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Comment Re:Profits. (Score 4, Insightful) 179

In the US? No, because the costs of healthcare here aren't driven by the costs of stethoscopes. They cost a couple hundred dollars and last for a very long time; high healthcare costs are much more likely to come from "Oh, my exam showed a possible irregularity; to be safe, we should send you in for an echocardiogram (or cardiac MRI if the system has one)." And in the vast majority of cases, you get an expensive procedure to learn things are basically OK.

It's really easy to prescribe that, because hey, we have the machine and it seems a lot better to run a test when it's not needed than skip one that could have caught something serious. And since insurance covers most of it, it's not that expensive for an individual patient...

What this could help with is availability of basic healthcare where a $200 stethoscope is a really big deal -- especially if you're in an environment where equipment is likely to get damaged or stolen.

Comment Re:One highly-publicized case is all it took (Score 1) 489

A private company paid a bunch of money to another private company and users got the same video streaming performance they used to have before private company B starting throttling private company A's ability to deliver content that was already paid for by the users to both companies involved.


Not that I'm sad about Title II or anything, but I do think a racketeering indictment would have been another appropriate response.

Comment On my small SaaS business... (Score 2) 91

For what it's worth, I've been co-owner of a small software-as-a-service business focused on libraries for the last five years. A week or so ago, I wrote a blog post on our experience and financial situation.

Basic summary: by keeping costs low and our expectations reasonable, we're thriving even without a huge revenue stream.

Comment Re:With carbon-nuetral energy, sequestration (Score 1) 363

Want to absorb 50 POUNDS of carbon a year? Plant a tree. Want to absorb several TONS of carbon per day? Then build a single carbon sequestration plant on the edge of town.

Assuming your numbers are correct... how many is several? Let's say 50. That's a pretty generous "several." So, you're looking at 100,000 pounds of carbon a day. That's a lot! To match that with trees, it would take... 2000 trees.

I'm willing to bet that I can obtain and plant 2,000 trees cheaper than you can build a carbon sequestration plant. (I'm willing to bet this is true for 20,000 trees, too. Maybe 200,000.) Your plant is made of concrete and steel, both of which produce carbon emissions. This page suggests that I'll need somewhere in the neighborhood of 11-12 acres of land for my 2k trees (for reference, Central Park is somewhere north of 800 acres), so that's pretty manageable. In addition, I'm willing to bet I can operate my trees for less money than you can operate your sequestration plant. Then, in X years, I can if I choose harvest these trees and turn them into lumber -- this, of course, does not release (all of) their carbon into the atmosphere. And I know this is subjective, but I tend to think trees (even tree farms) are more pleasant than industrial plants.

I'm not saying carbon sequestration plants are horrible ideas, but that trees probably win economically if the numbers you cite are in the right orders of magnitude.

Comment Obligatory Neko Case (Score 1) 395

You know they call them killer whales
But you seem surprised
When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank
Where you can't turn around
It took half your leg and both your lungs
And I craved I ate hearts of sharks, I know you know it

I'm a man man man man, man man man eater
But still you're surprised, 'prised, 'prised, when I eat ya

-Neko Case, People Gotta Lotta Nerve

Comment Re:Charging authors is not much better... (Score 2) 61

For what it's worth, I was tangentially part of an effort in the University of Wisconsin Libraries to publish the open-access Journal of Insect Science. After perhaps a year of doing that, we looked at the actual costs and found that, IIRC, $30-$100/page are not actually unreasonable costs. Yes, there's a large variance.

"How," you ask, "could it possibly cost so much to produce an open-access journal? The author is working for free! The reviewers are working for free!" Well:

  • The reviewers are generally not particularly excited to spend their time reviewing papers. They often say "sure" and then just never do the work. So you need to keep on them, and swap them out for other editors when they flake out. You need to do this without giving them a sad.
  • Different reviewers have different areas of expertise. So you need to match the content of the article to suitable reviewers. Your editor should do this, but probably isn't getting paid for that effort, and so you may need to keep on him/her to get that to actually happen.
  • Your authors don't know how to use word processing tools or graphic design tools. You'll get horribly-formatted documents, figures as 36-DPI .GIFs, strange-looking Powerpoint god-knows-whats, and gigantic tables that will never look good anywhere. Your job is to either guess at what the authors meant to do, reformat materials, and send them back for approval, or get your authors to re-do their stuff.
  • Authors also routinely ignore things like word count limits and organization guidelines.
  • While you're primarily targeting the Web, a good-looking print copy is still widely-valued. So you probably need to handle your layout nightmares twice.
  • Sometimes, people want to do Something Innovative with regard to data vis. After all, you're online, so you should be able to make this interactive, right? So, you need to decide if you want to try and implement this innovative thing (and what does that look like in print, anyhow?) or say "no, sorry, we can't make your research look super neat."
  • Online repositories work best with specially-marked-up XML. There are tools and services that will do this for you, but they all cost time, money, or both. XSLT to turn your XML into HTML or PDF can be made to automatically give you a product that is not quite nice enough to present to the outside world -- there are usually some special cases that want hand-massaging.
  • Both faculty and grad students can, at times, act like complete jerks and require a bunch of time in damage-control.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The bottom line was that we found PLOSOne's costs to be broadly reasonable (also: did you know you can essentially say "I don't want to pay" and... not pay?). Maybe it would be possible to undercut them by a factor of two with real work in process management, but generally: there's a bunch of grunt work turning researchers' paper submissions into a good quality journal. And you could get really fast at formatting, but time for catherding and massaging egos (so you don't lose your reviewers) scales linearly with the number of articles you publish.

Comment Re:This is NOT Fracking... (Score 2) 168

So worries about "cooling off the Earth" are a tad ridiculous.

The big problem isn't cooling off the whole earth (which does have a truly staggering amount of heat stored in its crust and mantle). The problem is cooling off the area in the immediate vicinity of your borehole so that it's no longer hot enough to do useful work for you; since rock doesn't have particularly good thermal conductivity, this sadly happens a lot faster than you'd like. The power plant at The Geysers produces about half the electrical power that it did when it opened, as it depleted the geothermal energy on a local scale.

You can keep installing new power plants, but power plants are kind of expensive so that approach is problematic.

Comment Re:This is NOT Fracking... (Score 3, Informative) 168

I thought of that too. Does anyone have any numbers on how many million years we can suck heat out of the ground before it becomes a problem?

Actually, a physics prof at UCSD did a pretty thorough analysis of geothermal energy. The verdict: there are places in the country where it's great, but in the majority of the USA, it just isn't a particularly dense resource, so the energy return on investment (you need to dig a whole lot of really deep holes and stick a whole lot of pipe in the ground) is pretty meh.

It probably will (and should) be developed more, but will remain a niche source of energy county and world-wide.

Comment Don't rely on a technical solution! (Score 1) 284

Yes, get some decent hardware that won't give you too much trouble -- but equally important: Set up procedures to ensure that when your database is down, you can still get work done. Test those procedures periodically; make sure your staff can run the restaurant when the system is down.

Hardware fails. Software fails. Unless you're willing to spend lots (and you've said you aren't), you're not going to build and test something ultra-reliable. You don't want your entire business on hold (with a restaurant full of customers) because some part of your POS has decided to crap itself.

Comment Re:So like the Soviet Union? (Score 1) 716

Do you really think the solution to "rich people want to leave for somewhere more friendly" is "lets go after these guys"?


Our citizens have paid a lot of money for a substantial infrastructure, because that allows us to live and grow businesses safely. Would you have become rich without the roads and rails that let you get to your place of business, and your products to customers? If the police didn't maintain order? If the military wasn't around to keep safe, predictable boundaries? If you hadn't gotten that grant that got you started, or that University education?

If you use our expensive shit in order to get rich, and then leave the country to avoid paying the taxes that finance our expensive shit, that's freeloading. Our society should set up policies that discourage freeloading; otherwise, what's to prevent every rich person from doing the same?

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.