Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment Per Aspera Ad Astra (Score 2) 365

NASA has done a great job, they got us all to this point.
Now, NASA's strategy and role needs to change, their funding must change, it's way overdue, they know it, we know it.

To their great credit, they are doing it, they are adapting and embracing the change; it's hard for them, an era is ending.

Space is big, the opportunities are literally infinite, but science budgets are always way too small, efficiency matters.

So we cut the well known tech and commercially viable elements loose from the taxpayers dollar.

Let whatever NASA morphs into, fund and guide the basic research and science, spend more on that, less on vehicles.
That's the stuff NASA does well, the right stuff, basic research, initial exploration, the stuff that shareholders and businessmen looking at next quarters results typically do poorly.

NASA exploration vehicles and science packages can buy rides on whatever commercial launchers they need, at the going rate.
We buy planes and ships, trains and trucks from commercial vendors, shipyards, and aviation companies, so whats different?

Clear out the cold war, legacy buck rogers, pointy spaceship with fins thinking, and move onto real space-drives, profitable commercialization and real sustainable colonization.

As for the shuttle.... well I am as jingoistic as the next fella, I admire their bravery just getting into the thing (i think i would be terrified, but i'd also go...)
However... continually launching the mass of 7 people crammed into a vehicle that has twice failed, killing the entire crew...

Empirically, it seems obvious that the efficient way to do successful science in space is, small fast vehicles, robotics and AI's; humans should only boldly go... when their is a proven and compelling reason to do so, and little expectation of them making it back alive if anything fails.
Spirit and Opportunity did more, for far less, for far longer... than any human crew could likely have done.

That's the kind of research I want my tax-money to fund. Efficient hard science.

So lets figure out how to mine and move asteroids, survive indefinitely in deep space, harvest the oort cloud, build CHON Food factories, go where the resources are available, easy pickings...

If we want to get off this unguided mud-ball, we must adapt to new strategies as necessary, however hard they may be.

Comment What has been changed to prevent re-occurrance ? (Score 1) 449

I am not a pilot. I am a regular commercial airline passenger, a so called "frequent flyer", sometimes internationally; all of which often involves taking long night flights over ocean and into undisclosed/random weather.

I like the flying itself, but for the last few years I have avoided casual air travel for two reasons :
1. the airlines for their miserable attitude to passenger comfort and schedules
2. airport/security for their poor facilities, ludicrous security theater, cumulative irradiation and civil rights violations.

Reading this discussion, and writing simply as a passenger, I conclude that the equipment on planes and the capabilities of a regular airline crew are inadequate to prevent a modern airliner from simply flying into the ocean, given what seems to be a very common set of conditions. I appreciate that this is an interim report, fair enough, but are we simply hoping it does not happen again?

I now have a new reason to avoid flying - a credible, common, and yet apparently unmitigated risk:
3. A generic airliner (it's just another passenger vehicle to me), experiencing common high altitude flight conditions, with a nominal/average crew, may kill everyone on board, because the flight control protocols cause the crew to fly it into the ocean.

Is there any clear and credible statement by the airline industry as to what they are doing to prevent this from simply happening again? What have they changed so that more people wont die, the next time this set of circumstances occur ?

I am guessing many people will want to tell me I am wrong to be concerned; if so, that's a good thing, but please explain why, in simple terms a frequent flyer can rationally believe. IMHO, "The next crew won't do the same things..." seems a bit too optimistic and basically unprovable to me...
What has been changed to prevent this tragedy from re-occurring ?

Comment Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 1) 1328

I accept your point that for some, faith and religion is an irresistible temptation; like a drug, it partially suppresses natural fears and loneliness.

Those that take advantage of human weakness to sell faith, the pushers of religion, the clergy, are the real evildoers in most human cultures.

When history records the worst abuses of the 21'st century it will not be the predatory sexual acts of priests that are viewed as the most horrible of religions crimes against humanity (terrible though they are), but rather the ongoing mental abuses, indoctrination and outright deceptions forced onto defenseless young minds, by many religious organizations.
"suffer the little children to come unto me" is both a mandated and abusive practice, and a terribly irony.
Amazingly, and a real cause for hope, many children survive and recover from these wicked mental abuses, and become Atheists, like myself.

Comment Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 1) 1328

IMHO, Pascal's wager proceeds from the, unstated and unproven premise, that a god will both judge, and require a person to have belief (in that specific deity presumably).

That the premise is unstated, shows either a lack of logical rigor, or an intent to deceive on behalf of Pascal, which detracts from his argument.

That all the arguments premises are also unproven and unprovable, (which Pascal himself acknowledges of his stated premises) makes the entire argument worthless, as the proposition is unfounded.

Extraordinary claims (such as the existence of a god) require extraordinary proof, which Pascal and all religious believers decline to provide.

Another version might claim that a malicious (and arguably insane) deity, may well choose to send all "true believers" the faithful, martyrs, straight to some Dantean hell
simply for having faith, for holding an unconditional belief, for not demanding better proof prior to committing to a "belief".

Dante's hell, is of course a fate no Human could ever possibly deserve, no matter how evil or misguided their lives.

Comment Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 1) 1328

Mea Culpa, you got me, I used a red herring to make my point, as entertainingly and in as few words as possible.

Your logic is sound, there is no reason to subscribe to any specific rationale of judgment by a deity, because there is no deity.

I chose this particularly bloody herring, as a small homage to Socrates.

When he was sentenced to death, Socrates chose to die rather than give up Philosophy, because "The unexamined life is not worth living." I paraphrased (and partially disguised it) as 'choosing' or 'thinking for yourself'

Socrates considered philosophical self examination one of the "highest goods", and paid for that choice with his own blood.

Comment Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 5, Insightful) 1328

Being a moral atheist is a total win win, compared to being a mere Theist.

Version 1:

Dead Atheist: Oh!, um hi God..., didn't think you existed, oops!

Deity: No problem, it's not like I left any useful clues... Welcome to my heaven.

Dead Atheist: Nice... How come I qualify?

Deity: Because you were a moral and ethical being, because you lived by a code of ethics; you understood that love was the right thing to do even in a universe that you had good reason to believe was completely and utterly godless. You were moral because you chose to be, not because you "believed" in some silly magic book; or were too scared, or weak minded, to think for yourself.
You chose to do the right thing, even when you did not have to; you lived by a moral and honorable code, not by some mythical manifesto of terrorism and fear...

Dead Atheist: So what happens to all the myriad god followers, "believers", the Theists, martyrs, crusaders, suicide bombers, terrorists, etc?

Deity: Tricky one that! They are not really worth anything much, because they never thought for themselves ethically speaking... What do you suggest?
Anyway, no hurry, they can wait outside indefinitely while you decide what to do with them. Welcome to heaven!, go pick yourself out some virgins...

Version 2:

Dead Atheist: Hello, Anyone There...! (nothing, nada, zip, zilch, silence, nope...)
Dead Atheist: Thought So! (vanishes in a sudden total existence failure)


Looks like a Win Win to me!


Secret Service Runs At "Six Sixes" Availability 248

PCM2 writes "ABC News is reporting that the US Secret Service is in dire need of server upgrades. 'Currently, 42 mission-oriented applications run on a 1980s IBM mainframe with a 68 percent performance reliability rating,' says one leaked memo. That finding was the result of an NSA study commissioned by the Secret Service to evaluate the severity of their computer problems. Curiously, upgrades to the Service's computers are being championed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who says he's had 'concern for a while' about the issue."

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 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:
To avoid repeating myself, I posted:

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.

Slashdot Top Deals

1: No code table for op: ++post