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


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Gravity ... (Score 1) 240

They can't PROVE anything - but they can certainly demonstrate what slow-motion movement looks like and compare it to real footage of people moving around on the lunar surface and let you make up your own mind. They did that - and I made up my mind. Slow-motion earth-gravity doesn't look like moon-gravity...mostly because in low g, people modify their gait in ways that aren't just faster versions of full-g gaits.

Comment Re:The movie was good because the book was short. (Score 1) 240

There were some big chunks missing in the movie. In the book, he has to spell out messages in rocks on the ground that the orbiters can photograph because there isn't enough space in his vehicle to haul the old rover landing platform around. Also, in the book, he manages to roll the rover over just before reaching the launch site. In the movie, you only see him watching one episode of some 1960's TV series - and he's mostly complaining about the disco the book, he watches every episode of a dozen old TV shows to provide a break from the disco.

I'm sure there were a bunch of other things that were skimmed over or omitted entirely - but those are the three that stood out for me.

I think they did the movie pretty well considering the limitations of the medium - but the book is definitely worth a read.

Comment 40 years a programmer. (Score 1) 162

I learned to program in school in 1974, we used Fortran IV. But there were no computers at the school, so we had to write our programs out on special coding forms, post them via snail-mail to the regional computing center, where they punched them onto cards and fed them into their IBM mainframe - if/when they had time to spare at the end of their payroll runs. The resulting paper printout was then posted back to us. It took about 10 days to turn around a single run - and our course only lasted 8 weeks - so, as you can imagine, you learned to check every dot and comma!

I've been a programmer of varying degrees of seniority for the last 40 years - I resisted going into management, but I make a good living and have lead small teams, designed my own graphics chips, built a multi-million dollar laser projected graphics system, made arcade machines, written XBox games, built my own laser cutters and 3D printer - more projects than I can easily remember. I used the very first implementation of Bjarne Stroustrups C++ compiler (which compiled to C code) - and have loved C++ as my 'go-to' language every since.

Over that many years, programming gets a lot easier - I don't have many bugs anymore - and my interests tend to focus more on large-scale architecture and attacking the mathematical basis of image processing and graphics.

I still enjoy the art of programming - making something elegant, efficient, bug-free and useful - and doing it on time and in budget - is always a challenge.

Comment But was what VW did actually *bad*? (Score 1) 392

The consequences of the hack were threefold:

* They improved acceleration when not under test conditions.
* They improved MPG when not under test conditions.
* They worsened NOx emissions compared to test conditions.

If they improved MPG then it follows that CO2 emissions were actually LOWER in real world driving than when it was being tested.

So with the (illegal) hack, the car emits less CO2 but more NOx. Which is worse...CO2 or NOx?

CO2 obviously causes global climate change - NOx produces acid rain, smog and acidic particulates that are not good to breathe. But NOx is *also* a "global cooling" agent - it actually reduces the greenhouse effect. It's also relatively short-lived in the atmosphere compared to CO2.

So if VW had been honest and met the emissions standards, we'd have less acid-rain/smog/particulates than we currently do - but *more* severe global warming!

Depending on your point of view, it's therefore at least arguable that VW helped the world as a whole by circumventing unhelpful regulations.

I don't think this forgives their actions - but it's at least worth thinking about!

Comment Re:What are advertisers thinking? (Score 1) 241

You probably think that's quite a clever retort and that I'm very unlikely to subscribe to such a service. However, I'd point out that both bitcoin and PayPal (both of which I use frequently) are quite capable of handling such tiny transactions.

The problem is that the only website that I care about that supports this kind of thing is right here....Slashdot....and I *am* a subscribed member here.

Comment Re:What are advertisers thinking? (Score 1) 241

Truly, I would prefer to pay what the app actually costs - and do micropayments for websites I use a lot. I've stopped watching broadcast and cable TV and happily pay NetFlix and Amazon Prime for the privilege of watching TV without the adverts.

Advertising bites two ways - firstly it intrudes horrendously into my life, but secondly, it drastically increases the cost of goods - because I'm actually paying for the advertising costs on every product that's advertised. Did you know that 23% of the cost of a new car is the cost of advertising it to you?

And bear in mind - that extra cost I'm paying on goods that I buy doesn't go entirely to the web sites, apps and TV shows that display them - a huge chunk goes to middle-men like Google - another huge chunk goes to marketing people to come up with those adverts - and to the production people that actually make them.

If adverts vanished tomorrow, my savings on things I buy would by far exceed the increase in the price of a few apps - and micropayments for web sites that I visit.

Even without that - American TV (broadcast & cable) subjects us to (on average) 16 minutes of advertising per hour. So a 2 hour movie takes 2.5 hours to run. I'm wasting half an hour to watch that movie "for free". I don't know how highly you value your time - but even if you decide your free time is only worth minimum wage, it's far cheaper to pay to watch it on Amazon...even more so if you're watching with family & friends.

    -- Steve

Comment What are advertisers thinking? (Score 3, Insightful) 241

1) They advertise to me.
2) I dislike their adverts sufficiently that I'm prepared to spend actual money to stop seeing them.
3) So they try very hard to force me to see their adverts anyway.
4) ....with the intention that after they've forced me to see something I definitely said that I didn't want to see - that somehow I'll want to buy their product?

Did I get that right?

They send me crap that I've very explicitly opted out of by installing an ad blocker...and they think that'll make me want to buy their stuff?

OK - I don't get it. I really don't.

    -- Steve

Comment Re:Status was NOT divulged, only email identities (Score 1) 65

The problem isn't who, exactly, was on the list - and what their HIV status might be.

The problem is the PERCEPTION in the general public about what the HIV status must be of people on that list. My guess is that a vast majority of people would assume that they are all HIV sufferers...that's incorrect, but that's what they'll assume.

At least one person who replied right here on Slashdot is advocating that the names of people with HIV should be public knowledge.

So - what is the intersection of people who (stupidly) think the names should be made public and people who (stupidly) assume that everyone on the list has HIV? I think we all know that this is hardly an empty set!

Hence it is very likely that people who DON'T have HIV will be publically identified as people who DO have HIV...and the consequences of THAT can be fairly extreme, both to interpersonal relationship - and (in some places) to getting a job, getting health care coverage, etc.

Also, it's really trivial to find someone's name from their email address - and to find their street address from those pieces of information.

So, no, this is not the small matter you're's potentially devastating.

Comment Re:Why shouldn't this be public anyway? (Score 1) 65

So your position is that the entire country (world maybe) should have access to identity information for everyone who currently has a potentially fatal, communicable disease? Knowing their email addresses would hardly be adequate to help people avoid the problems you describe, so you must (logically) be advocating for revealing actual names and work/home addresses.

Hmmm - so what other diseases should be accorded such special status?

Unless you have some kind of unseemly bias, you must be concerned about all diseases that are at least as communicable as HIV, and which cause at least that number of deaths - would that be a reasonable low bar for you?

So...let's see - in the UK, about 6,000 people die every year from HIV/AIDS - and about 25,000 die from influenza.

Oh [citation required] huh? OK - the numbers are here: (6,000 people died from AIDS in 2012) (28,000 people died from influenza in just two weeks in January 2015)

How about communicability?

To be infected by HIV, you need to exchange body fluids - pretty unlikely to happen, statistically.
To be infected by influenza, you just need to be standing nearby when they sneeze - incredibly likely.

So - unless your position comes from a specific bias against HIV sufferers *because* of the most common routes of infection - you should reasonably be pressing the government to release the names of all known influenza sufferers instead.

I think we know what your feelings are in that regard - so we can only conclude from your post that it's pure, unreasoning bias.

Comment Re:Easy problem to solve: Ban CC: (Score 1) 65

Certainly both BCC and CC have their valid uses - but you'd be amazed the number of people who don't understand the difference. Even after I pointed it out, the HR team at a company I worked for a few years ago would still send out emails about upcoming events and benefits stuff to the entire company using CC. Then a huge number of "Thanks for telling me!" types of replies would wind up being spread around the entire company.

Perhaps mail clients should retire the acronyms and spell out more explicitly what happens. Maybe have just one box for CC's and when you hit SEND, ask whether you want the recipients to get each other's email addresses or not.

Comment Pet Hate: What makes this a "Robot"? (Score 1) 39

Dunno about you - but isn't a "robot" a "a machine that has an onboard computer and moves autonomously"? This doesn't look like it has any onboard compute or battery - so it's more like a remote-controlled vehicle or something,

This has annoyed me about a bunch of other so-called "robots" too - the RoboWars competition is mostly just a bunch of radio-controlled vehicles.

The whole idea of autonomous control, sensors and self-containment seems important in the definition of the term.

I'm sure this machine could eventually become a component of an actual robot - but it's not one yet.

    -- Steve

"One Architecture, One OS" also translates as "One Egg, One Basket".