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Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access?

js_sebastian Common carrier and forced unbundling (474 comments)

It's not that the telcos in Europe *like* to have competition. It's just that the rules do not leave them the choice.

Back in the days of modems, the US was ahead because it had broken the ma-bell's monopoly, and phone companies were heavily regulated as common carriers.

Today, there are EU directives that impose competition in the broadband market. One of the things that works is forced unbundling between the last mile and the rest of the service. Even if telco A owns the wire from my home to the nearby switching box (which they also own), if I choose telco B as a service provider, telco A has to plug my cable into telco B's equipment in the switching box, and telco B pays them a regulated fee for the privilege of using that last piece of wire into my house.

This is very similar concept to what worked in the US to make long distance calling competitive: you got local calls from one provider, but could get long distance from a different one. It's not like this is not well understood here in the US as well: precisely because that model worked in bringing the price down, the telcos have lobbied hard to avoid this when it comes to broadband access as well as cell phones.

2 days ago
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Obama: Gov't Shouldn't Be Hampered By Encrypted Communications

js_sebastian There isn't a technical way (562 comments)

The president on Friday argued there must be a technical way to keep information private, but ensure that police and spies can listen in when a court approves.

That's a chimera, it something that anyone with any technical understanding of security issues knows does not and cannot ever exist. It's like building a lock that only "good guys" can open: computer systems, just like physical locks, cannot distinguish between good guys and bad guys. If you build a weakness into a system that police can access with warrant, then so can $EVIL_COUNTRY's state-sponsored hackers, with no need for such legal formalities.

about two weeks ago
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Connected Gun Lets Anyone Watch What Or Who You Are Shooting

js_sebastian Nope, more are killed with guns (138 comments)

Realistically the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with cheap "throw-away" handguns.

Roughly 90% of firearm murders. More people are killed by 'bare hands' than by rifles or shotguns.

[citation needed]

Actually, one quick google shows that in 2011 in the US 8583 of 12664 homicides were committed with firearms, vs only 726 with bare hands. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cj...

Things may be different worldwide, in places with much less firearms available to the public of course. But then so is the homicide rate (in first world countries at least)...

about three weeks ago
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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains His Christmas Tweet

js_sebastian Xmas moved for cult of Mithra (681 comments)

What's even worse is that Jesus was born in the spring "while shepherds were watching their flocks by night." The actual date is unknown. The date was moved to December 25th to compete with the feast of Saturninus.

Actually, from what I read (in Frazer's Golden Bough) the nativity of Christ was first celebrated by early christians in Egypt in January, starting from the 2nd century BC. It was later moved to December 25th by the roman church to compete with the cult of Mithras, a sun-death-and-rebirth deity that was very popular in Rome at the time. The mithraists (if that is the word..) celebrated the birthday of the sun on December 25th, and this festival was popular to the point that Christians also participated in it. This happened sometime in the 4th or 5th century after Christ (if I recall correctly), and according to Frazer there are historical records from the time documenting the change and even the motivation for it.

about a month ago
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Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

js_sebastian Funding green energy is not the point (222 comments)

What starts out as a "sin tax" in reality becomes a method of wealth redistribution. Revenue from a CO2 tax would never in billion year directly fund "green energy". God, if only the tax system and Congress worked that way. Yeah, hell no it doesn't!

There's no reason a carbon tax has to go fund green energy. You could have a carbon tax that is revenue neutral because other taxes are reduced to compensate for it. The point isn't to fund green energy, but to price in the externality, and make each C02 emitter pay for the overall harm that CO2 causes. This in turn makes less-polluting alternative energy sources more competitive (thereby funding green energy through market forces) as well as promoting energy efficiency, without favoring any specific technology. This would lead to the most efficient ways of reducing C02 emissions "winning", as opposed to subsidies to specific forms of green energy which may end up promoting dead end or overly expensive technologies.

about 2 months ago
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Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

js_sebastian Externalities (222 comments)

This is one place I wish market purists would get on board--put a price on carbon, and solutions will come out of the woodwork and plummet in price.

Except market purists balk at this because "putting a price on carbon" is an artificial thing - it's screwing around with the markets. The markets have already spoken: the externalities of climate change (relocation costs, war, health costs) have a lower cost than trying to develop alternatives. These costs are already really accounted for, even though they aren't necessarily applied at the source of "carbon" emission.

No they are not. You completely miss the point of what an externality is in economics. The whole point of externalities is that they are *not* accounted for by market forces. If A and B have to decide whether to make a transaction, while C will be harmed if the transaction happens but has no say in whether it happens, that's an externality and market forces do not account for it under any economic model I've ever heard of.

If reducing carbon emission is a goal, pretty much all economists agree that a carbon price is the most market-efficient way of doing that, because it makes market actors make the most efficient decision while taking into account the externality, without favoring or penalizing any specific technology.

about 2 months ago
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Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

js_sebastian links anyone? (588 comments)

And I am aroused by the fantasy that all those republican victories were a negative response to the NSA and is going to revive the civil rights movement.

except that democratic senator Mark Udall of Colorado just lost his seat, and he was one of a grand total of 2 people in the senate who have been trying to excercise their duty to oversee what the NSA is doing since before the snowden leaks (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/nsa-critic-udall-is-sent-packing-as-republicans-grab-senate/)

did slashdot ever hear of making URLs I type in into those magical clicky-clicky link things that I teleport me to other websites?

about 3 months ago
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Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

js_sebastian NSA? (588 comments)

And I am aroused by the fantasy that all those republican victories were a negative response to the NSA and is going to revive the civil rights movement.

except that democratic senator Mark Udall of Colorado just lost his seat, and he was one of a grand total of 2 people in the senate who have been trying to excercise their duty to oversee what the NSA is doing since before the snowden leaks (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/nsa-critic-udall-is-sent-packing-as-republicans-grab-senate/)

about 3 months ago
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Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

js_sebastian Re:Only took 359 years to accept Galileo... (669 comments)

It only took them until 1993 to admit they were wrong to try Galielo for heresy (for such modern concepts as the idea that celestial bodies are not perfect spheres attached to the vault of heaven), so people who say the Catholic church has a long tradition of being anti-science definitely have a leg to stand on.

Interesting. Did you look at your linked article? If you believe the Church did not accept the ideas of Galileo until the pope apologized in 1993

No, I don't. Strawman argument? ;-) But they never admitted of being wrong to try for heresy one of the founders of modern science until 1993.

When did the Church accept heliocentrism? In 1758, they dropped the general ban on books arguing the truth of heliocentrism. They finally lifted the ban on Galileo's books in the 1820s.

Interestingly, from a history of science standpoint, the mid-1700s was when the first proof of the Earth's motion was actually empirically measured, in James Bradley's observations of the aberration of light. Bradley first measured this in the late 1720s, but at first didn't understand the results (he was looking for parallax -- the real thing to prove the Earth's motion, as people had been looking for since the 1500s). Later, in the 1740s, he successfully measured and interpreted another aspect of the Earth's motion, the nutation of the Earth's axis.

So, basically in the decades immediately following the first actual empirical proof of heliocentrism, the Church lifted its ban on books asserting it to be true. (Note that the Church always allowed books which treated heliocentrism as a hypothesis or as a mathematical model, which is what it actually was... until sometime in the mid 1700s.)

It's not just helioncentrism. Galileo pointed a telescope at the sky and discovered the moons of Jupiter, craters on the face of the moon, etc, and basically proved that the church's entire view of the cosmos was a childish fanasy that did not pass basic rational scrutiny.

We can argue about Galileo's prosecution as a free-speech issue, but frankly he was wrong about the science (he argued for circular orbits against the elliptical ones Kepler had observed, and his only supposed proof of the Earth's motion was a discredited theory of the tides that required there to be only one high tide at noon every day, for example of a few big holes), and he was called out for being a jerk about things he couldn't prove.

There's nothing to argue frankly, the free-speech issue is clear as glass. I don't know what point you are trying to make. Galileo was wrong about some things, so what? The scientific debate was not between Galielo and the church, but between him and other scientists of his time (and the centuries thereafter). The church's only role in this discussion and other scientific and philosophical discussion of that time was to censor, bully, and burn at the stake (not galileo, but Giordano Bruno was burned in 1600) based on arbitrary interpretations of a bunch of old books.

about 3 months ago
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Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

js_sebastian Re:Only took 359 years to accept Galileo... (669 comments)

No not really. To apologize for trying Galileo for heresy is not say that they disagreed with the heliocentric theory nor that they now agree with it.

Indeed it says just that, although of course they changed their mind well before 1993. From the wikipedia article on galileo:

In 1616, an Inquisitorial commission unanimously declared heliocentrism to be "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture."

about 3 months ago
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Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

js_sebastian Only took 359 years to accept Galileo... (669 comments)

Evolution and the Big Bang Theory have been accepted theories in the Catholicism for just about as long as they were around (last century or so). In fact the Big Bang Theory was proposed by a Catholic priest! Pope John Paul II said that evolution was the most probable theory and referenced a predecessor Pope's words as agreeing with him.

The article itself thankfully references this fact:

But Pope Francis’s comments were more in keeping with the progressive work of Pope Pius XII, who opened the door to the idea of evolution and actively welcomed the Big Bang theory. In 1996, John Paul II went further and suggested evolution was “more than a hypothesis” and “effectively proven fact”.

Though they did seem to want to keep perpetuating the myth that the Church was ever anti-science. When it's just not true.

It only took them until 1993 to admit they were wrong to try Galielo for heresy (for such modern concepts as the idea that celestial bodies are not perfect spheres attached to the vault of heaven), so people who say the Catholic church has a long tradition of being anti-science definitely have a leg to stand on. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

about 3 months ago
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Humans Need Not Apply: a Video About the Robot Revolution and Jobs

js_sebastian The Freedom to not starve... (304 comments)

Paraphrasing Tom Morello, "Freedom is the freedom to starve."

A very interesting Sci-fi book "By Light Alone" by Adam roberts takes this concept to the extreme... Basically, the invention of photosynthetizing hair that makes it mostly unnecessary to eat, quite unexpectedly needs to a pretty scary inequality dystopia, and part of the issue is exactly that people no longer need to work to not starve. Also a really good book in my opinion driven by some interesting characters.

about 6 months ago
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The Fiercest Rivalry In Tech: Uber vs. Lyft

js_sebastian Don't blame the submitter... (125 comments)

This is just low-down mafia-level diversion bullshit. This isn't rivalry, and Uber/Lyft aren't fucking tech, they're taxi services that HAPPEN to be tied to using a smartphone - guess what Taxi drivers are tied to all day? A smartphone AND a CB radio AND a bunch of other shit that makes them actually worthy of the tech title.

Submitter should be stopped from posting any more stories until he figures out exactly what is tech worthy. Of course, given the 7 digit UID, not likely.

This was on the front page of the business section of the wall street journal today, including the catchy title about a tech rivalry, so if you disagree that they are tech companies, don't blame the submitter.

From my point of view, Uber and Lyft are using technology to try to disrupt a huge industry, which makes them more interesting than yet another social network or phone app that hopes to live off monetizing users through ads.

about 6 months ago
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Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation'

js_sebastian Don't believe we have impact? (342 comments)

I'm not convinced people in mud huts were numerous enough or destructive enough to manage the megafauna extinctions. A lot of this hysterical screaming about how we're destroying the planet seems a lot like hubris.

On certain level, the idea that we have that much power pleases the egos of some people.

It may seem like hubris, but the fact is, it's not. Look at this: http://xkcd.com/1338/

The preponderant majority of land mammals in the world, by weight, are either humans or food for humans. For vegetation, the picture is not much more encouraging: all of the world's wild forests weight less and cover way less land than our agriculture does.

There was a whole special report in the economist about the idea that we are now in a different, man-made geological era, the "anthropocene": http://www.economist.com/node/...

about 6 months ago
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California City Considers Restarting Desalination Plant To Fight Drought

js_sebastian Re:California = 1D10T Errors (420 comments)

When you demand the government subsidize you with free grazing land because you don't own enough land to raise your cattle without it? It is similar to the government subsidizing people with kids with food stamps because they don't have the money to feed them. Whats the difference?

Our hamburgers do not contain any government-subsidized kid meat, you insensitive clod!

about 9 months ago
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Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

js_sebastian Not so specialized anymore (355 comments)

Those same pieces can be used to build what ever you can imagine.

No so easily nowadays. Lego comes with huge numbers of very specialized pieces which are taylor made for that particular model. You can get the basic bricks but most Lego today is aimed at building one model and then playing with it rather than getting a pile of bricks and letting your imagination run wild.

Not quite true. This was a trend at lego some years back, back when the company was in a bit of a slump. More recently, they try to limit the number of new custom pieces designed for each set. Quite apart from re-play and creative value, each new part requires an expensive and costly to maintain custom mold (we're talking some 100k euros if I recall correctly). In a documentary I saw, the lego designer was saying that for the police station she was developing she was not using any custom parts (that were not already in use in past sets) so she was able to instead add a custom police-dog figure.

about 9 months ago
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Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

js_sebastian Lego is high tech (355 comments)

It also fails to acknowledge that LEGO is itself technology -- relatively modern, high technology in the grand scheme of humanity

It actually is... saw a documentaries on their factories and design process, it's pretty high tech. Designer scults a model out of clay, 3-D scans it, refines it on the computer. Then they build a custom metal piece into which plastic will be poured to create the pieces (don't know how that part works but each one costs some 100k) and have machines that pump out large numbers of pieces with fairly demanding tolerances (so the pieces will hold together tightly but not jam), which go into conveyor belts that automatically sort the right number and type of pieces into the different sets, etc...

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing For Windows XP EOL?

js_sebastian Re:No problem (423 comments)

The logical counter to that is:

YOU HAVE SOMEONE RUNNING A $50,000 ON Win98? Holy crap that is stupid.

Why? These types of systems are in a lot of industries. None of those systems are on the internet. And probably not even on a network at all

That airgap worked real well at Natanz, didn't it?

about 10 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing For Windows XP EOL?

js_sebastian Re:No problem (423 comments)

It's not stupid. It's quite common for specialised equipment to rely on drivers written for a particular OS. We have a 3 year old transmission dynamometer that cost us $180,000 that is controlled by redundant commodity x86 hardware running XP. There is no need to keep the OS up to date as it serves only one purpose.

Stupid lusers these days think all "PCs" are to be connected to the Internet and used for browsing file sharing sites.

Before you pay 180k for a piece of hardware, you should require either one of (a) a support contract that commits them to developing drivers for the foreseed lifetime of said hardware or (b) an open source driver and specification that allows you to develop the driver yourself. A combination of the two is also possible, where the source code and spec is held in escrow, and you have access to it only if they go under or breach their support contract.

about 10 months ago

Submissions

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Nuclear energy now more expensive than solar

js_sebastian js_sebastian writes  |  more than 4 years ago

js_sebastian (946118) writes "According to an article on the New York Times, a historical cross-over has occurred because of the declining costs of solar vs the increasing costs of nuclear energy: solar (hardly the cheapest of renewable technologies, is now cheaper than nuclear, at around 16 cents per kilowatt hour. Furthermore, the NY Times reports that financial markets will not finance the construction of nuclear power plants unless the risk of default (which is historically as high as 50 percent for the nuclear industry) is externalized to someone else through federal loan guarantees or ratepayer funding. The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive, and the push from the US government to subsidize it seems to be forcing the wrong choice on the market."
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