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Comment And only 1GB RAM? (Score 1) 84

A couple of years ago there were a couple brands of computers available at Fry's for about $250 that had a slightly earlier Atom chip, 1 GB RAM, a small but adequate disk drive, power supply and case. They were small fanless boxes, maybe an inch thick and 6x6 square, enough to be a good low-end desktop PC. 1GB RAM wasn't big enough back then, and it's way too small today.

Yeah, having a few GPIO pins is nice, but you can hang an Arduino off a USB port and get that for $35 today.

Comment It's Research (Score 1) 290

They were in the Research part of Bell Labs, back when both of those existed. There was a lot of slack to do interesting and not-immediately-business-related research there, though if you wanted to buy expensive equipment, you did need to get support for a real budget.

Comment Different Governments have Different Issues (Score 5, Insightful) 406

The most common reasons governments want to have non-US "internet governance" these days are that they want to restrict free speech and free reading by their citizens, or restrict some kinds of commerce by their citizens (US restricts gambling, drugs, etc.) There are other issues; most governments used to have telecom monopolies, either state-run or quasi-nationalized, though the 90s liberalized much of that away. Some governments would like more money to stay in their countries, or keep people from buying goods online that are heavily taxed locally.

It really irks me when international groups get together to talk about internet policy, and advertise their shindig as being about "ending the digital divide" or "providing connectivity to Africa" or other noble-sounding goals, but actually devote most of their agenda to governments wanting censorship. These days, of course, the NSA is giving them a good excuse to want internet governance so they can do their own wiretapping in case the NSA isn't sharing.

Comment Amazon.*** namespaces (Score 1) 406

Amazon's actually using the namespace partly because the publishing world has lots of weird national boundaries - a given book might be published in the US but not yet available in the UK because UK publishing rights haven't been sold to a UK publisher yet, or the UK edition may have different text, title, or cover - and they use the namespace to help keep that isolated.

Comment 40 hours of meetings a week (Score 2) 311

I was once on a project that had 4 or 5 large companies working together to bid on a NASA RFP. At one point we had 40 hours a week of scheduled meetings. It was actually very liberating, because everybody recognized that there was no way anybody could do any work if we all went to all of them, so there was the 15 minute daily status meeting in the morning and then you could blow off anything where you weren't actually needed.

Comment Yeah, didn't know they even had 4500 left (Score 1) 120

Poor Blackberry; they've been on the skids for years. The whole "Lawsuits in Motion" thing distracted them, but mostly they missed the boat when Apple was developing the smartphone market for people who want the shiny toys and Google Android followed up by taking the cheaper smartphone space.

Comment Ecology is really critical, and really hard (Score 1) 308

If you want to stick some apes in a can and send them to nearby parts of space for short periods of time, you can do that without doing much ecology - send enough oxygen and water, and recycle them a bit if you want to support slightly longer missions.

But if you want a long-term space colony, whether it's on a planet/moon/asteroid where you've got some natural resources, or in outer space where you've only got solar energy, you've got to build a sustainable ecosystem, with plants that provide food and oxygen, some way to grow some medicines, some way to make dirt or equivalent for plants to grow in. So far, we haven't even built a human-supporting terrarium that worked without cheating. Biosphere II was really useful, because it failed, and it's the biggest that's been tried. We also don't really know what nutrients humans need - we can do most of the important ones, and you can live mostly adequately off beans and corn and green leaves, but that doesn't mean we've really got everything covered, or waste disposal handled adequately, weird viruses not showing up in the air supply, weird fungi not growing behind the instrument panels, plant diseases not killing off your near-monoculture, etc.

We're not vaguely close to being able to set up a Mars colony. We've got to learn to terraform a planet first, and the only one we've tried it on (Earth) isn't going very well; we haven't even found the thermostat yet.

Comment It's also Republican Politics (Score 1) 1293

The Republicans have learned that saying they're against evolution gets them the votes and campaign contributions from a large chunk of people who don't believe in evolution, and they want to perpetuate that block of voters. Doing anti-evolution textbooks doesn't just get them a lot of the kids, it gets the support of their parents.

And if you sell people on being anti-science about evolution, you can sell them on being anti-science about climate change. The party's Corporate Sponsors really care about that, because lots of them are in businesses that cause bad changes to climate, and they don't want laws interfering with them.

It's also about affecting how history is taught, particularly about race relations. My father was born in Texas, and moved a few times when he was a kid; he had to relearn the history of the War Between The States when he'd move, because it was different in different states. Texas still wants you to see it Texas's way. And there are other social issues, like gun rights, where the right-wingers have been pushing their views into textbooks as well, just as left-wingers have done.

Comment Human evolutionary niches (Score 1) 159

Actually there's been some research suggesting we had a niche for a while scavenging leopard kills, back when we were just apes. Leopards tend to cache their kills in trees so they can eat some now and save the rest for later, and we could steal some of that, especially since opposable thumbs were good for cracking open skulls to get the yummy braaainzzz. So when your cat's begging for scraps from your dinner, give him some, his ancestors earned it.

Comment Finding the troll! (Score 1) 159

Patent trolls can't hide quite as well as spammers can, because somebody has to actually own the patent, though they can wrap their trolling in a shell corporation that doesn't have any assets because it passes any winnings on to its owners or parent corporation or something.

I once tracked a spammer to an address in Greenville Delaware, which is the office of The Company Corporation, the canonical place to get $99 Delaware corporations, so I figured it was a lost cause; their only assets would be a file folder in a lawyer's office, and if I sued them they'd just go bankrupt and have to spend another $99 getting a new shell corp.

Comment Con-men and the poker rule (Score 2) 173

The poker rule says that when you sit down at the table, you look for the sucker. If you can't find them, it's probably you.*

If Carreon's a con man, he's spectacularly bad at it, failed the poker rule from the beginning, and deserves any education he's gotten, which unfortunately seems to be "not much".

(* The Questionable Content version of the sucker rule is to look for the drunkest person at the party, and if you can't tell, it's you, and you should stop for now.)

Comment Weak reception - Bad Digital Fails Badly (Score 1) 410

Mom lives in an area where the signals from the TV stations she cares about are pretty weak.

Bad analog TV isn't good, the sound's a bit noisy and the picture's a bit fuzzy, but you can still use it, especially to listen to talking heads on PBS.

Bad digital fails badly - the sound cuts out for long periods, and the pictures start going blocky then pretty much BSOD on you.

She could get a few stations, but not the ones she wanted, and we tried rabbit ears, then antenna inside, then an antenna outside, and it wasn't improving things enough to be worth the trouble, so she got low-end cable.

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