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Comment Re:Join the slashdot farewell: (Score 2) 526

Maybe I'm missing something but isn't the entire point of the fuckbeta campaign to ruin the experience of coming here, to demonstrate to the idiots in charge of Slashdot that their website is worthless without our cooperative participation and contributions? By doing your best to quell our political dissent it could be said that it is you who are collaborating with Dice to flush our mutually favorite website down the toilet of corporate mediocrity.

The one last desperate chance we have to save this site (such as it is) is to destroy it, at least temporarily. I apologize for inconveniencing you during our brief struggle with corporate greed/stupidity.

And no, I will not hide behind anonymity.

Hopefully it's going to get real quiet in here in about twelve hours and you and your fellow collaborators can feel free to get together and blow smoke up each other's butts and pretend nothing is wrong in the resulting echo chamber.

Fuck beta, and boycott Slashdot Feb. 10th to 17th.

Submission + - Slashdot beta sucks 9

An anonymous reader writes: Maybe some of the slashdot team should start listening to its users, most of which hate the new user interface. Thanks for ruining something that wasn't broken.

Comment Re:Is It Safe? (Score 3, Informative) 112

Since epidemiology is well outside my area of expertise, I have to ask: would this be safe?

With artificial fertilizers we don't have to be concerned about the purity of the material, whereas if we were to use natural fertilizers (animal or otherwise) it introduces all of the impurities and other undesirable byproducts that come with waste. And if we're talking about human waste in particular, does that mean this would create a new cycle for pathogens? Or is there a way to process waste to remove pathogens?

Having recently become much more educated than I used to be on this subject, I now find it hilarious (and a bit frightening) how disconnected modern society has become from good old Mother Nature. If you'll stop and think a moment you'll realize that we live on the surface of a planet where quadrillions of living organisms have been living, dying, urinating and defecating for billions of years, and until a veritable blink-of-an-eye ago there were no "waste treatment facilities" anywhere to be found. The very fact that our civilization requires artificial "waste treatment facilities" in order to survive is a symptom of just how totally disconnected we are from the natural cycles of life. Every living thing that has ever existed here for billions of years has lived by recycling nutrients from the bodily decay or waste products of other living things.

So, asking "if there is a way" to process waste to remove pathogens is a question that should answer itself now that we are all in the correct mindset. The answer of course is that nature _is_ a gigantic and unbelievably effective and efficient waste reprocessing facility. Step out of the door of your artificial housing construct and walk to any nearby location where you might be able to grow a plant and look down. That stuff underneath your feet is called "dirt". It's composed of minerals extracted from the air by plants, leeched out of rocks by water, and more rock bits ground up by glaciers. But most importantly it's composed of lots of chemicals and compounds that either used to be part of the body of some animal or plant, or was a waste product of a living organism. If dirt, the infinitely reprocessed waste product of billions of previous excreting organisms, was going to hurt us we'd already all be long dead.

The bacteria and other organisms that live in dirt evolved to live on the kinds of things we refer to as "waste". They reprocess it into yummy fertilized soil that plants love to grow in, and in the process kill off all the things we call "pathogens" that evolved to live inside us and are excreted in our waste. The worms and soil bacteria and the eventual heat of the full composting process creates a perfectly safe fertilizer from any kind of animal "manure", including human. They even have a name for the manure that comes from us: Humanure.

Using this purifying ability of nature, we can even make cheap and highly effective water filters that work by letting the soil bacteria in a column of sand kill off the "pathogens" in contaminated water as it trickles through the filter. The soil bacteria just gobbles up and destroys everything that we would refer to as a pathogen. Chemical toxins of course are a different matter. Many of those are unnatural to the environment and have to be dealt with in other ways, unfortunately. But animal waste? No problem. Nature takes care of that quite easily.

Now, the issue of urine separation turns out to be interesting for multiple reasons. Using urine separating toilets not only makes it immensely easier to separately process and use the urine for fertilizer, it also allows one to have a composting toilet that doesn't smell bad and holds a surprising amount of waste before it needs to be emptied. Apparently that horrible latrine, RV/boat holding tank smell is caused not by the solid waste itself but by mixing the urine and solids. Separating the urine and throwing a layer of something organic like peat moss over the solids creates a toilet that at worst has a mild "earthy" smell, like a forest on a rainy day. There's a great composting toilet design for boats/cabins that works this way called the C-Head. I find its design and functionality much more appealing than the many non-urine-separating styles of composting toilets on the market. There are some super-gross YouTube vids of how such toilets, uh, "work".

There's a guy, Michael Reynolds, who has been building homes he calls Earthships for more than four decades now that require no public infrastructure connection. They process all the generated wastewater on-site using a built-in greenhouse full of plants and trees. Earthships don't even require a septic tank except to comply with some local building codes. And yes, that greenhouse includes food plants, and the food plants grown in wastewater are perfectly safe to eat. They've been tested by the same government facilities that test city water supplies and they come back with far lower levels of pathogens than you'll find in your local grocery store's produce. I'd highly recommend that anyone interested in this subject get some of Reynolds' books and videos. It's pretty fascinating stuff. They also do a lot of great work teaching people in super poor and devastated areas like Jamaica, Guatemala, Africa and Indonesia how to build their own Earthship type buildings for homes and schools. Like this. Good stuff. Also look for "Garbage Warrior" on YouTube. There's a full-length documentary.

So, yeah. Mother Nature is amazing, and we need to quit wasting mind-boggling amounts of energy inefficiently trying to artificially recreate what it already does just fine. Like processing "waste" (aka "nutrients") into "food". I mean, that's practically the very definition of what "nature" is!

Comment Re:Generalizing much? (Score 1) 143

Does the article really need to begin with ridiculous generalization?
"We all talk about the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf as if electric cars are brand-new. In fact, electric cars were around long before you were alive, or your father, or maybe even your grandfather. It turns out...."
Yes, yes - the readers on slashdot are morons, who have absolutely no idea about most basic technology. "We all" are so dumb, we think the wheel was invented yesterday. Hurr-durr...

I may know that the first electric batteries were created thousands of years ago, but I had never realized or come across information that anyone had made a functional electric car so long ago, and with a range of nearly fifty miles, no less. I find this information new, interesting and fascinating. Lacking this information makes me ignorant on this particular subject, not stupid.

There's only one jackass here making ridiculous generalizations. Knowing a fact that someone else doesn't know does not mean you are smarter than them. It just means you're temporarily more knowledgeable on that particular subject. Ignorance is easily corrected. Stupidity, not so much.

Comment Re:Canadian driving (Score 1) 723

There is another aspect to this that nobody seems to be mentioning (or maybe not aware of): Tires. I would suspect that a lot of the people in southern places where it is normally quite warm all year round (and very hot in the summer) are driving on what are called "summer" tires. Out of the three general grades of tire (summer, all-season, and mud+snow/winter), summer tires use the hardest rubber formula to maintain a useful lifetime and have the appropriate level of road grip in high temperatures, and on top of that they have relatively smooth tread patterns with few edges to present to the road surface.

Unfortunately in colder temperatures the rubber in summer tires becomes very hard and inflexible, like plastic. They're basically completely useless below about 45-55 degrees F. You might as well be riding a plastic sled down the road when it's icy. Your winter driving skills make very little difference when you literally have no traction whatsoever. You can slide hundreds of feet down any slight grade on summer tires with the brakes on all the way, and all the traction control and ABS in the world, and never even slow down until you physically hit something. I believe this tire issue is a hidden but important contributor to the relative chaos that occurs when it snows or ices up in southern latitudes.

Meanwhile, people living in more northern latitudes almost exclusively drive on what are referred to as "all-season" tires, which are a compromise tire using slightly softer rubber and more complex tread patterns with more angles and edges. They wear out faster in hot weather, but if one drives slowly and is _very_ careful, it is usually possible to drive fairly safely in cold weather, even in bare ice conditions (as long as the road is fairly flat). With most all-season tires you'll still only have about 10-20% of your normal warm-weather traction in freezing weather, but the difference between 10% and 0% traction is huge.

Note that if you live in an area where temperatures are mostly within 15-20 degrees of freezing (or below), you really should be driving on true "winter" tires during the colder parts of the year, even if the temperature rarely drops near or below freezing. This is especially true if the weather is often wet in your area. Also note that a lot of "mud+snow" tires are often just all-season tires with certain tread patterns and many M+S tires can't hold a candle to the traction of many of the true winter tires that have come out in the last decade. The best winter tires that have come out in recent years make driving on wet ice feel almost like driving on dry pavement. They are truly amazing. Educate yourself if you live in a colder climate. It could save your life.

An instructive video is here, showing just how useless summer tires are on ice:

My favorite winter tire video, a new tire from Nokian Tyres (the Finnish company that supposedly created the world's first winter tire back in the 1930s) which has its own built in grit(!):

Comment Re:Local customs can change. (Score 1) 628

Speaking of WWII and Japan, we encouraged them to eat more dolphin and whale when we were rebuilding them. Custom? Please. It's a dying generation remembering what they ate in grade school because that was the cheapest meat available, and an industry which doesn't want to admit to it's shareholders that it's time to fold.

The funniest part of this whole affair to me is two things (if the movie The Cove is to be believed). First, the people trying to protect the dolphins apparently offered to pay the dolphin fishermen more than the dolphin meat was worth in exchange for NOT killing the dolphins. The fisherman refused (allegedly). So clearly the dolphin killing is not about making money, but rather a sort of local cultural thing they've become very stubbornly and emotionally attached to. They'd rather kill dolphins and make less money than not kill dolphins and make more money.

Second, dolphins and whales, being at the top of their respective food chains, have highly toxic levels of mercury in their tissues and are basically unfit for human consumption, and probably will be until we can completely clear the oceanic food chain of mercury and other bio-accumulative toxins. Yet this prefecture not only sells this meat in local grocery stores but also for a while forced it to be used as part of their school lunch programs, causing an epidemic of mercury-induced mental retardation in their children. Even better, Japanese school children are required to eat what they are given in school, so it's not like you could tell your kid to opt out of eating the mercury-laden dolphin meat.

I like a lot of things about Japan and Japanese culture. But there is one thing that cannot be argued with. They are really some of the weirdest people on Earth in many ways, and it's very difficult for an outsider to understand a lot of their cultural motivations. The way that they continue to stubbornly fight for their right to slaughter dolphins for food, and to take whales in international waters for "research" (and then sell the whale meat for food) even though the meat has such toxic levels of mercury is something that confounds my understanding. My best guess is that it has something to do with the whole Asian "saving face" concept as well as nostalgia. I get the feeling that they feel they would be dishonored as a culture and made to appear weak if they admitted that they were doing something most of the rest of the world now finds highly repugnant, so they continue to insist that there is absolutely nothing wrong with what they are doing. The only way to get them to stop is to find a way to let them stop doing it without looking like they're backing down and admitting they're doing something "wrong". But it's become at this point so much of a "Japan against the World" scenario that a resolution is going to be very difficult.

But I'm sure the issue is actually a great deal more complicated than it appears on the surface, involving not just culture and honor and nostalgia but politics and lots of money as well. It may be easier to find peace in the Middle East than to get the Japanese to stop whaling and killing dolphins. If they ever do stop it will likely be something they decide to do on their own from the pressure of some internal cultural change.

Comment Re:Obligatory (Score 2) 533

Every Ask Slashdot gets a comment pointing out that it's the dumbest Ask Slashdot ever, I know.

This time, it's really, really the case.

On the contrary. Unless you have a definitive and provably correct answer to this particular Ask Slashdot, which I didn't notice you providing, I would assert that it's an interesting question and you're just being a jackass.

Comment Real mature (Score 5, Interesting) 109

So is Slashdot not capable of having any kind of informative conversation about one of the most commercially popular and long-lived everyday programming languages, because "Oracle, LOL" and "Java applets suck"?

Popped in here hoping to see some insightful discussion about the future of Java, to help inform my possible decision as to whether or not to spend a lot of time and effort becoming a Java developer. So far, sadly disappointed. Nothing but Java and Oracle jokes as old as the hills.

Then again, this is Slashdot. I don't know why I was expecting any kind of mature conversation about Java.

Comment Re:Begin mass speculatrometer (Score 5, Insightful) 1009

Knowing Microsoft, this is what they're going to do:

- Remove Right-Click capability
- Remove all menu bars and hotkeys
- Require SuperAdmin privileges for everything from resizing a window to shutting down the computer
- Make MSOffice 100% touch-screen compatible, removing all mouse compatibility
- Make ribbons 60% bigger
- Remove ability to save over existing files

Sounds funny now, but come back in five years and marvel at how prescient and insightful you were.

These days, every ridiculous internet joke seems to end up coming true in spades in real life.

Comment Re:Depends (Score 1) 937

Legal liability aside, there is another layer to this issue of self driving cars that I don't really see anyone discussing.

Unlike human drivers who may be statistically identical in aggregate in their reactions, a self driving vehicle AI will essentially be identical to every other self driving AI of the same version produced by the same AI manufacturer. We take individual human drivers off the road when they demonstrate that they can't be trusted to drive safely. But when it comes to AI drivers people will realize that it is as if the same individual human were driving half a million different cars, therefore if there is a problem with one AI there could be the same problem in all the other AIs of the same type. If you thought the Tesla fire reporting was ridiculous, just wait until a half dozen self driving cars get into fatal accidents within a few days of each other. Given the public's typical poor understanding of software they will demand the immediate recall if not just a single revision of a specific AI but the recall or disabling of all autonomous AIs on the road, pending a full safety investigation.

Given a sufficient number of self driving cars being driven in sufficiently bad weather and/or traffic conditions, I would say that multiple fatal crashes and the ensuing negative public reaction will be inevitable. It may not even get that far. Who wants to bet that about the third or fourth child verifiably run down and killed by a self driving car won't bring the entire self driving car industry to an abrupt halt? Anyone?

The way I see it, self driving vehicles should remain restricted to tracks for now, and AI should continue to be applied to passenger vehicles the way it's already starting to be applied, as automatic safety features that kick in to help you avoid backing over children, falling asleep at the wheel, getting into a collision when a car up ahead suddenly slams on the brakes and things like that. For now, the human should continue to be fully in charge, alert and aware of what's going on, with the AI being an emergency backup in extreme circumstances. Going full AI on roads with mixed AI and human traffic is just a really bad idea that will eventually backfire in a big way and turn public opinion entirely against the idea of self driving vehicles. It really won't matter if self driving vehicles are provably statistically safer than humans or not. In order to be trusted their record will need to be beyond spotless, which is of course impossible.

Comment Never heard of them (Score 2) 65

It's very weird to me that I've been reading /. and other geeky websites for a decade and a half and I've never, ever heard of this "The Geek Group" with 25,000 members and a 42,000 square foot headquarters/lab facility. What is their purpose? Should I have heard of them? Where would I hear about them, if not here? Am I supposed to turn in my geek card if I have no idea who these people are? Are they the ones that issue geek cards in the first place?

Questions abound.

Comment Re:Only when you can't tell that glasses have it (Score 4, Interesting) 195

The problem you're describing could be mitigated somewhat if the glasses had forward-facing LEDs which turn on whenever the camera is engaged. Then you could be reasonably sure that most people are not, in fact, videoing you all the time. For the small percent who want to do this anyway, sure they could paint over the LEDs, but then they could just wear a buttonhole camera anyway. You're not going to stop surreptitious recording now that the technology is small enough.

Here's one other way it can go down, though:

The next generation of teenagers becomes the first wide adopters of the technology. You can guess the marketing strategies: have pop idols be seen with them, have the next generation's Hannah Montana wearing them. They're fun, kids! Record good times with your friends! Record that important history class for a friend who's sick! Record a POV of your mad skateboarding skills and upload instantly to {hot social media platform du jour}.

In short, produce a generation that is used to filming and being filmed 24/7/365. The same way we've produced a generation that's used to being online all the time. It's possible, right? Especially if the parents are resisting it, the kids'll be wild for it.

This kind of thing always sounds great on paper, until this new adventurous and uninhibited UNDERAGE generation ends up "accidentally" recording and sharing videos of themselves in the nude, showering, taking a dump, and having sexy time with themselves and others in their age group. Until society at large, and especially law enforcement, learns to accept and avoid overreacting to underage nudity and erotic activities that any fool already knows underage people in every generation engage in almost without exception, the advent of truly ubiquitous 24/7/365 recording of human life is going to be an absolute disaster for millions of individuals in coming decades. It's going to set off a whole new epic level of moral panic.

Many young people who had the temerity to turn 18 while in possession of old nude camera phone images of themselves or their girlfriend/boyfriend taken while someone was still underage have already started to get into serious legal trouble, so don't even pretend this isn't going to be a huge issue once everyone starts walking around with a permanently attached and active video camera on their almost-invisible stereo bluetooth headset. Yeah, we'll see lots of cool POV skateboarding tricks and crazy base jumping and stuff like that, but we'll also see a whole bunch of things that tens of millions of really uptight adults are absolutely not ready to see being broadcast to the public on the FaceBooks of the near future.

Mark my words. Universal recording is something that's really going to knock society on its ear, and it will take quite a long time before things settle down. Probably two or three generations at least.

Comment Re:Only when you can't tell that glasses have it (Score 4, Interesting) 195

As long as Google Glass looks like Locutus-of-Borg cosplay, there will be pushback from people who don't want to be seen with it.

The display needs to be embedded transparently in the lenses itself, and the other components need to be integrated into a thin, ordinary-looking temple piece.

That will just make it worse.

If it becomes difficult for people to tell that you're wearing something like Google Glass versus just a regular pair of glasses, this is going to become a very unpleasant world to live in for those of us who require corrective lenses and who don't want to or cannot wear contacts. As the technology improves over time it becomes inevitable that "smart" glasses will become indistinguishable from normal glasses, but long before it becomes literally true the public will start to believe that it's already true. We're going to start having irrational assholes everywhere, even in completely public places, going up to people and demanding they take off their glasses and "stop recording me!". This will of course include some of the biggest assholes of all: law enforcement officers.

As a wearer of corrective lenses I do not look forward to this brave new world where everyone who wears glasses will be subjected to suspicious glares or even physically accosted for no good reason because no one can tell whether or not you're surreptitiously recording them. As we all know too well, when people aren't sure about something they instinctively default to "Kill it with Fire!".

Thanks a lot, Google. Like we needed another witch hunt trigger. I guess I better start saving up for Lasik treatments.

When we finally perfect wireless bionic retinal implants with decent resolution the world is going to go absolutely apeshit with paranoia about being secretly recorded.

Comment LogMeIn (Score 3, Interesting) 165

Kind of surprised nobody has mentioned LogMeIn. It's free for personal use on up to 10 computers. There's a LogMeIn app for iOS and Android, which is free*. Then there's LogMeIn Ignition ($30), which lets you do file transfers, printing and other useful things if you're using LogMeIn Pro on the computers, which I think is something like $70 per computer per year. I bought LogMeIn Ignition for my iPad a couple years back and I've been using the free version of LogMeIn to connect remotely to Windows and Macs for years. Seems to work well even on relatively slow connections and on networks with fairly restricted firewall setups on either or both ends. I've even used it over a 3G connection, connecting to a 27" iMac no less.

LogMeIn are the ones who bought Hamachi, which lets you easily set up secure private networks between collections of Macs and PCs. Also free for personal use, up to five computers or something like that. Been using Hamachi to get secure remote access to certain oddball ports/services on remote computers for several years now. Hamachi however seems to have trouble connecting if certain ports are blocked on the network, so I've had much better luck using LogMeIn for remote desktop connections.

Not affiliated, just a satisfied user of both products. I haven't had any significant experience with TeamViewer so I can't make any direct comparisons, but I do know that when I was checking them out I didn't much care for how anal retentive TeamViewer is about licensing.

* I can't find the free LogMeIn app for Android. Maybe there isn't one. So I guess that leaves LogMeIn Ignition for Android, which is $30. It's one of the most expensive apps I ever put on my iPad (1st Gen), but it's been helpful enough and reliable enough that I think I can recommend purchasing it for Android if you like LogMeIn, especially if you want to do easy file transfers between your computer and your device.

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