Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment Big Content vs. Big Content (Score 2) 392

Waiting for the first Big Content vs. Big Content YouTube war!

That is, when one Big Content company that has this agreement with YouTube declares war on another Big Content company that has the same agreement with YouTube, and they take down all of each other's content.

Wait a minute.... wouldn't we wind-up with YouTube as originally envisioned?

The only way to win this game is to not play at all...

Comment Re:What goes around comes around: 1998 (Score 3, Interesting) 282

A brief summary of PowerAgent:


What I called PowerBar above actually was called PowerFrames. I'd forgotten about the interstitials.... (PowerPages).

This was around the same time that Google first incorporated.

The client software worked reasonably well, given the state of embeddable browser controls at the time. Allegedly, there were serious issues with the back-end, and EDS insisted on taking that over.

I haven't really followed this area since. Has the question ever been settled as to whether software that inserts ads into content retrieved from the web violating the publisher's rights, or just acting as an agent of the user? I mean, it's legal to cut-apart a newspaper page, and paste it back together into a collage any way you want, right? (Assuming it is just for your own enjoyment...)


Comment What goes around comes around: 1998 (Score 4, Interesting) 282


I designed the client software architecture for the above. It was an "interesting" experience. My favorite "death march" project ever! ;) I got to meet David Bois...

The client was a wrapper around IE or Firefox, and attached a "PowerBar" to the top of the browser window. Due to the legal issues with EDS, they never got to dealing with any potential legal issues involving consumer privacy or publisher rights.

While I had some misgivings initially about working on this project, I found Dale very receptive about protecting consumer privacy. There were safeguards to insure that advertisers could only gain access to aggregate data, and this was a stated goal. And he went along 100% with my ideas about insuring that uploaded data was as transparent as possible - passed in the clear so that users could examine it and see just what was being sent, with only a small opaque digital signature. (Which still worried me. *I* knew there was nothing hidden in the signature, but how could the user prove it?)

Comment Program Discovery is a problem... (Score 4, Insightful) 839

Just discovering what programs are available is a huge problem outside of the conventional broadcast TV paradigm.

Set-top box program schedules stink. Nobody buys the TV Guide any more. Yea, there are third-party (and cable-company supplied) program schedule apps, but most of them stink too. (Anybody else try the useless Cox schedule guide on iPad?) If you're really into it, there are web sites that discuss shows ad-infinitum I'd imagine, but most people won't bother, and don't want to sift through the crap.

Finding on-demand programming is a hassle. You have to navigate with a horrible on-screen interface, and most people don't know what network a show they've heard about is on. So, they have to do a search, which is horribly painful. Click, click, click, click, there's ONE LETTER.

Program discovery is so bad that most people revert to "what's on?" and flip through the channels. Even if a show is marketed heavily, and you see a banner drug by an airplane and wonder what's up with the guy that thinks he sees a dog, how many people are going to bother to painfully type-in "W _ I _ L _ F _ R _ E _ D when they get home, and then go through the rigmarole to set the VCR?

The big problem is, there are so many choices that it takes major time to sift through them. You have to know what you are looking for, but how do you know what you are looking for in the first place? Sure, I can go to NetFlix and decide I want to see a Fellini film easily enough. (Though I'd be best served by going to the website and putting it in my Instant Queue than by navigating the horrible on-screen interface.) And, oh, BTW, they're going to have to mail me that Fellini film 90% of the time, so we're Not There Yet.

Now, if the marketing says or even implies it's a prime-time show on a major network - you might remember the time-slot and go surfing for it if it's around that time. Otherwise, it's pretty hit-and-miss.

Clearly, though, ultimately, scheduled programming (other than live events and breaking news) are inevitably going to go away. I think I think that's necessary to prepare the public is to change terminology. No more show times. They're release times.

Every show should be available on-demand in some form. Some people will still eagerly anticipate "release times", and gather in front of the set to be the first to watch a show, just as some go out to a theater to see a movie when it's first released.

Comment Re: The Club (Score 1) 296

I had an amusing encounter recently with two dumb surfers.

(I don't know if there is a Two Dumb Surfers joke genre', but if not I'm starting one now.But this isn't a joke - it really happened.)

I was walking through a S. California beach parking lot, and I noticed a nice 50's pickup truck all tricked out. Not quite a "low rider", I guess these are called "cruisers". So, I assumed they were admiring the vehicle.

As I walked past, one called out to me: "Excuse me, sir, can I ask you a question?" I say sure. "How does that work?"

It took me a few seconds to realize he was talking about "The Club" installed in the steering wheel of the pickup truck. I explained that it was an anti-theft device.

He said, "I know that, but how does it work? How does it keep somebody from stealing your car?"

I told him that it limits how far the steering wheel can be turned, and so makes it difficult to drive the car away. You wouldn't be able to make turns.

"Because it would hit you in the leg?"

I said that, well, that might be true, but that in addition to that, if you tried to make a left turn, The Club would strike the inside of the door, making it impossible to turn the wheel further.

He appeared dumb-founded. "Oh. Thank you!" His friend was apparently equally clueless, BTW.

I wish I had thought to add:

"unless you drive it away with the driver door open, which might attract some unwanted attention..."

Comment This is something new? (Score 3, Interesting) 215

PERHAPS the fact that the customer is updating the firmware themselves is something new. But as others have pointed-out, car manufacturers have been updating firmware in engine and other onboard computers for years.

Human-Machine Interface Engineer? Not new either. Let me tell you how I turned some line workers into Human-Machine Interface Engineers 30 years ago...

I was working for a small company in Michigan that made measurement and control systems used on automotive assembly lines. We were working on a system for a Bendix axle plant. It read a Brinell (hardness) gauge, and controlled the movement of the part through the station, application of the gauge, good/bad paint spray, etc.

The company was perpetually behind, they had one and a half software people (I was the one - the other was a hardware guy that dabbled), and they didn't want to bother me about this job until I'd finished the prior one. So, I finish up this job and they tell me they've got this new job for me to do, and they're sending me to Ohio the next day on the primary contractor's private plane.

They had the hardware put together. They told the client they were sending two guys to wire-in the system. No software had been written or designed. I didn't even know what it was supposed to do. They briefed me...

We arrive at the plant and the guy we meet starts screaming at us. We were two days late. We didn't KNOW that we were two days late, but we were apparently two days late.

While my co-worker started wiring-in the the box, I set up my Altair (yes, really) on the plant floor next to the line. So, for two weeks, I sat there with this deafening noise designing and writing code. The line was down, of course, and the two workers responsible for it had to stand around twiddling their thumbs.

You haven't felt pressure till you've shown-up at an axle plant two days late to write software on the plant floor from scratch, with the line down, and two monkeys hovering around twiddling their thumbs.

The line workers might have had some light maintenance tasks, but otherwise they didn't have anything to do, so they helped out. Sometimes we need them to operate the equipment, etc.

We had a panel with a small LCD display (a few characters) and a bunch of big, industrial buttons in neat rows and columns. And no design. At all. (OK, I mean, we knew what we needed to do with the gauges and solenoids. We knew the operating sequence of the line. But there was no per-determined UI design.)

So in a leap of faith I ask the guys: "how do you want this to work?" Why not? These were they guys that have to work the machine every day. Who better to do the UI design?

They were delighted. I made the buttons work the way the line workers thought the buttons should work. I made the display show messages that were meaningful to them. It really helped to smooth-over the situation of us arriving late with nothing but a gutless box that did nothing to wire-in...

Comment Amateur programmers not willing to learn (Score 1) 185

It's probably because Javascript has the largest proportion of amateur programmers who aren't willing to learn the language they are programming in. They won't buy a book, they won't take a class, they won't read an online manual or tutorial. What they will do is download a free script and they beg others to customize it for them. This is usually prefaced with "I don't know Javascript, but I have to...."

Comment Re:Multiple-Exposure (Score 1) 170

Two companies that I think may make suitable cameras:


I might as well add a plug for my favorite machine-vision camera dealer. Very helpful folk:


It's been a few years since I've been involved in this stuff, and I'm sure there is new technology. For one, similar cameras are now available with image intensifiers, which helps solve the illumination problem.

Comment Multiple-Exposure (Score 1) 170

Several posts have objected to the frame rates of consumer video cameras as limiting resolution. However, this can be overcome.

For one, there are high-speed cameras with much higher frame rates. They are quite costly, though, and not necessary for this applicaiton.

I propose you use a multiple-exposure camera. Such things do exist in the digital world. Charge is allowed to accumulate for an extended period. You use a strobe to produce multiple images. You can use an infrared strobe to avoid disturbing participants.

In either case, much more light will be needed than with conventional video, because of the short exposure times. So, I don't know how practical this would be in terms of lighting.

I have experience with this technique in another sport, that involves hitting a small ball on a grass course... Said balls can travel at 100mph or higher, so we are in the range.

Comment Re:Forget it (Score 1) 371

Well, TLDs are cheap. It's just the equipment to process them that's expensive! They're the first-line monitoring device in nuke power plants. Employees where them on the job for a month, and they get turned-in.


I think the OP was more interested in a survey instrument in order to test suspected hotspots, though.

"fleas" might be a problem. I was surprised to find they showed-up in California not much after the accident. San Onofre had a flea problem when I worked there, and Health Physics (the department where I worked) sent people out to employees homes lookin' for the critters! And they apparently found them - on clothing, in bedding, etc.

Fleas might cause skin cancers, or more serious cancers if inhaled, but I think that's the limit of the hazard.

Fortunately, these only escaped containment on people's clothing or bodies.

Disclaimer: I'm not a health physicist, just a programmer so I only got the minimum radiation-hazard training.

Comment Re:Does it matter? (Score 1) 241

Confiscating the rack doesn't make the site go away. You could just set up shop at another hosting provider. They have to confiscate the domain to make sure the site doesn't pop back up. So, the only way it can pop back up is on a different domain name or with just an IP address. Either way, it will be difficult for people to find the replacement.

Comment Re:Did not even think this through? (Score 1) 481

What an idiot. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. He just compounded the damage to customer relations.

If they split the company, will they at least stop the idiot practice of putting some moves up on streaming only for a limited period? What sense does it make to put some old, black-and-white foreign film on streaming only for a couple of months? What does it cost them to keep it online once it is encoded?

I want exactly the service they are currently offering. The ability to stream in so-so quality if I want to watch something now, and the ability to order a Bluray if I want to take advantage of the thousands I have in AV equipment (why bother with all that if you're going to watch streaming?) or a DVD if I want to watch something old or rare. And I definitely want an integrated queue, search, etc.

Reed Hastings just took ANY value out of Netflix for me.

Comment Re:Cost? (Score 2) 48

BTW, at S., California electricity costs, especially if you get thrown into a "tier" a couple of notches above the baseline, this is an economic no-brainer over the lifetime of the bulb, assuming the lifetime really is as stated.

Slashdot Top Deals

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow