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AT&T To "Pause" Gigabit Internet Rollout Until Net Neutrality Is Settled

MetricT The modern day "Chewbacca Defense" (308 comments)

"We're going to stop doing that thing that we've been promising for years that we were gonna get around to doing one of these days, but never actually got around to doing, because OBAMA"

It's sad, but adding "Obama" to any argument has become the modern day equivalent of the "Chewbacca Defense", and has been used to rationalize some profoundly stupid decisions. Even sadder, because it seems to work.

I'm a moderate (r)epublican, and it's *lonely* nowdays. The intelligent ones liked David Frum have been muffled or sidelined. Meanwhile, the Wingnut Brigade as personified by Ted Cruz is always on the lookout to shoot the public in the foot for the sake of rich people.

about two weeks ago
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CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All

MetricT When pet theories die... (137 comments)

Many in the physics community were hoping for a "weird" Higgs boson, which might point the way towards new physics such as supersymmetry or technicolor.

Alas, the Higgs boson we actually discovered doesn't seem to require any new physics. It's covered by the Standard Model. It is, by physics standards, annoying dull. This has done a good job of killing off several people's pet theories (some models of supersymmetry and technicolor).

Rather than just admit that "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras" (ie, the simplest explanation is usually the right one), they are busy adding epicycles to their pet theories to try to accommodate reality (which, admittedly, is how science works).

Being sensationalist and dumb, journalists hear things like "it *may be* that...", and trump up all sorts of stupid headlines like "ZOMG, scientists didn't discover Higgs after all." And we get Slashdot posts like this.

about two weeks ago
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GlaxoSmithKline Released 45 Liters of Live Polio Virus

MetricT Zoonotic Reservoir (209 comments)

I think the real danger is not that little Timmy is going to go swimming and drink some polio, but that it is possible (however unlikely, IANA virologist) for the released polio virus to find a reservoir in some of the local wildlife and cause further trouble at a later date.

about 2 months ago
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Intel's 14-nm Broadwell CPU Primed For Slim Tablets

MetricT Real-world Moore's Law is toast... (96 comments)

The transistor budget may still be scaling according to Moore's law, but that's failing to translate into real-world speed increases. The 5% increase in single-core IPC is weak sauce. And an annoying number of apps don't scale to multiple processors, or scale badly (Amdahl's law is unforgiving...)

You can add more cores, add more compute units to your GPU, or add DSP (Broadwell) or FPGA (Xeon), but that has an ever decreasing marginal impact on real-world speed.

We're probably stuck in a "5% IPC increase per tick/tock" world until they eventually shift off silicon onto Something Else (III-V semiconductors or something more exotic like graphene)

about 3 months ago
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No Shortage In Tech Workers, Advocacy Groups Say

MetricT There's a Ferrari shortage too... (401 comments)

I can't buy a Ferrari for $100, by the same logic, that means there *must* be a Ferrari shortage! Something must be done!!!

Hint: reward good people, and you won't have problems finding good people. The problem is these miserly capitalist/MBA types who feel tech types are getting all "uppity" for wanting a decent salary for their 4 year STEM degree and often 2-6 years of grad school to boot, because doing that takes away from their quarterly bonus.

about 5 months ago
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The Sci-Fi Myth of Killer Machines

MetricT We are *far* from true AI... (222 comments)

IBM's Watson might be able to beat any human competitor on Jeopardy, but stick it in the middle of the highway and it will get run over by the first semi that comes along because it isn't smart enough to get out of the way.

Killer machines will undoubtedly exist, but they will be human-controlled for a long, long time to come.

about 6 months ago
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How Japan Plans To Build Orbital Solar Power Stations

MetricT Re:If you're just beaming it down to earth anyways (230 comments)

It's not a completely stupid idea, just a mostly stupid idea.

But it might make financial sense for powering McMurdo Base, for instance. The cost of hauling diesel down there is almost as ludicrous. Remote outposts and stuff.

Or if your government decided to send a small team of special forces into hostile territory, that would be a convenient way to provide them power. And you could use "cheap solar power for everyone" as good cover for launching something.

about 7 months ago
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Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

MetricT The universe is probably teeming with life, but... (608 comments)

We've seen fossils of simple (prokaryotic, bacterial) life that are at least 3.8 billion years old. Basically the instant it became possible for single-cell life to exist, it did. That suggests that simple life is *easy*.

It took evolution roughly a billion years to produce eukaryotic life, suggesting that step is hard. It also took 2 billion more years to produce a eukaryotic lifeform capable of space flight, suggesting that step is also hard.

The sun is predicted to make life on earth impossible in roughly ~1 billion years. An oops anywhere earlier in the process, and evolution wouldn't have had time to recover. We're lucky to exist.

So my suspicion is that the universe is relatively teeming with simple life anywhere it is possible (there are tentative signs that there *might* be life on Mars and possibly Titan too) but complex life is much rarer, rare enough that it's not surprised we haven't found any yet.

Also, wanting to communicate and explore is inherently a human desire, and whatever neo-human-cyber-whatever descendants emerge from the Singularity might not have the same desires. And I can predict their desires much more accurately than I could an aliens.

about 7 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

MetricT Voyager 1 & 2 (702 comments)

Roughly 40 years old and still doing science.

about 7 months ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

MetricT Wah, wah (723 comments)

"The numbers turned out *much* higher than Fox News predicted, and I *know* that many people couldn't possibly want health insurance, because that brochure from the Heritage Foundation said so. It must be a conspiracy..."

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c...

about 8 months ago
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Harold Ramis Dies At 69

MetricT Thank you (136 comments)

For making us laugh, making us think, and making the world a little happier. You did good.

about 9 months ago
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Who Makes the Best Hard Disk Drives?

MetricT Re:And what about... (444 comments)

I manage a couple petabytes of scientific data (LHC) on our own object filesystem, and at that scale, RAID really isn't an option any more simply because you will, with unacceptable frequency, manage to have two drive failures simply due to the number of drives.

All our new data is being stored with Reed-Solomon 6+3 redundancy. And I greatly look forward to the day when a drive can fail at 3 am and I don't have to get paged to repair it.

And Seagate well and truly sucks. Not only do they have an unacceptably high failure rate, but they have some pretty annoying non-complete failure modes, like firmware bugs causing the drive to hard-lock, and the only way to get them back is to power-cycle the entire server. And they don't support TLER, so drives blipping and getting a 3 am ticket is a regular occurance.

One other thing we learned is that Linux *really* needs a defragment utility. We started having complete permanent slot failures. Turns out we had 100's of drives with extreme fragmentation, and the amount of vibration the head would cause trying to read fragmented files 24x7 would destroy the slot. We have a "warmer" script that scrubs the drives for bitrot errors, and it also opportunistically defragments really fragmented files.

about 10 months ago
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CERN Antimatter Experiment Produces First Beam of Antihydrogen

MetricT Cool science coming... (136 comments)

http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.0847

One of the most interesting physics papers I've read in recent years. Does away with dark matter by presuming that antimatter has the opposite gravitational sign as matter (which pops out very naturally once you apply CPT to general relativity).

As the electromagnetic force is almost 10^40 times stronger than gravity, it would be virtually impossible to test with anti-protons or positrons. But with electrically neutral anti-hydrogen, it becomes potentially testable.

about 10 months ago
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Google Brings AmigaOS to Chrome Via Native Client Emulation

MetricT Get busy GoG!!! (157 comments)

Just think about all the great old Amiga/Commodore-64/etc games you could sell using something like this. I'll pay good money for Bard's Tale I/2/3 and Raid on Bungling Bay.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Practical Bitrot Detection For Backups?

MetricT Checksumming + sufficient redundancy (321 comments)

We wrote our own parallel filesystem to handle just that. It stores a checksum of the file in the metadata. We can (optionally) verify the checksum when a file is read, or run a weekly "scrubber" to detect errors.

We also have Reed-Solomon 6+3 redundancy, so fixing bitrot is usually pretty easy.

about a year ago
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Employee Morale Is Suffering At the NSA

MetricT Re:Been there. Done that. (841 comments)

I made a $3 mistake on my income tax return (Scottrade updated my tax info *after* I'd sent mine in, but they didn't notify me).

The IRS apparently took that as an excuse to torment me for most of a year. I got audit for the above $3 claim, as well as for "falsely claiming that I was due a tax deduction for student loans" (I took some night classes at the local community college). Apparently that $3 claim was justification for a fishing expedition.

First time, I take an entire day off to redo my taxes, discover that I have made a $3 error, cut them a $3 check, and sent them the 1098-T from the college to prove that the other claim is false.

Couple months later, they send me the exact same form. I again take another day off to recompute my taxes (I was correct), and again send them the same 1098-T info that they requested.

Third time, I told that I will be taken to court because I haven't provided the proof required. I take yet *another* day off to go to the local IRS office in Nashville and sit down with a lady to explain that I've already sent the 1098-T form in.

She logs into her computer, turns it toward me, and starts hitting page-down. "We don't have any record that you sent it in." I see it flash by and tap on the screen. "Yes you did, it was just on your screen a second ago." She pages up and stares at it in silence for 2-3 minutes. "Well I just don't understand that."

Great. So now that the IRS knows I've sent it in, we can put this whole misunderstanding behind us, right? "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do to fix this". My choices were pay it off, send an appeal to the IRS, and hope that suddenly grow a brain after the **4th** time, or go to tax court, lose yet another day's salary, and hope the judge was smarter than the IRS. So I paid.

The IRS's excruciatingly, devastatingly, mind-numbing incompetence cost me roughly $1000 in lost salary for a $3 difference. And the whole collective IRS can go pleasure itself with a saguaro cactus.

about a year ago
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For First Three Years, Consumer Hard Drives As Reliable As Enterprise Drives

MetricT Scaling problems... (270 comments)

I manage a couple of petabytes worth of disks (consumer, not enterprise) for the HPC center at Vanderbilt University, and they get absolutely hammered by CMS-HI users 24/7/365. At scale, you will daily see problems that you would never even think of.

The firmware on consumer hard drives is often crap. Very few of them support TLER, we have ~400's drives (Seagates) that needed a firmware fix to prevent sudden death but the fix wouldn't work en bulk over the SAS controller so we had to yank/flash/replace/repeat, and drives will occasionally lock up hard and require a power-cycle.

Don't believe for a second that Linux doesn't need a defrag utility. We were mystified by a sudden influx of permanent drive *slot* failures. After *much* investigation, it turns out that our users were filling them 100% full, erasing 5%, refilling, erasing 5%, etc, until the average file (~100 MB) had thousands of extents. The vibration from the head frantically scanning the disk to read the file was enough to cause the SATA connector to destroy the connector on the backplane (Supermicro chassis, would *NOT* buy again, Chenbro is the way...) We wrote a simple defrag script that simply copied the worst files to a different location and then move them back.

RAID5 isn't nearly sufficient at this point because you will eventually have two or more simultaneous failures just due to the number of disks. We wrote our own filesystem to offer Reed-Solomon-6+3 redundancy.

I'd love to know if you guys have any similar "WTH" horror stories.

about a year ago
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Elevation Plays a Role In Memory Error Rates

MetricT That's interesting! (190 comments)

A couple of years back at one of the Supercomputing conferences (I think in Phoenix), Fermilab had a cloud chamber in their booth, and you simply *would* *not* believe the amount of ambient radiation passing you at all times. I can easily believe that altitude would have an effect.

Another interesting idea would be to do the same experiment by latitude. Does the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center have a higher rate than the Maui Supercomputing Center? What happens during an aurora?

1 year,4 days
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Elon Musk Talks About the Importance of Physics, Criticizes the MBA

MetricT Re:Physics versus MBA (343 comments)

I have a MBA from a top 25 school, but I also have 4 years towards a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and 12 years experience in academic high-performance computing, so I hope I have street cred when I say this...

Saying you can get a "12 Hour MBA" is like saying you can get Ph.D in astrophysics by reading Carl Sagan's "Cosmos". It's Dunning-Kruger made manifest.

I found my MBA to be just as challenging as my physics degree. Strategy, game theory, operations, and economics aren't exactly power-puff courses. And there's a reason they hand out Nobel's in economics.

Don't confuse the body of knowledge with the person seeking it. There's a difference between someone who /has/ an MBA, and someone who /is/ an MBA. The latter are annoying, but they would be annoying no matter what degree they had.

1 year,6 days

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