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Comment: Re:Brand? (Score 1) 183

by hey! (#49633499) Attached to: 17-Year-Old Radio Astronomy Mystery Traced Back To Kitchen Microwave

I'd like to know which brand of microwave lasts 17 years?

Any brand, so long as it was made more than 25 years ago or so.

My kids like to watch vintage TV shows, and in one sitcom from the early 80s there was a plot line involving a TV remote -- this was back when remotes were still an expensive novelty. I paused and pointed out the thing in question. It was huge blocky moster of metal and wood, and looked like it had been forged by Durin in the deeps of Mount Gundabad. While virtually everything they use is incomparably more sophisticated than that thing, nothing approaches the build quality; physically it's all injection-molded crap that's been designed to be discarded after two or three years and replaced.

We can thank Bill Clinton and his China trade deals for amazingly cheap consumer goods that are designed to fail after a couple of years and be impossible to repair.

Comment: Re:Sort-of-worked. (Score 2) 49

by Bruce Perens (#49633129) Attached to: SpaceX Launch Abort Test Successful

What I am getting from the videos is that this test was a success but that there was indeed an engine failure and the system recovered from it successfully by throttling off the opposing engine. There was less Delta-V than expected, max altitude was lower than expected, downrange was lower than expected, and that tumble after trunk jettison and during drogue deploy looked like it would have been uncomfortable for crew.

This is the second time that SpaceX has had an engine failure and recovered from it. They get points for not killing the theoretical crew either time. There will be work to do. It's to be expected, this is rocket science.

It sounds to me like the launch engineers were rattled by the short downrange and the launch director had to rein them in.

Comment: Re:To think I once subscribed to this site (Score 1) 228

So actually bothering to read the government's account of what it has done makes you a "leftist" then? And then telling other people what you found is "harassment"?

It must be easy to whip up that old self-righteous anger when you're so -- let's say, "semantically flexible".

Comment: Re:Not my problem (Score 5, Interesting) 160

by hey! (#49631333) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

The issue isn't secrecy OR expansiveness, or even both. The problem comes when you add fast track to those two.

Fast track is intended to strengthen the US negotiator's hand in trade deals. Here's how it works. By granting the President "fast track", Congress agrees to vote on the treaty exactly as negotiated by the President within sixty days, only forty-five of which the bill is in the hands of the relevant committee.

Fast track developed in the Cold War era. The idea was for situations like this. Suppose we we are discreetly negotiating with the Kingdom of Wakanda for access to their vibranium reserves. But we're worried about the Soviets getting wind of this, so we keep everything on the DL and rush like hell to get the deal through Congress before they can stick their oar in and queer the deal.

And for a relatively simple quid-pro quo type deal negotiated on the side in a bi-lateral world where you're with the commies or not, this procedure makes sense. But not for a massive, complex, multi-lateral accord that will govern the economic relations between twelve nations, and which took ten years to draft. How the hell is Congress supposed to examine something like that in forty-five days?

Comment: Re:Yeah that will work (Score 4, Interesting) 98

by teg (#49630901) Attached to: Europe Vows To Get Rid of Geo-Blocking

I'm not at all a web "programmer", so excuse my ignorance. How exactly would you reliably keep "such a bit of state" without cookies? I only see that happening by essentially putting the cookie, i.e. the session id, as a GET parameter. I hope that's not what you're thinking about because that's even more horrible than using a cookie.

You could add a parameter to the URL, specifying no cookies.

Comment: Re:Laws that need to be made in secret (Score 2) 160

by hey! (#49630841) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

There's nothing wrong with drafting a treaty in secret, it's often necessary. But you can't make it so hard to examine the treaty and debate it during the ratification process.

That's because ratifying treaties puts more restrictions on Americans in the future than anything else Congress can do. Treaties pre-empt local law and pre-existing federal law. Congress can pass contradictory laws in the future but those would be considered unilateral abrogations under international law and undermine US demands that other countries live up to *their* treaty obligations.

So if there is something dodgy in a ratified treaty for practical purposes you're stuck with it. Anything which hinders the Senate's ability to examine and debate the treaty in detail undermines the Senate's constitutional role. It is not an exaggeration to call something like that a step toward tyranny.

Comment: People have been talking about this for years. (Score 4, Interesting) 396

by hey! (#49625637) Attached to: Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer

The Android fragmentation boogeyman.

What nobody's ever explained to my satisfaction is why I should give a flying f*ck. As far as I can see "fragmentation" is simply the result of users and developers not all being forced to upgrade to the latest and greatest when the platform vendor demands it. This is actually a *good* thing.

It means I can find a $40 Android tablet running KitKat, which is perfectly fine for things I want to use a $40 tablet for. I'm out of the developer business now, but I still dabble to keep up with developments, and far as I can see the Google tools do a really nice job of allowing developers to target a range of platforms and still look up to date on the latest and greatest. So I don't have to shut out people who bought a smartphone last year if I want to use Material Design (which is cartoony for my taste but does a nice job setting out consistent UI guidelines).

If this is fragmentation hell, all I can say is come on in, the the lava is fine. Sure it would be *nice* if the adoption rate for the latest and greatest was higher, but as a long time user and developer I have to say that not being pushed over the upgrade cliff on the platform vendor's orders is nice too.

Comment: Re:I cut my teeth on the ARPANET. (Score 1) 541

by hey! (#49624827) Attached to: Recruiters Use 'Digital Native' As Code For 'No Old Folks'

Go really retro and have token ring and round robin instead of ethernet....

No, that's for after I've sold them all ThickNet. Then I'll have them bying STP-A cable by the spool to run to the MAO. Maybe I'll package a whole concentrator rack inside a vintage Frigidaire unit so that anytime anyone wants a Pabst they'll see you're more retro than thou.

Comment: Quick summary of the papers involved here. (Score 5, Informative) 314

The summary conflates two papers, a review paper in Science which summarizes the state of knowledge about fracking the Marcellus Shale (Vidic et al. 2013), and a study of an individual incident published this month in PNAS in which researcher purport to have found a single instance of minor contamination from a fracking well (Llewellyn et al. 2015). Neither paper is particularly damning or inflammatory, so at first blush it's not immediately obvious why the fracking PR flacks have gone to DEFCON 3 on this. The key is to read the review paper first. This is almost always the best way to start because review papers are supposed to give a full and balanced overview of the current state of scientific knowledge on a topic. TL;DR, I know, but stick with me for a few paragraphs and I think I can make the problem clear.

Vidic paints a rather favorable picture of the fracking industry's response to problems that have arisen during the fracking boom in the Marcellus shale. It absolves them of any responsibility for the infamous "burning tapwater" we've all seen in Youtube videos. It states they have been quick to respond to wastewater leaks and well blowouts before contamination could spread. It says the industry has redesigned wells in response to concerns that they might leak fracking water as they pass through the aquifer. And it says that fracking water that returns to the surface ("flowback") is treated and re-used for more fracking -- an expensive environmental "best practice".

Vidic does raise some important concerns, however, and the most important is this. At present recycling flowback into more fracking water is practical because production is booming. But at some point production will level off and begin to decline, and when that happens the industry will be producing more flowback than it can use economically. In Texas, where fracking was pioneered, flowback was disposed of in deep wells -- a process not without its drawbacks, but better than leaving the contaminated water on the surface. Pennsylvania doesn't have enough disposal capacity to handle today's flowback, which helps make recycling fracking water attractive at the present time.

We now have enough context to understand Llewellyn, and why Llewellyn is so upsetting to the industry. Llewellyn's paper documents a single instance of minor contamination which matched the chemical fingerprint of flowback from a nearby well. This contamination was well below a level that would be cause for any concern. Llewellyn concludes the most likely cause was a small spill from the flowback holding pit, although it can't rule out the possibility that the contamination occurred inside the well. Taken with the picture Vidic paints of an industry that is generally on top of stuff like this, the occurrence of a single mishap with negligible consequences is hardly damning. So why has the fracking industry unleashed its flying PR monkeys on this?

Because the fracking industry apparently has made no plans for when the day comes it can no longer recycle all the flowback it uses, and it doesn't want the public to think about that.

It would be sensible for them to prepare for the flowback problem now on the upswing of the boom, for the same reason the industry has been able to be so responsive to date: these are good times for the industry in the Marcellus Shale. They're flush. Although preparing for the problem now would be expensive, it wouldn't slow the boom appreciably, and it would add jobs. But... if the industry can kick the flowback can far enough down the road, we'll have to ask it to fix the problem while production and probably the regional economy is in decline. Doing something about the problem then will cost jobs and require money nobody will have.

  So if the industry isn't forced to do something about the looming problem soon, it will become politically if not financially impossible to make them do that ever. That's why the industry is allergic to the very mention that surface contamination from flowback is even possible. In the scheme of things the Llwewllyn incident is negligible, but when fracking starts producing more waste than the industry can use surface contamination is going to become a lot more common and a lot worse.

Vidic raises some other serious long term concerns. Nobody knows where most of the fracking water used goes. The geology of the area is complex enough, but it is further complicated by many old gas and oil wells, quite a few of which are not fully documented. Contamination of the aquifer is a quite plausible possibility that needs further scientific study -- study that has been hindered by lack of research funding and industry transparency. More research might lay this concern to bed; or it may require changes in the industry's operation. We don't know. But we do know that some day we'll have a wastewater problem, and if we wait to address that it will be politically impossible to do anything about.

CITATIONS

Vidic, R. D., et al. "Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality." Science 340.6134 (2013): 1235009.

Garth T. Llewellyn, Frank Dorman, J. L. Westland, D. Yoxtheimer, Paul Grieve, Todd Sowers, E. Humston-Fulmer, and Susan L. Brantley. "Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development." PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print May 4, 2015,

Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it. -- Donald Knuth

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