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!



New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

dpilot Re:Hmmm (205 comments)

We had that "pull-down mirror" in our 2008 bottom-of-the-line Sienna. I called it the "bratfinder", at the time.

2 days ago

X.Org Server 1.16 Brings XWayland, GLAMOR, Systemd Integration

dpilot Re:And the dirfference is? (224 comments)

There's the snarky answer, and what I suspect is the real answer.

First, systemd and everything associated with is just so kewl and shiny that's it's a privilege to even use any of it, which makes it all the more amazing that they're actually welcoming us to do so, instead of making us fight for a place in line.

Second, X11 goes way back before anyone was really concerned with security. I suspect from a core competence point of view, the X11 coders are far more comfortable and far more engaged with the graphical display code than the input side. I get the impression that a lot of effort was spent in properly cleaning and separating the root-requiring functionality. I know I've read of KMS and DRI work for years now. It's been a long road, and I believe it may have only been in the past year that the display side has gotten to the point where they could think about going rootless.

I also suspect that the input device part is not their core competence - they'd like events coming in from "elsewhere" and get back to their graphics work. So along comes systemd, saying, "We'll handle the gnarly details of console access and security for you," and X said OK, if only in the spirit of modularity and going back to their graphics work. (Graphics work includes processing the inputs, not just drawing outputs - I think they'd just like the inputs to be clean and handed to them.)

5 days ago

Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

dpilot Re:How many? Hard to say (272 comments)

I've also found that sadly enough, there are plenty of people around a big company who are really good at appearing essential, while really doing nothing themselves and in fact are very good at creating work for others. Unfortunately they also tend to get retained through job cuts, because they appear so essential.

Though I work in a big company we generally manged to have a small, well-focused team. That makes it a good place to work, as long as you can keep your head down, have fun, and not see the chaos and decay around you.

5 days ago

X.Org Server 1.16 Brings XWayland, GLAMOR, Systemd Integration

dpilot Re:And the dirfference is? (224 comments)

OK, I'll feed the troll. Either X or an X wrapper is suid root. Find the right hole in X, and you've got root. I presume that X or an X wrapper tries to do the best it can, drops capabilities, etc. But it would still be better to not be root at all.

about a week ago

X.Org Server 1.16 Brings XWayland, GLAMOR, Systemd Integration

dpilot Re:X, systemd, and priveleges? (224 comments)

Are you able to explain more?

My impression is that there were 2 issues with non-root X - mode setup and input device management. KMS and DRI2/DRI3 take care of the former, and I'm under the impression that systemd-logind takes care of the latter. But ultimately these are all just kernel interfaces - if systemd-logind has a root-helper and makes a series of kernel calls to manage the input devices, then that same job could be done by some other piece of software.

Again, do you understand the base mechanism at work here?

about a week ago

Cosmologists Show Negative Mass Could Exist In Our Universe

dpilot Re:The crackpot cosmology "theory" Du Jour (214 comments)

As we better understand the universe, we find gaps between reality and our understanding. We then try to extend our understanding to better match reality, and that means filling in those gaps. Sometimes it takes many tries to fill in a gap, or at least make it smaller.

Negative mass is one of those attempts, and it's worth noting that they aren't clinging to the concept, they're simply suggesting that it's one possibility that can be tested. In other words, they actually are using Occam's Razor. In this realm, nothing is simple, which makes the Razor harder to use.

about a week ago

Apple and IBM Announce Partnership To Bring iOS + Cloud Services To Enterprises

dpilot Re:PowerPC worked out for Apple ... (126 comments)

I'm thinking of the code-morphing, similar to Transmeta. From where I learned about it, the runtime translation target was called micro-ops. We have different definitions. Someone I once knew referred to micro-ops (my definition) as "caveman primitives."

Still, it's an internal CISC->RISC translation, and the retirement unit hides that when it's all done.

about a week ago

Apple and IBM Announce Partnership To Bring iOS + Cloud Services To Enterprises

dpilot Re:PowerPC worked out for Apple ... (126 comments)

I suspect you're confusing micro-ops with microcode.

Current architectures (not all, but not just Intel) decompose the user-visible instruction set into a stream of micro-ops, (more primitive instructions) and send that stream to a dispatch unit. The dispatch unit resolves dependency issues and as requirements are met, sends the micro-ops to one of a series of execution units. As micro-ops complete, their results are sent to the retirement unit. Note that between dispatch and retirement, the architectural registers have effectively disappeared, and are reassigned at retirement.

Microcode is a completely different thing - usually the opcode is translated into a subroutine entry point, and a (typically) classic Harvard-style computing engine interprets the user-visible instruction set. But it's all in lock-step, not the controlled chaos of micro-ops.

about a week ago

The Last Three Months Were the Hottest Quarter On Record

dpilot Re:Its even worse than we thought (552 comments)

Me too. I'd just rather postpone that day as much as possible, and have a good time while getting there.

On an achy day, my mother used to say, "Never grow old." However upon further consideration, I think growing old is usually preferable to failing to.

(Many caveats apply, "Growing old" is meant in the physical sense, of course making lifestyle choices to retain capacity. "Growing old" in the mental sense is also something of a choice.)

about a week ago

Thousands of Leaked KGB Files Are Now Open To the Public

dpilot Re:seems like snowden did the exact same thing. (95 comments)

> * This guy is dead.

I get the distinct feeling that there are quite a few in the US govt and elsewhere that would like to help Snowden achive the same status.

about two weeks ago

Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

dpilot Re:Prime Directive (686 comments)

You're thinking colonization. I'm thinking studying - knowledge. I believe that any starfaring species will also be infovores.

about a month and a half ago

Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

dpilot Re:Related to #2 (686 comments)

I don't know that we are in the stix - we might be in an ideal spot, or at least the ideal distance from the galactic core. There might be a "galactic Goldilocks zone." Too far in and there stellar life is too interesting, in terms of supernovas, gamma-ray bursts, etc. Too far out and stellar life may be too boring, as in not enough generations to create enough of the heavier elements.

As for FTL, I seriously don't expect Star Trek or Star Wars. I expect robot probes, and the question becomes whether they're AIs, uploads, mixes, hybrids, or whatever. Once you're talking robot probes time, as we see it, drops out of the equation.

Any you're right, in that there is no need for intelligent life to exist. It's just that the galaxy is a more interesting place if it does. As I said, if it doesn't then maybe the Earth really IS the center of the universe, at least in the philosophical sense. Once you've accepted that you can easily plummet down your navel into the Dark Ages, again. That is, from a species perspective, or you could embrace your status as Progenitors and grow into the role.

about a month and a half ago

Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

dpilot Prime Directive (686 comments)

First off, forget Hitler's Munich Olympics broadcast, that's way to new. The most interesting thing about Earth is roughly half a billion years old, and that's its "unnatural" atmosphere. Our atmosphere shouts, "Life!" like nothing else. The stuff in our air just doesn't cohabit from ordinary chemical processes - it has to be maintained. Not as old, but still older than Hitler's broadcast is the sustained presence of pollutants in the atmosphere. This might suggest, "intelligent, if immature/foolhardy life."

We can almost see this kind of stuff with Kepler, though to get to this level of detail we use several instruments in parallel - Kepler is the first-weeder. We're nowhere near having interstellar technology, so any race that does will likely have commensurate technologies in other areas as well. Most notably, if you're going to travel far, you want to know which direction to go, and as much about your destination as you can. They would have tools that make Kepler look like a child's toy. They would know how interesting Earth is. Where that ranks us with respect to other planets in another question, but I'll bet it's not as bleak a prospect as some say.

Personally I think the presence of us on Earth has to do with it's "sufficiently interesting history", including the collision that formed the moon, several asteroid/comet strikes like the dinosaur killer, etc. Not to mention plate tectonics, the magnetic field that keeps the solar wind from blowing our atmosphere away, etc. Like I said, I think Earth would be on the short-list.

By the same token, I also think they would observe. Our society and existence are fragile enough, one big kick could easily topple the whole mess. Imagine a preemptive strike by one power to prevent another power from getting "the advantages of alien technology," etc. We're also pretty darned "memetically susceptible," and even allowing an alien idea to reach us might upset the apple cart.

Or as an alternative, perhaps the Catholic Church was right, and Galileo (and Copernicus) were wrong. If not the physical center of the universe, if we're all there is, perhaps the Earth is the philosophical center of the universe.

1 - We're all there is, perhaps to become the Progenitors, perhaps not.
2 - There is other life, hasn't gotten here yet, may not bother, may not be able.
3 - There is other life, observing us, careful to remain unknown - the Prime Directive.
4 - There is other life, getting ready to invade/destroy us.
5 - There is other life, in contact only with the Illuminati and Club of Rome.

Personally I'd prefer option 3. Option 2 is equally likely. Option 1 is rather sad. Options 4 and 5 are IMHO silly.

about a month and a half ago

House Majority Leader Defeated In Primary

dpilot Re:Democrats voted (932 comments)

In Vermont we have a variation. You pick up a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot. It was upheld in court, that you were a Republican or Democrat - even for that one day. This is of course for the purposes of primaries.

The limitation is that once you've picked up the Republican ballot, none of the Democrat choices are available for you consideration, and vice-versa. In other words, you can't cast your primary vote to choose a particular Republican House candidate, and a particular Democrat Senate candidate. Once you've chosen Democrat or Republican, that's it - for that one day.

Doesn't stop voting-to-spoil, but it makes you throw away all of your own party choices when you do so. Is it any more broken than the rest of our balloting scheme? Trigger the IRV vs Condorcet vs whatever voting scheme debates...

about a month and a half ago

Moon Swirls May Inspire Revolution In the Science of Deflector Shields

dpilot Re:All of a sudden... (76 comments)

Well of course it can be done.

You just might not like the price tag.

about a month and a half ago

XMPP Operators Begin Requiring Encryption, Google Still Not Allowing TLS

dpilot Re:Google is dropping XMPP and Talk/Chat anyway (121 comments)

Good point on latency, I forgot about that. What's worse is that streaming media can readily compensate for latency, as long as it's reasonably consistent. On the other hand, I work from home a fair amount, sometimes with vnc, sometimes with remote X. I'm a heck of a lot more sensitive to latency.

But even if you regulate Netflix like a content provider, it still leaves Comcast jealous, because none of the effects of that regulation wind up in Comcast's pockets. The reality is that Comcast doesn't want to be an ISP, they want to be a content provider, because that's where they're from. Being an ISP was just an "opportunity" they were well poised to take advantage of, with their infrastructure. Only problem is that in the real world, instead of Comcast's dream work, the "opportunity adder" is bigger than their core business. They're working really hard to impose their dream on reality, and since they own the pipes, they're getting away with it.

Once upon a time there was talk of Internet2 - I believe it hooks some universities, national labs, and businesses together. Part of me wonders if at some point corporate US really will manage to turn the internet into a series of walled gardens, and we'll be back to the days of modems, bang-paths, and line-of-sight hacks.

about 2 months ago

XMPP Operators Begin Requiring Encryption, Google Still Not Allowing TLS

dpilot Re:Google is dropping XMPP and Talk/Chat anyway (121 comments)

Go ahead and choose your walled garden, I won't stop you.

But from where I sit, it looks like everything that connects to the home is going to walled gardens, and open as an option is fading away.

Serious proposal: Allow a "fast lane" by any/all ISPs. They've got such a hard-on for a fast lane that they're going to keep buying legislators until they get one. Then place a limit on it. The fast lane can only be X times faster than the "neutral net lane", and NO traffic shaping or limits are allowed on that lane, other than being 1/X the speed of the fast lane. Plus X needs to be a legally asserted and testable value.

about 2 months ago

Slashdot's favourite party games?

dpilot Real world games (1 comments)

Balderdash, Apples to Apples, Pit all work for larger groups.

For slightly smaller groups, Dominion

For 3 or 4, Settlers or Dominos

And of course there is a whole range of games for all group sizes using regular playing cards.

about 2 months ago

US Navy Wants Smart Robots With Morals, Ethics

dpilot Re:Skipping mere "technical problems" (165 comments)

Issues like this are why Asimov sold a lot of books, and why the Three Laws come up whenever robots are discussed. He came up with a reasonable, minimal code of conduct, and then explored what could possibly go wrong.

I don't remember him writing about your type of situation, which is rather odd when you think about it, because that scenario is rather obvious. But his stories often lived in the cracks where it was really hard to apply the Three Laws. Two examples that come to mind, off the top of my head are:
1 - The Powell and Donovan story at hyper-base, where the act of going through hyperspace "temporarily" sort-of killed the passengers, causing the robot directing the ship all sorts of distress and neuroses.
2 - The robots who were taught the idea of preferentially applying the First Law in favor of the "best humans", and going on to logically decide that they were indeed the "best humans", and therefore to be favored above those organic beings that created them.

about 2 months ago

US Navy Wants Smart Robots With Morals, Ethics

dpilot Skipping mere "technical problems" (165 comments)

Since it's all conjecture, really fiction, let's drop back to Asimov for a moment.

1 - A robot may not harm a human being, or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm.

What is a "human being"? Is it a torso with 2 arms, 2 legs, and a head? How do you differentiate that from a manniquin, a crash-test dummy, or a "terrorist decoy"? What about an amputee missing one or more of those limbs? So maybe we're down to the torso and head?? What about one of those neck-injury patients with a halo supporting their skull? Does that still pass visual muster as a "head"? What about a dead body then, that has a head, 2 arms, and 2 legs? Or if you've included temperature sensing, the dead body of a sick person who had a fever and is, some time later, still passing through the normal human temperature range.

Silly, yes. Absurd, yes. But before you can consider any code of conduct with respect to a human being, you have to first identify that human being AS a human being.

Pretend we get past that, then we can start talking about "harm", and trying to algorithmically define that.

These are all things we take for granted, having been born as human beings, raised by human beings, and spent years doing so. In most parts of the world it takes something like 18 years of experience to quit being a "child", an apprentice human being, and be considered autonomous in your own right. In that time, we have all both harmed and been harmed by other human beings, though thankfully generally on a lesser scale.

Each of us represents a lot of training and experience, which we frequently neglect, often calling it "common sense", sometimes making the observation that common sense is in fact uncommon. At some point we set about contemplating matters of (at some level) philosophy, such as this one.

But it takes us something approaching 18 years to learn the technical aspects. I know we can program machines and give them some amount of information "at birth", but I think we are underestimating the difficulty and value of those 18 years and overestimating our technical prowess. We're a long way from teaching machines philosophy.

Perhaps the best thing about arming drones now is that in a way it's like arming young children, and they generally try to do what their parents tell them to do. If machines became moral, and could decide what to do for themselves, we might not like those decisions. Forget the nightmare scenarios, think of the benign scenario taken to the nightmare, like "With Folded Hands."

Final thought... At one point, Asimov suggested that the 3 Laws were actually pretty decent conduct suggestions, even for people. (I would certainly question the relative priority of #2 and #3 in general life for real people, of course.)

about 2 months ago



Blog of Helios writer facing cancer deadline

dpilot dpilot writes  |  about 2 years ago

dpilot writes "This story has been through "submitted stories" twice this weekend that I've seen on Slashdot, and not made it to the front page.

Slashdot is about "News for Nerds", and Ken Stark passes the geek-test as well as anyone. This is also where Geek meets Politics, and the bad things that can happen there. Perhaps begging for his life on the internet isn't the thing to do — perhaps begging for money to write a trivial app is far more so — I don't think so.

So this is really a "Death Panel". So far Ken Stark has lost the first two Death Panel rounds to the editors. As is said in Congress, let's bring this to the floor — if it's a Death Panel, let's make it public, and stand behind your words. I'll stand behind mine — it's a sickening shame that he is in this position. I've already donated."

Link to Original Source

Background for "American Gods"

dpilot dpilot writes  |  more than 2 years ago

dpilot (134227) writes "This weekend I heard Neil Gaiman speaking on "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" on public radio, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of "American Gods." I got the book in hardcover when it first came out, and felt that I was getting strafed by fighter jets, there were so many Norse mythology references going "Whoosh!" over my head. I enjoyed it as best I could, but know I could have gotten much more out of it, had I been more familiar with the underlying material.

I took a Greco-Roman mythology course in high school, so am fairly well founded there. But my Norse mythology comes mostly from reading, "The Mighty Thor" from Marvel Comics. Since the 10th anniversary is as good a reason as any, I'd like to reread "American Gods," but I'd like to do a little reference reading first. Can anyone recommend a book or two of Norse mythology for getting up to speed, without making it a career path?"

Link to Original Source



Democracy is a sheep and two wolves

dpilot dpilot writes  |  more than 9 years ago

>Democracy is a sheep and two wolves deciding what to have for lunch. Freedom is a well armed sheep contesting the issue.

I fear it's more like, "Democracy is 48 sheep and 52 wolves deciding what to have for lunch. Well armed sheep contesting the issue is, 'traitorous liberal domestic terrorism.'"


Journals, friends, foes, fans, freaks ??

dpilot dpilot writes  |  more than 11 years ago

There seem to be some new features, though they may have crept in a year ago, considering the attention I've been paying. I can guess what friends, foes, and fans are, but I wonder about freaks.

I don't really have time for this, so this journal entry is my investment, for the moment.

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