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


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment The Northrop Grumman perspective (Score 5, Informative) 311

I'll bite on this one because I'm actually a Project Manager for Northrop Grumman Information Services. My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my company, yadda, yadda, blah, blah.

First, you need to know (or remember) that huge corporations (be they defense contractor, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, whomever) are often a conglomeration of previously small companies. The company I've worked for has changed names four times as it was bought up repeatedly (twice in a three-month span one year) and is only most recently called "Northrop Grumman" but, for the most part, I still work with and for the same small group of people I hired on with nearly a decade ago. Yes, corporations add capabilities when they see opportunity. Who wouldn't?

Second, depending upon the work you do, adding all of the additional infrastructure required to meet the various regulatory requirements of a government contract is non-trivial - security clearances alone, if required, can be a nightmare. The company never says "Hey, I want to add more costs to my bottom-line and reduce my profits". Those bureaucratic requirements are driven by the government, not the contractor.

Third, often times the contracts awarded by the government require or strongly encourage the Bigs (like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc.) to hire "Smalls" - smaller, perhaps more specialized corporations, that would not otherwise be able to get involved in these contracts. "Disadvantaged" small businesses, those run by minorities or other protected classes, are also highly sought after by the Bigs in order to meet various participatory quotas, etc. This type of thing allows the Big to address the regulatory and management issues while funneling funds to Smalls who might do much of the work. You learn after awhile, at least at Northrop Grumman, that you are an integrator first and a developer second - if you can reuse something someone else has built that is *much* better than building it yourself (you know, that whole "reuse" idea that we've all been chasing after for the past 50 years).

All of that aside, a huge amount of costs are associated with government bureaucracy. The profit margins on my contract, for example, are *limited* to 8.5%. No matter how much I spend, I'm only going to earn 8.5% - that profit margin is ridiculously tiny when you consider what a firm operating at commercial rates is going to make profits wise. " you'll just drag it out so you make more money." Ha! Sure. The project drags out...but I can tell you from 15 years working with the US Government, it drags on and on not because I really want to keep working on the same stinkin' thing (redoing it over and over) for my own giggles and grins but because the US Government is a huge bureaucracy and it takes forever for them to make a decision on anything. Need clarification on a feature request? Well...first we have to work that through the Government Program Management Office (PMO) who oversees your project, then they need to potentially track down user-representatives, convene a meeting, possibly do a usability test and/or request a conference, get multiple disparate agencies who are going to use your tool to agree to put aside their differences and unique business processes, etc., etc., etc.

Meanwhile, the team is being held to an unrealistic schedule set for political reasons. To minimize risk of schedule slippage, you make a decision and press on accepting the fact that you may have to rework the feature you just developed. The government entities that are closest to you are just as frustrated as you are...and they know they can't let your team go onto other projects because then they lose the people who understand the project and its history - who have the requirements and design knowledge to meet the needs of the customer so they keep giving you money to keep your team together. You do your best to catch up on the copious amounts of documentation the government requires (for my 450K SLOC system, I'll probably produce 5K-7K pages of documentation between various specifications, testing plans, installation guides, user guides, etc.) and then suddenly some decisions are made and you sprint like mad to get those implemented to attempt to stay on schedule and find the next thing you need an answer to...


Yeah, it is easy to blame the so-called greedy defense contractor from the company that "didn't traditionally do IT" but you certainly are missing the point that that company is made up of individuals who, possibly like you, have always done IT. Its not like they grabbed the guys building the warships on the coast and said "Hey, Bob, yesterday you were a ship-builder; today you're writing software and integrating communications systems. Welcome to your new job!".

I'm not saying that defense contracting companies are hurting or anything and that they are all managed by a bunch of nice guys and gals and oh-shouldn't-we-just-give-them-the-benefit-of-the-doubt but if you think those high costs and schedule slips are just them exploiting the government or some indication of ineptness, then you need to spend some time (more time??) working for a firm contracting with the government. It will quickly become apparent to you that the government is at least equally culpable in budget and schedule delays.

A statement like "...because when I think on-time, on-budget I think big government". That would be closer to the truth, at least.

Comment Duration is part of the data captured (Score 1) 223

I completely get where you are coming from but (c) data necessary to identify the date, time and duration of a communication: should at least prove the "My browser speed-up plugin visited those sites, not me.". That still leaves the "an uknown hacker broke-in and used my account" argument out there, however. :)

Comment Moonlight does not work with Netflix (Score 2, Informative) 536

Moonlight is not the answer to the Netflix streaming video problem. I've got Moonlight 1.0.1 installed (been looking for a way to stream video to my linux box from Netflix) and here is what you get from Netflix when you try to stream a movie:

Watching instantly on your computer Our apologies — streaming is not supported for your operating system. Note that your current Internet browser is fully compatible with adding titles to the Instant Queue for later watching on compatible devices. Complete System Requirements To watch instantly, you'll need a computer that meets the following minimum requirements: * Windows o Windows XP with Service Pack 2, or Vista o Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher; or Firefox 2 or higher o 1.2 GHz processor o 512 MB RAM * Mac o An Intel-based Mac with OS 10.4.8 or later o Safari 3 or higher; or Firefox 2 or higher o 1 GB RAM

Comment Re:Fuel + Electric (Score 1) 188

I agree. It would be great if they could focus on the "It's electric" pitch. Unfortunately, the very next complaint would be: "there's no where for me to plug-in" or "it takes too long to charge the battery...what's the point, I can only ever charge it when I'm at home."

Its got to be about building interest in electric/hybrids instead. The way to do that is tell someone you are going to save them money at the pump because you are going to get them 100MPG.

Right now, I spend about $120 a month on gas -- and that's really me just going back and forth to my job. I've got about a 13 gallon tank and I get about 20 mpg. If I was able to get 1300 miles out of 1 tank of gasoline my gasoline fuel bill for one month would be 20% less than what I pay for a single week now.

Even if you add $50.00 to that cost, I would *still* come out ahead every month. My carbon foot-print might remain about the same but I would be consolidating that footprint with others at the electric company (waiting for the day when the tech at the electric company could be swapped out for something cleaner).

Unfortunately, I would not *yet* come out completely ahead financially because the cost of purchasing an electric car is still too high. However, if the cost of the car was reduced because more people were purchasing them *and* battery technology was such that they could be charged within +/- 20% of what it takes a person to fill their car today *and* their was enough infrastructure to support going cross-country, they'd be very viable.

You've got to start somewhere. Increasing awareness and showing people that they can reduce their gasoline fuel bill is one way to heighten interest in the idea of owning an electric car. Interest inspires demand which will hopefully inspire companies to invest in better battery technology, etc. When the technology is there, fueling stations become feasible.

Its a start.

Comment Re:Fuel + Electric (Score 4, Insightful) 188

I think the thing to get excited about here is that this solution...along with any electric car in a step towards reducing and eliminating fossil fuels. Consider it a step towards consolidating our use of fossil fuels into specific distribution points on the electric grid. Say that it encourages the replacement of gasoline fueling stations with electric fueling stations. Say that it inspires advances in quick-charging battery cells for electric cars.

What do we have then? We've still got fossil fuels being burned at key points on the electric grid *and* the emissions from those locations is very significant. But we've also gained better battery technology and fewer gas stations and (here's the big one) we are poised to replace those electrical nodes with cleaner alternatives.

Part of the struggle moving from one technology to the next involves infrastructure replacement and consolidation of old resources. The Algaeus is just a tree in the overall forest. See the forest and then the Algaeus becomes pretty cool -- because it means we are trying *something* to move away from fossil fuels in our primary mode of transportation (at least in the US).

Comment Re: Courts (Score 0) 1056

And for those who will scream at me about mercury in vaccines, why don't you compare a single or rare exposure to a tiny amount of mercury... to how much mercury you must feed to your children via fish... and corn syrup.


I don't have a source for the quote below but I believe it stands on its own; it brings another point of view to the issue: it isn't a matter of how much mercury is in corn syrup, a can of tuna, a single vaccine dose. It is a matter of dosage relative to weight: vaccines are dosed for *everyone* not 2 day old infants with a weight perhaps 3-5% of what their adult weight would be. This quote captures the essence of the issue with regards to vaccines and mercury content and provides an apt illustration for why it is a good thing that the stuff was removed from vaccines (other than the flu vaccine -- still in there):

"This myth [that the mercury received in a vaccine is no greater than in a can of tuna] has received a lot of publicity because it offers an analogy anyone can understand and makes the mercury-autism connection appear trivial.

The analogy can be improved by comparing a 200-pound male adult consuming tuna with the infant who receives a single vaccine on their first day of birth (since day-old infants don't eat tuna). On the first day of birth an infant receives the Hep B vaccine with about 25 micrograms of ethlymercury â" this does approximate the 30 micrograms of methlymercury in an average can of tuna. Since the average infant weighs about 7 pounds, the weight equivalent number of cans of tuna for an adult would be 28 cans.

If you take those 28 cans of tuna and distill it down to mercury content, you would have 840 micrograms of mercury. Keep in mind that the stomach successfully absorbs and excretes about 90% of any mercury ingested through food, leaving only about 10% of the mercury for the bloodstream. Since the mercury in vaccines is injected directly into the bloodstream where 100% of it can be absorbed by the organs, you'd need an additional 252 cans of tuna to get the equivalent amount of mercury into the bloodstream for a total of 280 cans of tuna and 8,400 micrograms of methlymercury.

So, receiving the Hep B vaccine on the first day of birth is the equivalent of a 200-pound adult male consuming 280 cans of tuna in a single day. One final adjustment: the adult male in the analogy needs to have no capacity to excrete mercury. As Boyd Haley, Ph.D. notes, "it is very well known that infants do not produce significant levels of bile or have adult renal capacity for several months after birth. Bilary transport is the major biochemical route by which mercury is removed from the body, and infants cannot do this very well."

So, a 200-pound male who consumes 280 cans of tuna in a single day and has their ability to excrete mercury severely diminished is the same as a day-old infant receiving the Hep B vaccine. That's a fair analogy. Tuna anyone?"

And, for the record, this is still being debated even if the Courts believe there is no link:

Autism is certainly a complex disorder.

As I said, mercury is still used in the flu vaccine and even after thimerosal was removed from the vaccines it remained in the supply-chain for a number of years while stocks of vaccines were used up. It is also used during the manufacture of the vaccine and then removed at the end -- meaning it is *still* in there though in much lower amounts.

What is *really* funny to me is that most people spouting the value of vaccines have done very little research into the issue themselves; "vaccines" are a sacred cow that you are not supposed to challenge or speak out against. Most people have *never* read a contradictory study let alone with an open mind - they have never looked at all of the debate on this issue and questioned *why* there is so much debate; they accept what their doctor tells them even though many of the doctors don't know because they've never been taught to question the value of vaccines.

It's almost as bad as religion: self-righteous individuals making claims and shouting down all those who dissent and question without ever considering the fact that maybe, just maybe, the other side has a legitimate beef. We jump on people who only get their political/world news from one source claiming that the mainstream media cannot be trusted but then we beat on those who question debatable government studies, government agencies (CDC, FDA, etc.), and the word of the Pharmaceutical industry.


"We the people" question our news media, we question our government, we "follow the money" and find corruption and abuse in so many government agencies (FDA and salmonella anyone?) and yet we accept what we are told by a few court-appointed scientists despite the fact that *other scientists* disagree or render verdicts of "inconclusive". Doesn't that strike you as odd?

Never forget that science can be used to support an agenda. Who is more likely to benefit from the science that says there is no link between vaccine injury and autism? I doubt it is the scientist who says there *may* be a link; it doesn't mean he is right, it just means you should question more.

Even though you didn't bring her up, let me just get this out there as well lest someone jump on that bandwagon: Jenny McCarthy is the *worst* spokesman for the autism community; she does not know how to frame a cogent, rational argument. Unfortunately, she does bring much-needed attention to the Autism problem. Regardless of cause, these kids need help.

Full disclosure: In case you haven't guessed, I'm the parent of an autistic child and my wife and I have chosen *not* to vaccinate. It is an informed decision arrived at after much research and consideration.

I wouldn't wish autism on any family. My family is currently staring down bankruptcy because the best therapy(Applied Behavioral Analysis) with demonstrably proven results ( is not covered by health insurance (states where it is covered have had to force the insurance providers to cover it). Why is it not covered: is very expensive and a health insurance appointed doctor says its not effective. Hmmm. Now, why should I trust mainstream medical practitioners again? The gains my son has made under ABA have been nothing less than amazing.

I am not anti-vaccine - my kids may be vaccinated once their immune systems are more mature and they are able to deal with the toxin load - obviously something in their genetic makeup possibly predisposes them to problems. I'm against the way vaccines are currently administered in such large doses so early on; I'm against the way uninformed individuals who have never questioned what they've been told look down on those of us who question authority and are doing our damnedest to provide our children with the best care and life they can have.

I don't know that vaccines caused my son's Autism but I do know that it is not worth risking the health of my children on the word of a court-appointed doctor when there is still plenty of debate over what causes Autism.

Slashdot Top Deals

panic: kernel trap (ignored)