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Comment Re:Liberty Minded (Score 4, Insightful) 388

Well, you certainly illustrate the point that there are thoughtful libertarians out there. An interesting point on libertarianism along the lines of what you're saying... I once volunteer-taught a class on American politics for some adult ESL students. When I introduced "libertarian versus statist" as a dimension that is distinct from liberal and conservative, it was pretty new to most of them. That is, while almost all societies grapple with the how much control the state should exercise over various kinds of activities, it's only in the US that we have a name for that (Liberty!) and a group that (nominally) wants to minimize state control over everything. The US has a long lefty-libertarian tradition that has fueled many important social advances (freedom to love and marry whoever you please being the most recent example), while our righty-libertarians have also served to keep the US out of some of the worst excess of statist economics (think price controls).

That said, it's pretty hard to line up with libertarianism in it's current form. The three axiomatic views that most turn me off are
1. The private sector does everything better than the government does or might do
2. Everyone can always have everything if they only try hard enough
3. Social well-being can only be maximized by increasing individual well-being

What drives me nuts is how often these are asserted as axioms in spite of numerous and obvious counterexamples. Skepticism that government intervention will solve a problem is necessary, healthy, and frequently true. But there are so many readily available counterexamples that these cannot be axioms.

# 3 might be a little different than the others, and I'd actually be interested in a thoughtful libertarian critique of it. It is what Pope Francis calls "subsidiarity", the idea that humans actually gain meaning and satisfaction from feeling that they are subsidiary to something bigger than themselves. I'm no Catholic, but I see this in a lot of things. An individual who is free of all external obligations is a lonely, disconnected person, and I have a hard time believe that there are many people who are happier this way. Clearly there is such as thing as too much obligation to society, but what about too little?

A potent example of #1 is the lunatic response to Obamacare. This was an idea from 1970s "conservative" think tanks that was a pragmatic compromise right up until someone tried to implement it. And all told the ACA has a pretty non-statist system architecture: the state does not mandate what insurance you get, it does not mandate which company you choose it from (in fact there are standards to ensure a minimum of choice), it does not say what doctor you can or cannot go to are always free (like Liberty, not beer) to go to a doctor that is not in your plan, and Obamacare makes that EASIER not harder.

The mandate components of the law (health insurers have to take anyone who wants insurance ---> everyone has to buy insurance) that elicit all this yelling about "state force" and "FBI marshalls frog-marching me" are just system architectures to deal with real and fundamental problems.
The business of insurance is to collect as many premium dollars as possible, and it's very, very easy for insurers to cheat without some rules (oh, you got cancer in the rain on Sunday... if you look in Appendix R20421.13 subsection 7 of your plan, you'll see that this is not covered). Likewise it's really easy for covered people to cheat without some rules (oh, I rode motorcycle without a helmet for 10 years and now I crashed and am paralyzed from the neck down... pay for all my healthcare). This is what happens in the real world, and we as engineers/technologists are the ones who stick our heads out and find a set of tradeoffs that makes things a little better. And we are also the ones who deal with the sucky parts of the architecture we chose. So I can't understand when this type of thinker can't relate to what Obamacare is about.

Comment Re:FYI (Score 1) 474

One of the more interesting parts however of a solid basic income package, which hardly ever gets mentioned, is removal of minimum
wage. This frees up a whole pile of minor jobs which are simply not economic (looking after the neighbors kids after school, mowing lawns,
etc) and are often now done under the table.. minimum wage becomes much less needed, as there is less 'force' for people to have a job
at any cost.

This is a pretty interesting point, and I'd be curious to hear more of your thoughts on it. Thinking a bit about it now, it would address some of my biggest concerns about the "Uber economy", i.e. that the employer is pushing off all kinds of risk onto the employee. With a basic income, the relationship between working more and getting more would be much more straightfoward. It might conceivably create a world where people can mow lawns in an excellent way, because they're not as strapped to get on and mow someone else's lawn so they can pay the bills. In other words, people might more inclined to do minimum wage jobs for satisfaction and not just for money.

In an ironic political twist this "center leftie" does share a lot of concerns that a universal income would promote idleness and sloth. I say this based on my own personality traits: when I've been unemployed for substantial periods of time a deep torpor settles in and I get less and less motivated to do anything. That is not a life well lived, and while it's not for me to judge whose life is well lived and whose is not, I find it hard to fit that in with the principle that social programs help humans fulfill their moral responsibility to take care of one another. For example, wouldn't it be especially easy for people with substance abuse problems to fall into absolute squalor where they just collect their UBI and spend it all on feeding the beast? I realize the libertarian answer might be that they are freely choosing that life and society has no right to judge or force them to live differently (which I don't entirely disagree with), but with addiction problems the free will part gets complicated fast.

Comment Re:good riddance (Score 1) 146

Don't blame the FDA...
Due to the structure of the 1938 Food Drug and Cosmetic act which established the FDA, it is not permitted to regulate homeopathic drugs in the same way as "normal" drugs. This is a registry of homeopathic drugs and if a drug is on there but is not a "normal" drug, the FDA can only regulate that it is manufactured safely, similar to food, not whether it is effective at treating disease. That is why you see this kind of labeling on such products:

A product's compliance with requirements of the HPUS, USP, or NF does not establish that it has been shown by appropriate means to be safe, effective, and not misbranded for its intended use.

All the FDA can do is go after companies that market non-homeopathic drugs (i.e. "normal" drugs) as homeopathic, like HCG.

Comment Re:offensive arrogance (Score 1) 146

No, of course I'm not worried, I think it would be great....

I am truly stunned by this. A self-interpreted home-made CT scan is an unalloyed good? Notwithstanding the radiation to get there, without serious testing, you have no idea how accurate the thing is (back to the FDA's repeated requests to 23andMe).

Allowing the heroic assumption that the Garage-scan-o-matic things actually give accurate results, are you also saying you think the majority of people have the education and knowledge to make heads or tails of what might a slightly larger appearance of the brachiocephalic artery might mean for them? Or that they have any idea what to do about it?

Are you going to try to pass laws against skin, testicle, and breast self-exams because people might be confused by the lumps and spots they might discover?

That's not what I propose nor what the FDA is doing. If someone tries to sell an automated system to tell people what those lumps and spots mean (particularly if they use the term "risk") you'd better believe I would demand enforcement of the existing laws that say that the seller must prove that their system works in order to sell it.

Some doctors do, others are dumber as dirt.

Sure, doctors are people and there are all kinds of them. But at the very least they have had a rigorous education, and following that a series of experiences in trying to understand the confusing mishmash of information about people's health conditions and make judgments about a course of action to follow.

Since this post is entitled "offensive arrogance", let me just ask if you really think that education and experience means nothing. And if so, does it mean nothing when an engineer used his or experience to say a piece of software is poorly architected, or that car can be hacked, or there is inadequate review of security? After all, I can read Slashdot to get the answers I need or check something out from github to fix the problem...

There is a role for experts and there are some things that are dangerous enough that an expert's opinion should be required, whether that's a doctor, an engineer, or policeman.

Comment Re:offensive arrogance (Score 1) 146

Fortunately, this kind of FDA stupidity is not going to work long term: people are simply going to get their entire genomes sequenced, and there will be a huge number of free tools and web sites for searching for disease associations, ancestry, and relatives.

Let me recast this just a bit to illustrate the problem:

Fortunately, in the long term, 3D printing will allow people to create their own CT scanners, and there will be a huge number of free tools and websites for searching for tumors, heart defects, and bone density.

Are you at all worried about what people will do with their homemade CT scanners?
Perhaps doctors know a little bit about reacting to that kind of data (and the uncertainties in it) and making good decisions about it?

Comment Re:good riddance (Score 2) 146

The FDA made them stop because doctors dislike being cut out of the loop, and insurance companies like being cut out of the loop even less than the doctors, and they would prefer to have you get the data through a disclosure mechanism which gives your insurance company better actuarial information.

This sounds like one of those ads at the bottom of blogs "New service that doctors hate!!1". Seriously though, do you have any evidence for these claims?

The FDA asked a 23andMe a simple question - show us the evidence that when you say that a person has an elevated risk of say, death, that that claim is true. Then they talked 23andMe 14 times over a couple years, then waited 11 months with no reply. Then they made them stop making those claims. So where is that the ravening hordes of doctors and insurers fit in there?

Now imagine that 23andMe said the person was at low risk of death (like from heart disease) and that turned out to be ahem... mildly inaccurate. Was that the part the doctors hate?

Notes that if 23andMe sticks to providing raw data, they are not making medical claims. Ravening hordes begone!

Comment Re:Supply and Demand (Score 1) 417

Interesting point. Both companies are known to employ armies of MBAs, so they are surely doing a lot of sophisticated analysis on their pricing and margins.

Microsoft is reputedly a profoundly different place than it was in the nineties, and the tell is that is a way, way harder place to work in. Some of that is doubtless from the usual process cruft you hear about in big organizations - territoriality, old habits that nobody changes, too many queen bees for the drones in a hive, etc.

But I also wouldn't forget about the consent degree - that makes the cautious thing to do to never have the appearance of exploiting one dominance in one market to move into another.

I'd be surprised if any 'softies with knowledge of this are either not on /. or are not able to say anything, but I'd sure be curious to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings...

Comment Re:I trust my life to Boeing every time I fly (Score 4, Informative) 334

In the 90s, the FDA realized that even if it could see the could, there was no way it could realistically audit code for all the devices it is required to review annually. So they switch from attempting to verify devices directly to insisting that devices be design and developed under a very high quality engineering paradigm.

So instead of looking at code trying to find problems, what they do is demand artifacts of a very disciplined design development and test process, reasoning that if people are in fact actually writing out test cases, doing internal code reviews with documented changes arising from them, maintaining requirements traceability matrices linking each line of code to a user requirement and then a lower level system requirement, then that process will result in better code than the FDA could accomplish by their own audit or that of a 3rd party. So the woman should be asking to see the details of the company's FDA submission, presumably under NDA from the company.

Now, whether the FDA is employing Design Control in a strict enough way is definitely a fair question - in particular the 510k (predicate device) submission process has left a lot of loopholes (due to its risk class, a pacemaker does not go through 510k, it goes through the more demanding PMA process). But to suggest that she or someone she hires will just be able to wade through the code to decide if she thinks it's high quality seems to me more like grandstanding than anything else.

Comment Re:And the other reason is... (Score 1) 397

They did, however, manage to tie the stuff down and limited them in ways unprecedented. In that way, Apple definitely did something new, but that's not something people actually WANT.

Stack trace: Your input statement raised a parsing exception at "people". You != people at large.

People (at large) did in fact want stuff "tied down and limited", because without that, they had to figure out how to wander through 100000 ways of doing one simple thing they wanted to do. How I get out of this app? How do I get to my email? If you don't know anything about OSes or apps or even really up from down, you can figure out how to press the center button on the iPhone enough times to get back to an icon you recognize.

Second, by reducing complexity, Apple made it manageable to have the OS drive the phone experience, rather than the hardware driving the experience, which had been the case up to that point (though BlackBerries might strain my theory a bit). This plus sandboxing the hell out of everything in turn made it possible to put software on the phone and have a reasonable expectation that it will work, and voile you can now sell software downloads. I bought an iPhone after having a WinCE device, and despite having been a Linux admin, a quasi-DBA, etc, I couldn't get apps to install on that damn WinCE crap. I could on the iPhone. So that's what the iPhone delivered. Do other OSes do that now, absolutely yes. Are there drawbacks to Apple's design choices in iOS? Also yes, and these are particularly glaring with the iPad (the level of sandboxing really reduces utility of the iPad, IMHO).

But like it or not, Apple the first to figure out how to make a OS/user experience-centric phone for the average Joe or Jane. I suspect that it will be very hard to dislodge them from their perch, just as ostensibly better OSes couldn't get rid of Windows on the desktop.

Comment Re:What exactly is Mozilla spending $100M on? (Score 1) 644

Interesting, from the CFO's LinkedIn profile

MOZILLA - 2005 - present
--Called in to create the financial structure for Mozilla Corporation (

Business Week's profile of them:

Mozilla Corporation provides Internet solutions. It offers Firefox, a Web browser; Thunderbird 2, an email application; Raindrop, a prototype messaging tool, which enables users to manage a stream of messages coming from sources, such as Twitter and Facebook into their email; and Rainbow, a developer prototype that brings video and audio recording to Firefox 4. The company also provides Bugzilla, a bug tracking system that helps users to manage software development; Camino, a Web browser; and SeaMonkey, an application containing a Web browser, HTML editor, and Web development tools, as well as solutions for mobile phones. In addition, it operates an online store that provides apparel. The company is based in Mountain View, California. Mozilla Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Mozilla Foundation.

Dunno, I guess they're keeping those 500 people busy, but like a lot of things in this space, I just don't quite get it. Maybe I just don't do the things they're trying to address...

Comment What exactly is Mozilla spending $100M on? (Score 4, Insightful) 644

Does anyone know where the money they get from Google goes? Aren't they a non-profit that's freely distributing a community-developed piece of software? If so, why does this cost anything more than a couple million a year? That's what their financial statements from 2009 (latest available from their website) talk about: 10 people and ~ $1.5M in budget. That seems pretty reasonable to me to run a product with as broad a user base as Firefox.

But $100M??? Assuming an average salary of $100K, that's 1000 people. Are there really 1000 people working at Mozilla? If so, what are they doing?

Or are they really spending as much as Nike and Coke on marketing? Do they have a big pile of cash in bank? Can someone help me understand, cause right now I don't see how the math adds up...

Comment Re:It's for signatures (Score 1) 835

Right on, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. The legal ramifications of putting a pen to paper, signing, and then faxing the signed copy are very well understood, especially with a paper copy to follow. I'm at a medical company, and we send out legally signed documents to our clients (lab reports). In researching electronic signature of these documents we learned that there's actually quite a bit of sophistication in putting a pen to paper - you are attesting to your identity, your presence with the piece of paper, and accepting the contents you sign all at once. That's actually rather hard to replicate in a digital signature setup, and it's why so many people misunderstand compliance with 21CFR11: you have to make a process that provides the required attestations, not just buy some technology.

Not to mention that there is STILL no universal trust architecture on the internet. That means that getting anything resembling a real digital signature between company A and B means that the two companies' IT departments have to haggle out some form of relationship that allows them to accept company A, person 1234's digital signature and company B person 9876's signature in the same document and signature format (we're starting to converge towards PDF, but by no means converged). By contrast, when you send a fax, all those assurances are just there for you with no work at all.

Finally, a fax has a conceptual simplicity to it that is still pretty compelling. You make a piece of paper appear in a particular physical place with content on it. Lots of people still like to read documents on paper more than on screen (which is why there are still printers). That means if you know Mary has a fax near her desk and someone who organizes her papers for her, you can make a piece of paper get onto Mary's desk and perhaps get read. If you send her an email you had to know that you got the right account, got through her spam and other filters, and then compete for attention with the jillion other emails she's getting.

I myself don't care to fax much, because I a) read most things on a computer b) am terrible at managing paper, and c) manage to read most the emails I get (not a hug number). I have learned however, that those things are not representative of a large portion of the population.

Comment Re:Don't imagine that you're indispensable. (Score 1) 349

I would third the suggestion of "being a bigger part of the company". The only way to make this ask and not have it backfire is to appeal to their sense of teamwork. If you have been part of the team, and you are showing that you are willing to be more closely bound to the company and its fortunes, they may consider it worthwhile to offer you a little equity in order to retain your goodwill (and similarly that of others). After all, a good employee is a bird in the hand, so most good managers will attempt to accommodate those types of requests.

Bear in mind of course that unless the company is already planning to issue additional equity, any new equity that's offered dilutes existing shareholders, so you will face a pretty steep uphill climb if there is not a pool set aside for employee equity.

I would also second or third or 700th the suggestions that you make absolutely no mention of being indispensable, since you are not. If someone is in fact indispensable it's a good time for an institution to start looking for their replacement - just to mitigate the business risk. If they are not, then dropping the I-word gives an impression ranging from tacky to arrogant to hostage-taker, and you may well be shown the door.

Long story short, if you really like the company and want to be part of it, I think I'd ask for a promotion - probably accompanied by converting to a salaried employee - and see if you can slide in a request for a little equity there. Otherwise you're probably taking your chances.

Comment Re:Quick version of the laptop buying guide: (Score 1) 898

This is well thought out and raises some good points about the economics of maximizing hardware and features over time. Nonetheless, I deeply disagree, since I think you're missing a couple key variables in your analysis.

Replacing a computer is a pretty big hassle every time you do it - dig out backups, migrate stuff, get email, bookmarks, working directories set up, go fetch data off the old machine when you realize you forgot it, etc. And if you had a crash, you have to add the replacement time. So a good analogy is to AC - you want it on and working when you turn it on. Interruptions won't kill you, but they can be pretty aggravating on certain days. As such your analysis is leaving out the value of minimizing downtime. Someone's sensitivity to downtime does depend on how much they rely on a computer (i.e., do they have a desktop they can use as a backup), but it's still pretty rare to have a highly portable environment on any computer. So a reliable machine and warranty and/or retail option that turns your computer around quickly are more important to a lot of folks than maximizing hardware and features over time.

My wife happens to also not like her Mac, and I'm going to take a guess that my wife and the OPs wife have relatively similar desires - do the things they knew how to do in Windows quickly, and not worry about anything else about the computer. What she mainly wants it to do is always work. So I think what she needs is a reliable, not too feature-focused machine with a setup and a warranty that minimize downtime. Whether the easiest way to get to that is to install Windows on the existing Mac box or buy a Windows machine depends on lots of real-life details only the OP knows. I will probably take a stab at installing Windows on my wife's machine and see how that goes over.

Of my 2 favorite things about using a Mac, one is going to the retail store* and leaving a little while later with my machine ready to go (although you do have to spend a couple hours ignoring the condescending hipness of the "geniuses"). That only applies to problems that can be fixed by configuration or swapping out hardware, but that's a pretty good fraction of all problems - HD, PS, RAM, battery failures have to be O(50%) or more of hardware problems.

* My second favorite thing about the Mac is that sleeping and hibernate rarely causes crashes. You open the case and the computer is as it was before going to sleep, with some occasional confusion about network changes. That was just never the case in the Windows machines I had - I attribute it to being able to define the hardware and test the software and hardware together. I like other stuff about the Mac, but they're way behind those two.

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