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!



After FDA Objections, 23andMe Won't Offer Health Information

electroniceric Re:good riddance (146 comments)

Don't blame the FDA...
Due to the structure of the 1938 Food Drug and Cosmetic act which established the FDA, it is not permitted to regulate homeopathic drugs in the same way as "normal" drugs. This is a registry of homeopathic drugs and if a drug is on there but is not a "normal" drug, the FDA can only regulate that it is manufactured safely, similar to food, not whether it is effective at treating disease. That is why you see this kind of labeling on such products:

A product's compliance with requirements of the HPUS, USP, or NF does not establish that it has been shown by appropriate means to be safe, effective, and not misbranded for its intended use.

All the FDA can do is go after companies that market non-homeopathic drugs (i.e. "normal" drugs) as homeopathic, like HCG.

about 8 months ago

After FDA Objections, 23andMe Won't Offer Health Information

electroniceric Re:offensive arrogance (146 comments)

No, of course I'm not worried, I think it would be great....

I am truly stunned by this. A self-interpreted home-made CT scan is an unalloyed good? Notwithstanding the radiation to get there, without serious testing, you have no idea how accurate the thing is (back to the FDA's repeated requests to 23andMe).

Allowing the heroic assumption that the Garage-scan-o-matic things actually give accurate results, are you also saying you think the majority of people have the education and knowledge to make heads or tails of what might a slightly larger appearance of the brachiocephalic artery might mean for them? Or that they have any idea what to do about it?

Are you going to try to pass laws against skin, testicle, and breast self-exams because people might be confused by the lumps and spots they might discover?

That's not what I propose nor what the FDA is doing. If someone tries to sell an automated system to tell people what those lumps and spots mean (particularly if they use the term "risk") you'd better believe I would demand enforcement of the existing laws that say that the seller must prove that their system works in order to sell it.

Some doctors do, others are dumber as dirt.

Sure, doctors are people and there are all kinds of them. But at the very least they have had a rigorous education, and following that a series of experiences in trying to understand the confusing mishmash of information about people's health conditions and make judgments about a course of action to follow.

Since this post is entitled "offensive arrogance", let me just ask if you really think that education and experience means nothing. And if so, does it mean nothing when an engineer used his or experience to say a piece of software is poorly architected, or that car can be hacked, or there is inadequate review of security? After all, I can read Slashdot to get the answers I need or check something out from github to fix the problem...

There is a role for experts and there are some things that are dangerous enough that an expert's opinion should be required, whether that's a doctor, an engineer, or policeman.

about 8 months ago

After FDA Objections, 23andMe Won't Offer Health Information

electroniceric Re:offensive arrogance (146 comments)

Fortunately, this kind of FDA stupidity is not going to work long term: people are simply going to get their entire genomes sequenced, and there will be a huge number of free tools and web sites for searching for disease associations, ancestry, and relatives.

Let me recast this just a bit to illustrate the problem:

Fortunately, in the long term, 3D printing will allow people to create their own CT scanners, and there will be a huge number of free tools and websites for searching for tumors, heart defects, and bone density.

Are you at all worried about what people will do with their homemade CT scanners?
Perhaps doctors know a little bit about reacting to that kind of data (and the uncertainties in it) and making good decisions about it?

about 8 months ago

After FDA Objections, 23andMe Won't Offer Health Information

electroniceric Re:good riddance (146 comments)

The FDA made them stop because doctors dislike being cut out of the loop, and insurance companies like being cut out of the loop even less than the doctors, and they would prefer to have you get the data through a disclosure mechanism which gives your insurance company better actuarial information.

This sounds like one of those ads at the bottom of blogs "New service that doctors hate!!1". Seriously though, do you have any evidence for these claims?

The FDA asked a 23andMe a simple question - show us the evidence that when you say that a person has an elevated risk of say, death, that that claim is true. Then they talked 23andMe 14 times over a couple years, then waited 11 months with no reply. Then they made them stop making those claims. So where is that the ravening hordes of doctors and insurers fit in there?

Now imagine that 23andMe said the person was at low risk of death (like from heart disease) and that turned out to be ahem... mildly inaccurate. Was that the part the doctors hate?

Notes that if 23andMe sticks to providing raw data, they are not making medical claims. Ravening hordes begone!

about 8 months ago

Is Microsoft's Price Model For the Surface Justifiable?

electroniceric Re:Supply and Demand (417 comments)

Interesting point. Both companies are known to employ armies of MBAs, so they are surely doing a lot of sophisticated analysis on their pricing and margins.

Microsoft is reputedly a profoundly different place than it was in the nineties, and the tell is that is a way, way harder place to work in. Some of that is doubtless from the usual process cruft you hear about in big organizations - territoriality, old habits that nobody changes, too many queen bees for the drones in a hive, etc.

But I also wouldn't forget about the consent degree - that makes the cautious thing to do to never have the appearance of exploiting one dominance in one market to move into another.

I'd be surprised if any 'softies with knowledge of this are either not on /. or are not able to say anything, but I'd sure be curious to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings...

about 2 years ago

Lawyer Demands Pacemaker Vendor Supply Source Code

electroniceric Re:I trust my life to Boeing every time I fly (334 comments)

In the 90s, the FDA realized that even if it could see the could, there was no way it could realistically audit code for all the devices it is required to review annually. So they switch from attempting to verify devices directly to insisting that devices be design and developed under a very high quality engineering paradigm.

So instead of looking at code trying to find problems, what they do is demand artifacts of a very disciplined design development and test process, reasoning that if people are in fact actually writing out test cases, doing internal code reviews with documented changes arising from them, maintaining requirements traceability matrices linking each line of code to a user requirement and then a lower level system requirement, then that process will result in better code than the FDA could accomplish by their own audit or that of a 3rd party. So the woman should be asking to see the details of the company's FDA submission, presumably under NDA from the company.

Now, whether the FDA is employing Design Control in a strict enough way is definitely a fair question - in particular the 510k (predicate device) submission process has left a lot of loopholes (due to its risk class, a pacemaker does not go through 510k, it goes through the more demanding PMA process). But to suggest that she or someone she hires will just be able to wade through the code to decide if she thinks it's high quality seems to me more like grandstanding than anything else.

more than 2 years ago

Charlie Kindel On Why Windows Phone Still Hasn't Taken Off

electroniceric Re:And the other reason is... (397 comments)

They did, however, manage to tie the stuff down and limited them in ways unprecedented. In that way, Apple definitely did something new, but that's not something people actually WANT.

Stack trace: Your input statement raised a parsing exception at "people". You != people at large.

People (at large) did in fact want stuff "tied down and limited", because without that, they had to figure out how to wander through 100000 ways of doing one simple thing they wanted to do. How I get out of this app? How do I get to my email? If you don't know anything about OSes or apps or even really up from down, you can figure out how to press the center button on the iPhone enough times to get back to an icon you recognize.

Second, by reducing complexity, Apple made it manageable to have the OS drive the phone experience, rather than the hardware driving the experience, which had been the case up to that point (though BlackBerries might strain my theory a bit). This plus sandboxing the hell out of everything in turn made it possible to put software on the phone and have a reasonable expectation that it will work, and voile you can now sell software downloads. I bought an iPhone after having a WinCE device, and despite having been a Linux admin, a quasi-DBA, etc, I couldn't get apps to install on that damn WinCE crap. I could on the iPhone. So that's what the iPhone delivered. Do other OSes do that now, absolutely yes. Are there drawbacks to Apple's design choices in iOS? Also yes, and these are particularly glaring with the iPad (the level of sandboxing really reduces utility of the iPad, IMHO).

But like it or not, Apple the first to figure out how to make a OS/user experience-centric phone for the average Joe or Jane. I suspect that it will be very hard to dislodge them from their perch, just as ostensibly better OSes couldn't get rid of Windows on the desktop.

more than 2 years ago

Will Firefox Lose Google Funding?

electroniceric Re:What exactly is Mozilla spending $100M on? (644 comments)

Interesting, from the CFO's LinkedIn profile

MOZILLA - 2005 - present
--Called in to create the financial structure for Mozilla Corporation (

Business Week's profile of them:

Mozilla Corporation provides Internet solutions. It offers Firefox, a Web browser; Thunderbird 2, an email application; Raindrop, a prototype messaging tool, which enables users to manage a stream of messages coming from sources, such as Twitter and Facebook into their email; and Rainbow, a developer prototype that brings video and audio recording to Firefox 4. The company also provides Bugzilla, a bug tracking system that helps users to manage software development; Camino, a Web browser; and SeaMonkey, an application containing a Web browser, HTML editor, and Web development tools, as well as solutions for mobile phones. In addition, it operates an online store that provides apparel. The company is based in Mountain View, California. Mozilla Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Mozilla Foundation.

Dunno, I guess they're keeping those 500 people busy, but like a lot of things in this space, I just don't quite get it. Maybe I just don't do the things they're trying to address...

more than 2 years ago

Will Firefox Lose Google Funding?

electroniceric Re:What exactly is Mozilla spending $100M on? (644 comments)

I'm sure they've staffed up. But 1000 people (x100K = 100M/yr)???? Or to be conservative a scant 500 + marketing and bandwidth/hosting costs... What the hell are 500 people doing????

more than 2 years ago

Will Firefox Lose Google Funding?

electroniceric What exactly is Mozilla spending $100M on? (644 comments)

Does anyone know where the money they get from Google goes? Aren't they a non-profit that's freely distributing a community-developed piece of software? If so, why does this cost anything more than a couple million a year? That's what their financial statements from 2009 (latest available from their website) talk about: 10 people and ~ $1.5M in budget. That seems pretty reasonable to me to run a product with as broad a user base as Firefox.

But $100M??? Assuming an average salary of $100K, that's 1000 people. Are there really 1000 people working at Mozilla? If so, what are they doing?

Or are they really spending as much as Nike and Coke on marketing? Do they have a big pile of cash in bank? Can someone help me understand, cause right now I don't see how the math adds up...

more than 2 years ago

Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die

electroniceric Re:It's for signatures (835 comments)

Right on, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. The legal ramifications of putting a pen to paper, signing, and then faxing the signed copy are very well understood, especially with a paper copy to follow. I'm at a medical company, and we send out legally signed documents to our clients (lab reports). In researching electronic signature of these documents we learned that there's actually quite a bit of sophistication in putting a pen to paper - you are attesting to your identity, your presence with the piece of paper, and accepting the contents you sign all at once. That's actually rather hard to replicate in a digital signature setup, and it's why so many people misunderstand compliance with 21CFR11: you have to make a process that provides the required attestations, not just buy some technology.

Not to mention that there is STILL no universal trust architecture on the internet. That means that getting anything resembling a real digital signature between company A and B means that the two companies' IT departments have to haggle out some form of relationship that allows them to accept company A, person 1234's digital signature and company B person 9876's signature in the same document and signature format (we're starting to converge towards PDF, but by no means converged). By contrast, when you send a fax, all those assurances are just there for you with no work at all.

Finally, a fax has a conceptual simplicity to it that is still pretty compelling. You make a piece of paper appear in a particular physical place with content on it. Lots of people still like to read documents on paper more than on screen (which is why there are still printers). That means if you know Mary has a fax near her desk and someone who organizes her papers for her, you can make a piece of paper get onto Mary's desk and perhaps get read. If you send her an email you had to know that you got the right account, got through her spam and other filters, and then compete for attention with the jillion other emails she's getting.

I myself don't care to fax much, because I a) read most things on a computer b) am terrible at managing paper, and c) manage to read most the emails I get (not a hug number). I have learned however, that those things are not representative of a large portion of the population.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Ask For Equity In a Startup?

electroniceric Re:Don't imagine that you're indispensable. (349 comments)

I would third the suggestion of "being a bigger part of the company". The only way to make this ask and not have it backfire is to appeal to their sense of teamwork. If you have been part of the team, and you are showing that you are willing to be more closely bound to the company and its fortunes, they may consider it worthwhile to offer you a little equity in order to retain your goodwill (and similarly that of others). After all, a good employee is a bird in the hand, so most good managers will attempt to accommodate those types of requests.

Bear in mind of course that unless the company is already planning to issue additional equity, any new equity that's offered dilutes existing shareholders, so you will face a pretty steep uphill climb if there is not a pool set aside for employee equity.

I would also second or third or 700th the suggestions that you make absolutely no mention of being indispensable, since you are not. If someone is in fact indispensable it's a good time for an institution to start looking for their replacement - just to mitigate the business risk. If they are not, then dropping the I-word gives an impression ranging from tacky to arrogant to hostage-taker, and you may well be shown the door.

Long story short, if you really like the company and want to be part of it, I think I'd ask for a promotion - probably accompanied by converting to a salaried employee - and see if you can slide in a request for a little equity there. Otherwise you're probably taking your chances.

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a Windows Laptop?

electroniceric Re:Quick version of the laptop buying guide: (898 comments)

This is well thought out and raises some good points about the economics of maximizing hardware and features over time. Nonetheless, I deeply disagree, since I think you're missing a couple key variables in your analysis.

Replacing a computer is a pretty big hassle every time you do it - dig out backups, migrate stuff, get email, bookmarks, working directories set up, go fetch data off the old machine when you realize you forgot it, etc. And if you had a crash, you have to add the replacement time. So a good analogy is to AC - you want it on and working when you turn it on. Interruptions won't kill you, but they can be pretty aggravating on certain days. As such your analysis is leaving out the value of minimizing downtime. Someone's sensitivity to downtime does depend on how much they rely on a computer (i.e., do they have a desktop they can use as a backup), but it's still pretty rare to have a highly portable environment on any computer. So a reliable machine and warranty and/or retail option that turns your computer around quickly are more important to a lot of folks than maximizing hardware and features over time.

My wife happens to also not like her Mac, and I'm going to take a guess that my wife and the OPs wife have relatively similar desires - do the things they knew how to do in Windows quickly, and not worry about anything else about the computer. What she mainly wants it to do is always work. So I think what she needs is a reliable, not too feature-focused machine with a setup and a warranty that minimize downtime. Whether the easiest way to get to that is to install Windows on the existing Mac box or buy a Windows machine depends on lots of real-life details only the OP knows. I will probably take a stab at installing Windows on my wife's machine and see how that goes over.

Of my 2 favorite things about using a Mac, one is going to the retail store* and leaving a little while later with my machine ready to go (although you do have to spend a couple hours ignoring the condescending hipness of the "geniuses"). That only applies to problems that can be fixed by configuration or swapping out hardware, but that's a pretty good fraction of all problems - HD, PS, RAM, battery failures have to be O(50%) or more of hardware problems.

* My second favorite thing about the Mac is that sleeping and hibernate rarely causes crashes. You open the case and the computer is as it was before going to sleep, with some occasional confusion about network changes. That was just never the case in the Windows machines I had - I attribute it to being able to define the hardware and test the software and hardware together. I like other stuff about the Mac, but they're way behind those two.

more than 3 years ago

Aging Reversed In Mice

electroniceric Re:Do not want (554 comments)

So really, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, a general purpose anti-ageing treatment would just about be the best way to stop overpopulation from getting any worse.

Sort of. Currently the best way to reduce overpopulation is to reduce infant mortality. Once parents know that their chances are high of getting several kids who will live to adulthood, they fairly quickly tend to have less kids. I'm not sure how this argument extends out once you're talking about people who are going to live a long time.

Another big factor to consider is how these long-lived people fit into the economy. Do they work until they're 100? Is this anti-aging stuff really going to keep brains and bodies healthy enough for a 95 year-old to be an account, a truck driver, a software engineer, a waiter?

more than 3 years ago

Aging Reversed In Mice

electroniceric Re:Do not want (554 comments)

Excellent post. You should read this piece by Atul Gawande about treating people at the end of their lives:

Two takeaways. First, hospice is the work of the angels. I have observed this with my mother-in-law's death from cancer, and almost everyone I've talked to seems to agree.
Second, your remark about Vietnamese having incense and pictures of ancestors is incredibly on-point, and that's what brought to mind Gawande's article. People need traditions and structure around dying to guide them through it, and that's largely missing in modern American life. My wife, who has seen a lot of death in her 35 years (mother, father, grandparents, close family friends, etc.) keeps a fair number of her ancestors close. WASP that I am, my family has none of these traditions and little to guide me when it comes to death. The Vietnamese have it right.

more than 3 years ago

Hundred-Ton Dome To Collect Oil Spill

electroniceric Re:Man. (565 comments)

Sadly, I think I've come over time to agree with you (the sadness is that it feels more like cynicism than wisdom).

One thing to examine is that regulatory regimes have worked for various industries at various points in history. So while they seem to get captured with great regularity in the US, they do seem to exist and work to some degree in some industries in some countries. Somehow, for example, the requirement for the acoustic dead-man's switch that Norway and Brazil both enforce, and that the US MMS would have required had its employees not been doing coke and sleeping with oil reps, and the companies comply in Brazil and Norway. I happen to know a bit about Brazil, and it has both deadingly bureaucratic state and a great deal of cronyism and corruption, but somehow in this case regulate won out over don't-regulate - i.e., more or less the law asked for the right thing happened (unlike Amazon land use laws or its propped-up steel industry). So how did their regulatory body not get captured?

That seems to be a pretty key question for our time, since a balance between sustainability and prosperity requires an honest and unburdensome regulatory regime.

more than 4 years ago

House of Commons Finds No Evidence of Tampering In Climate E-mails

electroniceric Re:Warming is not bad (650 comments)

I know this thread is old, but it's a pleasure to see thoughtful commenters on Slashdot. Have you heard of the cap and dividend idea? I think Maria Cantwell in particular is or was pushing it. It's more akin to Alaska's oil dividend in that it focuses on the originators of the carbon (mining and fossil fuel extraction companies) and directly redistributes the proceeds of carbon taxation to families. That eliminates some of the gaming associated with figuring out who of the many, many, many (many, many, many, ....) users of fossil fuels who do the actual emission can do what and how that will be monitored.

I admit there's probably a lot of ways the taxation rules can be set up to favor incumbents, but it just seems to me that by focusing on the source of the carbon that is ultimately emitted, there are far fewer entities to try to regulate and monitor. On the political side it seems like a winner because it sets up a battle with a limited number industries rather than anyone who uses energy - though in this case the industries in question are extremely powerful and connected across the political spectrum.

I'm just curious about your viewpoint because you seem to be interested in whether the system that's set up will work, more than the dogma around whether trying to set up such a system is inherently noble or inherently evil...

more than 4 years ago

How To Spread Word About My FOSS Project?

electroniceric Re:It's simple (244 comments)

Absolutely agreed. If you want to promote it, you have to go find people you think MIGHT (not may, not are...) be interested and promote it to them.

I would add something else I noted just from the original post. You submitted anonymously, and didn't mention the name of your project, much less link to it's *Forge page. Very honorable in that you don't appear to be self-promoting. The reality, however, is that shameless self-promotion is both necessary and useful. Just the project name and a link would have netted you probably 10s of leads. Then as the parent said, go follow up and be friends with those people.

more than 4 years ago

The Limits To Skepticism

electroniceric Re:I am very sceptical... (1093 comments)

The question is largely irrelevant. The real problems with climate science are being highlighted by intelligent people, not by cretins.

I'll make the reasonable assumption that you are pretty intelligent, and evidently you are of skeptical disposition. Have you ever read any papers on climate science? How about earth science? If not, as would be the case for most intelligent non-climate-scientists (not just not just non-scientists), I can say without insulting your intelligence that you have no direct basis for determining what the general thrust of the literature is, much less what the camps are, who populates them and how strong the relative arguments are within those camps.

There are plenty of researchers out there, qualified, with careers, respected by their peers, who look at the IPCC stuff and say it is not working. These are researchers who know how to think about hard problems.

Unless you've read the literature, this statement, too is presumptive. What it really means is that one or more intermediaries has told you this, and you believe that intermediary more than you believe another intermediary who thinks that most climate scientists are in agreement. So in this case, this entire argument comes down to trust in intermediaries. You don't know who the camps are and who really subscribes to what camp.

I did a "terminal masters" in ocean physics, so I have some direct familiarity with the literature, though certainly not as deep as if I were practicing in this field. My experience is that the camps lean much more towards accepting general consensus about the nature of climate change (largely anthropogenic) and the magnitude of the expected effects than the perception you describe. From what I know directly and from the intermediaries I use when I don't know directly, just about everyone in the climate science community now believes that the arguments around concentrations of carbon and warming are solid. So when people say how much warming will happen in a hundred years, that considered very hard to dispute. Where people have more critiques is how we will get there, and the closer in you get the less agreement there is. However, it's also true that for most of the really wide open questions about climate change, people have been equally wrong guessing towards faster and slower warming. The rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet is a great example of this - nobody from the global climate modelers (like a friend of mine who's doing his postdoc in this now) to the ice physicists understood until a few years back that when the ice sheets began to melt that the meltwater would lubricate the rock upon which the sheets are sitting and cause them to slide more quickly into the ocean. So there's an example where change was called slower. On the other hand, if I understand correctly, there has been a greater uptake of heat by the oceans that was initially expected, which will delay warming on a scale of years to decades, but could result in acceleration once the oceans warm up and provide less capacity to capture heat. So that's a delay in warming.

Just how many people do you know would go to a homeopath instead of a doctor? Sure there are some. But there are some green nuts too. Often they are one and the same. Funny that.

This statement is also full of presumption. Look at the sales of vitamins, herbal supplements and other non-FDA-approved quasi-drugs. Those sales speak to a large body of people who do feel comfortable taking remedies that are not scientifically tested. Again I challenge you to show me your basis for concluding that they're "green nuts" - sure sounds like your impression more than any data to me.

I don't think this a question of treating the public like imbeciles. There are a vast number of books out there for those that want to learn more about climate science. This is a question of trying to understand the state of a scientific discipline at a summary level, without investing the energy to really understand who thinks what and what their arguments are. And that is a recipe for confusion, even without the tremendous political pressure around the issue.

As a final note, I encourage you to dig into the literature and the real scientific debates directly. Some of the stuff can be pretty dense reading, even if you have some background in it. However, if you can google around for some concepts you can usually start to get the gist pretty quickly and even understand some of the critiques. I think what you'll see is debate of a whole different set of issues than are typically reported on in the press.

more than 4 years ago


electroniceric hasn't submitted any stories.


electroniceric 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