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


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

Comment Re:Hey, cable companies: (Score 3, Insightful) 200

No, the city only provides the pipe, an ISP provides the actual internet service.

The city IS the ISP. Lmgtfy: here: "SandyNet is the Internet Service Provider owned by the people of Sandy and operated as a public service by the City of Sandy." Now tell me again how the city only owns the pipes. Tell my how ANY municipal ISP service "only provides the pipes". If they only provide the pipes, they aren't an ISP -- BY DEFINITION.

I wasn't talking about Sandy, OR, I was talking about my local municipal fiber network, Utopia, that link is a list of the 9 different ISPs that provide service on the network. Comcast and Century Link have also been invited to provide ISP service on the network, but they prefer to lobby the state government to shut down Utopia, just like in Virginia. As the article notes, this isn't the people telling their government to ban municipal networks, this is the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, a cable industry group, pushing the legislation.

An open municipal network provides way more competition that currently exists because it lowers the barriers to entry for ISPs,

You have got to be joking. It increases the barriers to entry. If you know that you're going to have to charge a price for services that competes with a non-profit taxpayer backed service that can operate at a loss, you're not going to try. Your barrier is now the fight you'll have to make to get any subscribers, and a need to make a profit.

I am talking about ISPs that run over the municipal network. Any company that meets the basic requirements are free to offer internet, phone or video services on the network. The barriers of entry are much lower than a service provider that has to string cable across the city (if they are even allowed to).

If you are in favor of healthy competition you should be in favor of municipal networks.

The world of 1984 and Ministry of Truth has arrived.

No, ignorance is not truth and freedom is not slavery. This isn't 1984, and my city government is not Big Brother. How many ISPs can you get gigabit internet from? I have at least 10 that I know of, if that's not competition then what is?

At its core, government is the people banding together to provide those same people with services. It's no different than a farm co-op. Yes, government (particularly at the national level) is growing much larger than I would like to see it but at the local level there is still a great deal of control by the people and a method for firing elected officials that don't use the people's money wisely. You are just so convinced that government == bad (and probably taxation == theft) that you just can't even conceive the notion of the government providing a useful service for the people. Society doesn't exist for businesses to make a profit, it exists to better the lives of the people in the society. I think that basic services that everyone or most everyone in the city use should be provided by the government to keep costs down - because the people banding together to provide the service is more efficient (read: cheaper) than having a company do it with the associated profit margin. These services include roads, police, firefighters, water, sewer, power, and in my view, communications. If it's something that everyone needs to use then why should the people pay a middleman (a for profit company) to build such services when they can provide it themselves, via government.

Incidentally, here is a White House report on how municipal networks spur competition, but I'm sure you'll immediately discount it because Obama is the debbil.

I can see you're ideologically opposed to municipal networks and I'm unlikely to change that so I'll quit trying. I have used one for years and it works great for me. I hope the companies threatened by the network fail in their efforts to buy legislation to shut it down.

Comment Re:Hey, cable companies: (Score 2) 200

I choose my own ISP and can easily switch if they do something I don't like, which certainly can't be said of the cable company monopoly that exists in most places.

Uhh, you can chose not to use the municipal service, but you can't choose not to pay taxes. You CAN choose not to use Comcast and you won't pay Comcast a dime if you don't use them. You can switch just as easily if it is Comcast or Citycast.

No, the city only provides the pipe, an ISP provides the actual internet service. There is competition among ISPs, where there isn't among the traditional providers (telco and cableco)

And the alleged "cable monopoly" isn't really, since there is no monopoly for ISPs and never has been. The only monopoly that used to exist was for cable TV service, but "video content" no longer has any monopolies, and "Internet" has never had one.

There is a monopoly on the infrastructure. No other cable companies are allowed to run lines to each house, only the one that the government has selected. If you are so against government, why do you support a government-enforced cable monopoly? No, there isn't a monopoly on video service but there is an effective duopoly on internet service in most places (cable and telco). The telco monopoly got watered down by the government, mandating that they allow the leasing of lines to other providers. However the baby bells have a lot of experience with thwarting such regulations (horrible provisioning process for 3rd party providers, extra downtime on leased lines, etc.) but the cable companies have no such regulations and in most places have a monopoly on coaxial cable to residences and businesses. There is a reason Comcast has consistently been voted the MOST hated company in America, when you have a monopoly there's no reason to provide good service.

As you observe above, the city can provide the service cheaper than a private company because they don't need to make a profit, they just need to break even.

As I also observe, they don't need to break even. They can operate at a loss to drive out the commercial competition -- something that the FTC would be investigating were it one commercial venture trying to bankrupt another by such means. People complain vociferously about Walmart coming to town and driving the local mom and pop stores out of business because they cut prices, but at least Walmart has to make a profit overall. City run internet services don't need to do even that much, so why is it ok for them to drive out competition when it's so evil if Walmart does it?

No, they don't need to break even, but they can. They don't drive out competition, they encourage it. I can choose from a number of different ISPs instead of just one or two. You seem to think that profit is a good thing, but from a consumer's perspective it's a bad thing. Competition is a good thing but for internet service most places don't have that. An open municipal network provides way more competition that currently exists because it lowers the barriers to entry for ISPs, making a more diverse marketplace. I'm not one of the people who rail against Walmart, they were able to put mom and pops out of business because mom and pops are mostly inefficient. The cable companies and telcos are also very inefficient but they are not punished by the market because of their effective monopolies. If you are in favor of healthy competition you should be in favor of municipal networks.

Comment Re:Hey, cable companies: (Score 3, Informative) 200

It's amazing how cheap internet can be when the "company" providing it doesn't have to worry about a profit

Yes, it sure is. A normal business needs to charge cost of business+profit where government only needs to charge cost of doing business.

or keeping the shareholders happy, and they don't have to provide service to everyone who is putting money into the system.

There are tons of things that people pay taxes for where they don't receive a direct benefit. For example, childless people paying for schools or paying for public transit when you never use it. Much like municipal fiber networks, even if you don't directly utilize the service it still makes your city a better place to live. Having good schools, transit and internet encourages companies to locate in your city (which can lower your taxes) and also can encourage high-income people to locate in your city (which also can lower your taxes). Sometimes doing things for the public good is the best path even if you don't partake of the particular service.

That being said, I do live in a city with a municipal fiber network and I have used it ever since it was installed, for the last 10 years or so. I have never had a problem with it and it has always been a much better level of service than I ever got from Comcast (who was my former internet provider and my current cable provider). It's superior from a technical point of view as well as from a customer service point of view. I choose my own ISP and can easily switch if they do something I don't like, which certainly can't be said of the cable company monopoly that exists in most places. As you observe above, the city can provide the service cheaper than a private company because they don't need to make a profit, they just need to break even.

Comment Re:Thanks Obama! (Score 4, Insightful) 373

While I agree with everything you just said, both of your proposed solutions are the exact opposite of the Republican platform on healthcare reform. That isn't hyperbole, the core of their plan is to increase reliance on private insurance and push more responsibility to the states.

Indeed, the Republican platform is to funnel even more money to private insurance. In fact, Paul Ryan's Medicare "reform" plan is to push all Medicare recipients onto private plans (but still paid for by the government, via vouchers) so that the private companies can make even more profits. According to this article, Medicare administrative costs are about 2% of operating expenditures while private insurance runs about 17%. This doesn't include marketing or profits for the private insurance, with those items the overhead is 20-25%. So up to a quarter if the money paid for insurance to these companies doesn't even go to actual care and Ryan wants to push our our seniors into that environment, while the rest of us pay for it (or don't, just run up the debt some more). Ryan's plan would be a huge government handout to the insurance companies, even larger than Obamacare, which was a MASSIVE insurance company handout. As this article observes, the Republican base are the exact people who would benefit most from lower-cost healthcare but for some reason in every election they manage to vote against their own self-interest. It's just mind-boggling, it seems like they would be willing to set their own world on fire rather than see a single person get something from the government that they didn't "deserve".

Comment Re:In this economy? (Score 1) 564

I was all prepped to dismiss this as hipster BS, but I did think the points about artist budgets was worth thinking over.

The cost of producing digital music is low, but the profit from selling a digital track is low too if selling through the main distributors. I can understand that if you're playing at venues or on the road, that selling digital tracks is a pretty crummy way to make a spare buck. So sure, if you can have cassettes ready to go, and folks are willing to buy them and can play them...maybe I can see a niche.

That said, a blank cassette costs $1-2 or so from my quick Google. A blank CD costs $0.30 or less. So I'm not sure why one "old" physical medium would be preferable over a cheaper one except for hipster cred. The article only mentions tapes vs vinyl. No mention of the lowly CD.

Exactly, the article claims it's not about hipsterism then spends the rest of the article comparing tapes to vinyl, which is all about hipsterism. The first quote in the article does nothing to refute that impression:

"It's nice to only be able to listen to what's in front of you, instead of having the entirety of music at your fingertips with Spotify and all that," says Molholt of his growing tape collection. "There’s also something warm and fuzzy about tapes to me, maybe in a nostalgic kind of way."

So he's saying he likes it because of limited choice and crappy sound reproduction. As you observe above, it makes no financial sense for any band to sell tapes at their shows rather than CDs. The only reasons to sell tapes would be nostalgia (for the oldsters) and being retro-hipster (for the younguns). Tapes have bad sound, are prone to breakage (both the tapes themselves and the machines used to play them) and cost more than CDs. I think I'll continue to get my music in a digital format and leave the tapes to the highly impressionable and the member-berry addicts.

Comment Re:That's not what Biometrics is for (Score 1) 119

Biometrics: securing your data via non-changeable, non-secret data.

Biometrics should *never* be used in a situation where the input is not controlled. For example, it is okay to use it as part of a border crossing, it is *not* okay to use it on a door lock. It is okay to use it on a phone, as the goal there is "prevent someone from quickly unlocking your phone if you step away for a moment and you trust them not to steal it" - in any other situation, a person with physical access to your phone can already compromise it, so alternatives don't significantly increase security.

But someone with physical access to your phone can't already compromise it, if it's a later model iPhone, at least not according to the FBI. The FBI asked the court to compel Apple to create an exploitable OS so that they could break into a phone, presumably because they could not access it even though they had physical possession. With the later models that have the secure enclave, even that wouldn't have sufficed to break into the phone. Given enough time and effort (and Apple's signing key), it might still be possible but it's not like in the old days of computers where physical access == pwned.

Comment Re:"Toxic" diesel exhaust? (Score 1) 154

The exhaust from diesel power can stink and it can condense on surfaces leaving a sticky film that attracts dirt. But it's not "toxic". No one has ever murdered anyone with diesel fumes, no one has killed himself in his closed garage by sitting in the diesel-powered car with the engine running.

While diesel exhaust is largely carbon dioxide, it also contains carbon monoxide which can kill you pretty quickly. It also has many components that can cause cancer, primarily lung cancer. If course it's toxic.


Comment Re:The future is electric (Score 1) 154

Your problem is that the only solution you can envision to get power to your car is running a cable from your home directly to your car. A better solution is to install charging points where people park, whether it is on the street or in a garage. Many streets already have power infrastructure (to run streetlights, parking meters, etc.) it's not too big of a stretch to imagine car charging points installed alongside the road where people commonly park. Yes, there is a lot more power required and it probably won't be cheap but installing huge petrol tanks underground and creating a large system of fueling stations wasn't cheap either. It's not going to happen overnight and I'm sure there will be plenty of growing pains along the way but the conversion to electric cars is going to happen sooner or later, we might as well make the transition as smoothly as possible.

Comment Re:Nuclear Tsunami (Score 3, Insightful) 135

In case a 'big' asteroid hits the ocean (70% chance), it 'll create a giant tsunami, and because 100+ of the world Nuclear plants are located close to the oceans ...the indirect long-term after-effects could be devastating.

Yep, just like in Japan in 2011. The tsunami killed around 18,000 people and the nuclear meltdown killed none (well, a couple of workers died in the response and several people died in the evacuation, but none died from radiation). There were massive fires that burned in the debris (both on land and sea) through the night releasing all kinds of nasty shit into the air which further harmed the health of the survivors. Even with all that death and devastation the radiation from the nuclear plant that killed nobody was all anyone could talk about. Yes, it was a massive accident and will cost a shitload of money to clean up and might result in some increased cancer risk down the road (but the most likely cancer, thyroid cancer, is highly treatable) but if your concern is about dying, nuclear plants are not a huge problem. In the kind of event you are talking about (a huge asteroid/comet hitting the ocean causing a tsunami) the major concern is going to be the millions or billions of people dead in the immediate aftermath, not some nuclear plants releasing radioactive material in an area that has already been swept clean of all life. Yes, we should design these plants so that they fail safe and are able to continue to cool themselves without any outside intervention but the actual risk to human health is pretty damn low.

Comment Re:But... (Score 1) 139

there is nothing illegal about counting cards in poker, as it has no effect on the game. Try it in Blackjack on the other hand...

There's nothing illegal about counting cards in blackjack either, although multi-deck shoes and continuous shuffle machines have largely made it irrelevant. In the old one-deck days, if the casino noticed you counting (or just winning too much) they would just "ask" you to leave.

Comment Re: I don't care wtf... (Score 1, Insightful) 531

Carrier got $7M in tax benefits over the next 10 years in return for them investing $16M into upgrading the plant and keeping 300 jobs.

300 jobs * 40k median salary = 12M with an effective tax rate of ~25% = 3M/y between state and federal through income taxes

Your figures aren't accurate for a number of different reasons.

1. Why do you count federal tax? This money was a state tax deal (Trump does not yet have the power to make deals for the federal government), this deal was done on the authority of Pence as the Governor of Indiana. If the feds aren't giving any money for the deal, why do you count money that they receive as offsetting the cost of the deal?

2. You assume that if the deal doesn't happen, that the state won't receive any revenue from the employees in the next 10 years. Most or all of the employees are likely to be employed again and paying taxes to the state.

3. Why do you think the effective tax rate of someone that makes $40k is 25%? A single person who grosses $40k and has no deductions has an AGI of under $30,000 after a personal exemption of $4,050 and a standard deduction of $6,300. On an AGI of $30,000 the federal income tax is $4036 (13.5%) and the Indiana state income tax is $990 (3.3%). We should really only be counting the second one (see point 1) so for your 300 employees Indiana is paying Carrier $700k per year and they are getting back $297k in tax revenue, as well as providing state services for those employees and the company. Of course, if they are married, have children, or have other deductions that tax rate is likely to be even lower but let's use the best-case scenario.

Spending $700k/y to gain $3M/y seems a reasonable business deal for a government to take. Even if you just focus on state taxes, you're at least going to break even.

Spending $700k a year to get $297k in revenue is not a good deal. The alternative is to spend $0 and get somewhere in the neighborhood of $297k (perhaps some of the laid off workers don't get as good of a job or don't get a job at all in the next 10 years). It's not a good deal for the state even if you do break even, the citizen pays $1 in taxes and the government then gives that $1 to the company that employs the citizen - how does that benefit the state? Take it to the extreme, say every company in Indiana has this deal, so every time a citizen pays his taxes the government gives those tax dollars back to the company that employs him. How does the government pay for any services, how does it build roads or hire police or feed hungry kids? If only some of the companies get the deal, then the employees of the companies that don't get the deal end up paying for everything. I thought the government picking winners and losers was supposed to be a bad thing according to free-market conservatives, when did that change?

If you can replicate this model 10x, then yes, that is a good thing.

No, if you replicate this deal 10x you have 10x the loss. So instead of losing $403k a year on the deal you can lose $4 million.

To sum up, it's a horrible deal for Indiana, it's a slightly good deal for the economy as a whole and it's a great deal for Carrier. You can't prevent offshoring manufacturing by bribing the companies with tax dollars, you need to make structural changes -- not that it matters, robots and AI will only get better and manufacturing jobs will continue to fall worldwide.

Comment Re:Title is wildly misleading (Score 1) 107

As commented above, the article at:

notes that all 3 stages are solid propellant systems.I see no mention of liquid propellants, though there may be some for the spin-up and station keeping.

If this really is a completely solid propellant system, the cost savings would be incredible. One number I saw was 1/3 the cost of traditional systems. At least for earth orbit, that should give the Space-X crew some competition for a while - which is good for everyone.

I agree that this could be a cost-efficient way to get to orbit, but it's not competition for the Falcon 9. This launch boosted a 365 kg satellite into GTO. The Falcon 9 can boost 8,300 kilograms into GTO. The Epsilon costs $38M per launch, so for this launch the cost to orbit was about $104K per kilogram. The Falcon 9 costs $62M, so for a max payload mission it would cost about $7500 per kilogram. They're not even in the same ballpark.

Slashdot Top Deals

Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. -- Quentin Crisp