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Comment Re:In all fairness (Score 1) 254

In all fairness, for self-driving cars to live up to the claims that proponents are making, they can't do this.

If Google Maps isn't sending drivers the wrong way down that street, I doubt very much that the car's software would make that mistake.

Since that the car had a driver in it, I'd be willing to bet that the vehicle was under human control. But even if it wasn't, the software will be fixed, and no Google car will ever make that mistake again, whereas you can be quite certain that human drivers will continue to occasionally drive the wrong way down one-way streets.

Comment Look at the economics (Score 4, Insightful) 186

It's pointless to talk about creating an open-source version of Siri or Alexa unless you can explain how you're going to also create and maintain the server-side infrastructure needed to make it work. The Siri and Alexa interfaces may run on a client, but they're brain-dead without the server farms of Apple and Amazon behind them.

A similar example from the not-too-distant past: Aaron Swartz's download of a significant chunk of the JSTOR database. Those JSTOR articles wanted to be free, right? And they were set free - copies of Swartz's JSTOR download were available in a multi-GB torrent on several sites. Swartz's entire rationale was that those articles should be freely available to everyone.

So where is the free, open-source version of JSTOR today? It doesn't exist, because building and maintaining a server-side infrastructure that makes that database useable costs money ... which, of course, is why JSTOR required a subscription fee.

Solve out the server-side economics, and you have a shot at building an open-source Siri. Until then, you're better off putting your open-source efforts into client-side applications.

Comment The answer is obvious ... (Score 1) 201

If you want to reduce binge drinking, lower the drinking age back to 18 in the U.S., before MADD started us down this road in the name of "think of the children!".

In my undergraduate days in the 70's, beer and occasional wine were staples at college parties, starting from the moment you were a freshman. Going to the hospital with alcohol poisoning was almost unheard of. You simply couldn't drink enough beer or wine to do that without puking it up. Those rare cases when it did occur were because of "hunch punch" parties using grain alcohol or vodka.

Raising the drinking age to 21 has not significantly affected the percentage of 18-to-20-year-old drinkers. The same percentage still drinks as it did 30 years ago, but instead of drinking a few beers in the open, and maybe getting sick to your stomach because you had too much, you knock down a fifth of hard liquor in your room, out of sight. In my day, the juniors and seniors watched out for the new drinkers if they had too much. Nowadays, the juniors and seniors are just part of the problem.

MADD can pat themselves on their backs all they want, but they have only somewhat reduced one problem (underage drinking and driving) while enormously increasing another (binge drinking and alcohol abuse), not to mention the effect of teaching an entire generation of young people that laws are written to be ignored.

What I will be curious to see is what happens 20 years from now when autonomous vehicles have made DUI an obsolete crime. (It's already happening with ride-sharing services - the percentage of young adults with driver's licenses has been steadily dropping.) I look forward to the day when 18-year-olds stand up and demand their rights as legal adults, and put an end to MADD's moralizing hypocrisy.

Comment Re:Can't Subscribe (Score 1) 204

Basically this. It's more about the sluggish speed of Google's rollouts - they give competition plenty of time to cut prices and increase speeds before Google's available, and most people won't switch if they can just stick with their existing service and get, what many consider, the same thing.

They should have been far more aggressive in getting their service in as many places as possible.

I still believe Google will make it to my city... sometime in the year 2546, if my calculations are correct.

In Nashville, Google is being blocked by Comcast and AT&T who are stonewalling on moving their cables out of the way on NES utility poles. It's not that Google doesn't want to offer service, they literally can't because they can't run their cables.

What Google underestimated was how much of a fight the entrenched monopolies would put into keeping them out. Most of my neighbors would switch to Google Fiber tomorrow, if they had the choice.

Comment Re:Six million soon-to-be-unhappy Comcast customer (Score 1) 141

Sure, there may be some unhappy DSL customers remaining to poach, but thanks to their legally-regulated monopoly, Comcast's own service is unreliable, awful and badly, badly overpriced too.

There is one exception - when Google Fiber comes to your city, and then suddenly it's a whole new Comcast.

Google Fiber has only begun to deploy here in Nashville, and already Comcast has run new cables on the utility poles in my neighborhood, and offered everyone a no-contract $139 / month Xfinity X1 package with 300 Mbps service. Before Google Fiber, my Internet dropped out a couple of dozen times a day. Now it's rock solid. Phone support is still abysmal, but I can go to the local Xfinity store and actually have someone competent address any problem I might have. Plus, I'm paying less per month than I did before I upgraded.

Of course, I'm still going to switch to Google Fiber once it gets to my street. For now, it's just a matter of getting the best bang for the buck until I can rid myself of Comcast forever.

Comment Re:It Literally Does *WHAT*?? (Score 1) 34

You realize that fsn was a real file system viewer from SGI - right?

So in other words, one bad interface leads to another?

But thanks for the link ... I had no idea that someone at SGI actually created that mess. I thought it was some studio executive's twisted idea of what a computer GUI was supposed to look like. No wonder SGI went bankrupt. :-)

Comment Re:It Literally Does *WHAT*?? (Score 1) 34

This is what happens when Wikipedia has high school kids write their press releases, and Slashdot editors don't care enough to read them before re-posting.

Having looked at the website, I was thinking, "This is what you get when someone who watched 'Jurassic Park' years ago and thought the ridiculous 'UNIX interface' was fascinating winds up with too much time on his or her hands."

Comment It does change the way you think (Score 4, Insightful) 399

Those incessant political Facebook posts have certainly changed the way I think.

First, they have changed my opinion of many of my Facebook friends due to their endless attempts to shove political arguments (of all persuasions) in my face (thank God for the "unfollow" button).

Second, they have changed my opinion of Facebook and social media as a whole. Social media continues to devolve into more yelling, screaming, threats, trolling, guilt by association, and mob justice. And what makes it bad for Facebook is that the harder they try to "fix" things, the worse it becomes.

I learned long ago to be extremely careful about discussing politics or religion, especially with friends. I sincerely wish more people would take that lesson to heart.

Comment Re:Captain Obvious (Score 4, Informative) 160

"Turns out it is very expensive to run wires -- or in Google's case, fiber optic cables -- to each and every house that wants service. "

Here in Nashville, the rollout has been hampered by Comcast and AT&T dragging their feet to keep Google Fiber off of utility poles. Dig a few feet anywhere in Nashville, and you'll soon hit limestone, so Google has to use NES (Nashville Electric Service) poles to run their cabling through residential neighborhoods.

The problem is that AT&T and Comcast are already on those poles, so Google has to tell NES which poles they need to use, NES sends a request to Comcast and AT&T to move their cables a few inches to accommodate the Google cable, and Comcast / AT&T send out workers to move their equipment. You can probably guess how slowly Comcast and AT&T act on those work requests. So far Google Fiber has only reached a few buildings downtown, and a couple of public housing projects.

So now Google Fiber is pushing for a "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance, which will allow them to move Comcast and AT&T's cables out of the way themselves, using a contractor approved by NES (the same contractor used by Comcast in many cases), in order to expedite the installation process.

There's going to be a public hearing on the ordinance in the Metro Council tonight. The rumor is that if the ordinance passes, Comcast and AT&T may sue the city next. On the other hand, the ordinance has a huge amount of public support. It should be interesting to see how it plays out with the members of the city council.

Comment The insurance industry will adapt (Score 5, Insightful) 299

"There wouldn't be any liability on you, because you're just like a passenger in a taxi," says Santa Clara University law professor Robert Peterson.

Wow, that's good to know. That means I don't need home insurance either, because I'm not operating the house; I'm just living in it like a resident in a hotel. Clearly the person who built the house will be liable. Oh, wait ....

Could we please put aside these laughable "self-driving cars will be sued out of existence" arguments once and for all? Liability insurance can be purchased to cover situations in which you do not directly control events. For example:

I own a house, and I pay insurance to (among other things) protect myself if I'm sued by people who may injure themselves on my property, even if I'm not at home. My insurance company is perfectly happy to sell me liability insurance, even for property I don't live in.

It will be the same with self-driving cars. If you own one, you'll be able to buy liability insurance for it, just as you would for any other vehicle. The insurance industry will adapt perfectly well.

Comment Re:Let me rephrase that question .... (Score 1) 485

And, there are well-known practices that limit that possibility of death from solar radiation. And, where do you get your "tens of thousands" estimate from, you a**?

You really ought to try using Google before resorting to insults. According to the CDC, melanoma resulted in 9,271 deaths in 2012. According to Cancer Research UK, melanoma killed 55,500 people worldwide in 2012.

Human risk assessment is a funny thing. Any other power source that killed 55,500 people a year worldwide would be banned outright. Compare that to the number of cancer deaths attributed to nuclear power plant accidents over the past 50 years. Yet we panic over nuclear reactors, and then send out kids outside to play in the sunshine.

Comment Let me rephrase that question .... (Score 2, Insightful) 485

Ask me instead if I support yet another of mdsolar's endless anti-nuclear, pro-solar postings to Slashdot.

I get it, mdsolar. Nuclear = BAD! Solar = GOOD! Except for the fact that the sun is a giant nuclear reactor that kills tens of thousands of people every year from radiation-induced cancers. But hey, never let facts get in the way of anti-nuclear diatribes.

Comment Re:Digital computers are reaching the end (Score 1) 124

Oddly enough, I was at a conference last week where we had a keynote by HP. He was saying pretty much the same thing about memristors. He held up a roughtly credit card sized model that would apparently hold 1.5PB of data. It all sounds cool, but I'll believe it when I see it. These "just around the corner" technologies sometimes take a lot longer than expected to reach market.

Even more oddly enough, I actually did some consulting with HP back in 2001 concerning their prototype memristor chips. They were having significant issues with 1/f noise making it difficult to read the difference between a "1" and "0" in the memory array.

They've been developing memristor technology more than 15 years, so hopefully they've finally licked the problems. But my impression is that Intel and Micron are a lot more confident about Xpoint, given the types of demos they're already doing with it. We shall see.

Comment Re:Digital computers are reaching the end (Score 1) 124

This will make a LOT of people here mad, but the exponential growth computational power of digital computers is ending. We can no longer count of the computers of tomorrow to be significantly faster or have more memory than today. If you have been following the industry closely you can already see start to happen 10 years ago. So we can forget about projections that used the argument of exponential growth creating the "Singularity" or "AI". There just simply won't be enough processor power available with classical digital computers. The computer you use 10 years from now will look and perform a lot like the one you have today.

And the key phrase here is "classical digital computers", i.e. von Neumann architecture microprocessors, with conventional process shrinks. Yes, there's no doubt that the traditional computing path of the past few decades is coming to an end. You can't fight the laws of physics when you're dealing with devices and layers only a few atoms thick operating at gigahertz switching frequencies.

Now read about "IBM TrueNorth" and "DARPA SyNAPSE". A colleague of mine went to a demo of TrueNorth last week and said it was absolutely jaw-dropping. Neuromorphic computers operating asynchronously with power dissipations in the tens of milliwatts are going to change the processor landscape in the next decade. Next, look up "3D Xpoint". At that same conference, my colleague talked to someone working in Xpoint R&D who told him, "If you need a solid-state drive right now, buy the cheapest Samsung model you can get by with, because in the next two years we're going to blow the competition completely away."

Moore's Law (as in exponential computing and data storage growth) isn't going to come to a screeching halt. It's going to find different paths with different technologies, but it will definitely continue.

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