Beta

# Slashdot: News for Nerds

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### Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

As I've said in another post here, a lot of the problem is that you sent people back to beta again and again to solicit more feedback before the very most basic problems- esp. content width and comment section information density - had been addressed at all.

This gave people the impression that those things weren't going to change, and solidified in people's minds the idea that beta was horrific and that a redirect to beta was a reason to scream.

Though the present beta isn't ready, it is enough of an improvement over the earlier betas as to reassure me somewhat about the future of the site. But until a few minutes ago I had no idea of its improvements because previous horrific betas' lack of improvement over the months had trained me to avoid beta like the plague.

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### Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

Part of problem: previous betas were even worse (2219 comments)

Because of how awful previous betas were, and how gradual and unannounced the improvements have been, the knee-jerk reaction to "oh, we're going to try redirecting you to beta!" is "OH HECK NO YOU DON'T."

The beta is still terrible, but it is substantially less terrible than the versions I looked at last year. During that time, I and many others gave careful feedback but it seemed like there was awfully little improvement over time. It got to the point that a redirect to beta just instinctively causes panic and anger because people have had such terrible experiences with it in the past.

I'm afraid that in the past couple of days some of the complaints and feedback I've given were no longer accurate for today's beta.

I still think the information density and the comment system have a long way to go. I still think the (thankfully slightly rarer now) stock photographs are uninteresting, uninformative, stupid, uninformative, and a total waste of space.

But at least you're not only using a third of my screen's width for content, making it so only ~3 comments can be seen on screen at a time, etc. like previous betas did. That was horrific. Before you redirect anyone to beta, help them know about what's been improved with beta and apologize for past mistakes.

And for pete's sake, give people the option to switch the silly color scheme. Should be simple enough.

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### Why Robot Trucks Could Be Headed To Afghanistan (And Everywhere Else)

Call and let them know (135 comments)

Calling the number Dice lists for Slashdot results in a recording which in turn tells you to call 415-625-0856.

The receptionist type who answered was polite, said they'd already had several calls today, jotted down my complaints to relay once more to a guy who's involved with the beta, and said "we're withholding his snacks until this is fixed." They said it was nice to realize there were people out there who were passionate about the site.

Make your voice heard. Let them know that wasting screen space, butchering comment sections, etc are going to result in their visitors leaving en masse. If the phone is ringing all day, day in and day out, with users who don't want to see this place ruined, perhaps things will turn around.

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### Swedish Man Fined $650,000 For Sharing 1 Movie, Charged Extra For Low Quality Judge to pirates: (366 comments) I don't like to see people breaking the law. But what I really don't like to see is a torrent search where the only results are 480i DivX versions. Good grief, people. Can't you see how this damages a movie's reputation? If you must upload pirated movies, upload 1080p x264 encodes or I will double the damages when the case comes to court. Now, please excuse me; I need to get some more popcorn. --Christina Brobacke, Västmanlands Tingsrätt about 3 months ago top ### Oregon Signs Up Just 44 People For Obamacare Despite Spending$300 Million

Re:Paying the fine makes more sense (586 comments)

I am most certainly not the first person in the US to face this. A lot of people just don't realize what the individual insurance market looks like.

What you say about this being "odd" or "first in the nation" is just silly. Costs under Obamacare are supposed to skyrocket for people like me. That's the whole point- bleed healthy young people, esp. males, to pay for everybody else. This is why we have articles like those from Slate saying "you can't keep your plan, and that's a good thing- people paying for the services they receive themselves is just so unfair, we must make everyone pay for whatever anyone else might want." This is why there are all those absurd ads trying to entice my generation to sign up.

Looking at the plans listed at thehealthsherpa.com, a plan with deductibles, copay, etc comparable to what I was quoted $46/mo for before would now, under Obamacare, cost me >$190/mo. The cheapest non-catastrophic plan is $168/mo and the only catastrophic plan offered, which is$115/mo, is absolutely terrible; both are worse than the old $46/mo plan. I'm not going to hand out details about my zip code and health history to random slashdotters. While you're at it, why not ask for my SSN and credit card numbers? Your sarcasm about believing me and your oh-I'm-so-clever Reagan apotheosis remark don't win you any points here either. about 3 months ago top ### Oregon Signs Up Just 44 People For Obamacare Despite Spending$300 Million

Paying the fine makes more sense (586 comments)

I am 28 and presently uninsured. I delayed getting individual insurance because I knew my plan would be canceled at the end of this year (anybody who actually spoke with the insurance companies has known for a long time that "you can keep your plan" was a lie), so I figured I might as well wait for the Obamacare compliant plans.

Well, the Obamacare compliant plans cost literally over four times as much per month to get comparable insurance. People who went ahead and got the noncompliant plans have now got a reprieve by executive fiat; they can keep the cheap plans another year. All of the effects of this bill have been effectively canceled per dictatorial fiat except for socking it to me and others in similar conditions.

Depending on what happens with school and work, my income may be low enough that I don't need to pay the fine for being uninsured, but even if it isn't, it's better to pay the $95 fine and gamble on my health being OK than to pay$2400 for a crappy insurance plan.

The whole situation is insane. Health insurance should be like home insurance. The expected costs of home maintenance are paid out of pocket; your insurer doesn't pay your heating bill or pay to have your gutters cleaned out. Insurance is there to mitigate catastrophic risks, not to take care of your regular expected expenses for you. We do need robust assistance for those who can't pay their expected health costs, but that has nothing to do with insurance, and conflating the two won't make care more affordable. Not being able to pay your health costs is just another form of poverty; it's important to provide a safety net but this is a terrifically thickheaded way to try to go about it.

A few decades ago most people paid most of their health costs out of pocket and the country was better for it. Having employer insurance take care of everything is basically a modern tax avoidance racket. It's less efficient, the costs balloon, people without employer-provided insurance end up in more and more trouble, and the lost government revenue brings program cuts, higher deficits, or more economically disruptive ways of getting tax revenue. Insurance plans and health savings accounts should be taxed exactly like normal income and savings.

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### Geeks For Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries

Re:Sexually transmitted political power? (730 comments)

The merit of having leadership determined by bloodline is, as Chesterton observed in Heretics in 1905, that it is about as good as having leadership determined at random. Sometimes the new king will be a good man and sometimes a bad one; there should be "no trace whatever of any nonsense about intellect or special fitness for the post." But even if it's done via a "democratic" election, selecting a despot by their oratory or their brilliance or whatever else gives you monsters and not men.

The misadventures of the despots of the last hundred years, whether fascist, communist, "Bolivarian," or whatever else, has made Chesterton's remarks seem prescient.

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### Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?

Re:RPN calcs- esp 35s (328 comments)

All of the good HP scientific calcs have basic metric-imperial conversion abilities, and none of them live up to the 48. You'd have to browse through manuals to see exactly how much they do provide. My guess is that the scientific calculator with the most unit conversion power is the WP 34S, which is basically an open source 3rd party ROM and keyboard overlay for the HP 30b. I don't know that it would be allowed in many tests.

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### Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?

So I suppose if you're not a "complete math wuss" and you need to convert polar to rectangular and vice versa while in a timed test, you spend a couple hundred extra keystrokes computing Taylor approximations for sine, cosine, and arctangent on a calculator which doesn't even have exponentiation?

And for unit conversions, if you want precise answers you memorize all conceivable conversion factors to fifteen digits?

Methinks you're the one who doesn't have the tiniest bit of understanding of what he's doing.

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### Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?

RPN calcs- esp 35s (328 comments)

Given that you like your 48, you might want to look at the details of the allowed calculator lists for the specific tests you have in mind and see which other HP RPN calculators would fit the bill.

The 35s is allowed on a number of tests where fancier calculators aren't, including the NCEES. Not the cheapest, but capable. Its support for polar complex numbers covers what you seem to be asking for.

It's the successor to the 33s, which had an odd keyboard but was otherwise ok, which in turn was the successor to the 32S/32SII. Those are still quite capable calculators if you find one around. Enough people considered the 42S to be the best calculator ever made that it goes for absurd prices on ebay.

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### Can the US Be Weaned Off Ethanol?

Answer: The ethanol requirements and subsidies still exist because the first presidential caucus is in Iowa. No political point in giving more than token "we believe in energy security" subsidies to algenol producers, who wield no political power.

Corn ethanol is a terrible deal for everyone except the corn industry. Getting rid of the requirement and subsidies should be a bipartisan no-brainer. "You mean I can do one thing that will free up a market, reduce the cost of gas at the pump, and benefit the environment and the poor, all in one shot? Sounds like an electoral success; send me the bill to sign!"

The *very* few presidential candidates who have said they don't support ethanol have been roundly trounced in Iowa and gone on to lose. Candidates who have the guts to stand up to the industry while in Congress routinely change their tune if they run for President (c.f. Bill Bradley, 2000). McCain stuck to his guns on the issue in 2000, leading to an embarrassing 4th-place Iowa caucus finish which robbed his campaign of early momentum and was a notable factor in GWB becoming the nominee. So McCain changed his tune to support ethanol when he ran in 2008.

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### A MathML Progress Report: More Light Than Shadow

HTML and XML in general are horrible too if you're writing anything remotely complex by hand. But we use these kinds of formats because they are expressively powerful, unambiguous to a parser, and amenable to various kinds of analysis and transformations.

If you want to write docs yourself, rather than writing everything in HTML/XML + CSS it makes sense to write in another syntax and convert it, especially if you're doing regular everyday things; this is what Markdown, wiki syntax, etc are about. Similarly, you wouldn't write MathML by hand in most cases; you can use a simple syntax like AsciiMathML or some non-Turing-complete subset of (La)TeX for writing most regular everyday stuff and convert it.

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### A MathML Progress Report: More Light Than Shadow

Actually, the Curry-Howard correspondence means that every proof can be translated into a program (and vice versa as long as you're working with the right computational model).

Of course the programs you get when translating the proof of a normal theorem won't be things like "use the machine add instruction to add two native floating point numbers" - instead they'll be e.g. some lengthy computation in a typed lambda calculus with extra control instructions, which you can run on a computer with the right interpreter. Not necessarily the best, as you say, for communication about the theorem.

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### A MathML Progress Report: More Light Than Shadow

You can "count on" building in a very large external renderer library, and then even besides the overhead of that, MathJax is ~9x slower than native even with the fastest JavaScript engines.

Most sites would rather count on using images than deal with that.

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### A Plan To Fix Daylight Savings Time By Creating Two National Time Zones

Re:This idea is just as stupid as DST (545 comments)

Aagh, should have used preview. Of course I meant to cut the first couple words off that last paragraph.

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### A Plan To Fix Daylight Savings Time By Creating Two National Time Zones

This idea is just as stupid as DST (545 comments)

DST is an anachronism from the German Reich in the two World Wars. A generation from now, when DST has finally been relegated to history and people no longer take it for granted, governments forcing their citizens to lie to themselves about the time will seem just as perplexing and absurd as other fascist traditions already seem to us now.

Using for Messing up everyone else's time just to serve the interests of the East Coast is a terrible idea. That they use China's subjugation of western provinces as an excuse for this "time zone imperialism" is again reminiscent of the fascists.

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### MyOpenID To Shut Down In February

Meh- almost just acknowledgement of status quo (78 comments)

I liked the MyOpenID idea, and don't like the idea of using a Google or Facebook account across the web. But more than half of the time I've tried to log in with MyOpenID over the past two years, the site has been having technical trouble. A login system that does that could cripple your Internet experience. So I ended up moving to other options.

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### Court: NRC In Violation For Not Ruling On Yucca Mountain

Re:Fast becoming the rule rather than the exceptio (258 comments)

Section 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Note that it doesn't say "he shall choose which Laws shall be faithfully executed." Those are legislative, not administrative, powers; when legislation and administration are vested in the same individual it's a dictatorship.

If you think the president should have other powers, go ahead and try to build national consensus around an amendment.

(The Constitution was made to be amended, but since the FDR era, rather than even trying to build real national consensus around constitutional changes, people have simply pretended the Constitution said what they wanted it to say. This is true of people in both parties and in all three branches of government, regardless of how narrow their election victory or how dubious their appointment. There are good reasons why the Constitution requires such a supermajority for amendments- see Morsi in Egypt for an example of what happens when a slim majority can simply rewrite the constitution to fit its whims.)

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### Court: NRC In Violation For Not Ruling On Yucca Mountain

Fast becoming the rule rather than the exception (258 comments)

In the past couple of years we've seen the administration declare loudly that they'll refuse to enforce other laws, including immigration laws and the Obamacare employer mandate. Meanwhile, any court challenge to a law the administration doesn't particularly like is sure to succeed, since the administration will refuse to defend it.

Unless something turns around, the rule of law and the separation of powers are on their way out in this country, to be supplanted by the decisions of a dictator and of unelected officials he appoints.

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### Xerox Photocopiers Randomly Alter Numbers, Says German Researcher

In particular, there's no excuse for using < 300 dpi when using bilevel. Bilevel documents at 300dpi are 100kb or less when using reasonable lossless compression (lossless jb2/ jbig2, CCITT Group 4 TIFF, or even just PNG).

Using lossy jb2/jbig2 like these copiers were doing is at most going to save you a couple dozen kb per page. Not worth the problems in many cases.

(doing this reply again since I forgot slashdot eats less than signs unless you use html entities. Man, what an anachronism.)

# Submissions

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### Oracle Releases Java 7u4 - Their First JVM for OSX

jensend writes "From the distant Mac OS 7 past until October 2010, Apple took charge of delivering their own Java Virtual Machine. They were slow to update their JVM, leaving security holes unpatched for long periods, and to get a major version upgrade you'd have to pay for a Mac OS upgrade. After a decade of treating it like a red-headed stepchild, they finally jettisoned their support for it, leaving Oracle to pick up the slack. It took a year and a half, but Oracle has finally delivered, releasing the 7u4 JDK&JRE for Linux, Solaris, Windows, and OS X simultaneously. (See also this FAQ regarding the OS X release). The new JVM also includes a new garbage collector and various performance improvements and bugfixes."
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### Cygwin 1.7 Released

jensend writes "The 1.7 branch of Cygwin, the Unix-like environment for Windows, has reached stable status after about 3 1/2 years of effort. Among many other changes, this release drops support for Windows 9x. Since the NT API and NT-based versions of Windows are more capable and somewhat less of a mismatch with POSIX (for instance, they include a security model), this has allowed for code path simplifications, better performance (particularly noticeable with pipe I/O), better security, and better POSIX compatibility."

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