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

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

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).

×

Comment: Re:WIMPs (Score 4, Interesting) 88

by Rei (#49358535) Attached to: Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected

That the thing about dark matter... it has a perfectly reasonable explanation (WIMPs). It's not that weird of a "thing".

Dark energy on the other hand, that's just WEIRD ;) It doesn't act like any "energy" as we know it, even though everything is clearly moving into a higher energy state. A question I've had for a while... if space itself is being inflated (or any sort of mathematically equivalent scenario) - everything inflating in all directions at all scales - wouldn't there be some sort of weak radiation signal from electrons expanding into a higher energy state due to dark energy and then collapsing back down? But I have trouble picturing how to reconcile an absolute, varying distance at the atomic scale with quantization of energy states, positions, etc...

Comment: Re:There is no need to prove "further" damage (Score 1) 46

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49358513) Attached to: Google Loses Ruling In Safari Tracking Case

However, we don't normally award punitive damages in civil cases here in the UK, so even if there is a definitive judgement at some stage that Google was invading privacy and failing to protect personal data, it seems unlikely they will suffer more than a token slap on the wrist from a privacy regulator provided that they cease and desist (as it appears they already have). Unfortunately, civil trials here are not very effective at recognising damage that comes in forms other than actual financial loss and doing much to compensate for it and/or discourage similar behaviour in the future.

Comment: Re:Ummmm ... duh? (Score 1) 322

by Rei (#49358149) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

Sure there is: add this to the CPDLC standard and make all of the hardware modifications needed to support it:

----
Message type: Revert flight plan and lock
Message arguments: TIME: the time of the flight plan to use
Message description: Revert to the flight plan that was active at TIME that had been approved by both ground control and the pilot; engage autopilot; and disable all pilot / copilot access to all systems. If there is no approved flight plan then the flight plan is to return to the nearest suitable airport in the most direct route possible.
----

Additional modifications: Make sure that the pilot can never disable datalink communications with ground by any means that ground wouldn't have time to respond to.

Result: Nobody is ever "remote controlling" the plane from the ground. A murderous / terrorist ground controller can't crash the plane, only make it autopilot itself on a previously approved or otherwise reasonable flight plan. A pilot behaving suspiciously can't crash the plane, as ground control will just engage the autopilot and lock them out. To abuse the system both ground and the pilot would have to agree on a suicidal flight plan.

Comment: Re:Memorizing site-unique passwords isn't possible (Score 2) 249

by Rei (#49350175) Attached to: Generate Memorizable Passphrases That Even the NSA Can't Guess

Yeah, the suggested method for generating passwords generates needlessly long passwords. The total entropy is good, but the entropy per character is pretty poor. You get much better entropy per character with abbreviation passwords, where you have a sentence or group of random words and you use the first letter from each, or second, or last, or alternating, or whatever suits you. It's still not as much entropy per character as a random pattern, but it's much better than writing out full words - and pops into your head just as fast (because it is, in essence, the same).

Comment: Local rates = OK, everything else with them = bad (Score 1) 135

Hopefully though, the rise of MOSS compliant payment processors should make the system easier to follow - you just put a disclaimer up that final price will be based on the buyers VAT rate, and let the payment processor calculate the right rate and store the records.

Which is, of course, contrary to consumer protection laws in much of Europe. Merchants are often required by law to show tax-inclusive prices for B2C sales. (For anyone interested: I have now received conflicting advice on this from official sources in my own government, indicating that X+VAT pricing is now magically acceptable for this purpose again, despite it largely defeating the point of the previous consumer protection rule by hiding the bottom-line price in early advertising.)

The big problem with the new VAT rules isn't the principle of charging in each customer's home nation, if that just means looking up the rate for a given country from a database instead of using a fixed rate. It's a mild inconvenience, but it's an hour or two of programming work for someone, and with MOSS it's maybe an extra hour to file an additional tax return once per quarter.

For a lot of merchants (though certainly not all and particularly not the really tiny ones) the problem isn't even the need to impose VAT on transactions instead of having a threshold. As I understand it, some businesses selling digital goods in EU states didn't have VAT thresholds before anyway, so they already had reporting requirements here, and in places like the UK that did have a minimum threshold before VAT was compulsory, some merchants would have chosen to register for VAT voluntarily anyway because it was advantageous in terms of reclaiming VAT on their expenses.

IMHO the largest and most enduring problems with the new VAT rules are actually all the other things that came along with charging at customer-local rates, from conflicts with pre-existing laws on things like consumer protection and data protection (or potential conflicts, with inconsistent advice coming even from government departments) to the fact that you also have to match the entire VAT regime in each country not just the rate, which means things like knowing which rates apply to which products or services and the local geographical issues (I hope you're not just looking up a tax rate by ISO country code like, you know, everyone, because that doesn't actually work reliably). And of course you require a standard of evidence for the customer's location that will be literally impossible for many small merchants to comply with; at present, I don't see how it's possible for any fully automated system to be 100% reliable here, even for big payment services with dedicated resources and access to all the relevant raw data, because of those local issues of different interpretations of which product/service types get which tax rates and the local geographical anomalies.

The best part of all is that even the EU didn't manage to publish an accurate source of current VAT rates across all affected states in time for the deadline. The information on their own web site was actually wrong for several weeks after the switchover, because Luxembourg changed their VAT rate on the same day. And no-one wanted the data in an actually useful form so you could do something stupid like importing it into a database, right? PDFs running to dozens of pages that you can scan for relevant information are so much more useful.

Hilariously, Luxembourg are actually being compensated by the EU for these changes anyway, so all the arguments about preventing exploitation of low tax rates by different nations within the EU doesn't look so noble any more either.

Comment: Re:what will be more interesting (Score 5, Insightful) 622

by Rei (#49345311) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

Are people really going to miss yet another totally fake show pretending to be reality? Is it just because this one combined cars and Daily Mail-style politics?

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for a primadonna for whom curses at an employee for 20 minutes and then physically assaults him up for half a minute (without any resistance from his victim) before someone pulled him off, all because the Clarkson's food wasn't warm. And this is hardly the first time Clarkson has behaved like this, he was already on "final warning" after a string of other incidents. What befalls him is his own bloody fault. And all of the abuse that the victim got over this whole thing... my favorite tweet on the subject was:

"Man assaults another man and victim receives abuse because people can’t watch a TV show about cars. Bravo society. "

Comment: Most of Japan is very beautiful... (Score 4, Interesting) 193

by Rei (#49342927) Attached to: Japan To Build 250-Mile-Long, Four Storey-High Wall To Stop Tsunamis

.... but their beaches, usually not so much. So hopefully this won't be too much of an eyesore. Japan is usually pretty good about trying to fit human-made structures into the landscape; my friends and I had a running joke when we were there: "They have the prettiest drainage ditches here!" ;) That said, a 250-mile long, 4-story "anything", that's going to be hard to make look nice.

I'm rather curious about what kind of concrete they're going to use. Japan has been a pioneer in the use of fiber-reinforced concrete, I wonder if they'll use that in lieu of steel that may need cathodic protection in such a high salt environment?

Comment: Re:Keyword "apparently" (Score 1) 110

by Rei (#49342817) Attached to: The One Thousand Genes You Could Live Without

Well, not exactly. The answer to the question of how the immune system can defeat a foe that is mutating and evolving so quickly is "it also is mutating and evolving quickly". Immunoglobulin genes in B cells mutate very rapidly. Those whose antigen binds best with an invader are stimulated to reproduce (and evolve more), ultimately differentiating into plasma B cells (whose job it is to mass produce antibodies) and memory B cells (which stay alive for long periods of time, allowing the body to "remember" how to fight off an invader that it fought off in the past).

That said, this only applies to genes responsible for antibody production, and only in B cells.

There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be a coincidence. -- Jeremy S. Anderson

Working...