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Comment: FOADIAF (Score 4, Interesting) 233

by The Man (#39581535) Attached to: Plantronics Helps Make Remote Workers' Lives Easier (Video)

Well guys, I guess it's been, what, 15 years, give or take? I can't say I was the first or second slashdot reader, but I might have been the thousandth. A lot has changed in that time, and there are a lot of tech news aggregators with comments these days. Many have advertising-driven business models, a brave few try other models from time to time. But virtually all of them are far less offensive than this crap, in that they have ads at the top of the page which are obviously paid content separate from the editorial function of posting, well, tech news of one sort or another. Each of us has a certain threshold, be it qualitative or quantitative, beyond which we clearly recognise that something has become intolerable. Often it's difficult to articulate that threshold's location until it's been crossed, or at least to imagine each and every possible fashion in which it could be crossed. But here we are, way the fuck on the wrong side of that threshold, and you've lost another reader. I'm not sure how you plan to make up for the inevitable loss of other readers like me; maybe you're not even planning to or thinking that far ahead. Maybe you figure advertisers are so stupid that they'll gladly pay vastly higher sums for these sore thumbs that they think your apparently even more retarded readers won't know are ads. Maybe they're right. Maybe you're right. I hope not, but I'm certainly a lot wiser than I was 15 years ago, and I wouldn't be surprised by anything at this point. So, please, take it to its logical conclusion. More ads. Less pretense of editorial independence. I'd suggest you do what the bottom-feeding Chinese link vendors do and just fill your entire page with paid links, graphics, and videos. Maybe throw in some real American know-how like real-time auctions, and tie it into Facebook so that you already know everything you could ever want to about people who like to be products. After all, many of our country's best and brightest now spend most of their time and energy finding more ways to sell other people as advertising viewers. I'm sure you'll think of something, and I hope for irony's sake that you make a mint. But you'll be doing it without me. Given the choices you're making, I don't think you'll miss me, as I'm no longer part of your target audience.

Comment: Re:Apollo (Score 1) 318

by The Man (#38854335) Attached to: Lunar Base Foe Romney Endorsed By Lunar Base Supporters

Nobody laughed at Kennedy when he stated the US would put a man on the moon in ten years (and the US had not yet sent a human into orbit). He was met with applause.

It's sad that "big" ideas like a moon base are now ridiculed.

Considering that most people had probably resigned themselves to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, a ridiculously expensive, minimally valuable moon race probably sounded pretty damned good as an alternative way to beat the Russkies.

The moon isn't going anywhere. There's plenty of time for us to put things right at home before going back there, and in the meantime if there's really any great profit to be had there, private enterprise will be all too happy to go claim it. Times have changed; our biggest problems today are internal and of our own making, not some external enemies. A mad dash from nothing to a useless lunar base makes very little sense right now, even if it were technically feasible.

Put another way, if you feel so strongly about it, go finance your own expedition. In all seriousness, I'm looking forward to seeing stuff like this happen. Once someone has a foothold away from Earth, we'll have a new frontier to expand, on which existing governments will be largely powerless. It will be a wonderful new opportunity for those of us who are highly dissatisfied with the way this planet is being governed to set out and try something different. Most human generations have had that opportunity; only in the last century or so has the entire planet been claimed by effective governments. Forget the 1960s and think instead about what might make sense in the future.

Comment: Re:I did that once (Score 1) 948

by The Man (#38689756) Attached to: Do Companies Punish Workers Who Take Vacations?

If they "really, really, really need you" then you should make them "really, really, really pay you" for work done instead of a long-scheduled, already paid-for wedding and vacation. A reasonable offer is something like "Look, I've gone out of my way to schedule this in advance and make sure you were aware I'd need to be away. And I've already paid for everything and invited a lot of people. If you haven't found someone to cover for me, I can cancel, but if it's that important you will need to make me whole, too. I think it would be fair to add two more weeks to my vacation time, cover my expenses and my guests' for canceling and rescheduling, append a rider to my employment contract to the effect that my next vacation, once scheduled, is guaranteed for the agreed dates, and increase my salary by 10%. Considering how important my work must be to the company, that seems like the least you could do. And please, so that neither of us has to go through this again, make sure that there are people on staff who can cover for one another and let me know how I can help make that happen."

Then you'll find out just how important your work really is.

Comment: Re:Mankind's mere existence (Score 1) 347

by The Man (#38648214) Attached to: Carbon Emissions 'Will Defer Ice Age'

Of course we're going to have an impact on our environment. The difference between us and the first cyanobacteria (that caused massive climatic upheaval when the oxygen levels on earth reached a tipping point where other first generation single celled entities died off en masse) is that we have the ability to reason, if we use it, and chose options that will not be as destructive to the ecosystem that we are a part of, and upon which we rely for our lives.

What we have in common with the cyanobacteria, however, is that we don't understand the consequences of the various choices we could make. The ability to reason should not be confused with sufficiently good understanding to predict those consequences. The best we can say is probably that if we "do less", in the sense of creating less delta relative to the world as it would be without us, conditions will probably be more like they've been in the past. Unfortunately, that's an exceedingly weak and almost useless statement, as "the past" includes an extremely wide range of conditions including many that would make our current existence completely impossible.

The questions before us in this area are whether we should attempt to "do less" in an attempt to avoid irreversibly bad outcomes (certainly no guarantee of a happy outcome anyway), and, if not, whether we should apply our profoundly imperfect understanding of our impact in one way or another to attempt to control our environment in unprecedented ways. The only thing I'm sure of is that anyone who pretends to have the "correct" answers to these questions is either intellectually dishonest or a self-serving piece of shit. The rest of this "debate" is a waste of time, money, and electrons. Give it up already. Everything goes to hell a billion years from now anyway.

Comment: Re:Nobody does that because everyone does that (Score 1) 532

by The Man (#38387496) Attached to: Nokia Exec: Young People Fed Up With iPhone and Android

It looks like the niche player, whatever it ends up being, will be built around WebOS. It has open source cachet

That only matters to geeks, and besides, plenty of people who deride Microsoft for being proprietary have been happy to use iOS.

Please don't truncate my sentences when you quote them. If you had preserved the whole thing, it would be obvious that I offered three positives about webOS, only one of which is that it is open source. And we are talking about niche products here, so having a couple of attributes each of which is interesting to a tiny slice of the possible customer universe is EXACTLY what matters. I never claimed that webOS would take over the mobile device world because it's open source. Perhaps I need to spell it out for you since you're probably accustomed to reading wild, unsubstantiated claims in unintelligible rants written by 14-year-olds: WebOS has a few attributes that may help it occupy one or two small niches in the mobile device space that iOS and Android cannot or will not fill effectively. That gives it a very limited future that may nevertheless constitute commercial viability for a few small players. ... Based on that landscape, I do not see Windows Phone being successful for Microsoft or its partners, including Nokia, since they need WinPho to be a major competitor and it does not even seem that it would be viable as a niche offering.

Does that help any or do I need to use shorter words?

Comment: Re:Larry Awesome. (Score 1) 359

by The Man (#38384606) Attached to: Oracle Sued For 'Extortion, Lies' By Montclair State University

Ellison will rock up to court, invite the judge and jury to party hard on one of his many yachts and justice will be served.

He is just that awesome.

Surely you jest. The jurors?! Those are commoners; they have no place anywhere near His Larryness. And they're unnecessary. Larry already plays golf with the judge every month, so he's already won the case. He'll make sure to pick up the tab in the clubhouse next time, but he's probably already doing that anyway. Don't you know anything about how Oracle operates?

Comment: Re:It's not lying (Score 1) 359

by The Man (#38384518) Attached to: Oracle Sued For 'Extortion, Lies' By Montclair State University

Right. Just like how the universities tell everyone how much better their lives will be, if we all just go $60,000 in debt and sign up for classes.

I find it ironic that the institutions that aggressively market themselves, seem to be highly susceptible to the marketing of like institutions.

That said, if Oracle did indeed promise, under contract, to complete project X for Y amount of money, and it's not complete, then good for Montclair. Get the funds back, or make Oracle finish the job. Otherwise, it'll be the students or the taxpayers paying for it, at some point, after the risk transfer process trickles down.

No university offers a fixed-price guarantee of a better life. The cost of courses is almost never fixed, nor is the cost of books, lab fees, supplies, etc. that are specific to your course of study. And of course nothing about the results is guaranteed at all; you may or may not get a degree, depending on whether you choose to pursue one and how well you demonstrate mastery, and of course a degree is no guarantee of a better life in any tangible way. The university is offering to teach you something and provide a structure and environment in which you're more likely to learn it well. That's all. Your attempt to draw similarities here and tar both parties with the same brush is laughably weak. If you had a contract from a university that said for $60k we guarantee you will have a job that pays at least $X for at least Y% of your life between now and age 65, you would have a case. No one is that stupid.

Here, however, there was a contract in place that specified the requirements and expected results and the fixed price the university was willing to pay Oracle. Oracle signed the contract, then, apparently, failed to deliver on those specific performance expectations laid out in the contract. No one can say whether they'll win it, but they do have a case. Marketing and sales is what is *said*, a contract is what is *put in writing and signed*. It's not at all unusual for the two to be very different, and in general a company can't be held liable for the claims it makes in marketing materials and sales pitches unless they meet strict criteria for deceptiveness. The UK seems to have the broadest powers to police deceptive claims; it's rare in the US. But a contract, well, that's a different story. And it's the story here.

It's not at all surprising that Oracle overpromised, underdelivered, and then failed to disclose that more money would have to be spent to achieve the customer's goals. While many vendors engage in the occasional unscrupulous practice, Oracle is at the very bottom of the heap when it comes to sleaze. The company has repeatedly shown that it cares nothing for its customers, employees, or shareholders (except for Larry), and has complete disregard for the laws of the countries in which it operates. Its corporate culture is built entirely on backstabbing, deception, and ass-kissing. Montclair State's experience is far more typical than atypical when it comes to doing business with Oracle; a similar series of events involving the State of California received national publicity recently as well. But what is surprising here is that these cases are being litigated; Oracle's lawyers are numerous, effective, and almost completely in control of everything the company does. As an Oracle employee, you can't take a dump in the men's room shitter without getting approval from Legal and Rev Rec. It will be interesting to see how this plays out; Oracle will almost certainly come up with something they put in the contract that gives them an escape. It won't be something technical, because the people in charge over there don't know anything about technology, so it'll probably be some kind of loophole or exception clause. So while I have no doubt that the university was wronged, I expect that their lawyers will have been outlawyered by Oracle's legal army. It seems to be the way these cases go; that is after all Oracle's entire business model. The company could not exist on the merits of its products, the ability of its engineers, or the integrity with which it treats its customers. Why anyone does business with them is beyond me.

Comment: Re:Nobody does that because everyone does that (Score 5, Insightful) 532

by The Man (#38371976) Attached to: Nokia Exec: Young People Fed Up With iPhone and Android

He's right though. It's a wise point of insight. iPhone and Android are ripe for played-out cultural saturation, just like Facebook.

Maybe if Nokia doesn't drop the ball, they can parlay this natural social rhythm into success, unlike SOME people (I'm looking at YOU BlackBerry). ...hate to imagine any Microsoft involvement though. I wish they and their shitty Windows Phone would just die.

And this for me really highlights how Microsoft especially but also its partners have really dropped the ball. If you can't be the saturation player (Apple), and you can't directly challenge the saturation player (Google and its partners), then you have to offer a compelling niche product. That approach can succeed, especially for smaller companies for whom even a niche product produces meaningful revenue. But there are two big problems here: First, neither Nokia nor Microsoft is a small company; Nokia needs to be a major challenger for its business model to work, and Microsoft is investing a lot of money in mobile and needs more than just one or two partners with niche products to generate a return. Second, the Windows brand has plenty of value, but is a handicap to anyone trying this approach in developing a new niche product. Windows is hardly the brand people associate with innovative, hip new products or being off the beaten path; many if not most people interact with it every day and for them it is background noise, the default, the standard, something that is so bland and ordinary as not to even occasion comment. Is that really the brand that Nokia, or Microsoft for that matter, thinks will excite people who are tired of iOS or Android, or people looking for a less-common status symbol?

If Microsoft were smarter they would have recognised this and invested the time and energy into coming up with an alternative brand for their mobile products, perhaps leveraging the successful Xbox brand. But in a sense that would also have been an acknowledgement up front that their approach was unlikely to pay off big; a new brand might generate a niche following, but only the Windows brand is likely to be able to take on Apple and Google... most likely by eating RIM's lunch in the corporate space. In other words, either Microsoft has badly misjudged the cachet of Windows among ordinary individuals or its intent all along was to sell Windows Mobile into places where corporate IT makes the decisions rather than end users. That strategy looked decent a few years ago, but we have really seen a lot of changes recently in how employers handle supporting their employees' personal mobile devices. Recognising that it's cheaper to support their existing iOS and Android devices than to issue their own fleet of business-only devices, and that most people prefer to have at most only one phone and one tablet anyway, almost no one is still handing out a single device and refusing to support anything else. In the absence of products that are compelling on their own, RIM is finding that the decay of the corporate mobile device mandate is very bad for business. Microsoft, and therefore their partners as well, seem to be in the same spot.

It looks like the niche player, whatever it ends up being, will be built around WebOS. It has open source cachet, underdog cachet ("back from the dead"), and it's not a terrible technology. With two dominant players duking it out for the mass market and a potential family of niche alternatives brewing, where does this leave Microsoft? With a lacklustre brand, tiny market share, an apparently outdated strategy, and no compelling products on the market, it's hard to imagine Windows Mobile going anywhere. Too late to market to be where Android is today, and too stodgy a brand to be what Nokia wishes it were (not that a niche business is what Microsoft wants anyway), Windows Mobile looks like a dead end. If anyone knows the value of getting in early, it should be Microsoft; the entire company exists today solely because of its first mover advantage all those years ago. Nokia was happy to get a backer, but it appears to have picked the wrong one. They could be doomed as well.

Comment: Re:Solar for the Win! (Score 1) 216

by The Man (#38261122) Attached to: For 1 kWh of electricity, I pay ...

But the $31,000 you spent 9 years ago was worth a lot more than $31,000 is today. Realistically, about twice as much. And of course utility rates have changed over time as well. So the amount you're saving each month needs to be recalculated and adjusted. Did your calculations take this into consideration? Then, of course, there's the fact that you externalised much of that initial cost by voting to have other people who do not benefit from it pay instead of you. The outcome is bound to look really good when you're investing someone else's money and keeping the returns for yourself.

NASA

Using Toads to Predict Earthquakes 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-does-the-toad-think? dept.
ClockEndGooner writes "The BBC is reporting that a team led by Dr. Friedemann Freund from NASA and Dr. Rachel Grant from the UK's Open University have found that 'animals may sense chemical changes in groundwater that occur when an earthquake is about to strike.' Just prior to the quake that struck L'Aquila, Italy in 2009, Grant observed a mass toad exodus from a colony she was monitoring as part of her PhD project, and her published results prompted NASA to contact her as they found that highly stressed tectonic plates released a greater amount of positively charged ions that affected the water quality, which was sensed by the toads. According to NASA's Freund, 'Once we understand how all of these signals are connected, if we see four of five signals all pointing in [the same] direction, we can say, "ok, something is about to happen."'"

Comment: Farewell Dossier redux (Score 1) 46

by The Man (#37908396) Attached to: Spear Phishing Campaign Hits Dozens of Chemical, Defense Firms

It's time to recognise that the West is in another Cold War with China. The steps taken to keep industrial information out of Soviet hands crimped trade and imposed costly burdens on US business, but they were at least somewhat effective. Let's try to do better, but for fuck's sake let's do something! How about starting by dropping all packets from China at the border? If nothing else it ought to get their attention.

Comment: With data (Score 1) 666

by The Man (#37888780) Attached to: How Can I Justify Using Red Hat When CentOS Exists?

You should collect data from your own organisation or others within your company that have used either Red Hat or CentOS in the past few years. You are looking for statistics like downtime (and impact/cost), number of cases opened and how they were resolved, and general information -- facts -- about their respective experiences. If your company has no experience with either, try to gather this kind of data from your professional network if you can. Then evaluate the data and produce slides showing both the raw data and its applicability (of lack thereof) to this particular project. Be sure to make the connection clear by showing how the risks and costs apply to this specific situation. You should also be able to clearly show the total costs in each year of each solution along with your projections -- again, based on applicable HARD DATA -- for how well each solution will work for your project. In the process of doing all this, you should have an open mind yourself about the outcome; that is, you should not enter it intending to justify one solution over another but rather you should be looking to see what the data justifies and supports. While your gut instinct has value, it is not a compelling argument, especially if the data don't support it. If that's the case, look harder: what are you missing about the situation? What information can you gather that addresses the missing pieces? Or maybe you changed your own mind by doing rigorous research.

If your company's CIO is a good manager, then this kind of data, compiled correctly and presented well, will sway him. At minimum, it will provide a clear focal point for discussion: he can argue about your assumptions, point you to other people to talk with to adjust them, or direct you to find ways to lower the costs you present. All of these are victories for you, because they give you an opportunity to change the outcome. You may not get your RHEL licenses, but you may get another head, or help from another department, a meeting with Red Hat to negotiate lower pricing, or something else that you can come up with to mitigate the risks and costs you identify. Worst case, you've made a clear presentation of the options that will be remembered if things don't turn out well; again, a good manager will at that point be honest enough to acknowledge that he made the call, and will admit to you privately that you were right. At that point, you should be ready with a set of recommendations for fixing the problem going forward not just for other projects, but also to salvage this one. If it's 2 years on and the underlying business need will be changing or going away soon, does it make sense to switch to RHEL at that point? Is there another option you've been researching to mitigate the problems you're having? Be ready with recommendations that show you understand not only the technical situation but also the business impact and the full gamut of possible solutions. Show that you are focused on solving the problem; don't miss that opportunity by gloating or showing him that you don't have answers!

Bad managers are difficult to convince of anything, especially if they are biased for some reason other than a desire to see the business succeed. If you're stuck working for such a person, there may be little you can do. In that case, you have to ask yourself whether you want to try to get a larger audience, preferably including the CEO, when you make your presentation. That path is fraught with career risk, but if your data is very solid and you are a good communicator who understands the business, the project, and the people involved, it may be worth it. You don't have a lot of other options. Frankly, the best thing you can do is find another job. It's usually not worth waiting for these people to hang themselves because bad managers tend to be hired or promoted by other bad managers; his boss probably isn't going to hold him accountable either, and will let him make you the scapegoat if things do go south. The middle and upper management ranks of most larger companies are full of people like these and your best bet is to look elsewhere if that's the situation you're in.

Comment: Re:Monetize that.... (Score 5, Insightful) 338

by The Man (#37751634) Attached to: Facebook Is Building Shadow Profiles of Non-Users

What is unfortunate, Facebook might be willing to sell this data to 3rd parties without your consent... as your friends/coworkers/family have already consented to releasing the contact information for you. Even without Facebook selling it, it's only a data breach away from some the unscrupulous hands.

I don't know that there's anyone more unscrupulous than facebook. The mobsters and fraud rings out there really just want to use your identity to take money from banks. They're annoying but not really that dangerous to ordinary people (nor to the banks, who treat low-level activity as a cost of doing business). The law is also firmly entrenched against them, and they are occasionally caught and punished. Facebook and their ilk, however, sell humans as products to thousands of corporations around the world, and they do so with impunity. They are a direct and real threat to every individual person alive today and countless unborn yet to come. If you put a gun to my head and told me I had to give all my personal information to either Mark Zuckerberg or a Russian gangster, I'd give it to the gangster every time. Then I can go file a police report, close all my accounts, and start over with no loss but a few hours of my time. Eventually the gangsters will be caught and imprisoned or perhaps killed in a war with other gangsters. There's no such happy ending possible if facebook gets its hands on my data; even if I change my name, move to a different state, and start a new career, sooner or later facebook will get my new data too. There's apparently nothing I can do about it, and the law won't help me.

Bottom line: a "facebook data breach" would mean nothing to us, since everything in their database was already for sale; it would only harm facebook, who will have given away what they were previously selling.

Comment: Re:Block (Score 4, Interesting) 338

by The Man (#37751450) Attached to: Facebook Is Building Shadow Profiles of Non-Users

Who uses adblock/noscript yet doesn't block those pointless facebook and twitter buttons?
Even if you don't care about the privacy angle, it really cuts down on useless traffic.

Here's a new one you may not have got around to adding yet: apis.google.com/js/plusone.js

I don't really think adblockers are sufficient in light of how devious facebook and others are known to be. Using those techniques amounts to participating in an arms war between these companies and other software engineers. Instead, or in addition, one should redirect their entire domains to localhost and blackhole all known netblocks they use. You can't do enough to keep yourself safe from these thieves and predators; they are the modern-day slavers and you, once again, are their product. While there may be no measure strong enough to prevent the kind of theft this article highlights, that serves only to point out that no available measure should be overlooked in the effort to shut down the flow of data into their systems.

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

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