. The problem is that you can't just throw money at a project and have stuff happen. You need people to implement those changes. And we're still in the clutches of the software crisis.

The problem with OpenSSL is that it is really, really bad code. It's security code, which few people have the expertise to handle. It has an idiosyncratic style, which few people want to look at, it's so painful. And it is so littered with backwards compatibility hacks and defective functions that very few people can know whether it's doing something right. Even the OpenSSL people don't know what it's doing, given all the comments about OpenSSL functions that they're not using properly.

So, best of luck to the CII, trying to "improve" OpenSSL without getting rid of all its weirdness. I think the OpenBSD people are right, and they should just tear down everything and rebuild it.

Media

Virtual DVDs, Revisited 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-waiting-on-virtual-laserdiscs dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: "In March I asked why Netflix doesn't offer their rental DVD service in 'virtual DVD' form -- where you can 'check out' a fixed number of 'virtual DVDs' per month, just as you would with their physical DVDs by mail, but by accessing the 'virtual DVDs' in streaming format so that you could watch them on a phone or a tablet or a laptop without a DVD drive. My argument was that this is an interesting, non-trivial question, because it seems Netflix and (by proxy) the studios are leaving cash on the table by not offering this as an option to DVD-challenged users. I thought some commenters' responses raised questions that were worth delving into further." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

Comment: Re:It isn't designed as an uncensorable platform (Score 2) 91

by RR (#47093879) Attached to: Twitter Capitulates To Governments, Censors Users

We have that; it's called XMPP. ... open standards ...

XMPP is almost as centralized as Twitter. You still communicate through a server that can be shut down. The only difference is that, if you lose access to one server, you can switch to another server, or start your own if you have enough money. (The other difference is that XMPP is not a broadcast medium.)

A proper uncensorable platform would be peer-to-peer. That's where IPv4's lack of true end-to-end connectivity has irritated me for years. There are attempts to work around this problem using, for example, BitTorrent's distributed hash table protocol or Bitcoin's blockchain or both or Onion routing. The problem is that there is no money in a truly peer-to-peer communications system, so development has always been slower than centralized systems.

Comment: Campaign Finance Reform (Score 1) 58

by RR (#47068935) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Jennifer Granick What You Will

It seems that no matter which party we vote for, we get either corporate-funded stooges or patronizing paternalists, like Dianne Feinstein of California. The media are complicit in this miscarriage of justice with their anointed "serious" candidates and "wasted" votes, for various reasons probably including the high amounts of money that they receive during campaigns.

So, what do you think about Larry Lessig and his change of focus from free culture to Congressional corruption?

Star Wars Prequels

Ask Slashdot: Can Star Wars Episode VII Be Saved? 403

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-find-your-lack-of-faith-quite-understandable-actually dept.
An anonymous reader writes "10 years ago today, in the wake of two disappointing Star Wars prequels, we discussed whether Episode III could salvage itself or the series. Now, as production is underway on Episode VII under the care of Disney, I was wondering the same thing: can it return Star Wars to its former glory? On one hand, many critics of the prequels have gotten what they wanted — George Lucas has a reduced role in the production of Episode VII. Critically, he didn't write the screenplay, which goes a long way toward avoiding the incredibly awkward dialogue of the prequels. On the other hand, they're actively breaking with the expanded universe canon, and the series is now under the stewardship of J.J. Abrams. His treatment of the Star Trek reboot garnered lots of praise and lots of criticism — but his directorial style is arguably more suited to Star Wars anyway. What do you think? What can they do with Episode VII to put the series back on track?"

Comment: Re:Fully autonomous cars won't be ubiquitos (Score 3, Insightful) 301

There will ALWAYS be situations where any sort of auto-pilot will NOT be able to handle it, and that is why aircraft still have manual controls with fully qualified and experienced pilots sitting there overseeing the autopilot's operation and taking control where necessary or desired.

There's a major difference: In an aircraft, you're always minutes away from falling out of the sky in fiery doom. A car has the option of pulling over and stopping. Also, I've been watching Mayday, and all of the autopilot accidents have been a result of poor user interface design. If an autopilot has difficulty, then a human pilot will have difficulty. On the other hand, the Miracle on the Hudson was facilitated by good use of the autopilot, to make corrections that a human would not be able to handle, in total contrast to that hijacking off Africa.

For precisely the same reasons all motor vehicle operators should continue to be trained, tested for competency, licensed, and should strive to be experienced as drivers. ... I suspect you, personally, find driving a car to be a chore that you hate, and would rather just let the deus ex machina take the wheel from you instead, and damn the consequences.

Certainly, the operator of the car should be experienced and properly licensed. Again, as a bicyclist, I think more people should be using human power to move themselves, and not going around in multi-ton metal death boxes like it's a human right. I drive a manual transmission, so I already appreciate how people are deferring to the car's engineering, especially in boring situations.

Far from being a deus ex machina, an autonomous car is an engineered product. In principle, you can examine its code and analyze how it works. Once it works, it will work the same way every time, unless there are software updates or faults in the sensors. In contrast, your God-given brain is messy and unpredictable. The longer you go without an accident, the more complacent you become. The more safety features you have, the more careless you become. And as long as you go without accidents, the DMV does not bother testing your driving ability, but just renews your license sight-unseen. The current situation is demonstrably not safe.

The big question is whether having the car drive itself would make the humans' skills atrophy. My guess is that it would improve safety, having the humans drive only in tricky situations where they know they have to be careful. And the rest of the time, the computer would be driving with all of the safety techniques that it knows, constantly alert.

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz

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