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Comment There are none so blind as... (Score 1) 257

those that refuse to see...

Some software lasts decades and has big side effects. Techniology management is ephemeral, with life-spans measured in months, rarely years.

Managers knowingly mandate stupid decisions, because there is no personal downside and a short term budget upside.

Y2K was because large organizations (or the incumbent management) repeatedly ignored technical advice to allow for 4 digit years, because it saved a few bytes storage for each date (which was significant back then) and they could argue "that problems still 15 years away, we will replace it", "that's still 10 years away, we may replace it", "that's still 5 years away, maybe we can fix it later", "that's still 2 years away, we are asking for a Y2K budget"...

Y2K? Oh Sh*t Fix that now..., then blame the developers!

Technology "management" typically refuses to see or respond to anything with an effect longer than their own Mayfly existence. At the same time mangers (as a group) are hypocritical and unethical enough to blame others, when the fertilizer hits the windmill... Couple that asshattery with a wilfully ignorant and fear mongering media, and you have the recipe for shifting the blame from chronic management incompetence to "the techies did it..." which is completely bogus.

There are few, if any, real technical issues remaining unsolved for most business purposes, and none that go completely unpredicted by systems analysts.

There are an enormous number of fundamentally incompetent CIO's and (worse) "Project managers", who should not be permitted the long term indirect technical influence they possess.

Their myopic decisions can cause potentially dangerous and expensive impacts on society, such as Y2K.

The negative influence, spin, and misleading media, continues; for example, the poor design of security in most commercial applications is directly attributable to short term "not my problem" management thinking.
Fortunately, we have better controls on building bridges than we have software, but the impact of some types of software is now much more serious and far reaching than mere mechanical and civil engineering.

Technology management needs a better professional accreditation and system of ethics, see acm.org for in depth discussions.
In particular, the ludicrous notion that you can manage construction of something you don't understand, (and don't attempt to understand) )by setting arbitrary dates and budgets, is commonplace in IT.

When the time comes to fix the next disaster, our failure to fix chronic management incompetence, will be the root cause.

Comment Re:In the fields of observation (Score 1) 51

I beg to differ.
How can chance, any truly random event, favor anyone ?
I have always wondered how odd little quote was ascribed to Loius Pasteur, I doubt that he meant it as it was translated.

Successful discovery, may indeed favor a knowledgeable and persistent observer.

Those ready, willing and able to say "That's Odd" because their preparedness allows them to know why some event seems anomalous...
Whereas other other, perhaps less knowledgable or persistent (or both), may fail to see an anomaly in the data and ignore the result.

It's human nature to ascribe the success of others to chance, especially when it reflects poorly on our own lack of knowledge and efforts.

Comment Re:To all that say space is waste of time (Score 1) 703

Your comment is Religulous.
Your conclusion simply does not follow, atheists have extremely well formulated and reasoned ethics, morals and duties. It is ad hominem deist dogma and misinformation that suggests otherwise.

Ethics and morals need not, and should not flow from some superstitous belief.

Secular ethics has a far more respectable basis than a pathetic fear of punishment by an unproven and unprovable deity, for failing to follow some literal translation of ancient scrolls.

By the way, it's not 72 virgins.. it's 72 fresh olives... were you confused ?

Comment Buggy Whips and Legal Sausages (Score 1) 334

I work (for a few different gigs) on interpreting laws (policy) into rule based systems, the resulting logic gets used to provide advice on arcane topics. I am not a lawyer (just work with em, don't worry I wash my hands regularly). Just a working stiff, yer logic chopped and rules wrangled, for a fee.

Many folks ere' on slasherdot flog the analogy with procedural code, yuss that sort of exists, but clouds the issue a bit cos it needs flow of control logic, which is irrelevant see...; instead jest think declarative stuff, yer basic natural language rule based documents and application...

we could:
express the rules in the laws using natural language (some mildly constrained version of English)
include decent definitions, examples and structure
be intended for normal folks to read and use; "normal" is overrated, but you catch my drift, the audience shoudl be anyone with a reasonable level of common sense and basic: Readin, Ritin and Rithmetic
be published prior to becoming law (draft plain English form)
the language could and should express laws in ways that can be tested and verified by logic choppers
the documents should be placed into version control and organized for retrieval and use and research (candidate solution, Hire Google, et-al)

The internet (thanks Tim, et-al), shines a stark and ghastly light on the multiply regurgitated texts that come out of the legal sausage factories. Publication online will shock people when they realize what the politicos have been doing, so expect changes; also expect this process to be publicly supported and privately resisted by the politicians and legal jaberrwocky merchants.

Politicians are now unnecessary anyway, classic buggy whip makers, they need to morph into something useful.
Their current role was needed when we could not all assemble and vote together because of distance, hence the need for a "representative".

The corrupt and self serving crooks that huddle in remote "legislatures" are not respresenting we the people, they are representing the highest bidders for their votes. The few decent ones we send are (a) lost in the crowd and thus ineffective (b) ephemeral, as they are fiscally ill-equipped to survive.

Could be Sarcasm:

Currently law is clearly not written to be understood, by anyone. Obscurity, obfuscation, the sheer volume of the texts, lousy cross referencing schemes, absent citations, absent change logs, these and many other methods are used to render the law as a write only document, inaccessible to those who must remain ignorant of what it really says (any member of the public). No one in software engineering would stand for this bullshit for even ten seconds.

The resulting sausage quality is insanely poor: with innumerable glaring errors, obvious conflicts, silly omissions, absent or unusable definitions, lack of examples, poor organization and formatting, no version history or change logs, etc...

There is no quality control, because no one takes any responsibility for the legal text, no feedback loop, no one ever gets fired for errors no matter how massive: Even the politicians that vote on it don't read this muck, so no one does.

The "technology mindset" of the people involved in drafting laws is mid 17th century, think quill pens and green eye-shades, they are boldy striding into the century of the fruitbat.

At the same time... there are many wealthy and self satisfied industries of people who's only "value" is to interpret (for a fee) the resulting legal sausages. This is, of course, not a situation the will want to change.

Sam Sixpack (aka jane doa) has been "edumacated" to believe themselves incapable of understanding the law, despite the fact Sam and Jane are(a) contributing members of society and thus more valuable than the dickheads that wrote the legal drivel (b) expected to be intelligent enough to comply with the stuff.

A semi serious suggestion:
Let's require a capability test: Before any "representative/crook" can vote on a bill, they have to answer 20(n) plain English simple questions about the bill's content.
If the "representative" does not pass the test (75%?) their vote on the Bill does not get counted.
The results of the test are published online at the same time as the results of the vote...

We could also of course, just bypass the whole dumbass "representative" thing and just let people vote directly, online... if they pass the test...
That would be like living in, well..., a really informed democracy...

Comment Re:My experience with Ubuntu (Score 2, Interesting) 891

I can confirm this experience with Ubuntu by schnikies79 (788746), a similar sequence of problems with Ubuntu updates breaking stable and working wireless connections on an HP laptop. I had to discover and make a similarly frustrating and time consuming sequence of fixes.

This problem was discussed extensively in the Sep 5th article on slashdot: http://linux.slashdot.org/story/09/09/05/195219/Microsoft-Attacks-Linux-With-Retail-Training-Talking-Points
To avoid repeating myself, I posted: http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1359331&cid=29327329

It seems we are running into some unintended consequences, side effects imposed by a combination of the FOSS philosophy and the limitations of UI development, where the first users are the developers themselves.

Linux, does not permit reliable installations of devices, because of a lack of a stable binary interface. We all want Jo Internet to walk into a store, look for a fat penguin (Tux) on the box and know the gadget will just work.
Similarly the packaging and update schemes' assume control and overwrite (break) locally updated configuration files by default (I have no idea why anyone would permit that in the packaging architecture but apparently it does).

FOSS user interfaces are naturally enough initiall designed by the developers, for the developers. Most FOSS is built by a small group for their own use, so that's perfectly natural and ok.
It's not ok, if we then assume it can be packaged up and dropped onto the public, sorry... but I think that's massively naive.
Jo Internet, the public end users, expect that UI's have been designed for them, by the developers. They also expect it to be tested. They expect it to be intuitive and to do the right thing. No one reads documentation, a small amount of context sensitive hints are borderline tolerable.
There are many shades of grey with Doc: some technical areas (graphics, audio, Video editing, etc) may tolerate some documentation just to connect common domain knowledge (Terms of Art) to sophisticated software features.

That's a big difference in expectations.

I have worked with software development folks for more than25 years, I still do. Developers may be brilliant, but creating usable UI's for end users is not generally one of their talents, neither is writing comprehensible documentation.
I have seen entire and valauble product lines killed because of this inherent inability. What makes it worse is that most developers think they are good at it UI's, ego's get in the way, a lot, I have no clear idea why.

These three challenges: fat penguin labelling for retail devices and machines, stable user system configurations, and usable end user oriented UI's are what is holding linux distributions and FOSS back from expanding it's market share.
Until the community can recognize the root causes of the problem, very little will change.

I am a supporter of FOSS and linux, philosophically, professionally, personally, but I am also a realist about building software for end users
I am sure the FOSS apologists will (once again) leap on my post to tell me why I am an idiot, so let me save you some time; I do know that I don't know how to tweak every obscure config option, no one does, that's really the major point.

With any software, either FOSS, or closed source, if you have to apologize for instability, inoperative devices, or explain how to use an App, the software is broken.
IMHO Linux/Gnu/FOSS will remain a niche OS for Geeks; sadly, Jo Internet loses out in the long run, because of these apparently immutable and inherent limitations of the FOSS culture.
I would be delighted to have this opinion proven wrong; constructive ideas welcome.

Comment All items are certain, so are equally likely (Score 1) 903

Sharks With Frickin' Lasers, available now for a small fee, QED.
Human Immortality: Pre-Requisite, Transcription from Biological Human Minds onto a Non Biological, Intelligent Life, Substrate.
Post Human Level Immortal AI: Pre-Requisite, Human Immortality merged with Non Human AI.
Discovery Of Aliens: Pre-Requisite, Long Term Space Exploration.
World Peace: Pre-Requisite, Earth is abandoned by merged Post Human Level Immortal AI and Alien Cultures.
FTL == Time Travel: Pre-Requisite, Post Human Level Immortal AI's merged with Alien Cultures + the EPR (Einstein- Podolsky - Rosen) paradox, Many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (You can change history, but never in the universe you started from, which may not matter from your own perspective)

An infinite multiverse suggests that any event with non zero probability, has probably already happened, is happening somewhere else now, and will happen again, an indefinite number of times that itself asymptotically approaches infinity.

Your subjective experience of these events may vary; so be careful what you wish for.

Comment Re:Sign me up... (Score 4, Insightful) 681

I think the poster has a significant point.

I have been a linux user for many years, various distros; I recently decided to get myself an up to date Ubuntu capable laptop, that would run wifi, etc without 4 hours of installing ndiswrapper or other weird stuff from odd sites.

Clearly I can order a box from a specialized builder, but I was curious to see of that could be bypassed, apparently not.

So far I estimate I have spent at least 4 hours trying to identify a laptop I can simply walk in and buy from Sams Club, or any major store, and expect it to run Ubuntu and have the devices work.

This is not something Jo Internet should even attempt, or be expected to figure out.

Hardware compatibility lists are basically obscure and useless, and often outdated. The detail is way inadequate.

I like many HP laptop boxes (price quality choice mix is good), but there are so many variants and so little detail on the installed chipsets, no sane person should try to figure it out. Both dell and HP seem to have recently (quietly) walked away from providing ready to go linux on their sites.

So what does the linux community expect Jo Internet to do, randomly buy a laptop and hope it works, until an update breaks it silently?

My Girlfriend (yes, really) recently had a working laptop (HP Pavilion) with working wifi connection (probably the most critical item for most laptop users) which was silently broken by an Ubuntu upgrade. It took me several hours to find the necessary changes, download stuff and fix the driver, security is unavailable. Not acceptable and not someting Jo Internet will do.

I agree with the posters comment that the purist view of open source is impractical in the real business workld of patents and hostile trolls.

If there there was a usable and stable binary interface, and the distro's included the install of closed source drivers, then rational self interest will take over and the hardware manufacturers will release drivers, to enable increased sales of their gadgets.

Clearly there will be anticompetitive actions, which will probably be quietly ignored by our open source hostile and arguably incompetent/corrupt DOJ, (the ludicrous never ending failure of the war on drugs shows the DOJ has no idea what supply and demand even means). Supply and demand always wins in the end. Anticompetitive actions don't really matter in the long run, unless we choose to think they do.

The problem is not linux, or any distro, or the boot, or the desktop, or Gnome vs KD; The problem is that the wise and ancient Self Appointed Benevolent Dictators For Life have slowly become Self Appointed Barriers to Success.

This is a common problem in any form of endeavour, when successful it can grow far beyond the capabilites of the original inventors;

Dear SABDFL's, you have won, the future is going to be open, so take the bows, polish up your egos, do the lecture circuit, write books, FOSS is here to stay, many thanks; now, please let the rest of us do business in the real world.

Please don't misunderstand me, I am not saying we give up the ideals of open source software and the real freedoms and security it provides.

Is enabling closed (redistributable) device drivers a slippery slope?

Not really, it is a necessary evil, so lets not get paranoid, just allow it carefully in the legal licensing and Distros.

I agree with parent post that we need to provide a hybrid? closed source + open source license structure and a usable Binary Interface, so hardware manufactureres have the business incentives to provide working

We all want Jo Internet to walk into a store, look for the fat penguin on the box and know the gadget will just work.

Eventually, there will have been so many boxes sold because of the fat penguin, that business folks may be willing to open source drivers, if that really even matters, (it does not matter to Jo Internet); but until that bright shiny morning arrives, we should simply make it a no brainer for the device driver manufacturers to release working drivers, because it increases their profits.

Comment The bottom of a well is no place to start a farm (Score 3, Insightful) 917

1. Professor Stephen Hawking is probably right, we do need to get off this rock, sooner rather than later. "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species"

2. We evolved to survive on an unguided mudball, third rock out from a slightly variable star; we haven't found the thermostat yet. Sooner or later, our luck will run out, one natural extinction level event and it's game over.

3. It's worth boldly going somewhere that will probably kill you, if and only if, there is a damn good reason to be bold.

4. Our current space drive technology consists of throwing stuff as hard as we can in one direction so we get a bit of usable thrust in another. It's a losing game, a pathetically inadequate method, compared to our needs and dreams.

5. Mars has a deep gravity well, with an unbreathable, and (worse) unflyable atmosphere. We have no known scientific or commercial reason to go there, or means of survival if we did.

6. Robots are expendable, cheap to make, specialized, and inexpensive to remotely control, even in space. Humans, are expendable, cheap to make, generally useful, but ridiculously expensive to operate, especially in space.

7. Robot probes in space, historically have produced vastly more science per dollar expended, than humans. We should boldly go somewhere when we intend to colonize, not to send back wish you were here postcards... 8. To colonize, there must exist usable resources, in vast and accessible quantities, easy pickings. At minimum we will need Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen (CHON), plus metals, trace elements and usable energy. There must be shielding from radiation and the other obvious space hazards. Such resources do in fact exist in limitless abundance, in open space, as the larger comets and asteroids. The orbital vectors and masses (that we know about) are currently a little inconvenient.

IMHO:

a. We (Humans) need to invest heavily in science and engineering that may lead to much better space propulsion, techniques for mining and commercial and civic use of such open space accessible resources.

b. We need to develop much better remote probe and manipulation technology, so the robots can investigate anywhere we want, and possibly alter the orbits of low mass, high value objects, as cheaply as possible.

c. We need to develop space habitats, on comets and asteroids, to exploit their resources as a long term (effectively infinite) space habitat.

d. Our most likely cause of extinction as a species is our non-existent space colonization strategy. We are led by a clueless collection of dumbass politicians who cannot see beyond Buck Rogers pointy spaceship sci-fi and (much more importantly) their own short term military and pork barrel political aims. There is no coherent, international, long term, human survival and colonization oriented strategy.

e. When some damn big rock arrives at 5 miles per second, we are all going to look equally stupid and just as extinct; fossilized human politicians will look almost identical, as the "intelligent" humans remains.

Comment Don't Panic! (Score 1) 537

The answer is 54, you just have to know that reads as 42 in base 13.
The discussion in our small software ecosystem about skills and capabilities gets similarly confused. All the marketing, sales and head hunters have no deep understanding about the business of software. In their ignorance, they believe that they don't need to understand us; they are wrong. They are parasites, not symbionts.
To all of them, people like me are an inconvenient truth, an irritating oxymoron, because... I specialize in being a generalist. I dont fit into their curricula, or populations, or territories, or verticals, or skillsets, or . So screw them!, Their opinions, though much publicized, do not matter.
You will see irritating jobs and career adverts that list required skills in excruciating detail, often impossibly so. You may be interviewed by idiots who ask for 5 years expereince in a 3 year old Tech, just ignore all that crap.
I believe that building software should always be fun and practical Any software woth developing, has never been built before, it's complex and hard, but you must think it worthwhile, worth the effort; that's kinda the point.
I am just a happy SOB that got into this business to build real and useful systems for real and useful people. No BS, I figured I would usually get paid that way, for once I was mostly right.
Whatever your reasons may be, I suggest pursuing whatever is interesting and fun and practical. Learn the original meaning of "Hacker", before it was corrupted by the lazy media to be a synonym for "Cracker"
Find the edge, the too hard stuff, the useful stuff, the stuff people really need, the stuff that nobody has done, yet. Then build it, using whatever tools and languages you may need.
Learn how to learn whatever you need to know.
For me... Expertise in particular things... was, and is, a random side effect of the effort to create something useful.
Some people call it experience, mostly I call it irrelevant, or history.
You asked a great question, and surprisingly your school seems to doing the right thing.
Kudos.
Enjoy the ride, and welcome to the real world.

Maingear Touts New Rig As "Planet's Greenest Gaming PC" 136

Maingear has just unveiled what they are calling the "planet's greenest gaming PC." Built using a small form factor and coming with Intel's new Ion graphics as the default option, this little powerhouse is built with a definite eye toward energy consumption. "Said configuration is available with Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs and an 80+ certified 300-watt power supply; those who care more about frame rates than Ma Earth can opt for a GeForce 9800 GT ECO, which — despite being a discrete, power-hungry GPU — still swallows some 40 percent less power than a standard 9800 GT. You'll also find WiFi support, room for an optional Blu-ray drive and TV tuner, upwards of 8GB of RAM and room for a single 2.5-inch HDD or SSD. The whole box checks in at just 7.6- x 8.3- x 11.4-inches, and it's available for order right now starting at $799."

Comment Duh! No real news here, move along please... (Score 1) 63

"We found that the salts in water solutions can reduce the melting point of water, which may help explain how liquid water existed in a frozen Martian environment" -- Alberto Fairen, a space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. and the lead author of the study.

Scientists concluded that salty liquid water on Mars may explain the stability of fluids against freezing on the Martian surface at temperatures below 0C

No! Really? That's completely well... unsurprising...

I always wondered why we spread salt on the road in wintertime, turns out it helps melt ice. Thanks for spending valuable research money to clear that up NASA!
There are however, three real mysteries here:

  • 1. How to get a job at Ames re-discovering totally obvious stuff.
  • 2. Why such a lame waste of taxpayers money makes it as an Article in Nature.
  • 3. Why lame articles in Nature make it into Slashdot as "news"

Comment Airports are deliberately ignoring customers needs (Score 1) 247

Whenever I get stuck on layover between flights, I always find myself wandering around some crowded seating area at some gate trying to find some way of setting up a laptop comfortably and plugging it into a power supply. I am not alone, you usually find others who have sneaked a cord behind the check in desk, or similar, so they can stay online for a couple of hours.

Given the lousy flight overbooking policies of airlines and the fewer and much more crowded flights, on smaller planes, the likelihood of getting stuck in some area near a gate for 3 hours, perhaps more than once on a trip, is quite high; especially as no one sane is going to leave the security zone after passing through our TSA's overlords latest Guilty until Proven Innocent Security Theatre and random traveller abuse process...

IMHO airport designers are ignoring a clear and obvious opportunity. Simply provide seating with basic power supply and a basic foldout that can hold a laptop securely. Make a simple and free WIFI connection setup available, not some intermittent, weird signup / login process that gives my info to some bizarre company I will never use again and don't trust. I gave up on expecting wifi service long ago, I now use a broadband card for that exact reason.

Business travellers, most with laptops are the target market for airlines and airports, so why is providing such a basic and obvious service so hard for the airports to understand? My conclusion is that it's not hard to see the need, they just don't care. Their goal is not to provide any actual services or facilities, because their few remaining customers are considered to be TSA captive targets to be overcharged for food and other abuse, as much as possible.

For me, the bottom line is that the public needs move away from our ridiculous dependence on airports and airlines, which is why I support building a high speed rail network to directly compete with the continuously worsening service the airline industry provides. Let's have an alternative system of transport... then the free market will deal with the airports...

Comment The expense of spirit in a waste of shame (Score 1) 280

Why would we ever de-orbit the ISS ? Why not either boost it to a Lagrange point? Alternatively give it an Ion engine and use a long term Hohmann transfer to Mars orbit, then use it as a handy orbital waypost when we first get there ? We could even use it to transfer supplies for initial use when we first send people to explore Mars. NASA just successfully repaired the Hubble. Many objects in space far exceed the short term media objectives and limited marketing imaginations that caused them to be launched in the first place... Turns out rocket scientists really are smarter than the political idiots they are obliged to work for. I can't guess how useful the ISS may eventually be if preserved in space, but I am sure that a debris field of carbonized lumps at the bottom of the Pacific represents an inexcusable waste of resources.
Security

Submission + - Double Skype attack confuses security firms

An anonymous reader writes: Two different pieces of malware were set loose on Skype users this week and although neither seems to be causing serious problems, ZDNet is reporting that security firms are confused.

Just 24 hours after warning that there may be a worm exploiting the popular Skype Internet telephony service, Websense reclassified the pest as a Trojan horse. Symantec has published an advisory about a similar piece of malware attacking the same program but it is calling the malware a worm. Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure admitted the double attack has confused security firms.

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