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The Cost of Caring For Elderly Nuclear Plants Expected To Rise

jgotts The true cost of nuclear power (246 comments)

The true cost of nuclear power is practically infinite, because we have to insure that highly concentrated and deadly waste must not come into contact with people's bodies for somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 years into the future, depending upon the waste.

We have only had a writing system for 5,200 years (roughly speaking, the length of recorded history). How many people on Earth today could read a radiation warning written in cuneiform 5,200 years ago (or today)? Many civilizations on Earth have had periods of scientific and technological decline, and we've all read articles about knowledge from Ancient Rome or, more recently, the Renaissance being rediscovered today. How can we guarantee persistence of any scientific or technical knowledge?

How are we supposed to convey the message: "Don't touch any of this, or pass it around. You and anyone who touches this will die not instantly but within months of a painful death, perhaps after you have traveled a great distance" for 200x the length of recorded history?

4 days ago
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Why Morgan Stanley Is Betting That Tesla Will Kill Your Power Company

jgotts Half of Americans rent (502 comments)

Half of Americans rent. People who rent can't do anything to their property. Apartment buildings are stuck with whatever they were built with 40 or 50 or more years ago. They're built using the cheapest technology available at construction time and they're never upgraded. When they get old enough they become the bad part of town or in some cases the outright ghetto until they collapse or are torn down. Some people rent houses, but there is no way your landlord going to put solar panels and a charging system in your rental unit, at least not this decade and not bloody likely the next.

When I read here on Slashdot about intelligent devices in homes, or this thing people have called garages, or home chargers for vehicles, or fiber to the home, it kind of makes me laugh because these aren't most people. These are the things that less than half of Americans even have a chance of using.

People who rent aren't necessarily poor. Many renters in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco would be informally considered rich in most of the United States.

The electric company will continue to serve at least 50% of Americans indefinitely.

about two weeks ago
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HP Gives OpenVMS New Life and Path To X86 Port

jgotts VMS returns (136 comments)

The Vomit-making system returns from the dead in zombie form!

about three weeks ago
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Jesse Jackson: Tech Diversity Is Next Civil Rights Step

jgotts Barriers to entry (514 comments)

The major cause of the lack of minority and women computer programmers was a financial barrier to entry.

Today, you can get a desktop computer for $250. You can get a tablet for $300. You can get a laptop for $400. You can get an Android smartphone for $600, all pretty much medium to high end hardware, nothing second hand or used. 15 years ago, you had to invest a minimum of $1000 to get a new computer, and $1500 would give you something more reasonable. Importantly, decent home broadband connections are now affordable for all but the poorest individuals.

The difference between someone becoming a computer programmer and making millions of dollars throughout his or her career and someone not in the field might now only be a few hundred dollar initial investment whereas when I was a kid it was thousands of dollars. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that large investment anymore, so this aspect of the problem has solved itself.

There are plenty of scholarship opportunities for minority and women computer programmers, but they need to get started way before college. Nobody learns programming at the university. If you're doing programming for the first time at the university, then very likely you'll never want to do it again. The programming work you do at school is dull, formulaic, theoretical, useless, and often frustrating.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

jgotts Hammer (113 comments)

You'll burn through more money in labor by opening up the device without damaging it further and yanking the proper chips than what you'll get for it in parts.

What people should do with old tablets and smartphones is smash them. I'm sure there are techniques to wipe a tablet, but do you really want to take that kind of risk with your personal data? Even one credit card number accidentally cached by a sloppily programmed app can cause you way more harm than the $25 you might get for parts. You may not be liable for fradulent charges, but you are liable for the hours on the phone, filling out paperwork, and the other hassles coming from having your credit card stolen.

When I dispose of hard drives, I smash the platters to bits. Doesn't take much longer than 1-2 minutes. I have yet to dispose of an Android device, but the same concepts would apply.

about three weeks ago
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Do Apple and Google Sabotage Older Phones? What the Graphs Don't Show

jgotts Simple explanation (281 comments)

The default setting for most apps is to phone home every 15 minutes or at some absurdly-high interval. Once you lose 4G coverage your phone slows to a crawl. When you turn off automatic updates and notifications (which can be arduous or impossible for some apps) even older smartphones run well.

Every time my Samsung Galaxy S3 is running slowly, some app developer forgot my preferences and turned back on auto updates. The ABC News app was the latest violator.

There is no reason why an app can't load content on demand while running. When apps are not open, they should do doing nothing! Apps not being open can be a strong indication that you are not in a coverage area, or coverage is poor. So automatic updates when no apps are running is the opposite of what you want to do.

The only thing I want to be happening in the background is backing up my files, and even then only on wifi and while charging. If I'm doing nothing, apps should be doing nothing.

about a month ago
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Researchers Test Developer Biometrics To Predict Buggy Code

jgotts Foreign workers (89 comments)

Microsoft Research should also track how far the individual is working away from the main office of his company, because that has far more of an effect on bugs than any biometric reading. I recommend that they develop a special laser and a series of geostationary satellites and ground repeater stations. The total round trip time of the laser pulse will be a measure of how buggy the developer's code is.

1) Microsoft Research is wasting an awful lot of money to conclude that the reason why Microsoft's software is so terrible is that it's being written by outside companies in India.
2) Microsoft's well-paid American and European programmers are producing good or at least above average code, as would be expected.
3) Quality evaporates when they use foreign and H1B workers, who are educated in substandard universities, inexperienced in engineering, and/or do not have English superliteracy. [I've discussed elsewhere that basic language literacy is not enough to be a good programmer---you need to have enough language expertise to communicate without any ambiguity whatsoever to write good code because of the essential nature of interpersonal communication. By the same token, if you're writing software for Indians speaking Hindi your entire team should be Hindi-speaking Indians.]

about 1 month ago
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Tesla Model S Hacking Prize Claimed

jgotts Six digits? (59 comments)

Six digits? What is this, the mid-1980's?

about a month ago
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Selectively Reusing Bad Passwords Is Not a Bad Idea, Researchers Say

jgotts Impossible (280 comments)

I have passwords for hundreds of services.

You must be joking about memorization. I have three memorized.

about a month ago
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Harvesting Energy From Humidity

jgotts Remote areas? (89 comments)

Way too high tech for remote areas.

Bringing clean water to remote areas in Africa means using parts that can be sourced from those remote areas using skills taught in those remote areas or else it's back to dirty water in a few years.

Think about aliens crashing a ship on Earth. Where would we get the parts to fix it? Alien technology is worse than useless when it fails.

about a month ago
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Obama Administration Says the World's Servers Are Ours

jgotts It's corporations we're talking about (749 comments)

Effectively, though perhaps not in the strict legal definition, the purpose of a corporation is to make a profit.

As we can plainly see from Microsoft's conduct over the years, they will break whatever laws they can get away with to make that profit. This lawsuit isn't about Hotmail users' e-mail messages, this is about illegal or otherwise objectionable behavior that they are trying to shield in other countries.

If you're worried about your e-mail and data stored on Microsoft's servers, then let's not mix that up with a corporation's ability to hide illegal, unethical, or immoral behavior within a more compliant state's physical borders.

about a month ago
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First Release of LibreSSL Portable Is Available

jgotts Technical discussion (101 comments)

There is a lot of political discussion on this thread. How about a bit of technical discussion?

I spent about 20-30 minutes code reviewing the first few files in ssl/*.c.

The codebase looks better than most C code I look at. The indentation is a pleasure to look at.

I did notice a few issues. Wrappers are apparently still being used around memory allocation functions. I don't know if this is for API compatibility or what. There is more casting than I would like to read. I hope it is all absolutely necessary. If you look at, for example, RSMBLY_BITMASK_MARK, that code is absolutely horrible. Never write code like that. To me that is how not to write C, C++, Perl, Java, or PHP (all would look very similar).

Lots of gotos. Not necessarily considered harmful. May not indicate bad coding practices, but something to think about. gotos inside of a case-switch. Yikes. Hope you really needed to do that.

Functions are very long. Linus Torvalds's rule of thumb for a function is that it should fit nicely on a screen. You should be able to look at it, conclude, that does x, and move on to the next function.

There you have it. I debug other people's code for a living, and sometimes write my own.

about a month ago
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The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

jgotts A problem with the $1 trillion number (364 comments)

The article's summary seems to imply that US taxpayers are on the hook for $1 trillion. That's not quite right:

"But the armed services are not the only customers. Eight international partners have signed on to help build and buy the planes: the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Norway. While not involved in the development of the plane, Israel and Japan are buying it through the foreign military sales process, and South Korea recently indicated that it would buy at least 40 of the aircraft."

The US is set to buy 2,443 planes, but international sales will offset at least some of the expense both directly and indirectly.

about a month and a half ago
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Coddled, Surveilled, and Monetized: How Modern Houses Can Watch You

jgotts Renters (150 comments)

Around half of Americans are renters. You won't see any of these things in rental units for decades. Rental units use the cheapest available everything at the time of construction and they're not ever updated. They become the bad part of town over 50 or so years as they decay, and eventually either they are town down or become decrepit. At nearly every apartment I've ever lived in, virtually everything was original: 40-50 year old wiring, 1960's or 1970's mercury-style thermostat, nothing ever electronic. For a few years, I lived in an expensive apartment building that was only around 15 year old. Even everything there was the lowest tech possible.

Do I care that rich people living in multi-million-dollar homes have privacy-violating things? Not until decades from now when they start actually appearing in the places where most people live.

Pretty much the only difference in what I would call the core infrastructure in my apartment from 1970 would be the lightbulbs have been switched to CFL. I could re-wire the wall switches to be electronic, and do a few things here and there, but why bother? I don't own the place. I'm a technie, and I just don't care about any of these things.

about a month and a half ago
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Tired of Playing Cyber Cop, Microsoft Looks For Partners In Crime Fighting

jgotts Bad programming (113 comments)

Microsoft has been writing poor quality software for my entire life.

The best programmers do not go to work for Microsoft. Maybe that was the case in the early 90's but it hasn't been true for decades.

To make matters worse, Microsoft does a lot of its programming in India. We all know that Indian programming is of poor quality, and the reason is not because Indian programmers are much less competent. It has more to do with the fact that in programming if two parties can't communicate completely unambiguously in one language then they have no hope of writing good software. Programmers have to be more than fluent in the language they speak with each other, they have to be scientifically precise.

People go to work for Microsoft because it's safe. There's no risk of the company going under. Risk minimizers don't write good software, because they're not very creative. They tend to keep patching up the same old crap rather than writing something new that works better.

At mature software companies hundreds of non-programmers are telling the programmers what to do, and it only gums up the works. You wind up not working efficiently, because you need too much sign off to get anything done. And once you get signoff, the hundreds of non-programmers are dictating your schedule, not quality of the code or whether it is completed to your satisfaction.

There is no one to clean up Microsoft's mess but themselves. Probably the best solution would be for the company to split up. The people who make the Xbox are probably weighed down by the rest of the company's ineptitude. I'd like to see those guys go their own way.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Inspired You To Start Hacking?

jgotts If by hacking you mean programming (153 comments)

If by hacking you mean programming, then nothing really inspired me. You had to be a programmer to get something useful out of a Commodore 64 besides playing games. So I guess you could say wanting to do something besides play games inspired me to be a programmer.

about 3 months ago
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Become a Linux Kernel Hacker and Write Your Own Module

jgotts My advice (143 comments)

This item hit reddit earlier, so I'll repeat my advice.

It might be easier to begin with a kernel module that is useful to you, and either work with the developer or find a module where the developer has lost interest instead.

I worked on two kernel modules, one called oplbeep and the other was totem. Both very simple things that required porting when interfaces changed. Today I work on the vmware modules which are always requiring tweaking (at least unless you upgrade to the latest version of VMWare more regularly) but I do that just to get my work done.

about 3 months ago
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The Flaw Lurking In Every Deep Neural Net

jgotts The brain has multiple neural nets (230 comments)

The human brain has multiple neural nets and a voter.

I am face blind and completely non-visual, but I do recognize people. I can because the primary way that we recognize people is by encoding a schematic image of the face, but many other nets are in play. For example, I use hair style, clothing, and height. So does everybody, though. But for most people that just gives you extra confidence.

Conclusion: Neural nets in your brain having blind spots is no problem whatsoever. The entire system is highly redundant.

about 3 months ago
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The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence

jgotts Myths about technology (255 comments)

When people characterize HFT (high-frequency trading), they conveniently leave out the programmers and the human traders. HFT is done by programmers and human traders. The notion that computers are trading with themselves is absurd. Programmers write the code, and traders supply the algorithms, ideas, guidance, experience, etc. Sometimes the programmers are also traders, but you get the idea.

When people use a computer they don't think about the thousands of people who wrote the software they are using. They think of a computer as a monolithic thing, when in reality everything that a computer does is people doing work for other people. When people "use" computers, the programmers do the work, or rather they did the work. The computer itself does nothing by itself.

Robots are the same way. They execute instructions written by people. A robot is simply another interface that programmers present to other people. To think about robots separate from their programmers is silly. The programmers reap the rewards from and ought to bear the responsibilities of robotics.

In order to simplify matters, I'm leaving out the hardware designers, the electrical engineers. Without them, programming would be pointless. But the same argument holds true. The robot is an expression of the hardware and software people. Did the people at Craftsman do a good job making that wrench you used to replace the fan belt on your car? The wrench didn't make itself, people did. Craftsman wrenches are damned good products because of the people who make them. A wrench doesn't stand alone as a separate entity, and neither should robots.

Many, many generations in the future, robots may become viral and start making other robots. They might even consider themselves to be separate from their human makers, but that would be the height of arrogance on their part, assuming that people programmed them to be able to experience arrogance.

about 3 months ago
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Head of MS Research On Special Projects, Google X and Win 9

jgotts A bit condescending (71 comments)

A bit condescending of an attitude for someone that is working at Microsoft, a company that is clearly on the wane. People don't go to Microsoft to create anything great. They go there for a stable income for their family and mortgage.

about 3 months ago

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