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


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Old TVs didn't have pixels (Score 2) 219

In the analog TVs and monitors, there was pixelization of a sort.
  - In the vertical dimension there were scan lines.
  - In the horizontal there was bandwidth / sweep rate, which limited the sharpness of focus, creating what amounted to a "pixel width" and thus a "pixel count", though there weren't discrete pixels with well-defined boundary locations.

In black-and-white that was it. In color it got more complicated:
  - The shadow mask and pattern of color phosphors created physical pixels - but the spacing of them was tight compared to the focus of the electron beam and the bandwidth of modulation. So the information/focus/bandwidth-vs-sweep-rate pixels covered several of these physical dots.
  - While directly cabled R-G-B signals were three separate analog signals, in NTSC the color information was separated and transmitted at a lower bandwidth (and thus lower resolution) on a phase-and-amplitude modulated subcarrier. This both limited the bandwidth - widening the "pixels" of color information - and tended to quantize it into discrete dots centered on particular phases of the subcarrier. (The subcarrier phase was shifted by 180 degrees between scans, both to make the color information collide less with the black-and-white information and to reduce visual moire patterns from the dots lining up and from crosstalk between the B&W and the color info signals.)

Comment Re:"Fire in a crowded theater" was coined ... (Score 1) 503

It makes a much better hypothetical than the case the opinion was applied to. I'll pay for your movie ticket if you'll go and try it.

I'm reminded of a story about Abbie Hoffman ("Free speech is the right to shout 'Theater!' in a crowded fire. "), back in the '60s.

Story goes he was being interviewed (in a crowed studio theater, of course) and the subject of free speech came up. After he'd said something to the effect that free speech was absolute, the interviewer asked him:
  Q: ~But, surely, you don't thing it's right to shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theater?~
  A: "Fire!"

Comment "Fire in a crowded theater" was coined ... (Score 1) 503

But are other things the equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre?

Did you know that the "(falsely) cry fire in a crowded theatre" argument was coined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. - in a Supreme Court opinion (for Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919)) that it was legal to suppress such speech?

Did you know the speech in question was printing and distributing pamphlets opposing the draft for WW I?

Holmes, writing for a unanimous Court, ruled that it was a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 (amended by the Sedition Act of 1918), to distribute flyers opposing the draft during World War I. Holmes argued this abridgment of free speech was permissible because it presented a "clear and present danger" to the government's recruitment efforts for the war.

Comment Wrong Q. Correct A is "What's the alternative?" (Score 1) 503

So the question -- is peddling this stuff online really "free speech"? You are promising something grandiose in exchange for hard cash that you know doesn't deliver any benefits at all.

That's the wrong question - because any claim that there is ANY subset of speech that is NOT free speech pitches you over the cliff and onto the slippery slope:

  * If there is a non-free subset of speech it's allegedly OK to restrict it.
  * But that opens the can of worms: How - and by whom - is this subset defined?
  * Answer to that is, of course, government. But government has an incentive to suppress speech that is inconvenient for it.
  * The most inconvenient speech for government, of course, is speech that exposes wrongdoing by its officials, exposes systematic abuses of power, and organizes opposition to those in power - either the individuals or the system itself.
  * So the arbiters of what is non-free speech suppress THAT. And suppressing THAT is what the whole prohibition on interfering with speech is supposed to prevent.

Comment Re:Stupid. (Score 1) 271

It also could allow politicians to ban a subject by deeming it terrorist content. "You think you have a right to look at information on birth control? Well, that could be used by terrorists so we've classified all birth control information as 'terrorist content.' You are now under arrest for viewing terrorist content."

Yes, precisely, and the wonderful thing about that is that since no one else can read the content in question, no one can challenge the fact that the information claimed to be about terrorism is really about birth control, or, for that matter, intelligently provide oversight on the laws or the application of the laws (let alone open academic debate on controversial subjects). Censorship obliterates the last vestige of any democratic oversight over the government.

Comment Re:About friggin' time! (Score 1) 311

Reporting credit issues to any of the 3? That's libel (deliberate, you should know better) without that proof.

Nice idea.

But truth is an absolute defence against claims of defamation (libel or slander). Seems to me you have a case if, and only if, the information reported is wrong (and the burden of proof for that would be on you).

I like it: A raft of libel suits could make the cost of doing business as a credit reporting agency high enough that it might finish off the business model. (And the time to hit them is when they're already weakened.)

Comment About friggin' time! (Score 5, Informative) 311

About friggin' time! I've been doing my best to avoid giving out my SSN where it's not required by law since the '80s.

One big hole that has been going on for decades is Medicare:

  * Once you're old enough to be on it, you can't get regular health insurance to pay for the portion of your medical work (often all or the bulk of the cost) that Medicare pays for. Regular health plans turn into cover-the-difference supplements. You must sign up for Medicare or pay the charges yourself. (And if you don't have the government imposing price levels or the insurance companies negotiating deep discounts you get to pay the drastically inflated "regular price" that makes up for their discounts.)

  * But if you DO sign up for Medicare, what do you get for an ID? Your SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER with a single letter appended after it. They won't provide any alternative (though they have "been thinking about it" for years). You have to give this to ALL your medical providers. Get a prescription or an immunization at a pharmacy, hand in your Medicare ID. Go to a doctor, hand in your Medicare ID. Get a lab test, hand in your Medicare ID. Go to a specialist, hand in your Medicare ID.

Dozens, or even hundreds, of medical billing paperwork operations, with unknown numbers of clerks doing data entry (often offshore) and unknown competency of IT people configuring their databases, get your name and SS#. Some have even been CAUGHT selling them. Oops!

* So then we get stories about how people over 65 have a much higher rate of identity theft - typically trying to imply that these oldsters are lax in guarding their SS numbers. Well, DUH!

Comment Dying old media flaming the competition. (Score 1) 320

... Google and Facebook did not fail people. Ass-holes at the Atlantic and Buzzfeed, that think Google and Facebook need to think for us, failed us.Google and Facebook did not fail people. Ass-holes at the Atlantic and Buzzfeed, that think Google and Facebook need to think for us, failed us.

IMHO it's the dying old-media flaming their competition.

A Free Press doesn't work by each outlet covering everything accurately and without bias, sorting TRUTH from Fake News, and serving as an omniscient gatekeeper which decides what the population needs to hear.

A Free Press works by many, competing, unregulated outlets each covering what they want to cover, reporting it with their particular biases, filters, and attempts at accuracy, and each member of the public making their own choices on which to believe and which to patronize.

For centuries we've had such media - word-of-mouth, minstrels story-telling news, movable type printing presses enabling pamphleteers, etc. - and people understanding they must do their own sorting of truth from rumor, bias (self-serving or otherwise), propaganda, delusion, and other chaff. Then we had a period of several generations where the cost of printing presses and broadcast networks, along with regulations on broadcast licensing and economic fallout from it, has progressively concentrated the news media into the hands of a tiny number of players with a reasonably consistent bias.

Now we have the (still reasonably) unrestricted Internet dropping the barriers to entry. So we're back to the explosion of different viewpoints, augmented by the exposure of the biases of the old mainstream media by unfiltered coverage. The honeymoon is over and we've been shocked at the bias exhibited by the mainstream media. We're back to "drinking from the firehose" and making our own judgements of what to believe.

This has reduced the mainstream media from the only team in town to just one small cluster in the mob of biased sources. That impacted their revenue. They're trying to get their market back, and one way to do that is to "sell" their particular set of filters as a service - and try to convince everyone that it's better than any of the alternatives.

Of course, when a breaking event IS breaking, there's a flood of rumor. The rush to fill a demand for information and to "scoop" the competition leads to a flurry of under-vetted reportage, much of it in error. And with ALL sources available to the users of the Internet, there's plenty of errors to chose from.

So it's a golden opportunity for the old and dying media outlets to point to the most egregious falsehoods in the flood and claim that ALL the alternatives to THEIR filtering are as bad.

Thus the Atlantic article, flaming Google (which started as an indexer of ALL the content of the Internet and still claims to be mostly that) for not refusing to index any report that doesn't fit THEIR OWN set of filters, and implying that any such indexer SHOULD join a de-facto conspiracy to hide such competing outlets from public view.

Comment Re:This is probably what happened (Score 4, Insightful) 196

Usually what happens ... If the defendant doesn't show up ... to contest the order that has been presented by the plaintiff ... [the judge] may be inclined to use the plaintiff's proposed order and enter it as a default judgment

Also: The site was created by a Kazakhstani graduate student, is hosted in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has used domain name registrars in various countries.

As I understand it: Under US law, if you contact a court to contest jurisdiction, you've conceded that the court has jurisdiction if it decides that it does. So there isn't a good way for someone out of a court's jurisdiction to contest jurisdiction up front. This lets plaintiffs go court shopping (for courts that are cheap for them and expensive for their defendants and likely to rule in their favor if the case goes to trial) and get unconscionable default judgements if a defendant protects his/her rights by declining to appear or correspond with the court. Then it's up to the defendant to fight off attempts to enforce the execution of the judgement.

Comment Re:General Motors? (Score 1) 135

Last time I looked at a GM product they were STILL, after a couple decades, building them for drivers with a short left leg and passengers with a short right leg. (The wheel well clearance for the front wheels impinged on the space for the front-seat personnel's footwells. On the driver's side they produced a footrest at the same distance as the height of the fully-retracted brake (and, in the manual shift, clutch) pedal(s), with the accelerator pedal being farther forward.)

Of course that was quite a while back - before the Federal Government took them over (and also PAID Fiat to TAKE Chrysler). These days Ford is the only old-school private-enterprise US car maker, thanks to not taking the bailout money and busting their butts to make quality vehicles.

Comment Depends on the "mental health issue" (Score 1) 1219

It's not just an issue of a well person buying a gun and then developing mental health problems. The US gun lobby doesn't even want to restrict sales to those who already have mental health issues.

That depends on the mental health issue.

I don't know of anyone - even the most extreme gun-rights advocates - who has a problem with disarming a person who has been adjudicated by a court of appropriate jurisdiction to being a danger to others by reason of mental problems.

But many "mental health issues" are not associated with an increase in risk of attacks on others - and many are actually associated with a DEcrease.

For instance: Depressives are drastically LESS dangerous to the general population than the average person. Meanwhile, disarming anyone who has ever been treated for depression would disarm over half the adult women in the United States.

Psychiatrists are some of the strongest lobbyists AGAINST such laws. This is because they both make it less likely that people needing treatment for mental issues will seek it and open confidential patient records to perusal by government functionaries and law enforcement.

Another recent trend is treating anyone who is a crime victim - rape, assault, robbery, stalking, etc. - for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether they want such "treatment" or not. Guess who is most likely to NEED a gun for self-defense? Guess when they are likely to get off their tails and go buy one?

Comment Re: We need more guns (Score 1) 1219

The audio sounded like he was somehow using a full auto.

If this were the case, then it would be pretty much the first use of full auto in the US for a crime like this in modern history.

And (unless I missed one in the last few years) the second killing committed, by its owner, with a privately-owned machine gun under the regulation of the GCA '34, in the 83 years since its passage.

It's a bit early, so news items are notoriously unreliable (even when they're really trying to get it right). Nevertheless I've already heard:
  - CNN: Claim that the guns were converted semi-autos. (That's also illegal.)
  - CNN: Claim by a relative that the shooter "was not a gun guy".
  - New York Post (paraphrasing an article in the Daily Mail and a tweet from NBC News): Claim that the shooter was the son of a multiple felon bank robber, prison escapee, attempted cop killer, with a diagnosis of psychopathy and a history of using firearms in his crimes.

Slashdot Top Deals

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." -- Aesop