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Comment Re:Vote with your feet (Score 2) 379

That would be wonderful. Here's an anecdote as to why this plan fails for me in particular.

I unfortunately have Mediacom in my area. They've effectively got it made so that you can't do this. First, they charge $20/month more (I believe it was) for a non-contract plan, which adds up, and so now I'll get hit with a $200+ cancellation fee if I try switching. I also pay for an internet/cable package even though I don't want cable because it is cheaper than the same speed internet by itself. A lot of the things they do don't make much sense until you look at it from their point of view - they've got you over a barrel and are going to take as much of your money as they can.

The main problem, alluded to in the summary, is that there really is no other option. When I moved to my current town, I tried finding something else - called their main competitor Qwest up, no service in my area. The only other option was Iowa Telecom, which went under and got bought out within a couple months of when I was trying to set up services. The new company was not in the phone book, did not have a functional website, and I think I finally found their number in a newspaper ad or something. It was going to be about $10 less for substantially slower DSL, and was going to take 3-4 weeks to set up if I remember correctly. Mediacom does take 2-3 weeks to make a house call. And as bad as Mediacom's service had been in my experience, everyone from the area told me Iowa Telecom was worse somehow. In fact there are many who get their internet through a cellular company because a wireless dongle with tiny bandwidth caps and an expensive data plan is superior to Mediacom in many ways.

I live out in the ass end of Iowa in a small town where I'm new without many friends. We are actually too far from every single major city to pick up any television stations, and only get a couple radio stations consistently. I was starved for entertainment before they got my internet hooked up and had a lot more trouble keeping up with friends from school and whatnot. Don't get me wrong, I hate this damn ad page that they're talking about. I hate getting hung up on while on hold with customer service/sales/anybody I call there. I hate getting an envelope stuffed full of ads every month so that I nearly throw away my bill with all of the crap I don't want. I would love to switch from Mediacom, there's just nowhere to go.

Comment Re:Sad news (Score 4, Interesting) 920

Titanium's not tremendously rare on Earth, it's just more expensive because it's a bitch to refine and process. As I understand it, most of the processing steps require either a high vacuum or a completely inert atmosphere to overcome the high reactivity of titanium at high temperatures (around room temp it forms an extremely well-bonded oxide on the surface, which is why it's known to be corrosion resistant.)

As the default state on the lunar surface is hard vacuum, this opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for metals development, if only we were able to get there, and bring along or develop a suitable power source as well.

Comment Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (Score 2, Funny) 105

Very nice, props to you sir. However, it seems you left out a few of my favorites.

Andrew Jackson eats the first marshmallow and declares that if you want to keep the second from him, you can enforce it with your army.

Rutherford Hayes eats his marshmallow just as you re-enter the room, and is awarded his prize only after you confer with your panel of co-researchers.

Grover Cleveland eats the first marshmallow, but gets his second when he comes back two days later.

William Howard Taft eats the marshmallow, then eats you, then gets stuck in the doorframe on the way out.

Warren Harding is dead when you come back.

You promise Herbert Hoover a second, but really just take away the first if he hasn't eaten it.

Gerald Ford tries to eat his marshmallow, but only manages to bite his tongue, fall down the stairs, and get shot at on the way out.

Comment Re:The emphasis on the xbox 360 scares me. (Score 1) 229

That was kind of my first thought, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like this could be a tremendous poster child for Project Natal. If it's at all like advertised, they could throw in a cheap fake plastic controller or something, maybe even have you map your own equipment to controls and get all the control of a PC game on the console. Or maybe use the standard controller in conjunction with motion capture. Hell, I'd definitely spend sixty bucks to rain destruction from a Mech that mimicked my movements.

Comment Re:Does this really save that much money? (Score 1) 398

I used to love Chegg. It started out working as essentially an online classified geared towards books, and since it started at Iowa State, the school I go to, there were plenty of people using it, and it wound up being a very good deal, taking the cost of books per semester down to almost nothing (except of course when they switched editions every few years).

Now that they're pushing their rental service so hard, it's a lot harder to save as much money. I couldn't find any of my books used last semester, which may be due to my major classes getting more specialized and smaller, so I decided to give them a try. They usually rent at 40-60% the cost of a new book, which I suppose still saves money on both ends when you figure in the new edition cycle. However, it is more expensive if you end up keeping the book, and so I suppose I'll end up going to the bookstore again for anything I can't mooch of older friends next year.

Basically it differs from the typical cycle of buying and selling back in that you get a slightly better deal in exchange for letting them know ahead of time that you will be giving it back at the end of semester. Works well in a lot of cases, but it does imply that you expect no lasting value from the book and generally turn out to be correct.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised (Score 1) 326

I'm sure there's a way to do it right, though. Guitar Hero's doing all right selling games that require special controllers - not that putting out a new or crazy controller is guaranteed to be a great sales plan, but as long as they put out a few good games to go along with it it ought to do all right on the current xbox.

Comment Re:FIRST! And welcome to fraternity file cabinets (Score 4, Interesting) 333

My fraternity actually used to do this and we've all but stopped now since nobody uses it. The reason is that nearly all of our classes have started posting old exams, answer keys, course notes, and a few of the good teachers will even post past homework. Most classes also have homework weighted pretty lightly so that learning the material (as tested on the exams) is what really matters. With this setup, past homework of course can't be used for cheating, but sometimes seeing something worked out will help make a connection you might not have otherwise and past exams really help take away the horrible feeling of not knowing if you're prepared for a test or not. I will agree with previous posters that if students are able to use past resources to cheat, this is more the fault of a lazy professor than anything.

Also, back when we did keep study files, it was an "advertised" benefit of joining the house, not swept under the rug as you seem to describe. As far as I know, no one at the university ever had a problem with us or any other house/organization/random group of friends doing it. Now we mainly focus on the fact that we've got older members from a wide array of majors who are willing to help out younger members as needed.

Comment Re:It's okay to teach them FORTRAN (Score 2, Insightful) 794

I realize you're probably joking, but our intro class actually teaches VBA, and even though it's a general overview for engineers of all shapes and sizes, they really do a poor job of teaching the fundamentals of programming, choosing instead to focus mainly on the syntax and the language itself. As far as I know, no subsequent class ever uses VBA, so we struggle with any future programming almost as much as we would have without an intro class. They may be looking to fix that, but for now it functions primarily as a weedout class and nothing else.

I didn't go into computer/software engineering, but I did TA the intro class for a semester and have worked with its graduates (my engineering peers) on group projects and the like. In my opinion, they really ought to teach the logic of programming (flowcharts and the like) much more heavily than focusing on any one language. That way, you don't have people sitting and memorizing the way a certain program is written but lacking the common sense to so much as use a loop rather than writing the same calculation over and over again.

So teach FORTRAN, teach VB6, teach them LOLCODE or whatever the hell you want but please make sure you're teaching them why the code is written the way it is and that computers don't necessarily think the way you do.

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