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Comment Re:Of course not (Score 1) 190

Distributed ledgers have some value, but there are not many applications where the cost of the bitcoin approach is justified. All this talk of the blockchain in the finance industry is interesting but frankly smacks a bit too much of "me too" bandwagonism for my liking. I really struggle to understand the benefits of a distributed ledger in most financial transactions. Certainly can't understand the value with latency and volume constraints like the current bitcoin implementation.

I think public key cryptography is _vastly_ more important than the blockchain to name just one.

Comment Re:Good news. (Score 1) 80

It's a complicated question that presents me with difficulties. Let us assume that we live in a country with separate Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers. Despite failings, this is largely true of the UK. If the executive (police etc) want to spy on someone they need a legislative authority and I would like them to have a second, independent, step by which someone evaluates if the purpose of their spying is within the legislative authority. That would be a judge. I am not convinced that the Home Secretary (which is an Executive position) is the right institution to be conducting this evaluation. A judicial oversight would be more comforting methinks.

I don't have a problem with the state hacking for the purposes of investigation. Placing the existence of this capability into the public domain certainly impacts the probative value of information found on a device (the planting of false evidence becoming likewise easier). This is akin to weight of the finding of physical evidence with the probability of the planting of false physical evidence with the warranted access to a suspect's property or person. Corruption is the problem here, not the means by which it is effected.

What concerns me most of all is the creation of legal processes which are not subject to the scrutiny of public view. It is this issue that should be at the top of all the agitation about the progress of these courses of action. Secret courts or injunctions, the existence of which cannot be mentioned are frightening and indeed so Kafkaesque as to be worthy of new round of parable fiction.

Comment Re:I found another unicorn! (Score 1) 317

(51% of the water in CA is given to animal agriculture.)

Are you sure? That number seems well out of whack from my understanding of how water is used in most agricultural water systems. First you probably mean that as a percentage of the water consumed because it is unlikely that more than 50% of the water in California is consumed, most of it will be used to manage the system itself (checking facts.... yep... So once you correct for that detail and turn to agriculture, fixed plantings and cropping are metered and use giga litres per annum but livestock water is such an insignificant amount that it's not even metered (as long as the pipe is small enough). Perhaps in the US (and the big valley in particular) feed is a big part of that cropping.... rudimentary googling suggests it is nearer to 25% than 50% and that includes alfalfa or nearer to 10% if you are measuring irrigated pastures. It's a bit different where I am from since we don't usually irrigate pasture except for dairy use.

I wholeheartedly disagree with almost everything you say, but if you are going to run the argument you may as well use facts a little closer to the reality. Who knows your argument might even hold water for some folk under those condition, if you will excuse the pun.

Comment IANAE (Score 2) 213

I am an econometrician (well sort of), which is probably worse, but at least we know that. But economics, independent of any data set availability or actual method problems, is broadly handicapped by the generally unobservable nature of the actual data that would enable the verification (or refutation) of a hypothesis. That is, much of the data is quite noisy with many variables mixed in with each other, and as such a big part of the work is trying to determine the extent to which the data itself is a useful measure of the thing being tested. Sometimes getting to a useful dataset is dependent on some awkward assumptions. As such, one of the biggest faults of Economic Theory is assuming a can opener (


Shuttleworth Says Snappy Won't Replace .deb Linux Package Files In Ubuntu 15.10 232

darthcamaro writes: Mark Shuttleworth, BDFL of Ubuntu is clearing the air about how Ubuntu will make use of .deb packages even in an era where it is moving to its own Snappy ('snaps') format of rapid updates. Fundamentally it's a chicken and egg issue. From the serverwatch article: "'We build Snappy out of the built deb, so we can't build Snappy unless we first build the deb,' Shuttleworth said. Going forward, Shuttleworth said that Ubuntu users will still get access to an archive of .deb packages. That said, for users of a Snappy Ubuntu-based system, the apt-get command no longer applies. However, Shuttleworth explained that on a Snappy-based system there will be a container that contains all the deb packages. 'The nice thing about Snappy is that it's completely worry-free updates,' Shuttleworth said."

Ask Slashdot: Best Data Provider When Traveling In the US? 142

An anonymous reader writes: I am visiting USA 3-4 times a year and I need a data service. I also need to keep my cell phone number, so swapping the SIM card in my phone is not an option. I have bought those 19.95$ phones in Best-Buy to get a local number, but those were voice only. So I have been thinking about getting a MiFi hotspot.

I have been looking at pre-paid plans from Verizon(only 700 LTE band for their pre-paid hotspot), AT&T, T-Mobile etc. perhaps to put in a MiFi hotspot or buy a hotspot from a provider, but have no idea which one to use, their reputation, real life coverage etc. It is clear that all data plans in the USA are really expensive, I get 100GB monthly traffic with my Scandinavian provider for the same price as 6-8 GB monthly in the US, which I guess could be a problem with our Apple phones as they do not recognize a metered WiFi hotspot. But that is another issue. I travel all over but most of the time outside the big cities -- and my experience from roaming with my own phone and the cheap local phone so far tells me that coverage fluctuates wildly depending on the operator.

NASA Scientists Paint Stark Picture of Accelerating Sea Level Rise 382

A NASA panel yesterday announced widely reported finding that global sea levels have risen about three inches since 1992, and that these levels are expected to keep rising as much as several more feet over the next century -- on the upper end of model-based predictions that have been made so far. From the Sydney Morning Herald piece linked above: NASA says Greenland has lost an average of 303 gigatons [of ice] yearly for the past decade. Since it takes 360 gigatons to raise sea level by a millimetre, that would suggest Greenland has done this about eight times over just in the last 10 years or so. "People need to be prepared for sea level rise," said Joshua Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. "It's not going to stop."

Comment Staggering Amount of Money (Score 1) 186

As an outsider, who writes software for a living (proper, highly available transactional systems [finance industry but I do know some general stuff]). This amount of money is simply staggering. Even if we assume the published number (4.3B), 3% inflation, a relatively aggressive annualised ROI and 10 years over which to apply the costs, that turns into between 80 and 160 [20% ROI to 10% _annual_ ROI] million dollars per year in costs. IN COSTS. Even if you margin those costs at 33% (profit is already accounted for so the margin is on costs and risk) that's still 50 - 100 million dollars a year of costs to develop and support this system every year for 10 years. WTF kind of project are they planning? People have written software that changed the freaking world with a fraction of that amount of money.

Now having said all that, I have a little window on the way a different government developed their budget for an IT project. They knew that the new project would make 60 people redundant so they looked at the cost of those people, multiplied it by some number of years for the scope of the new system and went... There you go 30 million dollars.

  There is something very, very, very wrong with government.

BTW, There are about 20M veterans in the USA, give em all 200 bucks and let them keep scans of their own records on a freaking thumb drive. Backed up to, S3 or something. That might even actually work!

Comment Railroad switches managed by PDP-11 (Score 1) 620

A few years back I did some consulting for one of the big cargo train companies. They had a big mission control type room with maps of all the tracks they manage, with lights indicating switch status and train positions and so forth. The actual switches were managed by a bunch of racks full of PDP-11s running RSX-11, equipped with digital I/O boards linked to the switch motors and sensor relays out in the field. The computer room was amazing, immaculately clean and completely free of static, with air cleaners that popped periodically when they caught a piece of dust. I asked them why they still used those, seeing as there are much more modern computers capable of doing the exact same job, and they replied that they just didn't have faith that new machines would be as reliable.

Comment Re:Taxi licenses are crazy expensive (Score 1) 334

Medallion owners bought the medallions with the understanding that they were buying into a limited monopoly.

Maybe it should be clarified here that when you see someone claim that it's not the government charging $200,000 for a taxi medallion, that's just the going price on the secondary market. You know, good old capitalism, where people are bidding up the price of a __un__necessarily limited commodity.

The taxi authority looks at population, traffic flow and transportation needs and comes up with a number of taxis that they think should be on the street. Every year, they add new medallions into the system, usually with a lottery. The idea is not so much to protect the cab drivers (cities don't care about cab drivers. If they did, they wouldn't make the minor traffic fines, like your cab being 10 inches over the line of a designated taxi waiting zone, as much as $500 (which practically wipes out the cab driver's week), but to keep the number of taxis from getting so crazy that you have cabs clogging up city centers, fighting for fares.

There you go, I fixed that for you.

If the regulators approach to the problem described was the correct one then why can't I get a fucking cab when I want one? There are many more solutions to the problem of oversupply that you identify, indeed one can quite happily argue that Uber actually have one.

Comment Who cares, you can just turn them off. (Score 1) 531

Tiles are nothing new; I immediately found them annoying and have always turned them off. These new "sponsored" tiles will only appear on the existing tiles page, which can still be turned off:

When you first launch Firefox, a message on the new tab page informs you what tiles are (with a link to a support page about how sponsored tiles work), promises that the feature abides by the Mozilla Privacy Policy, and reminds you that you can simply turn tiles off. If you do turn them off, you’ll get a blank new tab page and will avoid Firefox’s ads completely, including these upcoming suggested tiles.

So, it really doesn't matter.

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