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

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Re:truly an inspiration. (Score 1) 418

by schnell (#49557485) Attached to: Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon, Sabeen Mahmud, Shot Dead

Watching a show like that (unless it's just to be horrified) absolutely says something about your intellectual capacity and your leanings.

Your leanings? Absolutely. Your intellectual capacity? Not in the least.

While I personally think homophobia is abhorrent, I acknowledge that there are lots of people who are objectively intelligent (in the sense of having high IQ scores) who nonetheless disagree about the politics. I may think these people lack critical thinking skills, but more likely their cultural background has not prepared them to think critically about the issue. I also, for example, believe that there are extremely intelligent people on both sides who radically disagree about one simple fucking sentence - the Second Amendment to the US constitution. I think it's pretty clear (why else specifically mention a well regulated militia?), but lots of other smart people don't, so I don't say they're stupid because they disagree.

Consider, for example, that - had you asked them in their historical period - almost certainly Gandhi, G.W.F. Hegel, Martin Luther King Jr., Isaac Newton or John F. Kennedy would not have supported gay rights. It's not because they weren't smart, it's because they came from a background where they just weren't prepared to consider it in the same set of assumptions and contexts as many of us do today. For example, I can call Israeli settlers on the West Bank of the Jordan stupid because I believe they are "on the wrong side of history" and are harming their nation's cause in the eyes of the world; but I acknowledge that some of them may be very intelligent and - had I been through the same things as them or brought up in the same environment - I might feel the same way.

So while it's easy to say anyone who watches a show whose protagonists disagree with your views must be stupid, I counter that it's just that type of generalization which is stupid.

Comment: Re:truly an inspiration. (Score 2) 418

by schnell (#49555803) Attached to: Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon, Sabeen Mahmud, Shot Dead

If they have interests such as following the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty, and you have interests which include baroque music and classical literature, then it's safe to say that you're more intelligent than them.

Ummm... no. There is no fundamental difference in the level of intellectual engagement required between enjoying "Duck Dynasty" and "Star Wars," and many Slashdotters (including myself) are raving fanboys when it comes to the latter. Your choice of lowbrow entertainment may be because you are dumb, or it may be because you are smart but looking for an escape that has oooh shiny and doesn't require deep thought. To draw inferences on intellectual capacity based on what TV shows someone watches is just snobbish.

Similarly, "highbrow" tastes don't indicate intellect, they indicate exposure to a different set of influences and pastimes. You probably think being an opera fan indicates higher intelligence than being a death metal fan. But 150 years ago every village idiot in Germany could hum along to Wagner, and Italian beggars could likely recite the works of Verdi. It didn't make you smart back then, and it doesn't make you smart now, it just means you've been exposed to opera while someone else was being exposed to Guns N' Roses or Lady Gaga. There is a strong argument to be made that the popular classical music or classic literature that has survived to this day is of uniformly high quality, and there is probably a good argument as well that appreciating these works properly requires an incisive intellect. But for every classic literature fan I have met with a trenchant insight into the contradictions of Proust, there is another who is just up his/her own ass and wants to make sure everyone knows they bothered to make it through "Dubliners."

So long story short - beware making intellectual judgements based on people's pastimes. Sixty seconds of hearing them talk will tell you far more about their intellect than whether, when you met them, they were holding a copy of Kierkegaard or "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Comment: Re:It's not about the cost, it's about convenience (Score 1) 366

by schnell (#49538737) Attached to: iTunes Stops Working For Windows XP Users

It's not about the cost. It's about the convenience.

So after you conveniently download it from TPB, how do you go about paying the people whose music you downloaded? I hate waiting in Best Buy checkout lines, it's very inconvenient. But I don't think it justifies just walking out of the store with my CD.

Comment: Re:Doublethink (Score 1) 678

by schnell (#49537817) Attached to: Except For Millennials, Most Americans Dislike Snowden

"Change is coming" - sure it is

Significant change does in fact happen, all the time. I'm pretty sure that if you were a woman, queer or black in the United States you would find that your playing field (while still not level) is far better than it was one or two generations ago. While there is still much to be done, at least in the US care for the environment is a world away from where it was even as late as the Reagan years. Poor Americans who didn't previously have access to health care as little as two years ago now have it. Across the planet, life expectancies in the poorer parts of the world have rocketed up in the past 50 years. And, for those of us who remember the Cold War, we all no longer live in the fearful knowledge that our deaths were never more than a 35 minute ballistic trajectory away with potentially no warning.

There are plenty of things out there that are worse, too. But that is change as well.

It's easy to see that the world isn't in the state you would like and conclude that nothing ever changes, that involvement in causes or politics is futile, and that everyone should throw their hands up in frustration and walk away from caring. But things really do change - even if it is slow - and to dismiss the ability of people to change things for the better ... or for the worse if they fail to oppose it ... is lazy at best and unworthy of our better natures.

Comment: Re:No cuts are ever possible (Score 4, Interesting) 196

by schnell (#49533459) Attached to: House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity

Why don't we cut a couple hundred billion out of the multi-trillion dollar "war on everything" Militaryâ"industrial complex that's obviously going so well?

I gather that you don't like or see much benefit from the US military. I saw a commenter a few slots above you suggesting that the thing to cut is Obamacare, which provides health care to people who are probably not the commenter. Some poster who is 65 will inevitably suggest that the rotten Education department must go, while someone else who is 18 will invariably suggest it should be Medicare. I have no doubt someone who lives in Arizona will suggest that Federal subsidies for homeowners living in hurricane zones be cut, and someone else from Florida will suggest that it's that Gestapo border protection troop that needs to be slashed.

It's funny how everyone seems to know with great certainty exactly the things that are totally worthless and should be cut from the Federal budget with no ill effects - which, purely coincidentally happen to be the things that they disagree with or they don't benefit from directly.

Comment: Re:Google should just buy Sprint and T-Mo (Score 1) 112

by schnell (#49533071) Attached to: Google Launches Project Fi Mobile Phone Service

Google should just buy Sprint and T-Mobile, merge their networks to optimize their coverage footprints and backhaul and then sell this plan to anyone and any device.

  1. 1.) There's not a lot of "optimizing" to be done since they overlap in most areas already.
  2. 2.) Sprint is a mixture of CDMA and LTE. T-Mobile is a mixture of GSM (HSPA) and a smattering of LTE. That's plenty of different technologies to support which means you might not even be able to ditch your overlapping tower leases, which is the main cost savings when consolidating carriers.
  3. 3.) Why do you think Sprint and T-Mobile are significantly cheaper than AT&T and Verizon? Because they spend much less on their networks, especially once you get outside the big cities. If Google were to actually improve their networks to the point of being competitive with the "big two," they couldn't afford to offer plans at these prices.
  4. 4.) The last two times somebody tried to buy T-Mobile, (AT&T in 2011 and Sprint just last year - remember that?) the FCC smacked them down on anti-trust concerns over having only three nationwide carriers. Not likely to change, especially given that Google has its own anti-trust issues from time to time...

Comment: Re:You no longer own a car (Score 5, Interesting) 649

by schnell (#49516317) Attached to: Automakers To Gearheads: Stop Repairing Cars

Nothing a nice, expensive official repair shop won't fix.

Well, somebody needs to play Devil's Advocate here, so I will. What if onboard vehicle computers truthfully are (or soon will become) so complicated - and so integral to the functioning of the vehicle - that an untrained hobbyist screwing with it could cause injury or death? What if some homebrew-loving gearhead hacker decides to roll his own firmware for the car because he thinks he can squeeze some extra MPG out of it, and instead it zeroes out the odometer due to a glitch? Or disables the seatbelt warnings? Or randomly cuts of f the engine in the middle of the highway?

Yes, it can be argued that negligent behavior causing death or injury already has penalties, but those are after the fact. We all understand how easy it is to screw up software. Do we want to be reactive or penalize it in the first place? Might it not be reasonable to say in effect that cars with owner-modified computers are fine but are no longer street legal?

P.S. No, I don't work for a car company, I'm not a shill or a troll. In fact I generally find cars quite boring. But I find Slashdot even more boring when nobody attempts to find merit in a contrary opinion...

Comment: Re:The UK Government Are Massively Out Of Touch (Score 2) 191

by schnell (#49511279) Attached to: Assange Talk Spurs UK Judges To Boycott Legal Conference

By what stretch of the imagination do you think he is, or should be, obligated to keep those secrets?

Absolutely none. He has no legal requirement not to publish the classified information of another country, as you pointed out. But that's not what he is in legal hot water for.

When someone can offer some proof otherwise - "zOMG Sweden must have made all this up this because the CIA has nude pictures of their bikini team and I heard this is 100% true from a dude on reddit" does not count - I will gladly listen.

Comment: Re:Would the abandoned spectrum be useful for data (Score 1) 293

by schnell (#49502623) Attached to: Norway Will Switch Off FM Radio In 2017

If Norway does the right thing and opens up the FM spectrum for people and personal their short range transmitters, maybe we'll find something more useful to do with the FM bands.

I think you're missing the point of why this is being done in the first place. Hint: you're right that this is being done to "find something more useful to do with the FM bands" but not in the way you imagine.

Like in the US and many other countries in recent years, spectrum is being cleared out so it can be leased to cellular providers. This is in theory because the demand for wireless voice and data continues to rise rapidly; the demand for FM radio not so much; therefore the spectrum is better used by someone who is delivering what people are asking for more of rather than less.

This is licensed spectrum though, so there will be no room for individuals to screw around with broadcasting on those frequencies. As Charles Dickens - or maybe it was Spock - once said, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Given how many people listen to licensed FM radio today and the pain this shift may cause them, would the "needs of the many" actually be served by turning this spectrum over to everyone and their dog to play around with backyard broadcasting? And, honestly, is there something individuals want to do that they can't already accomplish with the ham and unlicensed Wi-Fi bands that are already available?

Comment: Re:Is it the Apps? (Score 4, Insightful) 138

the iPhone only sucked marginally less (and they had apps, the iPhone didn't)

I don't think you actually remember what Windows Mobile 6 and BlackBerry 6 were like. Yes, the iPhone was the first mobile device that had a browser that wasn't painful to use, as you point out, but the user experience was RADICALLY different in many ways. Yes in 2007 when the iPhone launched, it wasn't unique in having a touch screen, but BlackBerries not only didn't have touch screens at all, they were controlled either with touchballs (that sounds weird) or scroll wheels(!). Most Windows Mobile phones were near-impossible to use without a stylus. And it wasn't just the touch interface... remember "pinch to zoom" before the iPhone? No? That's because it wasn't there. How about visual voicemail? Screens that rotated aspect quickly and easily based on orientation? A smartphone that worked with an online music store that didn't blow goats? You get the idea.

The only thing Apple did aside the incremental technical improvement, was strike a deal for unlimited internet with a major carrier (which didn't last, btw), which got attention.

Not so much, amigo. In 2007, at least in the US, unlimited smartphone data plans were very common. This was for the simple reason that it was f*$%ing painful to use more than a couple hundred MB of data on a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile phone with a 2G connection - 3G was very new in the US then, and the original iPhone only had a 2G connection. When people started to actually USE mobile data because the iPhone's browsing experience made it not painful - and it kicked the ass of AT&T's 2G network as a result - that was when capped plans became the norm.

Comment: Re:Alternatively (Score 3, Interesting) 173

I'm happy as the next guy to pillory Halliburton, which deserves little but scorn for its shocking profiteering in US government contracts. But you probably don't want want to cite dated Chavezista leftie Froot-Loops talking about how the rapidly disintegrating former Venezuelan economy is a model for anything except citizen outrage.

Just ask the folks living in the former Socialist Paradise where condoms now cost $755/pack on the black market because the Bolivar is worth less than toilet paper and it turned out that Chavez was mortgaging his country's future to buy temporary popularity with oil dollars.

Comment: Re:Everyone loves taxes (Score 4, Interesting) 173

Additionally, the Slashdot story is disingenuous (shocking!) when it brings up Microsoft's opposition to Washington proposition I-1098 a couple years back. Yes, Ballmer was a big contributor against the initiative but it was widely unpopular across the entire state, failing at the polls by a 2-to-1 margin.

Quick recap on what that was for non-Washington residents: WA is one of seven US states with no personal income tax. Sales taxes vary by locality, but in general they are higher than average in WA in order to make up for the lack of a sales tax (in Seattle, for example, sales tax is nearly 10%).

I-1098 proposed that individuals making more than $200K/year or families making $400K/year pay a state income tax, with a higher rate applying to those above $500K/$1M. Given WA's economically skewed demographics, the tax would hit many in the greater Seattle area (around the top 3% including Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Google, Nintendo etc. employees), while outside Seattle it would be more like the top .01%.

Interestingly, Bill Gates was a visible I-1098 supporter, while Steve Ballmer was a major opponent. But keep in mind the above: the demographics of Washington State are such that had this been an issue of just Microsoft and other big corps fighting it, or "rich Seattle" against the rest of the state which is not so full of rich techies, it would have won handily. Instead, it lost by a 64-36 ratio because voters across the entire state, including a majority of Democrats, thought it was a backdoor way to introduce a state income tax whose threshold would conveniently be lowered by the state legislature whenever it found itself in a money crunch.

So long story short - it may very well be true that Microsoft is dodging state taxes that it should be paying. If so, it should definitely be held to account. However, the fact that Ballmer or Microsoft supported a widely popular anti-state income tax initiative is not related to whether the company is shirking its tax duties.

Comment: Re:Hits Home (Score 3, Insightful) 210

Communism has the workers owning the means of production, while the only "attempts" have involved the government owning the means of production. Those are only compatible if the workers own the government, and I don't think that's ever been the case of any government in the history of human civilization. *Certainly* it wasn't the case in any of the so-called "communist" countries.

The irony here is that capitalism actually provides the most direct way for workers to own the means of production - through holding equity in the company. The ownership of any individual is miniscule (other than founders, executives, etc.) but there are numerous examples of "employee-owned" companies in which the Marxist ideal has been more fully realized than in any Communist nation to date.

There is also an inherent contradiction in every attempt to date to implement a Communist government. As you point out, if the government owns the means of production, the workers don't own it in turn unless they have control of the government, which can only be accomplished through Democracy. Every Communist government established during the 20th century was a single-party or totalitarian state, but arguably that's unavoidable because you will never find a Communist government (not talking about Socialist, but Communist) that is freely elected by a majority of its citizens because many aspects of Communism involve taking away property, land, etc. from the people who currently own it in order to "share" it among the population. Communism has historically always come to power through revolution or outside imposition, and human nature makes it highly unlikely for those who have won power in that way to ever risk losing it through enabling Democracy.

So I think history tends to prove for us that the ideal of a Communist state on a large scale achieving its original goal of worker ownership of the means of production to be inherently flawed. Then again, it can also be argued that the Marxist idea of Communism was a response to an Industrial Revolution status quo which has changed dramatically in the past 150 years and needs to be largely rethought to have modern relevance anyway...

Comment: Re:Drought solution (Score 1) 63

by schnell (#49417641) Attached to: Fault System Enables Larger Quakes In California

The oscillations from a quake are a threat to big buildings, and bridges, but the resonance doesn't affect small structures as much.

My understanding - and I don't remember where I read this, I wish I did - is that it isn't actually that much of a threat to big buildings either. What I read was that skyscrapers and other tall buildings are just too big to oscillate in harmony with the quake waves in a way that compounds the stresses, and that essentially all of them have steel frames anyway that allow the buildings to "bend" rather than "break." And single-story buildings don't have much of a problem as long as they aren't built from unreinforced masonry or something that won't "give" either. Instead the real "danger zone" is for two- and three-story buildings because their height is just right to sync with the timing of the waves and amplify their effect, regardless of their construction material.

Can anyone who has a better understanding confirm or clarify the above statements?

Comment: Re:The states... (Score 4, Informative) 421

by schnell (#49411721) Attached to: Powdered Alcohol Banned In Six States

Actually, I don't think Alaska is at all obvious, with its relative "frontier" attitude.

Alaska actually has the most restrictive alcohol purchase and consumption laws in the US outside certain areas of the Deep South. There are 96 communities in Alaska that prohibit sale of alcohol, and 34 of those even ban its possession. This is because in much of Alaska, there is f--k all to do except drink, and alcohol abuse is endemic enough already, even without the legal restrictions. The state even has a law, which is actually enforced that makes it a crime to be drunk in a bar. (Yeah, I know.) So while you might think that Alaska would be a "gubmint keep your hands off my guns and booze" state, it turns out to just be a "hands off my guns" state.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.

Working...