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User Journal

Journal Journal: Retiring from Slashdot: The long, slow death

1. Why Anonymous Mods suck

Any user on Slashdot is invited to moderate after a while, so long as their Karma remains positive. Moderation is great when its used wisely and I've no hassle being modded down when deserved. Trouble is, every man and their dog is doing it now, and there is no accountability. Take this post. Someone modded it as a "Troll" shortly after I posted it, and hardly anyone else got to see it:

Comment Sweden for Sale (Score -1, Offtopic) 232

Microsoft bought the Vote of the Swedish National Standards Body. What a coincidence: There's long been a question mark over the relationship of the Swedish Government and the MPAA: ights_Violations_Regarding_The_Pirate_Bay_Raid?t=1 882690#c1882690 (original article embedded here)

Submission + - Sleepy?Spend less time on the internet/watching TV (

Ant writes: "The Daily Mail reports people, who spend time on the internet or watching television before they go to bed, are more likely to feel like they don't get enough sleep. Even though they sleep almost as long as people who spend fewer pre-bedtime hours in front of a computer or television screen, they will stil feel tired according to a new survey... Seen on Digg."

Submission + - Cat Senses 25 Patients Death Within 4 Hours (

* * Beatles-Beatles writes: "Profiled in New England Journal of Medicine

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die ITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT 8"


Submission + - What's Keeping US Phones in the Stone Age?

knapper_tech writes: After seeing the iPhone introduction in the US, I was totally confused by how much excitement it generated in the US. It offered no features I could see beyond my Casio W41CA's capabilities. I had a lot of apprehension towards the idea of a virtual keypad and the bare screen looked like a scratch magnet. Looks aren't enough. Finally, the price is rediculous. The device is an order of magnitude more expensive than my now year-old keitai even with a two-year contract.

After returning to the US, I've come to realize the horrible truth behind iPhone's buzz. Over the year I was gone, US phones haven't really done anything. Providers push a miniscule lineup of uninspiring designs and then charge unbelievable prices for even basic things like text messages. I was greeted at every kiosk by more tired clamshells built to last until obselescense, and money can't buy a replacement for my W41CA. I finally broke down and got a $20 Virgin phone to at least get me connected until I get over my initial shock. In short, American phones suck, and iPhone is hopefully a wakeup call to US providers and customers. Why is the American phone situation so depressing?

Before I left for Japan about a year ago, I was using a Nokia 3160. It cost me $40 US and I had to sign a one year contract that Cingular later decided was a two-year contract. I was paying about $40 a month for service and had extra fees for SMS messages.

After I got to Kyoto, I quickly ended up at an AU shop and landed a Casio W41CA. It does email, music, pc web browsing, gps, fm radio, tv, phone-wallet, pictures (2megapixel), videos, calculator etc. I walked out of the store for less than ¥5000 (about $41) including activation fees, and I was only paying slightly over ¥4000 (about $33) per month. That included ¥3000 for a voice plan I rarely used and ¥1000 for effectively unlimited data (emails and internet).

Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the costs facing American mobile providers can explain the huge technology and cost gap between the US and Japan. Why are we paying so much for such basic features?

At first, I thought maybe it was something to do with network infrastructure. The US is a huge land area and Japan is very tiny. However, Japan would have lots of towers because of the terrain. Imagine something like Colorado covered in metropolitan area. Also, even though places like rural New Mexico exist, nobody has an obligation to cover them, and from the look of coverage maps, no providers do. Operating a US network that reaches 40% of the nation's population requires nowhere near reaching 40% of the land area. The coverage explanation alone isn't enough.

Another possibility was the notion that because Americans keep their phones until they break, phone companies don't focus much on selling cutting edge phones and won't dare ship a spin-chassis to Oklahoma. However, with the contract life longer, the cost of the phone could be spread out over a longer period. If Americans like phones that are built to last and then let them last, the phones should be really cheap. From my perspective, they are rediculously priced, so this argument also fails.

The next exlpanation I turned to is that people in the US tend to want winners. We like one ring to rule them all and one phone to establish all of what is good in phone fashion for the next three years. However, Motorola's sales are sagging as the population got tired of dime-a-dozen RAZR's and subsequent knockoffs. Apparently, we have more fashion sense or at least desire for individuality than to keep buying hundreds of millions of the same design. Arguing that the US market tends to gravitate to one phone and then champion it is not making Motorola money.

At last I started to wonder if it was because Americans buy less phones as a whole, making the cost of marketing as many different models as the Japanese prohibitive. However, with something like three times the population, the US should be more than enough market for all the glittery treasures of Akiba. What is the problem?

I'm out of leads at this point. It's not like the FCC is charging Cingular and Verizon billions of dollars per year and the costs are getting passed on to the consumer. Japanese don't have genetically superior cellphone taste. I remember that there was talk of how fierce mobile competition was and how it was hurting mobile providers' earnings. However, if Japanese companies can make money at those prices while selling those phones, what's the problem in the US? It seems to me more like competition is non-existent and US providers are ramming yesteryear's designs down our throats while charging us an arm and a leg! Someone please give me some insight.

Submission + - MPAA: Plagarism good, Piracy bad? 1

BillGatesLoveChild writes: The MPAA is fast to complain about their Intellectual Property being violated, but have no qualms about violating the Intellectual Property of others. The SMH reports another case of a Hollywood Studio plagarizing a film as their own. Adam Sandler's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) is a tale of two firemen who pretend to be gay to get domestic partner benefits. Curiously Paul Hogan's Strange Bedfellows (2004) made three years earlier, is also a tale of two firemen who pretend to be gay to get domestic partner benefits. Universal Studios issued a statement claiming "the similarities are purely coincidental". The producers of "Strange Bedfellows" are amused but not convinced.

This isn't the first time, with similar accusations being made against Spielberg's Julie Newmar (1995) vs Priscilla (1994) and Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America" which the courts found was stolen from writer Art Buchwald. Add to that "Hollywood Accounting" fleecing artists (The Forest Gump movie didn't pay the author a cent in royalties), the Record Industry doing the same and the MPAA itself caught yet unrepentant for pirating movies. Before The Senate rushes off to do their bidding, shouldn't the MPAA and RIAA be ordered to clean up their own houses?

Submission + - R2D2: Skype-enabled and iPod compatible?

BillGatesLoveChild writes: Ever wondered what R2D2's technical specs are? Look closely, and you'll see he has a USB Port. Look closer, and you'll also see he has a memory card reader, an MP3 player, an iPod docking bay, and a DVD player connected to a XGA wall projector: "Help me Slashdotter, you're my only hope." The Japan Times reports that the Nikko Group is now selling R2D2 as a home robot. The Home Entertainment R2D2 features all of the above, and is controlled with a Millennium Falcon-shaped remote control. The price is a cool US$3,195. And no self-respecting fan boy would be caught dead with an iPhone when he could have this: The Home Communications R2D2 is Skype-enabled, with a webcam and light sabre for the handset. The Nikko Group links are in Japanese, but don't worry. While you may not be able to read Japanese, Geek is the universal language.

Submission + - How to Stop Pirates: Ask Nicely

BillGatesLoveChild writes: When Trey Harrison found his music lighting software 'Salvation' had been pirated, he was taken aback. Being an Independent Software Developer, there wasn't much he could do. So he contacted the Warez Group and asked them nicely. They wrote back and said sorry, that they at least hoped more people got to see it and that in accordance with his wishes, they wouldn't release it again.

But what of the Anti-Piracy tool "Armadillo Software Passport" that was supposed to have protected Trey's Software? Unlike the Pirates who responded straight away, Trey says he never heard a peep back from Armadillo. Seems the Pirates have better "customer support" than the Anti-piracy agents!

Of course, "Ask Nicely" may not work for the RIAA who as Orson Scott Card's famous essay pointed out have perhaps irreversible ill-will due to their history of ripping off artists and consumers and buying off Congressmen. But for smaller companies and independents, perhaps it's worth a try? There's even hope for the industry heavies. Mark Ishikawa of Anti-P2P Company BayTSP says 85% of people he sends a gentle warning on behalf of the MPAA "do not come back, with no headlines and no public relations blowups."

Could a softly-softly approach work better for IP owners that heavy-handed threats and lawyers?

Submission + - Star Wars fan creates security scare in Melbourne

svunt writes: "A Star Wars fan in costume (blaster included) was swooped on by a number of police today in a Melbourne shopping centre. From the article

"The replica gun appeared to have what resembled a battery pack connected to the gun by a coiled wire, while boots and a laptop were also in the bag. The man was clad in black with unusual logos on his sleeve and breast pocket, and had what appeared to be a hands-free mobile phone earphone in one ear.
The man was later charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm. It appears that he was en route to a photo shoot to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Star Wars."
Linux Business

Submission + - Dell starts selling Ubuntu Laptops Today

An anonymous reader writes: Later today, Dell will offer U.S customers three different systems with Ubuntu 7.04 installed: the XPS 410n and Dimension E520n desktops and the Inspiron E1505n notebook. These systems will be available by 4pm CST today. Starting price for the E520n desktop and the E1505n notebook is $599; the XPS 410n starts at $899.

Submission + - Aussie software pirate extradition a first of many

schliz writes: The U.S. government's recent extradition of software pirate Hew Griffiths (of Drink or Die fame) from Australia could have opened the doors to equally harsh punishments for software pirates worldwide, predicts an Australian technology lawyer in a recent interview with Computerworld.

"I think what the Hew Griffiths case shows is that you do need to be very aware that particularly in the U.S., where the number one export is intellectual property, they are incredibly vigilant, and this has been a very significant coup for them and I see this as the start of more international prosecution for cyber-related crime," Nick Abrahams of the Communications and Media Law Association is quoted as saying.

Now awaiting sentencing in the U.S., Griffiths faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in an American prison and a $US500,000 fine — which seems rather harsh, considering the average sentence for rape in the Australian state of Victoria is six years and 10 months.

Submission + - Giving up personal copyrights to a business

E writes: Prior to my current job I have created many different programs and applications which I retain full copyrights to (250k+ loc). Some were created for companies others as hobbies and currently, many of them sit rather idle. I have been offered a partnership in a small company with big potential, where I am the only tech person. In all the leagalities of the process, there is a copyright clause that basically says the company owns anything and everything tech related I do inside and outside of work. This is a fairly standard clause, however I am stuck on what to do.

I will be consulting a lawyer, but wanted some feedback first on what others may have done. I have been told already that the partnership won't buy it from me for what the software is worth, and if my copyrights don't ever make money, the partners won't care about it. Knowing legally, if I do any development in the future, it belongs to the partnership. Should I:
(1) Let the company take my copyrights and hope the partnership pays off.
(2) Sell the rights to someone else and "cash out" on what I currently have.
(3) Pretend the clause isn't in there and continue dev as a hobby/side business.
(4) Release it under an OSS license, and hope someone will continue dev work (since legally I can't), knowing it will most likely become stagnant or abandoned.
(5) Focus on the partnership and archive my software (If I don't do anything with them in the future, the partnership has no claims to them).
(6) Hold out until the clause is changed.
(7) Any other options or advice?

Has anyone else been in a similar situation, and what have you done?

Submission + - Pirated Software, Pipeline Explosion

pipingguy writes: "[In 1982] The Soviets were developing a highly lucrative pipeline to carry natural gas across the expanse of Siberia, but they lacked the software to manage the complex array of pumps, valves, turbines, and storage facilities that the system would require. [...] KGB officials inserted an agent to abduct the technology from a Canadian firm. Unbeknownst to the Soviet spies, the software they stole sported a little something extra: a few lines of computer code which had been inserted just for them. [...] Some weeks after going online, in the summer of 1982, the clandestine code in the pipeline control program asserted itself. Disguised as an automated system test, the software instructed a series of valves, turbines, and pumps to increase the pipeline's pressure far beyond its capacity, putting considerable strain on the line's many joints and welds over a period of time. One day, somewhere in the cold loneliness of Siberia, the overexerted pipeline finally succumbed to the pressure. [...] It would be fourteen years before the real cause of the event would be revealed. [...] In any case, it clearly demonstrates that software piracy can have very serious consequences."

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When it is incorrect, it is, at least *authoritatively* incorrect. -- Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy