top FCC Officially Approves Change In the Definition of Broadband
I'm lean moderately libertarian, but understand what a natural monopoly is. It's not libbys per se, more a Tea Party thing.
Some people are so seduced by the simplicity, the elegance, of an ideology, that they never pause to consider whether it is actually *correct*. They don't want to let annoying things like facts mar the beauty of their True Beliefs.
Having tried to teach them a few things, I have learned the hard way that they are paranoid, ignorant, and completely reject any information that doesn't conform to their beliefs.
"97% of scientists believe man-made global warming is right."
"See, it's not unanimous!!!!"
"If 97% of doctors told you the mole on your cheek was malignant, wouldn't you get it removed?"
"You're a liberal elitist."
They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. As far as I can tell, they are mentally-challenged Terminators.
top SystemD Gains New Networking Features
I'm sure they'll get around to adding Emacs and NetHack functionality to it sooner or later...
top "Team America" Gets Post-Hack Yanking At Alamo Drafthouse, Too
The United States has the planet's largest ocean between us and North Korea, the most powerful military the world has ever seen, and enough nuclear firepower to take the entire surface area of North Korea and give it escape velocity. And yet we wimp out on... showinging a 10-year old movie because it might make a tin-plate dictator mad? Seriously?
about a month and a half ago
top AT&T To "Pause" Gigabit Internet Rollout Until Net Neutrality Is Settled
"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.
top CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All
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.
top GlaxoSmithKline Released 45 Liters of Live Polio Virus
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.
top Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?
I spent a couple of years in grad school studying theoretical physics, and this is an excellent learning book.
top Intel's 14-nm Broadwell CPU Primed For Slim Tablets
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)
top No Shortage In Tech Workers, Advocacy Groups Say
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.
top The Sci-Fi Myth of Killer Machines
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.
top How Japan Plans To Build Orbital Solar Power Stations
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.
top Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?
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.
top Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?
Roughly 40 years old and still doing science.
top Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?
"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..."
top Harold Ramis Dies At 69
For making us laugh, making us think, and making the world a little happier. You did good.
top Who Makes the Best Hard Disk Drives?
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.
top CERN Antimatter Experiment Produces First Beam of Antihydrogen
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.
top Google Brings AmigaOS to Chrome Via Native Client Emulation
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.
top Ask Slashdot: Practical Bitrot Detection For Backups?
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.
top Employee Morale Is Suffering At the NSA
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.