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Comments

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Amazon Uses Robots To Speed Up Human 'Pickers' In Fulfillment Centers

ScottyLad Re:Dice Strikes Again... (184 comments)

I'm curious as to why it's more efficient to bring the shelf to the picker than take the picker to the shelf. Those robots could just as easily be ferrying around the pickers.

I saw a similar system in operation in a UK fulfillment centre (for another company) around 6 years ago. The advantage was that one picker could pick from around 14,000 low volume items from one location.

about 9 months ago
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Sorm: Russia Intends To Monitor "All Communications" At Sochi Olympics

ScottyLad Re:Why are you surprized? (193 comments)

They're concerned that people might try that "free speech" thing, which has been a problem ever since Putin decided to wage a private war on gay people... and many are calling for a boycott of the olympics or protesting at the scene to raise awareness of the problem.

Unfortunately your post demonstrated more about your propensity to believe everything you read in the Western press than the reality of modern Russia.

Putting personal opinion to one side on the subject of gay rights, there is no "war" on gay people in Russia, and certainly not a "private war". The recent legislation is actually extremely popular in Russia, and is almost identical to a UK law which was only recently abolished by Tony Blair. Both leaders were simply reflecting the will of their electorate as Britain becomes more liberal, and Russia worries about the moral decline and disintegration of the family they percieve as happening the West.

Part of the problem is that Western society simply doesn't recognise the values of other countries. Russia has a very conservative population, who have a perfectly reasonable stance that they don't take well to people on the other side of the world trying to impose foreign values inside their own borders. In much the same way, American and British foreign policy seems to be based on the absurd notion that if everyone in the world was free to have what they wanted, they would want to be like the USA and Britain. It's simply not true.

To make sure everything looks just peachy for the press cameras, while the 10,000 other cameras hunt for anything that could spoil that rosey worldview... like protesters.

As someone who spends my time between London and Moscow, I can assure you that you are no more or less likely to see protests in either city.

I've been in the centre of Moscow when there have been pro-government and anti-government demonstrations on the same day, and they weren't anything particularly remarkable compared to anything I've seen in London. I was also in London on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral, where there were plenty of news crews desperately trying to find some protesters to film to support their own narrative. In the whole day, I saw one anti-Thatcher protester, and a large group protesting about the death penalty in some ex-colony somewhere or other. The news will generally find someone to film to back up their own narrative, as rabble-rousers can always be found on all sides. Unfortunately as most Westerners don't speak Russian, it's hard from them to get a balanced view. I read the Russian press from all sides and somewhere in the middle lies the truth - in much the same way as in the UK - filtering out the opinion pieces in the Telegraph and the Guardian gives you a much better idea of the facts than a quasi-state broadcaster like the BBC.

The notion that Russians are an oppressed people is as outdated as the Cold War. They are a democratic country with no more allegations of electoral fraud than the UK (yes, it happens in all countries to some extent, and we're not exempt simply be being "western"). The Western press only ever talks about Putin, and ignores the widely respected Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Perhaps the fact the President and Prime Minister having a good working relationship together doesn't suit the narrative of a country like America which seemingly can't keep their own government running despite wanting to run everyone else's country for them.

What matters to most people my age in Moscow are the same things which matter to most people my age in London. Concerns about the effect of an ageing population. Suspicion that the generation before us are the last ones who will have decent pensions to support them in their old age. Worries about house prices increasing faster than wages. What they don't tend to be overly concerned about are laws which reflect the overwhelming sentiment of the public, and which are only concerned with the protection of minors. In modern Russia, grown-ups can do what they please, including visiting gay bars if they so desire.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is an Online Identity Important When Searching For Technical Jobs?

ScottyLad Depends what you have to say about yourself (358 comments)

Should I start now, or is an first-time tweeter/blogger in 2013 worse than someone with no presence at all?

When you begin blogging / posting is fairly irrelevant, but someone posting when they have nothing to say is definitely worse than having no online presence.

I'm in a similar situation. I'm in my late 30's, self-employed, and get most of my work (projects and contracts) by networking in the old-fashioned sense - phoning contacts every once in a while, taking people out to lunch, keeping in tough with agents and hiring managers. Lately though, many of the people I maintain relationships with in this way are increasingly asking for my website / linkedin / facebook details.

I'm not a fan of any of the major social and business networking sites, as I don't necessarily wish to be publicly associated with everyone I know. Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned (I am almost 40 years old, after all), but having bought in to the "share everything online" mentality on the AOL chatrooms in the mid 1990's, and having run a personal website from then until the early 2000's, I soon realised that too many people had easy access to my personal information, and retreated from these services.

Now I'm in the process of setting up an online personal presence for the first time in a while (I have a company website which is fine for my existing clients). I've decided to shun LinkedIn and Facebook as I don't trust their privacy policies, so I'm going with a blog instead. I had been about to start coding my personal website from scratch, but I've decided to use Wordpress for now, and see how I get on with it first. I figure if I can write my own plugins for WordPress to get my pages looking the way I want them to, then I have the benefit of any security updates to the WordPress Codex.

Like the original submitter, I'm keen to see what other people's opinions are on this matter.

about a year ago
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ITIF Senior Fellow Claims "America's Broadband Networks Lead the World"

ScottyLad Re:What!? (298 comments)

The author only compares America to other "developed" countries, but if I wanted the best Internet access, I would go so somewhere like South Korea, or anywhere in the Middle or Far East where the uptake of IPv6 and build-out of high speed access leaves Europe and America looking a bit last century.

The whole article seems to be missing the fact that the developing countries are setting the pace these days.

about a year ago
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Trying To Learn a Foreign Language? Avoid Reminders of Home

ScottyLad Re:And this needed research? (200 comments)

True, but American English is the predominant form of English in America at this point.

FTFY

about a year ago
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Most precise measuring tool I've used ...

ScottyLad Re:Tiny option missing... (328 comments)

Why do you need to specify metric tons, it should be enough to specify tons, a.k.a. 1000kg. Stating metric these days is redundant.

My understanding is that American's use the term "metric ton" to refer to what most of the English and French speaking world term a "tonne". (to avoid confusion with the short / long "ton" used in the UK and USA).

Personally, I disagree that stating "metric" these days is redundant, particularly in a discussion thread about precision. In common speech (in the UK) where we pronounce a "ton" and a "tonne" the same, I generally refer to 2,240lbs as a "ton" in speech, and a metric tonne as "one thousand kilos". There is a definite generation gap though, and I've noticed younger people in the workforce are much more predisposed to use metric over imperial measurements.

about a year ago
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Dominion Announces Plans To Close Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station In 2013

ScottyLad Re:And if it were not sufficient? (217 comments)

Do we go back and ask for more from the company running this?

So it would seem, according to the Unites States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, although the point is a moot one in light of the fact this particular fund appears to be sufficiently funded.

Although there are many factors that affect reactor decommissioning costs, generally they range from $300 million to $400 million. Approximately 70 percent of licensees are authorized to accumulate decommissioning funds over the operating life of their plants. These owners – generally traditional, rate-regulated electric utilities or indirectly regulated generation companies – are not required today to have all of the funds needed for decommissioning. The remaining licensees must provide financial assurance through other methods such as prepaid decommissioning funds and/or a surety method or guarantee. The staff performs an independent analysis of each of these reports to determine whether licensees are providing reasonable “decommissioning funding assurance” for radiological decommissioning of the reactor at the permanent termination of operation.

about 2 years ago
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Dominion Announces Plans To Close Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station In 2013

ScottyLad Re:Nuclear Waste Storage facility (217 comments)

The answer, as so often is the case, is in TFA...

Kewaunee's decommissioning trust is currently fully funded, and the company believes that the amounts available in the trust plus expected earnings will be sufficient to cover all decommissioning costs expected to be incurred after the station closes.

about 2 years ago
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Russian Officials Consider Ban On Wi-Fi Use For Kids

ScottyLad Re:What's the fear? (110 comments)

I imagine they have the same problems we have of limited bandwidth and those darn kids are using it all up making internet access slow for everyone. Get them off the network (under some pretense of "think of the children") and - yay! More bandwidth for me...

Actually, one of the many things I like about Moscow and St Petersburg is the presence of a decent free wifi in almost every place you can buy a coffee (such as Coffee House in the picture, and Shokoladnitsi mentioned in the article). Plus the fact there are no annoying splash screens, proxy logins or registration required - just select the access point and browse away.

I tried to use the "free WiFi" in a McDonalds in the UK today as I had a poor mobile reception - I selected their access point, was prompted for my cellphone number, and then redirected to a login page which required the code which never arrived via SMS to my cellphone. It would be a real shame if the much more user-friendly and useful service in Russia (ie. one that actually works!) is legislated out of existence. (although the likelyhood of such legislation ever being enforced is another matter)

It's been a while since I've been over to the USA, so can't comment on the situation there, but there are certainly things that Russia does better than the UK - and public WiFi is one of them. Bookstores that open through the night is another. I'll be glad to be back in Moscow later this week.

about 2 years ago
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UK Man Arrested For Offensive Joke Posted On Facebook

ScottyLad Re:Oh dear ? (606 comments)

This 'joke' was posted on the official 'Find April' Facebook wall, where local people & family were coordinating searches, not just on his own wall. That's why it's being prosecuted.

Whilst I find the 'joke' to be far from funny, and posting it on the "Find April" page of Facebook in particularly poor taste, I am increasingly concerned by the enthusiasm with which the Crown Prosecution Service seek criminal convictions for posting bad taste jokes, or unpopular opinions, when these could be quickly and easily removed by the moderators of the forum in question.

I'm not a Facebook user personally, but most online forums have some means of moderation in their online forums - I would be extremely surprised it wasn't possible to report the comment to Facebook, and have them take action against the user concerned (such as removing the comment and blocking their account).

As someone else has commented, there are "comedians" who specialise in this kind of joke. Personally I don't find them funny, so I don't go to see them. Likewise, I know when I go on to an internet forum (even those of the broadsheet newspapers), I am likely to come acrosss offensive material (although I am more usually offended by the lack of originality and intellect than the comments themselves).

A country where the State legislates to prevent people from being offended is only a small step from a country where the state legislates to prevent people from voicing politically unpopular opinions. As a UK citizen, one is increasingly concerned at the level of routine surveillance and intervention by the Authorities in day to day life.

about 2 years ago
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Why Ultrabooks Are Falling Well Short of Intel's Targets

ScottyLad Re:The reason is simple. (513 comments)

20 years ago, 1440x900 was pretty nice. I still preferred my 1920x1200 though.

20 years ago, I was running a DX 386 with a Hercules graphics card. It ran at 720 x 348 in mono. When I went to University in the early 1990's one of the perks was getting to use the latest NeXT workstations with the "MegaPixel" display at 1120 x 832.

Towards the late 1990's, 1600x1200 would have been considered a very high end monitor, my first monitor which could handle such a resolution was the eye-wateringly expensive Iiyama Vision Master Pro 450 when it came on the market around 1998 - 1999 in the massive 19" format. The thing I remember most about that monitor wasn't the amazing flat screen, or the super sharp resolution - it was the weight... that thing practially had it's own gravitational field!.

The first machine I recall running a widescreen resolution was my Mac Powerbook G4, which I purchase in 2005 (it's still running and in regular usage!). Given that Apple pretty much blazed the trail for widescreen displays, I'd be surprised if anyone was running 1920 x 1200 even 10 years ago.

about 2 years ago
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Would You Pay an Internet Broadband Tax?

ScottyLad Re:Universal service. (601 comments)

You're calling us "opossums".

I think the parent...

What does a nation of opossums need broadband for anyway?

...was making a witty retort to the grandparent:

Or it gets burned down, like the case of Possim Kingdom

It made me chuckle anyway, the thought of a nation of possums. I didn't see any offence intended towards Americans at all, just a play on words.

As for your wider question:

Why do foreigners think it's okay to insult Americans again and again?

I think you'll find that's for the same reason many American's think it's ok to force their political ideals on to other countries without stopping to question whether it's an appropriate course of action. Call it ignorance, if you will. The world isn't short of people who believe their country is the best and everyone else is beneath them, any more than it's short of people who believe theirs is the "one true religion".

As someone who's lived and worked in America, Europe and Russia, Xenophobia and nationalistic insecurity often seem to me to be the views of those who have seldom experienced the world beyond their own borders. There's a difference between the business world, which pretty much gets on with it all, regardless; the political world, which huffs and puffs and spouts endless rhetoric according to when the next elections are; and the opinions and insults of those who have never visited the country in question. I wouldn't get too wound up about the latter two if I were you.

about 2 years ago
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Why WikiLeaks Is Worth Defending

ScottyLad The problem with ideologies.... (257 comments)

The problem with most ideological stances, is that they only work if the ideolody is applied to everyone else

Hence, Wikileaks stands for openness and public scrutiny of everything and everyone except Wikileaks. How much money has Wikileaks received in donations, and how much of it went in to Assange's pockets? Maybe an insider could post the answer on Wikileaks. No, wait...

Communism works great if everyone is equal and everything is shared equally... unless you happen to be a Party Member, in which case you have have all the trappings of Capitalism

Democracy is great idea, giving everyoe an equal say in how things are run. Until you get elected, then you don't need to worry about the electorate for another 4 or 5 years.

Dictatorships work well unless you disagree with the ideology of the dictator

Freedom of Information is a great idea, until you realise that all governments and companies need to undertake certain discussing in private in able to function effectively.

about 2 years ago
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UK Man Jailed For 'Offensive Tweets'

ScottyLad Re:WTF? (922 comments)

I do find it rather worrying that my home country has developed a propensity for locking people up because "they said things" over the past few years.

In general, the kind of things which are said I would view with disdain at best, or more often than not deem them pitiful. I do worry, however, about the level to which UK law is prepared to intervene to stop people from hearing things they might not agree with.

There are plenty of things I don't particularly like to hear or see - swearing in front of children, for example, or pontificating extremist views be they political, religious or racist. I am extremely uneasy, however, at the State deciding what is and isn't offensive on my behalf. The irony appears to be lost on our elected representatives, when they object to other countries enforcing the moral values of the state (eg Sharia Law) on to the general populace.

When I was a youngster, the standard response to any spoken insult was "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me". Sadly over the course of the last 30 years, we seem to have been taught to take offence easily, instead of feeling pity for the ignorance of someone who can only communicate in insults.

In the case of blatent harrassment, there is an argument for striking the balance between maintaining the right to free speech, and the desire to regulate - but recent over regulation has resulted in a culture where even when there is genuine reason to highlight an issue or question which relates to a "minority", it is impossible to speak freely for fear of being charged with a "hate crime"

I personally consider I probably have fairly conservative (small "c") views on most things, but I regard the risk of being offended by the opinion of others as simply the price of freedom. It wouldn't be a very free country if everyone had to think the same as me.

more than 2 years ago
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Surviving the Cashless Cataclysm

ScottyLad Re:The UK tried this ahead of it's time... (463 comments)

I couldn't say for sure now as it was a long time ago, but it was the recollection of Mondex cards being handed out in the streets which made me think of it as an anonymous system, along with the emphasis placed on the value being stored in the card itself.

I certainly think it had it's advantages, whether anonymous or not - I don't generally carry cash with me, and get caught out anywhere that doesn't take cards (eg the coffee stall on client sites) or has a minimum transaction fee (my local newsagent). Obviously if you only load up via ATMs, or by debit card then there is a level of traceability, but I honestly can't remember the original privacy specifications now.

Having done a bit of digging around on the Internet this evening, it seems the Mondex was bought out by Mastercard in the late 1990's - long after I'd moved on to other things. I guess it's safe to say that in whatever guise any of the Mondex technology exists these days, it's unlikely to be anonymous.

There is an interesting site showing some of the examples of the early cards I remember, and the original logo

more than 2 years ago
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Surviving the Cashless Cataclysm

ScottyLad The UK tried this ahead of it's time... (463 comments)

Back in the 1990's, I was working on payment machines when the Mondex Trial started out in Swindon.

Essentially, this was just a smart card which you could load up with cash - if you lost your card, then you'd lost whatever cash was on it at the time.

At the time, I thought it was a useful idea, and it did take off to a certain extent for micropayments, particularly in newsagents, but as far as I recall, the trial fizzled out an died after a while. I do recall at one point the promoters were trying to hand out free Mondex cards loaded up with £5 but the general public just weren't ready for the concept 20 years ago.

more than 2 years ago
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EU Targets Apple In Ebook Investigation

ScottyLad Re:duh (99 comments)

This was also the case in the UK when the Net Book Agreement was in force in the early 90's.

For a while, everyone played ball, the smaller retailers were able to stay in business because nobody could undercut them, and a book cost the same price no matter where you bought it. Two larger booksellers (Dillons and Waterstones) then started to exploit a loophole by either punching a hole in the cover, or marking the edge of the pages with a pen. Then they could sell books at a discount as they were "damaged goods"

The Net Book Agreement stopped being effective for this reason, and was eventually formally scrapped.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Getting a Grip On an Inherited IT Mess?

ScottyLad What, where, why... (424 comments)

I've spent the best part of my career undertaking tasks like this (as an external consultant), with my average time on an assignment lasting somewhere between 18 months and 3 years.

My aim on every project is to make myself obsolete - in that I try to get documentation up to a point where a suitably qualified individual could come in, read the documentation, and work the rest out for themselves.

My primary objectives are to implement some form of inventory control to document the what / where / why...

  • What - What have you got (servers, software, services, contracts, operating systems, databases, users)
  • Where - Where is it - where are your servers, what machine is this software licence running on?
  • Why - What is the Business Justification for this service - what is the Business Impact if this database stopped running tomorrow?

Once you've got to that stage, then you're ready to get in to the real technical details. Remember that you are pitching your documentation to your successor, or to some imaginary "suitably qualified individual", so documenting what a system does and why is a higher priority than commenting every line of code.

It is possible to do with one person, depending on the size of the organisation, it can be particularly rewarding to do on your own - in a small business you often find some of the users have a good understanding of some of the systems, or are keen to learn.

You stated in your post that you've assumed the role of programmer and sole IT personnel - which means you need to learn to think like a manager as well as a techie (which is harder than most people imagine!). Once you learn to focus on the business priorities, you'll understand where to begin with the technical detail, and what level of documentation is required.

more than 2 years ago
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Black Friday, for me, means ...

ScottyLad Re:HYPE HYPE HYPE (198 comments)

I noticed some "Black Friday" emails from Amazon.co.uk and thought it was weird to name a promotion like a stock market crash. I honestly thought from the emails that they were running a consumer electronics promotion, and the only tenuous link they could find between all the offers was the colour black.

It was only when I saw this poll on Slashdot that I bothered to google "Black Friday" and promptly lost interest, as it has as much relevance to me here in the UK as "Thanksgiving" (which I discovered was last Thursday, only by googling "Black Friday").

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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Tenessee Volkswagen Workers Reject Union Representation

ScottyLad ScottyLad writes  |  about 6 months ago

ScottyLad (44798) writes "Workers at a South-Tenessee Volkswagen plant have voted against union representation in favour of a European style Workers Council

With membership of the United Autoworkers Union having plummeted by 75% since the 1970's, workers "felt like we were already being treated very well by Volkswagen in terms of pay and benefits and bonuses," according to Sean Moss, who voted against the UAW. "We also looked at the track record of the UAW," he added, stating that many workers believed union representation had hurt industrial relations at other plants.

For the uninitiated, Workers Councils are a form of worker representation which is common in Europe, and mandated by law in Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered. Unlike a Union, the Workers Council is solely responsible for the representation of workers interests in a particular workplace or company, and in this instance the Tenessee workers appear to have viewed how the system works for their international colleagues as preferable to external Union representation.

After Volkswagen did not resist the organizing drive, which made it unusually easy for the UAW to win workers' support for a vote, UAW Presiden Bob King said "whilst we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union."

89% of eligible workers voted in the ballot"
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Reddit bans Climate Change Deniers

ScottyLad ScottyLad writes  |  about 8 months ago

ScottyLad (44798) writes "Several news sites have commented on a Grist article titled Reddit’s science forum banned climate deniers. Why don’t all newspapers do the same? by Reddit moderator Nathan Allan, which states "About a year ago, we moderators became increasingly stringent with deniers. When a potentially controversial submission was posted, a warning would be issued stating the rules for comments (most importantly that your comment isn’t a conspiracy theory) and advising that further violations of the rules could result in the commenter being banned from the forum."

In the article, Allen (PhD) somewhat condescendingly describes Reddit as a "window for those who are not scientists, who do not regularly talk with PhDs, and who may be unfamiliar with how science is discussed by scientists. In essence, it is a window into the Ivory Tower.", and states Reddit is "passionately dedicated to free speech". According to Allen, Reddit "generally resembles any scientific debate. That is, there are always numerous links to peer-reviewed science to support positions, people don’t deliberately mislead or misrepresent content, and there is a basic level of respect shared regardless of position."

In Allen's world, the science of Climate Change is a running battle between "hard-working scientists whose research supported and furthered our understanding of man-made climate change" against "true believers [climate change deniers], blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking"

Mainstream media has been asking of Reddit, It describes itself as “passionately dedicated to free speech”. In which case, why has it banned from its forums anyone who raises awkward or annoying questions about the science of climate change?

For my part, I beleive there is a certain amount of exaggeration and misrepresentation by parties on both sides of the debate, but censorship of one side of a debate always gives the perception of being political, rather than scientific decision."

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