Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Comment: Perfectly competitive goods and economic pricing (Score 1) 205

by erikscott (#48554651) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

In market-based economies, pricing of goods depends on fixed and marginal costs. Perfectly competitive (i.e., totally equivalent goods, completely interchangable with each other) cannot be priced above the marginal cost of producing another unit of it (in the long run, at least). Generating pricing power requires differentiation.

Software that is a commodity cannot be priced above its marginal cost. The marginal cost of another OpenSSL download is about zilch. If there was an efficient market able to make micropayments, market balance could be restored. As it is now, it's a hobby activity for individuals and a cost of doing business for large companies.

I would argue that editors, OS kernels, and compilers are, at this point, commodities. Obviously commercial offerings are differentiated just enough to generate some pricing power, and that suggests that Open Source offerings at least theoretically could (dual open/commercial licenses, like Qt in the past), but I would argue this is a temporary market inefficiency.

Incidentally, the classic way to make money giving away software was to then sell the consulting services around it.

Comment: Re:Bigger fuckup than John Akers (Score 3) 84

by erikscott (#48186157) Attached to: IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division

I'm still trying to work out why they're paying GlobalFoundries to take the plants. The pension argument doesn't make sense - IBM switched from "defined benefit" to "defined contribution" about ten years ago, so they can walk away on a whim now. The only factors I can think of are:

1) IBM received a decent subsidy ($600M) from the feds to run a "trusted semiconductor foundry" line, on US soil (google it - not a secret). The government does this in several markets and industries just to make sure they prop up at least one US supplier - they used to pay Micron to make RAM in the US (and may still). Seemed at the time like they wanted to support "one architecture in addition to x86", which would of course be POWER. So, would a shutdown have triggered a repayment clause?

2) Or... semiconductor manufacturing is a nasty business - literally. Maybe it's cheaper to pay someone to take it than it is to clean up all the, say, arsenic that various processes use a lot of. Still, I would think that just sealing the doors with concrete and walking away would be pretty cheap, too.

Comment: Re:And as the resolution increases ... (Score 1) 77

by erikscott (#48055839) Attached to: Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts

There are urban airshed models that do exactly this for air quality studies and plume analysis models for hazmat, but I'm not aware of weather forecasting at the block-by-block level. Right off the cuff, I would suspect that albedo is at least as important - at human building scales, reynolds number is going to be pretty high. At that point, it looks more like computational fluid dynamics and less like weather - hence airshed modeling and plume analysis.

Comment: WRF has gotten pretty good, actually (Score 4, Informative) 77

by erikscott (#48053489) Attached to: Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts

I'm a computer engineer, not a meteorologist, but I've worked with them off and on for about eight years now. One of the most common models for research use is "Weather Research and Forecasting Model" (WRF, pronounced like the dude from ST:TNG). There are several versions in use, so caveats are in order, but in general WRF can produce really good results at a 1.6KM grid for 48 hours in the future. I was given the impression that coarser grids are the route to happiness for longer period forecasts.

WRF will accept about as much or as little of an initializer as you want to give it. Between NEXRAD radar observations, ground met stations all over the place, two hundred or so balloon launches per day, satellite water vapor estimates, and a cooperative agreement with airlines to download in-flight met conditions (after landing, natch), there's gobs of data available.

The National Weather Service wants to run new models side-by-side with older models and then back check the daylights out of them, so we can expect the regular forecast products to improve dramatically over the next (very) few years.

Comment: Re:Nokia still has products? (Score 1) 54

by erikscott (#47574727) Attached to: Nokia Buys a Chunk of Panasonic

Nokia has completely shifted gears before - they used to make forestry equipment at one point (early 70s?), which indirectly led to their making VHF radios with telephone interfaces for use out in the boondocks, which led to cellphones for them.

The VHF "portable phones" from the late 80s, by the way, can be hacked into becoming 2 meter (144 MHz) ham radios. Have fun...

Comment: Re:Are they taking advice from law schools? (Score 3, Interesting) 325

by erikscott (#47181291) Attached to: Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

The MLA's principal source of revenue is... wait for it... humanities PhD.s and their annual dues. So hell no they aren't going to call for a reduction in output.

Historically, the sink for all those graduates was Law School. University education basically was Law School until individual "majors" started being created in the mid nineteenth century and the J.D. became a degree in its own right. Lawyers are in something of a unbalanced predator/prey relationship now, and it'll take a while to swing around. Meanwhile, your humanities PhD plus two semesters of organic chem will get you into any Medical School in the country. They like people with the demonstrated perseverance of a PhD in basically anything. The Great Doctor Famine is a good 25-30 years away (the GenX bunch, well, there just aren't enough of us to fill all those beds, and it'll be a while before the millenials get there to fill 'em back up).

Comment: VAX/VMS supported into late 1990s (Score 1) 96

by erikscott (#46820017) Attached to: Apple Fixes Major SSL Bug In OS X, iOS

Sadly, VMS support for VAX ended around 7.1 or 7.3 or something - it was in the late nineties. But every alpha ever made (at least "that ever ran VMS in the first place") can run the latest version.

All UltraSPARCS can run solaris 10.X. Hardware from this millenium is required for Solaris 11.X (more or less). Pre-Ultra machines are kind of limited - A microsparc machine (sparcStation 5 and similar) is supported on 2.9, but unless you max out the RAM you're better off at 2.8. Sparcs with VME busses (4/110, 4/280, etc) are stuck further back - maybe Solaris 2.4, but I'm not sure. These are better off running OpenBSD anyway. :-)

Yeah, I get a laugh out of what constitutes "support" these days. :-)

Comment: Re:A printer and a template (Score 1) 370

by erikscott (#46577051) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

Not really true. It's illegal to offer engineering services to the public for projects not suitable for instate commerce unless you're a PE. If a hypothetical project could possibly be built in one state and sold in another, you don't have to be a PE. Professional Engineers usually do roads, bridges, footings, big earthworks, stuff like that. Most Civil Engineers find that they have to be PEs to even hold a job, while almost no aerospace engineers are PEs. Turns out that airplanes can cross state lines pretty easily. Electrical Engineers who are PEs are mostly found in electrical utility design and construction.

Different rules apply in Canada and probably every other country. "Engineer" is a trademark in Canada, and the Canadian PEs protect their turf through trademark law. :-)

"Consider a spherical bear, in simple harmonic motion..." -- Professor in the UCB physics department