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Comment At the end of the day, nobody cares! (Score 1) 195

I am someone who does actually read the TOS for websites. I rarely like what I see and as a result, Slashdot is one of the very sites to which I subscribe.

However, the plain fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people don't read them and (here is the vital fact) almost always they don't subsequently feel that they have been disadvantaged as a result. For some strange reason, criminals and the generally dishonest are not setting up web sites, getting users to subscribe and then legally fleecing them. I am not suggesting silly things like First Born, but simple strategies like firstly including a clause saying you can unilaterally change the terms later (practically everyone does this) and then when you have a good few users change the rules to impose huge retrospective fees. Would this not work? I presume many people would challenge the bills in court and I have no idea what the courts would rule. Anyone know any case law?

It is clear to me that governments aren't interested either. Here in the UK, when you go into a shop you might often see a sign describing such things as their returns policy. At the bottom it will invariably say "Your statutory rights are not affected". This is because here consumers can't contract out of their basic consumer rights (e.g. if the product is faulty you are entitled to your money back and don't have to accept a voucher instead). There are some similar protections for buying things online (distance selling regulations) but none so far as I know that govern the contracts on web sites.

I strongly suspect that most smaller organisations don't even read their own TOS and simply copy them from someone else. I have often felt that with the vast majority of websites for which one might need to sign up being basically the same, it would be a good idea for the government to create three or four boilerplate TOSs to cover say 90% of cases. Web sites could then simply have a sign saying "Our web site is governed by UK Gov TOS 3" (I am sure a catchier title could be invented). Consumers wouldn't need to read the TOS because they were all the same and had been carefully checked, but web site owners would also benefit by knowing that their TOS had been well written (at someone else's expense) and would therefore be more likely to stand up in court than one they copied from another similar site and then got their nephew doing law at high school to tweak.

Comment Perfect? No. Better? No idea! (Score 1) 609

So far as I can see, these articles express the view that a society based entirely on objective decision making wouldn't be perfect and therefore shouldn't be considered. Well, Duh! Surely it is completely obvious that it wouldn't be perfect, not least because there are large areas of the human condition not amenable to the scientific approach.

But, surely the question is not whether such a society would be perfect, but whether it would be better - on average - than other arrangements currently on offer. I have no idea what the answer to that question is, but may I submit that if one is to postulate such a society then that is precisely the question which needs to be asked.

Comment Re:Awful (Score 4, Informative) 208

Firstly, the Prime Minister can be a member of the House of Lords, although that hasn't happened in modern times. Lord Salisbury was the last Lords PM (1886 to 1892). He had previously been an elected Member of Parliament but had been elevated to the Lords (1868) before becoming PM. Cabinet Ministers can be from the Lords, although the only current full such cabinet member from is Baroness Stowell of Beeston who is the leader of the Lords. There are however several current 'deputy' ministers from the Lords including Baroness Joanna Shields who is the Minister for Internet Safety and Security (I think that means internet censorship).

Also, the Prime Minister doesn't have to be the leader of the largest party, but in practice they always are since Parliament can throw out any Prime Minister they don't like and clearly the biggest party will like their leader best.

Comment Re: How can this work with European smart cards? (Score 2) 181

So, the big problem with Chip+PIN is that you have to keep the card in for the duration of the transaction? Seriously? Good grief people in the USA must be short of things to be inconvenienced by!

I have to say that I didn't quite understand all of your explanation, but fortunately as I never to the the USA I don't need to (Phew!). Do I however deduce that before long mag stripes will be disappearing from your cards and the rest of us can then give them up as well?

BTW, why doesn't the candy store put up a sign saying "No card transactions below $5". Plenty of shops in the UK do, but perhaps you have a law (or more likely hundreds of different laws) against it.

I can confirm that the switch to Chip and PIN caused very few problems here in the UK. At least not that I as a consumer noticed, it might have been a pain for the shop owners.

Comment Re: How can this work with European smart cards? (Score 3, Insightful) 181

Therein lies the problem. Here in Europe (and practically all of the rest of the world) we have switched to CHIP and PIN which allegedly makes skimming much more difficult. Unfortunately, this technology appears to be too complex for Americans to understand so we all have to have mag stripes on our cards as well just in case we ever go there. I never go to the USA, so the mag stripes on my cards are entirely useless other than for skimmers.

Does anyone know of any UK banks which offer a "I am never going to go to North America so please send me a card with a blank mag stripe" service or even a "I sometimes go to North America so please send me two cards, one with mag and one without" service?

Comment Re:Saddled with Windows 10 (Score 1) 314

Yes, Microsoft may have an incentive to use things like UEFI to make it harder and harder to run anything other than their latest OS on new hardware. They may even have the gall to try to move to a subscription model so that you have to keep paying even if you don't want to upgrade (didn't I read that Adobe did something like that?).

Fortunately, devices like the Raspberry Pi are very hard for MS to control and the latest versions are getting fast enough to use as a normal Linux PC.

Comment Re:False Advertising (Score 2) 232

As I understand it, it was always perfectly clear that the vote was not binding and merely a mechanism to collect suggestions. David Attenborough did get a substantial number of votes and those who voted for that name were probably rather more interested in suitably naming a polar research vessel than just having a laugh.

Having said that, allowing a completely open vote online rather than allowing people to choose from a short list was clearly a daft idea and asking for trouble. They were lucky that the most popular name was at least repeatable in polite company.

Comment Re:The canceller is the clever bit (Score 2) 33

No true!

I fear that you have entirely failed to grasp the point I was making. It is true that the transmit signal is many orders of magnitude stronger than the receive signal, but one cannot fix that entirely with the circulator, no matter how good it is. Time for circulator and antenna 101!

I typical ferrite circulator has three ports (let's call them A, B and C). Energy put into port A comes out of B, energy into B and out C and in C to out A. You get the idea. Now, as with everything in life, circulators aren't perfect and they have a parameter called 'isolation'. I typical value for a modern circulator is 20dB (or a power factor of 100). This means that if I for example put 100W into port A, then 99W will come out of port B and 1W will go the wrong way and come out of port C (in practice a little bit of the power will be lost internally as heat). Supposing that I connect A to the transmitter, B to the antenna and C to the receiver. In my example I will get 1W flowing into the receiver which could be 100dB (10^10) more than the intended receive signal. Clearly something else needs to be done, but making the circulator better won't help. Why?

Because of reason (b) in my comment - the return loss of the antenna. Antennas also aren't perfect and they have a parameter called return loss. An ideal antenna will take all the power from the transmitter and convert it into electro-magnetic waves propagating away. Real antennas however have imperfections and some of the power from the transmitter goes into the antenna and bounces back out again. A typical value for a good antenna is 20dB. Really good narrow band waveguide antennas (e.g. a decent radar) might manage 30dB, but the antenna on you mobile phone or Wi-Fi base station may well only manage 10dB. So, where does that leave us?

Returning to my example. 100W comes out of the transmitter and 99W goes to the antenna. If it has a 20dB return loss (if we are lucky) then 1W (give or take) will bounce back into circulator port B and nearly all of that will emerge from port C and go into the receiver. So, the receiver is getting 1W due to circulator imperfections and about 1W due to antenna imperfections. We can improve our circulator until the cows come home and the most we will do is reduce the power into the receiver from 2W to 1W which isn't going to save the day.

As I said in my comment, the real cleverness here is not the design of the circulator (which is probably as good as it needs to be), but the amazing performance claimed for the subsequent (and not very well described) canceller.

Comment The canceller is the clever bit (Score 4, Interesting) 33

The gist of what is clever here is the canceller which removes the transmitted signal from the receiver. Circulators have been around for donkey's years (not just in military systems) but they are bulky (especially at lower frequencies such as those for mobile comms). The are often used to allow a single antenna to operate at both transmit and receive either alternately (e.g. radar) or on different frequencies (e.g. satcom). Making a solid state one is clever, but this isn't the first one.

However, some of your transmit signal will always end up in the receiver for three reasons; (a) the circulator isn't perfect, (b) the antenna doesn't have a perfect match so some of the transmit energy sent to it bounces back again and (c) energy can reflect back from the immediate environment. Cancelling schemes exist, and invariably consist of some mechanism for sampling the transmitted signal and feeding just the right amount back into the receiver exactly out of phase. In theory this works, but in most practical circumstances the extremely high level of cancellation needed requires a completely unachievable precision.

For added pain, the solution tends to be very narrow band and the cancellor's settings have to be continually updated as the transmit interference changes (particularly in a mobile environment due to (c)).

If they have managed to make this work in a practical and useful way then it will be very impressive, but I would need to see some real world experiments to be convinced of its practicality.

Comment Re:I still don't understand how this will work (Score 1) 265

The point I am making (Derp) is that location isn't enough. Even if I could enter the coordinate the car will still need to know about such niceties as one way roads and local traffic rules. Example: Sometimes I go and park at another site where some areas are shared with aircraft movements which involves a load of specific driving rules.

Now, on the public highway all complexities like one way systems can be gathered and entered into the system, but for private land this sounds a lot more difficult. It seems to me that a far simpler solution is some simple driving controls allowing you to manoeuvre the vehicle at least at slower speeds.

Comment Re:I still don't understand how this will work (Score 1) 265

How will it know where the main entrance is? How will it know which main entrance (I work on a huge site with several well dispersed buildings)? Will it need some kind of map of all private land of that nature? Will the voice controls know about things like tractors and chickens or will it be more like "Forward 10 metres", "Now turn left" in which case surely it would be easier and less frustrating just to have some manual controls (perhaps a joy stick a bit like driving a disabled mobility vehicle.

As for it being a different one next time because they are like taxis, well great in theory, but the leaving stuff behind problem is only going to get more serious as I get older and even more befuddled. Plus, how can the system guarantee that one will be available when I decide to leave work? My work site is a good 15 minute drive outside town and I don't intend to hang around whilst a spare one struggles out to me.

It seems to me that whilst cars without manual controls may be fine for some people, manufacturers will be happy to offer them as an "optional extra" which in practice most people will buy.

Comment I still don't understand how this will work (Score 3, Interesting) 265

Now, I can just about grasp that a self driving car can be constructed that will navigate on the road, but that is not all that a car has to do. Let's look at a couple of examples:

1) Suppose I live on a small farm or ranch and you are coming to visit me in your car. I might say "When you get here, come up the drive, turn left at the old tractor and park behind the barn next to the chickens". With a conventional car this should be easy, but what if you have one of these Google cars with no controls. Presumably it will find my address and arrive at the end of the drive. Given that there are no manual controls, how would you tell it the bit about the tractor and chickens? Will you just be able to type that in and it will be clever enough to follow those instructions?

2) What about parking at work? I work on a big site with several car parks. How will I describe to the car which one I want to park in. They don't have separate Zip codes.

Comment Re:Landline is it for me. (Score 1) 307

Well, I'm in the UK, so it's ADSL but basically yes. My ISP will supply a line with no phone number which as you suggest only works for emergency calls (999 or 112 here).

Thinking about it, the various schemes suggested by others for having DECT phones connected to a mobile via Bluetooth are rather clever, but I don't see how it would give me any big advantage over my current arrangement. I'd also need a new mobile as the current one doesn't have Bluetooth. I wouldn't save on line rental as I still need the line for ADSL and the call costs to and from mobiles are higher. A better plan which I have been considering is to go over entirely to VOIP. My ISP will sell me a VOIP service and I already have Asterisk running on my server and connected to my DECT base station which also does SIP. Call costs would be lower than with the landline but the user experience with the DECT phones would stay the same (very important for my better half).

I could even take advantage of my ISPs SIP2SIM service to get a SIM card which links directly to the same system.

Comment Re:Landline is it for me. (Score 1) 307

We have a landline at home and have never thought of getting rid of it. Apart from the fact that it is the medium by which our broadband appears there also seem to be some big conveniences which we couldn't achieve with mobiles (which we also have) but perhaps we are behind the times and there are ways around these limitations with using mobiles instead of a landline.

1) On the land line we have a DECT base station with three handsets scattered around the house. If someone rings then there is a good chance that one of the handsets will be near at hand. If I only had a mobile then I would either have to remember to always carry it with me as I went from room to room (even in my pyjamas) or put up with the fact that it would always ring when I was at the other end of the house and I would have to sprint up or down stairs to answer it. With my advancing years, I neither want to sprint around the house or try to remember to lug my phone from room to room.

2) Often, relatives don't want to phone a particular family member, but rather the family in general. We could I suppose have yet another mobile which was always at home for this purpose, but otherwise callers would have to make a guess about who is in before deciding which mobile to call.

3) The batteries thing again. The DECT phones sit on chargers so they always work. Mobiles go flat quick if left on, but by only switching them on when we go out they need charging less often.

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