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Comment Re:It worked (Score 2) 184

Dunno if you are being serious or not, assuming you are for the sake of discussion.

Nokia isn't coming back

I wouldn't be so sure about that.

MS did not buy Nokia (despite headlines from people who thought the most publicaly visible part of a company was the only part), they bought Nokia's handset division, the lumia brand, some time limited rights to use the Nokia brand, and some time-limited no-compete clauses preventing Nokia from using their own brand on handsets for a while. In the not too distant future Nokia will be free to start a new handset division or license their brand to someone else.

Microsoft can rest easy now, the threat to Windows Phone has been eliminated.

Somewhat true, having first party handsets means they can keep offering phones even if the rest of the industry thinks their OS is a bad idea and some goodwill will have transferred from nokia to MS through the lumia brand and their distribution agreements but it's a very expensive way to maintain a distant third in the smartphone OS marketplace.

Comment Re:So what's up with those bitcoins? (Score 1) 104

I don't know what would happen if everybody insisted on withdrawing their money in cash, but then I don't know what would happen if I were struck by lightning before and after winning the Powerball lottery, and that's more likely.

It's unlikely because people trust the banking system and people trust the banking system because the government steps in to prevent most bank failures and covers small depositers in the rare cases they do let a bank fail. The government is gauranteed to be able to sort out bank failures because they have the ability to create money by fiat*.

As you say in the old days of the gold system bank runs were common and bitcoins are far more volatile than gold. I maintain that anyone who gets involved in fractional reserve bitcoin banking is an idiot.

* Whether they physically print that money or just maniplulate some numbers in a cental bank database is largely irrelevent.

Comment Re:DMA (Score 1) 111

Really I think it depends on the situation.

External PCI based interface in a server rack: fine
External PCI based interface on a laptop as an extra interface: probablly fine in most cases though potential hazard in some environments (e.g. hot desking with hardware that uses the PCI based interface)
External PCI based interface on a laptop as a replacement for standard display and network ports: dangerous

Comment Re:So what's up with those bitcoins? (Score 1) 104

When you deposit $US with a US bank, in a savings account or CD, it can loan out 100% of your deposit. If banks offered BTC-denominated savings accounts, they'd work the same way. If you're thinking "but wait, that means there wouldn't be enough bitcoins in existence to allow everyone to withdraw their deposits", then congratulations, you understand how banking works.

The difference of course is with fiat currency the government/central bank can "print"* money on demand and lend it to the commercial banks so they can cover their customers withdrawals.

With BTC denominated accounts if everyone tries to withdraw their BTC at once the bank has a big problem. They can try to buy BTC to cover the withdrawals but there is no guarantee they will actually be able to.

* It starts out as entries in the central banks database but if the customers are demanding their money in cash then that cash will have to be physically printed and sent to the banks.

Comment Re:So what's up with those bitcoins? (Score 1) 104

bitcoins reside in "unspent outputs" in the blockchain. The unspent outputs are associated with an "address". An "address" is a cryptographic hash of a public key and the holder of the corresponding private key can spend the bitcoins.

A wallet is basically a collection of private keys for addresses (or sometimes just a generator seed for said keys). To an outside observer it is not visible whether two addresses are part of the same wallet or not. The only thing that distinguishes between a customer withdrawl and a move to cold storage is the internal records of the exchange. If the echange isn't keeping proper records it is unlikely to be feasible to distinguish thefts from legimitate withdrawls (and even if the exchange is keeping records do you trust those records to be honest?)

And yes if the private key for an address is lost (or someone sends bitcoins to an address that wasn't obtained by hashing a public key) the coins are gone for good. Bitcoin propoonents maintain this is not a significant issue.because of the divisibility of bitcoins, I have some reservations about that.

Comment Re:Too late for me (Score 1) 27

Apparently somehow the speakers got fed DC current while doing nothing in particular. Impressive if you ask me.

I would guess a software bug that wrote inappropriate values to the DAC (possiblly straight binary vs 2's complement confusion) combined with an idiot hardware designer DC coupling the audio path.

Comment Re:Linux Geeks vs Guinness Leeks (Score 1) 114

are QRcodes like IPv4 addresses in that we will run out of usable ones for wasting them on our cat's buttcheeks?


QR codes encode arbitary text (in one of several character sets). There is no central registry of what that text means so QR codes in general can't "run out". The ammount of text that can be encoded depends on the size (in "modules") of the QR code, the character set and the desired error correction level.

QR codes used for taking people to websites generally encode URLs. Even a quite long URL can be encoded in a reasonable size QR code though shorter URLs are certainly preferable for more reliable scanning due to stronger error correction and/or larger "modules".

Comment Re:"Gigabit service" is FRAUD. (Score 1) 120

The real speed of actual data delivery is whatever the providers want it to be.

Not entirely true. the real speed of actual data devliery depends on many factors including

1: the speed of your client hardware and software
2: the speed of your local network
3: the speed of your customer premisis equipment
4: any congestion/shaping/prioritisation on your ISPs network
5: any congestion between your ISP and the server host.
6: any congestion on the server hosts network
7: the speed/congestion of the servers connection to it's hosts network
8: the ability of the server itself to keep up
9: TCP issues. Older TCP stacks had a limited window size which limited the bandwidth at a given latency. Even modern stacks have "slow start" which means it will take a while to get up to the full bandwidth on a "long fat network".

Some of these factors are under your ISPs control, many are not.

Afaict speedtest measures about the best case, it uses a nearby fast test server and it waits for the speed to stabalise to allow for TCP slow start.

I couldn't get numion to work so I can't comment on that.

Comment Re:what this is really all about (Score 1) 634

Brish student loans are paid off at a rate based on your income, they are also automatically written off after a set period (the exact set period has varied, for new english and welsh* student loans now it's 30 years, prior to that it was 25 years and prior to that it was at state retirement age). In recent years both tuition fees and loan interest rates have risen sharply while the set period before the loan is written off has been shortened. Claims from different bodies as to what proportion of students will be able to replay their loans vary.

Personally this seems to some extent like an accounting trick to make the current government budget look better at the expense of running up liabilities for future governments to deal with. Rather than subsidising the university education upfront or subsidising the interest on the loans year by year they are kicking the can down the road so some future government will have to pay the cost of writing off those debts.

* Rules in scotland and northern ireland are different.

Comment Re:Don't worry (Score 1) 294

Note: the below is a UK perspective, some of it may also apply elsewhere but details are likely to vary.

Cards can be used offline and even without electricity but the fraud/overspend risk is higher and this can lead to restrictions on use or even the merchant to refuse to accept them altogether.

AIUI for chip and pin the card issuer sets a limit (which can be zero if the card issuer thinks you are a poor credit risk) for offline transactions to mitigate fraud/overspend risk and they don't usually tell you what said limit is in advance. For imprint and magstripe transactions I belive it's down to the merchant (and possiblly their bank) what transactions they are willing to risk taking offline.

If you have already eaten the meal/filled your fuel tank/got on the train then the retailers choice may come down to taking the card offline (and possiblly reverting to magstripe to get around the offline restrictions on chip and pin, I've seen that happen on a train before) or taking an IOU. The card is a lower risk than the IOU.

On the other hand a normal retailer is in a very different situation. If they decide they don't want to take cards offline and/or in a power cut either because they think the risk is too high, or for power cut scenarios because they don't want to bother stocking card imprinters and training their staff how to use them then you are SOL.

Also IIRC in the UK automated vending machines are restricted to online chip and pin transactions only. They are not allowed to do swipe and sign transactions or offline transactions.

So don't rely on your credit/debit card working in an offline/power cut scenario.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban