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Comment Re:TANSTAAFL (Score 3, Insightful) 206

The point is, the actors and actresses feel the need to make way too much and anyone in economics would tell you they are trying to optimize their profit. The problem with that is it inherently creates people who are not willing to pay the market rate for the content and since it is "free" to copy it - they do.

This is one area I feel the entertainment industry just doesn't get it. The general attitude often seems to be "I cost us X to make this thing, therefore it is worth X".

Unfortunately, that's not how any other markets work. Things are only worth what people are willing to pay for them. This goes for virtually anything that is bought and sold -- toys, comic books, computers, cars, stocks, collector coins, individual pieces of art, gold -- the price is based completely off what people are willing to pay for an item, and has little or nothing to do with how much it cost to produce. This is actually a good thing -- items with a high perceived value can command higher prices and reap more profits, while at the same time there is a push to find ways to lower prices to enhance the perceived value vs. price ratio.

I view media piracy along these lines. It's part of the markets way of telling the media companies that the perceived value of what they produce is lower for many people than what they charge.

Now admittedly in the last few years better pricing models with (legal) streaming services like Netflix have helped to improve the situation for many consumers. TV in particular seems to have done a really good job of coming up with ways of putting content online for free (TV shows are highly advertising supported anyway). But other parts of the industry seem to be fixated upon fixed pricing, especially for new media, that is above the value much of the population would put on it. People willing pay for things when they perceive the value as being more than the price; but when you price things above that perceived value line, you just drive piracy. It doesn't matter how much something cost to make -- if you want to charge more than the market is willing to pay, people simply aren't going to pay.


Comment Re:How can this possibly work? (Score 1) 299

If these mice have all male offspring, why won't they be out-bred by the mice that have females too? Why would a non-advantageous mouse gene be passed down and take over? Wouldn't natural selection kill off the genetically modified mice?

The answer to your first question answers your entire set of questions.

The basic driving force of evolution is reproduction. Fitter animals should produce more and fitter offspring, whereas less fit animals will either produce no offspring, or will produce less-fit offspring. That is one of the most basic premises of evolution.

The issue here then is "fitness"[0], and whether or not the modified mice will have sufficient fitness to a) reproduce, and b) introduce their genes into the next generation.

The modification only changes the outcome of birth -- all mice fathered by the modified mice will exhibit the same modification, and will be born male. It doesn't impact their ability to reproduce, or their ability to fill their ecological niche. The mice will be at no reproductive disadvantage when compared to non-modified male mice, in that they will be just as likely to survive to reproduce, and will not have a shortened lifespan that causes them to reproduce any less than a non-modified male. Thus they won't be out-bred; a female mouse isn't going to have any way to distinguish (at an evolutionary level) between a modified and non-modified male. Now if the modified males also glowed bright green and failed to attract female mates, then you'd have a situation where the modified males would be at a disadvantage, however, that isn't the case here.

Not only will there will be no evolutionary disadvantage to the modified males in terms of reproduction, over time they'll actually have the advantage. Assuming litter sizes average out the same, ALL the offspring of modified males will also be modified males. Let's call that average M. The offspring of unmodified males will be mixed male and female; the average number of unmodified male mice offspring will be M/2 (as half will be male, half female). The modified mouse will have double the male offspring of the unmodified mouse. The population of modified male mice will increase linearly, whereas the population of unmodified mice will (at least initially) be relatively stable.

Over a longer time period, female mice will be more and more likely to mate with modified male mice, as they will be more available. I essence, this gene modification hacks evolution by making the modified mice MORE fit than the unmodified mice, in that their offspring will be more competitive in terms of mating with females, due to sheer numbers. As females die and are replaced with fewer and fewer females, and as the modified male population continues to soar, you're eventually going to get to a point where the only available males in a community to mate with the few remaining females is going to be modified males, who will only produce male offspring. Those last remaining females will eventually die off, and with no new females within a given local population, no further reproduction can occur, at which point the population of remaining males eventually dies off.

(I do note a "local population", as this only works within populations that reproduce together. Geographic or other divisions in reproductive populations may cause certain islands of mice to continue unaffected if there isn't a critical mass of modified males. So if the country mice and city mice don't reproduce together, one or the other may be unaffected if the modified mice aren't artificially introduced).

All of which would make for an interesting computer simulation. I may have to get on that this weekend.

All that said, it will be interesting to see what behavioural changes may be introduced in newer generations as the number of males begins to strongly outnumber the females, and opportunities for the males to reproduce decreases. Will male mice become more territorial? Mouse combat to the death for access to females? If they go ahead with this plan, I hope there is funding somewhere to study the behavioural changes as time progresses.



[0] - In popular culture, the idea of "Darwinian fitness" is often confused with strength, physical fitness, or lifespan; the concept is really about the ability of an individual to pass on its genes to as many individuals as possible by fitting best into a suitable ecological niche.

Comment Re:It means don't replace Americans with cheaper H (Score 1) 834

Do you think XYZ Corp hasn't already done the math on whether its cheaper to offshore? They have. Repeatedly. All of them. Many did offshore. XYZ Corp isn't importing cheap H1Bs because it's cheaper than offshoring, its because it needs a domestic American presence - particularly for customer requirements.

Yes, however by forcing companies that ire H1-B holders to pay them quite a bit more than they are, the math is going to change. You may need a domestic American presence, but that presence can certainly be made smaller. You only need a team of project managers remaining in the US to handle requirements gathering; development can be done pretty much anywhere these days.

What tips the scales is real estate. It may be cheaper for XYZ Corp to bring H1-B holders into their existing American facilities that it would be to try to navigate the legalities of, and pay for the opening of a new facility overseas. Forcing them to increase salaries for H1-B holders may change the math on this. Take for example a team of 50 H1-B holders. If XYZ Corp is suddenly required to pay each of those people $20 000 more per year, that's a difference of $1 million. It may now make more sense to instead pay $500 000 to open an office in Mumbai and pay those same people their current salary -- they'd come out $500k ahead.

In effect, you may be taking those marginal cases where companies looked at the situation and decided offshoring wasn't going to save them enough money in relation to the problems it would cause, and push them over the edge. And once those jobs go, they probably aren't coming back.

I'm not arguing that there shouldn't be a solution to this -- I'm just note sure that forcing salary increases is the solution all on its own. You simply can't properly fix the problem while leaving the possibility of offshoring those same jobs on the table.


Comment Re:It means don't replace Americans with cheaper H (Score 3, Interesting) 834

XYZ Inc wants to import some entry-level coders, for $40K each ($20K cheaper than entry-level US workers)

I'm Canadian, and we don't really have this problem in the tech industry (other industries are a different matter...), thus I don't have a personal stake in what's happening in the US (other than the fact that I do routinely get calls from HR rep from large, well-known Internet companies that want to hire me and bring me down to the US, but I have solid reasons for not uprooting my family for such a move).

Personally, from what I've read on /., the situation you describe above sucks. We had a similar situation in my city a year or so ago when it was found that several McDonalds restaurants had been turning away student applications, and was using the Temporary Foreign Worker program to bring in foreign workers while claiming no local Canadian were interested in working for them. This is low skilled work, and it turned out there were lots of Canadians who wanted the jobs -- the local McDonalds franchisee just decided that he could bully foreigners into working long hours more easily. When this hit the news, the Government took action and rescinded their ability to bring in foreign workers, and (as I understand things) McDonalds rescinded their franchises. So I agree -- it's wrong, and it needs to stop.

But do you know what else sucks? By forcing XYZ Corp., to pay those entry-level coders more, they're likely to do the math and realize that it will be cheaper to just open up a foreign branch of XYZ Corp. in the country/countries most of these workers are originally from, and then pay them the local equivalent of $20k/year. Now not only have the jobs been lost for American workers, but all the money those workers would have spent in the US for housing, food, clothing, etc. is also gone. You can't offshore fast food, but you can offshore IT workers.

So I suppose the downside is that if XYZ Corp. does the math and realizes it's going to be cheaper to just offshore, it may not do a whole lot to help American IT workers. And it will doubly hurt when the wages they're paying don't get spent in the US either. I'm not saying H1-B's are the solution (I don't have a solution) -- but getting rid of them may not work out as some rosily hope.


Comment Eventually they will learn... (Score 1) 58

but when? When they collapse? They didn't learn from the Xcode / Intel debacle, they haven't learned from grinding machines to dust with CC (10 daemons, 50+ threads for background?!) They need self-contained standalone apps. They are the reason I suggest Pages, GIMP Acorn Pixelmator with PS / ID as a (very) last resort. PS5 was the last thing I bought with my own money. Bigger is not always better.

Comment Re:Can someone explain in laymans terms how.... (Score 4, Interesting) 334

... this endeavor was not simply a colossal waste of time?

Here's one interesting way to think about it. As per the article, scientists had used observations and measurements to predict that metallic hydrogen would require either 25GPa or (later) 380 - 400GPa of pressure. We now know that the known lower bound is somewhere around 465GPa. With this result, we can refine the models used in the original predictions and find out where they failed, and correct them.

With such corrections in hand, we may be able to make other predictions about hydrogen (or perhaps about other elements) with much more accuracy; and you just can't ever know where that might lead. It could lead to new battery technologies. It could lead to a better understanding of star formation. Maybe it revolutionizes material science.

That's the great thing about discovery -- it's often incremental, and you never know where a result might take you. At the very least, we can correct the models that once caused scientists to predict that 25GPa of pressure would turn hydrogen into a metal; where that can take us is an exciting unknown. Sometimes it's less about actually creating metallic hydrogen as much as it is what you learned along the way that becomes useful later.

(I'd think at the very least what has been learned about preventing diamond fragility at high pressures counts as a potentially immediately useful result -- although again, how someone might be able to use this in the future is an exciting question)


Comment Count me as one of the few 3D fans. (Score 1) 399

Count me in as one of 3D TV's few fans.

We bought our current TV a few years back (2012 or 2013 IIRC). We weren't specifically aiming to get a 3D (or even Smart) TV, however we lucked into a Cyber Monday deal that had a Sony KDL-46EX720 TV with a Sony 3D BluRay player for $750 (CDN) -- only one of three being offered in all of Western Canada. We scooped it up -- and for the most part it has been an excellent TV.

A year or so later we were able to pickup two pairs of 3D glasses while in the US (where they were half the price we could buy them in Canada for). I dove into as much 3D content as I could. Sony had at the time a great Internet "channel" in its Internet Video section which features all 3D videos, most of which were of UNESCO World Heritage sites. They were short, but those were great to watch. I'd watch 3D YouTube as well from time to time, and of course I own a bunch of 3D BluRay movies.

Unfortunately, first they shut down their 3D online channel, and then they decided not to update the set when YouTube changed its API (as I had predicted when we bought the TV, the "Smart" features wouldn't last all that long. As I said, I wasn't looking for a Smart TV. We don't use the Smart features at all anymore in favour of using our PS4 or Apple TV instead). There was never any regular 3D TV content available here in Western Canada (i.e.: no 3D broadcasts on cable or antenna), so the choice was between short Internet clips, or full blown movies.

I unfortunately missed the PS3 era; 3D doesn't work over PS Now, and there have been only a handful of 3D TV enabled games on the PS4. That was one area where 3D TV would have really shined; I regret never having had the opportunity to play ICO and Shadow of the Colossus in 3D.

My wife never got into the 3D viewing, so I'm the only one in the house who ever uses it. About the only time I get to use it is when I'm home alone, or after everyone else has gone to bed. Still, I did get Star Wars VII on 3D BluRay when it was released back in November, and have been enjoying watching it again in glorious 3D. I'll probably still buy our movies in 3D BluRay packs while I can (the 3D packs generally also come with the 2D BluRay, a 2D DVD, and a digital download copy, so they can be a really good deal), and will probably have to keep our current TV somewhere in the house for as long as it continues to function to watch them. Ultimately what did 3D TV in was the lack of content (particularly TV shows in the 30 mins - 1 hr range), the cost of the glasses (the TVs should have come with two pairs each, and not sold them as $100 each add-ons!), and general apathy towards wearing the glasses. Oh well -- it was fun while it lasted.


Comment Re:240hz (Score 1) 399

Except if I understand correctly the shutters are driven by the television itself. My version uses an external device to drive the shutters. The point is that there is little that needs to be done to make a 3d capable extened system with televisions that are still on sale.

I think the big problem would be properly synchronizing the shutter control to the screen. 240Hz is roughly only about 4ms per frame. Modern digital TVs impart a small delay between when a frame and received and when it shows up on screen. The box you propose would have to emit the signal to keep the glasses synchronized in time, however there is no guarantee that the glasses would then be in sync with the TV. You'd need either some sort of configuration system whereby the user could control the synchronization delay (which would be somewhat of a pain for end-users to setup), or you'd have to do something truly ingenious like somehow encode the sync signal into the frames themselves (current active shutter TVs generally use an IR out to sync the glasses to the screen).

I'm not saying it would be impossible, but there would be technical challenges that don't really exist when you're doing frame sync int he same physical unit that is handling the display as active 3D TVs currently function.


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