Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!



Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

butalearner Re:Damn I used to like southwest (877 comments)

I get the impression that you have about equal chances of getting a rude gate agent no matter what airlines you fly with. Which is to say they're almost all reasonable people, but sometimes have bad days, other times it depends more on how you ask. The guy here seems to have an entitlement. He's a frequent flyer, his kids aren't, he was asking if they could get on with him in the early boarding. He could have paid the early check-in fee for them and gotten on before most people anyway. I think it's $15 on southwest. Point is, he had other options. It's fine to ask for favors, but if you're fuming about someone NOT granting you a favor, you're probably the asshole in that situation.

I posted this above, but in my experience, when Southwest announces boarding procedures, they almost always include a special perk for families traveling together that they can board with the family member that has the lowest ticket. This might not be fair, but it is something they have always done in the past both in my experience and the guy in the article's experience. Now the guy was probably upset and embarrassed, so it's entirely possible he wasn't entirely honest about how rude the attendant really was, but I want to be sure the part about family boarding is clear.

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

butalearner Re:Damn I used to like southwest (877 comments)

Really? Here's a tip: next time you have an A ticket and your family has B tickets and you all want to sit together, why don't you slip back into the B group.

I don't quite follow your logic there. To sit together, families should...wait until more people get on the plane? Young children aren't allowed to sit alone, so if the aisles and windows filled up, someone would have to move so they can sit together. And that's not to mention a higher chance of small children getting angry and loud in the jetway because it takes a long time to board the plane, etc. I know Slashdot can be fairly hostile to people with kids, but giving families the ability to cut ahead of others is really in everybody's best interests. Give me generally annoyed Slashdot posts well after the fact over kids whining or crying in a stuffy aircraft cabin any day.

Regardless, it was a perk that Southwest offered to families that we and the guy in TFA expected to receive but, apparently, certain employees do not offer. I'm fairly certain they used to announce that families could board with the member who had the lowest ticket. In fact, it's been a year or so since it happened, but I'm pretty sure we asked the gate attendant on our return trip what the policy is, and they were surprised that we were told that we couldn't do so.

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

butalearner Re:Damn I used to like southwest (877 comments)

After posting this, I realized that this also happened at Denver International. It's entirely possible it was the same woman...

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

butalearner Re:Damn I used to like southwest (877 comments)

Southwest has gone downhill fast in recent years.

Agreed. I had the exact same experience as the guy in the article. I had a pretty low A group ticket - one of the first numbers you can get without paying extra - but my wife and kids had B group tickets. We'd flown Southwest four to six times a year for the past six years, and they always let us all board in A group when this happened (which was fairly often, since using points and free flights usually means making separate orders), except for the last time we flew with them. They tried to claim that it has always been against their policy, which was obviously BS even before I saw this story.

I know, it isn't really a huge deal since we still got seats together, but it is embarrassing and frustrating to be called out and forced to switch lines like that, so I understand the guy's lashing out on Twitter. But of course, hardly anybody would have seen the tweet until the gate attendant went way overboard in response. Now, instead of one person looking bad to a few people, the whole company looks bad to the readership of major news sites. Way to go, Kimberly.

4 days ago

Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

butalearner Re:So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (136 comments)

No. Dimpling and pebbling to improve laminar flow have been known for many years by people and many hundreds of thousands of years by dolphins.

Dimpling and pebbling is there to disrupt laminar flow; to introduce a small, turbulent boundary layer in order to reduce wake drag. If you compare the streamlines of a ping pong ball to a golf ball, the flow is laminar longer around the ping pong ball, but the flow separates sooner, creating a larger wake. Here is a more thorough explanation.

That also raises the question: do the dimples really help everywhere on a car? I'd love to see some wind tunnel testing and CFD analysis of the Mythbusters' dimpled car. An 11% improvement is pretty significant, but there are lots of uncertainties: weight differences, center of mass differences, how aerodynamic the car was in the first place... I strongly suspect that, in general, it would be more helpful to only introduce dimples at strategic locations: i.e. the bumpers, undercarriage, and other body panels where the flow eventually separates.

Also, aren't dolphins pretty darn smooth?

4 days ago

UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

butalearner Re:Correction (97 comments)

Pessimist. If we develop interstellar travel, even at small fractions of light speed, remain expansionistic, and avoid completely eradicating ourselves or transcending as a species we could colonize the whole friggin galaxy in only a few billion years.

Or maybe you meant "we" in a personal sense in which case yeah, barring the surprise development of feasible near-instantaneous (in ship-time of course) travel, we have absolutely no hope of visiting more than the planets in our own system and maybe those of one other star.

Pessimist. I plan to live forever as a brain in a small vat of artificial cerebrospinal fluid connected by electrodes to the controls of a tiny interstellar space ship.

about a week ago

Researchers Create Origami Wheels That Can Change Size

butalearner Re:Um, here's a simpler way (52 comments)

Nor did it work very well. My nephew had one many years ago. they were pretty crap. It's affinity with getting stuck was quite impressive.

I also had one as a kid, and I agree: it was next to impossible to get the things to go straight with those claws sticking out. However, I also had an RC truck in which the wheels were telescoping cylinders with relatively thick rubber-ish strips attached at both ends. Fully extended the strips were flat, but you could flip a switch (or something) and it would retract, making the strips bow outward, significantly increasing (maybe doubling) the effective diameter. Parentheticals because it was a long time ago.

So I agree with OP that we could already do something like this, but when we're talking about space exploration, it's always worth looking at alternatives that may have different power requirements, mechanical complexity, etc. than the current options.

about a week ago

The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

butalearner Re:What difference now does it make? :) Sunk costs (364 comments)

The F-35 is likely to be the last manned fighter ever produced.

Probably true, and quoted for emphasis, but that doesn't square with your observation that "that time is still decades off. That implies at least one more generation of manned fighters. Lockheed Martin and Boeing seem to be counting on that, though the Boeing article actually says they would propose a manned and unmanned variant (with an interesting concept image of them both). I saw that Russia expects the next generation to be unmanned.

about three weeks ago

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

butalearner Re:What's the business case? (143 comments)

Short answer; if you're asking on Slashdot for reasons to switch from product X to product Y, you probably have no real reason to switch.

The long answer was pretty good, but I disagree with the short one. Asking a (presumably) knowledgeable group of people questions like this is a good way to get a more complete picture of the problem space, and asking people from other companies might just score him a few stories about what worked for them and what didn't work.

Here's an anecdote from me: back when I was a fresh-faced, naive junior engineer I wanted to sell management on an open source alternative to an expensive commercial package by targeting some low-hanging fruit and arguing that we should use both. I surveyed my colleagues and found a number of small items here and there that could be automatically ported to the open source version, and demonstrated it to my manager. It wasn't good enough, because there were no hard numbers on what the company might save by doing this.

In other words, as you say, he needs clear financial benefits. Your Mileage May Vary, but these days I would not be surprised if, to his management, the financial justification is far more important than the technical justification.

about a month ago

The Internet's Own Boy

butalearner Re:His choices... (194 comments)

Activism, or hacktivism, is one thing. Breaking critical research tools for millions of customers worldwide is abuse, and clearly criminal in several ways. I'm afraid that Aaron earned prosecution. The extent of the prosecution seems severe, but as best I can tell, the prosecutors were quite willing to "deal" for a a very low sentence, as long as the deal included a felony conviction. I'm afraid that that haggling over the charges and the sentence is _normal_ for prosecutors.

One thing I learned from Wikipedia that I hadn't heard anywhere else is that, a few years earlier, Swartz first downloaded the Library of Congress's "complete bibliographic data set" (whatever that is), then a bit later downloaded millions of public domain court documents from a paywalled system called PACER. The Library of Congress normally charged fees to access the former, and the latter charged users 8 cents per page back then (now it is 10 cents per page up to $3 per document). Despite gaining the attention of the FBI, he didn't get so much as a slap on the wrist for either one.

So we have a couple aspects potentially contributing to what happened. First, Swartz probably felt reassured by his past experiences that, even if caught, he wouldn't get in trouble. Second, he didn't make any friends in the government by pulling his first two stunts, so when federal prosecutors realized they could get him, they went overboard. This is just conjecture, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

about a month ago

Emotional Contagion Spread Through Facebook

butalearner Re:Turn off, tune out. (127 comments)

Or set the tone yourself by posting words of encouragement. As someone who has never quite mastered the hug or unsolicited complement or prying into what's bothering people, I find the broadcast medium of facebook a means of providing what I can. I mostly post humor (which has helped me through dark times), mix in occasional inspiration quotes from people like Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, some art I find beautiful, and try to be open about my struggles and the good places they have lead.

That's not bad in small doses, but rarely posting an original thought is pretty annoying. At this point, it seems like some of my Facebook friends can only convey thoughts by sharing somebody else's someecards.

about a month and a half ago

Why the Moon's New Birthday Means the Earth Is Older Than We Thought

butalearner Re:Age of the earth (98 comments)

With what did the collision happen if the earth wasn't already there? I fail to see how the moon being carved out the earth 60 Myr earlier affects the age of the earth.

I believe that conclusion comes from the idea that the collision was between two proto-planets - that is, for all intents and purposes, the Earth and the Moon only came into being after the collision. Wikipedia calls them "the proto-Earth" and "the impactor" which supposedly was the size of Mars. An impact like that would have changed everything so dramatically that even if we had some age-measurable material that survived the impact, we wouldn't know whether it came from the proto-Earth or the impactor. So it makes some sense to use that event as the "birth" of our planet.

And of course you can't just use the absolute age of some atoms, if we could measure such a thing. Maybe some of the heavier atoms fused in that impact, but some material came the supernova(e) that seeded our solar nebula with heavier atoms and induced the rotation that eventually became the Sun's accretion disk, some came from other, smaller impacts of bodies probably formed at the beginning of the Solar System, etc.

about a month and a half ago

Mayday Anti-PAC On Its Second Round of Funding

butalearner Re:So, it's just another Democrat PAC masquerading (247 comments)

So, do you really believe you get a good system of government when the more money you have the more access you have to political speech?

Of course he doesn't believe that, but those bills are sponsored by a bunch of Democrats. Don't be fooled by how the political process worked in the past; these days, the only item of importance in any given bill is the letter between the sponsor's name and home state.

about a month and a half ago

Interviews: Forrest Mims Answers Your Questions

butalearner Re:Astounding answer on Evolution (161 comments)

It's implied from his background - he is a Christian - and his use of religious terms like "sanctity of life." The main logical fallacy in his theological position is that his god is a god of the gaps. He is using gaps in evidence for the prevailing theory to "prove" that it's wrong. I don't know personally, but I wouldn't be surprised or dismayed if there is still a "missing link" in the fossil record that tells us how single-celled organisms evolved certain relatively complex things like flagella. The lack of evidence is not evidence to the contrary, so I am content to wait until further science sheds light on the matter. But the fact that we aren't sure how life got started doesn't throw the rest of Evolutionary Theory away. The fact that the Piltdown Man was a hoax doesn't either. Wikipedia has a fascinating series of articles on evolutionary biology, but here's a good place to start.

Also, as GP implied, jumping from "intelligent designer" to the benevolent and omnipotent Christian god just does not follow from "there are issues with Evolutionary Theory." There is no logical connection between the two, and his use of Occam's Razor only makes sense to those who take it as a given that there are extradimensional beings of unimaginable power. A biologist using Occam's Razor would instead extrapolate from observed processes like natural selection, and then look for evidence (which is exactly what we've done with Evolutionary Theory, and it has worked out pretty well so far).

about 1 month ago

Kim Dotcom Offers $5 Million Bounty To Defeat Extradition

butalearner Re:US Government is Corrupt by Inspection (253 comments)

It is illegal to expose illegalities performed by US officials, so Kim Dotcom performing a corrupt action in hopes that someone involved in the process is corrupt enough to expose the corruption.

He's going about bribery all wrong though; it's not illegal if you call it "campaign donations."

about 1 month ago

Robots Will Pave the Way To Mars

butalearner Re:Ad astra per aspera (95 comments)


Quoted for emphasis. Even if the only thing we could extract was water, we could potentially use it for potable water, breathable air, rocket fuel, radiation shielding, hydroponics, cleaning... Basically, it would be difficult to have too much water on any extraterrestrial habitat.

Second to water would be just oxygen itself, which supposedly we can bake out of various oxides if we get it hot enough.

After those two items, it's a toss up, at least until we can do much fancier things. The article suggests extracting and purifying silicon and making simple solar cells out of that, as an example. But water and oxygen will be, by far, the two most important and relatively simple things to extract and use.

about 2 months ago

Robots Will Pave the Way To Mars

butalearner Re:What about it? (95 comments)

The truth is, we have given very little thought to what traits would be selected for in a hostile, alien environment.

We haven't put a lot of thought into it because it doesn't require much. Any corporation's HR department is already well-equipped to draft requirements for that kind of position: 15-20 years of experience building and maintaining extraterrestrial habitats, and able to make solid decisions and perform under intense pressure (or an increasing lack thereof).

about 2 months ago

Parenting Rewires the Male Brain

butalearner Re:I believe it because.. (291 comments)

Your children are a reflection of yourself. If they are difficult, it's because you are difficult. It absolutely amazes me that people never quite get this. If you want to have good children, be a better person. Seriously.

This is probably mostly true if you're only speaking of behavior. Obviously my wife and I are the main influence since my kids have never been in day care, but they do soak up habits of other people they trust, especially older kids they look up to. My kids are all well-behaved, even on the three- to four-hour flights we take a few times a year, but my oldest (6) has picked up various bad or annoying habits in the past from his friends. One of his old playdate friends had a very annoying tantrum cry that my son tried once or twice. I had to break out the very rare Dad Voice on that one, and he never did it again. A worse example was his friend in son would do stupid things on his worksheets (scribble instead of drawing or coloring, just guessing when it came to math and reading), just because that's what his friend would do. We asked the teacher to move him, and it got better, then we happened to move across the country, and now he's doing pretty awesome.

Also, my middle child has always been more difficult in other ways. Only recently have we started to make progress on that front by starting a chore chart, where she can earn stars for things we normally have to fight to get her to do, like picking up her room and eating well.

The novelty of that is falling away, though, when it comes to eating. My wife and I love all kinds of food, and my oldest almost always eats whatever we put in front of him. My youngest (1) eats literally everything we put in front of her, edible or not. The middle one, though... We do try to make what she likes but that changes all the time. She won't touch pizza anymore. As of Monday, she apparently no longer likes ribs. In fact it's probably easier to list what she does like: cereal, white rice, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and any kind of noodles as long as there isn't too much "stuff" on them (like soup, she won't touch any kind of soup).

Hopefully our one-year-old continues to take after her brother.

about 2 months ago

Goodbye, Ctrl-S

butalearner Re:Auto-save is NOT your friend (521 comments)

Sometimes, I don't want to save. I will open a document with the explicit purpose of making changes that I don't want saved. Even Gmail's autosave has burned me pretty badly. I spent an hour typing out a very long email. Toward the end of it, something happened, and the whole body of text was gone. I'm still not really sure if it was a keyboard shortcut I inadvertently triggered, browser bug, or what. But I just thought "no biggie... I'll just go back to the auto-saved version". So I open up the autosaved version, and the latest auto-save happened AFTER the email body was deleted.

Ctrl-Z my friend. Undo works perfectly fine in many web forms (including Gmail) when you accidentally select a bunch of text and overwrite it. My wife almost cried when she thought she lost the text from a huge email to a relative she hadn't seen in a while, but luckily I was there when it happened or else she would have given up.

I just tested it and undo works on Slashdot comment fields on IE, FF, and Chrome on Windows 7, and I know it works in Linux because I use it all the time at home.

about 2 months ago

Fusion Power By 2020? Researchers Say Yes and Turn To Crowdfunding.

butalearner Re:Oh, sure (280 comments)

the obvious question is why hasn't everyone jumped on it yet?

Did you see the name they picked? You might as well just skip the middle man and mail Ford Motor Company a few hundred dollars as prepayment for their impending trademark lawsuit.

about 2 months ago



OpenPandora sells for $1875

butalearner butalearner writes  |  more than 4 years ago

butalearner (1235200) writes "After two years of delays, the first Pandora handheld consoles are finally arriving in the hands of the thousands of patient supporters. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the Pandora made its first appearance on eBay. The auction opened at a modest $330 — the preorder price — but five days later, one of the first Pandoras in existence netted the seller a whopping $1875 after a bidding war. I'm sure we'll see a slew of copycats attempt to replicate the success of this auction."


butalearner has no journal entries.

Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account