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Comment Radiation, yes indeed! (Score 1) 791

It's definitely safe. This problem was put to bed back in the 80s:

"Radiation, yes indeed! You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked, goggle-boxed do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense! Everybody could stand 100 chest x-rays a year. They ought to have 'em too."
- J. Frank Parnell in "Repo Man"

There, now that that's solved...


Ocean-Crossing Dragonflies Discovered 95

grrlscientist writes "While living and working as a marine biologist in Maldives, Charles Anderson noticed sudden explosions of dragonflies at certain times of year. He explains how he carefully tracked the path of a plain, little dragonfly called the Globe Skimmer, Pantala flavescens, only to discover that it had the longest migratory journey of any insect in the world."

Scientists Say a Dirty Child Is a Healthy Child 331

Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California have shown that the more germs a child is exposed to, the better their immune system in later life. Their study found that keeping a child's skin too clean impaired the skin's ability to heal itself. From the article: "'These germs are actually good for us,' said Professor Richard Gallo, who led the research. Common bacterial species, known as staphylococci, which can cause inflammation when under the skin, are 'good bacteria' when on the surface, where they can reduce inflammation."

Comment Re:Both sides of the story (Score 3, Insightful) 203

To answer your reasonable question about unfairly squashing dissent:

From reading both, I tend to gravitate towards the failure side. It's 2009 and only 10% migration? Wasn't this suppose to save money? It's a frigging embarrassment! How are you suppose to point to Munich as an example of free and open-source software working on a city scale when they can't even implement it in a reasonable time-frame?

I think you got got labeled flamebait, not that I agree, because your conclusions appear unreasonable, namely that you are measuring the project on criteria which do not match the project's own stated goals.

First of all: Munich was said that the their goal is not to save money in the short-term, but to gain 'autonomy' from a single supplier. The savings, if any, are to be realized in the long term.

Second: Schedule and cost overruns are (unfortunately) normal for projects this size and complexity. What is your idea of a reasonable time scale anyways? With some searching I can probably identify other similar sized projects which eventually succeeded, in spite of serious schedule overruns. BTW: The sound byte that only 10% of the workstations have been migrated in X years doesn't scale to mean that it will take 9 * X more years to complete to rest of them. I know you didn't state this, but the LimuxWatch blog implies this in many of their schedule slip lists.

Third: There is more at stake than producing Linux-based work stations and a support infrastructure for Munich. This is a first of it's type project, meaning a major public-sector open source deployment on the desktop. If this succeeds, then the lessons learned will form the basis for other similar projects. In other words, don't be surprised if LimuxWatch blog has a hidden agenda.

Comment Doing OK, in spite of bumps in the road (Score 5, Interesting) 203

Considering what's at stake for Microsoft, it's amazing that Munich's Limux project continues.

Over the years I've read a great deal about various efforts to belittle and undermine it. The Munich Limux Watch blog seems like an attempt to systematically discredit the entire project. I'd love to find out who's behind it. I doubt it's directly supported Microsoft, but I'd wouldn't be surprised if there is some business interest, perhaps a disgruntled IT supplier or even a public sector employee who doesn't want their desktop system changed, behind it. Perhaps some clever Slashdot reader can find out more.

Don't be surprised that there are unexpected costs on a project of this size and complexity. Think about similar projects in the (semi-)public sector, some of which had factor 10 cost overruns and were abandoned (for example: Denver airport luggage processing system). In the end, the ability to actually complete the project, even if years late, and the long-term cost savings will determine its real success. [See my signature below]

We shouldn't expect Limux to have an instant pay back. Even though the operating system is free, the installation scripting, customization, roll-out, training and support have real costs, which will take years to amortize. The gain will only be in the long-term when the infrastructure to support Limux is in place and saves from not having license costs associated with forced upgrades are realized.

Further, you must bear in mind that Munich is a pioneer in even attempting to replace a major Microsoft based infrastructure with open source software. They are having to to do everything from scratch, which I'm sure increases the cost.

Munich's Limux project is a battleground for Microsoft. It it succeeds then it will become the model for similar initiatives. This could make non-Microsoft desktop systems a real alternative for large institutions. This is Microsoft's disaster scenario, and could ruin their monopoly hold on the marker. They might even have to, gasp, compete.


Spirit Stuck In Soft Soil On Mars 160

cheros writes "NASA reports that the Spirit Mars lander is presently stuck in soft soil. The lander's wheels are halfway sunk into the soil and they are planning simulation tests to see if they can get it out again. I hope they can get it out of there because it's picking up enough new energy to operate; however, it only has 5 wheels left to get around on — one of the wheels hasn't been working for years. Fingers crossed."

Comment Picking up pennies in front of bulldozers (Score 5, Interesting) 561

Engineers are taught: Your model is only a model, and does not necessarily capture the complete behavior of the thing being modeled. You must understand the limitations of the model.

That Gaussian curves are a poor model for unlikely events has been known for quite some time. This is best explained by Nassim Taleb in the following books:

  • Fooled by Randomness
  • The Black Swan

His main thesis is that the markets are essentially random and are basically impossible to predict in any meaningful way. Further there are unlikely unknown unknowns can cannot be predicted until the they occur, usually with disastrous consequences.

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