Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

+ - After A Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here-> 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: Today, an Icelandic prosthetic-maker announced that two amputees have been testing brain-controlled bionic legs for over a year. The devices respond to impulses in the subjects' residual limbs, via sensors that took were implanted in simple, 15-minute-long procedures. This is a huge step forward (sorry) for this class of bionics, which may like a solved problem based on reports and videos from laboratories, but that has never been exposed to real world use and everyday wear and tear. Here's my story for Popular Science, including insight from one of the two testers.
Link to Original Source

+ - How the DEA harasses and robs train passengers->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Evidence suggests that the Drug Enforcement agency routinely detains, searches, and then steals from train passengers under the guise of searching for drugs.

This story isn't from some a libertarian website, but from the Atlantic. It describes the routine abuse of power by agents, often resulting in the theft of cash.

Link to Original Source

+ - Operation Tropic Trooper targets Taiwan and Philippines to unearth state secrets->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: Taiwan and the Philippines have been revealed as the latest targets in the ongoing campaign ‘Operation Tropic Trooper’ – a three year-old cyberattack employing old hacking tactics to target government bodies and leading businesses. According to research by security experts Trend Micro, Tropic Trooper hackers had been exploiting Windows vulnerabilities, social engineering and standard steganography to infiltrate the IT systems of Taiwanese and Philippine government agencies, military institutions, as well as national companies involved in heavy industry. The research report also highlighted that the successful hacks using traditional techniques could have been easily prevented or at least better dealt with had the victims implemented proactive antimalware detection technologies and security training processes.
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Ownership and Appreciation (Score 1) 142

by sirlark (#49652601) Attached to: From Commune To Sharing Economy Startup

As nice as communism sounds, there's an inherent problem with rentals.

Yes, but I'd argue that most those problems are introduced by capitalist renting out in the first place

Anyone who's been a landlord knows that people don't take care stuff they don't own. Rental cars are abused, apartments are damaged and left uncleaned, taxis are smelly, public toilets are filthy and broken down.

Rental cars are abused because generally because as the renter you know you are already paying overheads and they are built into your rental fee. Rental cars are often cleaner than privately owned cars because they are cleaned between every rental, i.e. every few days. The insurance on rental cars is expensive compared to insurance I can get privately, so yeah, I'll happily leave fast food wrappers in the car and not hassle about a scratch, because it's covered. I've already paid for the repairs and the cleaning anyway.

Then let's look at taxis. They get used roughly 8x more than privately owned cars hour for hour. They also are generally not a cheap form transport. It's the taxi owner/driver's responsibility to keep it clean, and they generally charge appropriately. Whether they actually clean or not, different story. To be fair though, 8x usage does mean cleaning gets difficult, and there's a reasonable expectation on the driver/owner's side that people are going to treat the taxi with some respect and not puke or litter casually. However, in the course of a day, scrunched up till slips, gum wrappers, etc accumulate no matter how much care is taken.

Public toilets, covers a wide variety of installations. Some have cleaning tools available for users to clean u after themselves, so can brush out the bowl if necessary. But those get stolen (god knows who'd want to steal a toilet brush from a public toilet though) and broken. Again, they are generally cheap plastic tools that are used far more than they were ever designed to be used. Then you get toilets where there are no tools, but cleaning staff. Those tend to be clean, and you either pay for those directly, or they're subsidized like mall toilets. From personal experience, toilets get filthy through use. Night clubs and bars are the worst because they probably see the most usage with the least cleaning. Free public toilets on the street would be next, but I wouldn't call either of those rentals.

And now housing. This is the first case where usage between the average rental and the average privately owned property is generally the same. Except, if as the owner of a house, I scratch or scuff the wall, I can use crack filler and paint carefully over it to my own satisfaction. As a renter, the same offence means I have to repaint an entire wall, which is the owner taking a chance in my opinion. I suppose it comes down to expectations. If you owns your own place, you're happy to put with minor cosmetic issues, but if you rent, you expect perfection. So in the case, the owner is perhaps justified. The non-cosmetic differences are generally the owner's responsibility to take care of, and here you are absolutely right. Rental apartments are never taken of by their owners as if they were their own. If my toilet/geyser/plumbing breaks, I call get it repaired within 24 hours. If I'm renting, especially through an agency, it can takes days, often nearly a week. Then there's cleanliness. Where I live, if you're renting, when you move in the place is supposed to be clean (it often isn't very) and empty (assuming unfurnished rental). When you leave, you must leave it clean, and agencies administering rentals will call in a cleaning service, prior to inspection, to clean the place, and deduct the costs from your deposit. Since that happened to me the first time, I asked the rental agency every time if this was they're MO, and if it was, well since I'd already paid for the cleaning service regardless, I'd happily leave the place as a wreck.

I can't think of any rental system off the top that consistently presents clean and well-maintained equipment without enormous amounts of time and effort.

There's a thing in economics called "unequal knowledge" which explains why used cars have little value. The seller knows whether the vehicle is robust, but the buyer has no realistic way to tell. You can't tell whether the transmission needs replacing or the engine oil was ever changed or if other expensive repairs are needed. Because the buyer can't verify whether the vehicle is good, he will only pay "average" price. Because buyers will only pay average price, sellers won't sell vehicles which have above-average value.

Construction equipment costs upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I can't see someone renting out a bulldozer and taking a chance that the renter didn't run it without oil for a weekend.

There are plenty of rental systems that are consistently clean, but yes, they do take lots of time and effort. Hotels, upmarket car rentals, expensive apartment blocks... to name a few. The key is that where the rental usage is much higher than privately owned, you have to clean/service/maintain/replace the consumer grade equipment far more often than if it were privately owned and sitting on a shelf for 90% of it's life span. Private cars are designed to be driven maybe 2 hours a day, and to have a fifteen year lifespan on average. Rental cars are probably driven twice as much if not more, so why would you expect the lifespan to stay the same. Also, when it comes to short term rentals, the "unequal knowledge" argument doesn't apply, because as a renter, if the item I'm renting is defective, I can return it, and either get my money back, or get a replacement item. I don't care whether it has latent defects, because it's not my problem.

Comment: Re:Why we use office (Score 2) 178

by sirlark (#49420969) Attached to: UK Forces Microsoft To Adopt Open Document Standards
I'm aware of the difference between Calc and gnumeric, but I was trying to answer the question of "what is considered a basic task?" which isn't exactly dependent on a specific piece of software. I have more experience with gnumeric, as I pointed out. And yes, once you hit large spreadsheets, you should use a database, but often I have to deal with large datasets that are stored in databases and *exported* as .csv files for analysis, or with .csv files dumped directly from sensors or other devices. Whilst I'm writing the programs that either produce or consume these, it's often easier to view them in a spreadsheet, rather than a text file layout, because the visual distinction of column is preserved. I admit, that this is probably not a common use case though, and hence not a "basic task", but databases aren't great at data analysis, which is why this stuff often gets loaded into a spreadsheet, this is where statistics applications come in. Good luck getting Bossman McMBA to use something like that. So I'd say this is probably somewhere between "basic" and "advanced". I would like to throw one more thing into the hat though, and that is the MS Word is appalling at handling large documents (40 pages plus, depending on the machine). LO/OO writer is much better in this regard, and I do regard this as a "basic task"; There are many business documents (quarterly reports, impact assessments, white papers, blah) and even personal documents (academic dissertations, and student projects, home authorship of books) that can get this large.

Comment: Re:Why we use office (Score 2) 178

by sirlark (#49390103) Attached to: UK Forces Microsoft To Adopt Open Document Standards

Okay, God forbid, I'm actually going to try and treat this fairly. Firstly, recent incarnations of MS Word work using semantic styling, but don't force you to use it. This is much the same as in OO/LO. In general MS tools load files a LOT faster, and are more visually appealing (granted, eye of the beholder and all that), however they don't handle large files. Try opening a 400Mb .csv file in Excel vs in Gnumeric. As far as user friendly interfaces are concerned, I'd say they are both about equally klunky. The ribbon is a menu, really, just looks a little different. Some people prefer it, some people don't.

Now, the "basic tasks" concept. Basic tasks for word processing to me include: writing a letter, writing business document (contract, memo, invoice, quote, waybill, meeting minutes), creating/using templates for those standard documents, designing home flyers (lost dogs, bake sales etc) . These generally require the following 'features' from the software: text manipulation, text formatting, image insertion and basic manipulation (resizing, placement, possibly cropping), tables, tab stops, template editing, headers, footers, page numbering, and text->image conversions (e.g. for banner headings). Both OO/LO and MS Word do all these about equally well imho.

Advanced features: Mail Merge, Mathematical equation editing, Track changes/revision control, cross referencing (index, citations, bibliography, table of contents, list of images etc)

As far as the spreadsheets go, excel and gnumeric are very similar in features as far as I've used them. Never used OO/LO Calc, so I can't say. I suppose charts might be a distinguishing factor, but again, I rarely use charts generated from spreadsheets.

Presentation software (Powerpoint, Impress) seems to be where things really start to differentiate. More transitions, and more bling, in general, is available to PowerPoint users, and compatibility is HORRIBLE even between between powerpoint versions, let alone PP and OO/LO.

In summary: as far basic word processing goes, I don't see a marked difference apart from aesthetics. For Maths, they're both pretty horrible. Track changes they're both about the same (revision control in word processing sucks generally), and I'm not sure about mail merge

Comment: Re: Who cares what RMS wants? (Score 4, Insightful) 551

by sirlark (#49015629) Attached to: RMS Objects To Support For LLVM's Debugger In GNU Emacs's Gud.el
Also, I should point out that the LLVM/clang situation is a bit more complex. If I recall, LLVM came about because the gnu toolchain deliberately obfuscates it's output and interoperability interfaces with other tools even within the toolchain. This strategy was chosen because the outputs of the individual software tool in the toolchain were not, and could not be protected by the GPL (any version). It would have been possible for a proprietary product to be developed that didn't link to gcc (or another part of the toolchain) to take the useful output of gcc (e.g. a parsed abstract syntax tree) and use it to any number of cool things. The product could still be distributed with gcc (and the required accompanying notices) but the rest of the code would be locked up, because it doesn't link to gcc, only depends on it at runtime. This violates the spirit of the GPL which is not only to make software free, but to keep it free.

Comment: Re:You can add all the very you want (Score 1) 130

by sirlark (#48882277) Attached to: New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild
Yes ... but over a long enough time (a shorter time probably) those same mutations might occur naturally. And if the mutations are not beneficial to the organism (as opposed to beneficial to humans), then they are very likely to lost again. Look, if they create an e. coli strain that produces something amazing, for instance, a viable crude oil substitute, but it also happens to be highly effective at out-competing wild type e. coli in the human gut as a side effect, and coincidently killing us because we've basically swallowed litres of crude oil, I'd say it might still be worth the risk. If they're producing vanillain, or insulin, then definitely. The problem with the crude oil scenario, is that an escapee colony would start producing a never ending oil slick. But again, the mutations would likely be lost because the organism won't need them.

Comment: Re:I`ll be the pessimist (Score 4, Insightful) 130

by sirlark (#48879159) Attached to: New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild
The whole idea is that the escapees won't survive long enough to reproduce, as being without their essential amino acids, their growth would be limited, and bacterial reproduction rates are tied to growth rates. Also, consider that as long as they're provided with the non-native amino acids, they're under no selective pressure to revert to the wild type. Yes, it's possible, but very very unlikely.

Comment: Some more details and fixing some missing details (Score 4, Informative) 160

by sirlark (#48763359) Attached to: Over 30 Uber Cars Impounded In Cape Town

Captonian here. The summary is a bit misleading. In South Africa there are two nationwide requirements for anyone (including Uber drivers) to transport members of the public. They must be personally licensed to drive (i.e. have a valid drivers license), and also licensed to transport members of the public (a public drivers licence, which requires not having a criminal record, not having ever had your driver's license revoked, etc...). In Cape Town specifically, there's an additional by-law that means the vehicle must be licensed. This requirement is the case in most municipalities in South Africa, although some municipalities classify Uber's service as "chartered transportation" and Cape Town classifies it as a "metered taxi service".

A local talk radio show had both a representative from Uber and a representative from the city’s Safety and Security department. Both Uber and the city confirmed that Uber only checks the national requirements, i.e. the driver's credentials. Uber doesn't check that the vehicle is licensed to transport. To be fair, Uber apparently goes above and beyond the minimum checks regarding the driver, doing deeper background checks etc, but they do not check that the vehicle is licensed. All of the impounded vehicles were impounded due to a lack of the vehicle license. Uber seems to be trying to spin things saying that the City's bureaucracy is way too slow, but what it comes down to is the fact that are plenty of metered taxi's already, they need to be licensed, and there are a limited number of licenses. Uber's been categorised as a metered taxi service, so no new uber drivers are going to be given vehicle licenses. Uber wants to be reclassified as a chartered transport service, and here things get a little fuzzy. As far as I can tell, a chartered transport service requires an upfront statement of cost, i.e. the driver/company has to provide a quote for the proposed route. Airport shuttles fall under this for example, because they charge a fixed amount per suburb/area, they don't charge per kilometre. I'm not sure how exactly uber determines the fare, but it's not fixed, so technically, they're not a chartered service.

So it doesn't look like it's the city's fault. They're following the law. Now, it's open to discussion whether Uber is at fault for not ensuring their driver's vehicles are licensed, or whether it should be the driver's responsibility, but from the consumer side, I'd say the expectation is that Uber has done their due dilligence.

The question of whether computers can think is just like the question of whether submarines can swim. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra