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

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Comment Re:So what would you use? (Score 3, Interesting) 427

Repeating something often enough doesn't make it true.

Rather the point! The fact is that the Java programming language and runtimes, today, utterly dominate Blu-ray disc players, Android smartwatches, and Android smartphones, to pick some examples. (And what examples they are!) They're powerful evidence that Java hardware and software efficiencies have improved tremendously over two decades. Java is a raging market success, including on devices that cannot afford much inefficiency. It's reasonable and rational to mark-to-market dated views of Java's hardware and software performance attributes. The successful, high efficiency use cases are staring us in the face, literally.

Of course it is still quite possible (a) to write lousy code that the toolchain and runtime, for any language, cannot performance-fix sufficiently for your intended use cases; (b) to have certain scenarios where Java and its toolchain/runtime (for a particular implementation at a particular moment in time) do not produce the very highest efficiency/performance result technically achievable. Point (a) is always true (although a richer and deeper toolchain, and associated skills, can help a lot), and point (b) simply means that you toss efficiency/performance into your calculus with the relative importance it merits for your particular needs. There are other programming languages (and associated runtimes) available, including five durable ones: COBOL, FORTRAN, C, C++, and PL/I. Plus myriad not-yet-durable (and most never will be) options. (Pascal, Ada, ALGOL.... IT history is littered with them.)

Comment Re:Cat got your tongue? (Score 1) 427

If Java is so great... why Mozilla and almost any sane browser ask us to not run anything based on it and block the plug-in?

Because the browser plug-in security model was/is fundamentally broken. Browser vendors are discontinuing that plug-in model for every plug-in. If you want to continue running PC client side Java applications then you'll be moving to something called Java Web Start. JWS is a different, more secure way to launch those applications. Meanwhile, the Web sites you visit are often running lots of Java code to generate the content your Web browser displays. And if you're browsing the Web from an Android device (far more numerous than PCs) then most of the apps you run are written in Java. There's more Java than ever, but the ways and places Java runs are changing and multiplying.

Comment Re:So what would you use? (Score 5, Interesting) 427

There is a need for a light weight, garbage collected language with static typing an efficient compilation, but it does not exist. So Java it is.

Exactly. However, Java is pretty damn lightweight and efficient nowadays -- a heck of a lot less heavy than many alternatives. Partly that's because hardware improved, but mostly it's because several Java implementations have improved tremendously over the circa two decades and counting of Java's history. So, for example, Java is a mandatory part of the Blu-ray standards on ~$50 video players. And Google's Android Runtime (ART), another implementation of Java technology, is the world's most popular smartphone platform. On the server side there are extremely fast starting, lightweight, lower memory runtimes such as IBM's WebSphere Liberty Profile. The traditional efficiency rap against Java doesn't apply any more. "Back in the day" people complained about COBOL because it was "too slow" compared to that (allegedly) hand tuned Assembler code they weren't actually writing. Well, for several years, they had a point. By about the 1970s they didn't. Hardware improved, and the compilers got a lot better -- and that process continues, also for COBOL. Java used to be slow, sure...but what's that in your hand and on your wrist now? (And color TV used to suck, and car tires used to blow out at the first pothole....)

Another huge point in Java's (and for that matter COBOL's) favor is that it's a durable programming language. The invested value in Java code, and the ability to draw from that code portfolio to solve problems, is utterly massive. It's so massive that the Java programming language has crossed over into IT immortality along with only a very few other programming languages (FORTRAN, C, C++, and probably PL/I). Also, Java is the most demonstrably portable programming language (and compilation/runtime path) we have. (Any other nominees?) It's not at all hard to write functionally portable Java code that'll run, unmodified, on platforms ranging from Android smartwatches to z/OS mainframes. That's the default, and it really does work. High quality, performance-optimized and/or battery-optimized code is always a separate question. Any programmer can write lousy code in efficiency terms, and most do at least for Version 1.

Comment Re:Unsigned integers ? (Score 1) 427

"Sort of." Java 8 added unsigned integer arithmetic methods to Integer. Examples: compareUnsigned, divideUnsigned, parseUnsignedInt, remainderUnsigned, toUnsignedLong, etc. You still use long and int, and they still have the capability to store signed values. However, if you want, you only use them for unsigned values and with the Unsigned methods.

I don't think it's a "glaring omission." Life is quite difficult without signed integers -- you've really got to have those. Signed integers (of sufficient width) can functionally do everything unsigned integers can do. (What *functionality* are you missing?) If you have both signed and unsigned integers then you've got to have facilities for typecasting, and that has proven to be at least complicated enough. I think the reason unsigned integer data types were created in other languages has much more to do with the "every bit is precious" constraints in the formative years of those languages and their ancestors. They didn't want to "spend" a precious bit on a sign for every integer, hence the unsigned integer data type. Well, the 1990s (and even 1980s) came calling, with 32-bit and 64-bit addressable memory, and we don't have to be quite so bit thrifty. Every integer can have its sign, even if we never need it.

Signed strings and characters in Java were probably a mistake, though.

Comment Using Satellites to Do What Satellites Already Do? (Score 3, Insightful) 159

Bearing in mind that public funds are involved here, I'm struggling to understand why improving radio communications using "plasma bomb" satellites is such a great idea when satellites already do such a great job improving radio communications. In other words, we have vast numbers of artificial ionosphere "bouncers" already orbiting our planet, and we can also have high altitude tethered balloons and long duration airborne aircraft (perhaps solar electric) that the likes of Google and Facebook are working on -- and with much less investment than even one copy of the some of the aircraft the U.S. Air Force flies. We already know how to bounce radio signals all around the globe, and it's already cheap, reliable, and secure. So what's the "value add" here that merits substantial public investment? Anybody have any ideas?

Comment Slight Elaboration (For the Record) (Score 1) 365

One further point. I'm implicitly assuming long-term capital gains tax rates, and that's a reasonable assumption when oversimplifying slightly. For the record, short-term holdings (assets held less than one year) can get taxed at ordinary income tax rates. The top marginal U.S. income tax rate is currently 43.4% inclusive of the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) if it applies. However, short-term holdings presumably haven't gained as much value as long-term holdings, especially in the aggregate, unless you've been particularly lucky. And there's a simple solution for that, too: wait until the short-term holdings become long-term holdings (held for one year), then expatriate.

These are not exactly middle class problems, are they? ;) You've got to be solidly within the top 5% on a wealth basis to get to an Expatriation Tax calculation, never mind actually owing any Expatriation Tax. And then, if you do pay some, you're resetting your cost basis anyway. You're just paying Uncle Sam what you would have paid when you sold the assets, less a blanket exemption. That's quite fair when checking out permanently, just as you must settle your hotel bill and minibar tab when you check out of a hotel.

Comment Re:The IRS keeps its hooks in US citizens who leav (Score 5, Interesting) 365

You've provided reasonable links, but you simply haven't read that information correctly. Here's how the U.S. Expatriation Tax actually works (assuming your net worth exceeds $2 million or that you otherwise are subject to the Expatriation Tax), oversimplifying only slightly:

1. Take your total worldwide net worth at fair market value as if all your assets were sold the day before your expatriation date.
2. Subtract your total worldwide cost basis from your net worth. The result is your total gain from your mark-to-market "deemed sale."
3. Subtract $690,000 (tax year 2015, adjusted annually for inflation) from your total gain. The result is your total taxable gain. If your total taxable gain is zero or negative, stop: you do not owe any Expatriation Tax.
4. Otherwise, pay ordinary capital gains tax rates on your total taxable gain, with a current top marginal tax rate of 23.8% (if the NIIT applies, and I'm not sure it does, but let's assume that). This is your total U.S. Expatriation Tax.

If you owe Expatriation Tax your cost basis is reset. Any subsequent capital gains on U.S. assets will only be taxed based on your new, reset cost basis. Note that "wash sale" rules do not apply when making the Expatriation Tax calculation, so deemed sale capital losses are not limited within the calculation. To some degree you can pay your Expatriation Tax in installments if you wish and only pay statutory interest on deferred payments (currently 3%). If your assets are generating a higher after-tax rate of return (quite likely) then stretching out your Expatriation Tax payment to the maximum extent allowed by law is a good idea. You may also wish to stretch out your Expatriation Tax payments if you prefer to raise funds more slowly, perhaps as in the form of interest, dividends, royalties, and/or earned income.

The U.S. Expatriation Tax is not a hardship by any reasonable definition of hardship, and it's quite disingenuous to complain about not getting a $250,000 capital gains exclusion on a home when you're getting a $690,000 blanket exclusion. But if it were a hardship, there's a simple, 100% effective solution to avoid the U.S. Expatriation Tax: don't renounce or relinquish U.S. citizenship.

Comment Nokia's S40-Based Services Also Dying/Dead (Score 1) 77

Microsoft is also ending/has ended the few important cloud-based services that support Nokia's S40-based devices. As of mid-2015, S40 still had almost double Windows Phone's global mobile user marketshare (according to StatCounter), so Microsoft's sunsetting of S40 services has a bigger global impact.

Both S40 and Windows Phone are in decline, though S40's bigger share is declining somewhat faster. Regardless, it's probably not good business strategy to upset over 4% of the world's mobile device users (S40) with premature termination of the few Microsoft/ex-Nokia services they do use. As far as I can tell, Microsoft is really not doing anything to help S40 users get to Windows Phone even if they wanted to go there. It's a major lost opportunity. For example, Microsoft could have: (1) held onto the Ovi Store (instead of outsourcing it to Opera where it's even more moribund); (2) provided a reasonable set of core, basic Microsoft services for S40 (notably Skype Chat, OneDrive with basic document viewing, and a basic Outlook.com client); (3) provided an S40 on-device application that keeps basic phone settings (contacts, calendar, bookmarks/favorites, text messages, etc.) synced across devices to smooth the path to Windows Phone; and/or (4) provided an S40 emulator for Windows Phone so that users could migrate as much or as little as they wanted. None of that would have cost very much to do or been hard to do, but as far as I know Microsoft took none of those steps. Consequently S40 device users are not switching to Windows Phone when they get new devices. It appears that, among S40 device users who are in the market for a new device, more of them are choosing new (or newer) S40 devices than are choosing Windows Phone devices! Google is winning most of them, though, primarily with Android One devices.

Of all the companies that should understand this phenomenon, you'd think Microsoft would. Don't orphan users! Give them realistic options to continue doing business with you, and they very well might! And if a 2.3% global marketshare business makes sense (Windows Phone), then keep shipping one or two S40 devices every year to hang onto as much of that ~4% marketshare as possible for as long as possible, with the sensible/inexpensive transition offerings I described. There is an ongoing market for a relatively simple mobile device with a truly long battery life and a more pocketable form factor, the segment of the market that Nokia dominated with S40. There's nothing wrong with that, and Microsoft should keep at it. (Microsoft is sort of doing that -- they still have a couple S40 devices on sale -- but they're not executing well.)

Comment Re:Security is also about design (Score 1) 108

I completely agree. I'm afraid that was not one of the smarter things Linus -- an otherwise routinely brilliant guy -- has said. Outlook is a good example. As another example, if you look at the (continuing) evolution of mainframes and their operating systems -- and you must if you want to understand IT security fully, competently -- one interesting bit of history is that IBM had to rewrite OS/360 MVT in the early 1970s. That rewrite (OS/VS2 Version 2 MVS, later evolving through several MVS releases into OS/390 then z/OS) notably included adding what became SAF to get the security design right, though there were many other security design-related decisions in that massive rewrite effort. IBM, with all its resources -- and with ostensibly a less complex base -- couldn't stomp out all the bugs in OS/360, and there were lots of ongoing security and integrity problems in OS/360. (The two are closely related.) The z/OS security subsystem, RACF, uses SAF interfaces, and so do other security subsystems/providers such as ACF2 and TopSecret. Yes, you can choose your preferred security subsystem on this most popular mission-critical operating system. The security architecture is that clean and separated, as it should be.

Comment Not with Asymmetric Information (Score 4, Interesting) 83

Asymmetric information is a classic market failure, and automotive engineering is full of asymmetric information. Moreover, there are externalities, another classic market failure. Your Jeep's loss of control can cause my Chevrolet's trip into a brick wall, for example. Your Jeep's unregulated tailpipe emissions cause smog. Markets don't always (or even frequently) work well. But if you disagree, there are a few countries that offer unregulated free markets. I suggest moving to Somalia if you're an enthusiastic fan of free markets.

Comment Alternative to Oracle Database (Score 2) 184

IBM's DB2 is the most prominent, most direct, most capable alternative. DB2 ranges from the zero license charge DB2 Express-C all the way up to the true continuous business service, mission critical DB2 for z/OS (that even Larry Ellison says nice things about). There's even a DB2 database cum tightly coupled operating system (IBM i). IBM publishes an Oracle to DB2 Conversion Guide and associated migration tools, and IBM has done a lot of work to implement technologies (e.g. PL/SQL) that make it easier to move to DB2. I don't know of any other realistic options because they have various shortcomings such as poor cross-platform support (notably Microsoft SQL Server), questionable SQL and/or ACID attributes, poor application support, and/or questionable enterprise support. In some cases you might be able to get away with MariaDB, for example, but you're probably going to need at least some DB2 to clear out Oracle completely -- and that's what you really need to do if you've got an abusive relationship. You'll also have to clear out some Oracle applications and middleware, but IBM is an obvious competitor there, too.

Comment Pleaded Guilty, Broken Link (Score 1) 312

The link to the article is broken (of course).

If the first charge wasn't a crime then Amin had the option not to plead guilty to it. On the other hand, if he's satisfied with the plea deal his attorney presumably negotiated (presumably heavily based on the other charge), then maybe a guilty plea was his best option. Absent evidence to the contrary, one has to assume his attorney properly assessed whether that first charge could have been beaten in court and weighed that factor in advising his client.

Comment Only One Immediate Question, Really (Score 1) 743

The Greek government can never repay its current debt obligations, primarily held now by public sector international creditors that bailed out their own reckless and very poorly capitalized private banks to keep them on life support. (It takes two parties to accumulate debt: creditor and debtor. Greece's creditors shared at least as much blame as Greece's prior governments.) That's just a simple mathematical fact. The only remaining salient question in this tragedy is whether the European Central Bank (ECB), and specifically one very democratically unelected banker (Mario Draghi), will take affirmative action to destroy Greece's banking system solely because some other party (the Greek government) cannot and will not, in fact, repay its (euro-denominated) debts. As an approximate analogy it'd be as if the U.S. Federal Reserve decided to destroy Citibank, J.P. Morgan Chase, and BNY Mellon by terminating their loan facilities from the lender of last resort, even via nationalization, if the State of New York, where those banks are based, were to default on its bonds. Yes, that's *crazy*, that the Federal Reserve would act in such a way, yet here we are with the ECB.

Slashdot Top Deals

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

Working...