Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: People have been talking about this for years. (Score 2) 265

by hey! (#49625637) Attached to: Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer

The Android fragmentation boogeyman.

What nobody's ever explained to my satisfaction is why I should give a flying f*ck. As far as I can see "fragmentation" is simply the result of users and developers not all being forced to upgrade to the latest and greatest when the platform vendor demands it. This is actually a *good* thing.

It means I can find a $40 Android tablet running KitKat, which is perfectly fine for things I want to use a $40 tablet for. I'm out of the developer business now, but I still dabble to keep up with developments, and far as I can see the Google tools do a really nice job of allowing developers to target a range of platforms and still look up to date on the latest and greatest. So I don't have to shut out people who bought a smartphone last year if I want to use Material Design (which is cartoony for my taste but does a nice job setting out consistent UI guidelines).

If this is fragmentation hell, all I can say is come on in, the the lava is fine. Sure it would be *nice* if the adoption rate for the latest and greatest was higher, but as a long time user and developer I have to say that not being pushed over the upgrade cliff on the platform vendor's orders is nice too.

Comment: Re:I cut my teeth on the ARPANET. (Score 1) 527

by hey! (#49624827) Attached to: Recruiters Use 'Digital Native' As Code For 'No Old Folks'

Go really retro and have token ring and round robin instead of ethernet....

No, that's for after I've sold them all ThickNet. Then I'll have them bying STP-A cable by the spool to run to the MAO. Maybe I'll package a whole concentrator rack inside a vintage Frigidaire unit so that anytime anyone wants a Pabst they'll see you're more retro than thou.

Comment: Quick summary of the papers involved here. (Score 5, Informative) 286

The summary conflates two papers, a review paper in Science which summarizes the state of knowledge about fracking the Marcellus Shale (Vidic et al. 2013), and a study of an individual incident published this month in PNAS in which researcher purport to have found a single instance of minor contamination from a fracking well (Llewellyn et al. 2015). Neither paper is particularly damning or inflammatory, so at first blush it's not immediately obvious why the fracking PR flacks have gone to DEFCON 3 on this. The key is to read the review paper first. This is almost always the best way to start because review papers are supposed to give a full and balanced overview of the current state of scientific knowledge on a topic. TL;DR, I know, but stick with me for a few paragraphs and I think I can make the problem clear.

Vidic paints a rather favorable picture of the fracking industry's response to problems that have arisen during the fracking boom in the Marcellus shale. It absolves them of any responsibility for the infamous "burning tapwater" we've all seen in Youtube videos. It states they have been quick to respond to wastewater leaks and well blowouts before contamination could spread. It says the industry has redesigned wells in response to concerns that they might leak fracking water as they pass through the aquifer. And it says that fracking water that returns to the surface ("flowback") is treated and re-used for more fracking -- an expensive environmental "best practice".

Vidic does raise some important concerns, however, and the most important is this. At present recycling flowback into more fracking water is practical because production is booming. But at some point production will level off and begin to decline, and when that happens the industry will be producing more flowback than it can use economically. In Texas, where fracking was pioneered, flowback was disposed of in deep wells -- a process not without its drawbacks, but better than leaving the contaminated water on the surface. Pennsylvania doesn't have enough disposal capacity to handle today's flowback, which helps make recycling fracking water attractive at the present time.

We now have enough context to understand Llewellyn, and why Llewellyn is so upsetting to the industry. Llewellyn's paper documents a single instance of minor contamination which matched the chemical fingerprint of flowback from a nearby well. This contamination was well below a level that would be cause for any concern. Llewellyn concludes the most likely cause was a small spill from the flowback holding pit, although it can't rule out the possibility that the contamination occurred inside the well. Taken with the picture Vidic paints of an industry that is generally on top of stuff like this, the occurrence of a single mishap with negligible consequences is hardly damning. So why has the fracking industry unleashed its flying PR monkeys on this?

Because the fracking industry apparently has made no plans for when the day comes it can no longer recycle all the flowback it uses, and it doesn't want the public to think about that.

It would be sensible for them to prepare for the flowback problem now on the upswing of the boom, for the same reason the industry has been able to be so responsive to date: these are good times for the industry in the Marcellus Shale. They're flush. Although preparing for the problem now would be expensive, it wouldn't slow the boom appreciably, and it would add jobs. But... if the industry can kick the flowback can far enough down the road, we'll have to ask it to fix the problem while production and probably the regional economy is in decline. Doing something about the problem then will cost jobs and require money nobody will have.

  So if the industry isn't forced to do something about the looming problem soon, it will become politically if not financially impossible to make them do that ever. That's why the industry is allergic to the very mention that surface contamination from flowback is even possible. In the scheme of things the Llwewllyn incident is negligible, but when fracking starts producing more waste than the industry can use surface contamination is going to become a lot more common and a lot worse.

Vidic raises some other serious long term concerns. Nobody knows where most of the fracking water used goes. The geology of the area is complex enough, but it is further complicated by many old gas and oil wells, quite a few of which are not fully documented. Contamination of the aquifer is a quite plausible possibility that needs further scientific study -- study that has been hindered by lack of research funding and industry transparency. More research might lay this concern to bed; or it may require changes in the industry's operation. We don't know. But we do know that some day we'll have a wastewater problem, and if we wait to address that it will be politically impossible to do anything about.

CITATIONS

Vidic, R. D., et al. "Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality." Science 340.6134 (2013): 1235009.

Garth T. Llewellyn, Frank Dorman, J. L. Westland, D. Yoxtheimer, Paul Grieve, Todd Sowers, E. Humston-Fulmer, and Susan L. Brantley. "Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development." PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print May 4, 2015,

Comment: Re:Defense of the Article (Score 1) 395

by eldavojohn (#49620497) Attached to: The Programming Talent Myth

So there could be two groups, those who look to improve their skill, who quickly distance themselves from the group that doesn't. Of course, there will still be wide variance in skill between the members of each group. I'm sure you can think of other ways it could happen.

No, I can't. I started out and I sucked. I got better eventually through experience. In order for it to be truly bimodal, people have to start in either camp A or camp B and end in the same camp they started in. Because if you transition from one to another over time, any point in time will capture a group of people in between the modes. Now, you can argue that people don't spend much time in between those modes but you haven't presented any evidence for that. What's more likely is you have geocities coders on one tail and John Carmack/Linus Torvolds on the other tail. And in between are people like the presenter and I. And since I'm not instantaneously going from bad to good, the reality of the situation is most likely some degree of a normal curve filled with people trying to get better at programming or even just getting better though spending lots of time doing it and learning a little along the way.

For all your attacks on the presenter, your argument of a bi-modal distribution sounds more flawed to me. I would love to see your study and hear your argument.

Comment: Defense of the Article (Score 1) 395

by eldavojohn (#49619837) Attached to: The Programming Talent Myth

This guy doesn't know how to measure programming ability, but somehow manages to spend 3000 words writing about it.

To be fair, you can spend a great deal of time talking about something and make progress on the issue without solving it.

For example the current metrics are abysmal so it's worth explaining why they're abysmal. I just was able to delete several thousand lines of JavaScript from one of my projects after a data model change (through code reuse and generalization) -- yet I increased functionality. My manager was confused and thought it was a bad thing to get rid of code like that ... it was absolute dopamine bliss to me while he felt like our production was being put in reverse. KLOC is a terrible metric. But yet we still need to waste a lot of breath explaining why it's a terrible metric.

Another reason to waste a lot of time talking about a problem without reaching an answer is to elaborate on what the known unknowns are and speculate about the unknown unknowns. Indeed, the point of this article seemed to be to advertise the existence of unknown unknowns to "recruiters, venture capitalists, and others who are actually determining who gets brought into the community."

So he doesn't know......programmer ability might actually be a bi-modal distribution.

Perhaps ... but that would imply that one does not transition over time from one hump to the next or if they do, it's like flipping a light switch. When I read this I assumed that he was talking only about people who know how to program and not "the average person mixed in with programmers."

If he had collected data to support his hypothesis, then that would have been an interesting article.

But you just said there's no way to measure this ... how could he have collected data? What data set could have satiated us? The answer is quite obvious and such collection would have been a larger fool's errand than the original article's content.

+ - Recent Paper Shows Fracking Chemicals in Drinking Water, Industry Attacks It->

Submitted by eldavojohn
eldavojohn writes: A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turned up 2-Butoxyethanol from samples collected from three households in Pennsylvania. The paper's level headed conclusion is that more conservative well construction techniques should be used to avoid this in the future and that flowback should be better controlled. Rob Jackson, another scientist who reviewed the paper, stressed that the findings were an exception to normal operations. Despite that, the results angered the PR gods of the Marcellus Shale Gas industry and awoke beltway insider mouthpieces to attack the research — after all, what are they paying them for?
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Underestimate. (Score 2) 50

37% of wives and girlfriends are likely to cheat on you too. But what you gonna do about it? Dump your cheating girlfriend and just end up with another cheating girlfriend? What's the point of that? So most people just stay with their lousy operating system or girlfriend. Really it is all pointless anyway.

Er... presuming that the cheating is important to you, you have a 100% chance of having a cheating girlfriend if you stay with the current one but only a 37% chance if you switch to a new, randomly chosen girlfriend.

But... if you don't instinctively see that, then I have to conclude that on some level you want abuse from your girlfriend/software vendor. In fact given your track record of past choices it seems likely that your choice will perform worse than chance, although a probably bad new choice remains a better strategy than staying with the devil you know.

If you don't have the confidence in your discretion to improve upon chance, a randomly chosen girlfriend/OS is a reasonable next step. You should try *anything* that meets the obvious superficial criteria (e.g., is biologically female, has companies providing professional support services). In fact studies suggest that while attractiveness makes a huge difference in who people ask out on a date, it has no effect on their satisfaction with that date once it takes place. What we think we want and what will make us happy are often two different things.

Comment: Re:Confused (Score 2) 296

by hey! (#49618529) Attached to: Single Verizon IP Address Used For Hundreds of Windows 7 Activations

There is no key generator. It's Microsoft own fault if they keys were stolen.

Which does not make using a stolen key legal, any more than a broken window lock in our house makes that fair game for burglars. Nor is using a stolen key ethical (at least in most situations); the principled response to not approving of proprietary software is to use open source software with a license you can live with.

Comment: Re:Would anyone deny? (Score 1) 340

You can bet that if a theory of gravity came out and it threatened the political or economic status quo, it would provoke a political response. When Edwin Armstrong's invention of FM radio started to gain market traction, RCA used it's political influence to have the FCC take the frequency band Armstrong's radios worked on shifted, making all the radios he'd sold useless. And if that had been done today, the next thing you'd have is is an army of PR flacks and FOX selling the public on the idea that FM radio was "tainted engineering".

Climate science isn't politically tainted. That's only PR BS. If you want to see for yourself, use Google Scholar to search for climate science paper abstracts from the early 50s to the 80s -- well before anyone outside the field heard the term "global warming". You'll be able to actually see the scientific consensus shift from global cooling to warming over the course of thirty years, completely outside the public spotlight.

Comment: Re:Would anyone deny? (Score 1) 340

I would.

I've worked in a physics lab (fusion). I've worked in a geophysics lab. Here's the thing about experimental Earth science: you're not working with a idealized, simplified object under controlled laboratory conditions. You are working with something that is immense and messy and which inherently generates a lot of contradictory data. It doesn't make the big picture impossible to put together, it just means it takes a lot of hard to obtain data to shift the consensus one way or the other. It took forty years for anthropogenic global warming to become the scientific consensus; the first papers were published in the fifties and the idea that the world was warming was hotly contested for at least three decades

Contradictory data is something fundamental to empirical science. Empirical science generalizes from contradictory evidence.

When I was in college, "conservative" meant someone who was cautiously pragmatic. Now it refers to someone who adheres to certain conservative axioms -- a radical in other words (radical == "root"). Radicals by their nature prefer deduction from known truths to induction from messy evidence. This is evident in your citing mathematics as the gold standard, despite the utter inapplicability of its methods to geoscience. Mathematics doesn't deal in messy, mutually contradicting truths. Nor does political orthodoxy of any stripe.

That's why "conservatives" latch on to local phenomena -- like the snow outside their door -- that seem to confirm their preconception that the globe is not currently warming. In mathematics the number 9 disproves the assertion that all odd counting numbers are prime. In climate science the medieval warming period in Europe doesn't disprove that the globe as a whole was cooler at that time. To radicals the existence of contradictions in the supporting data is corrupt. To scientists the lack of contradictions in data is fishy.

Left-wing radicals are equally confused by apparently contradictory data points, and likewise seize on the ones that "prove" their universal truths (e.g. that vaccines cause autism).

HOST SYSTEM NOT RESPONDING, PROBABLY DOWN. DO YOU WANT TO WAIT? (Y/N)

Working...