Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Hipster tactics (Score 1) 292 292

Aside from maybe some tshirts I really cannot think of any "ironic embrace of vintage" that resulted in a meaningful resurgence of a product

How about Pabst Blue Ribbon beer? Or the otherwise inexplicable growth of vinyl record sales?

True to the nature of hipster-ism, these things will decline again at some point. But the presence of cool tastemakers interested in retro stuff is a real thing that impacts sales beyond just their own ranks. God help us all if these people rediscover fax machines.

Comment: Re:Routing around (Score 5, Informative) 198 198

So the Internet was designed with resilience unless someone has a strong pair of garden shears?

The Internet will do just fine. Your personal ability to access it, watch a movie or dial 911 will not.

The big networks all have many data centers and diverse physical routing paths between them. But most people seemingly fail to realize that your house, your neighborhood - heck, maybe even your county if you're rural - probably does not. There is more than one physical path to get data from a colo facility in San Francisco to one in Seattle (even if it adds a lot of latency). There is probably only one physical way to get data to your house. Yes, even your cable provider and the telco almost certainly share a conduit somewhere near you. Mostly that's because there are simply a limited number of good rights of way to run fiber (frequently railroad tracks, gas pipelines, etc.) in any given area.

And that's also because it makes doesn't make financial sense to spend the money to ensure that your house has two redundant cables coming out of it that take two separate paths out of your neighborhood to different COs, etc. That's true not just for houses but in many cases for cell towers, Central Offices and other telecom points of presence that make last-mile connections rather than backbone connections. So that's why a fiber cut is so bad - everyone served locally by that fiber will be out of luck, even if the Internet as a whole is not.

Comment: Re:Drone It (Score 2) 834 834

I have a car, but the new Mazda has a 10hp more powerful engine. Should I sell my Mazda 3 for $5000 and buy a new Mazda 3 for $21,000?

It's a fair question in the context of Mazdas. It is a much less clear answer in the context of should I buy a F-16 for $100 million that gets me a 20% chance of being shot down in an engagement vs. a F-35 that gives me a 5% chance of being shot down for $350 million.

Comment: Re:Drone It (Score 5, Informative) 834 834

It sounds to me like our current crop of F16 fighters are superior. Why do we have a $1 trillion plane?

There are plenty of reasons, good and bad. I'll assume you are asking a serious question, and give you the short version of the most often cited answers:

Good reasons include:

  • It's stealthy(ish), and has an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar . Part of the idea is that you can see the other guy but they can't see you, so you have blown them out of the sky at BVR (Beyond Visual Range) and never had to get to the point of a dogfight.
  • It's supposed to replace a bunch of different fighters and attack aircraft among the services' current fleets with a single airframe. Better QC, cheaper spare parts, buying in bulk, yadda yadda. The different models for the Air Force (F-35A), Navy (F-35C) and Marines (F-35B) turned out to be more different than expected, but that at least was the idea.
  • America's allies wanted access to a fifth-generation fighter for their own militaries - which they weren't going to build on their own - and if the US didn't build a relatively affordable one (we weren't going to sell anyone the F-22 since it's our trump card for air superiority) they were going to have to buy them from Russia or China.

Debatable reasons include:

  • It - like the military itself - is kind of a Federal jobs program. If you keep your existing jets and don't build new ones, then you lose the employees with the skills and experience needed to do the job. (Kind of like we may not be able to build new nuclear weapons if we wanted them because we haven't made them for so long and everyone with any experience has retired.)

Bad reasons include:

  • The military and its defense contractors need new weapons programs to work on in order to justify their careers and existence (military procurement officers) and make money (contractors). Both groups have strong influence in congress, not least because of all the jobs they support (see above).
  • The F-35 was intended to revolutionize weapons system procurements by using a strategy of "concurrency" - think of it like agile vs. waterfall development. The idea was better stuff, quicker and cheaper. It turned out - like some of the lessons Boeing learned with the 787 - that agile development may work great at Facebook but it's a train wreck when applied to aerospace, military systems and gigantic procurements. Oops.

There were also plenty of f***ups in assumptions the program made that were only really recognizable in hindsight, like the fact that trying to mesh the Marines' requirement for a V/STOL aircraft with the traditional designs for the Air Force and Navy hobbled the plane's performance for all three constituencies.

I know a lot of people are very critical of the F-35, and rightfully should be. But it's not as bad as it may sound - I think it will eventually turn into a decent (but never great) aircraft with a long service life. It's out there flying around today, but will take probably 10 more years to get to where everyone hoped it would be in terms of capabilities. Nonetheless, you will almost certainly still see F-35s flying around under US colors in 2050, so in the long run it will work out OK.

Comment: Re:what this means? (Score 1) 292 292

But then the "news" companies won't be able to predict the polls properly!!! And how will the world go on if this happens?

Accurate political polling in presidential elections has a very vital role in modern society. Otherwise, how else would you know how loudly to complain about how you are threatening to move to Canada if the other party's candidate wins?

Comment: Re:$100,000,000 (Score 1) 205 205

Then perhaps they should have consulted lawyers and/or technical experts, given that apparently many millions of dollars were at stake?

Did you ever read the first Scott Adams Dilbert book? He says (I think I'm quoting but it may be a paraphrase) that "the goal of every engineer is to retire without being blamed for a major disaster." As much as that might be true of engineers, it is 10x true of corporate lawyers.

A company the size of AT&T has literally thousands of lawyers out of its 250,000 employees. I don't know if you have ever worked with corporate lawyers (at least at very very large companies). But most of the time, they cover their asses to the greatest extent humanly possible and just say that "everything we could possibly do is subject to a lawsuit in Kerplakistan or illegal in Jesus County Alabama, and therefore we shouldn't buy, sell or do anything ever." Paraphrasing a bit, but not far off.

Then product managers, engineers, sales and marketers ignore their advice, which is how the company actually does business. As a result sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, but more often than not the company actually did some business and made some money instead of following the lawyers' recommended business plan of not doing anything except paying lawyers. Oh, and then paying other lawyers to make sure the first group of lawyers don't sue about not being paid.

Comment: Re:Mixture (Score 5, Insightful) 312 312

Want to end terrorist Isalm, target the two originators Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Exactly, because ... Islamic terrorists ... like ... Israel ... and they are ... buddies and ... WHAT?

Perhaps you are arguing that Israel creates Islamic terror groups by its actions. While that is certainly an arguable issue, it is clearly not the sole root since Al Qaida explicitly cited the basing of US troops in Saudi Arabia as a motivation for the 9/11 attacks. Which had nothing to do with Israel, and was actually Islamic terror based on anger at Saudi Arabia ... which you say is the originator ... of ... WAIT, WHAT AGAIN?

So far the only government to tackle Saudi Arabia has been the Russian government with direct threats should any Saudi Arabian government led terrorists attack occur during the Russian Olympics. Shame Uncle Tom Obama the choom gang coward is such a god damned weasel

This seems like a reasonable argument that ... wait ... DAFUQ? How did this get to +3?

Congratulations Slashdot on hitting on a topic that somehow makes even init/SystemD discussions seam rational and well researched.

Comment: Re:CA water is feeding you ... (Score 1) 599 599

i buy all my vegetables at the local farm market so no, they are not feeding me.

I applaud your approach. However, that may not be a fully representative statement.

Even if you never buy an ounce of food from California, its presence in the market shapes what every commodity is worth. Even if you only buy local corn for $1.00/cob, that price is being shaped by the fact that California corn could be bought nearby for $0.69/cob. The cheapness of California produce, whether you buy it or not, helps to set the market pricing for food and agricultural products across the US.

Do you ever eat at fast food restaurants (or any restaurants except high-end locavore eateries)? If so, non-trivial parts of the cheap "beef" and lettuce in your Taco Bell taco, the artichokes in your Applebee's spinach artichoke dip appetizer, or even your sole (or trout) almondine at your favorite high-end seafood place are being subsidized by California's unconscionable water policies.

Even if you buy only local vegetables, your grocery list probably includes lots of things dependent upon California and its artificial agricultural water bonanza... California is the 4th largest state in beef production, 1st in almond products (including almond milk), etc. So anything you buy at a restaurant or elsewhere using California agricultural products is benefitting from the dreadful existing state of affairs. According to the Western Farm Press, California produces in the US "99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots." And across the US, the market price for every single one of these commodities is being set in part by California production, even if you buy the local version.

Comment: Re:Or hey, maybe we need (Score 5, Interesting) 599 599

It really is relatively simple to transport water from place to place. There's no reason for people to get upset about it. Why not just solve the problem? Really, why not?

I will assume you are in earnest and bite. You are correct that moving water from point A to point B is, while expensive, not generally a difficult issue from an engineering perspective. The problem is that this is not an engineering problem.

Fresh water is a finite resource (and getting even more finite in many areas of the US as El Nino ramps up). Pumping water from the Columbia River - hell, from the Yukon River - to California is expensive but not hard from an engineer's viewpoint. However, every gallon you drain from the Columbia is a gallon that potentially a farmer in the Columbia Basin in Washington (which leads the US in production of apples, sweet cherries, grapes, pears and hops) does not have access to anymore.

Leaving aside the farmers, many rivers in the Northwest connected to the Columbia watershed have significant salmon populations which depend on navigable waterways - as do the Native American and commercial fishermen who support themselves by fishing for salmon, steelhead and other fish that migrate upriver to spawn. Oh, and reduced flow from the Columbia would reduce the region's hydroelectric power generation and require more fossil fuel-burning electrical sources (plus making those Google, Facebook and Apple data centers in Oregon money-losers). And pretty much every other river system in the US has people, animals and industries that depend on their water flow as well. No amount of money from California or anywhere else is going to make all these issues go away.

So, yes, while we Seattleites complain about all the rain, it doesn't mean that yanking water away from us to ship to California doesn't have consequences. And in any situation where the solution requires one broad group of interested parties (e.g. California farmers, Californians who like to take showers) to benefit at the expense of another (Native American salmon fishermen, people who like apples), politics and negotiation are the only ways to resolve the question... not technology.

The use of technologies to try to solve the problem in a way that doesn't mean taking fresh water away from someone else are similarly political because they are so frickin' expensive. Desalinization uses ludicrous amounts of power (usually generated in ways that produce carbon pollution) to generate comparatively small amounts of fresh water. And someone needs to pick up the check, which isn't any less contentious a question here than it is at a post-work happy hour with a bunch of cheapskate co-workers.

So anyway, I applaud your earnestness (if that's what it is) in asking the question why we can't solve this issue. The answer just happens to be that someone has to give for someone else to get, and sorting that out is a problem technology can't solve.

Comment: Re:It doesn't matter matter who did it (Score 5, Informative) 144 144

I saw something about the Navy considering a BYOD policy with the Navy's computer systems.

I mean... what the fuck? These idiots should just get a custom US government smartphone and anyone that asks for an iphone should get a black bag thrown over their head

Have to be a little careful how I respond to this... let's just say that the last thing you want is the Federal government (or at least the DoD and the Intel community) picking out your cellular technology for you. The world of cell phones has evolved in less than a decade from dumb phones that couldn't even text to portable supercomputers; GPS-enabled dog collars and pill bottles; and increased worldwide coverage at (inflation adjusted) equal or lower prices to what you got 10 years ago. In the US Federal government, 10 years has brought you the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at billions over budget and years behind schedule. Let's please never think that the US government is compatible with cutting edge technology in anything that does not evade radar, blow things up, or do so simultaneously.

In the US government world, in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, anywhere where SECRET/TOP SECRET/SCI information is shared), you can't even bring a cell phone into the facility. Think about this: everyone at the NSA, DISA, CIA Langley etc. misses your phone call unless they are sitting at their desk. Forget that "Homeland" or "24" bulls**t about people using their Droid Razrs in CIA headquarters or wherever the hell Jack Bauer is supposed to be (Federal Secret Counter-Non Existent Surveillance Footage - Large Screen TV and Fake Hologram Agency?). This is how forward thinking the government is about mobility.

Additionally, in 2008 the government (NSA and DISA) got together to decide to do exactly what you suggested. The result? The Secure Mobile Environment - Portable Electronic Device (SME-PED) initiative, which began with a forward looking technology initiative, and by the time it had run the gantlet of DoD/Intel requirements and Federal acquisition policies, had turned into a gigantic brick of a device - running Windows CE - that cost multiple thousands of dollars. This was launched shortly after the iPhone hit the market.

I can't share the detailed results for a variety of reasons, but I can say that adoption was very poor. Real-world users decided to either stick with earlier, cheaper secure dumb phones; or just risk things and make phone calls about secret information on the mobile phones that they actually carried every day and wanted to use. At any rate, the lesson learned was that 1.) people love cell phones because they are cheap and people have lots of choices; and 2.) when the US government gets involved to pick a "secure" cell phone that all its employees should use, nobody actually uses it.

Comment: Re:reasons (Score 2) 327 327

When teling someone something, you tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.

Please don't take this personally, but OMG PLEASE STAHP. I hear this repeated all the time, and it frustrates me endlessly. Maybe this is the rule of thumb for speaking to mutants, farm animals or teenagers. But if you have an at least moderately intelligent audience whose attendance is not compulsory (e.g. a modern workplace), telling me the same thing three times will make me stop paying attention to you. Training people that you need to repeat themselves three times in a presentation is part of why many presentations are so boring and why we all ignore them which is why you have to repeat yourself three times and NOMAD ERROR. ERROR. ERROR. EXAMINE.

I do plenty of useful presentations all the time, using the crazy technique of just telling people what I want to communicate to them, one time. (Reiterating important points within a slide if necessary.) If they were multitasking, napping or ignoring the rest of my presentation because they expected to hear it three times, that's their problem. And I don't feel bad.

Comment: Re:But I love it when slides are read to me (Score 1) 327 327

The product isn't the issue--it is how people are being trained to use it, and changing the way a message is presented won't change the message.

True as far as it goes, but I would argue that very, very few people are actually taught how to give presentations. Think about it - someone may have taught you how to use PowerPoint, but did anyone teach you to present? I am sure we have all gotten "coaching" at one point or another from some jackass reviewing our slides pre-presentation telling us that "you need more pictures" or "spell out the acronyms on slide six" but I doubt if more than a handful have actually received decent instruction on how to organize one's thoughts and communicate effectively to an audience. Not just that - for example, I have a few stupid, inoffensive canned jokes that I tell at the beginning of each presentation for a new audience at work. It's cheesy and groan-worthy, but it establishes an air of informality and receptiveness that makes the audience far more willing to listen. Does anyone get taught that kind of stuff anymore?

Plus, no amount of good or bad PowerPoint usage will make up for someone just being a bad communicator (especially in front of audiences). You can use PowerPoint as a crutch, but the greatest software in the world can't save your presentation from sucking if you have issues ranging from "stage fright" or "fear of public speaking" all the way to "just being an idiot who can't think linearly from A to B." I'd venture a completely unsupportable opinion that at least 2/3 of all humans in a modern white-collar workplace are either subpar thinkers or subpar communicators, so we can expect at least that percentage of presentations to suck.

Comment: Re:EA (Score 2) 86 86

Is there actually a way for US businesses to prevent themselves from hostile takeover? Like, can they be "private limited companies" and just refuse to merge?

Oh yes indeed - it all depends on what type of company it is. I am oversimplifying here, but there are (at least in the US four (and a half) types of companies based on ownership structure:

  • Sole proprietorship : There is a dude named Bob Smith (BS) who owns Bob Smith Plumbing (BSP). BS and BSP are separate entities for tax purposes, but BS can do whatever the f**k he wants to with BSP - sell it, keep it, use its finances to expense hookers. The downside to Bob is that if BSP goes bankrupt, there is no barrier for creditors not to go after Bob personally.
  • Partnership or Limited Liability Partnership: There is a group of people who own Bob Smith Plumbing, which may include Bob Smith, a rich uncle who gave him the money to finance his startup costs, whatever. The partners who own shares in it control 100% of what the company does, and nobody can force them to do anything they don't want to. But if things go tits-up the partners who aren't involved in day-to-day operation of the business (e.g. Bob's uncle) may be shielded from some bankruptcy or lawsuit claims while those who ran the business daily (e.g. Bob) are not.
  • Corporation (private) : Here it gets interesting. Bob Smith Plumbing, Inc. is now legally separate from Bob or any of the owners - i.e., if BSP Inc. goes bankrupt, creditors can't come after Bob or the other owners. (In return for this legal separate personhood of the company, BSP Inc. must have independent board members, file quarterly reports and go through other legal oversight to prove that Bob isn't treating the corporation like a personal asset; if the books show that, creditors can "pierce the corporate veil" and hold Bob or the other shareholders personally liable.) Still, the owners are the owners and nobody can make them sell, not sell, or do anything else they don't want to. However, a large private corporation usually has a LOT of owners - founders, Venture Capitalists, etc. - and they all get to make big decisions based on the % of shares they own. If you get a buyout offer from $MEGACORP and the founders and employees (who own 49% of the shares) don't want to but the VCs (who own 51% of the shares) do, then you get bought out.
  • Corporation (public): Same as above, but you are no longer owned just by founders, employees, VCs, etc.; you have started selling your shares to anyone who wants to buy (ranging from jackasses like you or me with E*Trade accounts to hedge funds and institutional investors). Going public is a goal for most companies because it converts your shares of the company into actual, you know, money (think turning potential energy into kinetic energy). But going public means that (as above) not only does your company have to follow the will of the Board (as elected by shareholders based on their % of shares held) but you also are subject to lawsuits from those shareholders (or criminal prosecution by the FTC) if you run the company in a way (e.g. turn down a lucrative buyout offer) that is deliberately against the monetary interest of shareholders. On a side note, public corporations can create ways to avoid hostile takeovers like Poison Pill plans, too... but if more than 50% of shareholders don't like your way of running the company, you are out.

I say "four and a half" (despite there being other business entity forms) because the last "half" is a company that's in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Long story short, once you file, the previous owners of the company don't own s**t. The US government - in the form of a bankruptcy judge - now gets to decide what to do with the company, whether that means shutting it down, selling parts of it off at auction, or allowing the previous owners/managers to demonstrate that they have a plan to get the company back on its feet. Regardless, in bankruptcy nobody but the judge gets to decide what will happen to the company.

All the simple programs have been written.