Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:What's bad about Uber drivers? (Score 2) 46

Good for you, as long as everything goes perfectly as expected you'll be fine.

But then you're involved in an accident, get hurt, and suddenly you find out that the driver's insurance won't pay out because you're a paying passenger and he doesn't have insurance coverage for that. In case of official taxis, you won't have such an issue, guaranteed. There is a reason taxi licenses and so are in place in many parts of the world, and it's not to prevent competition. It's to protect customers, and if done correctly (admittedly often not done so) can enhance competition even.

Complaints are indeed primarily about the company, and its total lack of respect for the law - indeed they often actively and intentionally break the law (like in Amsterdam). Its drivers often make less than normal taxi drivers after deduction of all their cost. Just two of the common complaints against Uber.

Comment: Re:rule of law (Score 1) 221

by wvmarle (#49503931) Attached to: Joseph Goebbels' Estate Sues Publisher Over Diary Excerpt Royalties

That's not what I said or meant.

You naturally hold the copyrights to your own work - so you can always publish it any way you like.

However if you start quoting other people's work in your own work, you may need a copyright license for those people's works - unless the quotes are so short they fall under fair use policies or so. And that appears to be the case here: the author used so much of someone else's copyrighted works (the diary of Goebbels in this case), that the copyright holders (Goebbels' estate) think it breaches copyright law, and on those grounds try to ban publication of the works in question. Simply removing/cutting down on those quotes should allow publication.

Comment: Re:Completely Open Source (Score 1) 236

by wvmarle (#49503103) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Features Would You Like In a Search Engine?

There are two issues with this.

Search indexes are very expensive to make - lots of data to download and analyse to come anywhere near reasonable coverage of what's out there. Someone has to pay for it.

The amounts of data involved are huge. By the time you're done downloading such an index, even assuming you've got sufficient storage at hand, it's horribly outdated.

There is a reason there are no recent small search start-ups: you have to be pretty big to even consider this. When Google started, the Internet was a fraction of the size it's now, and even then Google's founders could use the massive computing resources of their university. Google's index nowadays is so big that they can not search it entirely themselves: different geographical locations tend to give different search results for the exact same query, as you're searching different subsets of the database.

Comment: Re:rule of law (Score 2) 221

by wvmarle (#49502981) Attached to: Joseph Goebbels' Estate Sues Publisher Over Diary Excerpt Royalties

Research requires you to be able to buy a copy and read it, so you may use the information held in it. That's the case with lots of works out there, such as all scientific research publications. They all fall under copyright, which doesn't seem to hinder research all too much. Sure public domain and online access may be convenient, you can instead walk over to your local university library and read it there.

Copying and republishing excerpts from another work may be restricted under copyright, or may fall under fair use. This is a different matter, and still won't hinder research. Nor does it have anything to do with censorship.

The original author is just using words as "hindering research" and "censorship" to push his case, meaning to me he's probably broken copyright law and strongly feels himself he is indeed at the wrong side of the law.

Comment: Seems to be an already solved problem. (Score 1) 113

by wvmarle (#49499681) Attached to: Google Adds Handwriting Input To Android

Every day I'm on the MTR or the bus I see numerous people around me writing away on their phones. Handwriting input is the norm, not the exception. It seems to work pretty well, considering the very few corrections they have to make.

Or is recognising and distinguishing between those thousands if not tens of thousands of different Chinese characters really that much easier than the 26 letters (well, make that 52 to account for capitals) in our alphabet? I always thought they'd use handwriting input because it's so darn hard to input Chinese on a regular keyboard, let alone a mobile phone keyboard. In contrast, entering English on a mobile phone keyboard, combined with automatic corrections, works quite well for me, not as good or as fast as a real keyboard but I think I still type way faster than I could possibly write on a phone or other mobile device.

Comment: Re:I'm gonna go out on a limb. (Score 1) 290

by wvmarle (#49455333) Attached to: Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses

The real question is now: now much of the effect is from the actual consumption of alcohol/cannabis, and how much is from the time spent consuming it?

A night spent in a bar drinking means generally you don't spend that time studying, and often results in a night with too little sleep. Same for smoking pot. These long nights of partying, and as a result less time spent in your books, certainly must have an effect as well.

Comment: Re: Easy grammar (Score 1) 624

Easy spelling!

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but 44 phonemes. I'd start there. Expand the alphabet to 44 letters; one letter per sound and double le(tt)ers are not necessary. Thus no ambiguity on how to spell a word; you spell it like it sounds. It would be like a metric system for speaking/spelling...in that it makes sense. So "two" becomes "tu" or maybe just "2" (wi yuz tu karakters wen won wil du?), "too" becomes "also", and "to" becomes anything...maybe "tob".

You nicely illustrate how incredibly hard this is to do correctly.

The word "to" would have to become "tu" (certainly not "tob" as it would sound more like "tahb" - the "ah" sound as in the "won" you use for "one") to keep in line with your previous examples, as it's pronounced exactly the same as "too" and "two". Furthermore you shouldn't use "also" without pointing out that the "o" in that word has to become a new letter, as you have used the letter "o" already in "won" (as phonetic spelling of the number "one").

This is also ignoring the constant spelling updates you'd have to perform to keep track with changes in pronunciation of different words over time (which, in part, is why we have so many spellings in English that do not fully match current pronunciation), or regional differences in pronunciation of various words: which version of English would be the standard? You won't even be able to say "British" or "American" as neither has a standard pronunciation but comes with huge regional differences. Those spelling updates will seriously mess up reading as a large part of reading is done by recognising the word as a whole, rather than looking at and parsing individual letters.

On the other hand, some languages like Latvian have settled down on their spelling only quite recently, and it's possible for a non-speaker like me to read out Latvian text and have native speakers understand what I say, while I have no idea of the meaning of the words, just reproducing the sounds. The same supposedly works in Hungarian, and probably some more languages.

Comment: Re:Only Republicans are stupid enough... (Score 2) 318

by wvmarle (#49325221) Attached to: First Lawsuits Challenging FCC's New Net Neutrality Rules Arrive

A government's role should be: (pick one)

1. Break up monopolies, reduce barriers to market entry, and encourage competition, or
2. Regulate the behavior of monopolies.

Net Neutrality attempts to do #2.

3. All of the above.

Natural monopolies should be regulated. This includes utilities (power, water, telephone) that rely on physical infrastructure. The owner of the infrastructure (the cables, the pipes), should be strictly regulated - and where possible being forced to allow competitors on their infrastructure. Ideally, owners of infrastructure and service providers using that infrastructure are separate.

The most obvious and easy to understand example is roads. The government builds roads and bridges, and everyone can use those roads and bridges - either for free, or against a fixed cost which is the same for everyone. Every driver pays the same toll to cross a bridge, based only on things like size/weight/type of the vehicle and maybe the time of the day, regardless of which company he works for. It's the same for everyone, roads are neutral.

In Europe, this has gone so far as to decouple rail roads from rail transport providers, power lines from power suppliers, telephone lines from telephone/ADSL Internet suppliers, etc. I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't always go smooth and there are issues, but the idea is the correct one. It's just really hard to execute well. Net neutrality is also an issue there, though generally the governments are highly in favour of net neutrality, and in the end we'll have full separation between providers of physical infrastructure (the cables in the ground), network service providers (the ISPs providing connectivity), and content providers (the individual web sites).

That'd be the ideal situation.

Low barrier of entry to the content market (everyone can set up a web site and be sure that all their potential customers can actually reach that site on equal footing with all other sites) which of course enhances competition. Low barrier of entry to the service provider market, as everyone can rent the required connectivity for a fixed, known price.

Physical infrastructure is a natural monopoly, very high barrier of entry, and therefore has to be highly regulated. This is something that I consider a prime government task, be it done directly, through a SOE, by appointing a commercial entity to do it, or even by forcing a commercial entity to open up their existing networks to the competition.

Comment: A second language DOES change your world views (Score 2) 274

by wvmarle (#49280915) Attached to: Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World

If only because of the enhanced cultural exchanges, and expanded possibilities for travel!

It's just a pity that the world's de-facto common language (English) is so hard to learn well... still glad I managed to master it, if only as second language (out of four) for me.

Comment: Re:Most ambitious (Score 1) 132

by wvmarle (#49258137) Attached to: Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City

This handover from computer to human is what bugs me.

How to do this reliably?

Point in case: just yesterday I missed my bus stop on a routine commute, simply because I was too distracted by a stupid phone game. This is comparable to automated drives, as I do a stretch of city transport by hand (home to bus stop), there hop on the bus (human driven but from the passenger pov it could as well be a robot), take back control when I reach the exit point: press the button to get off and do the last bit of transit through city traffic by myself.

OK you can set an alarm - even for your bus stop there are phone apps that can do that - but what if the human doesn't react and the robot reaches the desired exit, or the end of the highway? No guarantee there is a place to stop (may be occupied by other soundly sleeping drivers).

Comment: To impress me, try cross-city drives instead. (Score 5, Insightful) 132

by wvmarle (#49256211) Attached to: Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City

More impressive would be for the car to drive from one end of New York to the other. During the day, avoiding highways, dealing with really chaotic traffic on narrow, poorly marked roads full of distractions and ambiguities.

Highways are simple. Traffic flows in one direction only, clearly marked and wide roads, no intersections, all roughly the same speed. No surprises. It's where by far the fewest accidents happen for human driven cars, even though it's boring and probably the part where human drivers pay least attention. Doing an hour of highways, ten hours of highways, 100 hours of highways - it's just more of the same. Now it's cross country, tomorrow it'll be cross country and back. And back again. As long as the fuel will last.

Comment: Re:Email lets you organize your thoughts (Score 1) 115

by wvmarle (#49212203) Attached to: Preferred way to communicate with co-workers?

You're really underestimating the social part of face-to-face meetings.

Those moments discussing other things, laughing about irrelevant jokes, etc are not lost time. These moments are valuable as well, they help people get along with one another which in turn helps the whole process. It helps defuse arguments, it helps people to be nice to one another and to cooperate. People are, by nature, social creatures. You may figure you're an exception, it may indeed be true that not everyone can exchange information in person, but I'm sure the other 99.999% or so of people in this world do so just fine, some arguably better than others but overall people can manage to do this just fine.

Face to face meetings, especially those late at night in the bar over a beer or two, are also the place that people feel free to launch the craziest ideas. Ideas that pop up, are on second thought totally stupid and impossible, but may just spark another idea that gets the group closer to the solution - or at the very least you can have a good laugh about, which again is good for the group as a whole. This are things that are rarely done on e-mail as everything there is on record, and definitely not everything that's being said in a meeting has to stay on record. Only the final conclusions with possibly some arguments on why that decision was made.

For the other extreme - groups trying to work together without any face-to-face meetings, be it formal or informal - just see what happens on Internet mailing lists. That often degrades into a flame war, people fighting with one another over the most irrelevant details. This may take even more time than the off-topic time in face-to-face meetings. The main reason it seems to work is that all participants are so driven to get the project done.

Both have their place, and I think the face-to-face meeting should come first (mainly for the social part), e-mail second. The meeting is great for discussing what's to be done, e-mail/IM is great to follow up on specific details - either one to one or in small groups.

Comment: Re:If I can make it here I can make it anywhere... (Score 1) 734

by wvmarle (#49193939) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

US jobs have to be the best paying in the world, as the cost of living there is also among the highest in the world, and the tax system there is probably one of the worst - if only because you have at least county level, state level, federal level taxes, and maybe a few sublevels and other kinds of taxes that have to be paid for and all have their different rules on what constitutes taxable income and what not. There is more to income and salary than just amounts of money.

After growing up and studying in a place, most people will stay there. A while back I heard that most people in this world (to the tune of >90%) get born, live their life, and die within a 20-30 km radius. Sure you always hear about ex-pats, people moving far away from home (I'm one of them), but overall most people stay close to home. That's the place they know, the place where their friends are, their families - for most people there is no good reason to leave home. Belgium is a fine place to live, I'm sure.

There are many Chinese that want to get to the US, but don't forget there are 1.3 billion Chinese out there. If just 0.1% of the mainland Chinese population wants to make this move, that's 1.3 million people queueing up - potentially adding 0.4% to the US population, and most of those end up in the university population, making the influx very visible.

In contrast, if 0.1% of the Americans is looking for a job in China (and really - I know quite some that moved this way out of their own free will, plus many that were asked by their company to do so), that'd be a mere 0.32 million, adding just .025% of the Chinese population. Barely noticeable.

If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research. -- Wilson Mizner