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Comment Re:Had a couple of companies email me passwords (Score 2) 141

And the author of that one *also* does not name the offending company.

Raising the issue in a vacuum is fruitless, because there's no general panacea for corporate security stupidity. Other users won't know until they receive their passwords in the mail that they've opened an account with a company that should be marked "Fail".

So mark them. Here's a good place to start, and the above blogger should have done it also. Otherwise you're just blowing off steam.

Comment Knuth vs. whom? Thomas Haigh? OK. (Score 1, Interesting) 149

This doesn't seem like a tough call. I have four volumes of Knuth on my shelf (just found 4A existed, so its cover is still pretty fresh), and I refer to them frequently. Even the oldest ones (though I did buy a fresh copy of Vol 1 after it was updated). It's my first stop when I need to start researching an algorithm, and often I don't need to go further.

OK, now Thomas Haigh. Googled him. Checked his credentials. PhD dissertation in the sociology of computer science. Umm, OK. Think I'll go analyze this algorithm some more... after I check my Knuth to see whether he's already done it for me.

Comment Re:Effing Grinches That Spoiled Christmas (Score 2) 160

That sounds charming, but there was no clue during the setup of the new Xbox One that the problem was due to their network failure. The error messages presented to us as we were trying to figure out the setup were that our cables, local network and ISP DNS server were not working. There was no suggestion offered by the box that a server outage was a possibility. Yes, we did go on to other things, but it took us two hours to decide it was likely the problem was not in fact ours.

Your smug superiority is misplaced.

Comment Re:Effing Grinches That Spoiled Christmas (Score 3, Interesting) 160

Less merry for adults, too. We got an Xbox One for the grandkids, and I tried to help my son get it sorted for a couple of hours. The situation was magnified by inappropriate error messages from Microsoft pointing fingers at our cables, our network, our ISP's network, and, in short, everything except their own darned servers! A single approximately correct error diagnosis from them (like "Our servers may be knackered. Check back later.") would have redirected our efforts more appropriately.

When I finally stopped checking Microsoft's website and got around to looking at news sites, I told them about the DOS. One of my grandsons said "Think of the children!"

Comment Explaining Fermi's Paradox? (Score 1) 2

Fermi's Paradox: if extraterrestrial life is as common as reasonable estimates in Drake's Equation would suggest, why haven't we seen credible evidence of them yet? This research is an interesting take on the question -- gamma ray bursts might keep knocking civilizations off unless they're far enough out from mass concentrations to avoid the bursts.

I found the full paper at and it didn't require a subscription.

Submission + - Are Gamma Ray Bursts Keeping Life From Developing In The Universe? 2

rossgneumann writes: The universe might be a radiation-scorched, lifeless place after all. Just as soon as a planet, save for a relative handful of well-sheltered rocks, becomes life-harboring and friendly, it gets nuked back to a barren wasteland. This is one conclusion of a new paper examining the likely prevalence of gamma-ray burst (GRB) events throughout the Milky Way and universe at-large, particularly of the sort—long gamma-ray bursts or LGRBs—that could strip away a planet's protective ozone layer and blast its inhabitants with very high-energy photons.

Comment Re:Star Trek is a Great Example (Score 1) 368

I enjoyed Honor Harrington for a while... at least until it devolved into tree-cat fan-fiction. But the parts that appealed to me least were the parts you're referring to. When even the names of her monarchy's opponents were cribbed directly from the French revolutionary leaders I cringed. Other writers also crib a piece of history and file off the serial numbers to disguise their laziness, but Weber doesn't even bother with the file.

Comment Re:Iain M. Banks Culture novels FTW (Score 1) 368

I agree that Iain M. Banks's Culture novels show that Stross's goal is at least possible. He did a brilliant job of imagining a distant future that gave me severe culture shock, but was also entertaining and engaging. Books set thousands of years in the future where we have the same viewpoints and aspirations do indeed make it difficult for me to suspend disbelief.

William Gibson's recent "Peripheral" provides two more near-term futures, both of which I would expect Stross to approve - the first perhaps two or three decades ahead that's a (perhaps appropriately) cynical view of the direction our civilizations are going, and the second perhaps a century on from that. With the closer one I could see where it was all coming from, and with the second the protagonist was able to relate better than I was... but then she was a couple of decades closer to it. It seemed to me a real tour de force. Recommended.

Looking back, though, I like to see how various authors did predicting their future in which we currently live. Heinlein's "The Door Into Summer" is still one of my favorites, but didn't work as a crystal ball. One of the Lazarus Long books placed his sidekick and tame math genius Andrew Libby on the spaceship's bridge using his slide rule to work his calculations. Gibson's 1984 "Neuromancer" hasn't held up very well either in this regard.

But Vernor Vinge's groundbreaking 1981 "True Names" still seems spot on to me, except perhaps underestimating the bandwidth that was going to be available. Anonymous hackers mostly stayed ahead of the governments, and Vinge foresaw some of our current network-based threats only a few years after the ARPAnet started spreading out from the universities. Like the protagonist Mr. Slippery, I feel impaired when I'm on a cruise ship with limited bandwidth and can't get instant answers to fleeting questions -- it seems that I'm not as effective a problem solver when I'm unplugged from the Net. Vinge even predicted the role of Homeland Security, though he had the Welfare Department cast in that role: when confronted by the authorities, Roger Pollack said "I do know my rights. You FBI types must identify yourselves, give me a phone call, and--". The response was "Perhaps that would be true, if we were the FBI or if you were not the scum you are. But this is a Welfare Department bust, Pollack, and you are suspected--putting it kindly--of interference with the instrumentalities of National and individual survival." And it keeps getting better. Pardon me, time to go read it yet again.

Submission + - Fast camera: 100 billion fps (

Scryer writes: Boffins at Washington University / St. Louis (WUSTL) led by Prof. Lihong Wang have developed a camera that can record up to 100 billion frames per second. They say previous best speeds were around 10 million frames per second. They call the technique "compressed ultrafast photography (CUP)". Hard-copy article: Gao L, Liang J, Li C, Wang, LV. Single-shot compressed ultrafast photography at one hundred billion frames per second. Nature. Dec. 4, 2014.

Submission + - Consumer-grade SSDs survive two petabytes of writes

crookedvulture writes: The SSD Endurance Experiment previously covered on Slashdot has reached another big milestone: two freaking petabytes of writes. That's an astounding total for consumer-grade drives rated to survive no more than a few hundred terabytes. Only two of the initial six subjects made it to 2PB. The Kingston HyperX 3K, Intel 335 Series, and Samsung 840 Series expired on the road to 1PB, while the Corsair Neutron GTX faltered at 1.2PB. The Samsung 840 Pro continues despite logging thousands of reallocated sectors. It has remained completely error-free throughout the experiment, unlike a second HyperX, which has suffered a couple of uncorrectable errors. The second HyperX is mostly intact otherwise, though its built-in compression tech has reduced the 2PB of host writes to just 1.4PB of flash writes. Even accounting for compression, the flash in the second HyperX has proven to be far more robust than in the first. That difference highlights the impact normal manufacturing variances can have on flash wear. It also illustrates why the experiment's sample size is too small to draw definitive conclusions about the durability of specific models. However, the fact that all the drives far exceeded their endurance specifications bodes well for the endurance of consumer-grade SSDs in general.

Submission + - My Computer Language is Better Than Yours! (

An anonymous reader writes: If you are a very large, rich technology company today, it seems it is no longer enough to have your own humongous data centers, luxurious buses, and organic lunch bars. You need your very own programming language, too.

Comment Re:foresworn? (Score 1) 69

President Obama has indeed forsworn the moon, and he's the one who tells NASA how to pick targets. In he says "Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do. So I believe it’s more important to ramp up our capabilities to reach -- and operate at -- a series of increasingly demanding targets, while advancing our technological capabilities with each step forward. And that’s what this strategy does."

He's the first successful Presidential candidate I've voted for, and I've been voting for one or another of their opponents since 1968, but I was very disappointed with this President's unfocused long-term strategy of finding different balls of matter to plant flags on... once.

Orbiting a few satellites around the Moon is laudable, but they can't be realistically compared to a project like Apollo or a major follow-on like a permanent or semi-permanent Moon base.

Comment Re:I see why the boson is a "God Particle" (Score 2) 67

CERN said the evidence is five sigma or so for a particle more or less where the Higgs was expected (or perhaps about halfway between where two competing theories expected it), but some now doubt whether the particle CERN found is actually the Higgs. See this recent reassessment:

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The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford