Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:O RLY? (Score 2, Interesting) 374

Which one do you mean?

* Pulse Audio? * Systemd? * Unity/Gnome 3/KDE 4? * Windows 8/10?

It's not that people hate something that's mainstream. The problem is that mainstream is often a polished turd which companies or alternatively gifted individuals try to sell you as something which is better and novel, while being in an order of magnitude less usable and having tons of bugs.

I think this is exactly the kind of comment that Shuttleworth was talking about.

Let me put it this way: if this software is such an obvious 'polished turd', why haven't *you* coded up a replacement? If it's that easy to enumerate the things they did wrong, why isn't it easy for you to just do it the right way without bugs? (Please don't take this personally, I'm using the universal 'you' for all people reading this)

PulseAudio is not perfect, but it is improving, and is itself a big improvement on older sounds systems that often didn't work at all for many setups. Systemd is not perfect but it is a huge improvement on the old script init that couldn't handle modern features like hotplugging devices and sleep mode. The desktops are not perfect but are trying different design philosophies out, because honestly, user design is not a 100% solved known problem, but the latest GNOME 3 and KDE/Plasma 5 releases are very nice and polished (your comment including KDE4 suggests you haven't tried KDE in a while; I encourage you to do so). Were those things buggy at first? Sure. But I suspect many distros rushed (possibly a bit too fast) to switch to them precisely because the older systems were not working, and they were ready to get them fixed. Even Windows 8/10 have parts that I dislike (mostly the telemetry, and 8's inconsistent mix of metro with the old GUI) but they deserve kudos for massively improving their default security posture and modularizing the system (I have way less crashes than XP/7!).

The answer is that modern software engineering is a VERY hard problem. And like many things in computer science, there are lots of trade-offs -- you often must sacrifice one thing to win at another. Many of the issues people complain about are design decisions that are not necessarily the result of bad programming practice, but rather the trade-off, and the developers are showing they might have a different priority than you. And that's ok. No one has to agree 100% of the time on anything. But that said, you can respect someone's work and decisions while still holding your own differing opinion, and that often gets lost in the arguments. Shuttleworth had a not-invented-here problem on some issues, but the community's response was sometimes just as bad. Both sides had merit to their arguments, and both sides have made mistakes. It happens. Let's not demonize anyone for trying to see their vision through.

I'm in no way condoning laziness of course -- I expect all projects and developers to quickly address security issues and release but and security patches promptly, for example. The privacy issues that Ubuntu and especially Windows brought up are worth a very critical eye. But let's remember that software is hard for anyone, no matter how much experience you have, and stop tearing each other down. In fact, in true open source spirit, contribute bug fixes ... or start your own fork!

Comment Re:This is of no surprise (Score 1) 245

We're in this situation where the government controls the issuance and devaluation of money, the government regulates the markets, the government fakes the inflation data to make it look like we're not in a depression, and then people say, "obviously we need a government to be successful!"

Have you read about eras such as the Gilded Age in the US? Unregulated markets, brought on mostly by quickly changing technology that simply didn't have rules on it, lead to the concentration of wealth into monopolies. Businessmen ruthlessly cut their competition out of the market, then performed hostile takeovers and shut them down to keep the prices/profits high once there was no competition. Once there was no competition, there was no incentive to do right for workers, so they shut down factories, laid off workers, and paid low wages with no benefits in hazardous conditions. This kept this going because they were able to pay off politicians and bribe government to stop regulations that would have kept the market open (they used their money to bribe politicians, and spread propaganda against unions and third parties like the Populist Party that were beginning to form to oppose monopolies; politicians then used local police forces as private armies to quell union protests for higher wages, and blamed the loss of jobs on European immigrants when in reality corporations were transitioning jobs overseas for huge profit margins -- any of this sound familiar?). It took sometimes violent union strikes and the era of "trust busting" politicians that stood up to corruption to break up industrial monopolies and restore the balance by putting reasonable regulations on business and the markets to prevent monopolies from controlling the economy and the government. Good regulations actually keep the market open to competition; without it, we'd go back to monopolistic behavior (and in fact we see the resurgence of mergers and effective monopolies lately as we continue a path of deregulation, particularly in banking.)

Unfortunately, we seem to have lost that lesson. Are you so afraid of government tyranny that you will settle for corporate tyranny? Don't get me wrong, government tyranny is a real concern and we should limit government power as needed to head that off. However, my concern is that government is not the *only* way tyranny can arise, and we are missing this important point. With government and publicly-run organizations, we at least have the ability to vote and try to influence our representatives (of course, money as speech inhibits this, which is why it's such a problem), the power is spread out among many people that should in generally rotate in and out of office regularly; with private organizations, we have no legal authority to do anything other than hope the CEO does the right thing, and the CEO can own the company his whole life. Which structure seems more democratic and free to you? I choose democracy, despite its imperfections, for anything important.

Let me also address your points more directly:

  • Government issues paper money and controls inflation because it turns out during the 1800s when we insisted on the gold standard as business preferred, our economy was *way* too variable. Our money would drastically change in value quickly depending on local and international production of gold, leading to someone with a "good" job suddenly unable to pay for basic necessities or even their home. There was fierce debate, and we eventually settled on paper money as a way to stabilize the economy and allow workers to plan for the future. Big business of course likes gold, because they have enough money to withstand the volatility long enough to capitalize on the next bubble, but again, that's not in the average American's best interests. I know the refrain is that it's bad for the government to "print free money", but that is not a fair characterization, and there are very specific historical and economic reasons we do so.
  • Yes, government regulates markets to some degree... to prevent those monopolies taking over industries and destroying the free market, as I pointed out earlier. 100% free leads to private business tyranny and control of economics and government. If you have a specific complaint on a specific regulation, I'm all ears; I'm sure many regulations are outdated or unnecessary, or even designed to hurt competition in favor of a single business monopoly because of corruption. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater and pretend that regulations are bad in all scenarios. Good regulations protect our freedoms to start our own businesses and have choices in many cases. Let's throw out bad corrupt regulations, and strengthen good ones. Since roughly Reagan, however, we've had a wave of deregulation, particularly in the financial sector (under both Republican and Democratic presidents too), so it's also not a fair characterization to say our market is heavily regulated or controlled. It used to be much more controlled, and guess what, our economy did great back then.
  • Selective interpretation of data is a problem everywhere not just with government. Think how often businesses create offshore accounts, subsidiaries, spin-offs, layoff employees, convert employees to part-time contractors, etc., in order to fudge their numbers and make stocks go up. I agree that everyone involved should be accountable for correct statistics, but it's not a problem free market will fix. It's a societal problem that is only fixed when people care and stop supporting anyone that engages in misleading activities. Some minor regulation on business accounting might help, and of course, politicians caught twisting facts should not receive your vote.

The dig at "We need government to be successful" really irritates me, because these sorts of statements imply government is a deity-like being that controls us. Government is *us*. It is the people. We can directly vote on issues, choose representatives, and set our government. Because no one sees eye to eye 100%, we hold votes to settle disagreements in a fair way. YES, we need government, because government is us being civilized with each other and respecting differences of opinions as we settle those differences to make decisions. Anything else is saying that democracy doesn't work and that we can't be civilized with each other and that you would rather the aristocratic class (used to be royalty, now it's simply rich people) to set the rules for us; again, a free market in practice is not free for the people, it leads to corporate tyranny as a single CEO can now dictate policy for the country. It's nice to fantasize about free markets but they're just as idealistic as libertarians claim socialist policies are.

Comment Re:work less (Score 4, Insightful) 723

The inescapable fact, however, is that what you conceive of as "work", going to a building someone else owns and laboring for them, is going to decline as automation, AI and robots improve,,

When? When is the magic decline in jobs going to start happening? Because unemployment rates are really low right now.

For me, it's not necessarily a matter of declining jobs, but declining wages. Unemployment can be really low, but if most of the employment is in low-paying service jobs, we have trouble. Robots have ALREADY taken over most manufacturing jobs, Amazon's warehouses are now almost entirely automated, and soon Uber will be driving our trucks. You can bet that as service workers demand livable wages, the calculation for when to introduce robots tips toward "soon". When that happens, with other sectors automated, where will they go?

I don't think it's ethical to let people starve, and honestly, letting them waste their lives as fry cook or paper pusher in an office isn't much healthier or better. If we can all have robots to meet our basic needs, why not? Let the robots do the work, and let humans compete over creative works, creating their own businesses and styles to compete with each other for fame or other society acknowledgements of worth. I think the age of arbitrary numbers written on scraps of crushed dead wood pulp is coming to an end, we need to adjust for a new concept of "money" based on cultural contributions to society rather than simply your required 40 hours a day wasting your life away because "that's how we always did it".

Comment Electoral College history (Score 5, Informative) 277

Institutions like the Electoral College were meant to be a check against the stupidity of the masses that might elect a Trump.

That's not entirely accurate. This history of it is a bit more nuanced. Effectively, the larger northern colonies that opposed slavery would have always won the presidency against the smaller southern states that wanted to maintain slavery. Southern states were afraid that in a pure democracy (one person, one vote), the north would always win elections and therefore set the agenda and force them to do things against their will: in particular, force them to give up slavery. Several states refused to sign on to the new Constitution if it was set up this way. So the compromise was to allow an electoral college, House by population by an equal vote for each state in Senate, to make it more "fair" toward the south so they would agree to it.

If that didn't happen, the US would have remained under the Articles of Confederation, which was too weak to really hold the nation together. The Confederation did not give Congress authority to do many things that were discovered required during the Revolutionary War. To some degree, Congress acted out of the bounds of law (their mandate from the states) to continue the war and draft the Constitution in the first place; they were initially only to make some minor changes to the Confederation, but majority of delegates decided that wouldn't be enough on their own.

To be fair, there was certainly fear from some early leaders about pure democracy, equating it to effectively mob rule. There were also concerns that foreign entities (particularly British spies at the time) would attempt to influence our elections. But the anti-federalists were very strongly pro-democracy. The federalists won the battle of words in the constitution at first, but the Federalist party quickly died out and was replaced by the anti-federalists under Jefferson. The anti-federalists splintered into today's Republican and Democratic parties. So effectively, most of our history has been very democratic and states' rights, even if some (not all) of founders thought closer to what you think.

But idiots clamored for more power by virtue of their numbers. So state governments neutered their own congressional delegations by requiring that they vote for the popular choice.

The result? Trump. And people clamoring for more democracy.

The history of the the 17th amendment is also complex. In a nutshell, the people clamored for direct election to stop corruption. Prior to this, the state legislators chose Senators, which as you can guess meant they were very prone to bribery and intimidation to get certain people selected for the Senate. Also, it was easy for state legislatures to get stuck without choosing anyone because of political infighting, meaning that some states would often not be represented in the Senate for lengths of time while state legislatures argued.

It was an interesting idea, but didn't appear to work out that great in practice, so we changed it. As the Constitution was specifically written to do, via amendments.

I think we need to continue the fight against corruption by opening our system up to even more democratic measures. Much corruption comes today from our laws effectively requiring a two-party political system (so many committees require equal numbers of GOP and Dems, for example, as if those parties were written into the constitution; they weren't, and in fact a good chunk of the Federalist Papers goes on about how corruption and political parties are the worst things that could happen to our country). I think changing to a different voting method (Approval, Score, or Ranked Choice Voting) would eliminate the "spoiler" effect and allow citizens to vote for who they actually think is the best for the job, and not just to "stop" the "other" candidate.

Comment Free Software is a necessity (Score 1) 503

I've seen several people say that Windows 10 is full of spyware, and stay on Windows 7 or even XP (though the XP proponents seem to finally be falling off).

This sort of argument bothers me, because it is very short-term thinking. Will you continue to use Windows 7 for the next 30 years, as it does not receive security updates, cannot run the latest software including latest browsers, and generally won't include drivers for the latest devices and protocols?

Do you think Microsoft cares about your complaints when they know you will eventually cave in within 5 years because you can't leave Windows for various reasons? Every version of Windows adds more spyware of some kind, started in the browser and has worked its way elsewhere.

The only solution is to reject Windows and proprietary software that does this kind of spying. Switch to your favorite flavor of Linux or BSD. Doesn't matter which, just that its free software. Otherwise, what are you doing? Are you going to continue complaining yet taking it every release of Windows?

Comment Re:Did that many celebrities really die? (Score 2) 456

I crunched the numbers (before the Carrie Fisher news hit) using as my guide. 2016 has killed the most celebrities (140 when you add in Ricky Harris, Carrie Fisher, and Richard Adams) than any year since 2000 (the earliest year that site had listings for). It was 40% more than the next closest year, 2005.

The baby boomers are now in their 60s and 70s. The thing that gets me is the overwhelming emotion seems to be surprise, as if never in history before have actors ever died of old age and natural causes.

There's going to be a big uptick in deaths the next decade or so, then quiets down until maybe the 2050s or 2060s. Then that generation will be upset that all of the great people of the millennial generation (which is another boom, bigger than that baby boomers actually) died in the same year of 2056 or whatever. It's actuary work. Probability and statistics.

Certainly, it is sad to lose people, especially those that have inspired others. But unless the death rate percentage of population has changed significantly, there's nothing to worry about. Everyone needs to relax. 2016 isn't cursed or anything. It's just statistics.

Comment Re:The EC is too far out of balance (Score 1) 637

This combined with a Ranked Choice Vote I think would be a great way forward at making sure everyone's voice is heard without as much tactical voting and campaigning. (No system is perfect, just saying this would be far more fair system to all candidates and voters than what we currently have)

Comment This is where gov helps (Score 1) 164

No, we need to save the Internet from the Internet Of insecure Things. Manufacturers of crap like this should be fined until they take security seriously.

I see comments flipping out already about "how can government fix things?". Well, thru stuff like fines. I've heard the FCC is investigating IoT type vendors. If the FCC can fine companies, or even ban them from selling products in the US until they meet a minimum standard, that will have a huge effect on these companies' behavior.

So far, they make cheap crappy things with crappy firmware, and users/customers aren't tech savvy enough to know how to pick a device with better security features. In fact, there's no way for even a professional to tell from the box or specs. So the company has made their money from you before you know its bad. We need regulations and perhaps some gov/non-profit testing labs for these devices. Between regulations/fines, and some rating system to allow users to make best decisions, we can change how the market behaves.

Comment Credit Scores Big Part - also Compounding (Score 1) 334

That's 29% interest. Who out there is actually offering student loans at 29% interest?

The interest rates any bank advertises always have asterisks next to them. The 3% or 5% you see marketed is only for people making certain incomes, with perfect (800+) credit scores, etc.

Someone with lower credit (~600 or under) easily gets a "penalty" of >10%. When they apply, they don't get 3% for a loan, they get 12-15%. Yes, they get sometimes maybe 20% interest. And what are they going to do about it? They have low credit, and no one will do better. Hell, finding the bank that even gives them the 20% loan is amazing. Most people with low credit scores don't have any ability to get credit; everywhere they go, they are told they are losers because their credit score is low and no one helps them. This is why pay day loans have become a thing: banks have stopped serving an entire portion of the population that still needs loans for emergencies (the heater goes out, etc.) just like the rest of us. Except because of credit scores -- which are calculated by a proprietary formula we're not allowed to know, and are crazy hard and expensive to appeal even when the company makes a mistake -- they have to pay higher rates than the rest of us, contributing to a further debt spiral. It's really obscene and needs to end yesterday, but many elected officials such as Debbie Wasserman-Shultz prop up the industry and profit from it.

Keep in mind that low credit DOES NOT necessarily mean someone made mistakes or defaulted on debt. If you are a young then your score relies heavily on your parents, and while the young person may have done nothing wrong personally, they immediately start life with a lower credit score because of the parents' mistakes. Even if both the child and parents did all the right things, there may still trouble for them: the exact formula is proprietary and secret, but we know that things such as yearly income and how often you change jobs impact your score. In fact, NOT taking out debt and paying everything cash actually HURTS your score! If you are a waiter without debt, you still will have low credit simply because you don't make enough money. Likely because banks don't like you if you don't usually take out debt or have lots of free money to take out the debt; the credit score is NOT a measure of how trustworthy you are, but rather a measure of how likely the bank will profit off of you. Credit scores should not be used to judge people for rental properties (becoming more common) or jobs, and probably not even most loans honestly. It's a false measure.

Also, the key word is compounding interest. The on-paper rate might be 15-20% or even lower, but since the interest is then added to the balance when calculating the next interest payment, you're paying interest on interest, making the effective rate numbers like 30% or higher. So even if you pay all of your minimums, the interest can still go up! To my knowledge, there are laws protecting mortgages from this sort of behavior (and other things like balloon payments...), but student loans do not have those legal protections. (In fact, student loans are the only type of loan you can't discharge in bankruptcy. Some jerk that bought a half million dollar house he couldn't afford can get that discharged, but someone with $50k in student debt can't.) My wife had a private loan that compounded daily. This wasn't from a loan shark either but a major bank, and she and her family had excellent credit. When she made a payment, the next day she already had interest rack up, and it was compounding. She was not told that up front. No other loan does that! Not a mortgage or anything. Again, it's a disgusting industry of middle men bankers taking advantage of people with the least money and least options.

tl;dr: compounding interest means the real rate is much higher than what is advertised, and poorer people (ITT's clientelle) tend to get terrible interest rates to begin with. It's a predatory banking system that keeps the poorest of our nation that are trying to do the right thing (trying to go to school and better themselves and get better jobs, as everyone always tells them they should) in debt, so that banking executives make multi-million dollar bonuses. It's time we question bankers, and the politicians that enable and support this behavior, not the poor people they prey on.

Comment What packages don't work? (Score 0) 148

Python 2 is still maintained because developers aren't porting their code to Python 3.

It's 9 years later, at some point Python is going to have to give up on Python 3 and move on to a Python 4 that is backwards compatible with Python 2.

It's been quite some time since I've seen a python package that doesn't work with Python 3. What packages do you use that aren't Python 3 compatible, at least through six or some layer?

At this point, any libraries that haven't been updated for 9 years to handle Python 3 are likely dead projects and you should consider migrating to newer packages with appropriate bugfix and security updates, rather than delaying Python 3. Python 3 is stable and great. It's handling of strings and binary data is much more consistent. And Python3 has cool features like async io. Many large Python-based projects such as Django are phasing out Python2 support completely over the next year or two, and I believe distros like Fedora are planning on replacing the system python with Python 3 in the next couple releases. It was a slow but stable transition. I'd say it was successful, not a failure.

Comment I don't understand the text security angle (Score 2) 46

Fully agree with potential problems of requiring a cell phone: not all people that use the system will have access to cell phones or text messages, for example. There's also the question of how to update your cell phone number in the system if it changes. Krebs seems to be focused on the creation of accounts, which allows you to register a phone number and lock others out (which gets back to that updating your number thing); that seems to be a potentially big problem, considering how many security breaches have leaked our SSNs and what not. If all I need is a name and SSN to initially register and get benefits, then the system needs a better way of verifying identity before allowing to apply.

But I don't understand the text message security complaint that is "more important". Two factor auth means I need *two* things. Even if someone were to intercept the text message (which I believe is difficult, requiring special equipment and proximity to the victim, but feel free to correct me), the point of the system is that nothing can be done with that text without also knowing the password. And if someone knows your password and text messages, then no system is going to prevent an intruder. I understand that NIST is working to update the recommendation (which is a good idea), but I feel like its more safe than not using 2FA (it at least requires attackers to do much more work!), and I'm sure when the NIST guidelines are finalized, other agencies will begin the move to the new recommendation too. It seems a mountain out of a molehill. Am I missing something?

Comment Yes exactly, maths results (Score 5, Insightful) 387

But string theory is different. Although it has not been a success phenomenologically, it has led to many beautiful results in mathematics and field theory, such as Mirror Symmetry and AdS/CFT. Further research in string theory is definitely worthwhile, and Lee Smolin is unreasonably biased against it.

Yes, string theory is a bit different in that it hasn't been able to make any testable predictions, which makes it non-science. Science is based on the idea of experimental evidence, and falsifiability. It isn't science, it isn't physics.

Now it very well may have some beautiful results in mathematics. Maybe it will have applications and effects on topology, cryptography, who knows. But those things are mathematics, not science.

I tend to agree with Smolin that string theory, as currently presented (and I understand it), is not a scientific theory, even though it is interested and deserves its own mathematical research. The problem is, string theory gets the ratings, so we have more cosmologists and string theorists as professors physics, taking the few positions (and associated funding!) away from people that want to be true experimental physicists. That's where the semi-outrage is.

Comment Depends what you mean (Score 2) 443

Except Windows 10 is not a security update: the computer in question had Windows 7, which is still in extended support and will still get "proper" security updates until 2020.

Yes, Windows 7 will get security updates in the form of patches that correct already known defects. Bandaids, in some sense.

Windows 10 has a list of actual security improvements, not just bandaids. Better ASLR and DEP, better support of harddrive encryption, more secure default browser, and other goodies. Microsoft maintains a page of Windows 10 security improvements over Windows 7/8. In theory, Windows 10's features mean a reduced attack surface. Maybe it still has issues but it is certainly more hardened than Windows 7 in general.

I'm sympathetic to both sides. I don't like things being pushed on people; it's their right to decide what to do with their own property, and maybe they have special needs that require an older version of Windows (some mission-critical software is known to have bugs on 10 for example).

But I also know that Microsoft is trying to improve the security of its products and the Internet as a whole by trying to get everyone updated. They don't want Windows 7 to be a repeat of people clinging to Windows XP, clinging to old technologies that are broken when new tech/implementations are available to prevent security problems. Not just security, but also think features: new protocols might be developed that weren't supported in the old OS, and so until majority of the Internet moves on, that protocol can't be rolled out. Many computer users are pretty clueless and need automatic updates for that reason, or they'll never do it themselves, and bring down the security of the Internet as a whole. Of course, it doesn't help that Microsoft's marketing team wants to take advantage of the security updates by also collecting info and all that stuff.

I hope we can find a good balance between the competing interests soon.

Comment Loser Pays Isn't Justice (Score 1) 571

Loser pays would also make it basically impossible to sue any entity that has more money than you. The risk would be far too great, even if you had a legitimate dispute.

Let the judge award "loser pays" only after meeting a high threshold. Such as in situations where no rational person would consider it a legitimate dispute.

I agree. In the state Pennsylvania, state cases have a loser pays provision. You pay a filing fee but will get it awarded back to you if you win your case, as well as reasonable legal fees, etc. Without going into the whole crazy story, I found myself suing an old landlord for damages. While I won the initial case, the landlord was able to appeal... and appeal again after that. I couldn't keep paying the attorney fees to keep going further and so ended up settling, which cost me something like net $1500, rather than winning the $1500 in damages I was hoping for. While that may seem small to some of you, at the time I basically was making minimum wage and used my savings to do it. It wasn't sustainable. Based on that experience, I'd only go to court if I knew I was able to fight all the way to the top state courts, because that's pretty much what you're in for if your opponent has money.

If you're on minimum wage and can't pay the up front filing fees and attorney fees, you're screwed. In principle, you'd get it back -- but how are you going to get the money to initiate it in the first place? And what happens if you do end up losing? The poor in our country get no justice.

Comment Free Software Is Necessary (Score 4, Insightful) 564

This is exactly why free software (in the vein of what Richard Stallman calls for) needs to be supported. *YOU*, the user, must own complete control over your computer and the software it runs, not developers (much of the more liberal open source licenses are about developer rights, not user rights -- big difference!) or corporations.

I know many of you would object, "But I bought this computer, it's not Microsoft's!". Well I wholeheartedly agree, but the thing is, Windows being proprietary closed source means that Microsoft has a claim to intellectual property rights. Microsoft believes that you license Windows, not own it. Essentially, they still own the software on your computer. Again, I know that *you* disagree, but it kinda doesn't matter what you think -- Microsoft has money and lawyers and they push for the outcome they want. Which is to own your computer. And if they own it, they're technically allowed to do whatever they want with it, including force upgrades. That is the nature of licensing agreements -- you agree to their licensing rules, which means they can do whatever they want.

If this bothers you, switch to a free software OS. Some flavor of Linux or even BSD. Get involved in the free software community, both the technical community (making more/better free software) and the political community (that lobbies for changes to copyright law, tries to get government to adopt open standards, etc.). We have to fight back, or you can expect more behavior like this from Microsoft, Apple, etc., in the future.

Slashdot Top Deals

When the bosses talk about improving productivity, they are never talking about themselves.