Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Thanks (Score 4, Interesting) 216

So, I'm in their system, despite being really well known as the paranoid "they're out to get me" guy to pretty much everyone who knows me.

And this is why privacy/data protection laws need to be updated to have far more teeth than they have today. When you have an organisation as influential as Facebook and it is actively encouraging other people to do things like providing your picture or your phone number with or without your knowledge or consent, any argument that some use of that data about you is permitted under their ToS has no weight if you're not a Facebook user yourself, but it seems clear that they're storing the data anyway. Actually, I'm not sure how that's not already illegal, at least within the EU, but the regulators don't seem in any hurry to take action and even if they do the penalties are little more than the change in Zuckerberg's pocket.

FWIW, I am similar to you, being well known among my friends as someone who doesn't want to share his personal details with Facebook. I feel sufficiently strongly about this that in the situation you described I would have made it very clear to my "friend" and his wife that I would no longer consider them friends if they thought it was funny to violate my privacy in that way, but then again I'm also confident that I would never have to go that far with anyone I consider a friend in the first place. I'm sorry if you're not always in such a happy position with the company you keep.

Comment Re:Broaden your functional horizons, Guido! (Score 1) 169

Assuming you're talking about the standard library rather than package management, unfortunately it's not just one problem. I'd estimate that I've found 20-25 significant library issues over the past few years of using Python on various projects.

Most of these issues aren't really bugs in the sense that the output is objectively wrong, though. It's more things like OS differences not quite being abstracted away completely so that sometimes running another process needs slightly different presentation of arguments on Linux vs. Windows or some minor detail of a library feature only works on one platform or another, or having a compression library that works but takes 6x as long as spawning a dedicated zip tool to do the same job, or the complexity of setting up a download manually when there are libraries like requests today that show how much simpler it could be.

None of these things are categorically wrong, but they all make the Python standard library less useful than it could be. Sometimes they make it less useful than a popular alternative, at which point there's little reason to have the standard library version around at all other than backward compatibility (hence my comment about if we were starting over).

Comment Re:And then what happens next time? (Score 1) 362

Yay! More laws! Government will protect you!

Well, yes. Levelling the playing field is exactly what government and laws are supposed to do, when there is one party so much more powerful than another that the weaker one can't reasonably protect themselves. What else did you think governments were good for?

(OK, they also play a useful role in standardisation and co-ordination. But when you think about it, almost everything valuable that governments do ultimately comes down to helping people interact fairly and efficiently.)

Perhaps you should take the "brave" out of your username.

Why, because I don't feel like living in coastal Somalia?

Comment And then what happens next time? (Score 1) 362

Seriously, just stop wanting what other people have, that's really all there is to it.

And what happens next week, when the health insurance people jump on the bandwagon? Shall we also not worry about not being able to get healthcare at affordable prices because a disproportionate number of our Facebook friends smoke/drink/sleep around/enjoy high risk sports? After all, you could just die instead of getting treatment, right?

The fact is, modern society often works on the assumption that people can get credit under reasonable conditions. If you want to take a principled stand that credit is unnecessary then you should advocate prohibiting giving credit on commercial terms at all. Of course, if you do it to everyone equally then you'll have to accept the resulting economic collapse as your nation's house prices drop by 75% overnight and a large, useful, skilled section of the labour market becomes mostly unemployable.

Or we could do the sensible thing, by allowing commercial credit arrangements but regulating them to prevent lenders from abusing their disproportionate power such that some borrowers suffer unfairly. As with any other essential industry that gets regulated, the price of playing the game becomes having to play by fair rules.

Comment "Deal with it." Seriously? (Score 5, Insightful) 362

You are judged by the company you keep. Deal with it.

If we had just "dealt with it" every time those with power abused their position, black people would still be slaves, women would still not have the vote, children would still be down in the mines, and manual labourers would still barely earn enough wages to live while working crazy hours under conditions that would seriously damage their health.

We have a long way to go, even in the first world, in terms of respecting each other as human beings. We aren't going to get much further if we adopt your attitude every time essential services that make society work start taking advantage of asymmetric power relationships with the ultimate goal of making more money no matter what.

Comment Re:whitespace (Score 1) 169

You can run my code through a code formatter if you don't like my choice of coding convention.

Sure you can, as long as you promise to convert it back again perfectly before you commit, so anyone looking at the diffs later doesn't have to wade through 657 whitespace-related changes to spot the one line where you changes some behaviour.

Languages with syntactic whitespace are vulnerable to misrepresentation, but in practice 99% of that misrepresentation happens under exactly one condition: the code is being presented on a web page by someone who either doesn't know basic HTML or uses a crappy CMS that doesn't render proper HTML.

Comment Re:Broaden your functional horizons, Guido! (Score 4, Insightful) 169

If you're going to depend on a set of public libraries instead of an included set, they you had better verify them for quality. This is why Python's "batteries included" stance is so good. You can depend on the basic libraries.

Ironically, that's actually one of my biggest concerns about using Python. IME, the included batteries aren't very good, once you get past the first few parts of the library reference that everyone uses all the time. A lot of the later parts -- things like file and directory manipulation, data formats and compression tools, process control, networking, even some of the date/time functionality -- have elements that are horribly slow, platform-dependent, or simply too bug-ridden to trust in production.

It's unfortunate that package management in Python is such a mess, mostly for historical reasons. There's quite a bit of good stuff on PyPI these days, and if we were starting over, I think we'd do better to limit the standard library to a much smaller set of essential foundations, and to promote the best libraries from outside sources via the standardised package repository and tools.

Comment Re:Ballmer's replacement - a possible strategy? (Score 1) 633

I don't really want to get into the politics here, but objectively, any private cloud solution where you're storing data and communicating only inside your own network and you can run independent tools to monitor/control data coming in/out is naturally more easily secured than a public cloud solution. As you point out, vendors in the latter case can and do allow data monitoring without your consent, and it's not as if that problem is unique either to Microsoft as a vendor or to security services in the US. If you really are a big enough business that commercial espionage via this route is a credible threat, basically no-one outside your network is a trustworthy vendor in the sense you're talking about.

Comment Re:Ballmer's replacement - a possible strategy? (Score 1) 633

I'm not sure what any of that had to do with this thread. We're talking about a potential commercial strategy for Microsoft. As a matter of fact, MS have the dominant desktop OS, a substantial portfolio of server OS and back office products that includes all of the essential server applications, and well-established sales channels into most businesses. How does this not make them the best-placed company in the world to promote a private cloud model?

Comment Private clouds: done, but not done well so far (Score 1) 633

They do promote private clouds.

In the sense of having a product or two that are aimed at that market? Sure. In the sense of spending some marketing budget on it? Probably. In the sense of throwing the weight of an 800lb industry gorilla solidly behind it with the goal of shifting the entire market? Not even close.

My take is that with the right person at the helm, private cloud could be Microsoft's iPhone/iPad. It's a big enough potential market to move an entire industry, it's certainly not a new idea and some companies have dipped their toes in the water, but no-one has really done it well yet. I think Microsoft are uniquely well-positioned to attack that market, just as a lot of the hype about external cloud is giving way to some harsh realities, and as the mobile device market is starting to settle down now that much of the market that wants a smartphone or tablet already has one.

Comment Ballmer's replacement - a possible strategy? (Score 4, Interesting) 633

Perhaps they'll grow some spines and fight for a better leader, not yet-another-BFF-of-Bill.

Unfortunately for them, a significant number of senior leadership figures at Microsoft who might have been credible candidates have instead left the company in recent years. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, that limits the talent pool from in-house.

It will be interesting to see whether they can attract someone good from outside. Big tech firms don't seem to have a great track record in that respect lately, though perhaps that perception is partly because we hear about the spectacular failures at places like HP but modest success stories go mostly unreported.

Either way, MS still has an effective monopoly on desktops, a significant presence in business server rooms, a substantial war chest, and a lot of smart people. Someone with a better vision for how to use those assets than "It's like Apple but for people who didn't buy Apple yet" might do well there.

I've suggested previously, even before the post-Snowden cloud/privacy concerns, that Microsoft could be in a very strong position if they swam across the current a little and promoted private clouds. It looks like a much more natural fit for their portfolio and expertise, it plays on competitors' weaknesses, and it plays to their strengths as an established provider on both client and server ends for business. It even gives them a potential way into the mobile market, via consumer-friendly devices with integral BYOD features for those who also want to use them for business but don't want to hand over the root password to corporate sysadmins. Any takers? :-)

Comment Re:Methodology (Score 1) 418

Again, I acknowledge that your point is justified and anything simulated is potentially different to reality.

However, for most people in most contexts, good simulations have proven to be reasonably accurate approximations of reality, even in high stress environments such as training airline pilots. They're also the best approximation we've got right now, unless you consider it ethical to test an activity for real when the theory you're testing is that the activity is dangerous.

Given we have hard data showing that a disproportionate number of actual accidents involve mobile device usage, and the consistency of the results from studies that would support a causal relationship, I still maintain that it's reasonable to assume most people can not, in fact, multitask effectively without degrading their driving performance.

Comment Re:Methodology (Score 1) 418

It really depends on the study you're looking at.

Sure, and the double-blind point you made is also fair. That said, I've seen multiple studies that did not take the format you mentioned where it's some sort of unusual/challenging course.

For example, the most obvious one I can recall watched people driving a simulator set to represent realistic conditions (i.e., not dramatic, sudden hazards everywhere) and at times the testers would start talking casually with the subject. They monitored general car control and reactions, monitoring things like distance from the vehicle in front, position within the lane, and behaviour approaching lights and reaction time if they started to change.

The results were very obvious correlations between behaviours like drifting too close, drifting out of lane or tendency to go through yellow/red lights, and holding a conversation. In other words, driver behaviour that is well known to increase the risk of having an accident increased during conversation times.

They might also have done some of the sudden panic reaction stuff later, but the interesting part for me was the degradation of basic car control.

Comment Re:cognitive science (Score 1) 418

A distracted driver can, so some degree, compensate. Everyone has limits, I too have asked people to shut up or told the person on the phone "hold on a second, I need to drive" when a situation got precarious.

The problem is that when you're distracted by a remote conversation, you don't realise that the situation is getting precarious, and therefore you also don't start to compensate, until significantly later than you otherwise would.

Slashdot Top Deals

"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman