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Comments

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Malaysian Passenger Plane Reportedly Shot Down Over Ukraine

Shoten Ah. (750 comments)

Here's one of the problems with MANPADS (MAN-Portable Air Defense Systems). When you're holding one, your eyes are pretty much all you have to go on for determining friend from foe, and you are your own command chain. So if 90% of the people carrying those missiles around are calm of mind and sharp of eye, you still get 10% of them who may well shoot at anything with wings.

5 days ago
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Manuel Noriega Sues Activision Over Call of Duty

Shoten Re:Illegal to profit from your crimes. (83 comments)

Doesn't the US have a law that makes it illegal for a criminal to profit from their crimes in this manner? I know serial killers can't sell their life story rights for a movie or a book.

Doesn't that same law apply here?

No, it doesn't. In this case, what he'd be getting paid for has nothing to do with his crimes whatsoever. This isn't about him having sold the rights to his life story, it's about a video game using his likeness and name in a fictitional manner without paying for the right to leverage his public image. Also, it can also be posited (debate whether it's valid or not) that some may believe that some components of the video game have a basis in real life, and thus it would be a form of libel as well. Though, speaking for myself, I'm not sure what about the game was so bad that it'd be worse than what the truth was.

about a week ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

Shoten Re:Why? (750 comments)

If the US were to change the dollar like that, most folks wouldn't care. The vast majority of American money is held in banks, which would make the change automatically on their electronic balance.

The only thing affected by such a change would be large stockpiles of cash. For legitimate businesses, replacing the cash in circulation would be an annoyance, but not impossible. For most individuals, who would have less than a few thousand dollars in cash on hand, the change would mean just a quick trip to the nearest bank.

The biggest disruption would be to those who have significant stockpiles of cash, larger than what banks would normally exchange. For that, the process could be pretty similar to what happens today if you need to make a large cash withdrawal or foreign-currency exchange: the bank can accommodate it with advance notice. You call the bank, give them a name and amount, and they'll make sure they have the cash on hand to serve your needs. The key detail, then, is that the bank knows your name and the amount you're exchanging, providing a paper trail indicating the presence of large amounts of cash. That paper trail is a problem for the criminal and the paranoid, but there aren't enough of those to make for a successful uprising.

I don't think you read what I said correctly. They didn't just devalue the notes; they devalued the currency . In other words, they increased the cost of everything/decreased the value of all money by 100-fold. And my response was to someone saying that there's no way that The Powers That Be can do anything to eradicate cash, essentially.

I see a lot of people arguing that "it wouldn't be a good idea to do that." Yeah, no shit :) My point is that it's possible, regardless of how dumb it would be to do.

about a week ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

Shoten Re:Why? (750 comments)

TPTB can freeze credit cards, bank accounts, etc on a whim, but can't freeze a wallet full of $20s.

Actually, yeah they can. North Korea did just this...to all the money in everyone's wallet...when they decided that the black market had gotten too powerful. They demoted the value of the won (their currency) by two orders of magnitude...and gave everyone only a week to change their currency in for the new notes, after which time the old notes would not be worth the paper they were printed on.

Now here's the part where you say "But that's North Korea!" right on the heels of everyone claiming that the reason to go cashless is because we're not really living in a free society...

about a week ago
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Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster

Shoten Maybe a good idea...maybe not. (202 comments)

So, what this pan does is actually very simple; the fins on the sides provide more surface area to catch the heat that slides up the side by convection forces when the pan sits on a gas burner. The "gas burner" part is incredibly important, as if you have an electric burner there will be negligible benefit, and maybe even a negative result. That extra surface area can bleed heat as well as it collects it. And since the pans are cast aluminum, if you have an induction cooktop they won't work at all.

So, let's say you have a gas burner, and one of these pans. Here's what I see as a potential issue. The walls of this pan will get hotter than they do when you use another more traditional type of pan. And that's not necessarily a problem, as long as you keep stirring. But that extra heat will tend to cause liquid at the edge/top of the contents of the pan (the meniscus) to heat far more aggressively. Which means that you will likely get a degree of crusting, scorching, etc...depending on what's in the pan, of course. Water? No problem, it's water. But if you're cooking a sauce, or making something like boxed risotto (not the real hardcore risotto, which requires constant stirring and so would not scorch) or some other grain, you may have some issues. They have a stockpot, which at first would seem like the ideal situation...except that if you're doing most things you would do with a classical stockpot (like making a large batch of stock or soup or stew) you may have MAJOR issues with that scorching.

I have to say...I have a gas cooktop, I cook a lot, I cook elaborately, we have a gas dryer, we have gas-fired heat in the winter. It's a decent-sized single family home. And my gas bill doesn't get high at all...average is a bit less than $50/month. I find it hard to imagine that these pots would make much of a difference in my gas consumption at all. Maybe if my cooktop were really wimpy, the speed of cooking would be nice...but isn't the better option just to get a better cooktop in that case? These pans don't help if you're using a skillet, or the oven (which would also probably be weak if the top burners of the stove are weak), and they cost quite a lot. It'd be cheaper to just upgrade the cooktop than replace all of your pans with this, and the results will be more controllable. I'd love a big pot to boil water for pasta that worked like this...but for every other application it seems to me that upgrading the range would be a better way to go.

But hey, that's just my two cents.

about two weeks ago
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FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

Shoten Re:Movies (199 comments)

Actually, it's vastly more common to use a helicopter, though that is going to change soon...but in favor of much bigger drones than are used by realtors. My significant other is a producer of documentary content (which uses tons of aerial shots) and they follow a much more stringent process than any realtor does. There's insurance, for one thing, for every aerial shooting session. Insurance for liability, insurance for the aircraft, insurance for the camera (aircraft and camera almost never go together...which is one level of complexity and uncertainty that would go bye-bye with a drone...but at the cost of a certain degree of flexibility as well; you can't specify that a drone will carry a Red, for example) insurance for the pilot, insurance for the cameraman. There are permits that are filed as well, and these vary enormously by jurisdiction. But it's a huge task just to put the shoot together; they don't just drive up with some kind of aircraft and start flying around.

about two weeks ago
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FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

Shoten "Safe" (199 comments)

It seems to me that "Safe" requires "Consistent." Otherwise, it's just "theoretically safe," not actually safe. And having just been through a house-buying process, I gotta tell you...I wouldn't entrust all the realtors with the safety of airspace. Especially since they seem to have no real guidance given to them on what "safe" commercial use of a drone actually entails.

about two weeks ago
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Hair-Raising Technique Detects Drugs, Explosives On Human Body

Shoten Re:So what happens... (162 comments)

They already do this. Check points in Iraq and other countries like Israel are known for being blown up. Buses are more typical because they are enclosed making the blast more effective. The thing is that the death toll usually isn't much higher than a bad car wreck compared to other methods so i think they are targeting the mechanism moreso than what we consider terrorist goals to be. But thats just my limited guess to why they aren't more popular in weatern nations.

The way the Israelis learned to deal with this is very simple. You have a population coming through a checkpoint...almost always, in the case of Israel, a checkpoint between Israel proper and one of the Occupied Territories (Gaza, West Bank). The people coming through are, overwhelmingly, the population from where the risk comes...Palestinians. The cordon is designed so that a suicide bomber will not 1, be able to blow a hole through the barrier that the checkpoint acts as a valve for, and 2, be able to kill the people manning the checkpoint. That leaves only the Palestinians as potential victims...with the deterrent effect that results. Hamas doesn't win bonus points for blowing up their own people.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows?

Shoten Re:This is why you need.. (265 comments)

Load balanced or mirrored systems. You can upgrade part of it any time, validate it, then swap it over to the live system when you are happy.

Having someone with little or no sleep doing critical updates is not really the best strategy.

First off, you can't mirror everything. Lots of infrastructure and applications are either prohibitively expensive to do in a High Availability (HA) configuration or don't support one. Go around a data center and look at all the Oracle database instances that are single-instance...that's because Oracle rapes you on licensing, and sometimes it's not worth the cost to have a failover just to reach a shorter RTO target that isn't needed by the business in the first place. As for load balancing, it normally doesn't do what you think it does...with virtual machine farms, sure, you can have N+X configurations and take machines offline for maintenance. But for most load balancing, the machines operate as a single entity...maintenance on one requires taking them all down because that's how the balancing logic works and/or because load has grown to require all of the systems online to prevent an outage. So HA is the only thing that actually supports the kind of maintenance activity you propose.

Second, doing this adds a lot of work. Failing from primary to secondary on a high availability system is simple for some things (especially embedded devices like firewalls, switches and routers) but very complicated for others. It's cheaper and more effective to bump the pay rate a bit and do what everyone does, for good reason...hold maintenance windows in the middle of the night.

Third, guess what happens when you spend the excess money to make everything HA, go through all the trouble of doing failovers as part of your maintenance...and then something goes wrong during that maintenance? You've just gone from HA to single-instance, during business hours. And if that application or device is one that warrants being in a HA configuration in the first place, you're now in a bit of danger. Roll the dice like that one too many times, and someday there will be an outage...of that application/device, followed immediately after by an outage of your job. It does happen, it has happen, I've seen it happen, and nobody experienced who runs a data center will let it happen to them.

about two weeks ago
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How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business

Shoten Re:Wikipedia survives it (132 comments)

If a sufficiently large population of interested people can be induced to correct the map it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem. Wikipedia suffers and reverts many thousands of bits of misinformation daily. Not to say it's perfect but it's good enough.

Issue #1: Wikipedia is actually in crisis at the moment, over this very issue. So...hm. We'll see if they actually do survive it.

Issue #2: With Google Maps, there's the larger population that has a very small incentive to edit everything, and although they have a greater incentive to offset information that's false...those incidences are like needles in a haystack, and it's very very hard to find out which ones they are. There will be enormous duplication of effort as well, since the best-patronized businesses will invariably be monitored by many people while others will go ignored due to smaller constituent populations or populations that tend to be less tech-savvy. Conversely, the attacker needs to do very little to do their damage, and requires a far lower degree of vigilance to be successful at it. So, the "sufficiently large population" of "interested people" is extremely hard to accomplish, and even harder to use efficiently.

about two weeks ago
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Dubai's Climate-Controlled Dome City Is a Dystopia Waiting To Happen

Shoten Hmm... (265 comments)

I'm missing the part where something in Dubai is waiting to be a dystopia...

about two weeks ago
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The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

Shoten Re:No Tea Party Member is on board with this!! (364 comments)

Check the record. EVERY Tea Party member is opposed to this program.

Probably. I'm gonna go check the record.

This is like saying "Hey, he ran a mile nonstop. Don't think he's unhealthy, just because he has full-blown AIDS..." Even a broken watch is right twice a day.

about two weeks ago
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The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

Shoten Re:Capabilities (364 comments)

This article doesn't mention the incredible upgrades of the F-35. It has incredible situational awareness (SA), highly networked to acquire SA from all sources, sensors onboard to provide SA, smaller that the F-22, more stealthy, and a range of other characteristics that the pentagon desires (wiki). Those capabilities are the top reason for the F-35 to exist at all. As development has progressed, then the money problems and failures came up as they always do. The capability needs don't justify the failures of the program, but they need to be taken into consideration when there's talk of changing or canceling the program.

Everyone has a different concern. Congressmen are probably concerned about money staying in their state to stay elected. The Pentagon is worried about capability and not being embarrassed over a big failure. The tax payers are worried about not wasting money and some of them about keeping an F-35 job. It's a complicated issue with lots of caveats.

Ah, excellent points. If only we'd have had these planes in Iraq and Afghanistan, we'd have...oh, wait a minute. NOTHING WOULD HAVE CHANGED.

Our weak points do not hinge on air superiority. The current aircraft with our current pilots are demonstrably far and above better than anyone else on the planet. Yes, we do need to plan ahead...but is a radical new level of sophistication important and/or useful? Consider that no other nation on the planet retains even the ability to project power over distance from their home country, absent an ally where they can stage aircraft. The Russians have one aircraft carrier (the Kuznetsov) which is a steaming pile of shit that's only ever been out 4 times, and never far from home. It lacks catapults, so as a result aircraft that fly from it must go light on both munitions and fuel. It suffers from massive problems with its power plant, and is unreliable. The Chinese have a carrier too...but no ships to support it. Oh, and it's a carbon copy of the Kuznetsov and heads have rolled among the people who managed the purchase of it from the Russians. So it's shit too.

Meanwhile, Congress is doing all they can to axe...the A-10. The A-10 Warthog has killed more tanks than any other weapon in our arsenal, not to mention how many soldiers it's saved via close air support missions. It's universally loved among the pilots who fly it and the troops who have been protected by it, it's tried and true, and it's cheap as hell. Simple, rugged, incredibly durable even when shot to bits and indescribably lethal to ground targets, it's a much better indication of the kind of aircraft role that will be central to future conflicts we face.

So yeah...the F-35 has all sorts of whiz-bang cool stuff, stuff that we don't need, while being unreliable, insanely wasteful of money, and the wrong place for our primary focus to go for the future of war.

about two weeks ago
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The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers

Shoten Re:So... (162 comments)

Actually, it's probably something more like TIBCO BusinessEvents with an orchestration engine added

Back in my time, we called what they have done now "an expert system". I fail to see why that designation should be suddenly inadequate.

Because back then, that was a conceptual description that (if it became real) described an entirely custom system that was built from the ground up. These days, there are multiple types of such systems, most of which are built along specific architectural lines using COTS. Just like once upon a time, "car" was a pretty good descriptor because the next level of detail went WAY into the weeds. Now, there are sports cars, SUVs, minivans, coupes, etc.

about two weeks ago
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The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers

Shoten Re:So... (162 comments)

In other words, this is basically Drools, plus a ton of billable consulting hours?

Actually, it's probably something more like TIBCO BusinessEvents with an orchestration engine added. But what's really cool is that they did the hard part: codifying the actual rules under which the overall system operates. That's where these kinds of systems either fly or fall. There are tons of rules that organizations use to make decisions, but a lot of those rules are quite informal and don't operate at a central point of authority. It takes a lot of digging to find them all, so that the undocumented process (for example) used by the foreman of the team that does rail maintenance to manage overtime among his crew gets incorporated into the overall chaining logic. Otherwise, the new system will either fail to reflect reality as teams rearrange their own schedules out of sync with their directives, or will wreak havoc among the employees.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Often Should You Change Jobs?

Shoten Define "Change jobs?" (282 comments)

By "change jobs," do you mean change employers as well? What about lateral moves within the same company, or between different organizations within the same company?

Ultimately, how often you change roles (either change in job description, responsibilities, or employer, as I'm defining it) depends on the following things:

1, demand in your field. If your field has more demand than supply, these are the salad days...moving from company to company can be beneficial. These days will not last forever, so make sure you take advantage of them, but also be wary of reaching the pinnacle of compensation. At some point, the market will catch up, and you may end up being more expensive than you're worth when that day comes.

2, the company/organization you work for and the opportunity it provides. If you have growth still ahead of you and are continuing to grow in your current place, then moving is probably not a great idea. Money's good, but development is better. A lot of companies don't have a career path that's technical (instead of automatically turning you into a manager who never will touch technology again), so that's a consideration as well. Which way do you want your career to go?

3, your current happiness in the role you occupy. This is for you to define, and the rationale behind it should be obvious.

4, how long you've been there/industry tolerance for job-hopping. If you've been at the last 4 jobs for less than a year each, this may not look so great on a resume. But some industries/career paths are quite tolerant of such things, understanding the current state of the market.

At least, that's how I see it, in broad strokes.

about two weeks ago
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Can the NSA Really Track You Through Power Lines?

Shoten Re:Well, sort of. (109 comments)

Noise? Or the encrypted output of a signal generator? Prove it.

Spend some time in a DMS operations center of a power company. They watch for noise too...noise is variation in that waveform, and a sign that something somewhere (a transformer, for example) is in distress. A power company would notice noise on their lines like the phone company would notice Rick Astley playing instead of a dial tone on their landlines.

about two weeks ago
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Can the NSA Really Track You Through Power Lines?

Shoten Re:Well, sort of. (109 comments)

Tracking someone through landlines has been a Thing for many years now. Ever hear of a "lock and trace"? You can SORT OF do the same thing for power, by embedding a signal in a given substation. It's nontrivial, and it's horribly complicated, but it IS feasable. As for the "hum" thing, that's just standard TEMPEST, been a Thing now for going on thirty years, where you can fingerprint electronics via EM signatures and you can read those EM signatures via physical phenomena including audio hums and induced currents in surrounding circuits. This is why the LASER mike was actually developed, not for actual sounds (standard shotgun mikes do wonders there, because the glass reresonates sound just fine), but to get a good frequency signature on TEMPEST EM leakage. So, in sum, they're not specifically taking a van out and following lines to see what location an interviewee is at, but a lot of that is that they don't really need to because they can get all the information they need through older technologies that approximate the capabilities

HUGE problem with this theory.

The power grid operates on incredibly tight tolerances with regard to frequency. Additionally, within that margin (which is the same, everywhere, within a certain grid...and by grid, I mean, like "The United States" or "Great Britain") there is a small degree of variation that is the same for that grid and all that are built using the same equipment...which is a significantly humongous population.

Imagine a metropolitan area like, say, San Antonio. San Antonio has several power stations that service its region. Each generation turbine produces what's known as "three-phase power," which is kind of like TDMA for AC electricity. Those three phases get broken out and separated into three outputs that then go into a substation and transformers, then out on the grid. The three phases equally and perfectly distribute around the 360-degree rotation of the "exciter," which is basically the generator's key component. If that distribution gets out of whack, power spikes in a really nasty way, and copper vaporizes fast enough that it's actually a detonation.

But I digress. The point is this: AC power is a waveform, oscillating at 60 Hz. It cannot vary much at all...because within the same grid, everything is interconnected. Every generator is in sync, or has a syncrophasor to re-sync the power coming from it before it hits the grid. Otherwise, you get some power from A and some from B, with waveforms that are out of sync...and the frequency changes in both rate and amplitude, and shit blows up. (Including generators themselves...the "Aurora Vulnerability" that DoE is so batshit scared of is essentially a manifestation of this at the generator itself.)

So...I've been trying to think of how there could possibly be enough variation to fingerprint someone based on the hum caused by that 60Hz frequency noise. I've been in transmission control centers where they monitor, regulate and occasionally wet themselves over frequency shifts, and I've seen that the amount of variation needed to cause sheer panic is shockingly low..and it rarely ever happens for even a second. And those tolerances have been the same everywhere I've gone.

So no, it's not at all like TEMPEST. Because if it were, it'd be the equivalent of being able to figure which monitor you were looking at by EM emissions...when all the monitors in the country show the exact same thing.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Switching From SAS To Python Or R For Data Analysis and Modeling?

Shoten Re:Apples, meet Oranges... (143 comments)

Yes, but, you can run R and Python over data in pretty much any backend (Teradata, Hadoop, etc.). That's usually the second conversation - how you want to accomplish your goals.

That you think that just "Teradata" or "Hadoop" is the other thing needed in addition to Python or R to replace an SAS implementation tells volumes about how much you don't know about SAS and what it really does to satisfy customer requirements. You don't replace SAS with nothing more than a bare database and a Python interpreter.

And you can't just say "I want you to throw out your existing infrastructure just so that I can use X programming language...you figure out how to make it happen" to the company you work for. This is an RGE..."Resume Generating Event."

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Switching From SAS To Python Or R For Data Analysis and Modeling?

Shoten Apples, meet Oranges... (143 comments)

SAS is not a language; it's a full multi-tiered solution for the aggregation, normalization, and analysis of data. There's a language as well, but that's just one part of the whole solution. Python and R, while absolutely fantastic languages, are not a full solution.

So, first step...if you're going to offer an alternative, actually have an alternative. I don't know your SAS buildout nor do I know the data sources it consumes, so I can't really point to what else you need to add or how you need to construct it to produce a more flexible replacement to your existing and current SAS infrastructure.

Second step...a roadmap for migration. It's one thing to sign a lease for a new apartment or to buy a new house, and another to shift your life from the old place to the new. If you don't have a plan, at least in broad strokes, then you're going to be doomed when you look for executive sponsorship. You need to make sure that you get all the stakeholders' input as well, lest you leave something out in your roadmap...and then end up with someone who sees you as a problem. That person will most likely be in a position to scuttle the whole thing, as well.

Third step...figure out how to define the benefits in terms of the stakeholders' needs. You're going to replace a system they use; why should they want you to do so? And you have to define it from their perspective, with regard to things they care about. Beware of getting geeky on this...it's very likely that at least one of the people whose support you will need will not be a geek and will be concerned with the output more than the technical means used to produce it. Don't hard-sell, either...pushing too hard will get the door slammed in your face, and even potentially polarize people against you. (See above, under "in a position to scuttle the whole thing.")

There will be steps after that, but those will be largely determined by how the first three steps go. It may involve bringing in outside vendors, doing requirements analysis...a lot of it depends on details of your company as well and how they normally do things. But above all else, remember this: don't buck the system too hard, and don't knock the company you work for. Trying to get a lot of people to support and cooperate with you while telling them that their way of doing things sucks is suicide.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Cost and Build Problems with Death Star Project

Shoten Shoten writes  |  about a year ago

Shoten (260439) writes "Foreign Policy magazine has a fascinating analogy for real-world timeline and cost overruns on military projects. Apparently, the IGAO (Imperial Government Accountability Office) has run a review of the project to build the Death Star, finding multiple issues. At the top of the list? "Frequent Turnover in Senior Personnel Hampers Continuity," with a recommendation to stop using strangulation as a management tactic. Design flaws relating to reactor shielding and anti-fighter defenses are also cited."

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