Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
User Journal

Journal Journal: I'm not sure if Betteridge's law applies here or not. 2

Privacy and the Internet: Is Facebook Evil?

He's right that privacy in the modern sense is a new development--for most of human history, people lived with what we would now consider a near-total lack of privacy--but wrong, I think, to dismiss it on that basis. There are many, many modern ideas, such as democracy and equality before the law, that would have made no sense whatsoever to our ancestors; does that mean they're any less worth prizing?

Obviously I'm not particularly concerned about giving up my privacy by maintaining an online presence, else I wouldn't be posting this. But the combination of a traditional "village" level of everyone knowing everyone else's business with the speed and ubiquity of modern communications represents a third phase in humanity's development as far as privacy is concerned--the first having been the intensely linked small communities of nomads and peasants, the second having been the mass anonymity of the industrial age--and I don't think we have any idea how that's going to shake out yet.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Backblaze Box 3.0

Apparently Backblaze has a third generation box out. Backblaze is a provider of online backup who has a fixed fee "all you can eat" price structure. Because of this they have to minimize the cost of providing their huge storage needs. They designed a 4U server to hold 45 drives some years ago and open sourced it. Netflix uses the design now for their CDN. Since then Backblaze has improved it some and it has been reported here.

Now there's a site where you can buy them for retail, and there's a new version out. If you want to put 180TB raw into 4U, there is no more efficient way to do it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: It's about the people, stupid 1

In Star Trek they have a great deal of amazing technologies. Warp drive, transporters, phasers, replicators, lots of cool stuff. Some of these things have been realized at least partially with technology. Tech people love Star Trek mostly, and adore the tech. Some think that this is what Star Trek is about. This technology stuff is what makes Star Trek science fiction. This is not what Star Trek â" nor any popular fiction â" is about.

The tech in Star Trek has almost never been the story, and certainly never in a good episode. The tech is a method where the storyteller sets his story in a place just different enough from the current day that the audience can view the story objectively rather than subjectively. It is a prop. With this diversion the moral play becomes not a threat to the viewer's established prejudices because it happened in a mythical place far away in space and time, opening the viewer to alter their prejudices and experience (pleasurable) personal growth. Every Star Trek show is a moral play showing conflicts arising between people, and how they resolved them. It is about educating people about conflict resolution and ethical behavior. This and only this is why we watch. Roddenberry was shameless in re-telling all of the basic stories of the past in his postmodern future â" even Aesop's fables and Shakespeare. It's about the people because how people engage with other people is what we, as humans, connect with on an emotional level. That is what makes it a good story.

In the technology world we focus on the widget. What its gigawhats and megathings are relative to the one that came before. How many FPS it gets on TradeBench. This is entirely the wrong approach. The technology world is not about gigawhats. It's about people. People who have wants and needs, aspirations and dreams. To a certain extent we acknowledge this in the marketing department where the people who sell the stuff we make live and bring the money that buys our sweet engineering gear. Marketing understands this is how you sell things: You associate the thing in the customer's mind with a greater affinity with his family, the public, the world â" you empower and enable him to do what he needs or wants to do, to be important, or at least convince him you will, and he gives you his money.

Somehow a one-way conceptual firewall has been built between engineering and marketing where this idea cannot pass back to the people who invent stuff. Engineering doesn't respect marketing, and is living in its own Star Trek world where they invent ever more widgets they think are really cool and then fling them through the Barrier to Marketing to make of them what they can.

If you start instead at âoewhat do people really want and needâ and build that you don't need marketing much at all. People will beat down your door to get it once they know you have it. Make it your engineering goal to understand what people want and need at a basic human level, and focus on inventing stuff around enabling and empowering them to have that.

So what do people want and need? After air, food and shelter they want to connect with their fellow humans, to share and partake of sharing of each others' lives. This is why Facebook and Twitter are so huge. They want to relax and enjoy life, and enjoy songs and stories â" so, Netflix and Pandora. They want fame and recognition, so: Facebook and Twitter. Notice Facebook doesn't have a âoedislikeâ button? Know why that is? Because the fear of negative feedback would ruin the sharing experience by including the risk of rejection. They want love without fear. Give them that and they are yours.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Race is a social construct, again. 2

I thought it was already pretty well understood that "Celtic" is only meaningful as a linguistic grouping, but it seems the old idea of a separate "Celtic race" or "Irish race" is pretty strongly embedded, even now:

DNA shows Irish people have more complex origins than previously thought

This makes me think about wider issues. I don't know how many online discussions I've been in recently in which I've been solemnly assured that humanity is divided into three races. (Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.) And people will go on believing this, even when genetic evidence makes it perfectly plain that there's no such thing as race, never has been and never will be. There are heritable phenotypes, some of which are clustered together as a result of geographical or historical accident, none of which are set in stone and almost all of which are continuous rather than discrete states. The weight we assign them is entirely cultural.

As always, Darwin puts it elegantly: "Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or as sixty-three, according to Burke. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them."

User Journal

Journal Journal: +5 Troll 1

Of all the achievements I've managed in my /. time, this one has escaped me: the moderation of +5 Troll. I believe this rare goal has been achieved, and would like a link to the incident.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Because I clearly need to do this more often

Dear Internet:

Some aspects of your style of argumentation have recently caused me some concern, and I thought it would be best to address them now, before they get out of hand.

If I insult you, I am not necessarily using an "ad hominem" argument. This phrase (literally, "to the man") refers to a specific logical fallacy, that of assuming that when someone you dislike or consider beneath you makes an argument, it follows that the argument is wrong. "You're a moron, so I don't have to listen to anything you say" is an example. "Only a complete idiot would say what you just said, so you must be only slightly smarter than the average flatworm" is not.

In fact, it's probably best to stay away from Philosophy 101 lists of common logical fallacies all together. Just as not all insults are ad hominems, not all citations of experts are "arguments from authority." Not all "slippery slope" scenarios are fallacious. And for the sake of all you hold holy, if you don't understand in gory mathematical detail what correlation and causality actually mean, and the different uses of the verb "to imply" in different contexts, please stay away from any version of A Maxim I Will Not Utter Here, But Which You Can Probably Guess.

All that being said, there is one fallacy to which you fall prey on an alarmingly regular basis. If you disagree with what I say, you have the right--in some cases, the duty--to voice your disagreement. Free speech is a wonderful thing, and it is easier to exercise in the modern world than it has ever been before. By all means, speak up.

However, please make sure that when you're voicing your disagreement, you are disagreeing with what I said. Replying instead to what someone else said, or what you think I'm "actually" saying, or what you think I or someone else might say in the future, are examples of the "straw man" fallacy, and although I have not performed the analysis necessary to test this hypothesis, I strongly suspect that this poor overworked scarecrow is to be found in greater numbers in online discussions than any other type of fallacy ... which, now that I think about it, is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Thanks for your attention to these matters. Hopefully now that I've explained the error of your ways, we can move on from here and enjoy friendly, well-reasoned discourse on a wide variety of topics.

That Guy Who's Always Right On The Internet

User Journal

Journal Journal: Shadowbanned? 6

I'm starting to detect some deviation from the former regime. Posts are no longer as controversial. My comments are not moderated as frequently - or at all. The front page is not as timely. There's a chance my idle maunderings don't even appear to most folk. The 16 hour outage of Hotmail and such remain unreported here. Something is amiss.

It may be time to take my leave of /. It was a long wonderful run but when it's over, it's over.

The Military

Journal Journal: It's a bug hunt.

I've said before that the expectations my generation of GIs had when we raised our right hands were shaped by two main forces: the flood of Vietnam movies that came out when we were in high school, and Aliens.* Given that the people who are now running things at the Pentagon went in about the same time I did (!) I can't help but think that the latter had a lot to do with the fairly smooth acceptance of women into combat positions over the last few years.

So it's just bizarre to me that a quarter of a century later, with a solid history of women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, this kind of thing is still happening. And because video games will probably have just as much to do with shaping the current generation of recruits as movies did with previous generations, it's going to be a problem on the battlefield as well as the web.

*Whether it's a good thing or not that recruits report to basic training with their expectations shaped by popular entertainment is a separate issue. Just accept that they do.

FEAR OF A WOMAN WARRIOR -- The development of Aliens: Colonial Marines and comments from Epic Games' art director reveal a troubling attitude about strong women in games among some major developers.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Heymann Petition has met its quota

The US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the professional prosecutor Steve Heymann both have petitions on the whitehouse "we the people" site calling for their termination in the wake of the Aaron Swartz scandal. The Ortiz petition was filled almost immediately, but the Heymann petition took longer. Today the Heymann petition is also filled.

The whitehouse has promised to give a response to petitions which meet these thresholds. Now we will find out what the response will be, and what the reaction to that response will be.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Aaron Swartz: Steve Heymann needs to go too

There are plenty of signatures on the Whitehouse petition to fire US Attorney Carmen Ortiz but she's just a politician. The frontline prosecutor who drove this case was Steve Heymann. He needs to go too, but his petition isn't trending to enough votes to get it done. We need to be rid of him too.

So do your part and do him in:

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is it a decade already?

Just got notified that it's been 10 years since I created this /. account. Had a prior account long since lost, and lurked for a while before that. But wow. 10 years. Nerd world has changed a lot in 10 years. Should do a retrospective.


Journal Journal: Because everyone knows Idiocracy was a documentary.

Show. Me. The. Data.

Dumb and Dumber: Study Says Humans Are Slowly Losing Their Smarts

The actual Trends in Genetics articles (paywalled, unfortunately; I urge anyone with access to read them) make it clear that this is not a "study" in any meaningful sense in the word, but rather a bit of unfounded speculation. Now, speculation is an important early step in the process of science, to be sure--but that speculation should be founded on observation, and the author offers none.

Unfortunately, this particular bit of speculation is (as I strongly suspect he knew it would be) a crowd-pleaser, playing as it does into the lost-golden-age mythology which has such universal appeal across all ages and cultures. (I speculate that it's something hardwired into the human brain, but I freely admit that I have no data to support this hypothesis, other than the observation that such a mythology exists.) An actual study would be a worthy project. This kind of sensationalism is just sad.

Original articles:

A very insightful critique:

Author's response to critique, which consists largely of saying "Nuh-uh!":

User Journal

Journal Journal: Her name is Carmen Ortiz 1

The prosecutor who hounded Aaron Swartz to death, impoverishing his family and guaranteeing he would spend the rest of his natural days in federal prison because they had not enough to defend him properly: her name is Carmen Ortiz. She is the one who would do this to him - not for killing somebody, or stealing something, but for accessing information he was entitled to access manually in an automated way. Building scripts was his crime. Carmen Ortiz was his prosecutor. She killed him.


Journal Journal: Windows 8 falls behind Vista adoption pace at month 2 1

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that based on NetApplications current adoption statistics for Windows 8, the operating system is not achieving market share as fast as Windows Vista. At the 2 month point Vista was at 2.2% of all Windows devices. 2 months past Launch Windows 8 has achieved a share of only 1.6%. In a related note, Fujitsu President Masami Yamamoto has joined the chorus of PC OEM executives complaining of poor sales. Pointedly Yamamoto blames Windows 8 for Fujitsu missing their annual projected sales targets.

Slashdot Top Deals

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman