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Comment The China Syndrome movie didn't kill nukes. (Score 1) 267

And it sure has hell wasn't Greenpeace or the Clamshell Alliance.

It was the 1980s oil glut that did the deed. That was especially devastating following on the heels of the 1970s oil crisis, because so many companies who entered the alternative energy business in the late 70s only to have the floor cut out from under them in 1980. I had a good friend who quit his job at a software company in 1980 to go to work for a company developing a seasonal thermal energy storage scheme. He was an accountant and according to him the numbers were solid as long as oil prices were north of $100/bbl. That was in May of 1980 when oil was trading at $114/bbl. 13 months later the price of oil had fallen to $60/bbl. For the next five years the Saudis tried to prop up falling oil prices by cutting back production, but in '85 they gave up, opened the spigots, and oil prices dropped to $23/bbl.

The economic reaction was entirely what you'd predict with oil prices at a 40 year low. The development of new energy technologies stalled. Cars got bigger again and SUVs of unprecedented size and low fuel economy became wildly popular. And new nuclear plant starts dried up. Oh, the industry pointed the finger at the big, bad environmental movement, which is laughable because so far as I know they only nuclear power plant ever canceled due to protests was the monumentally stupidly sited Bodega Bay in 1964. Imagine for a moment the Clams and all those guys didn't exist; it wouldn't have mattered in the least. Nobody is going to invest in new nuclear power plants when oil is priced at $18/bbl. But it sounds better to say that the Greens have put you out of business than to say the prices you used in your revenue projections were off by an order of magnitude.

Comment Re:Bill Gates failed elementary statistics (Score 1) 145

I don't see why you wouldn't want unified decision making on, e.g. the optimal size of a classroom. There's some right answer. More reach leads to more statistical power to a answer questions in a more correct/realistic way. More reach means the right answer can be distributed to all the interested parties once its complete.

Comment Re:Book misses major points (Score 1) 145

To say nothing of the spillover effects of granting wishes. The most common wish is apparently for a clubhouse of some kind, which of course ebenefits other children. Then you have great productions (like BatKid day) that make all of a city or the whole country feel good. And then there are teh "meeting celebrity" type wishes, which seem good for the celebrities as well as the child.

Comment Re:Linux gadget. (Score 1) 100

The answer appears to be no on the rPi. The BCM2835's USB port is OTG-capable, so it isn't master only; but I can find no mention of gadget device configuration actually being available. The CHIP is maybe: apparently OTG support was added in kernel 4.3; don't know how well it works, or whether the CHIP's mini-b port even has its data lines connected.

Comment Re:Is C.H.I.P. really sub-10$? (Score 1) 100

Whether or not they can actually keep the CHIP at $9, if the project does actually get Allwinner SoC support mainline and GPL compliant it would be a fairly big win. All kinds of low cost hardware is built on Allwinner parts; but the software situation is kind of dodgy, since Allwinner doesn't seem to care and the people making hardware cheap enough to use Allwinner SoCs really don't care.

With Rockchip and Mediatek in play, it's not as though they have a whole lot of room for 'mwahaha, loss leader and then suck the captive audience dry!' mustache-twirling, because the audience just isn't that captive and their parts aren't terribly special, though competent enough. It's hard to see any attempt on their part to make them more accessible as a bad thing, whether or not the intro pricing can be sustained.

Comment Missing the point a bit? (Score 3, Insightful) 100

While it is extremely impressive that one could do so(given that such power for such price was unheard of until very recently), it seems rather pointless to compare these two boards on the basis that you are planning on plugging in enough peripherals to use them as your next desktop. Aside from the plummeting cost and wide availability of ludicrously overqualified x86s; the most stripped down ARM SBC is obviously going to require costlier and uglier peripheral tangles than the less stripped down ones(the CHIP has no 'sibling' designs; but is similar to Allwinner-based boards from others; the rPi zero has otherwise-identical models that add the USB hub and ethernet for you, or slightly punchier options).

The only reason to go with either of these is because you have some more constrained purpose for which the low cost and small size make the difference. So, do you want HDMI support; at the cost of bringing your own NIC; or do you want the NIC; but HDMI as an optional extra? Depends on whether you are building a headless project or not.

The other matter is the software support; which is as yet an unknown. The rPi has some Broadcom blobs that are very, very, unlikely to go away; but benefits from a known, solid, supporting ecosystem. The Allwinner A8 is a bit of an unknown quantity: the project claims to be aggressively mainlining everything(which would be extremely attractive); but Allwinner's GPL compliance has best in the past; and the MALI-400 is ARM's toy, not theirs, so they have limited control over that. If the CHIP's aspirations bear out, then it will have the distinct advantage of working with mainline kernel and u-boot. If they don't, or do only in part, then the question becomes one of 'which slightly oddball BSP is better?'

Comment Re:Books thesis (Score 3, Insightful) 145

Well, having worked in both the non-profit sector and in public health, I think the criticisms of the Gates Foundation's public health efforts are malarkey. It's basically an opportunity cost argument and by that standard virtually every charitable foundation is wanting. Why are you spending money on the ballet when there are kids who can't read? Why are you spending money on literacy education when there are kids who don't have enough to eat etc. The problems of the world are endlessly varied and complex, and you can't ask much more of anyone than that they pick a spot and take a whack.

That said, the idea that spending money on infectious diseases is wasteful is particularly inane. Sure, in some places obesity may result in more premature deaths than malaria, but the fact is nobody really knows how to effectively fight an "obesity epidemic", whereas malaria is clearly eradicable -- and once it's gone, it's gone forever, because P. falciparum has no natural host other than humans. The same goes for communicable diseases for which we have vaccines; we know how to fight those cost effectively, even eradicate them in many cases. The missing piece of the puzzle is money.

Now criticism of the foundation's education efforts is a lot more warranted. Just like everybody thinks they're qualified to design a website because they have opinions about which sites they like and don't like, everyone thinks they're qualified to redesign the educational system because they went to school. The difference is that Gates has the money to make his bad ideas materialize. It may be hacker philanthropy, but most attempts at "hacks" result in kluges.

So overall it's a mixed bag. While you do have to give props to Gates for being "the man in the arena", sometimes, unlike in Teddy Roosevelt's famous speech, the man in the arena's failings don't fall exclusively on himself. So while philanthropy is admirable in itself, where the philanthropist's activities impinge on areas of public policy like education his actions should be held up to scrutiny like anyone else's.

It is easier to change the specification to fit the program than vice versa.