Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Hobbit (Score 2) 267

by bzipitidoo (#49783825) Attached to: How To Die On Mars

I think you don't give Mars dreamers enough credit. It's fun to think about, and do a bit of handwaving, but most everyone realizes colonizing Mars is an enormous challenge. Obviously, the first European colonies in the Americas were much easier. They already had breathable air and a tolerable climate. Life was already firmly established, all the colonists had to do was harness it. Even so, many colonies failed.

On Mars, we have to start life from scratch. One problem that as far as we know Mars does not have, is hostile natives. The absence of that petty little problem is no compensation for the huge problems we would have to solve to build a sustainable colony on Mars. We aren't capable of doing it now. That list of obstacles to setting up a steel foundry isn't even among the main problems. Can we establish an ecology? What about ionizing radiation, how do we handle that?

It's possible we may conclude that even if we can do it, Mars isn't worth inhabiting. Really, why inhabit Mars? By the time we can do it, we could probably also inhabit space for indefinite lengths of time, and if we can do that, why not head out of the solar system? Seems likely there will be many planets that are much better than Mars. Mars then is mostly an experiment, a trial. Where is humanity going? Are we headed towards a blissful future of peace, all our critical problems solved? If yes, how long can it last, millions of years? We may need 100,000 years to send a colony ship to another solar system. We have no civilization that has come anywhere close to lasting such an enormous length of time. But we can dream.

Comment: what job offers? (Score 1) 202

I've had interviews go wrong many times, for dumb and dishonest reasons. It comes down to the fact that the employers weren't actually interested in hiring, had too many candidates to consider. So they hoke up an excuse that you don't have enough experience in a bunch of narrowly defined areas, and you're out. Deep down they know perfectly well that you could do the job. But they manufacture some desired experience that you supposedly lack, and start thinking of you as a liar for even applying. Never mind that the whole hiring process is packed with deception from start to finish. Of course you should never outright lie, but spinning and twisting the facts is fine, even encouraged. They focus on superficial skills and miss the big picture. Overqualified is another fun reason for rejection. Why would an employer ever want to reject a candidate for being too smart? Yet a PhD is typically seen as a negative. The standard excuse is that the employee will get bored and leave, as if there aren't hundreds of other more compelling reasons anyone might leave. More like, there's a good deal of prejudice against geeks and nerds and smart people in general, which has been getting worse in recent years with the upswing in anti-intellectualism. When a job application takes a turn like that, when they start hunting for excuses not to consider people, you know the employer wasn't serious.

So I'm skeptical of this push to get more people into CS. On the one hand, maybe there should be a 4th "R", 'rogramming. Maybe programming is such a fundamental skill that it should have a place in elementary school. But with all the noise over H1Bs and the demonstrated facts that many employers really don't value, like, or trust engineers as a whole, not just the individuals among them that aren't competent, it's hard to be sure. They know they have to have some engineers, but they don't have to like it, and many don't. Very tiresome having to always watch your back, be ready to defend yourself, and not give them any openings they can use to drum you out. However, this attempt to reach people when very young is such a long play, beyond what such short-sighted companies can conceive, that perhaps it is genuinely meant.

Comment: Re:But I love it when slides are read to me (Score 1) 316

by bzipitidoo (#49780175) Attached to: Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned

What's hated is the waste of everyone's time on a bad job of exchanging information and ideas. Powerpoint is merely a tool often abused to that end, and made into either the scapegoat for why a presentation was bad or excuse for why it was good, or both at once.

And those are merely neutral and boring meetings. If you think that's the worst, you haven't been in a really nasty meeting. Meetings often have hidden agendas. Most of the time those agendas stay hidden, but sometimes they come out, and then chaos can ensue. Meetings are the premier place where office politics moves into a gallop, and truly ugly meetings have people getting trampled. An insecure boss takes over the meeting to browbeat and bully people, try to make them look dumb so he or she can feel less insecure. Or there's the arrogant boss who won't let anyone else get a word in, and insists on lecturing to everyone as if they're particularly slow and stupid children who don't get it. Or there's the rival groups trying to cut the others' throats. I've been in all those kinds of meetings. I have seen people unfairly sidelined and put on a fast track to the pink slip, because of how a meeting went. The boss decides that a person isn't competent, but can't just up and fire the presenter on the spot, doesn't have enough authority to do that. And also, the boss is often wrong, made a hasty judgment. He's all unhappy that the presenter's plan didn't give a seemingly credible path to the invention of perpetual motion in 6 months time. Meanwhile, the bullshit artist fools the boss again, often with pretty Powerpoint slides, and gets praise. The b. s. artist can't do the job either, and knows it, he's only trying to delay his own inevitable termination as long as possible, and if that means someone else takes the fall that time, so be it.

Compared to that, Powerpoint's contribution is trivial.

Comment: Re:Plant? (Score 1) 382

by bzipitidoo (#49751521) Attached to: How Java Changed Programming Forever

Java was a terrible resource pig when I last used it extensively, over a decade ago. Has that changed? Took lots of memory, and yes, it was slow.

Carefully optimized C++ will blow away Java,

Ok, seems that has not changed much.

As for that optimization benefit you extol, what's stopping the C++ compiler from querying the machine and making optimizations based on platform? Isn't that the whole point of a source code Linux distro like Gentoo?

Yeah, this story smells like Slashvertising. If, as claimed in another recent Slashvertisement for Java, it is such a simple language to understand, an easy language to program, one that lets programmers "get things done", why do employers strongly prefer programmers who have 5 or 10 or more years of experience in Java? It's a curly brace OOP language with tons and tons of its own libraries. It doesn't play nice with libraries written in other languages, it mostly ignores them. A lot of resources have been poured into enabling Java to inhabit a world of its own, and it seems now with hindsight that was not the best direction to go. One of the biggest improvements over C++ was the propaganda that unlike C++, Java doesn't use pointers. That's a misrepresentation. What they really mean is that Java ditched the ugly C pointer syntax. That, and this object code that is supposed to run on any platform, making Java super portable, especially designed for browsers, were the main selling points of Java. But that was 15 plus years ago. What has Java done lately? Stagnated while other languages press ahead with advances?

Comment: Re:Logjam (Score 1) 42

by bzipitidoo (#49740737) Attached to: How 1990s Encryption Backdoors Put Today's Internet In Jeopardy

Yeah, I thought "Internet in jeopardy" was over the top. It's some serious hindsight to complain that decisions made 20 years ago are screwing up software today. There are so many decisions from the early days we're stuck with now, why are these so special? Because it's security?

The PC has tons of cruft, such as the hard drive partitioning scheme, boot code, the layers and layers of hardware discovery, and memory organization. The platform has been updated repeatedly, with many hard limits raised repeatedly. Hard drive partitions were limited to 10M, then 16M, 33M, 134M, 528M, 2G, 3.2G, 4G, and more, and the source of these limitations were things maximum allowed sector counts, MS-DOS limits, BIOS limits. One of the trickier ones was a 8G limit on the location of the kernel. The boot partition could be larger, so long as the kernel ended up in the first 8G, as the boot code in the BIOS could not seek deeper into the hard drive than that.

For another stellar example of shortsighted programming, there was the Y2K problem. Many programs made in the 90s failed that test. One program I fixed went from 1999 to 1910. What did they do to make it roll over to 1910? I would have thought 1900 the obvious erroneous year to compute. What they did was convert (current year - 1900) to a string, then take the first two characters, and stick a "19" in front of them. So, 2000-1900 = 100, and the first 2 characters are "10". I didn't have the source code, but I was able to modify the binary to do mod 100 instead, then found the "19" and change that to a "20". It'll break again in 2100, rolling over to 2000, but I very much doubt that software will still be in use then.

Comment: ablation by laser (Score 3, Interesting) 150

by bzipitidoo (#49708017) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission?

Beam enough laser light at the object to heat its surface to the point that it ablates. That will push it onto a different course. We won't even have to leave Earth for that to work. Of course, it does need an awful lot of laser power, but if our very survival is at stake, maybe we could do it. Here's the relevant XKCD what if.

Comment: another way to wipe out life (Score 4, Interesting) 25

by bzipitidoo (#49695813) Attached to: Kepler's "Superflare" Stars Sport Huge, Angry Starspots

Somewhere between 4 and 5 billion years from now, the sun will turn into a red giant. Mercury and Venus are toast when that happens. Earth may be engulfed, or it may be pushed to a higher orbit, we're not sure.

We have a bash with the Andromeda Galaxy scheduled in about 4 billion years. Seems the date has been moved up, as both Andromeda and the Milky Way may be larger than thought. That may not do anything to the solar system, everything could miss us. Or, we'll have a close encounter with a massive star and most of the planets, including Earth, will be flung into interstellar space. Or perhaps our entire solar system will be sent out of the galaxy.

But none of that matters, because the sun is slowly getting hotter, and in about 1 billion years will be hot enough to boil away our oceans.

At any time, a nearby supergiant could go supernova, and if a pole is pointed at us, all life dies from the massive quantities of radiation it puts out.

In 15 billion years, the Earth becomes tidally locked to the Moon. Not fatal to all life, but will mess up a lot of species.

At some point, the radioactive material in the Earth finishes decaying and generating heat. Then plate tectonics shuts down, and eventually all our continents erode into the ocean floor. If there is still an ocean when that happens, it will cover the world.

But probably, we'll kill ourselves off long before any of that happens. Fun times.

Comment: Re:Take A Bow For Your Accomplishments (Score 1) 220

"Unknown" and "not proven" is the rat I smelled. Smells just like "doubt is our product".

Yes, bee colonies are dying, and it's a TOTAL MYSTERY! Well, I rather think research in certain areas is being blocked and buried, otherwise it would be a lot less of a mystery. There is ample reason to distrust industry. They have a long track record of turning to propaganda to improve their bottom line. Big Tobacco started it. Big Oil saw how effective it was and jumped in to confuse the public about Climate Change. Big Media is still trying to sell the idea that copying is stealing, but that one is so ludicrous that even propaganda can't quite bridge that yawning gulf in rational thinking. And there's lots more than that. It's pervasive. Industry leaders simply do not grasp the immorality of propaganda, they really believe it's just another weapon in the arsenal.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49688489) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

it is pretty hard to make money charging for access to information that everyone already has access to for free.

Restricting access to publicly available information is an impossible problem. DRM does not really work, and inconveniences and annoys customers who want to make legitimate use of what they bought. Outlawing communication does not work. Going on a moral crusade and demonizing everyone as pirates does not work. Therefore, the problem of making money from information must be solved differently. And there are solutions: crowdfunding, and other forms of patronage. There's also endorsements, advertising revenue, and performance. It's getting harder and harder to do it with restriction.

And, the moral angle: restriction is an immoral way to make money from information. That is exactly what RMS complained about all those years ago when he needed some working software and could not fix it himself because it was restricted. We should all sit still and be quiet like good little children until Uncle Bill can be bothered to get around to fixing the bugs, for a big enough fee of course. The attempt to force the impossible to work anyway has cost us all hugely, and not just money either. We've had too many ordinary citizens railroaded in a court of law, given completely over the top penalties, without the plaintiffs having to prove that the defendants actually did anything illegal, because, you know, everyone does it. College students have been forced to give up their dreams of a college education, a mother has been forced into bankruptcy. We ought to have our digital public library up and running by now, but we don't. We should have been doing what Google Books is doing and more, but we can't thanks to our own copyright laws. Libraries have a minuscule online presence.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49683513) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

No, people are more likely to produce something if they benefit from it. That's quite different than owning it. Anyone can create and/or own something of no use or value. Factory work is all about being compensated for producing things that others own.

Ownership is a means to aid people in gaining from their productivity. It is not the only means, and may not be the best means. It is a good way, but not so good that we should all clamor for the Ownership Society, asking that it be expanded into some kind of universal mechanism, applicable to all things. Intellectual property is one of many places ownership should not apply. We want to fairly compensate authors, artists, and other contributors. We don't need ownership to do it, it can be done with crowdfunding and other forms of patronage. Indeed, we have seen that ownership can be very bad at ensuring artists are fairly compensated, thanks to such cheats as Hollywood Accounting, and Work for Hire contracts. Big Media organizations have far more power than individual artists, and have often abused that power to bargain too hard. But most of all, that ownership model depends upon scarcity, and information is simply not scarce, nor can it be made to be scarce no matter how hard anyone tries, with technology such as DRM, or with legal means, anymore than gravity can be outlawed.

We most certainly should not give up our natural rights to communicate among ourselves! This is what Big Media has demanded, even going so far as to threaten, bully, and lie with their pervasive propaganda, and commit all kinds of crimes, to push us into acceptance. It is an unconscionable demand, and should be denied, with prejudice.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49682285) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

I wasn't talking about vegetarianism. Animals have to eat other life to survive. Plants are alive. Is it moral to eat, whether that's plants or animals? As to what it has to do with ownership, eating is a taking, a stealing of other lives. The most fundamental thing any being owns is their own body. We should have a care not to be unconscious of the hypocrisy of screaming "thief!" over the mere copying-- not taking but just copying-- of the immaterial, when all of us are takers of food of which nearly all was once alive.

Communism, you say? There are more choices than communism and capitalism. Ownership has many benefits. Ownership heads off a Tragedy of the Commons problem with useful goods. Most people are more careful with things that they own. And, as I said, ownership keeps our affairs more orderly, lessens reasons to get into a fight over who gets to use a scarce good. Greater ability to match owners of idle equipment with nearby people who need to rent them for a short time, with appropriate rules and compensations for handling issues of damage, loss, and wear and tear, would make our society more efficient. Even if honest, a communist central authority simply is not nimble enough to keep up with the millions of reallocations necessary to achieve greater efficiency than a capitalist system. Perhaps a business like Uber can improve matters. There's considerable overhead in just managing all the information necessary to track everything down to the smallest, cheapest items worth tracking.

But when the things in questions are not scarce, ownership in the same style as applied to scarce things is just stupid. Learning and knowledge are valuable, but not scarce. Should we charge children for their education, make them take out student loans? When they graduate from high school and turn 18 years old, should they have to repay society for what their education cost?

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49670741) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

Why is it moral to eat? Animals depend entirely on other life for food. Plants get energy from the sun and convert raw materials into living tissue, animals mostly can't, and must eat plants or other animals to survive.

Ownership is only a legal and social custom to keep order, stop people from fighting each other over who gets to use an item that can only be used by one group at a time, or who gets to consume a perishable item. The items themselves of course are completely indifferent to such niceties. The morality of it is that it promotes peace better than most other systems. It works quite well, but it could be more efficient to be more relaxed about ownership. I can't use all my possessions all the time, and have the constant problem of living with the clutter it causes. If I could borrow more things more readily, I wouldn't need to own as much. These new car rentals services like Uber are trying to fill an empty niche, allowing owners of goods that spend much time sitting idle to put them to greater use, in exchange for some compensation.

Comment: Re:Um.. Why? (Score 1) 141

by bzipitidoo (#49661149) Attached to: Prison Messaging System JPay Withdraws Copyright Claims

I am very disturbed. There's a lot of corruption, and sheer stupidity. I really think we need to spell out, in writing, a whole bunch of things that the powerful aren't allowed to do. No EULAs, copyrights, or other claims of legal rights that aren't actually true. For instance, the National Football League claims ownership of everything about every broadcast of every football game, including things that are clearly not theirs to claim. They assert so at the end of the game.

I have an anecdote to share. I got a letter from the city claiming that my grass was too high, and was therefore a Nuisance. It was a bullying, insulting, and insincere letter that they should be ashamed they ever composed. The letter informed me that they could fine me $2000 per day that the property was in violation. That's an absolutely absurd amount to fine someone over grass that was a few inches over their arbitrary height. I do not agree that high grass is a nuisance. Nor do I agree that my grass was high, not when the city's grass in the nearby median was even higher. That's the bullying part. I don't believe they have the power to collect such a huge fine, and they may know that, and are just trying to scare me. Then the letter lectured me on how clean neighborhoods reduce crime and increase property values, as if I had never heard that sort of thing before. Finally, the letter concluded with a helpful list of lawn care services I could employ, with a disclaimer that they don't endorse any of them. I thought that list highly improper. I wonder how many officials have shady connections with those lawn care services, maybe get a little kickback? They don't care about neat neighbors nearly as much as they care about revenue, and the letter seemed to me to be more about that, about abusing the law to wring money from compliant and fearful citizens. Outrageous. But this is everywhere. What is to be done?

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49654479) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

You ask if I think it is immoral to own physical property. Of course not! With some exceptions. For instance, it is immoral to own slaves, not because ownership is immoral, but because slavery is immoral. Also, owners have responsibilities. For example, owning a car does not give a person the right to dump used engine oil into storm sewers, or drive anywhere they want, tearing up vegetation on public lands. Landowners cannot divert all the water from streams and rivers that happen to cross their properties.

I've been saying that because the material and immaterial are very different, they should be handled differently, with different legal frameworks. Big Media has been trying to twist our laws and public perceptions. They use a seductive simplification that "property is property" which is completely wrong.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 2) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49647871) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

No, I am saying DRM is unfair, period. It's not just the implementation, or the excesses. It is the goal. They are trying to make ideas and thinking no different than material property. They want people to have to buy and sell ideas as if they were no different than material goods such as clothes. They have resorted to propaganda, equating copying to stealing at every opportunity, calling people who do it by the loaded term "pirates" no matter how innocent the copying, calling ideas "property" with the terminology "intellectual properties", and even referring to all of us as "consumers", as if listening to a song is no different than eating a slice of bread. Further, they are trying to pull that one on the public only where it suits them. These are the guys who brought us the really unethical and cheating practices of Hollywood Accounting. They conveniently exempt themselves from the rules they say everyone else should follow.

Equating material and immaterial things, to try to turn our entire society into an ownership game at which they can easily win because they're so good at it, is a terrible vision. Civilization itself depends upon the sharing of ideas. We did not rise to the top of the animal kingdom because we are stronger or faster than all other animals. We obviously aren't. Of animals about our size, we are the slowest and weakest by far. We made it to the top because we work together to invent and build things other animal cannot. Now these tyrants of the mind want to control all commerce of thought. If they had their way, no one would be able to communicate anything at all without paying them a big toll. Through bribery and corruption of our public officials, they have had far too much success at lengthening copyright beyond all sense, despite the vast majority, of perhaps over 90%, in favor of scaling copyright back. They've expanded the scope of copyrights and patents to cover things they were never meant to cover originally. Should software be patentable? They've actually had the hubris to patent genes, and laws of nature, copyright mere lists of data and facts. They are allowed to try to fool people with EULAs and contractual terms that are in fact not enforceable, though they claim they are of course. When they whistle, our police forces, who we pay for and who serve us, come running to do their bidding. They've tried to make us pay to police every network packet, to check whether it contains copyrighted material. They would shut down and abolish the Internet, the used book store, the public library, the university, and the grade school. Our children would not be allowed to learn a thing without having to pay and pay again for the privilege, because knowledge is valuable.

Fortunately for all of us, imposition and enforcement of their vision is impractical. The universe does not work in accordance with their desires.

But the first step is to take that aura of respectability off these Big Media bandits. They are not fine upstanding business people, they commit worse thievery than anything they accuse us of. Bank reputations are much tarnished for their role in causing the Great Recession through blatant dishonesty, cheating, and fraud. Why do people like you accord the practitioners of Hollywood Accounting respect, and listen to their propaganda as if it was genuinely meant? Over and over, they have exposed themselves as bullies, cowards, liars, manipulators, and thieves. But they're rich, and that's all that matters to far too many people. Many of us realize that the mental shortcut of measuring the worth of a person by the worth of their material possessions is wrong, but we do it anyway.

What is the point of driving a single mother into bankruptcy and taking her home away, over a measly 24 songs? Her children certainly did nothing to deserve being kicked out of their home. They are notorious for picking people they think they can beat up, to make an example of, to terrorize the rest of us. A number of young people have been forced to give up their dreams of getting a college education, because these scumbags decided that making that financially impossible was suitable punishment for sharing a few songs. And those are the people you think still deserve a hearing?

Progress means replacing a theory that is wrong with one more subtly wrong.