Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Of course, this is natural. (Score 1) 164

There is an old riddle: "Which is heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of gold?" The answer you are supposed to give is that they are both the same weight because they are both a pound. But that is incorrect, because feathers (like most things) would be weighed in avoirdupois ounces and pounds, but gold is weighed in troy ounces and pounds. So an ounce of gold is heavier than an ounce of feathers (troy ounces are larger), but a pound of gold is lighter than a pound of feathers (there are only 12 troy ounces to a troy pound so the troy pound is lighter).

Metric is much simpler. A kilogram of feathers and a kilogram of gold have exactly the same weight (or for the pedants, the same mass).

Comment Re:Of course, this is natural. (Score 1) 164

Well, approximately. That was the original idea but of course it's not a practical standard, so for a while the official standard was the distance between two marks on an official standard bar. As our ability to measure the earth improved we discovered that the size of the standard meter was a bit off from the actual size of the Earth, but the existing standard was retained. Since then, it has been redefined in various light-based ways; first as a relationship to the wavelength to emissions lines from atoms, and currently as a relationship to the speed of light.

The inch, foot, mile, etc.? There have been no primary standards for those units since 1959. The current definition of a yard is that it is 0.9144 meters, and the other units are defined in relation to that. Before that the US and UK had their own standard yards, different from each other and from the current standard.

Comment Re:Avoid the Microsoft tax! (Score 1) 308

The IoT version of Windows 10 is free as in beer, though not as in speech. Adafruit isn't paying anything to Microsoft for the OS, so there is no Microsoft tax. There is some cross-promotion going on with Microsoft; Microsoft recently sent a mass email to Insiders touting it, and Adafruit was featuring it on the front page of their web site. (It is no longer there, probably because the kit is currently sold out; I expect to see it pushed again once they build more.) But I don't think any money is flowing from Adafruit to Redmond; if anything the cash is likely to be going the other way.

Adafruit is rarely the low cost provider of tech toys and this kit is no exception; you could save a little bit of money by buying your own Pi, downloading the software and flashing a Micro SD card, and gathering the rest of the parts from cheap offshore sources. (Not that much money really; there is quite a bit of stuff in the box.) But Adafruit provides a lot of support for makers by using their resources to write drivers and tutorials, thus adding value to the things they sell, and the kit has the convenience of one stop shopping.

Their position on Windows IoT is "this is a cool new tech thing that some people might be interested in, let's offer it", just as they do with everything else; they don't take sides in tech battles. Over in the Arduino world, they are a manufacturing partner with (building the Gemma, and the Uno for the US market), but they also sell products from (M0 Pro, Leonardo) and their own Arduino-compatible board (Metro 328).

Comment Re: How long will the company stay up? (Score 1) 494

The rate that Ford would have had to pay a private lender was abnormally high at the time. The double whammy of the struggles of the auto industry at the time and the concurrent financial industry crisis saw to that. Ford was a basically healthy company but would have had to borrow at junk bond rates if it could have found financing at all. Borrowing at that rate while their competitors were receiving government bailouts would have broken the company.

Comment Groupon isn't doomed (Score 1) 107

This retrenchment isn't a sign of defeat overall; mostly it's a withdrawal from some unsuccessful markets. Failure in a country could have been caused by a number of things: insufficient internet penetration and use, lack of understanding of the market, cultural resistance to couponing, or competition from a locally based alternative.

In the early days of Groupon there were some notable cases of businesses hurting themselves. The typical problem was a new business selling so many Groupons that they were unable to provide all the goods and services they promised, or were doomed to spending a couple of months selling everything at cost to fulfill them. That problem seems to have gone away now that people have a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of Groupon. Some Kickstart campaigns have doomed themselves in the same way, promising goods at prices that turned out to be lower than the cost of producing and shipping them, let alone development and labor costs.

Groupon will still struggle because they are in a business that has a low cost of entry and that does not have a strong network effect. They have a number of competitors (LivingSocial and Gilt City are a couple) as well as some that have already come and gone. Buying a coupon from Groupon has no particular advantage to customers over buying a similar coupon from a competitor, so there is not an incentive for brand loyalty.

But there is a demand for their type of service. It's a useful promotional tool to attract new customers, and for restaurants, salons, etc. to fill slack times in their schedule. (Groupons often have restrictions that prevent using them at the busiest times, and the requirement for reservations also serves as a filter to push Groupon users to less busy parts of the schedule.) I believe they will be one of the survivors.

Comment Re:I'm going to try to avoid getting nauseous (Score 1) 233

Uber, or at least the basic concept of Uber, is not crap. It is popular not only because it is less expensive, but also because it is an easier and safer way to get a ride.

Advantages for passengers: you know before you book a trip exactly how much it will cost. (It may change from day to day or even hour to hour because of surge pricing, but you never get in the car without knowing how much you will owe.) You don't have to verbally communicate over the phone or in the cab about where you are going. You don't have to carry cash or pull it out in the cab, making you less of a target for theft. There are no shortages of cabs caused by political boundaries (cabs that can't pick you up because of being licensed by the wrong town). There is no artificial scarcity of cabs imposed by government regulation (the medallion system).

Advantages for drivers: there is no risk of not getting paid. You don't have to verbally communicate with difficult to understand passengers. You don't have to carry or handle cash, making you less of a target for theft. There are no situations where you can't pick up rides because of political boundaries. There is no need to buy an absurdly expensive medallion, or lease one at a rate that makes it nearly impossible to make a living as a driver.

You may have noticed the similarities between the two lists. That's because most of the problems with the traditional taxi model hurt both the passenger and the driver. The medallion system, in particular, hurts both; the beneficiaries are the owners of the medallions, which until recently were government sanctioned licenses to print money.

There are some inherent problems with the Uber model. People who are technologically impaired (elderly, mentally challenged, disabled) or unbanked (homeless, undocumented, very poor) are left out of the system. It is impossible to travel anonymously, which could be a problem for refugees and the like. There are some remote areas where the model won't work because they lack the necessary communications infrastructure.

Comment What about the accident rate? (Score 1) 696

None of the links contain any analysis of the relationship between cycling miles and accidents; they don't even discuss the number of cyclists or the number of miles they ride. I certainly see more cyclists on the road than I did in the past, and unless something changes fundamentally more cyclists and miles = more accidents and deaths.

They DO mention that the fatality rate for child cyclists has dropped. But something did change there - kids started to wear helmets. Adult cyclists, on the other hand, have largely been wearing helmets since the end of the 80s, and I don't think the rate of helmet use has changed much since then. So we don't have an increase in protection to help prevent accidents.

Finally, these articles appear to lump all cycling injuries together. But a lot of adult cycling (and presumably injury) happens off the road because of the popularity of mountain biking. The statistics are meaningless unless road cycling is separated from off-road cycling.

Comment Re:Not many morals in the federation really (Score 1) 485

Daily life on the Enterprise itself is pretty much post-economic. All the basic necessities are provided to all crew members - food, housing, and so forth - and there isn't anything to buy on the ship. We don't see what the crew does when they go on leave; it could be that their leaves take them to other post-economic places, or they may receive money that they can use on those occasions. There is probably also a minor gift economy on the Enterprise - people exchanging handmade things and things they collect while on planetary missions - but we also don't see that. The Enterprise is an exploration ship rather than a trading ship, so it usually doesn't carry cargo for delivery to other places. (The Trouble With Tribbles is a notable exception; the Enterprise carries an emergency shipment of grain. The episode says nothing about whether they would receive any payment for it, or whether the shipment was a humanitarian mission.)

We do see evidence of economic activity outside the ship. Harry Mudd in Mudd's Women sells brides, and he later shows up selling love potions in an episode of the animated series. Cyrano Jones in The Trouble With Tribbles sells pets. Much later we got Deep Space Nine, which definitely has an economy.

It might be more accurate to view the Federation as a paternalistic military society rather than a communist one. Deployed soldiers and sailors (ones in wartime posts rather than peacetime bases) generally receive all their basic needs from the military; they may get salaries but they have few opportunities to spend them. (They can buy some personal luxuries at the PX, gamble their salaries with other soldiers, or spend the money on leave. Peacetime soldiers are another matter as they often live off-base.) The closest current-day parallel would be a submarine; like a starship it is self-contained, so while you are on board you have no daily interaction with anything outside the military.

Comment Re:Fans' Vote Was No Award (Score 1) 1044

There is an externality that may have increased the Hugo vote count. There was also a hotly contested race this year to choose the site for the 2017 Worldcon. (Helsinki defeated DC, Montreal, and Nippon.) To vote for that, you had to become at least a supporting member of Sasquan and then also pay an additional site selection voting fee, that additional fee also gets you a supporting membership for the winning Worldcon bid. There were probably some people who were mostly interested in voting for the Worldcon site, but having already paid to be a Sasquan member decided to also cast a Hugo ballot.

In contrast, last year's site selection vote was essentially unopposed. Kansas City had no serious competitor, in part because 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the first Worldcon in Kansas City, a very popular con that had Robert Heinlein as guest of honor. Thus site selection did not have as large a role in getting people to join the 2014 Worldcon, Loncon 3.

"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel