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Slashback: Hagiography, Oracle, Fusion 95

Slashback with updates on RMS's biography, PVRs vs. the endangered edifice of Western Civilization, Oracle's funny deal with California, cold fusion and more. Read on for the details!
Can't we please have a picture of the winner? obsidianpreacher writes: "Apparently, SETI@Home has just recently released who the winner of the 500 millionth result "contest" is, and posted the news on the SETI@Home site. Too bad it wasn't me (or one of the people who turn in 300 bajillion results per day)."

Even lukewarm fusion would be satisfy me. driggers writes: "I wrote a review of the book "Excess Heat" for /. last year. I thought you might (or might not :) be interested to learn that the U.S. Navy in February 2002 issued Technical Report No. 1862 titled "Thermal and Nuclear Aspects of the Pd/D2O System," Vol. 1 of which summarizes A Decade of Research at Navy Laboratories."

Dr. Frank Gordon, Head, Navigation and Applied Sciences Department, concludes his foreword with the remark, "It is time for the government funding organizations to invest in this research."

If you modify the source you must keep it accurate, like a Mad Lib. An Anonymous Coward writes "I just noticed the biography of Richard M. Stallman, "Free as in Freedom" by Sam Williams is online at oreilly, released under the GNU Free Documentation License."

What vapors rule the modern day Oracle? MarkedMan writes: "The following CNET article outlines Oracle's reply to the State of California's announcement it was canceling a nearly $100 million dollar contract. It should not come as a surprise, as few companies would give up that kind of money without a fight, not to mention the domino effect if they just rolled over. It would be a tacit admission that they ripped off naive customers."

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Slashback: Hagiography, Oracle, Fusion

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  • The information about SETI getting it's half-billionth piece of data was already posted wasn't it?

    • Re:SETI (Score:2, Insightful)

      yes, but the fact that they posted WHO the winner was had not been posted
      • And boy that just sucks, I have about 2200 results sent in from Seti, about 29,000 hrs of computer time (at least with my machines). This guy only has 92, and he was the winner..

        Ahh well, no biggie, woulda been cool but oh well..

        • Re:SETI (Score:2, Interesting)

          by pennsol ( 317791 )
 yr old CHICK...
          • yeah an 19 yr old chick who likes " to go out with my friends, I love animals, especially horses (I love to ride them) and dogs and butterflies. I like flowers and spring and I like to roller-skate." She deservers $500 just for that!
            • " to go out with my friends, I love animals, especially horses (I love to ride them) and dogs and butterflies. I like flowers and spring and I like to roller-skate."

              Heh, people usually write such things in their profiles when they try to come out as chix... Come on! Butterflies and flowers? Those are the first two words that come to mind when trying to ironize female interests...
        • And boy that just sucks, I have about 2200 results sent in from Seti, about 29,000 hrs of computer time (at least with my machines). This guy only has 92, and he was the winner..

          I find this strangely appropriate. After all, what are the chances of SETI turning up clear signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence? Slim? Very slim? Miniscule? And here is some fellow that won, in spite of the odds :-) (Sure, you could find similar examples in the form of lottery winners...)
  • by dupper ( 470576 ) <> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @08:04PM (#3494031) Journal
    I turn in trajllions of results per day to Brilliant Digital Entertainment. But where's my parade?!
    • I turn in trajllions of results per day to Brilliant Digital Entertainment. But where's my parade?!

      I think the lawyers are having a parade in your honor. Seriously, think about it.

      Slashdotter sues Kazaa for the spyware issue.
      Sharman Networks (current owner of Kazaa) sues previous owner of Kazaa because their business plan of embedding spyware was declared illegal.
      MPAA sees that Kazaa is hurting, and sues Sharman.
      Kazaa declared illegal, but ex-programmers post source code on Slashdot.
      MPAA, Sharman sue Slashdot.
      (I could say something about the bankruptcy lawyers that VA Software will need, but I won't.)
      Lawyers rejoice, drive home in BMWs.

      Lawyers win!
      • Lawyers win
        Please don't joke about lawyers, dude. They're having a really hard time. Quoting article []
        According to a 1992 poll conducted by California Lawyer magazine, 70 percent of lawyers surveyed said they would start a new career if they could. A 1990 American Bar Association survey indicated that 23 percent of all lawyers were dissatisfied with their careers. A 1990 John Hopkins University study found that lawyers had a greater rate of depression than workers in any of the 104 other occupations studied.

        Lawyers have among the highest suicide rates, lowest popularity ratings, highest pressure, and longest hours of almost any profession that exists.
        Law is a profession which always has to deal with the ethical problems of its stuff. And us coders are thinking of forming a professional body for ethics, heh, do lawyers have one?
        Argghhhh! Don't sympathise with the enemy! All lawyers must die!
        <Krusty the Clown> Bwa ha, ha ha, ha huh, huhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh </Krusty the Clown>
    • A sign from heaven - she's a geek [] []!!!

      Whoa, man! You people need to visit this site, seriously. Anal-porn queen Asia Carrera's vital stats:

      • National Merit Scholarship Winner (for 1440 on SAT's)
      • Yes, I am a member of Mensa, the society for high I.Q. nerds
      • 4 kickass PCs
      • Spelling bee champ, was in the Math Club
      • Likes to take it up the ass on camera

      • Wow, I am surprised. She's my new favorite porn star! =)
  • RMS Book (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 00_NOP ( 559413 )
    Is very disappointing - it doesn't really explain him at all - other than to explain he is weird and has disgusting table manners (allegedly).

    At least it doesn't suffer from the "we're all making millions cos we are brilliant" syndrome that infected even the latest edition of Rebel Code.
    • Re:RMS Book (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lkaos ( 187507 )
      I saw a couple copies at my friendly neighborhood Borders, and read about a chapter of it. I was really turned off with the negativity towards Linus Trovalds and various other FS pioneers. The author really went for the throat in the whole GNU/Linux and Open Source vs Free Software issues. I've always found those issues to be the darker side of the Stallman story and would have actually bought the book if it focused more on his work on Emacs, GCC, and the Hurd (I absolute am facinated with the Hurd...).

      As it is, it is sitting on a display rack for 20% off without a single copy gone. I'm usually a big defender of Stallman but that book was in really poor taste.
      • Re:RMS Book (Score:4, Interesting)

        by danny ( 2658 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @08:54PM (#3494201) Homepage
        I didn't think the book was negative to other FS people. In fact, if anything, I got the impression that the author was probably more of an "Open Source" person - his dialogues with RMS sometimes suggest that, anyway. And I opened my review [] by describing it as "far from hagiographic"!

        The book does quote Richard Stallman a lot, naturally, and it is about him, so obviously his views get more space than others. It's a biography, not a history of free software, even if, given RMS' influence, it comes close to being the latter!


  • Guess I can see why SETI gives out prizes for processing a buttload of data -- they sure as hell won't be giving any prizes for actually finding an ET civilization.
  • Engrish (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Even lukewarm fusion would be satisfy me.
    I think timothy should submit this gem here [].
  • GNU/Richard Stallman was born on the such and such of the year nineteen hundred and such and such. At school nobody liked him because he didn't shower and he smelled really bad so he decided to create Free Software. The End.
  • by jdbo ( 35629 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @08:25PM (#3494102)
    • does it include details about Stallman that weren't otherwise widely known? yes.
    • does it provide insight into Stallman as a human being, as well as his primary role in pioneering the free software movement, and the relation between these two? yes.
    • is it respectful of Stallman (who participated in the books partially-self-documented creation) without being fawning towards him, or evasive of his faults? yes.
    • does it deal with technical issues in a way that is both understandable to the newbie as well as non-insulting to the experienced? yes.

    • I read it (online), and bought a copy. It's a real biography of a real (if unusual) person.

      For those who believe that everything must be perfectly bias-free, yes, it does display bias for free software ideals , but that is because it's telling RMS's (suprisingly successful) underdog story, and "triumph against massive odds" reads this way.

      A genuinely informative, insightful book - and readable, too.
    • It's a real biography of a real (if unusual) person.

      Hah! And all this time I thought that RMS didn't really exist! His image was created by the GNU project not unlike the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz! And to think I was fooled this whole time... hhahaha!
    • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @09:40PM (#3494329) Homepage
      I agree; it's a good read.

      I think a key point of the "Free as in Freedom" book was the description of the concept of the GPL as codifying a hacker culture of sharing. Certainly the GPL has been an effective and appropriate response to what Richard Stallman apparently saw as essentially the destruction of the MIT AI Lab (and elsewhere) as an academic home for cooperative sharing and collaborative construction. However, it is unfortunate Sam Williams in the book does not touch on the significance of the Bayh-Dole act of 1980 which perhaps unintentionally helped destroy the university culture of sharing in many other places than the MIT AI lab at about the same time. See an article called 'The Kept University' from the Atlantic Monthly: m [] Perhaps it was not entirely coincidental the AI lab exodus happened shortly after this law was passed (prior to the act there was not as much incentive for universities to withhold information or make special deals with companies directly). In a future edition, relating Richard Stallman's efforts to that larger legal context of the 1980 Bayh-Dole might be interesting (I didn't remember it mentioned and the Bayh-Dole act isn't in the index).

      Of course, since the book is under the Gnu Free Documentation License, I guess anyone could make that change -- but then there would need to be somewhere to post updates -- like Savannah?

      • Thank you for posting that article link, and raising the issue of the Bayh-Doyle act, which I was previously unaware of (I had not realized that there ever were restrictions on universities patenting research results... now I think they should be reinstated), and explains many of the changes in academia over the last 2 decades.
  • I'm young and happy girl who lives in Czech Republic.

    Hey, I know who this girl is, she's my mail order Czech ex-bride. I want 50%!!!!
  • Governor Davis (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The Oracle damage control person has to be credited in the arts of hopeful persuasion, however...

    Weren't there shredding trucks involved with this somehow?

    And 94 million. I'm still dumbfounded by that amount. Even 45 million. It makes me wonder the government has any money at all to work with if pissing it away so freely is common throughout the country.
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @08:31PM (#3494123) Homepage
    The article says Oracle is seeing a downturn in sales. Is any of this due to people switching to the open-source alternatives? I'm not a database geek, but from what I understand, the open-source stuff is getting more and more full-featured. Of course a fortune-500 company doesn't care about the extra $$ for Oracle, but I wonder if they're losing out on the lower end...
    • In a word, nah. (Score:4, Informative)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @09:00PM (#3494216) Homepage
      Oracle is not experiencing any kind of market erosion due to open-source software. Anything you run off PostgreSQL could be ported to Oracle, but you'd probably be a dummy to do so. The reverse is rarely true (except the dummy part).
      • Anything you run off PostgreSQL could be ported to Oracle, but you'd probably be a dummy to do so. The reverse is rarely true (except the dummy part).

        When I'm done parsing this, I'll let you know.

    • The article says Oracle is seeing a downturn in sales. Is any of this due to people switching to the open-source alternatives? I'm not a database geek, but from what I understand, the open-source stuff is getting more and more full-featured. Of course a fortune-500 company doesn't care about the extra $$ for Oracle, but I wonder if they're losing out on the lower end...

      No, it's because everyone bought a metric assload of database software when they had the money a few years ago. People don't buy all new database systems every couple years like they do with office suites and other crap. Databases tend to stick around a while. Combine that with tightening budgets right now, and Oracle isn't doing as well as they were a few years ago. That's why they're real big on the "software as a service/pay for something you already bought every year" garbage.

      But open source databases are getting better. Slowly, but surely.

    • "Is any of this due to people switching to the open-source alternatives?"

      I think its more complicated than that. Oracle changed its pricing model about 2-3 years ago that was effectively for many customers a huge price rise.

      At that time, IBM's UDB and MS's SQL Server suddenly because reasonable alternatives to Oracle.

      Oracle has essentially withdrawn that price increase, but I think the damage has been done. Oracle has mindshare and good performance, but I'm not sure that's enough to overcome a the financial side of the equation for Oracle. Time will tell.

      Plus...I contend the market for high-end relational database is relatively small anyway. So its possible the world doesn't need any more 6 figure databases.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      To the contrary, Larry welcomes open source. He claims Oracle runs much faster on Linux than it does over Windows. And I don't think theirs any Open Source database really targeted at Oracle's market base. I think the downturn is do more to their sleazy, lying sales tactics finally catching up to them. Oracle in a nutshell: decent technology (arguably industry best). Unethical marketing (undisputably industry worst).
      • Oracle Government Services follow a strategy of vertical systems development for shelf solutions to do things like process and manage motor vehicle records, or summarize environmental sampling results and forward reports to the federal EPA at a time and in a format required by law.

        I'm deliberately picking generic examples applicable to any state, since I don't remember it being mentioned in anything I read exactly what the software in question was intended to do.

        These packages tend to be astronomically expensive. So would the alternatives from competitors like IBM or other developers active in that market, because their cost is controlled by the time, expense and administrative elaboration involved for the other alternative of an individual state assembling a qualified project team and developing and maintaining a codebase of their own (and getting it right).

        It doesn't hold up to think of this as: "CA paying $100M for a copy of MySQL" Even if the database is Oracle Enterprise, it's still one of the smaller components of the overall package. The big numbers come from things like the specialized form and report bundles, installation, training, network construction (even a small state can be expected to have node locations all over the place) and system administration.

        Another point regarding this specific contract was that the package line items and license counts were stipulated by a third-party consultancy operating on behalf of the state, which is now the subject of official fact-finding, perhaps with some justification. So far no evidence has emerged that anyone working for Oracle itself knew anything about it until after the purchase was signed off.

        As for the downturn: There won't be a Y10K problem for another 9.998 years, and most venture capitalists these days know better than to write blank checks to 3 guys starting for Oracle software to manage the 5 million customers they say they're gonna get on page 72 of their business plan.

  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @08:40PM (#3494152) Homepage
    Notorious Murders are usually referred to by first, middle and last names, i.e., John Wayne Gacy, Lee Harvey Oswald & John Wilkes Booth.

    Notorious Superstars are usually referred to by one name, i.e., Cher, Madonna & Liberace.

    Notorious Uber Geeks are usually referred to by their initials by other wannabe geeks, i.e., RMS, ESR & DNA.

  • I sometimes worry that computer geeks^H^H^H^H^Hprofessionals, like most of the general public, don't actually understand science.

    So I'm relieved to see stories like this. The reviewer is fascinated [] by a book extolling sloppy science, and that's sad. Maybe such stories (like, say this []) shouldn't get posted. But it's a relief to see so many thoughtful, highly moderated comments explain what science is, what it means, and why the original post doesn't know what it's talking about.
    • Yeah, but how many people just read the shoddy journalism and never read the comments? One journalist can provide an extremely loud voice for irresponsible viewpoints.
    • Hmmm... Must have missed that Alex Chiu stuff, I just read through those Q&A, a few points:
      1: He seems to be selling snake oil, he better figure out a way to base theories on real science or at least base them on psuedoscience that itself attempts to base itself on real science.
      2: He WANTS China to reclaim Taiwan??!!?!
      3: He was asked about human rights violations in regard to Tibet and ignored that half of the question and spouted on about population control.

      Conclusion: Braindead crazy commie who is tricking good capitalists out of their money so that he can lead his immortal army to invade Taiwan, therby insuring that we can't get any more good deals on tech toys from there (if we can at all). This = Evil. Bad monkey, bad monkey.
  • by ( 84577 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @09:04PM (#3494221) Homepage
    Did I miss that link? I feel like Opus when he flipped on the news to hear "...and that is the single most poisonous to penguins item you can find in every household."
  • SETI Works! (Score:3, Funny)

    by FrankDrebin ( 238464 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @09:34PM (#3494316) Homepage

    The winner of the 500 millionth result, Milada [] had the odds stacked against her. First, she is a she and we all know what the rates are there in the geek world. Next, she's not from the US (41.5% of SETI contributers are US residents), she's listed as Czech [] (only about 0.6% of the SETI contributers are Czech residents). And last she's only returned (as of this post) 92 results!

    Such a combination is so astronomically unlikely, I think we've found our ET people!

    But seriously I'm glad the prize went to someone who's got this unlikely profile, it just proves how truly global and widespread the SETI appeal is. Congratulations to SETI and Milada!

  • by gnovos ( 447128 ) <> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @09:42PM (#3494331) Homepage Journal
    You may add a passage of up to five words as a Front-Cover Text, and a passage of up to 25 words as a Back-Cover Text, to the end of the list of Cover Texts in the Modified Version.

    Free as in Freedom: As told by Bill Gates
  • by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @10:20PM (#3494424) Homepage
    It never ceases to amaze me when interesting anomolous results are discarded by the mainstream community. Yes, 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs'. But closed cell calorimetry is very hard to do right, and the electrodes are tricky to setup.

    But bottom line, its an electrochemical cell that exposes dental x-ray film left next to the jar, and tritium is sometimes produced, all while little intermittent hot spots show up on IR.

    So what if "its impossible!" Something interesting is happening, and it deserves to be studied properly, not dismissed...
    • It never ceases to amaze me when interesting anomolous results are discarded by the mainstream community.

      The problem is, there are tons of anomolous results out there, and the vast majority are because of bugs in the experiment. They failed to account for such and such factors, the experimenters' biases influenced the experiment, there were statistical errors, they didn't completely understand the science behind the problem, whatever.

      Many mathematicians refused to think about Fermat's Last Theorem, because too many people had already wasted too many hours on it, and there were more productive things to do with their time. A physicist must ask herself, is it worth her time, to work on something that may pan out big in the end, but odds are high it will just be wasted time, or if she should work on something that's almost guarenteed to turn up results, be them much less newsworthy.
  • According to that Navy report, Fleischmann and Pons were right all along. Cold fusion really does exist and it is nuclear, not an artifact of some chemical processes.

    So why isn't this being jumped on? It could actually be, as was announced back in 1989, a fruitful course of research and a possible solution to our power problems (as Dr. Frank Gordon writes in the foreward).
    • So why isn't this being jumped on?

      Because getting involved in it is a sure way to lose funding, face ridicule and disciplinary action and generally be shunned by your peers.

      I find it interesting that university research in this field is suppressed and all the interesting results come from places like the Navy, national labs and private research.

      I don't know if it's fusion or not, but there probably is something unusual happening in those palladium electrodes.
  • I wish I could give this quote a correct attribution (I wish even more that I had said it originally): "It is morally wrong to allow ignorant end-users to keep their money."

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.