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


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:One quote from the article that is nice... (Score 1) 80

The singularities (they are not blackholes) have a diameter smaller than the width of the nucleus of an atom. So, even if they were created, survived more than a trillionth of a second without evaporating, or any of the other improbabilities that come along with this... the statistical likelihood of them colliding with any particle at all is basically 0. If it were possible, every star in the universe would have collapsed into a black hole seconds after forming.

When they building a accelerator around the event horizon of a blackhole and start testing stuff that hasn't happened since the birth of the universe, let me know. I'll worry then.

Comment: Re:Seems reasonable (Score 1) 106

The hard part is indeed establishing what the right level of security is and how to evaluate companies against that. At least over here, the exclusions for burglary are pretty clear cut: leaving your door or a window open, and for insuring more valuable stuff there are often extra provisions like requiring "x" star locks and bolt, or a class "y" safe or class "z" alarm system and so on. With IT security, it's not just about what stuff you have installed and what systems you have left open or not; IT security is about people and process, as much or more than it is about systems.

It's fairly simple and done in just about every other industry. The insurance companies will come up with standards. Then 3rd party "Security experts" will pop up offering certification. "We're Security level blackwatch plaid certified! We get a $20k discount on our policy!" etc... Microsoft finds a bug and doesn't patch it? It's hard for your local bank to sue them... but the entire insurance industry?

This is a good thing.

Comment: Re:Get rid of it (Score 4, Informative) 278

by Charliemopps (#49783675) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

Obama has promised again and again to safeguard our liberties. Now he has morphed into George Bush. What did I miss?

You missed the meeting he had with the NSA the day he took officer where they showed him their file on him.

A free society can not exist in conjunction with a government that has unfettered power. That's what the NSA has done, unchained itself from the restrictions of the constitution. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If the NSA isn't blackmailing the president, they will eventually. It is quite literally inevitable.

Comment: Re: Flamebait title (Score 1) 334

The difference here is, who's driving the car. And can the owner claim that he had a reasonable expectation that the car would include such a basic safety feature. The equivalent would be to design a car that didn't have breaks at all and claim that's an extended feature or something... that's perfectly safe if you never go over 5mph and only drive in a farm field right?

An auto-driving car, should also auto-break. The driver would reasonable expect that, and there's no easy way for the drive to know that it wouldn't... especially when the car CAN do it if you pay them more money.

I think that the thousands of scam artists that are out there right now frantically trying to find cheap deals on these Volvos will quickly get Volvo to make the feature standard soon as Volvo ends up paying for their retirement.

Comment: Did they already fix this? (Score 1) 151

by Charliemopps (#49782921) Attached to: A Text Message Can Crash An iPhone and Force It To Reboot

Did Apple already fix this? I immediately tried to crash every phone of every coworker who has an iPhone within earshot of me and it didn't work. Much to my disappointment. I'm now having to save face by harassing them with Pictures of Steve Job's license plateless car parked in multiple handicapped spots.

Comment: No, not everybody wants or can afford every option (Score 1) 334

It's open for debate, but my view is everybody DOES want every feature they can have.

Not really. If I've got a pickup I use for hauling dirt at work in sketchy neighborhoods I'm going to want a pretty minimal feature set. No point in having a fancy touch screen or satellite radio. If you are buying a car for your mom you might not want that 400HP turbocharged engine but you might want it for yourself along with that fancy rear spoiler wing. Different people have different needs and wants. Similarly many features cost significant cash and adding them can often put the cost of the vehicle out of reach for those of lesser means even if they desire.

Different ranges will cater to different markets (more revenue), but not necessarily more profit.

I think you may not fully understand the economics at work. My apologies if what I'm about to outline is already known to you. I'm a certified accountant and have done some of this work in my day job. This is an over-simplification but more features = more cost to the manufacturer = higher price to customer.

Margins are usually higher with more features but every vehicle has a minimum required profit margin which is typically called a hurdle rate by finance folks. As a general practice the auto maker won't make the car unless they can get at least the hurdle rate margin for it. (the exact rate is arbitrarily chosen but is indexed for the risk of the investment) They also have fixed costs (tooling, assembly lines, salaries, engineering costs, etc) that they need to recoup and which don't change whether they sell 1 vehicle or 1 million vehicles. If they only sell fully pimped out vehicles they are leaving profit on the table because they will have to amortize those fixed costs over fewer vehicles. Even though the might make less margin on the less optioned out vehicle, their unit costs will fall because they sell more of them and can spread their fixed costs over more vehicles.

It's more complex than this but companies maximize profit when when marginal revenue = marginal cost. That is the additional revenue gained from selling one more car just equals the additional cost of selling that one more car. By offering vehicles with fewer options at a lower price point they push out to the point where marginal cost hockey sticks up from over production and increases profit to the manufacturer. Wikipedia has a good article on what is going on.

No. Most cars aren't works of art, because art is one of the few "industries" where uniqueness is key. Save for some limited-edition, luxury cars, that point is moot. Extras rarely value a car, age and exclusivity do.

Has nothing to do with cars being (or not) works of art. People don't (usually) demand that their car be truly unique but they do demand that they be personalized to a significant degree. People choose different paint colors, different engines, different wheels, etc. Car customization is a multi-billion dollar industry both at the OEM and aftermarket levels. I work in the industry and I can assure you that people do not want exactly the same vehicle as the next guy and many are willing to pay to get it. Companies that do not accommodate this to some degree are leaving money on the table. The US manufacturers tend to offer more options and the Japanese less with the Europeans somewhere in between. Even Tesla offers several power trains, trim packages and other options - roughly on par with what you see from the Japanese automakers for certain vehicles.

Comment: I've worked directly with doctors (Score 0) 106

by sjbe (#49781639) Attached to: Insurer Won't Pay Out For Security Breach Because of Lax Security

Doctors are terrible businesspeople.

Really? I know quite a few and am married to one and many of them are quite good at business. Many are terrible and/or disinterested but your brush is a little to broad. If doctors in general were terrible at business in general then they would lose money and there is very little evidence of that occurring on a widespread basis.

I work in the patient refunds department for a very large insurer and it's absolutely out of control.

Ahh, so you only see the problem cases but lack the larger perspective of seeing all the things that happen correctly.

It often takes them 4 years to notice a payment which wasn't even for them.

Ahh, I see you are confusing what the doctor does (administer medicine and oversee the business) with what their accounting staff does. Doctors typically have a large staff to administer a rather ludicrously large paperwork burden. The fact that some payments get lost between the cracks should surprise no one. I'm an accountant (among other things) and I can assure you that it is not terrible difficult in a busy organization for a payment to get mishandled. I also have worked in healthcare systems and doctors offices and have a pretty good appreciation for what goes on there. It's not nearly as easy as you seem to think it is.

It's bad when they do their own books but it's still bad when you let them hire their own office staff.

Sounds like you have never tried to run a business yourself. Might give it a go before you start throwing stones at others.

Comment: Re:Court Rules in Favor of Patent Reform (Score 1) 76

by Charliemopps (#49781613) Attached to: Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Patent Troll

At some point, the trolls will collect enough tolls that we'll finally have to do something about the ridiculous patents that are granted.

Remember, the trolls are legally in the right, which makes it not a problem with bad ethics on the part of the trolls, but bad ethics on the part of our legal system or patent system.

That's what they said about lawyers and politicians, and look what happened.

Comment: Re:DoB, SSN & Filing Status?? (Score 2) 82

by Charliemopps (#49781557) Attached to: IRS: Personal Info of 100,000 Taxpayers Accessed Illegally

Better yet, those same agencies are 100% supportive of fining private enterprise for the same thing... But they believe they are simply innocent victims of outside attacks and shouldn't be held responsible.

But this wasn't even an "attack" they used the form as it was intended to be used and just guessed at the inputs. That's like putting a combination lock on your safe that only has 1 digit, setting it to "1" then, after your customers Jewelry is stolen claiming there's nothing to can do to stop a determined Global criminal organizations that employ master safe crackers.

Comment: Options (Score 3, Insightful) 334

No matter how old it is, I still can't fathom the "extra" scheme applied to the automotive industry.

It's rather simple so let me break it down for you. 1) Not everybody wants, needs or can afford every feature. 2) Automakers can sell more cars if they offer them at a range of prices. 3) People like to customize their vehicles because having something a little unique is valued. 4) If people weren't willing to pay extra for options then they would quickly not be offered. 5) Bundling options keeps complexity down to a manageable level and if done right improves profits for the manufacturer.

Why can't all cars be more like a Model S and ship with the most relevant technological developments "out of the box"

If people start gravitating with their dollars towards that business model then that is what will happen. I think it is unlikely but stranger things have happened. However remember that you are talking about a $100,000 luxury car so the rules are quite a bit different than for the market for a minivan or pickup that costs 1/3 of the price of the Tesla.

Comment: Re:Flamebait title (Score 4, Insightful) 334

A more appropriate title would be: "Idiot hits pedestrians after purposely setting up his vehicle to do so, hoping it wouldn't."

Actually, it should be more like "Genius finds an easy way to sue a Multi-billion dollar company that's apparently run by idiots."

Comment: Decision to deploy cameras (Score 1) 277

by sjbe (#49781411) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

When people are on the job I see no reason they can't be monitored, that's why cops wear body cameras, their cars have dash cams, that's why trains should have cameras, and so should pilots, because if you knew what pilots were doing you probably wouldn't fly.

In some cases monitoring is quite reasonable and appropriate. In others it is pointless, wasteful and/or intrusive. Reflexively saying they should all be monitored at all times shows that you don't grasp all the nuances involved. Like you I support cameras as a general proposition but there are times when they are either useless or wasteful. There is no one size fits all answer.

Oh and I know very well what pilots do in the cockpit. I also know they have a rather spectacular safety record so I'm not especially worried about it.

There's no good reason NOT to have a camera in a train cab, cockpit, body cam, dash cam, etc, if it's ON THE JOB.

If the camera has minimal or no demonstrable safety benefit or if there are alternatives to the camera that would have a bigger bang for the buck in improving safety then there is a very good reason to not have the camera.

There also are significant (though often solvable) practical logistical and technology and economic issues in deploying cameras and saving the results. Do not be so quick to dismiss these challenges because they are not trivial or unimportant. Camera deployment isn't simply a matter of walking over to best buy and buying a few GoPros.

Comment: Monitoring might not be the best solution (Score 1) 277

by sjbe (#49781233) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

Whether or not it's "law" he has no right to privacy when my life is on the line.

That's a nonsense argument in such a general form because your life is constantly on the line. You ever drive a car? Do you insist that every other driver be monitored? Because you are at FAR higher statistical risk in your car than you are on any train or airplane and yet we don't insist on monitoring there.

The question is whether monitoring is reasonably likely to have a significant safety benefit. Black boxes in airliners and trains have obvious value in determining causes of crashes after the fact. Video monitoring of retail establishments has a clear benefit in reducing theft. Video monitoring of train engineers? Maybe... but the case isn't obvious because there are other options worth considering. Might be that a better solution is automation of speed controls. Might be that a better solution is a second engineer. Financial resources are finite so we should take a little time to figure out what the best solution is rather than reflexively going to the first idea we think of.

Now don't get me wrong, I agree that professionals responsible for public safety can and should expect reasonable monitoring while engaged in their professional duties. But note the word reasonable because it is important. There are legal, ethical and practical limits to what we can and should monitor. We don't have a right to view them on the toilet even if they are on duty.

Comment: Cop out argument (Score 4, Insightful) 277

by sjbe (#49778933) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

Their concern is more to do with how people react under stressful situations when snap decisions are required. Knowing that your every move is being recorded and will be intensely scrutinized after the fact can alter those decisions.

That's a cop-out if I've ever heard one. Airline pilots have everything they say and every interaction with the controls recorded on every flight and somehow they manage to execute their duties quite well even in crash situations. If a train engineer is doing something they aren't supposed to be doing then they should damn well expect to get a spanking for it. Any equivocation on this point is simply trying to weasel out of being responsible for their actions.

The world will end in 5 minutes. Please log out.