Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment Re:And how does this help the people? (Score 1) 60

How 'bout dem Space Nutters, ain't they kooks?
Heads in the stars, readin' space booooooks!
Plannin' dem missions to launch men 'n probes
or spinny-dizzy colonies in LaGrangian lobes
wearin' them space suits on Halloween on Earth
chewin' the Space fat on for all that it's worth!
Dem nugger-mugger Space Huggers way down South
stuffin' Space Nutter Central for all that funds allow'th
How to be a Space Nutter, only one way to hack it
Get yerself a nuke, find an asteroid and smack it!

One in a growing series of 'them poem' tributes in the style of Mason Williams

Comment Re:And how does this help the people? (Score 1) 60

Look, I'm not arguing that NASA shouldn't be given more money but it's a hard sell when the only reason appears to be "I want it to be bigger".

Be gentle, action often begins with people sensing that something is wrong. When you're grasping in the air you think, maybe things could start happening if they just had more. But how much more? NASA is GO for what?

How about GO for a Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV): An Innovative Solution to NASA's NEO Impact Threat Mitigation Grand Challenge and Flight Validation Mission Architecture Development?

Everything about self-sustaining colonies is (regrettably) some years away.
Exploration is nice, but it is also an unaffordable luxury *IF* there is an unaddressed existential threat.
Statisticians who attempt to marginalize existential threats by fronting casino odds should be ignored (or worse).
Every time someone suggests we have found almost all potentially hazardous objects, ask about the others.
Dinosaurs Are Proof We Need A Space Program. S,M,L,X,2X
We are now 50 years into the space age, 40 years since impactor dinosaur extinction reached consensus.
There is on this day no viable mission to address this threat, and little interest.
Is this evolution in action?
It's about buying more time for the human race, and Gaia as we know her today.
PRIORITY ONE: HAIVs on the ground or in orbit, ready to deploy on short notice.
PRIORITY TWO: Missions to complete our sky survey, especially 'dark' objects.
PRIORITY THREE: Everything else, since we (may have) bought some more time.

I recently started a thread about this.

Comment Re:Inevitable (Score 1) 203

The USA has been using targeting AI for some years, which still can't distinguish between a garden shed and a tank.

From this we may deduce that once all garden sheds have been leveled all targets become tanks, even if cannot know when this happens. We will count all shed hits as tank hits... because doing it the other way round would unfairly prejudice the weapons' effectiveness. Given a workable estimate of how many garden sheds may exist in the target area we simply upsize deployment so every barrage achieves the same "projected equivalent result". Some may imagine that this shed-tank blindness would be a guilty secret that could be leaked. The military complex has an effective countermeasure, the Preemptive No-Shit-Sherlock Disclosure (PNSSD). Any journalist thinking they are blowing a scandal wide open is referred to the Department Of Tankshed Statistics where folks in lab coats tally tank/shed ratio over time and produce giant reports that nobody reads except the last page, a graph that shows the ratio is increasing slowly but steadily, somehow.

Imagine what would happen when an AI having shed problems comes up against a real War Magician.

Comment Milk and cookies kept you awake, eh Sebastian? (Score 1) 203

This 'autonomous weapons systems' debate is under attack, a hostile takeover by radical factions of the Artificial Intelligence research community. When I first glimpsed Hawking's phrase offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control I immediately thought, he's talking about land mines, right? --- but no... it appears they had some hideously complicated Futurist Thing in mind. Okay... perhaps we're just talking about AI because it is fun to talk about it and it takes our minds away from other unpleasant things.

What are we really afraid of? Let's shelve AI for just a moment and make a list.

Things unable or unwilling to identify and spare civilians.
Things that could 'turn' on their masters.
Things that don't know or care that the war ended years ago.
Things too dumb to realize that they were made to do evil.
Things with lithium batteries which are harmful to the environment unless disposed of properly.

A short list! Since LAND MINES meet these criteria (except the last, they are better for the environment than cell phones) without the tiniest glimmer of artificial intelligence --- I would suggest that this fixation on AI is hyper-specific and a little obsessive.

It's like any other piece of technology we might make. If it is designed, engineered and made well by humans who make a reasonable effort to at least consider my short list and take every step to mitigate these items, no matter how smart it is, we'll be as well off as we could possibly be, given that people are making such things.

If we must produce artificial intelligences for war, they should be made by the same companies that make those automotive jumper cables you see for sale at 24 hour convenience stores. The human race would have nothing to worry about.

It also appears the 'autonomous weapons systems' debate has been invaded by people who hate war itself. Who let them in? I would expect the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to advise them sternly, this is not the place to justify or condemn the existence of war itself, this tribunal has been convened to discuss things with processors and neural nets and instruction sets and big fat dual-use research contracts and stuff. We cannot allow you to disrupt these proceedings. (No fighting in the war room!) But sadly --- the Bulletin is permitting people to express their distaste for war. Those who love war find this rude and insensitive. Don't they have feelings,too?

THE BULLETIN: "But no, you're the one who's out of order, bringing up land mines as if they are in any way relevant to this 'autonomous weapons systems' discussion. Land mines are cheap, mass-produced, inevitable, deployed, funded, signed sealed and delivered. There is no way to prevent their use because bad people use them all the time. With land mines we have no choice. But we still have time to choose not to make artificial intelligences. For war. We have a choice."

HOCUSLOCUS: "Okay... so, what if you get your wish and all you AI Play Nice Boy Scouts sign a treaty or something... and we are not afraid any more... so a self-ware AI robot is IS produced, not for war, but to travel the world (autonomously!) to clean toilet bowls. Because you can be sure that in the future we'll be playing among the stars and harnessing neutrinos but no one will ever be able to male a toilet bowl that doesn't crust up with shit. In order to really get toilets clean you need the kind of weaponry the military is only dreaming about today. So this AI has some serious big honking space gun WOTAN stuff. What do you think will happen on the day this machine figures out where all that shit is coming from?"

THE BULLETIN: "We concede you have a point. But at present no one is concerned about the specific scenario of toilet cleaning robots. We may some day convene a symposium to discuss them, specifically, but not land mines. Is that understood?"

In Blade Runner it is always assumed by AI nerds that Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is leading the Nexus-Sixes in revolt because he was created to be a mercenary, and his merciless and gruesome methods of dispatching humans was simply a provisioned skill set. But the truth is, he was made to clean toilets. And he finally figured out where all that shit was coming from. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..."

Comment Preserve the 3monkeys ethic (Score 5, Interesting) 143

It's become a harsh world for the thee monkeys. I'm referring to the monkeys Mizaru "see no evil", Kikazaru "speak no evil" and Iwazaru "speak no evil". In the days of written letters there were seldom times when one was professionally compelled to witness the private thoughts of others. Now we have mailboxes and photos and browsing histories scattered on disks. Every popular program that manages information wants to slap it all up in your face as soon as possible.

The 3monkeys problem doesn't relate to knowing or discovering passwords, unlocking access. You're perfectly free to flaunt your prowess as a fixer or safe-cracking locksmith. Good 3M compels you remain unaware of the contents of the safe after you have opened it.. After a successful IT job are you in a position to honestly say not a single photo (or thumbnail) was displayed, not a snippet of private text was displayed, even for a moment? If not,then (perhaps) there are ways to refine the technique.

As a PC tech I started to imagine it as sort of a game, where you lose points if you see anything private. When forced to run programs to see if they were functional, I'd de-focus my eyes and could see that something was there, good enough. When cleaning viruses or upgrading I preferred to invite the customer in to run all the necessary programs to ensure their data was there.

In the Internet age it went massive. Someone is always root on machines that store hundreds of thousands of mailboxes. I started a Freenet and have run two ISPs and I have never peeked into anyone else's email unless directed to with immediate consent. Even then rarely, and not without a bit of nausea. Why? Because It is just too damned easy... in the same sense that pulling a trigger is easy. So early on I have programmed myself that way. If you pick up a gun you won't hold it by the trigger. As an administrator, I won't pick up your account by its email.

In the early days of mailboxes, Sendmail and queues when solving problems meant shuffling mail around sometimes rewriting portions of headers, it was a simple as using grep and using well-tested scripts to avoid seeing content. Many things were block and line-oriented ASCII. Not so easy today, when everyone loves to embed their favorite database solution.

Imagine that you have been called in to de-virus and recover data on a PC. You have been offered handsome pay for your work, but as you work you realize there are two men standing behind you with telltale bulges in their suits. They are watching you and the screen in front of you very intently. You sense that there's something on that PC that could put you in a bad way, should they catch a glimpse of it. Could you complete the job without... incident?

Developers of software that manages people's secrets should always consider the plight of the 3monkeys IT worker. This could mean a command-line utility, as prevalent as a standard uninstall procedure (ahem!), that is guaranteed to sift through and verify all functional areas of the program and its data store, and in the end give only total statistics of content --- enough to see that you have not reverted to an empty database. It would be good to provide this utility.

Some day, someone's life may be at stake.

Comment Re:The basic question is answered...but still... (Score 1) 554

Heck, even earthquakes will be quakier.

Cue the music!

Earthquakes, keep on quakin' ... Records, keep on breakin'
Cold snaps, keep on snappin' ... 'Cause it won't be too long
Disaster, keep on comin' ... Humidity, keep on hummin'
Albedo, keep on shinin' ... 'Cause it won't be too long

I'm so darn glad the climate's going to hell
'Cause bad times news is really easy to sell
Armageddon tired of what people are sayin'
If it don't happen... they'll be seeking higher ground

Heat waves, keep on wavin' ... Volcanoes... keep on vapin'
Floods... keep on floodin' ... 'Cause it won't be too long
NOAA, stop adjustin' ... NASA, get back to thrustin'
Mankind, just keep evolving ... This shit's gone on way too long

LESS CONTROVERTIAL AVIAN VERSION

Pigeons, keep on pidgin' ... Crows, keep on crowin'
Chicks, keep on chicken ... 'Cause it won't be too long
Ducks... keep on duckin' ... Gooses, keep on goosin'
'Terns... keep on turnin' ... Cause it won't be too long

I'm so darn glad I have a tiny little brain
'Cause the hairless apes are completely insane
I'm so glad I have these beady little eyes
Gonna see you dyin' till I reach my highest ground

Puffins, keep on puffin' ... Grackles, keep on gracklin'
Herons, keep on herring ... 'Cause it won't be too long
Thrashers, keep on thrashin' ... Sparrows, keep on sparin'
Swallows, keep on gulpin' ... Cause it won't be too long

Comment Laughing myself out of the room (Score 4, Insightful) 600

This is just another example of the sort of nonsense that we have to put up with all over the world, where idiots get into positions of power, and then decide, without asking anybody, to change everything.

You are so right, my anonymous friend. I call it the Kindergarten Effect. It begins early on, as the teacher has all the children sitting in a circle facing each other and walks around asking each something like, "How would you make the world a better place?" All answers and speakers are praised and each receives a pat on the head, it is a ritual to nurture spontaneity and social development. Raise-your-hand discussion is encouraged but the teacher is ever steering into the realm of the positive, the kids watch the teacher for emotional cues, and none dare risk a raised eyebrow or stern word.

By middle school this ritual should have evolved into a real round table discussion where everyone feels free to interject negative responses and opposing views as well as the positive. I suspect this has not been permitted to happen.

By high school it should be a real roller coaster ride for the intellect and emotions, your peers able to dish out applause or catcalls or even throw non-lethal objects. You can win or lose big. But you better not even open your mouth until you're prepared to explain yourself well, defend your idea, debate worthy responses or and reward trite comments with your own brand of scathing wit even it is a loud shaddap. I suspect this has not been permitted to happen.

In fact, I think that many educators in the last 30 years have become secretly convinced that children grow sharp quills as they approach maturity and are inherently dangerous to society unless those quills are plucked out or ground down. Disagreement is the new aggression, the teacher's raised eyebrow becomes detention and demerits, and those who think an idea is just plain lousy must just remain silent.

This leads directly into adults who not only fail to consider the consequences of their ideas, they don't even think it's 'their job' to do so. And if others point out that an idea is lousy they are seen as simple naked aggressors, people-obstacles to overcome or shout down. So others around them whose quills have also been plucked out, defer to hierarchy of dominance.

We as a society are falling prey to The Kindergarten Effect. Things that should have been laughed out of the room, like the idea voting should be electronic without any forensic paper trail, were not laughed out of the room. We now reap this foul harvest.

The confidence that encourages speeding and reckless passing is fed by the width of the road how much oncoming traffic is present, not the presence or absence of a dividing line. Good drivers (even reckless ones) make subconscious use of dividing lines to place themselves within lanes when the roadside has too much visual clutter. Bad or distracted drivers do an 'oopsie' only when they see the dividing line veer into them. Removing lines from wide roads places everyone in harm's way.

Many people who speed are in fact skillful drivers, and some who keep within the limits are actually driving with their whole minds set on it, who'd endanger everyone if any useful features were removed. The position that keeping people from exceeding the speed limit is the prime focus of the 'focus group' and trumps all other concerns, should have been laughed out of the room.

Comment The only game banned in our house (Score 1) 239

Carmageddon, inspired by the Deathrace 2000 movie franchise. I told my son it doesn't matter what you do with virtual fists or weapons because some day when you're using real ones you'll be mentally sharp and know the difference. But driving is different, you strive to make the process automatic and subconscious. Steering for pedestrians in a game cannot be a good groundwork for driving, regardless how different the game controller is. He agreed.

Comment Ann Hodges got first bounce in 1954 (Score 2) 130

The True Story of History's Only Known Meteorite Victim

"On a clear afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama (see map), in late November 1954, Ann was napping on her couch, covered by quilts, when a softball-size hunk of black rock broke through the ceiling, bounced off a radio, and hit her in the thigh, leaving a pineapple-shaped bruise..."

Comment Re:If it was easy (Score 2) 158

If it was easy everybody would do it. Like engineering, like medicine, like pro football, like many other things.

It CAN be easy.Just click the EASY button. Let's begin.

Now click on the Think button. Tomorrow we're going to show you how to click and hold an actual Idea and drag 'n drop it into the Brain.

Then we'll introduce the Wizard Wizard. Ever went looking for a Wizard only to find that what you're trying to do has never been done? Wizard Wizard to the rescue! There's even a Wizard Wizard Wizard that can help you decide what needs to be done, and a W4 that does this automatically. It is advised to run W4 and up in a secure virtual machine. After a period of self-assembly they invariably set about to exterminate mankind.

Next you'll learn how to click on things that are outside your computer. Like this cat. The problem with visual IDEs is that too often the stuff inside the computer does not give you the tools necessary to drag anything useful anywhere --- or you just wind up with things on top of or inside other things. We'll experiment with pillows, freight trains and Russian Dolls and of course, cats.

Then on the last day you'll learn how to splice DNA, which is derived from the ancient threaded Forth language. You'll meet the members of the 'DNA glitch' community, who jack around and patch DNA to see what those hilarious fucked up creatures do.

Then when the world has been destroyed and everything is on fire and foul mutants hunt humans, you will receive your Certificate of Completion.

Submission + - Some Reversible USB-C Cables/Adapters Could Cause Irreversible Damage

TheRealHocusLocus writes: Three Decembers ago I lauded the impending death of the trapezoid. Celebration of the rectangle might be premature however, because in the rush-to-market an appalling number of chargers, cables and legacy adapters have been discovered to be non-compliant. There have been performance issues with bad USB implementation all along, but now — with improved conductors USB-C offers to negotiate up to 3A in addition the 900ma base, so use of a non-compliant adapter may result in damage. Google engineer and hero Benson Leung has been waging a one-man compliance campaign of Amazon reviews to warn of dodgy devices and praise the good. Reddit user bmcclure937 offers a spreadsheet summary of the reviews. It's a jungle out there, don't get fried.

Comment Re:ABORT on goddammed ESC key (Score 1) 423

Here is an addendum that I would have added to the original message IF the EDIT/ADD Slashdot feature request I propose here was implemented, please vote for it!

Here is a good description of the ESC key behavior change which among other things introduces a Firefox add-on called SuperStop . SuperStop adds a Shift-ESC key combination which most often succeeds in shutting everything down. But it is it is apparently unable to prevent the triggering of JS timers that have been set... allowing persistent-connection-abusive sites like Yahoo News to awaken from the dead to do more nasty poodle doo.

Comment Reconsider "read rest of comment" thresholds (Score 1) 1836

People like me who rant on a lot feel genuinely slighted when the final paragraphs of our wordy treatises are axed suddenly, often mid paragraph, with a "Read rest of comment" sentence of doom. I'm not sayin' it should be unlimited, just perhaps increased again by half or even doubled from what they are now. Slashdot has its origins in USENET where any such cloaking devices resided completely on the client side.

If the split-threshold is based on some estimation of vertical page height that allows the presence of many shorter comments to affect the display of the longer ones, please consider removing it.

There is also an APPARENT BUG that manifests itself at times where you see an incorrect and annoying "Read rest of comment" at then end of a comment that has been completely displayed. Whether it is a logic fault or the posted text contains white space after the end, the code that decides whether a split is necessary should be reexamined, even if it is so little as a single trailing CR that puts length over the threshold by one. All trailing white space should be trimmed anyway.

Being one who communicates paragraphs at a time, when time only permits skimming I naturally pause at longer comments, and I wish more other people would also.

I wouldn't go so far as to bring karma metrics into it, but specifically AC might be exempted or given a smaller split-threshold because there do exist certain ACs who routinely drop massive paste-a-thons regarding Yoda and butt-plugs. I have researched these topics independently and can attest that those posts add little information or insight.

Some attention to lameness filters may be in order also. There is a filter that seems to be in place to discourage ASCII art, and recently it also discouraged me from posting something regarding WIN-1252/vs/UTF-8 character sets where I attempted to show a simple table of problem characters. Even the those few characters nailed me to the lameness filter. I finally gave up completely. Maybe if I had dropped in a bunch of Yoda butt-plug text at the end it would have posted, sorry I didn't think of it.

Comment MIT: Add an egg! And an extra egg! (Score 4, Interesting) 53

Let's begin with a little story. In the 1950s the Betty Crocker company introduced just-add-water 'box' cake recipes that produced cakes that were as good as and often better than peoples' 'scratch' cakes --- sometimes the recipe was better (or) the mix in the factory-sealed box stayed fresher than ingredients taken from the pantry, why does not matter. Betty Crocker cakes aced blind taste-tests and were affordable, and yet the product did not take off as expected.

A bit of research uncovered a guilty secret. In spite of what the company perceived as pure convenience, cake-making women (and the manly cake-making men of the 1950s) were secretly ashamed of the simple steps to produce a product that had been the subject of family pride. They no longer felt sufficiently empowered by the process. By the simple addition of an actual egg, enough recipe-empowerment returned to remove this psychological deterrent and cake-box sales soared.

They later refined the tactic by suggesting on the box that the product might even be improved even further by the (optional) addition of that miracle of miracles, the extra egg. Two eggs! Everyone who was anyone tossed in that extra egg. And all remnants of cake-making insecurity vanished completely and America embraced the box-cake, to become the industrial cake-making giant it is today.

((SIDE NOTE: Even though this was known to me, to come up with a citation I found it not generally discussed. I had to delve down to 'book' level to find a good reference to it. Thanks Google. Folks who imagine that web content sufficiently represents our culture should think again.))

(DO, a deer, a female deer) So not surprisingly the good people of MIT have re-discovered that to continue the cryptographic arms race every simple hard-coded tag must become a passive device, (RE, a drop of golden sun) every passive device must become an active computing device, (MI) and every active computing device must become a self-contained machine (FA) with an autonomous power source, (SO) non-volatile memory and significant processing power. It will soon move into the next phase where even this is not sufficient because of unforeseen circumstances like new attacks on hash algorithms or implementation errors, and a robust system must also include flash-update capability, (LA) which also requires a separate and secure chain of certificate-based authentication to prevent someone from planting the original 'stoned' virus upon RFID tags. "Your passport is now stoned. Legalize marijuana!" (TI)

Which is itself moot if someone somewhere manages to leak or crack a single private flash update key. Which brings us back to (DO).

So the discovery is actually that RFID technology is mirroring nicely the same arms race that computers and communication links everywhere are experiencing. As Bruce Schneier sagely says, "Security is a process, not a product." So be generally conservative and wary every time someone offers a new security end-product --- and remind yourself every now and then, "Why again are we even riding this Merry-Go-Round?" By all rights Schneier should be helping to roll out the gravy train that would place RFID tags everywhere. More work for him! But surprisingly often he comes out in favor of less embed-intrusive and more human-intensive approaches to security. That's why humans love him and robots don't subscribe to his Twitter feed.

In addition to taking these (seemingly necessary) small steps in the direction of embedding additional complexity, we should devote equal time to considering the possibility of small steps that roll back complexity generally, to reveal what unforeseen benefits they may have. Perhaps the powdered egg once included in box-cakes was actually sufficient for the task at hand. If you are a merchant concerned about security your ultimate ace-in-the-hole is that empowered employee who notices the unusual trend in transactions or that skimmer on the gas pump. To evolve as a species and slow down the arms race we should be finding way to make better people not products. Employers think employees suck. Employees think employers suck eggs. We are becoming paralyzed by add-an-egg anxiety.

Otherwise the next woodpecker to come along will destroy civilization. Give the chickens a rest.

Slashdot Top Deals

Old programmers never die, they just hit account block limit.

Working...