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Comment: Welcome to the free market (Score 1) 311

by jd (#47762443) Attached to: Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

Where providers are free to gouge and customers are free to... well... complain on Slashdot, but that's about it.

It's only actually free when there's freedom. Freedom to choose between genuinely different providers is a start. If they go to the same tier 2 provider, then the that will define the prices and services, so isn't a choice at all. If they ARE the tier 2, then they're the ultimate source of services and pricetag for all the tier 3s out there.

But there has to be more, since bandwidth throttling dictates bandwidth availability downstream. You can't sell what isn't there - unless you're Time-Warner or Comcast, of course. Try that with a physical product ("It'll cost you $elebenty, payable now, no refund, and if it doesn't do what we claim, that's not a lemon, that's the fault of some unidentified someone doing something somewhere somehow and we'd rather screw you than bother them"). So, freedom to know what you're actually buying and freedom to use statuary rights to obtain that product or a refund.

This is actually one reason I'm a little unhappy with free software. It has been telling vendors that it's ok to not provide what is offered. Not so much by actually doing that - free software has been, in general, superb about being up-front about what it can and cannot do, known defects and limitations, etc. More by saying in the license that the producer is entitled to lie through his teeth without consequence. A quick look at Oracle's conduct shows that vendors have paid very close attention to that clause.

Free Software relies on there being a viable alternative, that users can go elsewhere if dissatisfied. The resilience to fixing bugs in GCC and GLibC, in present and prior administrations, demonstrate that when viable alternatives are scant, such software is too complex to fork or replace unless it gets really, really bad. Which it has occasionally done.

When it comes to cable companies, it's infinitely worse. You're not in a position to run fibre from your home to an alternative tier 2 in another State. Partly because of expense, partly because laws governing interstate activities make it impossible for private individuals, and partly because the cable companies would raise all hell, three quarters of bloody murder and a dash of pint of high water to stop you. Which would not be hard for them, all they need to do is to persuade the tier 2 provider to not sell the capacity. If that failed, they could keep you tied up in knots with the FCC over whether you were an unlicensed telecom operator or not. Mind you, some of you might like knots. I dunno. If all else failed, they could SWAT the people running the cable, get you listed for suspected terrorist ties, or just repeatedly run a backhoe through your cable until you got the message.

You have no choice. You have no freedom. The cable operators have been redefining "monopoly" and "telecommunications" to whatever serves their purpose, not yours, and on multiple occasions. They have been free to do so because everyone likes simplified services and nobody in the States is going to vehemently oppose the "market at work". Even when it clearly doesn't. Not until it is far, far too late to stop things happening.

And we're way past it being too far. It was too far when telecos started replacing copper for fibre at select spots. Supposedly to improve service (which never improved). The reality was that DSL companies competing with the teleco all went out of business where this happened. No great surprise, you can't run DSL over fibre and everyone knew it. It was too late when telephonic "service of last resort" stopped being mandatory in many States. It was too late when ADSL was all private users could buy, SDSL was only sold to select businesses.

It was too late when rival multistate networks got bought up by the Big Telecos with not a murmur from anyone.

It was not because these were fatal in themselves, it's because people had become too stupid and too utterly dependent on being spoonfed by corporate giants (who are far less efficient than any big government ever thought of being, except at defrauding customers). The time for people to learn to think had passed. There wasn't anything left to think about. There were no examples to learn from. All that was left was a self-inflicted oblivion.

It's as if a hundred billion endpoints all screamed out and then fell silent.

And no Consumer Jedi to notice or care.

Comment: The footage doesn't matter. (Score 1) 299

by jd (#47752663) Attached to: Put A Red Cross PSA In Front Of the ISIS Beheading Video

The publicity is everything to the terrorists. Censorship is, in some ways, even better for them, as rumours (which they can start) can make unseen footage far worse than reality and the Streisand Effect works just fine, bringing people into discussions.

No, this isn't something you can fix in the middle. You have to fix the users, instead. You have to damp down emotional responses and increase rational duscussion. There is no terrorism without fear, there are no causes without fear.

Eliminating the instinct (it's not an emotion, it's baser than that) of fear us impossible - and probably unwise if possible. But damping it, and raising calm rationality, is possible.

And it will not only make video nasties unimportant, it will make the terrorists who make them an endangered species.

You can't fight terror with blinkers or peril-sensitive sunglasses, or even with weapins. Because terror is in the mind, be it their mind or yours. And to fight in your mind the ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, a warplane is a very messy, expensive and stupid solution. You can only fight mind with mind.

Comment: Re:My opinion on the matter. (Score 2) 779

by jd (#47752559) Attached to: Choose Your Side On the Linux Divide

Skepticism != Cynicism.

When the distinction becomes blurred, you no longer have skepticism.

All things should be questioned. That doesn't mean forever.

All things should be subject to scrutiny. That doesn't mean wasting cycles.

Once an issue is settled, it's settled until new data brings it back into question.

Things should be fixed before they break, not after, but only with something verifiably better. If it's not verified, it's not better.

Enough of the common sense that you yung 'uns lack. Back to the boot process.

The original boot process was never great. A very limited range of states, temperamental scripts, poorly documented behaviours, wide variation in precise behaviour between implementations, potential vulnerabilities, ghastly completion time, horrible dependencies, etc.

This has been replaced with an alternative that is new, shiny and creates exactly the same problems but in a completely new way.

A pox on both your houses.

Still, six is better than the two runlevels offered by Windows, which are even slower, even less stable and even less secure. What's worse than pox. I know, Ebola on Windows.

The lot of you are a disgrace. All three systems are less designed than congealed. And the Unix man pages were written by Vogons. Drunk Vogons. Practicing poetry whilst smashing snails with hammers.

Comment: Well, that does it for Facebook. (Score 1, Insightful) 193

by jd (#47740745) Attached to: Facebook Experimenting With Blu-ray As a Storage Medium

Not that I had any trust in them anyway.

Blu-Ray, and indeed any modern optical storage, is very short-lived precisely because it's designed to be cheap. The laser disks used to store the Doomsday Project in Britain were still readable after 20 years. Modern optical storage decays typically within 5. Less, as the density goes up. And failures take out far larger percentages of the storage.

Magnetic tape is still the only trusted long-term backup medium. I wouldn't suggest it for something like Facebook purely because of seek times, but it's hard to think of any viable alternative.

With Blu-Ray, to guarantee to avoid complete disk loss, you'd have to be re-archiving the entire archive annually. That adds an enormous invisible cost to the project. They're not going to do that. Which means there's guaranteed loss of backups. How much depends on the exact storage conditions but it won't be pretty.

As for better ability to withstand conditions, it again comes down to the nature of the storage. Optical disks are highly vulnerable to a lot of things that hard drives are not. Overall, optical storage usually performs very badly in comparison, as the things hard drives are vulnerable to are cheaply avoided but the things optical storage can be attacked by are usually a lot harder to deal with.

I'm sure you're aware that none of the above formats (tape included) are considered "archival quality" - they just don't have the sort of durability required by that categorization. No known digital format does and there's nothing you can do to stabilize them. It's a big research area. For now, tape is considered the only method that is economic and durable, with the lowest loss of data per failure.

Comment: Re:Raptor? (Score 1) 107

by jd (#47740703) Attached to: Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

They often do. Before, they always did. Absolutely standard practice.

It would be better if the government wouldn't buy anything, even from vendors of vendors, without full accounting. If you can game the system with shells, you might as well not have a system.

Having said that, there's a lot of creative billing because of the specifics of how the paperwork is done, and there's a lot of creative bidding where costs are deliberately deflated or ignored (all for the very best of reasons, I'm sure) with the upshot that the actual cheapest bid isn't necessarily the one that's cheapest on paper, and where actual costs can be 2-3 times the provisional guesstimates.

And, no, contractors actually don't charge a lot. People get out of government work and into purely private enterprise not because the jobs are better (they're usually far worse) but because the pay can be double. That's why government contractors get such a bad image. That's not where the talent pool is. The "get up and go" got up and went. The brain drain is not pretty.

If government wanted people with skills doing the skilled jobs required, they need to outbid the Googles of the world. They need talent with the calibre to get the job done right. The first time. Talent that doesn't have fighter pilots blanking out from lack of oxygen because they actually bothered to design things that work. Talent that doesn't have glass-cockpit aircraft carriers dead in the water because of a division by zero error in a Windows application.

The starting price needs to be higher. Much, much higher. Not only to be realistic, but to be realistic with the people needed to MAKE it realistic.

Comment: Re:Fuck Lockheed (Score 1) 107

by jd (#47740675) Attached to: Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

Nobody is going to increase their expenses voluntarily. Especially on something like a rocket, where local disasters are very public and very expensive. And doubly not in a situation where increasing the cost of the contract would be a political nightmare likely solved by the contract moving to someone else buying from Russia.

When money talks, nobody asks questions.

Comment: Re:Fuck Lockheed (Score 2) 107

by jd (#47740667) Attached to: Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

It's what you get in a market economy. Sorry, but outsourcing is cheaper and the cheaper product will win over the better product 99 times out of 100. Especially when it comes to government, where they're legally obliged to go with the cheapest bid.

That's just the way the country is set up. Anyone with a brain would tell you that outsourcing even across State lines, never mind international boundaries, carries political risk. The nation decided, rightly or wrongly, that saving money was more important. If the roll of the dice is against you, well, too bad. That happens.

It also carries geological risks. Putting all the chip factories in one earthquake-prone zone in Asia - and, indeed, along the same bloody faultline, was a marvelous piece of risk management. Penny wise, pound foolish, as us Brits usually say. After the fact and rarely before.

That brings me to the related point of putting vital infrastructure in dangerous locations.

Silicon Valley (a highly polluted zone that exports contaminated water at vast expense to places that dump the water back into Silicon Valley's water sources) is a remarkable piece of stupidity, being as it is, situated on one fault line and close enough to another. Silicon Forest (Oregon/Washington State) has taken up some of the IT load, but given that the locations are still on the Ring of Fire and thus still in dangerously unstable territory, the industry has successfully doubled the chances of catastrophe.

Most of the design engineers not located in these places are in India (a nice, stable location with no deadly diseases rampaging through the countryside and no risk of religious civil war or war with any neighbouring country), Israel (ditto except for the disease AFAIK), China (great choice, no problems there!) and Jaan (not the least bit likely to get into a conflict with neighbours, have power stations explode, suffer earthquakes or tsunamis, or lunatic politicians hell-bent on causing a crisis).

Comment: Almost forgot. (Score 0) 185

by jd (#47740169) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?


(Yes, that was intentionally shouted. If anyone actually needs to be told that, they're not to be trusted with gentleness.)

Refractors will always produce low-quality images. A good pair of binoculars will cost less and show you more. Seriously. Refractors are for the gullible. Powerful binoculars will not only be cheaper, they will collect more light, they will be far more rugged, they will be easier to align, and they will be easier for kids to look through.

Comment: Interesting question (Score 1) 185

by jd (#47740149) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

Reflectors with an effective collecting area under 4" are worthless. That's everything from the aperture to mirror. That's going to put you well over $50. Adequate reflectors don't exist under $250, except on special clearance.

You are better off buying a remotely controllable reflector with a webcam fitted to the eyepiece and having a group of kids take turns steering it. Firstly, it's cheaper overall. Secondly, you don't have breakages to worry about. Third, kids prefer nice, warm rooms to freezing pitch-black country parks well away from light pollution, hot drinks, facilities, ...

Not only is this more likely to be attractive to kids, parents who invest $50 in a group effort are much more likely to make sure they get their money's worth than if they spent the same amount just on their kid. It's all about the attitude of not wanting to pay for someone else's stuff. It's a vulgar, uncouth attitude, but that makes it easily exploitable for everyone's gain.

Comment: Meh. James Lovelock's idea is better. (Score 2) 80

by jd (#47740113) Attached to: Spot ET's Waste Heat For Chance To Find Alien Life

It's a very simple, even lower-tech approach. Unstable molecules are unstable, stable ones aren't. Life isn't capable of producing stable molecules from stable molecules. Something, somewhere down the line, therefore must produce unstable molecules.

If you use spectrometry and find a planet that has two or more highly reactive molecules (especially if they cannot coexist naturally), that planet has complex life. If you have one reactive molecule that breaks down in sunlight but is being refreshed, that planet must have at least simple life. If the planet has highly reactive molecules that don't readily form naturally, you have life that is nominally intelligent.

No requirement for any technology capable of generating a specific signature. No requirement for the absence of metamaterials. No requirement for a telescope big enough to detect the signature against natural variation.

SKA would be capable of detecting an alien civilization using Lovelock's method anywhere inside of 1,000 light years, given the size and sensitivity currently being proposed. How big would the James Webb telescope need to be to get an IR signature on the industrialized part of the US at that range?

Comment: Ooops! (Score 3, Funny) 172

by jd (#47734597) Attached to: Google Wants To Test Driverless Cars In a Simulation

Found a bug in physics.c, those cars we mass produced last year will spontaneously explode after 367 days of exposure to an atmosphere containing oxygen, or when white lines are painted rather than vinyl, or when attempting a corner of a prime number of degrees when speeding on a cambered road.

Why wasn't this spotted sooner?

Because we hadn't expected to need chemistry or non-Euclidian geometry in a physics engine.

Comment: Re:Perhaps this won't be a popular view... (Score 1) 358

by jd (#47734539) Attached to: "MythBusters" Drops Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci

Then make the episodes longer. Or have one set of presenters on the first show (they're usually paired) and the others on the second show. Or eliminate redundant footage so that you can have two or three times the content. Or eliminate the advertisers, sorry adverts, and get three times the running length.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!