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


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Yes. (Score 4, Informative) 435

by neilo_1701D (#49674051) Attached to: Will Robot Cars Need Windows?

The passengers in a plane do not need windows but clearly because planes have windows at considerable cost to design properly (remember the Dehavilland Comet?) there's clearly a want for them to be there.

If I remember correctly, the Comet windows were designed properly (though they turned out to have less safety margin than intended), but they weren't installed properly. And I believe the window that failed was the one used for navigation fixes, which would have been hard to live without in the days before GPS.

The DH-106 Comet had square windows. The resulting point at each corner was a stress concentrator, and as the skin expanded and contracted during normal flights metal fatigue started. A year into service, the metal fatigue reached a point where the skin failed catastrophically and the aircraft came apart in mid-flight.

Installation of the windows was a factor, true, but the square windows was the primary point of failure.

Comment: Re: You are quoting losers, so yeah. (Score 4, Interesting) 950

Then you're dating the wrong women. My wife isn't that way. She doesn't have a real diamond engagement ring (and she know it - she'd have killed me for spending $ 2+K on a ring.)

Ditto here. Married 13 years now with a $100 cubic zirconia ring.

Date a shallow woman, Get a shallow woman. Date an interesting woman, Get an interesting woman.

You forgot the most important bit: be an interesting man, be able to date an interesting woman.

If your life revolves around video games, by definition you're a shallow person. I might be interested in a brief conversation with a person about the latest games, but if that's the extent of your interests then it's going to be a short conversation. Mix porn into the conversation, and I'm looking for a fast out.

Comment: Re: Model errors (Score 1) 525

What is the margin of error of their hindcast and is it within that margin? You do not have to be perfect when predicting this sort of thing, it is kinda like horseshoes, you can get close enough to get the points.

The magnitude of the error is unimportant, to a degree. It's the error trend that is the critical issue.

If my model is wrong by (say) .5 C for any given simulation run but the skew of the error over time is 0 (ie. errors are randomly distributed) then the trend is accurate enough to make some sort of prediction.

If the skew of the errors is != 0, then there is a problem over time: my errors will not cancel out; rather they will skew the model (and therefore the forecast) in a particular direction.

Comment: Re:vs the other thousands... (Score 1) 164

Those people matter just as much as some rich guy climbing Everest who the earthquake killed via avalanche.

Every single life matters as much as the next person's.

With a disaster like this, it's very easy to dissociate from those affected because there's no personal connection. By mentioning Dan Fredinburg, no matter what you think of him, he is a name that you at least know and draw some connection to.

2,500 dead, and I've heard of at least one of them. That connects me more to that event, and makes me reach for the card to donate to Red Cross much more than, say, all the killings in Yemen. An Australian was killed, and again that connects me more to that event than what Boko Harem has been up to in Nigeria.

Comment: Re:Information overload (Score 4, Informative) 56

Anyone who manages big data can tell you how corrupt most data sets really are. Names spelled different ways, bits of information incorrectly transcribed, copy errors, format errors, import errors are all low probability events but, when you're dealing with billions of records, there are a lot of them.

As someone who has spent the better part of two weeks fruitlessly trying to get my Experian data to remotely resemble my Equifax data (and I have exactly 18 months of credit history), I can attest to that. Heck, even in a completely contained ERP system that controls a manufacturing warehouse (one of my clients), the issues that people can cause there are surprising.

In nearly every case they didn't effectively use the information they had

The number one problem of large datasets is not knowing what's in there, therefore not knowing really how to query the data to find out. Strator had a report on that maybe a year ago, discussing the 9/11 "intelligence failure" and the beacon-lit paths the hijackers left behind: essentially, since the FBI wasn't actively looking for people who might be planning a major operation, they never saw the clues.

By way of analogy, if I'm sifting through a ledger table looking for (say) a mis-matched transaction, the odd voucher sequence a few rows up might be completely missed. You can't depend on a specific sequence of vouchers in general; that column looks like a lot of noise. But if I'm tracking down an inventory issue, that odd voucher sequence might just be the key.

The point is, it's easy to blame people for missing the obvious after the fact. But that's 20/20 hindsight; the people who missed it may have been working on something much more pressing.

so how is more information going to make things better?

It can't and wont. More unfiltered data = more noise, and more noise can obscure a real signal or give the impression of a false signal.

Comment: It's the citing of hoaxes that's a bigger concern (Score 3, Informative) 186

by neilo_1701D (#49484819) Attached to: How Many Hoaxes Are On Wikipedia? No One Knows

If people want to monkey with Wikipedia, have at it. We're told over and over again that Wikipedia is not a suitable reference; however the references on the page can sometime be useful.

And then there's

The person in the story inserted a little fake factoid into an otherwise proper article. This little factoid ended up very quickly
    - cited in a lesson plan by a Taiwanese English professor
    - cited in a book about Jews and Jesus
    - cited in innumerable blog posts and book reports, as well as a piece by blogger Hanny Hernandez, who speculated that Amelia Bedelia’s tendency toward malapropisms was inspired by Parish’s experiences in Cameroon, as “several messages can be
      misinterpreted between a Cameroonian maid who is serving an American family.” One blogger even speculated that Amelia Bedelia wasn’t a maid, but a slave.
    - cited in the Amelia Bedelia entry on the website TV Tropes and Idioms, and Peggy Parish’s Find-A-Grave page
    - cited by Mr. Amelia Bedelia himself: Herman Parish, Peggy’s nephew and author of the books after his aunt passed away in 1988, who apparently told a reporter from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that his aunt based “the lead character on a French colonial
      maid in Cameroon.”

Once again, Wikipedia can be a useful overview of a subject and a launch-pad for further research. But after all these years of Wikipedia hoaxes (and Wikipedia maintains a list of hoaxes;, the mantra must be "trust but verify".

Because, in Wikipedia's own words:

Misinformation on Wikipedia misleads readers, causing them to make errors with real consequences, including hurt feelings, public embarrassment, reprints of books, lost points on school assignments, and other costs. With some articles, like medical topics, they could lead to injury or death.

Comment: Re:Developers, Developer, Developers (Score 2) 125

VB6 was discontinued right away when Microsoft combined VBRUNxxx.DLL with their Java implementation that got shitcanned by the anti-trust courts.

I though it was because VB6 was a COM product?

... Later still, they added a functional programming language.

Nice sledge :)

Win32 has not become "irrelevant", since all of the newer technologies still rely on those older ones. (.Net "winforms" simply packages up the old Win32 WNDCLASSEX and window class registration and instantiation into a handy Form object, so instead of 80+ lines of boiler-plate code, you use a simple new Form() and be done with it. I fail to see how this is anything but progress.)

And .Net uses GDI and GDI+ directly, and has done so since day 1.

I completely agree with everything you've written... if you're a .net programmer, you're fine. But if you're a C programmer sitting directly on top of Win32, you're screwed

My point, and I guess I didn't make it clearly, is that although these new technologies are fantastic, there is older code out there that is company-critical to companies who invested heavily in the creation of a solution, based on Microsoft's past history of obsessive backwards compatibility, and now find themselves with no way forwards, other than a costly rewrite.

Comment: Re:Developers, Developer, Developers (Score 5, Interesting) 125

How did Ballmer push developers aside?

He pushed them aside by killing development systems (VB6,FoxPro), introducing new technologies with the promise of how critical they were to the future (Silverlight), and allowing the crown jewels of Windows development, the Win32 API, to slowly become more irrelevant with endless layers of cruft built on top (eg. .net, although a wonderful system, becomes more and more incompatible with the underlying OS; eg. GDI+).

Microsoft started open sourcing a lot of their developer frameworks etc (ASP.Net MVC in 2012, Entity Framework in 2013 etc) and we saw fairly large shifts in developer conferences and support

By your own words, we can infer that Ballmer's middle-empire period required large shifting from where it was to what it became.

Ballmer wasn't bad; his jumping around on stage shouting "Developers!" showed that he knew what the true value of Windows was: the external developers who wrote Win32 code for retail products or company-internal developers. However, his middle-empire stage was a shift to focusing on selling to enterprise customers. This isn't a bad things by itself, but by taking his eye off the "Developer!" ball and focusing elsewhere, he guaranteed that plenty of developers went elsewhere. For example, with the death of VB plenty of developers shifted to Java rather than .net. The fact that it needed a large shift in support shoes just how far developers had slipped in Microsoft's priority.

It's interesting to see how Nadella is shifting the focus again and broadening it (Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi, for example). Time will tell if Nadella is simply being an anti-Ballmer or if this glasnost is signs of a more fundamental shift in the way Microsoft does business. I hope it's the latter.

Comment: Re:Disturbing this is even being openly discussed (Score 1) 212

They fell for a number of reasons - any one of which they could have shrugged off, but they all came at once.

Well... "at once" over the course of several hundred years.

loyalty to the empire strained by imposed religious reformation to some strange new monotheistic cult

That strained the Senate far more than the general populace, who were quite happy accepting yet one more god.

and then all that during a succession crisis which left the empire fragmented and unable to muster up a unified response.

If you're going to say the succession crisis caused the collapse in the latter years of the empire, you need to explain why the succession crisis didn't cause the same problems during the Crisis of the Third Century.

you can't find a single year and declare the empire ceased to exist here.

September 4, 476 was the official end of the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire lasted 1,000 years after that, when it fell to the Ottomans.

But back to September 4, 476. Odoacer turfs out Romulus Augustulus and sends the robes etc. to Emperor Zeno, saying that they were no longer required. Now, granted the western empire was in ruins at this point in time, but this date is the accepted date for the end of the empire.

... empire built on constant expansion ran out of new land to invade for tribute

That's not even remotely true of the latter empire. The later republic was certainly built upon constant expansion; however the Varian Disaster in 9 AD put a northern border that the empire didn't grow beyond. Trajan had the greatest territory expansion, this was mainly to the east; and his reign ended in 117 AD; long before 476 or even the crisis of the third century. Hadrian consolidated the new frontiers but didn't push past them.

There's no one factor that lead to the collapse, and the collapse itsself was a slow process

That's not quite true. The prime factors are the rising of the Sasanian Empire, a collapse in tax revenue, and loss of the growing areas in Northern Africa.

The rise of the Sasanian Empire caused the empire to move northern border troops to the east. The now porous northern border allowed the Germanic tribes to start to invade; the Germanic tribes themselves were being pushed out of their lands by the Huns. The Germanic tribes moved along Gaul and Spain, and crossed into Africa, capturing the the fertile regions there. Meanwhile, other Germanic tribes at first started ransacking cities and towns, but soon discovered it was much easier to offer to defend the towns and rule. These Roman towns and cities then directed their tax revenue to the Germanic rulers, depriving Rome of much-needed funds. As the funds for the armies declined, so did the armies. Roman tax collectors were not only unwelcome, but forced out of these new Germanic areas.

The Western and Eastern emperors agreed that recapturing North Africa was a prime concern, and mounted probably the largest military force ever seen to do just that. But before the fleet could sail, Atilla the Hun started his 10 year rampage, diverting Roman attention to this new menace.

Following Atilla's death, there simply wasn't the money to raise an army to retake North Africa, and the Western Empire effectively ceased functioning around 410 AD, with the empire formally coming to an end on September 4, 476 when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus and declared himself ruler of Italy.

Comment: Re:What else is driving this (Score 4, Interesting) 58

by neilo_1701D (#49452921) Attached to: After EFF Effort, Infamous "Podcasting Patent" Invalidated

My brother works for the Australian Patent Office, so I've no idea how much of this translates to the USPTO. I asked him this very question a few years ago.

When a patent application comes in, the initial examiner is the newest, most lowly graded person in the office with a huge caseload. They, to a degree, depend on the submitter to have taken the steps to validate the uniqueness of the patent; however there is research done as well to validate the submission.

Most submissions are done by patent lawyers with as much obfuscation as possible, and if it's outside of the examiner's area is much more likely to get through, as the examiner has to try and decipher what is going on. If the submitter claims no prior art and words the submission carefully enough, it's likely to get through.

With an appear, it goes much higher up the chain and diverts to someone with more specialized knowledge for further assessment. As you can probably guess, it takes longer and costs much more to get this review happening.

So, there are fundamental problems with the process in that it assumes honesty on the part of the submitter. If they set out to deceive, as Personal Audio seems to have done, it's a long and costly process to undo it.

Comment: Re:"to provide support for the cultural sector" (Score 1) 237

Anytime you hear the word "culture" in Quebec, watch out. It has a much more ominous overtone there than in most of the rest of the world.

What do you mean by this? Are you referring to their insistence on being more French than the French (eg. Stop signs say 'Arret' in Quebec, but 'Stop' in France), or something else?

Comment: Re:in further news show tanks (Score 2) 662

by neilo_1701D (#49346135) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

I think BBC may take the opportunity to just clean house and bring in a new set of 3 hosts. The chemistry that those 3 had was great, so just lugging in a new replacement with the 2 remaining would be a disaster. But it could work with a set of 3 completely new hosts.

Doubt it. Top Gear Australia tried that; belly-flop. Then they replaced the prime host. Relaunch; belly-flop.

Other implementations of the show (eg. To Gear US) diverged greatly from the original concept to keep a viewership.

There may be a BBC motoring show, with three presenters, but if it tries to be Top Gear it'll probably fail. Look at Final Gear; it's actually a more informative show than Top Gear, but almost nobody knows about it.

Sorry to see Jezza go, but the BBC did the right thing.

It seems intuitively obvious to me, which means that it might be wrong. -- Chris Torek