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Comment Barking up the wrong tree (Score 1) 352

The article is totally barking up the wrong tree.

There is nothing wrong with every jack on the planet cobbling together their very own programs. Programming is dead easy. Any fool can code, and I have nothing against that.

The point is that software which is to be re-used (whether FOSS or proprietary software) should be held to certain design standards.

FOSS software manages itself, more or less, and the user's job is to choose software that does what's needed and looks credible from a development point of view (sensible forums, active development community, public source code repository so that you can check activity, etc.),

Proprietary software is more difficult. It runs the entire spectrum from shoddy to excellent, and you can't really tell from the outside (short of reading forum posts about it).

Software for which there is substantial cost attached to failing (whether proprietary or FOSS) should be properly designed, quality-controlled, and managed (as opposed to being hacked together).

Comment Regulation needed? (Score 1) 85

Given the natural tendency of companies to (deliberately) skimp on security and the fact that offering decent security isn't likely to emerge by itself in the marketplace, it's clear that we're looking at a deluge of consumer electronics that control real-world equipment and is dead easy to break into,

I think that security in the consumer sphere is worth having (for our society as a whole) even if nobody (in the market) wants to do it.

So I was wondering if this (security for electronic equipment that controls real-world stuff) isn't an area that could genuinely benefit from government regulation. Just like minimum safety norms for electrical equipment, building fire regulations and safety regulations for cars.

Comment Well ... it depends ... (Score 1) 150

Sorry, but it really does. The right answer depends on you and your application. And previous posts to this effect are right: start with the software that solves your problem.

You see, if you (the one who posted the question) were a numerical mathematician or a computational physicist and looking for adequate performance in a research setting at rock-bottom cost, I'd say:have a look at GPU's (see e.g. here ) and e.g. the Navier Stokes solver from Stanford U. (see here: ). For such applications, hardware based on GPU's tends to give a much better price/performance ratio than rigs based on CPU's. But they're s lot harder to use as well. So find a suitable solver and see what hardware makes it shine.

But you probably aren't, or you'd have known that already (or looked it up in the literature or figured it out yourself).

Err ... if you are (as far as I can make out) just a computing guy who doesn't know Navier from Stokes but wants to put a "FEA/CFD rig" together, I think you're simply not the right person to do that. Yes, you're probably capable a few PCB's together that can run a generic Matlab-based solver, and will then find that it gives you an abysmal price-performance ratio on your particular workload.

And why? Well, the problem with "supercomputers" is: they're much more powerful than a general purpose computer only on very *specific^ problems. Change the problem and watch the performance change as well.

So you've got to tune your hardware to your problem in order to get realy good price-performance. And your "problem" is your solver. You need to choose that as well. And for that you need yo understand a bit about what a solver does relative to the problem you really want to solve. And it sounds as if you haven't a clue. Sorry.

The alternative is to let other people (consultants, vendors) do the thinking, and buy a custom solution. That will work, and will give you reasonable (but not great) price-performance ratios at a reasonable price level. But make darned sure that your hardware-software combinations is a good fit.

My suggestion: talk to your team member who knows what the formulas look like, what solver you're going to be using, whether low-accuracy is acceptable (e.g. if the objective is to obtain a graphical solution) or whether high accuracy is a must (e.g. for engineering purposes).

If low accuracy is acceptable but you want the best speed, think GPU's. If not ... determine what the particularities of your problem instances are, what your solver grid will look like, and what type of computing resources you'd need for that and how much.

Simply saying "a CFD problem" isn't nearly specific enough. And getting to a hardware configuration that has truly good price/performance levels is something for a specialist (or a team effort).

Comment Excellent idea (Score 3, Interesting) 47

And overdue.

As FOSS projects become more widely used (privately and by companies), it's an excellent idea to actually collect some statistics that give an idea of how well and how actively a project is maintained.

An attacker might e.g. get commit rights to several low-activity projects, insert malicious code, and wait for people to download updates and become easily exploitable.

No FOSS end-user ever checks code: they rely om the maintainers to produce clean and honest code. Large and tech-savvy businesses tend to be a little more cautious, but in the end only a minority have the staff and the budget to actually vet the code. So unless they're going to expose themselves by redistributing the code, or they know they're going to use it in mission-critical ways, they won't look into it very deeply.

This leaves users vulnerable. Because when a project is "asleep", it's a good candidate to slip in some backdoors.

Given the number of FOSS projects, it can be quite hard for any organisation to get an idea of (let alone metrics on) how well maintained those projects are. Doing this and making the numbers public is a very useful service.

Of course, as no doubt various FOSS enthusiasts will rush to point out, it's not a perfect indicator.

Well ... it isn't and it doesn't have to be, but it's a very useful indicator all the same. And if you can easily look up a project's rating, that will sharply increase the likelihood that it will be used.

Comment Intelligence and education (Score 1) 278

By and large, education and intelligence tend to show show a strong correlation (if one controls for opportunity and rote learning)..

Acquiring an education at university level (at a reputable university) requires one to be able to grasp a coherent set of ideas and techniques that together form the tissue of established science.

A student's grasp of the subject matter is (in reputable universities) not tested by measuring if people can regurgitate the material (achievable by rote learning), but if they can *apply* the tools to a new problem and if they can correctly assess and explain the impact and importance of e.g. changing one or two basic propositions of the theory.

That is how you test if a student has actually understood something they learned. And no, the questions that result from this line of approach can't be found in the books and can't easily be prepared for.

Correctly answering questions like that demands knowledge (a student must *know* (i.e. have memorised) enough of the subject matter) as well as intelligence (defined as sufficient grasp of the theory and an ability to use the theory to reason with it (i.e. apply it), and (this is how you recognise very good students) the ability to reason *about* the theory).

So by and large, someone who is educated in a reputable field at a reputable university and has better than minimum passing grades is intelligent. If they can grasp, apply, and reason about one theory, they will be able to do the same with other theories. Those tend to be the people that go into research by embarking on a PhD (at reputable universities).

So there's the causal link underlying the correlation between intelligence and education.

Of course there are a fair number of diploma mills that focus on testing memory. There you don't receive an education, you memorise a syllabus and learn how to avoid saying anything not covered by the text you learned.

Comment Re:Effect of nukes on NEOs (Score 1) 272


Nonsense on both counts.

From the article: nuclear explosions are 10 to 100 times as effective against asteroids on collision course as any other means investigated.

Besides, it really doesn't matter where you launch an nuke that you're about to detonate near an asteroid from, as long as it gets there. There is almost no time difference in delivery time (time to exit the atmosphere is less than an hour).

Comment Not shared by everyone (Score -1, Troll) 637

Clearly the inability to come to grips with slow-moving crises is not shared by everyone. It's concentrated in certain segments of the population.

Conservative political leanings, an anti-science stance, creationism, low education levels, low numeracy, and general gun-happiness all seem to be a strong co-morbidities.

Comment Wow ... is this real? (Score 3, Insightful) 235

If this is true (and not a trick) then we've just seen the beginning of the end for human-staffed customer service call-centres.

Script reading call-centre staff will be made redundant or downsized.

Banks, utilities, booking agencies, insurance sales ... all will use automated customer service, perhaps with switch through to a human operator on demand (at which point higher charges will kick in).

And brace yourself for robotic surveys and sales calls that sound uncannily like real people.

Comment Oversimplification ... (Score 5, Insightful) 243


I agree to the extent that lots of taxes are simply passed through to customers. If you didn't, you wouldn't be in business for long. And yes, many of those taxes apply irrespective of company size.

But certainly not all of them. As is: different locations have different cost structures. They apply to different aspects of your business. Given the amount of goods that are transported throughout the country, it should be clear that capital costs (cost of setting up production facilities), labour costs, material costs, energy costs, insurance costs, labour productivity, production efficiency, spillage, waste and theft etc. ensure that you get different cost structures in different places.

As soon as you have that, you get a mix of suppliers in one market with different cost structures. As a result you get different profit margins and different tax burdens for different suppliers, and with it different returns on capital. Transaction costs, various constraints, and uncertainty about future costs limit how easily businesses can set up shop elsewhere.

Having a mix of suppliers with different cost structures and different tax burdens wouldn't be possible if taxes were just another cost.

Yes, yes, you think that if I made $1 million in profit last year and the government wants 30% of that, that it shouldn't raise prices. You'd be wrong.

No. The situation you describe is where you total all costs your business incurs, decide how much profit you'd like to make and add that too, factor in any profit taxes, and then charge whatever results to your customers.

That only works if your customers want whatever it is you're selling at that price and there's no-one around to compete with you.

In other words: a niche business.

What you're saying is that all taxes are, in the end, paid by society as a whole (including businesses), which is correct. And yes, if society wouldn't be paying taxes, it would quite simply pay for everything taxes are spent on in other ways, so ultimately all taxes are an expense.

But the fact remains that taxes on products weigh more heavily on individual consumers and taxes on profits weigh more heavily on "capital".

This is simply because an increase in profits will certainly not result in an increase in wealth for individuals that make up the "labour" part of society. They are very unevenly distributed and tend to go towards those individuals who contributed the "capital" part of the equation. Contrarywise, a decrease in profits will not *immediately and automatically* lead to a decrease in wages (and wealth for the "labour" part of society). In both cases "entrepreneurship" is in the way.

To the extent you're saying there's no difference between taxes on products and taxes on profits, that's an oversimplification.

Comment I really wonder (Score 1) 103

I'd like to believe you but I'm not sure.

As to new law superseding old law, true, but wouldn't a change in law the way you mean open up the government to a wave of liability claims? If companies appealed to an ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) tribunal? For example the one provided by article 11 of NAFTA (see )

After all, the government did represent to industry that they would not face new regulations for the next 10 years. Going back on that promise clearly affects the profitability of the industry. Therefore damages may exist and a demand for compensation is well within the scope of existing law.

Of course I don't know how exactly the law works in this case, but intuitively I'd say that a company that was promised a regulation-free period would stand a decent chance to sue for damages if new legislation were enacted that proves restrictive or even inconvenient. And that could prove quite expensive.

Any thoughts?

Comment Deeply irresponsible (Score 1) 103

In the finest traditions of lobbyist-written laws, congress has declared anything to do with space-launches the be a exempt from any new regulations by the FAA for the next 10 years. That's called the SPACE act ... .

In other words: it has tied its own hands for the next 10 years.

It is, to quote the article, to allow the industry to "build up experience" which can inform regulations. In other words ... do whatever you like but don't forget to keep a record if anything goes boom. To "inform regulation" ten years later you know.

Oh, and did you read that part about joint state-enterprise responsibility in case of accidents?

Nice one ... private companies can skimp on safety measures as much as they like (a great competitive advantage, that) and the taxpayer will foot (at least) half the bill if anything untoward happens. The other half of the bill will be vainly trying to penetrate the legal insulation provided by launch-companies.

Comment Re:Scientifically driven politics (Score 2) 347


It's ironic that Slashdot is objecting to these hearings yet at the same time seemingly against legislation that would mandate that public policy be based on publicly available Science.

I don't think so. Mandating public policy to be based on publicly available science would for example end all and any teachings of "creationism" in schools.

It would also end faith-based politics like "trickle-down tax exemptions", facilities that allow companies to use overseas subsidiaries as tax shelters, H-1B visa (there's no evidence that these jobs can't be adequately filled by natives), spurious copyright extensions (like the one enacted to save mickey mouse from entering the public domain), viewing corporations as "persons" in a number of ways, allowing employers to curtail medical expenses (like abortions) based on "faith-based considerations", and all attempts to loosen or reverse a complete separation between church and state, and it would prevent e.g. the US military from preparing for effects conflicts that (demonstrably and indisputably) have their roots in global climate change.

In other words ... it would run into widespread and ferocious opposition from corporations, religionists, and conservatives as soon as those good people realised what it actually entailed.

Of course I understand that. What those congregationists actually *meant* is that people going on about environmental damage due to conventional drilling, fracking, unrestricted logging, GMO's, bans on insane amounts of antibiotics being used in hog-farming and chicken farming, and other man-made catastrophes should be held to much much higher levels of proof than are needed for scientific consensus.

They should instead be held to the level of proof that you'd get from exhaustive 50-year contrast studies to deal with all industry-sponsored "studies" casting doubt on anything from basic statistics, data-collection, modeling, personal motivation of the personnel involved, representativity, and explanation of any number of far-fetched and shady counter-examples to the general conclusions being reached. By which time the issues have become moot anyway, and profits from irresponsible behaviour have been safely pocketed and are protected by they occurred before there was any law against whatever abuse they were derived from.

Since Slashdot is at least somewhat representative of the US population, consequences like this are going to find few takers. So there's your answer: it isn't ironic, it's a fact of life.

Comment Magic ... (Score 1) 533

The magic is called "public money", and it comes from something known as "policy".

For various reasons Germany decided they wanted to be less dependent on nuclear and not more dependent on fossil. So they massively subsidised solar panels.

People noticed that and bought them in numbers. Now it turns out that adapting the grid to massive amounts of PV-generated power is expensive too. So they have a special tax to generate the money, and they're currently spending lavish subsidies on ... improving batteries and other energy-storage schemes, smart meters, adapting the grid (more (230 KV + long-distance lines, more robust grids at the 10 KV end of the line, researching how to work around the need for heavier grids through storage at city-block level, putting sophisticated control mechanisms in place in solar farms and wind-farms, etc.

And of course organising all participants so that they can do something useful with weather forecasts, and building up robustness to deal with e.g. a solar eclipse.

It's concentrated effort rather than magic, and it doesn't come cheap. See e.g.

Certainly not a bad idea, but it's a choice. Meaning there are other possible choices.

Comment Re:in my opinion this guy is like Jenny McCarthy (Score 2) 320

Funny how many people creep out of the woodwork to condemn someone for being "populist" when he takes a stance that sits ill with commercial interests. Why is it so un-scientific to speak out for labeling GMO foods so that they are recognizable?

People on the other hand who pander to scientifically illiterate conservative underbelly feelings by insisting that evolution be treated as "just a theory" and be treated on par with wild flights of fancy like "intelligent design" on the other hand are known as "devoutly christian", "understandable in their quest for impartiality", and "very American".

Is it just me or do we see a clear division along partisan lines here?

To iterate is human, to recurse, divine. -- Robert Heller