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Comment Re:You can't generalize. (Score 1) 372

It does *sound* a bit sociopathic, doesn't it? But sociopathy is a pathological disregard for the rights of others. While deception is often used to violate someone's rights, but it can *also* be used to protect someone's rights.

For example if I knew an employee was embezzling money, I don't have to tell him I know. I can deceive him into thinking I'm not on to him until I gather enough proof or discover who his accomplices are. This is deceptive, but not a violation of his rights.

Comment You can't generalize. (Score 2) 372

Anyone who works on unauthorized personal projects should certainly expect to be subject to firing. But as a supervisor I would make the decision to fire based on what is best for my employer. That depends on a lot of things.

I don't believe in automatic zero tolerance responses. The question for me is whether the company better off booting this guy or disciplining him. Note this intrinsically unfair. Alice is a whiz who gets all of her work done on time and to top quality standards. Bob is a mediocre performer who is easily replaced. So Alice gets a strong talking to and Bob gets the heave-ho, which is unfair to Bob because Alice did exactly the same thing.

But there's a kind of meta-fairness to it. Stray off the straight and narrow and you subject yourself to arbitrary, self-interested reactions.

Now as to Alice, I would (a) remind her that anything she creates on company time belongs to the company (even if we're doing open source -- we get to choose whether the thing is distributed) and (b) that any revenue she derives from it rightly belongs to the company. But again there's no general rule other than maximize the interests of the company. I'll probably insist she shut down the project immediately and turn everything over to the company, but not necessarily. I might choose to turn a blind eye. Or maybe even turn a blind eye until Alice delivers on her big project, then fire her and sue her for the side project revenues if I thought we didn't need her any longer. If loyalty is a two-way street, so is betrayal.

Sure, you may rationalize working on a side project as somehow justified by the fact your employer doesn't pay you what you're really worth, but the grown-up response to that is to find a better job; if you can't, by definition in a market economy you are getting paid at least what you're worth. If you decide to proceed by duplicity, you can't expect kindness or understanding unless you can compel it.

Comment Re:60Ghz (Score 1) 136

I agree it sounds impractical. So I looked at the patent -- which not being a radio engineer it's perfectly safe for me to do (n.b. -- it's always dangerous to look at what might be bullshit patents in your field because you open yourself up to increased damages for using common sense). But I was a ham radio operator when I was a kid so I do know the lingo.

There are a number of problems with broadcasting power, starting with the fact that it's inefficient to saturate ambient space with enough radiation to be usefully harvested. But that's not what they're proposing. 802.11 ad operates in the extreme microwave range -- about 5cm wavelength aka the "V" band. This band is also unregulated so you can try weird things in it. What they propose is to use an array of antennas to create a steerable beam -- like a phased array radar. This would confine the power to a specific plane so that you wouldn't have to saturate all of ambient space with power. The beam steering would be done "dynamically", which I take to mean it would figure out how to maximize signal strength with some kind of stochastic algorithm. So it might not work if you are unicycling around the room.

And because the wavelength is so short an antenna array would be relatively compact.

Even so, it doesn't sound that practical. It's bound to be limited to line of sight, for example: the V band does not penetrate walls or the human body at all, in contrast with the S band that conventional wifi operates on. I can certainly imagine applications for it, but making it practical for charging your phone is apt to be very expensive. You'd have surround yourself with V band antenna arrays.

By the way, reading this patent reminds me of why I hate reading patents. They're infuriatingly vague in order to make the claims as broad as possible, and yet are cluttered with inanely obvious details ("the radio receiver can include active and passive components") and irrelevancies (the device may include a touch screen). I think the purpose may be that someone trying to figure out whether the vague language applies to a cell phone will think, "I don't know WTF this is claiming, but look this phone *does* have a touch screen." It just shows how broken our patent system is.

Comment Sure, Uber is evil. (Score 2) 286

It's an anti-social company that's a horrible place to work. Everybody knows that by now.

What nobody can know for sure is why an individual takes his life, or what circumstances would have to be different.

Take Google, which in several recent lists is the best company in America to work for. Google has just shy of 60,000 employees. Given the US suicide rate of 46/100,000, if Google were largely reflective of that you'd expect 28 suicides/year among Google employees. Of course (a) not all Google employees are Americans and (b) Google employees are economically better off than most people in their societies, so you'd expect there to be a lower rate of suicide. But it's safe to assume a dozen Google employees a year take their lives.

And if you look at them as individuals, you'd inevitably suspect work stress was involved, and if you'd look you'd probably find it -- because it's a chicken-or-egg thing. Suicide is a catastrophic loss of coping ability; when you head that way you will find trouble everywhere you turn.

When something like this happens to an individual, everyone feels the need to know why -- even strangers. But that's the one thing you can never know for certain. Now if suicide rates were high for Uber, then statistically you could determine to what degree you should be certain that Uber is a killing its employees with a bad work environment (or perhaps selecting at-risk employees).

I think its inevitable and understandable that this man's family blames Uber. And it's very likely that this will be yet another PR debacle for the company. But the skeptic in me says we just can't know whether Uber has any responsibility for the result.

Comment Re:Yes but (Score 5, Interesting) 727

Thought experiment. Let's suppose you're a CIVIL engineer -- the type of engineer the regulations are intended to target. You're on vacation in Oregon, and you notice a serious structural fault in a bridge which means that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

Under this interpretation of the term "practice engineering" you wouldn't be able to tell anyone because you're not licensed to practice engineering in Oregon. In fact anyone who found an obvious fault -- say, a crack in the bridge -- would be forbidden to warn people not to use it until it had been looked at.

Which is ridiculous. Having and expressing an opinion, even a professionally informed opinion, isn't "practicing engineering". Practicing engineering means getting paid -- possibly in some form other than money. At the very least it means performing the kind of services for which engineers are normally paid.

A law which prevented people from expressing opinions wouldn't pass constitutional muster unless it was "narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public interest" -- that's the phrase the constitutional lawyers use when talking about laws regulating constitutionally protected activities. In this case the public interest is safety, which would be served by a law which prevented unqualified people from falsely convincing people that a structure was safe. But there is no compelling interest in preventing an engineer from warning the public about something he thinks is dangerous or even improper.

So if the law means what they claim it to mean, it's very likely unconstitutional.

Comment Re:AI killing industry (Score 1) 120

Except in a real movie, you wouldn't just take the audio stream straight from the algorithm; you'd have some kind of highly skilled specialist tweaking it to get the exact effect the director wanted.

A combination of art and science will eventually be able to produce completely convincing audio forgeries, very likely long before science alone will be able to.

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