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Comment because human beings are inherently short-sighted (Score 1) 380

As a rule, people hate change, unless it was their idea in the first place or they can see how it furthers their own goals/principles/ideologies. Look how people argued and fought against lightning rods of all things, because people believed it encroached on divine prerogatives. As another example, many people in many countries fought bitterly to try and prevent the adoption of a provably superior system of weights and measures. Many folks in the US still hate the very idea of converting over to match what has now become the world standard.

As for the specific example of software; you're talking about changing a tool they use, possibly one they use every day in their job. While a suggested change may add a useful feature or greatly improve work-flow, they are afraid they will have to learn more about the tool they have come to take for granted. (There are good reasons why Linus Torvalds rants so scathingly when developers make changes that break userspace or user workflows after all)

If it was just a bug patch, those are usually invisible to the majority of users. For those affected by the bug, affects them in the more subtle sense of negative evidence. (in other words, people really notice when something breaks, but when something doesn't break like it used to, that is harder to notice and appreciate) However; from your description, you are primarily advocating adding features or explicitly changing work flows (even if in minor ways). Without more specific information, I certainly can't judge the possible merits of your suggestions. At minimum though, I think your suggestions would require :

1) Adding items to menus, possibly adding new menus altogether. That requires the users learn these new options. With enough new menu items, the devs may decide to revamp the whole look and feel just to drive home the idea that the software has changed and to prove to their bosses that they are actually adding something meaningful to the code. {I'm looking at you Microsoft Office 2007},

2) Changing or adding to the underlying mechanics of the application, which runs the risk of adding whole new sets of bugs to what is hopefully a previously stable release.

3) Convincing the software company or developers that your changes are positive enough, and in enough demand by the user base to justify devoted the time, eyeballs and above all Money to making your changes. Keep in mind that quite often, once an application has been released and the initial flood of user reports have ebbed, most dev teams get cut down, programmers reassigned to other projects and so on. A few are sometimes kept for bug chasing, something which takes proportionally much more time than new code development. The few bug chasers (the code monkey kind, get your mind out of the gutter) will push back against creeping feature-itis and managers will often just decide to add your suggestion to the list for the dev team of the next major version to consider.

Comment what the unholy &^%$#!!!! (Score 2) 311

$89,000/yr for deflazacort? Big Pharm clearly has the US health industry blindfolded, bent over and reamed but good doesn't it? My son has Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy and is taking deflazacort for it. It hasn't been approved for general prescription here in Canada, but getting approval for it to treat DMD is a straightforward rubber stamp through the exceptional access program. Because it isn't formally approved, we have to pay for it and then get reimbursed for it, Also because it's an EAP drug, we're paying only a little over wholesale. Currently we pay 85$ for a three month supply, or 340/yr. That includes shipping from the pharmacy associated with the research and teaching hospital my son is being treated by.

Comment Re: Liability (Score 4, Informative) 500

I can't tell if your post is tongue in cheek and hence quite funny in a dry sort of way, or ignorant of the features common to modern farm machinery. Modern tractors do indeed have fancy dashboards, GPS, and mandated speed restrictions. Modern farm machinery is getting rather close to autonomous activities like we see in passenger vehicles for public highways. Many machines can be started at the beginning of a row and then will proceed down the row on its own, automatically turn at the end and return along the next row, guided by GPS the whole way. The idea being to more precisely control fuel consumption, pesticide applications and so on.

Comment wolrd's biggest back door! (Score 1) 383

The original question assumes a solution that goes deeper than Java, since the question is phrased to exclude emulators and other options. (which I assume to also exclude compatibility/translation layer such as Java) The closest thing I can think of that fits the question as phrased would be if applications were written in raw binary and all host devices allowed running of such things. This would effectively bypass all OS functions, such as driver support, file system management, memory garbage collection, network stack and so on.

Right off the bat; applications would have to be much much bigger than they currently are, since each application would have to include it's own drivers, garbage collection, etc etc. That in turn makes applications far more prone to bugs and exploits as well. Then there's the fact that a successful exploit would have far more reaching consequences. Instead of say a Windows 10 only exploit, you had an exploit that affects everybody who runs the exploited software. Which leads to the question "How would a anti-malware program even work in such an environment?" When you're allowing direct access to disk I/O, networking, system buffers and memory, how does a security program monitor all that and distinguish good from bad?

I'm no computer scientist by any means; but I do know that there were and still are good technical reasons why we evolved systems that handle all the common chores to support running applications. While software portability is desirable, there is a limit to that. There just isn't a need to run mainframe programs on your cellphone for example. If I understand the underlying theory correctly, any Turing complete machine can run any program intended for any other Turing complete machine. So, in theory your cellphone could run a mainframe application but it would do so in a painfully slow, so slow as to be useless, manner. The current digital universe is very roughly divided into broad areas of utility. You have your mainframes which overlap large servers, which overlap small servers. Then workstations which overlap desktops which overlap portable devices. I think it is those areas of overlap that prompt the posters question.

Comment Re:One bitcoin is worth more than gold to idiots (Score 2) 208

Your analogy about burying gold overlooks something: On the international gold markets, the actual ingots usually don't physically change hands. Quite often, the custodians of the gold don't even move it around within the same vault. In most cases, what actually moves around are the certificates of gold deposit. (even those usually move electronically) Whether it be a mile down, encased in concrete, or in some vault under a Swiss mountain, gold is often inaccessible.

Mind you, one of the biggest markets for gold is actually the housewives of India, for whom buying actual gold (often as jewellery) and squirrelling it away is a time honoured practice against calamity. The smaller coins, bullion and ingots the normal consumer buys are the same thing.

I do note with some wry amusement that, in the event of a genuine calamity, all that digitally accessed money (gold, bitcoin, your chequeing account) is totally worthless until and unless things return to normal. Moreover, the value of gold would likely take a steep hit, as hungry people will happily pay obscene amounts of gold (in pre-calamity value) for a square meal, doubly so if they have hungry kids. The longer the calamity is expected to endure, the less value that physical gold has, up to a point. (a seller would become less and less willing to part with his food or medicine supplies for gold the longer he thinks his supplies have to last him. Meanwhile, hungry people suck at long term thinking...)

Comment An important question: (Score 1) 641

Who bought the car? I mean really, there are a LOT of cars out there with impressive 0-60 times. Ford Mustangs, Dodge Hellcats, Chevrolet Corvettes etc very much etc. They sell because people want them. The driver, or her husband, bought the car. And I'm pretty sure that that the quickness of the electric drive train was one of the selling points. (remember that Tesla cars target the BMW, Maserati, Mercedes and Aston Martin, etc buying demographic. ALL makers of quick and nimble cars) Used correctly, such acceleration potential can prevent accidents, giving you the ability to nimbly dodge a potential collision.

Of course, I don't care you who are, or how skilled of a driver you normally are. If you are three times the legal blood alcohol limit you cannot possibly handle any car properly. If the deceased driver had a car of lesser potential, she would have probably collided with the idiot going the wrong way instead.

As far as I'm concerned, the fault goes like this: A) The wrong way driver created an emergency situation, placing everyone else on that road that day in severe risk. B) Because of her asinine decision to drive drunk, the deceased was not capable of handling the emergency. She likely panicked and floored it to avoid the oncoming car. Thus, the wrong way driver caused the accident, the drunk driver's mistake(s) doubled down on the consequences of that accident. I'm pretty sure that even had she been in a more sedate vehicle, there still would have been an accident. If she had been sober behind the wheel of the Tesla, she might have been able to avoid the collision with the tree.

Comment Does anyone else remember Slashdots failed new loo (Score 1) 489

Instead of asking us victims, er, I mean users of sites and applications using this new approach to UI, why not ask someone who chose to inflict, err implement such a new look? It wasn't all that long ago that Slashdot decided to make an attempt at staying current by making some radical changes to how the website looked. As I recall, it had the following modern UI traits:

Reduced palette? : check

Too much white space? : check!

Awful font? : check

Reduced information? : check

Space wasted on unnecessary graphic art? : check

In my opinion; the new look for Slashdot looked altogether too much like an attempt to copy the look and feel of a glossy traditional print magazine. The overall effect made me think the (new) target demographic was people who didn't want details, people who wanted the web equivalent of a nice sound bite. The approach seemed like it was trying to give you an awareness of a news item, not an in-depth article for people who want to understand and debate the deeper aspects of it. Thankfully; the new look was not only disliked by a large majority of the Slashdot membership, but said members were also quite vocal in opposing it. More to the point; I believe the Slashdot membership did so in a more effective way than most websites would have experienced. I know of several of us, including myself, who took the time to go beyond the usual "the change sux and you suck for making the change!" that makes up the usual negative feedback any site experiences. In the comments appended to the article devoted to it, and again in many other articles, I and many others detailed each change from the previous look, why we disliked it and why we preferred the previous look. A LOT of it tied back to the idea of "who is your target demographic, what level of engagement/interaction are you expecting from them?"

In general, if you only give the bare bullet points of information and limit or obscure the users ability to customize things, you are planning for a one-way dialogue. For a news site, that is "sound bite journalism". For an application, that is promoting your concept of the desired workflow, not what the users might conceive as the best workflow for them. Contrariwise; if a news site gives the full story, links to supporting information and a full fledged forum for the readers to contribute, it is building a community and encouraging actual understanding of the news in question. It was that desire to understand, critique and debate that made and continues to make Slashdot special IMHO and was the detail I think the Slashdot staff at the time had overlooked.

It is my personal opinion that modern UI look and feel has its place, but that it is too often overused and largely because of the same error in thinking that Slashdot staff had been guilty of. The UI designers are going for something that looks pretty in presentations to management, is easy for the users to use as long as they are following the predicted workflow, on the predicted devices.

Comment Re:" it was even a Boeing aircraft" (Score 1) 139

Except that the citizen sleuths page on the materials found on/in the tie make it clear that:

a) It isn't titanium dioxide, but actual titanium metal, in shapes that indicate the particles are swarf and debris from machining operations.

b) the x-ray spectroscopic data show that the particle tested isn't pure Ti but is pretty darn close to being so. No other elements approach 1% of the total spectra.

c) one fragment was found to have close association with aluminium crystals, which might indicate an alloy. (is there a metallurgist in the house?)

d) yet another particle showed 400 series stainless steel embedded in a fragment of titanium. The shape and texture of the bond between them suggests one tool was used to work both metals. One possible scenario, a drill bit was used to male a hole in SS and then make a hole in Ti, smearing a bit of SS debris onto the Ti swarf during the operation.

e) there were several spiral chips of 500 or 5000 series aluminium, which is an alloy with the principle alloying metal being magnesium. Not particularly strong until and unless heat treated, but with good machinable qualities and corrosion resistance.

The evidence seems pretty clear that the tie was worn in a machine shop environment where, for the time, some unusual materials were being worked with in conjunction with more common fabrication materials. Given the variety of the materials found, it is not unreasonable to suppose the tie was worn in such an area more than once, during different operations or stages where different materials would have been worked on. In addition, the tie had to have been worn by someone who would wear a tie in a machine shop. No machinist, tool and die maker or shop operator would wear a tie, even a clip on like the one D.B. Cooper left behind, while working because of the obvious safety hazards. The sleuths reasonably conclude that D.B. would have been an engineer or shop manager. (the tie being a clip-on, I lean towards the engineer option. back in '71, a clip on tie would have been seen as even more tacky than it is today. It's seems more likely to me that an engineer would wear a clip on in deference to what he sees as a silly dress code than a manager would, who might be a wee bit more style and status conscious than an engineer)

Comment I suggest a few things (Score 1) 303

a few things off the top of my head:

1) Don't put the switch, router etc in the same volume of space your desk is going to be in. You could do something like a soundproofed closet, with baffled vent for air flow. But, as you said, there is the risk of theft still to consider. I see no reason why your networking gear needs to be in what amounts to a small garage in your backyard. Sticking the gear in a closet goes a long way to protecting you from the white noise of the fans and protecting the machinery from dust, but a closet in the house is even better.

2) Look into using what's called in the trade a "split" air conditioner. You may have seen these installed in places like Hong Kong apartment buildings and retrofitted Russian buildings. Instead of having a big window with a large metal box that is easily removable, you can have small, high windows that are far more burglar deterring than a big window. You also get a unit that is permanently installed instead of a window unit that gets pulled out every winter. Splits are more efficient and available in bigger capacities than window units. As a bonus, you'd get larger expanses for that whiteboard of yours and lower heating/cooling bills.

3) Talk to your insurance broker about this. Investigate whether you need insurance for business interruption in the event of fire, theft, hurricane etc or if a simple rider on the existing house insurance will cover it. (another area where sticking your network gear in the house will help you.)

4) Don't forget your backup strategy! Your goal should be, in the event of any disaster, you can pick up a cheap laptop and go to a coffee shop and continue to work for at least a few days. Having one backup in the home office, another in the basement with the rest of the IT stuff *and* a copy on the cloud somewhere will be a lifesaver if you ever need it. For that matter, don't forget your free backup opportunities through your employer if appropriate. Your working data is absolutely something they should be backing up already. You may be able to get them to store a image of your laptop as well. Talk to your IT guys at work. (unless *you* are the IT guy, in which case why the hell are you asking us? )

Comment Re:Some helpful context: (Score 1) 406

I think you've been misled by the graphic in the USA Today article the summary links to. Nowhere in the text does it give a location. CNN reports in the text of their article that the navy ship Bowditch was roughly 100 miles away from the Subic Bay port (but says only 50 miles in the video embedded in that article). Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reports the location as 50 nautical miles to the north west of Subic bay. Nobody is saying where the unit went during its mapping mission, just that the Chinese grabbed it when the Bowditch was preparing to recover it.

China has been trying to expand it's zone of control in the area for a while now. They've been busy building artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly and Paracel Island chains. My guess (posted previously) is that China is trying to exploit the differences in how various maritime boundaries are determined, specifically the archipelagic rule, which establishes sovereignty based on the most outlying points of a nations territory. The construction efforts haven't won de jure sovereignty for China (international courts have ruled against them) but they still maintain de facto sovereignty over large areas of the South China Sea that they didn't have before they began all of this.

Meanwhile, it is well recognized that building artificial islands, even if based on reefs normally exposed at low tide, will change the local currents, thermocline layers and so on. This is critical information for the US Navy because these factors dramatically affect a submarines ability to navigate and hide from the enemy. The US Navy needs top quality data to hide their own subs as well as help find enemy subs. The data the drone collected was itself unclassified, but of utmost importance for creating charts that are classified. My guess is that China knew what the object was long before they grabbed it (even though they claim they were investigating a potential navigational hazard). They would have grabbed it in order to pull a data dump from it. That would give the Chinese navy clues to the charting and navigational capabilities of the US Navy.

What would be interesting to me is what the data would reveal about the course the drone took during its mission. As I said, the Chinese are trying to expand their control in the area. It would not surprise me if the drone took a course directly through what China regards as their territorial or exclusive economic zone waters, but that the rest of the world (incl the US Navy) still maintain are actually international waters.

Comment Re:Some helpful context: (Score 1) 406

No I don't work for China, nor did I ever claim to agree with what they are doing. What I described was simply my own theory about what China's motives and reasoning is to do this. And, for what it's worth, the text of the article listed in the summary makes no mention of the distance from the disputed Spratly island. The graphic describes the capture as taking place in Subic Bay itself. (which strikes me as highly unlikely!) On the other hand, CNN lists the incident as occurring ~100 miles (I assume statute miles here, not nautical miles) from Subic Bay, while the Wall Street Journal claims it occurred 50 Nautical miles north west of Subic Bay. This data seems to imply that the underwater vehicle was operating in the international waters close to the Paracel islands, not the Spratly chain. Unlike the artificial island in the Spratly chain, China has controlled Paracel Island since the 50's. Only Vietnam and Taiwan have seriously contested this and China obviously ignores Taiwanese protests because official Chinese policy is that Taiwan is still a province of China, just temporarily under the control of the (rebellious) Chinese Nationalist forces.

Since China has de facto sovereignty over the Paracel Island, it's not much of a stretch to imagine them basing their territorial and economic zone boundaries on its inclusion. With an economic zone extending 200 *nautical miles* from Paracel Island, China *might* claim that the research vessel was trespassing. (which, I will stipulate, still violates the "innocent passage" requirements...)

Comment Re:Some helpful context: (Score 1) 406

Oh absolutely they are encroaching on Vietnamese and Philippine waters, that's one of the reasons why everyone with interests in the area are getting so tense about it.

And I am not claiming that China is in the right in all of this. I'm just making an inference of their likely motives and reasoning based on what they've done so far and what (little) I know about international maritime law. It seems likely to me that they are trying to play guardhouse lawyer here, using the differences between the definition of territorial, archipelagic and continental zones. Right now, they have de facto sovereignty over the artificial islands they've built so far. De facto sovereignty will remains until either

a) Someone big enough to provide a credible threat is willing to fight China for possession of the island(s) force China to cede the territory or

b) China accepts the existing de jure decisions and vacates the islands voluntarily. (some sanctions would be useful here, but I don't know if any of China's biggest trade partners have the political will to do so...)

As far as I know, International maritime law does not distinguish between natural and artificial islands. The catch here, and what I think the majority of international community is basing their objections on, is that natural or artificial, you can't just go and claim uninhabited land that exists beyond your existing boundaries. For example, if the island in the Spratly chain had been increased through vulcanism, it would have been unclaimed territory, but the Philippines would have arguably the best claim on it, since it falls within their economic zone. (similar reasoning would obtain for the Paracel chain and Vietnam, with the added argument that those waters have been fishing grounds for Vietnam for centuries)

Comment Re:Some helpful context: (Score 4, Informative) 406

It is my understanding that there are several different distinctions, each with its own measurements, for what constitutes a nations waters.

First off, as far as I know, all measurements are determined from the low tide water line(s)

Second, most treaties and decisions are based on Nautical Miles, leading to much confusion on the part of laymen, especially if they are converting from metric kilometres to miles and neglect to distinguish between nautical and statute measurements.

Third; there are several basic levels of control over waters:

a) Internal waters (bays and rivers, no right of innocent passage by third parties)

b)Territorial waters (12 NM from low tide line, nation must allow innocent passage but all laws of nation are in effect)

c) archipelagic waters, (baseline drawn from outermost points of peninsulas and and islands. Nation is completely sovereign, but must allow innocent passage AND traditional fishing rights of neighbouring countries.

d) Contiguous zone (measured another 12 NM out beyond the territorial waters. (only customs, taxation, pollution and immigration laws are in effect)

e) Exclusive Economic zone. (TWO HUNDRED NM out from baseline, nation has exclusive rights to exploit all natural resources in the area except where already covered by Contiguous Zone.) and finally

f) Continental Shelf 200 miles from baseline OR to the natural edge of the geologic feature WHICHEVER IS GREATER, to a maximum of 350 NM. Nation has rights to resources attached to, or below, the sea bottom in this area.

What China appears to be doing is building artificial islands in what previously had been international waters. If it can get tacit or explicit acceptance from the international community that China is sovereign on those islands, that will allow China to dramatically expand its control in the region based on the archipelagic rule, which in turn will expand its exclusive economic zone. Remember that there is a clear difference between de facto and de jure sovereignty. The Permanent Court of Arbitration can only rule on de jure and historically, de jure sovereignty has always been secondary to de facto sovereignty. Thus, China does not need international acceptance in order to gain de facto sovereignty. By building the islands and providing military and border patrols, it already has that.

Comment Some helpful context: (Score 5, Insightful) 406

The article doesn't mention this, but I know it's been posted on Slashdot before, large swathes of the South China Sea are no longer clearly International Waters as the current article implies. For a couple of years now, China has been building artificial islands in the region. China appears to be doing this mainly to expand its territorial waters. China's efforts have been centred largely in the Spratly and Paracel Islands regions. The Paracels are arguably within the Vietnamese territorial waters, while international treaties recognize the Spratly group as being within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Thus, from the Chinese point of view, the drone was likely a) spying on their military bases being built on one of the islands they are expanding and b) doing so from within waters they claim as their own.

From the US point of view, a) they were operating in what is still internationally recognized as either international waters or waters controlled by their Philippine allies. and b) getting the closest possible look at the military installations a major power was building, which are responsible for a major change in the balance of tensions in the region. (One can easily argue that these efforts by the Chinese government are deliberately provocative)

As a final note; I do not believe for one moment that the drone deployed by the US navy only gathers such non-classified data the article mentions. Drones are primarily intelligence gathering platforms after all, not science research vessels. If I were developing, deploying and operating multi-million dollar drones in an area currently under a great deal of military and economic tensions, I'd be loading that drone with every type of sensor, (active and passive) that I could possibly fit in its hull. Given the current tensions, I'd be using only its passive sensors to be sure. I wouldn't want my drone getting caught. The best intelligence, after all, is the intelligence the opponent doesn't even know you have. But I'd be certainly doing more than measuring temperatures and salinity. My primary interest would probably be using passive sonar to *thoroughly* map the sea bottom and gps/ inertial tracking to chart how the Chinese construction was affecting the local currents and thermocline depths. Should hostilities ever break out, such detailed knowledge of the area would make finding and combating submarines much easier as well as giving my own subs the tools they need to maximise their own efforts at hiding.

Comment Re:Eh... (Score 4, Insightful) 29

My take on that is that, while lithium has its potential dangers, it seems like any other really power dense technology has the same fundamental problem. Whether it be chemical, electrical, electro-chemical or kinetic, storing a large amount of energy in a small package is going to be dangerous when (not if) power storage devices, or the devices which contain them, fail in certain ways.

For the sake of illustration, suppose we develop a better plastic that allows classic, well understood flooded lead-acid batteries to use a stronger solution of sulphuric acid and combine that with a way of making a reticulated lead foam. What you get is a lead-acid cell that can be up to half the size of the existing product, perhaps with a slightly better initial voltage or better cold cranking amps.

Only now: a) the risk of hydrogen build up explosions is higher b) the damage done by a leaking battery/acid spill is greater. c. Because a smaller form factor means closer terminal spacing, it is even easier for a mechanic to get a wrench or screwdriver caused short, shocking him and potentially welding the tool in place. d) Any hypothetical plastic that is resistant to very strong concentrations of sulphuric acid across a wide range of temperatures and internal pressures is likely going to be next to impossible to recycle.

Similarly, a kinetic system like a flywheel holds the potential to fail in entertaining (from a distance) ways if the bearings fail or if the base materials fail under load.

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