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Comments

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Suddenly Visible: Illicit Drugs As Part of Silicon Valley Culture

billstewart Prozac vs. Ethanol, MJ, etc. (339 comments)

It's actually a great comparison. Depression, both unipolar and bipolar, is quite common, and self-medication with alcohol and/or marijuana are quite common. One of my coworkers was bipolar and spent some time in the local hospital mental ward after a crisis, and said that most of the people there for alcohol detox were bipolar folks who'd gone off their meds (because meds are boring) and switched back to drinking until it caused them problems. Another coworker who's hypomanic said she used to need a couple of martinis or a joint to unwind in the evenings, but eventually went to a psychiatrist to get some better-tuned meds.

So yeah, some people are alcoholics or stoners because they like being drunk or stoned all the time, but for a lot of them it's really dealing with underlying mood problems that could also be addressed with prozac and its relatives. Cocaine's a bit different, but if you want to be manic-depressive and aren't that way naturally, it's a good substitute.

24 minutes ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do With Half a Rack of Server Space?

billstewart Most alt.coins are designed to be ASIC-hostile (200 comments)

For Bitcoin, ASIC is the only way to go, but most of the interesting alternative coins are designed to be hard or impossible to build ASIC miners for. (They're also designed to be GPU-miner-hostile, but some of those have been worked around.) One of the tradeoffs with that is that CPU-only mining is botnet-friendly; it's harder to abuse botnet machines' GPUs (especially in cloud servers or routers that don't have GPUs.)

I avoid the whole problem by mining Dogecoin; it's close enough to no value that it's seldom worth stealing (though there was a botnet in the news recently that actually got $200K from mining it.)

12 hours ago
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A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

billstewart Re: Yeah, 2 ports + WiFi - so? (52 comments)

No, generally a router has an inside and an outside, and sometimes a third port as a DMZ; you're thinking of a router with an ethernet hub attached, like many home routers. There are routers with more routed ports, and there are one-armed routers also, though that's less likely to be useful.

13 hours ago
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A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

billstewart Price is reasonable - $35, not $90 (52 comments)

It's $35 plus shipping for the development board with the module soldered on it, so it's about the same as an Arduino; the $89 price was for two of them plus accessories like cables and power supplies. They're asking for not very much money to finish their software development, and the real question is whether their software is any good.

13 hours ago
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A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

billstewart GPIO's useful for Internet of Things (52 comments)

Sure, if you're just routing, and don't want to connect to various hardware I/O things, you can get a simpler board. But if you want to talk to sensors or build yourself a toaster controller or weather station or add lots of blinky lights or whatever, they're useful.

13 hours ago
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A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

billstewart $90 was for two. One's $40-60 (52 comments)

It's $20 for the module, $35 for a development board with the module soldered on it (which you'd almost certainly want), $45 for that AC power, cables, $50 for the board plus a spare module and pre-installed software, about $5-8 for shipping.

13 hours ago
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Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling

billstewart Difference is the route, not the protocol (379 comments)

The reason the VPN connection went fast isn't that EEEVILLL Verizon was throttling the customer's Netflix connections by doing deep packet routing and didn't do that to the VPN. The pipes Netflix bought to deliver movies to their paying customers who use Verizon weren't big enough to carry all the demand, at least at the peering* point that customer's traffic went through, while the pipes they bought or peering they got for free were big enough to reach the VPN endpoint, and the VPN endpoint had bought enough bandwidth from their ISPs to get from there to their peering point with Verizon, so there was enough bandwidth on the whole route to carry the movie that way.

That's not to say that there aren't ISPs harassing particular content (there was at least one well-publicized case a few years ago of some telco ISP blocking VOIP, and of course most of the cable modem and some DSL providers block home web servers), but this ain't one of them.

(*Peering unfortunately means two different things here - it's giving each other service for free, and it's having BGP-managed interconnections, usually at the big internet exchange locations, to pass traffic, not necessarily for free.)

yesterday
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Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling

billstewart VZ isn't capping the customer's broadband. (379 comments)

The problem isn't from Verizon's backbone to the customer - otherwise the VPN connection would have also been slow. It's the pipes from Netflix and their peering/transit providers to Verizon, which aren't big enough to handle all the Netflix customers on Verizon, at least in that region.

Also, what do you mean "has to set aside 8tb for sync"? Do you mean the ISP has to provide 8TB of some kind of storage hardware, or 8 terabits per second of traffic from somewhere to somewhere else? That's fairly huge, considering that most data connections aren't much bigger than 10 Gbps per wavelength (some carriers use 40, but it's not usually price-competitive.)

yesterday
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Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling

billstewart Mod Parent Up Please - It's exactly right. (379 comments)

Netflix either buys bandwidth or convinces ISPs to give it to them for free as peering. Its peers / transit providers are either big enough to peer with Verizon for free, or buy bandwidth from Verizon, and they don't have fat enough connections to Verizon to carry all of Netflix's traffic to this customer, at least at the peering point that Netflix's traffic uses to reach that customer (Netflix may have enough bandwidth to reach VZ customers in the other part of the country, e.g. LA peering is full while Seattle or DC isn't.)

The customer's VPN provider may very well provide free/cheap connectivity to Netflix (or at least fast enough), maybe even one of the providers Netflix buys from, because they're cheap. And they may also get it from somebody who has good bandwidth to Verizon. But peering's just peering - it's not transit.

yesterday
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AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8%

billstewart Advanced Placement Tests aren't very representativ (118 comments)

(First of all, to reply to the parent article, the test isn't for people graduating from college, it's for people in high school who will get to use the results to place out of courses in college. In my case that meant I could start more advanced calculus classes a year early, which was really useful, and got some extra credits for biology that didn't affect anything but probably looked good, and if I'd been at a college where tuition prices were by the course instead of the semester, it would have probably saved me some money.)

So it's nice that 39,000 students had enough high-level CS courses in high school that they were able to take the test, but that's a pretty small fraction of the number of kids entering college, even just in the STEM fields, and it's also limited to those high schools that had a good enough CS program to make it worth taking the test, so the statistics are probably not all that representative*.

(*And the fact that I misspelled "representative" in the title doesn't mean I'm bad at English; I ran out of characters in the title box. :-)

2 days ago
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Apple Acquires "Pandora For Books" Booklamp For $15 Million

billstewart Certainly Amazon never thought of that! (25 comments)

Because nobody out there has "customers who bought X also bought Y and Z" features! (But maybe this one will let Apple take some more market share from Amazon.)

2 days ago
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Russia Posts $110,000 Bounty For Cracking Tor's Privacy

billstewart Re:Soooo .. (97 comments)

The Russians didn't shoot down that plane. Ukrainian separatists did, using missiles they got from the Russians.

And it's not like the US hasn't accidentally shot down civilian aircraft before, if you remember that Iranian plane the USS Vincennes shot down.

2 days ago
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

billstewart Most of Cal's water is for farms, not homes (369 comments)

Residential rates matter a bit if you're trying to get people to install low-flow toilets or drought-tolerant non-grass landscaping, but if you live near the Niagara river, you can afford a lot more land than almost anybody in LA (except the folks on unstable hilltops.)

But that's not where California's water goes. 80% is for agriculture, and about half of that is for feeding cattle. It's at subsidized prices one or two orders of magnitude cheaper than residential water. There's also a good chunk of it going to industry.

3 days ago
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

billstewart Lawns, Veggies, other ground cover (369 comments)

Most vegetables are seasonal, not perennials, and in most climates you'd want year-round ground cover. It's ok if that's grasses that go dormant in the summer or winter, as long as they still prevent erosion and mud, but growing zucchini not only won't do the job, but you won't be able to find enough grocery bags to leave it all on your neighbors' doorsteps. Most of the SF Bay Area isn't quite right for desert-style xeroscaping (even though prickly pear cactus grows really well here), but there's a lot of low-water native vegetation that does ok.

HOAs would have a fit. But boomers were the hippie generation - we approved of healthy food, organically grown veggies, all that stuff. (As long as somebody else does the hard work :-) In my case, I don't have ground-level dirt of my own, just pots on a balcony, and the squirrels have already stolen both tomatoes, but I liked doing extensive gardening back when I had a yard. And with a yard full of zucchini, I wouldn't have to tell you kids to get off my lawn.

3 days ago
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Black Hat Presentation On Tor Cancelled, Developers Working on Bug Fix

billstewart Evil TOR Conspiracy or OverConservative Lawyers? (51 comments)

Given what the actual authors of TOR have said about their system over the years, the likelihood that the talk was cancelled because they've suddenly become evil (or have suddenly revealed that they've been evil all along!) vs. the likelihood that it was cancelled because the lawyers at CMU were being overly conservative and paranoid, I'll go for the latter explanation. There are projects for which that wouldn't be the case.

TOR has its limitations and weaknesses, and the developers have always tried to be upfront and public about them, both for the threat model / design and for the code itself.

5 days ago
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Why Are the World's Scientists Continuing To Take Chances With Smallpox?

billstewart Cowpox is where "vaccine" comes from. (189 comments)

No, we wouldn't need our own live smallpox to construct a vaccine against a weaponized smallpox. The original vaccine was made from cowpox, and eventually the closely related vaccinia disease, and was much safer than smallpox-based inoculation which was the other prevention available at the time.

The only reason to keep the stuff around is to attack the Russians in case they attack us with their smallpox, and we can be better people than that. Time to destroy it, and convince Putin to destroy his stockpiles also.

5 days ago
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MIT's Ted Postol Presents More Evidence On Iron Dome Failures

billstewart Terrorist missiles/bombs killed 600 Israelis (454 comments)

If you look at the program in its entirety, terrorist rockets, missiles, and bombs have killed about 600 Israeli citizens in the last few weeks. 2 of those citizens were Jews killed by Hamas rockets. The rest of the Israeli citizens were Palestinians, primarily civilians in Gaza, and Iron Dome did nothing to stop them. It may have stopped some of Hamas's incompetent rocket attacks, but it didn't protect Israeli civilians from the militant Army's better equipment.

5 days ago
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FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

billstewart Re:The machine I let "Microsoft Repair" hack (125 comments)

It was too long ago, and I didn't save them. I think one was named something like "Login123". Basically all of their "repair" tools were remote login tools, probably run by entirely different companies that they were just customers of, and they'd load the actual attacks after they got in.

5 days ago
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The "Rickmote Controller" Can Hijack Any Google Chromecast

billstewart Original Rickroll YouTube is now disabled (131 comments)

Actually, yes, this might be because a Rickfail due to the copyright goons telling YouTube to take down the original RIckroll video.

5 days ago
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Cosmologists Show Negative Mass Could Exist In Our Universe

billstewart Re:Yes, they're separate (214 comments)

Yup - Dark matter is simply stuff we haven't seen yet. It might be tiny particles of types we don't understand, it might be supermassive black holes, it might be lots of small black holes, it might be lots of free-floating planets not around stars, or Jupiter-sized gas planets that weren't big enough to ignite into stars, it might be little rocks, it might be accounting errors. It might be weird stuff, it might be non-weird stuff. There's enough of whatever it is to have enough mass that galaxies act differently that we'd expect from the amount of matter we can see (i.e. mostly stars.)

Dark energy is a lot weirder. It's not defined as just the energy form of dark-matter-on particles, it's a different problem.

about a week ago

Submissions

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US Senate passes Patent Overhaul Bill

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 3 years ago

billstewart writes "The US Senate passed a patent-reform bill, S.23 aka "America Invents", which changes US patents from First-to-Invent to First-to-File. (thomas.loc.gov Status Query, Computerworld Article, National Journal with comments pro and con, SF Chron). Patrick Leahy sponsored it. Passed 95-5, House expecting to introduce similar bill Real Soon. Silicon Valley businesses large and small were mostly against it, IBM was for it. Dianne Feinstein attempted an amendment to remove the First-to-File part, but voted for it anyway after that failed. Barbara Boxer voted against.

The US patent system has been first-to-invent for a long time, while Europe has been first-to-file. There's lots of other detail, largely intended to reduce the amount of patent litigation, improve the coordination with non-US patents, potentially improve the problems with patents on things with prior art and obviousness, and affect some tax issues."

Link to Original Source
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Pirate Bay is now Officially Notorious

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 3 years ago

billstewart writes "The U.S. Trade Representative's first global "Review of Notorious Markets" named Pirate Bay and Chinese search engine Baidu on a list of "notorious" sites for pirated goods and software. Most of the sites on the list were in China, and Pirate Bay's in Sweden, more or less, but other sites were in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Kiev, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Manila."
Link to Original Source
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Elonex announces £99 Linux laptop

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 6 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "Elonex is announcing a £99 Linux-based laptop for the UK education market. PDF Press Release. The debut will be at the Feb 28th Education Show and they won't actually be shipping until summerish. It weighs less than a kilo, has a 7" screen (no indication what resolution it is...), full qwerty keyboard, 1GB flash, 3 hour battery, speakers and headphone jack for playing MP3s. They're co-marketing it along with USB bracelets for kids who want to store more content (presumably supports regular USB sticks as well), and say that that will let kids use whatever laptop happens to be available. It doesn't say what Linux distro they're using, but they've got an online site for downloading more content.

While it's targeted for the education market (and part of a National Laptop Initiative), if they were selling it in the US I'd buy one — it sounds like a reasonable competitor to the Asus Eee, and closer to my toy budget.

One feature I'd really like to see on laptops these days is mechanical — it's having a USB jack that's set in some kind of indented docking space, so you can plug in a USB memory stick without having it stick out where it can get banged. There are some that have slots for compact flash or various SD cards, which can be a reasonable alternative, but memory sticks have become pretty universal."
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Microsoft to unveil virtualization strategy Tues

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 6 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "The San Jose Mercury News reports that Microsoft will be announcing a virtualization strategy on Tuesday, including
  • an alliance with Citrix Systems (owners of XenSource),
  • acquisition of privately held Calista Technologies of San Jose, which has software that speeds up the performance of applications running in a virtualized environment, and
  • lower price for Windows Vista used on virtualized computers. (More at Bloomberg.)
The company confirmed its plans to deliver its Hyper-V hypervisor within six months of the launch of Windows Server 2008 (betas available now), which is expected this quarter. And of course there's hype about competing with VMware."
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XenSource releases product, gets bought by Citrix

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 6 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "XenSource has been in the news twice this week — Monday they release a product, then Tuesday they get bought for $500m by Citrix. Here's Network World's take on the buyout and on the product. It looks like the product is packaging new releases of several of their components — there's a 64-bit hypervisor version 3.1 that uses the Intel and AMD hardware tricks, APIs, management tools, and XenMotion, which lets you move running virtual machines around. According to Xen's product page, the free-beer XenExpress version gets the hypervisor, APIs, and some of the management tools, but not the fancier management or XenMotion, and it's somewhat crippled in terms of capacity (max 4 VMs, 2 CPUs, 4GB RAM, while the commercial versions support 128GB total RAM, larger VMs, and unlimited VMs and CPUs.)

(But will it run Linux?) It will run Linux — one of the data sheets implies that Linux only runs in 32-bit mode, while Windows can run 64-bit. Perhaps there's more documentation that provides more details."

Link to Original Source
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billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 7 years ago

billstewart writes "Network World has an article on networks of pneumatic tubes, which are still around in some cities, and also used in places like hospitals. As the article says, "Try delivering bottles of pills over Ethernet." There have been a number of proposals to take unused city pneumatic networks and run fiber optic telecom lines through them. Unfortunately, according to the article, most of them haven't actually worked out — 9/11/2001 interfered with the plans to do that around Wall Street, and city governments haven't always been cooperative, especially when their water&sewer departments want to run fiber through their own tubes. One company has some patents on doing it — the business model may be obvious, but getting the fiber actually blown through the tubes without damaging it apparently has some non-obvious techniques to it."

Journals

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billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I usually give positive moderations lots of slack - I may think a joke or an article is lame, but if somebody wants to moderate it Insightful or Funny, fine - I'll mark those moderations as Unfair/Unfunny if they're promoting obvious trolls or whatever, but that's not common.

Negative moderations are usually obvious also, but the one that I don't give much slack is "Redundant". If an article really was duplicating existing content at the time it was written, or is just adding a content-free me-too, then it's redundant, but if it's a +1 article written two minutes after the main slashdot article, and somebody posts something similar but much more insightful an hour later that makes it up to +5, the first one is still Not Redundant. Maybe it's Overrated, maybe it's Flamebait, and I'd let those moderations through, but I'll call a "Redundant" as "Unfair" if it wasn't redundant enough.

"Flamebait" gets a lot more slack - sometimes there are articles that I strongly agree with (even if I've written them myself :-) that are aggressive enough that they get Flamebait, and I'll usually let those stand - but I try to ding any moderations where the moderator's calling something Flamebait just because they disagree with it.

The one meta-moderation I have trouble with is when somebody rates something as "Funny" that looks like it was intended to be serious, not funny (and wasn't accidentally funny either.) Does marking the moderation Unfair undo the moderation, decreasing the posting's status? Or does it just ding the moderator's karma, which is fine...?

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Wow! A Journal! It's like Blogging! :-)

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 11 years ago Wow! This says it will go down on my permanent record - that's pretty scary, given the recent Congressional activity....

Blogging is lame enough - it's a way of nagging people who don't write their own HTML into at least writing text and links. Guess I can't flame them too much, given that I've done almost no edits to my web page in years :-) So here *I* am, not even getting my own Blogging software for my web pages, much less writing it myself - I'm just using /.s.

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