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Comment Re:Now With Advertising! (Score 1) 164

I'd like to add two additional criteria on an and/or basis:

*Enough wide spread adoption that I don't have to coax all my existing contacts to migrate to the new system.


*Also be a multi-protocol application like Pidgin or Trillian. That way I can still keep in touch with those who haven't yet, will not or can not migrate.

One reason I stuck with MSN messenger so long is that I had several friend who had locked down desktops at work and so could only use Windows Messenger that came built into XP. These days I am using Pidgin for the most part. I only use Skype for Linux because the Skype video call function in Pidgin doesn't work very well. The only thing I miss these days using a multi-protocol client instead of the dedicated ones is the ability to easily share files in the chat. But these days, with Dropbox, big email inbox sizes and so on, that just isn't really a big problem.

Comment Re:Now With Advertising! (Score 1) 164

Not allowing Skype for Linux 4.3.37 to make calls is going to be a huge deal for me. I'd happily upgrade to a newer version if one existed. Thing is, an alpha release doesn't count as a newer version to me. Especially since TFA has this little gem smack in the middle of it:

As you may have guessed by the name, Skype for Linux Alpha is not a fully functioning Skype client as of yet.

Further down, there is a link to a help page with the available features. Looks like everything I use, common things, are taken away in the alpha and only one new thing is being added.... Skype for Linux feature list

Comment Re:Sphagetti code (Score 1) 93

"You told me, 'God made the World.'" "No, no!" Harshaw said hastily. "I told you that, while all these many religions said many things, most of them said, 'God made the World.' I told you that I did not grok the fullness, but that 'God' was the word that was used." "Yes, Jubal," Mike agreed. "Word is 'God'" He added. "You grok." "No, I must admit I don't grok." "You grok," Smith repeated firmly. "I am explain. I did not have the word. You grok. Anne groks. I grok. The grass under my feet groks in happy beauty. But I needed the word. The word is God." Jubal shook his head to clear it. "Go ahead." Mike pointed triumphantly at Jubal. "Thou art God!" Jubal slapped a hand to his face. "Oh, Jesus H. — What have I done? Look, Mike, take it easy! Simmer down! You didn't understand me. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry! Just forget what I've been saying and we'll start over again on another day. But — " "Thou art God," Mike repeated serenely. "That which groks. Anne is God. I am God. The happy grass are God, Jill groks in beauty always. Jill is God. All shaping and making and creating together — ." He croaked something in Martian and smiled

Comment This touches on what I said before. (Score 3, Interesting) 410

In previous posts about autonomous cars, I raised the question of how these vehicles handle the highly variable and difficult to anticipate changes in the routing caused by construction. I worked for several years in road construction and can tell you that an appalling number of humans get confused by having to change lanes in response to a flagman or pylons/barrels, ignoring any existing lane, curb and signed markings.

In this case; having read the article (I know, I know...) it seems that the car programming is overly optimistic about predicting the behaviour of vehicles overtaking it. It seems possible that the programming includes implicit assumptions of the likely stopping distance and reaction times it should expect from other vehicles as well. In other words; it "thought" it had sufficient space and time to perform the manoeuvre because it "assumed" a bus would behave and react the way a car might.

I have two thoughts, each in defence of one of the vehicles in this collision:

1) Even the safety driver expected the bus to yield and from I can glean from the article, legally the bus should have yielded. So this was a mistake that even the majority of human drivers might have made in the same situation.

2) Others in this thread have posted criticisms of bus drivers in their city or in general. Much of the annoying behaviours they mention though are pretty understandable from the bus drivers POV. You can't just suddenly hit the brakes if a smaller vehicle or pedestrian darts in front of you. Not only do you have a hell of a lot of momentum (highly variable, depending on passenger load) you also have to make as gradual velocity changes as you can. Your passengers aren't buckled up, you might have a fair number of them standing, with any number of knapsacks, briefcases, skateboards etc etc that become flying hazards when you come stop too suddenly. You have to ease to the left a fair bit when making a right turn because you have a much larger turning radius than most other vehicles. You have to drive straddling lines sometimes because if you stayed tight to the right, you are going to crunch someone, hop the curb or both. On the other hand, if you do stick to the left as much as you can, lots of people are going to pull what Torontonians call a "cabby pass" where the cab illegally passes a bus or streetcar on the right so as to get out from behind it. If they don't use their rear end to block the traffic lane, quite often they'll never get back out because no one wants to stop at the buses back corner and let the bus back in. (I have a relative who is a TTC bus driver and he has passed along some training and daily work anecdotes)

Comment Re:Load monitoring and control to be required (Score 1) 346

My problem with second generation meters isn't the "radiation" the panic-prone are freaking out about. (besides, it's my understanding that some designs of smart meter are communicating over the utilities own lines, which makes more sense to me in the long run. Why pay the cellular guys money to carry your very predicable data packets when you have all that capacity of your own just sitting there?)

No; my issue is that it gives the choice over what temperature in my home is acceptable during hot weather to the utility. If my understanding is correct, the way it is going to work is that, late in the afternoons or during heat waves when the A/C based demand on the grid is highest, the utility will send out shut down/throttle back commands to vast numbers of their customers. I have the following problems with this:

1) Some people need close control of their home temperatures. Every heat wave triggers a number of heat related deaths after all, even with ready (albeit often expensive) access to A/C. Allowing thousands or tens of thousands of homes to rise by ten degrees seems likely to increase that death rate by some amount.

2) People like having control, are long accustomed to having control in their own homes. They can handle a lack of control or handing control over to someone/thing else as long as it is a) Doing close to what they would be doing themselves b) not obtrusive, not rubbed in their face. Having the power company turn off my A/C when things are at their hottest would be intolerable to me, and I imagine many other people. The greater the heat, the more aggressively the power company tries to throttle demand, the more people are going to find ways of bypassing the external control of their A/C units so they can run them as much as they want. When it's hot out, I want to cool my house *now*, not two or three hours from now when rates and demand are lower

3) Doing this properly requires that everybody upgrade their A/C units to ones capable of receiving and responding to the grid commands. I think very few people are going to be willing or able to just replace any or all of the A/C units in their dwelling. I've seen proposals for subsidized A/C swap programs (indeed, my own freezer and one of my window a/c units are new courtesy of my local program) But I notice that, where the swap programs are successful, a majority of the funding for it has come from the government, not the utility company. (which is just a round about way of saying we all paid for some people to get new equipment)

Comment One industry already does this, as far as I know (Score 3, Interesting) 51

If I understand the certification process, this is already being done with aviation and aerospace components and certain critical types of military equipment. If you purchase, for example, a grade 8 bolt and matching castle nut for an aviation application, it comes with a manufacturers document that guarantees it met spec when tested at their plant. The testing equipment the manufacturer uses also has its certificate(s) indicating who made it, when it was last calibrated, what the accuracy can be expected to be and so on. EVERY part on a commercial aircraft is supposed to have this chain of documented specs and testing. All of that testing and record keeping adds to the manufacturing overhead, in turn greatly increasing cost. As a result; there is a thriving black market in stolen, superannuated or outright counterfeit aviation parts. There is enough margin there to make creating counterfeit documentation well worth the effort.

Another example; more closely related to the point expressed in the article is jasmine rice. Like legitimate champagne or shade-grown fair trade coffee, jasmine rice is much sought after in the marketplace. Like champagne, "real" jasmine rice is supposed to be rice of a specific variety, grown in certain regions. There have been efforts to form grower and marketer groups that can create brands, authorize use of group logos and so on. And yet, adulterated or counterfeit jasmine rice is rampant in Asian marketplaces.

The point I'm making here is that, if a given product can demand a premium price compared to alternatives or competitors, disreputable people will find a way to get a taste of that action. Using technology can make the documentation process cheaper to implement and maintain, but ultimately I doubt it can provide as much assurance of product provenance as the public believes. The best that I think could be done would be a collection of RFID tags attached to every product. Each organization, at each stage of the manufacturing process, would add their own RFID tag, encrypted with their own key. A customer who doubted the provenance of the product could, in theory, decrypt the tag using the manufacturers public key and thus be assured the manufacturer is responsible for that tag.

This would be unwieldy as hell, an added expense, and wouldn't work anyway. You still have the problems of a) Is that the product the tag was originally attached to? b) Can we be sure the manufacturers key hasn't been compromised? c) Can we be sure that the manufacturer isn't lying? d) how far back along the chain are any users or value adders expected to go to ensure the nature of the product? e) how can we arrange things so the end user will actually bother to check these things? (and keep checking them every now and again) Some people read the label, but not everyone. And even among those who read the label, how many read that label every time they purchase it? Doing the due diligence is a huge pain in the ass, you're going to see non-compliance all over the place.

Slashdotters will easily recognize that this situation has a lot of resemblance to the problem of internet security. It all boils down to a chain of trust and every link in that chain is a potential flaw to be exploited.

Comment Re:Hope can be horrible (Score 2) 48

My son has Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy. He's 10 now and we've been waiting for the exon skipping anti-sense therapy trial you referred to for over a year now. Canadian stage 1 trials were just concluding when we got the diagnosis, we've been told he will only be accepted into the stage 2 trial (when it finally opens) if he is still walking. So now we are in the grim race to keep him ambulatory long enough to qualify for the trial whenever that happens to be. Even the researcher himself cannot give us even a loose estimate of how that will take, since stage 2 trials will only get approved after the stage 1 data has been crunched and reviewed and crunched again by Health Canada.

We were told about the CRISPR/CAS9 approach being tested in animals, but as you note, it is even further down the road then anti-sense therapies. Right now we have to hope that our son can get access to the anti-sense therapies in time and that this will buy him the time he needs for the CRISPER/CAS9 approach to get approved.

The part of it that is eating us up every day is that, even our most optimistic guess for when each therapy will become available isn't soon enough for even our most optimistic prognosis for his condition. The most likely outcome is that he will be in the wheelchair full time and require assistance eating before the anti-sense therapy becomes available and that he will be dead just before the CRISPR/CAS9 "cure" gets full approval.

Comment Re:Lie? (Score 2) 247

I take it you've never heard of the practice on the part of the *MPAA and RIAA of literally writing the laws they think should be passed and then having their chosen representatives submitting it as a bill essentially as is? Nor have you heard of the CD levy? Where ALL recordable CD blank media gets a tax added to it, ostensibly going to the artists to offset assumed piracy, but in reality going to organizations that somehow neglect to actually pay the artists their share? (Oh, and incidentally, this only covers artists who have signed with the major labels, unsigned and indie artists are not entitled to a share of this money...)

*Many other large corporations and corporate associations have done the same of course. It's just that in the realm of IP, copyrights and piracy do we see the most clear-cut, headline grabbing examples. Examples: The efforts to keep electric cars non-competitive, efforts to continue to subsidize oil and corn-based ethanol fuel stocks, Native land being outright seized by abusing eminent domain and then selling that land to mining and/or oil companies who started the whole process. The well known "chicken tax" originally intended to penalize Euro companies for taxing US chicken imports, but somehow morphing into a tax on Asian light trucks, which "coincidentally" protected the big three US auto makers from competition from smaller, lighter and more efficient vehicles during the height of the 70's fuel crisis. These are just off the top of my head. I'm sure my fellow slashdotters can contribute many more examples....

Comment click bait title is misleading... (Score 4, Informative) 50

This is probably a Slashdot problems sort of thing. But for me, just the bare title of the actual paper being referred to is more informative and easier to comprehend than the journalist written popularization of it...

Evidence of an odd-parity hidden order in a spin–orbit coupled correlated iridate

Comment Re:We do what we always do ... (Score 1) 242

Kylemonger makes a good point about the construction industry having to tighten up how they demarcate construction sites. In fact; I said as much myself. Thing is; there already is standard signage along with real barriers, standards for flagmen etc etc. And; as I pointed out in my original post, even human drivers screw up regularly in those situations. Replacing pylons and barrels with say Jersey barriers would drastically increase the cost of road repair, adding utility connections to buildings and so on. The reason we use the barrels and pylons is because it is fast, easy and flexible. When doing certain types of road repair, it is common to have "rolling sites", where the workers progress down the road at a slow speed (crack sealing is a common example) while the traffic control guys grab pylons or barrels from the back of the site and shuttle them up the front, arranging them to extend the leading edge of the site. This is usually done by having the foreman driving a pickup full of collected pylons up to the front of the site and dropping them off for the forward flagman to arrange as he or she goes.

Doing that with Jersey barriers or crossbucks would be a lot slower and more expensive. Moving Jersey barriers requires heavy equipment, can only move a few at a time and forces traffic behind it to move even slower.

which brings me to Coren22's post: It is a pretty strong rule that construction sites and accident scenes must disrupt traffic as little as possible. And sometimes it just isn't feasible to close an entire road. I remember one job site where it was a two lane city street and the crews needed to dig a large trench across both lanes and have that trench open for several days to allow for new water mains, gas lines and so on. But the city refused to give us permission to totally close the road because it was a preferred route for tour buses to get to the bottom of Clifton Hill. In addition, being a major tourist area (Niagara Falls Canada) we were not allowed to leave excavations open after we shut down at the end of the day either. So; what we ended up doing was closing one lane, flagging buses in the usual alternating style on the remaining lane while work was done in the closed lane. Then the first lane would get filled in, and everybody would swap sides so work could be done on the other side. This slowed everything down tremendously. What should have been three or four days of open hole turned into ten days. (The craziest part? you aren't supposed to put removed material back into the hole because it doesn't pack or settle predictably, so every time we emptied a hole, the burden was taken off for fill and fresh gravel was dumped in the hole. )

In the case of accident scenes, there would already be traffic on that road that couldn't be rerouted. Sure, you can close a highway at the first off ramp behind the scene, but there is almost certainly going to be a certain amount of traffic already past that point. What's an autonomous vehicle supposed to do then? Without a driver on board, it can't proceed and it certainly can't be allowed to just park and wait either.

My own idea is to set a standard for "follow me" vehicles, like they sometimes use at airports. Any job site or accident scene gets two or more "Follow Me" vehicles assigned to it, with a human driver in it. All vehicles, autonomous or piloted, get required to follow it until it sends a certain signal (coded IR light perhaps?) and pulls over out of the way. At which time the traffic can proceed normally. Autonomous vehicles are already good at playing "follow the leader", so this would be a pretty easy system to implement.

Comment Re:We do what we always do ... (Score 3, Interesting) 242

Having worked in road construction, one of the more dangerous jobs in Canada according to Workman's Comp stats, I have one area of curiosity regarding autonomous vehicles:

How well do they handle signals by flagmen, police officers and so on? As far as I know, no autonomous system to date has the ability to see and correctly interpret traffic control flags or hand signals. (for that matter, how would one program a car so as to recognize a cop or construction workers hand signals but treat bicyclists hand signals differently and ignore non significant gestures by pedestrians, other drivers etc?)

Right now, as far as I know, they will correctly avoid barrels or pylons, but only by treating them as static objects to be navigated around, stopping if it can't figure out a safe path between or around them. There is no special rule set that tells it "objects of these shapes and colour combinations indicate a construction zone or accident site, switch to rule set B (for slower speeds, more weight given to moving objects in the sensor periphery etc)" Back when I was on the road crew, close calls by confused or distracted drivers was a daily occurrence. Sure, the computer is never distracted (one hopes!, the computer equivalent I guess would be wrongly weighting one set of inputs over another) but it would be easier to confuse it, especially when there are multiple workers in safety vests pointing and signalling to each other within the same view arc as the flagman or cop.

A related issue would be properly navigating the thicket of pylons or traffic "barrels", correctly following the temporary lane(s) and not mistakenly taking an opening in the pylon line right into the work site. This particular problem could be at least partly dealt with by more standardization on work site markings, minimum and maximum distances between pylons tightened up. On the car end, the software would have to allow for correct navigation between said pylons when the usual road markings are absent, indeed, even the usual pavement is missing.

As it stands now, construction and accident sites I think are places where the autonomous vehicle just gives up and signals the driver to assume control. Thing is, one of the hoped for benefits of autonomous vehicles is the ability to have a non-driver, sick, sleeping or drunk driver to safely get from A to B. And I'm sure the transport industry is looking forward to when they can have only a single driver or perhaps even no driver at all, allowing the truck to go non-stop. None of that is going to work very well if the vehicles can't handle a construction site.

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