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DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

Registered Coward v2 Re:Cargo ships (37 comments)

I've long thought that it would be good if cargo ships were automated and/or remote controlled. Piloting cargo ships ought to be relatively easy compared to remote piloting drones in combat.

Many are. You set Iron Mike on a course and speed and he follows it. You still, however, need someone on watch to watch for and deal with the inevitable unexpected situation.

1 hour ago
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DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

Registered Coward v2 Re:Pilots crash planes (37 comments)

This is one of the most often repeated misunderstandings in aviation: the vast majority of crashes is caused by pilots, so we should replace them with automation since that's much more reliable. Errr... no, not by a long shot.

Many good examples snipped

It's certainly a good thing that Darpa is trying to make aircraft automation more reliable, but right now pilots are still by far the most important asset for the safety of an airplane.

You make a number of good points. Automation is great when everything is going well; the biggest problem then with automated systems is boredom or an unwillingness to use the system because they didn't chose that career to simply sit back and watch gauges. Automated systems, when everything is working as planned can often do better than a human imply because they can take many more inputs and respond to them than a human.

However, when sensors start sending conflicting information automated systems start having troubles. They can be designed to ignore signals based on rules but they cannot analyze the situation and decide what is the correct course of action; nor can they take unexpected actions that may correct the problem but were not considered by the system designer or that break the rules set by the designer. The problem then becomes the interface between the operator and the machine. How do you present information and train operators how to respond? Pilot error, or operator error in other industries is often the result of a poor interface coupled with inadequate training that leaves them with a system that cannot respond and unsure of what to do to correct things. Pilots and operators sometimes do boneheaded things that cause accidents; but more often they are lead down a path by systems that fail to provide information in ways that support, rather than hinder, decision making. Years ago when I worked on some control room designs I used some work form the aviation industry that was looking at the questions "Are we giving pilots to much information to help them make decisions in an emergency?" and "Is automation driving confusion in the cockpit?" Questions I found interesting, as both a pilot and industrial plant operator who was now involved in designing the next generation control room. The challenge there was to convince the designers we didn't need more information but better information. Having a thousand gauges, sometimes displaying conflicting information, in an all glass control room didn't help me in an emergency, it just added to the confusion at a time when I needed a half dozen parameters, that I knew were accurate, to decide what to do to deal with the emergency.

In the end "pilot (or operator) error often means "poorly designed system and inadequate training lead the poor person at the controls down the primrose path.

1 hour ago
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Investors Value Yahoo's Core Business At Less Than $0

Registered Coward v2 Re:Been there. (147 comments)

Of course, if someone did that to Apple nearly 20 years ago when the stock was in the toilet but they still had a pile of money they would've pretty seriously screwed themselves. Not saying it's never a right choice to do that but it's not always right either.

true, but they are not in it for the long run. They want to make as much as possible today and move on to the next target. It's not so much whether it is the right or worngthing but "can I make enough money doing this instead of something else?"

yesterday
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Investors Value Yahoo's Core Business At Less Than $0

Registered Coward v2 Re:Ummm... (147 comments)

Except of course that individual current owners of Yahoo would see that the investors would get a 25% return and figure other people would sell at market and they could hang on to their shares for a while to get a chunk of the 25%. The investors would effectively have to pay a portion of the premium. They would also have to deal with the risk that they put the whole deal together and then someone jumps in and buys out Yahoo for a tiny bit more or that Yahoo directors tank the value through poison pills or other actions in response to their attempt.

Yea, theres a lot of risk in such a move. But an investor need nobly buy enough to force the issue with the board.If someone else pays a premium over what they'd get then they'd happy dump their shares. After all, the name of the game os making money not what is best for Yahoo.

yesterday
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Investors Value Yahoo's Core Business At Less Than $0

Registered Coward v2 Re:Ummm... (147 comments)

they rely don't think there is such a premium.

Or the board members are more interested in keeping their jobs than in representing the interests of the shareholders. Right now, Mayer is considered a genius for doubling Yahoo's stock price. But if she spun off the holdings, it would be much more obvious that the price run-up was due to factors beyond her control, and that the core business, that she does control, has plummeted in value. It is in her interest to keep the merry-go-round spinning.

Which it is why an outside inverter or group of investors need to buy enough to force the boards hand; which usually only happens if a few board members are replaced. This type of change needs to be driven by outsiders who stand to make a boatload of money by changing the fundamentals of the company; however they first need to be convinced that the breakup is financially more lucrative than as an ongoing single concern.

yesterday
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Investors Value Yahoo's Core Business At Less Than $0

Registered Coward v2 Re:Ummm... (147 comments)

9 + 40 = 13? Since when?

Let me explain the math: Yahoo has a market cap of about $40B. Yahoo's stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo-Japan are worth a combined $53B. So the $-13B is the value of Yahoo's core business. If they liquidate or spin off the holdings, that would generate $53B in cash, which could be returned to shareholders. Then, even if the stock price drops to zero (it cannot go lower), $13B in value has been created.

In that case, it would be worth it for some deep pocket investors to gain control of the board and drive a split-up.They'd get a 25% return for it; that they haven't may mean either no one can put together a del enough set of pockets to be able to force a breakup or they rely don't think there is such a premium.

yesterday
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Investors Value Yahoo's Core Business At Less Than $0

Registered Coward v2 Re:Been there. (147 comments)

I used to work for a biotech company. After we went public our stock did nothing but sink. There was a period of time where our total value was substantially less than our cash in the bank. In other words, a pile of money in the hands of our management was worth less than the same pile of money just sitting on a table. I tended to agree with the market on that one.

That's when you do an LBO, liquidate the company and pocket the difference.

yesterday
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Snowden Queries Putin On Live TV Regarding Russian Internet Surveillance

Registered Coward v2 Re:Once Putin (387 comments)

gets all the propaganda and the middle fingering towards the US he need's, Snowden is done. Putin wil probably use him as a giff to the US.

True. Putin is very good a looking out for Putin and surviving. Right know, Putin can hold the specter of a trail and imprisonment over him as motivation to do what he is told. As long as Snowden is useful to Putin he'll be kept around and trotted out like a show pony. Once having him around is a liability or Putin can use him to achieve some more important end Snowden will be cut lose. Putin could simply decide to "follow Russian law" and deport him. Snowden is only safe in Russia as long as he is valuable and given his propensity to become disillusioned or get angry if he is not viewed as valuable he may very well wear out his welcome as well. Make no mistake, Putin has nothing but disdain for Snowden but since he is useful he keeps him around.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

Registered Coward v2 Re:Nonsense (285 comments)

You could, for example, send all links on one page and have that be signed.

Since we don't know exact details, it's possible that the official wording was something like "each link has to be individually approved".

Even if that wasn't the case, with 400 or so new links per day, that would be 5-8 pages depending on font size, margins, etc. Sure, the powers that be could just rubber-stamp the process without actually reading and investigating each link, but then what happens when one of links is an issue (points to porn, material copyrighted by big media, etc.)? Before, they could just write it off as a mistake by some low-level web coder. With the signature of the vice-chancellor on it, it pretty much becomes officially endorsed by the university.

True, but who is really going to investigate each and every link? That would be a full time job. My guess is that someone though "if chancellor approval is needed people will be careful about where they link..." when in reality nobody worries about that and now have official OK for the link as a CYA. Which is why I think providing a list of the links requiring approval and asking "do you really want to do this?" and suggesting letting Departments approve them on their own, holding them accountable for what they approve, and running spot checks for obvious problems is a better solution then becoming a PITA.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

Registered Coward v2 Re:Nonsense (285 comments)

How is it his job to come up with the better solution? It was a legal/paperwork issue, not a technical one. If the Vice Chancellor and lawyer did not want to sign all that paperwork, they were the ones who needed to offer up the alternatives.

Perhaps because offering a solution to a problem rathe than just being a PITA in hope sit will go away is the professional thing to do? When someone just brings up issues without offering solutions it quickly becomes apparent they are not capable of the level of thinking needed to advance. They may be good at what they do but that's all they'll ever do; that may not be fair but it's the reality of most workplaces.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

Registered Coward v2 Re:Nonsense (285 comments)

So... the business made a stupid decision, and when they realised the error of their ways, rather than trying to reach agreement on the best way forward, you delighted in rubbing their noses in it, using processes designed to protect you to hurt your employing organization instead.

If he had said .. "OK .. sure I'll stop sending you those 400 pages of paper per day", then the policy would still have been left in place, and sometime win the future his employer could have used his inability to follow policy as an excuse to ream him over. Yes its CYA, but some employers are not above using any tool at their disposal to justify their actions.

Only by being a genuine PITA does the stupid police get removed, rather than ignored until convenient.

While what you say is true, it is not necessarily the best way to deal with stupid policies. In the end, the PITA gets remembered long after the stupid policy is forgotten; all people know is someone was a PITA and eventually will be made to pay for it. You could, for example, send all links on one page and have that be signed. After a few were signed its's time to broach the "is there a better way to do this" argument. Malicious compliance with rules generally results in pissing people off and payback at some future point; it can even be fun watching the PITA get a taste of their own when the opportunity arises.

2 days ago
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Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Registered Coward v2 Re:The Canadian Exodus.... (1571 comments)

However, disproving that doesn't prove the opposite, i.e. that mass gun ownership reduces gun deaths or stops crime.

No, it doesn't, and I never said it did. I was just attacking a common talking point for the anti-gun crowd.

Just as I was pointing out flaws in a common pro-gun talking point.

Their gun related suicide rate is one of the highest in Europe.

Well that's no surprise. I'm surprised actually that it isn't the highest in Europe. Maybe the good economy (versus places in Eastern Europe) makes less people suicidal. But is the rest of Europe suicide-free? What are the rates, after you add together both successful and unsuccessful suicides? Having a gun available just makes it more likely you'll succeed; other methods aren't generally as sure-fire (pardon the pun).

The evidence seems to point to reducing the availability of guns tends to lower the suicide rate in those most prone to use a gun to commit suicide; it seems suicide is an act of the moment and a gun gives you, as you point out, a sure fire way to succeed.

>

One common argument made for gun ownership is criminals such as burglars won't break into a house with an armed owner yet burglaries are rising in Switzerland.

Burglars, by definition, are people who avoid confrontation. They look for patterns, to see when a house is unoccupied, and break in then so they can steal loot. The people steal face-to-face are called "robbers", or possibly "home invaders". Are there a lot of home invasions in Switzerland? I suspect not. Lots of places have relatively high property crime rates (or just petty crime), with very low violent crime rates.

Again, I am pointing out a common flaw uncommon pro-gun arguments; i.e. burglars won't break into house where they fear an armed owner.

Personally, my experience with guns has me view them simply as a tool. I am not fascinated by them nor do I fear them. They can serve a useful purpose if used properly. I also think there needs to be a middle ground, much as Switzerland has found, between the two camps although I doubt that will ever happen.

In the mean time I find the arguments made by both sides to take great liberty with the facts when making their case; and find it ironic that the NRA and most gun shops will not allow someone to take a loaded gun inside. I like to bring that up when someone goes off the deep end and ask "If more guns make you safe would;t they want armed people where they work?" just as I ask the rabid anti gunner "If you were about to be murdered wouldn't you want to be able to defend yourself?" Then again, sometimes it is just fun to kick the hornet's nest.

2 days ago
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Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Registered Coward v2 Re:The Canadian Exodus.... (1571 comments)

I recall one while I lived there where their was a shooting over a girlfriend;

"A shooting over a girlfriend" does not sound like a "shooting spree" to me, one in which dozens of people are killed. Was this a mass-murder that started as some crime of passion, or was this just someone shooting some other person or two? Murders happen everywhere; if someone used a fully-automatic rifle in an angry rage over a girlfriend, and only killed one or two people (girlfriend and her new boyfriend?), that's not exactly an indictment of automatic weapons. Anyone could easily do the same with a kitchen knife.

Well, there also was the mass shooting (with a SIG) of 14 people at a cantonal meeting as another example.

Anyway, yes, their rules are different, but that wasn't my point. My point was that one of the main arguments trotted out by the anti-gun crowd is that proliferation of weapons necessarily leads to huge number of gun deaths. Switzerland disproves that.

However, disproving that doesn't prove the opposite, i.e. that mass gun ownership reduces gun deaths or stops crime. Most of the gun deaths in Switzerland are from suicides or domestic violence.Their gun related suicide rate is one of the highest in Europe. One common argument made for gun ownership is criminals such as burglars won't break into a house with an armed owner yet burglaries are rising in Switzerland. My point is that Switzerland is not a good example for the argument greater gun ownership is good (or bad) since there are so many other factors at play that to focus on one is misleading.

Another interesting point is the Swiss seem to seek compromise on gun control issues such as limiting ammunition ownership, the need to have a permit to buy or carry a weapon, severely restricting the right to carry in public, even to the point of not giving reservists ammo for storing at home for their military issue weapons.

Personally, I'd be happy to adopt the Swiss model. Considering the country is at #1 or #2 for the highest standard of living in the world, they're obviously doing things right. However, there's no way we could just adopt their laws wholesale, because we don't have to right culture to make that stuff work here. The reason countries like Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries are so great is because of their cultures; their laws and policies are a byproduct of that.

I certainly agree with that.

2 days ago
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Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Registered Coward v2 Re:The Canadian Exodus.... (1571 comments)

Yes, they have regulations, but they also have easily-available automatic rifles everywhere. Yes, it's illegal to actually walk around in public with a loaded rifle (unloaded is perfectly OK), and it's illegal to open your government-issued box of ammunition unless you've been authorized to, however if someone wanted to go on a shooting spree, that's not going to stop them. The anti-gun people always make the claim that easily availability of high-powered guns is what drives gun crimes. However, here in the US, we do NOT have easy access to automatic weapons; our AR-15s are all semi-automatic. In Switzerland, most houses have a fully-automatic assault rifle, plus ammunition. If you don't have one, it'd be easy to break in and steal one. Despite that, when was the last time you heard of a shooting spree in Switzerland? Never.

Actually, they have. I recall one while I lived there where their was a shooting over a girlfriend; but I will admit it is rare. However, if you want to adopt the Swiss model lets add universal registration of all weapons, severe penalties for carrying one in public unless you are on reserve duty, mandatory registration with the police in your place of residence, and universal healthcare. Somehow, most of the folks I know who point out Switzerland as a good reason for gun ownership aren't willing to really adopt the Swiss model.

2 days ago
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Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge

Registered Coward v2 Re:Legal Analysis (789 comments)

One important but often overlooked point in the WS article is how special education classes are setup. As the WP points out, in addition to kids who really need help they become dumping grounds for behavioral problems; as a result teachers have to teach and deal with troublemakers and the administration simply expects them to deal with it.

A lot of the times the kids with behavioral problems also have learning problems. Most or all of the bullies I encountered in school were on the low end of the intelligence bell curve and did not do well in class. Should a child not get an education just because they have behavioral problems? Sure, the kid might be an asshole but usually it is because his parents are assholes, not because of some asshole gene. Strict discipline is important for these students as they likely are not getting that at home but if they need remedial help they should receive it.

Certainly, but in an appropriate environment; not just thrown into special ed because it is a convent dumping ground. In addition, if their behavior disrupts and threatens others then they should be removed and learn there are consequences for their behavior and it will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, many of them can get away with it and thus do not modify their behavior.

2 days ago
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Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge

Registered Coward v2 Re:Legal Analysis (789 comments)

Here's an interesting article that looks at the legal aspects of this case:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

tl;dr version: The charges are bullshit.

One important but often overlooked point in the WS article is how special education classes are setup. As the WP points out, in addition to kids who really need help they become dumping grounds for behavioral problems; as a result teachers have to teach and deal with troublemakers and the administration simply expects them to deal with it. So, instead of addressing the problems schools simply ignore them; especially since actually taking action and expelling the kid or moving them to a school designed to deal with troublemakers is a long and difficult process. If the teacher is lucky they can document the problems and get the kid kicked out of school or if they are an out of district kid, give them so much work to do that they decide to go back to their original school. No wonder many special ed teachers tell young kids who want to do that to do anything but teach special ed; and the kids who really need help suffer because teachers spend far too much time dealing with troublemakers.

3 days ago
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Netflix Gets What It Pays For: Comcast Streaming Speeds Skyrocket

Registered Coward v2 Re:So Netflix wants to change how it connects (324 comments)

You have basically everything backwards here. Netflix is not the comcast customer. Netflix pays their own ISP for their bandwidth already.

True, but Netflix is paying Comcast for a specific level of service. Absent that Comcast has no requirement to ensure Netflix can deliver a decent level of service.

It's not Netflix which is using all this bandwidth on comcasts network - it's comcast customers who are using it. And they already paid for it.

No, they paid for a maximum bandwidth, not a minimum one. That sucks, but that is what Comcast customers are buying.

Comcast wants to bill twice. I am sure they would bill 20 times if they could get away with it. And they are the 800lb gorilla with an effective monopoly position in many markets and no scruples whatsoever. Netflix folded to extortion, and the precedent is certainly not one that will benefit any users, unless it's the users that are also comcast stock owners.

Unfortunately, Comcast's only duty is to maximize its stockholders value.

That said, I've contended for a long time that the looming battle is over the last mile. As Apple and others build up content libraries they will become viable alternatives to cable. As content producers become more willing to make content such as TV shows available shortly after broadcast, at reasonable prices, they will draw in more cable cutters since people are already accustomed to time shifting. I could see a model where you can buy a free or watch ones with ads for free. As people shift the cable companies will look to profit more from the internet pipe - I see tiered services for data amounts as well as speeds becoming more prevalent. Right now, cable is too important for content producers to make stuff readily available on competing services; but as the $$$ potential form them grow they will embrace them. There is no loyalty that 1$ more profit can't overcome.

3 days ago
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Netflix Gets What It Pays For: Comcast Streaming Speeds Skyrocket

Registered Coward v2 Re:So Netflix wants to change how it connects (324 comments)

Bullshit. This wasn't a business decision about improving service. This was extortion. Comcast got all the upside (gained revenue from Netflix, plus reduced peering traffic) and Netflix almost broke even (loses payments to Comcast, saves on hosting costs elsewhere). Customers pay Comcast to be connected to the internet at a given speed. They deserve to get the speed they pay for, regardless of where the traffic comes from.

Actually, Comcast customers pay for a maximum speed with no assurances of actually speed. Yea, it's crap that that is the way it is, and I wish Google would wire my area so I could dump Comcast; but the reality is nothing in my deal with Comcast guarantees me any minimum throughput. Unfortunately, any alternatives such as Dish or Clear are worse.

3 days ago
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Netflix Gets What It Pays For: Comcast Streaming Speeds Skyrocket

Registered Coward v2 So Netflix wants to change how it connects (324 comments)

with Comcast. This allows Netflix to stop paying others for connecting their services to Comcast's network and gives Netflix's servers a direct link to Comcast. Comcast says "Sure, but pay us to do that." Netflix weighs that cost vs current costs and the benefits to them of ensuring faster streaming and says "OK." Sure they would like to do it for free but ultimately decided paying was the best option. Comcast no doubt wants to find ways to make money as streaming becomes more popular than cable and this is one way to do it. Netflix needs to keep customers happy and Comcast has a way to do that, at a price; and as a result that make a deal. It's a simple business decision on both sides.

While it would be nice to have everything streamed at max speed the reality is Comcast (and others) need to manage the network for all users; and if Netflix is a major bandwidth user then throttling them makes sense; even if it means degraded performance. If this agreement allows fast streaming and has less of an impact on other users then the users benefit as well from the deal.

3 days ago
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GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety

Registered Coward v2 Re:Gak (236 comments)

Ironically, NASA has almost certainly killed more people with the space shuttle than have died due to ignition switches.

I haven't the slightest idea why they're going to NASA of all places for an engineering audit, whenever there's a shuttle accident it's always transpired that NASA has intractable compliance and engineering culture problems, and lack the capacity to properly validate a tricycle for safety, let alone a mass-produced motor vehicle. Their incompetence has literally cost the US a manned spaceflight program.

They may be taking a page from Jack in the Box, when JITB hired NASA to completely overhaul their procedures after the salmonella deaths. Given NASA's record it's a miracle JITB burgers didn't all subsequently carry Ebola.

Just because your own organization is flawed doesn't mean you are incapable of identifying similar flaws in another. NASA has, as post-event investigations showed, a lot of people who are very capable of doing good engineering work as well as investigative work despite the culture. I would argue they could also be very good at finding similar issues in other companies and recommending fixes.

about a week ago

Submissions

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Get off my lawn

Registered Coward v2 Registered Coward v2 writes  |  about 6 months ago

Registered Coward v2 (447531) writes "Identifying a nerd was easier years ago — calculator on the belt and a box of Hollerith cards. Part computer program, part note card, and part bookmark, they were a readily available source of nerd badges at any campus. As with many tech icons, they have drifted into oblivion.

So what do you do if:

you got a new computer, or maybe a software upgrade, only to find — error message! — that some of your old files are incompatible.

and the files you have are valuable historical data needed for current research? How about finding a USB compatible Hollerith card reader?"

Link to Original Source
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Supreme Court to hear First Sale Doctrine case

Registered Coward v2 Registered Coward v2 writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Registered Coward v2 (447531) writes "SCOTUS is set to hear a case to determine how copyright law and the doctrine of first sale applies to copyrighted works bought overseas, imported to the US and then sold. The case involves a foreign student who imported textbooks from Asia and the resold them in the US to help fund his education. He was sued by the publisher, lost and was ordered to pay $600k in damages. Now SCOTUS gets to weigh in on the issue."
Link to Original Source
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iPads as overhead projectors

Registered Coward v2 Registered Coward v2 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Registered Coward v2 (447531) writes "A University of Michigan professor has combined iPads with a set of software tools to create an effective replacement for projected Powerpoint, clickers, and the like to allow students to interact and annotate the lecture notes on iPads, iPhones, and computers. As he puts it, he has used these tools to create " show your slides + ask questions of students (multiple-choice, true-false, rearrange lists, image-based and free response — take THAT clickers!) and display the results in real-time + collect and answer student questions + have access to analytical data on student participation + DRAW ON THE SLIDES LIKE WITH AN OVERHEAD!"

Even better — a roller equipped overhead."

Link to Original Source
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Apple Time Capsules Dying

Registered Coward v2 Registered Coward v2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Registered Coward v2 (447531) writes "Reports are surfacing of dying power supplies in Apple's Time Capsule drives, leaving users with vey nicely designed 9and expensive) paper weights. The problem appears to be failure of the internal power supply, making it impossible to power up the device. One website logged 260 reports of dead Apple Time capsules since going live last weekend. Apple has not yet responded to reports of this problem."
Link to Original Source
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It's football, not a funeral

Registered Coward v2 Registered Coward v2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Registered Coward v2 (447531) writes "From a Notre Dame University press release: In an effort to encourage appropriate behavior, fans will be able to utilize a new text messaging system to report any instances of unruly or disruptive behavior in conjunction with home games, including inside Notre Dame Stadium. The system will be in place beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturdays. Fans can simply text 41513 and type into the message the word "Irish" followed by a space, followed by a brief description of the issue and its location. Ushers, public safety personnel and/or University officials will respond as needed.

Interesting use of technology; but even with ND's performance on the field it's still a football game. I guess they expect people to sit quietly and occasionally utter a "nice play" and clap politely. At least you now have a way to complain about cold hotdogs and dirty toilets."
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Registered Coward v2 Registered Coward v2 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Registered Coward v2 (447531) writes "Best Buy has been caught using an intranet to limit price matching of their own web site. http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-watchdog0302, 0,5198012.column?coll=hc-utility-local Apparently, according to a company spokesman, their employees find it difficult to distinguish between accessing an internal site and their own external ones. Of course, they have no problem distinguishing between a higher and lower price nor charging the higher one."

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