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Comment Re: Just don't buy them. (Score 1) 102

Exactly this. It's already happened with software. Windows 10 for example, numerous applications. The software phones home regularly, the original vendor has configuration/change management hooks, and the original vendor controls ownership. The only way to avoid such a future that I think has a chance of working is through government regulation that blocks the tendency for vendors to build in this level of control. The vast masses tend to be too busy living their lives to fully grasp the risks and provide the upfront market pressure to keep the vendors in line. Think of all the people who buy IoT stuff without a care in the world for risk, or even the folks who buy the Smart Cars that are the subject of this article. They assume that the vendor will have taken care of getting all the messy details right, and don't see the impact of the vulnerabilities until they are far past the purchase decision point.

Comment Re:I wish they would... (Score 1) 70

Mine's a graduate course, so the rules and expectations are a little different. But in general, we have a 2-hour lecture each week, 4-5 chapters of reading in one book, another 4 chapters of reading in another book, and exercises that can take from a couple of hours (that was a good week) to a lot more (16 hours one week, for me, 20 hours another). In my case the instructor has specifically said he expects students to fill in "holes" in the material/assignment instructions on their own, which is ok with me, as that is a higher-level of learning in my experience. However, the pace of assignments needs to be carefully gauged to the extra work that this kind of learning entails... its easy to bang out assignments when one is just filling in answers in blanks (conceptually, not actually); its another when one needs to consume three or four different tutorials in various technologies just to get a project set up for an assignment, THEN do the actual work for the assignment. A beta-test might help determine just how much time students need to spend "filling in the holes" so that the pace of the course could be set correctly. In some cases the learning value of not providing a more detailed explanation of what is required for an assignment is low, and finding out where to force excursions and were to just give more details instructions is important (in my opinion).

My expectation for a 3-credit undergrad course is 3 hours of lecture, and probably 6 or so hours of work outside the classroom. For graduate courses my expectations get amped up a little, with perhaps less classroom and more work outside, up to 10 or so hours/week.

It is very important to be disciplined in an on-line course; I view the lectures as soon as I can (same day as they are published) and I try to get the reading in before I view the lecture, (and then again after if I can). I start the homework assignments as soon as I can as well, usually the night after I view the lecture.

Comment I wish they would... (Score 2) 70

I'm in a new online course at the University of Maryland. There are definitely some pain points (for me, at least) that could be eliminated with some beta testing, as well as some standards for what its reasonable to expect students to do in terms of work outside the classroom. Beta testing (or at least offering the course at a reduce cost for the first one or two offerings) would make being a guinea pig a bit more palatable. Instead, I have a grade in my degree program dependent upon the whim/good sense of an instructor. I don't know what outside observation there is to ensure that the treatment is reasonable.

Comment There are several reasons why things are this way (Score 1) 325

1. People are egocentric. Everyone thinks (by default) that everyone else is in the exact some relationship with their environment as they are. I've been in corporate IT for many years (in the past) and have seen a large number of major initiatives designed from the point of view of the HQ folks who are on top of the data center, network-wise. You know, millisecond latency to the servers. Then the app is deployed out to the remote masses, and... it sucks. So the app developers demand to know when the network staff is going to fix the problem. Bloated web pages happen because the people who design them do so when they are milliseconds away from the servers, and it all works fine for them.

2. Networks are layered. The idea of the layering concept is that each layer has its own set of responsibilities. The application layer through which the web browser communicates doesn't have any responsibility for managing data traffic flows. That is the responsibility of a lower layer. So the application just requests the data, and lower layers are supposed to take care of making it happen. As others have pointed out, parallelization of the work is useful, much of the time, so URL requests aren't serialized. When you are on a slow link, or a high latency link, this strategy fails. Should the network layer take care of it, or should the browser somehow become aware of the speed of the physical/data-link and adapt its behavior? Having the browser adapt might be seen as a violation of the layering principles; having the network/session layers interfere with which TCP connections are prioritized would definitely be a violation of layering. Come up with a good way to handle this type of problem, and you can help design the next version of the TCP/IP protocol suite!

3. It's mostly crap anyway. As others have pointed out, its mostly crap anyway. And in my experience its the crappier sources that load more pictures and other cruft onto the pages that you are accessing. An ad blocker helps, and just avoiding those pages works even better. My ad blocker is tuned to let in everything from certain sites, and helps me determine which sites to avoid by showing me the rapidly incrementing "I blocked this" count in my browser's top bar. When that number climbs too high, too fast, I just bail out of the page.

Comment Re:You just now started worrying? (Score 3, Insightful) 460

Not only should you not trust the "government" data, you shouldn't trust anyone's data, in the sense that you shouldn't accept what people presenting the data claim to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is human to game the system; it's built into our minds and into our culture. When we have a message to send, we find the data that makes the best case possible for the message that we want to send, and that is the data that we show.

I'm sure many have heard the saying "... popularised in United States by Mark Twain (among others), who attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'" (Wikipedia). At the heart of this is that when you get to pick what data to show, what statistics to publish, you get to control the impression people take away from viewing that data.

If the question is whether you can trust that the actual data presented by a government agency is "good," the answer is probably "yes" as long as you understand all of the assumptions behind the collection and presentation of the data, as well as the particular meaning of the terms being used to describe the data as used by the people who gathered, processed, and are presenting the data. This, in effect, makes it very difficult to take anything anyone with an agenda says at face value, including the government. Two examples of problems with government data come to my mind immediately: Inflation, and Employment.

In the United States, inflation is typically measured by the government using something called "the Consumer Price Index." This represents the change in the cost of a "basket" of consumer goods over time. The goods are supposed to be representative of the goods that most people need to acquire as part of their regular daily existence. https://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpifaq.htm But whether or not this inflation value applies to you and your family depends upon how closely your purchases match the assumptions built into the CPI. To the extent to which you deviate from the CPI, the real effects of inflation upon your purchasing power will vary. Are the people who create the basket of goods used to measure inflation trustworthy? I'm sure that they believe that they are, and I'm sure that they try as best as the can to get it right according to what they think is right. Do they measure it how I would measure it? I don't know, and I would have to understand much about their methodology n order to answer that question.

Employment. Big grey area, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread. Ideally, you would measure the total number of people working, and divide it by the total number of people who would like to be working (assuming for this method that everyone who is working wants to be working), and that would tell you the "employment rate" (and the unemployment rate would be 100% minus the employment rate). Even assuming that you can get accurate numbers regarding how many people are working, its almost impossible to know how many people want to work but can't find a job. Some measures use the number of people who are collecting unemployment compensation, but not everyone who wants a job collects unemployment. Other measures might try to estimate the total labor force using age, etc. Obviously how you estimate this number affects the employment/unemployment rate calculation, quite significantly.

No matter whose data you are viewing, you need to understand the assumptions and the methodology behind collecting, processing, and presenting the data in order to know what that data might saying, and even then you aren't seeing all of the data that isn't being presented (that might give you a more complete picture). Even science has trouble with this, so don't expect anything better from politicians.

Comment Re:America! (Score 1) 726

You didn't answer the question: "Should I pay a living wage to the kid down the block to mow my lawn or rake leaves...or baby sit my kid"?

There are chores that I would be willing to pay someone to do, at a cost below the so-called "living wage," that I would not be willing to pay someone to do at whatever rate is calculated to be a "living wage." The "kid down the block" represents a labor source that used to be (and in many places still is) willing to do those chores at the price that I'm willing to pay, primarily because that kid *isn't* trying to earn a living doing that work. He/she is looking for some spending money, not a "living."

I'm not making a choice between paying a living wage or paying for a social safety net that makes the "kid down the block" capable of "living" on what I'm paying. I'm making a choice between doing the work myself (or leaving it undone) because I'm obviously not willing to pay a "living wage" for it to be done (or else I would have hired a landscaper or child care professional).

The same choice applies in other contexts, with more "real" jobs. I may be willing to buy a meal at McDonald's for a certain price, but not at a price that guarantees all of the McDonald's workers a "living wage." Given the "living wage price" of the meal, I might rather just buy some hamburger myself and cook it up at home. What happens to the people would would have profited (not at a living wage level) by my eating out at McDonald's when I choose not to eat out because I don't want (and maybe can't afford) to pay that price?

Comment Re:"They" don't have to understand anything (Score 3, Insightful) 726

How will you decide what to force people to do? The economy is a very complex ecosystem. The risk of unintended consequences are high when tinkering with complex systems. I'm amazed when people who force a corporation to do something get upset when the corporation adapts to what they were forced to do in a manner apparently not envisioned by those forcing actions on the corporation. For example, forcing a corporation to pay more taxes, then being surprised when the corporation passes on the cost to customers.

I thought that the "grand experiment" in centrally-planned economies showed that central planning not only couldn't outcompete economies with distributed planning, but that centrally-planned economies couldn't even provide a reasonable living environment for the citizens. If you are going to force people to do things the way that you think they should be done, I hope you have a very good way to understand the consequences of what you are forcing on people.

I can't tell if you are trolling or not... is that a I here?

Comment Re:Customers already refunded... (Score 1) 139

Just wondering... what happens to Verizon if, despite all of the notices, someone continues to use the device that they obtained through Verizon, and... the device explodes, causing loss of property or life? Is it possible that that someone could/would sue Verizon for damages?

Comment Car analogy failure (Score 1) 277

The front brakes on a car provide most of the stopping force when a car is moving forward due to the forward weight transfer as the brakes are applied. A number of cars are designed with disc brakes up front and only drums (less effective) in the rear.

The loss of Ctrl-C seems more analogous to the loss of the front brakes, not the rear brakes.

Comment Re: In addition... (Score 1) 179

Thank-you for your insight. That makes sense; my potential small rooftop solar system was priced at $3.72/Wdc, with some wiggle room in the price as indicated by the installer when I balked. I can see where a large utility system would have a lower cost due to economies of scale, tracking systems, etc.

I'm curious as to how the cost of land affects the utility cost, however. In a home rooftop situation, there is no cost for the land since its going on top of the structure that is already on the land. But a utility would need to acquire (buy/lease) a large chunk of land for a decent size solar farm, and to pay taxes on that land on a recurring basis. A wind farm also needs a large chunk of land. Seems like this might be a significant cost factor that isn't there for plants using carbon-based fuels.

Comment Re: In addition... (Score 1) 179

I don't believe the claim that "solar photo-voltaic electricity is now less expensive than grid electricity" as bare fact. This all sounds *great*, but when I ran the numbers on a solar installation at my house, I was disappointed. I needed to lay out $23k capital cost, to generate slightly over $600 of electricity per year. Even with generous incentives, my break-even point on the installation was at around 11 years, assuming no other costs on my end. One possible cost that was not included was that of cleaning off the arrays, which would be about $150/year as a service (which really cuts into the net value of the $600/year electricity being generated). If I need to re-roof my house within the lifetime of the system, I had a several thousand dollar cost to de-install the panels, then re-install them.

The other challenge was that this installation was not sufficient to put me "off the grid," so I still needed to buy electricity in lean times (and to "sell" electricity in good times). However, the current rates structures and incentives in my area ignore the cost to the electric utility of maintaining the distribution grid. As the percentage of homeowners generating their own solar power increases, the cost of utility-generated electricity will need to increase as well, in order for the utilities to cover the cost of maintaining the grid (alternatively, people will have to pay a "grid connection fee" that will be substantial). Distributed power generation is a great idea, but too many folks are ignoring the cost of the utility system that still needs to be in place. This ignorance is sustainable at low self-generation adoption rates, but will become unattainable as adoption rates rise into a significant fraction of the utility's consumer base. Sort of like how some electric car owners are surprised when they are charged additional registration fees (over gasoline vehicles) because the existing road maintenance cost recovery is through gasoline taxes that electric vehicles are sidestepping.

I'm not slamming the idea of distributed generation, and I dearly want to have my own solar-photovoltaic generation capability, but the business case for the individual homeowner is still not in favor of it. A few more years, some additional efficiencies, and maybe we'll be there. A radical increase in storage capability would really help.

Comment Re: No need for that. (Score 1) 295

I was thinking more of the principle: when it is in more people's interest to harvest organ's, and the supply of organ's is constricted, then society will do something to enhance the supply. Self-driving cars may reduce traffic violations, but there will be lots of other things for society to take offense of, and to increase the penalties for. Its just musing; not all of the factors Niven cited have come about - in particular, organ transplants aren't quite as trouble-free, and we don't have a method for long-term organ storage.

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