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We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

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Comment: Re:And the almond trees die. (Score 1) 417

by lightbounce (#49368385) Attached to: How 'Virtual Water' Can Help Ease California's Drought
If agriculture uses 60% of the water, then how is the greywater produced by the other 40% supposed to supply agriculture's needs? And how would you get it to the agricultural areas from the distant urban areas where it's produced? This also overlooks the fact that many cities in California already recycle their own greywater, and aren't about to give it up. Agricultural water use wasn't an issue until all the people came to California decades later. So why is agriculture the problem? Why should America and the rest of the world give up all the unique crops produced in California because a lot of people just wanted to spend their days by the beach? While this drought is record breaking, a lot of the issues can be traced to California's population growth since the last major drought.

Comment: Re:Not particularly useful, unfortunately (Score 1) 204

As SSD cells wear, the problem is that they hold charge for less time. Starting new, the time that the charge will be held would be years, but as the SSD wears, the endurance of the held charge declines.

True, but SSD manufacturers say the drive should hold its data for at least 10 years after the drive has reached its recommended lifetime (these drives were well past that).

Comment: The NOAA says the CA drought isn't climate change (Score 1) 279

by lightbounce (#49228935) Attached to: California's Hot, Dry Winters Tied To Climate Change
This study is interesting in light of the fact that a recent NOAA study found that the current California drought is not caused by climate change. In fact, under climate change California winters are supposed to get wetter, if also hotter. See http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/s... .

Comment: Re:Hashes not useful (Score 1) 324

by lightbounce (#49167757) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware?

This appears to be nonsense, as any other drive vendor already has the debug tools to pull such things from memory, and extracting it from an update isn't that hard.

That's true of course. But the level of expertise at major drive vendors like WD and Seagate is so high that there's no need to steal the code from a competitor. If it comes down to it for a critical piece of technology, you just steal the employee instead. It's cheaper and more legal. On top of that, employees move back and forth on their own so over time knowledge is shared.

Besides, the hardware designs and technology of the manufacturers are different enough that the code can't be shared directly. You'd have to spend lots of money reverse-engineering it and then adapting it to your hardware. For the engineers at these companies -- who are the world-class experts at drive engineering -- it's quicker and cheaper just to design and write your own.

Comment: Re:how ? (Score 1) 324

by lightbounce (#49167639) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware?

You can't, but you can be quite sure that the manufacturer will take serious measures to make sure this doesn't happen.

You'd think, but it turns out that isn't so. Have a look at https://spritesmods.com/?art=h... where Jeroen Domburg hacked into a WD 2TB Green drive using the JTAG port. He was able to modify the firmware and store it in the external flash chip holding the firmware.

Drive manufacturers still seem to be relying on "security by obscurity"

Comment: The number of infections has gone down (Score 1) 245

by lightbounce (#49141477) Attached to: The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics

To say there is no market for antibiotics because they are used for only a short time is only part of the problem. It wouldn't matter if a lot of people were continually getting infected.

Sulfa and penicillin went into mass production because of WWII. The huge number of battlefield wounds and the resulting infections created a large demand and there was a crash program to manufacture these antibiotics.

After the war, mass production continued and in many countries antibiotics could be purchased over the counter. While this eventually contributed to bacterial resistance, there's no doubt there was a huge market for antibiotics and it prompted the development of many different antibiotic families.

So the question must be asked why aren't the same economic factors still causing the development of new antibiotics? While it costs more to develop a new antibiotic today, there's a lot more people in the world to justify it. The answer is that while certain diseases have become resistant, for the most part the old antibiotics still work and there just isn't enough people needing new antibiotics to justify the development expenses.

Comment: Re:Translation: (Score 1) 158

by lightbounce (#48896473) Attached to: Surface RT Devices Won't Get Windows 10

I agree with you that the real reason for RT was that Intel wasn't delivering low-cost, low-power chips that could compete with ARM (I have a friend who works at Microsoft who says the same thing).

But the point of RT wasn't that Intel wouldn't produce a chip for mobile, it's that they couldn't. Intel has always recognized the huge growing market for mobile, and they always wanted to produce procecessors for it.

But the x86 architecture has a lot of stuff in it (compatibility modes, security protections, etc.) that just aren't needed in mobile devices but it's hard to strip them out. It also needed a lot of power management stuff added on. As a result, for any given fab process an ARM chip would be cheaper and use less energy than a x86 chip. Intel's answer was to use their superior cutting edge fab technology that wasn't available to competitors to produce a competitive chip. However, their latest fab technology was delayed until just a few months ago, and their previous fab technology didn't give them enough of an edge.

As it is, ARM chips manufactured by Samsung and TSMC are only only one step behind Intel today in fab technology. Given how hard it is now to reduce the size (as evidenced by the unexpected year-long delay for Intel to get its latest fab technology ready), it's not clear that in the future Intel will be able to maintain its lead before everybody else catches up sooner or later.

Comment: Google has little new to offer (Score 1) 238

by lightbounce (#48871433) Attached to: Google Thinks the Insurance Industry May Be Ripe For Disruption

Some types of insurance such as home insurance still have a need for agents because when disaster strikes it's very helpful to have someone there to get you immediate aid and help you through the long process of rebuilding.

Other insurance such as auto insurance don't need local agents. While there are companies that do employ agents, there are plenty of low-cost auto insurance companies that don't and Google would be nothing new.

Some insurance such as life insurance takes sales people to use high pressure tactics. Most people would never buy life insurance on their own because nobody wants to think about dying. Google might make some headway here because all the data they collect would help them better figure out the risks for a particular person. But the life insurance industry is no slouch when it comes to data collection and analysis. And a lot of profits in life insurance come from investing the premiums, something Google would have no advantage in.

Comment: Re:Lazy farmer (Score 1) 115

by lightbounce (#48673403) Attached to: Scientists Say the Future Looks Bleak For Our Bones

Yes, farmers today spend some time in modern farm equipment. But most of that is only during the few weeks of planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. The rest of the time it's still a very physical, demanding job. Try doing a major overhaul on a tractor or rounding up cattle for branding and vaccination if you think modern technology makes farming life easy.

But all the changes of modern agriculture happened too recently to have any evolutionary effect. Even with an ox or horse pulled plow, it still takes a great deal of strength to plow a field, and you walk just as far. Harvesting with sickles is still physically demanding. And at least 90% of people lived on farms until at least the middle of the 19th century.

Comment: Re:Lazy farmer (Score 1) 115

by lightbounce (#48673383) Attached to: Scientists Say the Future Looks Bleak For Our Bones

The abstract says "Thus, the low trabecular density of the recent modern human skeleton evolved late in our evolutionary history, potentially resulting from increased sedentism and reliance on technological and cultural innovations."

The authors obviously know nothing about the history of agriculture. It wasn't until about 150 years ago that technology finally improved farming to the point where the dawn to dusk drudgery was reduced. Until then farmers easily walked as far as hunter-gatherers everyday, and probably butchered more animals (another task requiring great strength). Until the late 19th century almost everybody worked on a farm, so there wasn't nearly enough time for evolutionary changes to occur.

Comment: Re:Archive? (Score 1) 219

by lightbounce (#48596567) Attached to: Seagate Bulks Up With New 8 Terabyte 'Archive' Hard Drive

In the first generation of SMR drives there was no support for sector remapping and garbage collection in either the OS or the drives. Random write performance suffered a great deal as a result.

But the next generation of SMR drives will have an address translation layer similar SSDs which supports sector remapping and garbage collection. Much of the firmware will be adapted from what's in SSDs, but yeah, I'd be suspicious of first generation address translation firmware in SMR HDDs even though both WD and Seagate have worked on SSD firmware before and have experts in the technology.

The next generation of SMR drives will also have areas of non-SMR (lower density) tracks to support random writes without the read-modify-write penalty. A new ATA and SCSI command set is being worked out where the host can tell the drive which addresses will likely contain random write/read data, which will likely have sequential write/read data, etc. This will require cooperation from both the host and the drive to implement but should reduce the random write SMR penalty.

Nothing in progression can rest on its original plan. We may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant. -- Edmund Burke

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