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Hidden Obstacles For Delivery Drones

nick_davison People (215 comments)

What other issues do Amazon, DHL, Google, and other need to solve?

People. Bored, often too intelligent for their own good, people.

How long before trolls figure out they can drive their cars close enough and in such a manner that self driving cars execute lane changes to avoid accidents and pull off the freeway? Or until someone realizes they can jam the car's sensors and the poor passenger, with no access to a steering wheel, can't convince the car to pull out of the open parking spot it's convinced it's barricaded in?

How long before an Amazon delivery drone comes in to a house that's observed to regularly get deliveries and gets a blanket tossed over it before being purloined by nerds who just got a sweet free drone to try hacking?

Wind gusts happen. You can factor in for a typical wind gust, a severe wind gust, a once in a century wind gust. You can factor in for different types of hardware failure, for power loss, etc. You can factor in for trees, for tall buildings, for cables... They're finite problem sets.

But bored people? They're infinite.

about 1 month ago
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Report: Apple To Unveil "Smart Home" System

nick_davison If iPods/iPhones Have Taught Me Anything... (174 comments)

So I'll have to rewire my house every couple of years when they change from one proprietary cable standard to another?

iPod: Firewire. Buy lots of firewire connectors.
Newer iPod/iPhone: Dock connector. Toss all of your firewire accessories and move to dock connectors.
Newer iPhones: Lightning connector. Toss all of your dock connector accessories, move to lightning.

Everyone else gets to stick with USB that doesn't carry a $10 premium per cable/device because Apple just invented another proprietary standard.

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Communication With Locked-in Syndrome Patient?

nick_davison Don't Assume The Worst... (552 comments)

Absolutely do what you can to work with the moment. But... While the doctors may be giving you bleak prognoses, from experience, they're pretty much winging it when it comes to the brain.

My wife was in a massive car accident. Shattered arm, collapsed lung, multiple breaks to her jaw, cracked eye socket, brain injuries. They induced a coma to keep her alive long enough to get her to a major hospital, called family to her bedside with a prognosis of, "IF she survives the night, it's 50:50 if she'll live." At that point, her brain stem was busy trying to retreat out of the back of her neck.

It was two weeks before they could get any response out of her, another two before she was aware. At that point, they wanted to amputate her arm and told her parents she'd never walk more than a few paces at best, would never look after herself.

Consent was given for the amputation though her mother asked the surgeon to simply do whatever he'd do for his own daughter. He spent eleven hours wiring it together and told her mother he'd most likely be back in to amputate but he'd given it a shot.

Fast forward two years, the arm survived. The girl who'd never walk more than a few paces was out of her wheelchair and starting to try to build a life on her own. In a settlement hearing (she'd bought "unlimited" coverage car insurance for the wreck she was in but there was small print saying they could modify at any time and they swapped it to $100k max five days before the accident) they acknowledged she was lucky to be walking but even the insurance lawyers, whose job was to minimize her injuries, acknowledged she'd probably never be able to return to school. No longer being able to read was a big part of that. And a huge loss to a National Merit scholarship winner, English major and librarian.

About another two years later... I'd taught her how to read again. She'd been living on her own. She returned to school. Started off barely making Cs. GPA went up every semester. She got straight As in her final semester. She now has two degrees, is a certified personal trainer and works in physical therapy. If she doesn't tell people about her injuries, they've absolutely no idea. Not bad for someone who the doctors declared would probably die, would never walk again, never look after herself and never return to school.

To message to take from this is that Traumatic Brain Injuries are absolute bitches but the medical profession has educated guesses about outcomes at best. You read up on neuroplasticity and the like and you realize they're really only just beginning to get an idea of what's possible. There are even stories of key researchers whose family members had strokes, who ignored all of the expert advice and got them back moving again by doing everything "wrong."

So days, weeks, months in... Just because the doctors tell you to prepare for the worst, don't give up. The brain does amazing things, often things they're completely clueless about it being able to do.

about 5 months ago
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Quentin Tarantino Vs. Gawker: When Is Linking Illegal For Journalists?

nick_davison When You Sollicit It? (166 comments)

Tarantino's lawyers are arguing that it wasn't available online - until Gawker offered to pay anyone who leaked a copy.

It's not illegal to report a murder. It is illegal to say, "I'll pay $10,000 for the exclusive story for the person who kills my wife."

IANAL and I've no idea whether that analogy holds true for copyright but it's apparently the angle Tarantino's lawyers are pursuing - that it's not the linking so much as the linking to an act they solicited.

about 9 months ago
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WY Teen Cut From Science Fair For Entering Too Many

nick_davison Re:All the better.. (204 comments)

“The South Dakota fair is close and gives our kids another opportunity to present their work,” Scribner said. “I think that was some of our motivation, and it did give our kids another chance to qualify.

The school absolutely used multiple fairs to get extra chances to qualify - they outright say so. And that's exactly why the rule's in place.

They put the rule in place to stop people failing at one using other fairs as a chance to succeed at another. He failed at one then used another to succeed. The school uses the second fair for exactly that purpose. And then they're shocked when they discover there was a rule to prevent the loophole they thought they'd discovered. That's not an unintended consequence. That's the intended consequence.

about a year ago
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Xbox One: Cloud Will Quadruple the Power, Says Microsoft

nick_davison Re:World of Warcraft (400 comments)

Simcity was just a botched attempt to do what mmo do.

No. SimCity was a blatant attempt to impose DRM through the absolute lie that powerful calculations were carried out on the server.

Simple logic would tell you that it was a lie: To claim the servers offered more power than the desktop machines is to imply EA/Maxis stood up a server farm that was "more powerful" than gamers' home rigs. Even without the GPU, you've got to figure that'd be a couple of hundred dollars (let's say $200). Figure on gamers using the game at least 20% of the time during the launch month. That's $40 in server costs... For a $60 game. Yeah, sure they did that.

Same goes for Microsoft's current claim. The XboxOne comes with an 8 core processor and 500gb HDD. Three times the power of each, huh? Even cheap, non backed up storage alone, that's $60-80 in disk space. Which is illogical as 1.5TB would take forever at most people's net connection speeds. Add in another couple of hundred for the processors? For a console that'll launch at, what, $500? Consoles that are famous for running at a loss at launch and slim margins thereafter. And half the retail price goes to server AWESOMEZ?

In both cases, claims of amazing server power is an absolute lie to justify the real goal: Force users to connect to the server, attached to a single key you can track, piracy ceases to be such an issue.

And if there was any doubt about just how little processing power SimCity's servers provided, despite claims that hugely complex tasks could be offloaded, making a game like SC5 impossible without the cloud? The game keeps running, just fine, for a good twenty minutes after it loses its net connection. Cloud saves and a microscopic amount of processing to say, "this is the state of other cities in the region," is about it.

MMOs handle a huge amount of game state on the servers that has to be synchronized in real time. The difficulty of piracy is a nice side effect but a side effect nonetheless. SimCity 5 and the XBoxOne are both blatant attempts to make piracy as difficult as possible while waving the false flag of awesome server side processing.

about a year ago
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New Medal Designed To Honor Cyber Soldiers

nick_davison Purple Mouse (230 comments)

Isn't the whole point of medals to reward someone for putting their life on the line to protect their country?

That, sir, is un-American thinking. Those brave young men and women put their carpal tunnels on the line for you every day and they haven't even been granted a Purple Mouse in recognition.

about a year and a half ago
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Is the Era of Groundbreaking Science Over?

nick_davison I Don't Think It's A New Thing... (470 comments)

There's still plenty we don't know, but so much of it is highly specialized that many breakthroughs are understood by only a handful.

Spare a thought for poor Charles Darwin. He published Origin Of The Species in 1859 and, over a century and a half later, only 39% of Americans fully believe it.

At least Samuel Pierpoint Langley, Svante Arrhenius and Arvid Högbom have managed to convince 63% that global climate change is real and they've only been going since the 1890s.

Still, could be worse: Galileo was imprisoned for the remainder of his life and his writing banned in 1618. The establishment (Catholic Church) didn't lift that interdiction on heliocentrism until 1822. Darwin's got another half century before he reaches Galileo's 204 years.

about a year and a half ago
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How Do You Give a Ticket To a Driverless Car?

nick_davison DUI (337 comments)

If an autonomous car runs on ethanol, does it get a DUI?

about 2 years ago
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Has Lego Sold Out?

nick_davison Re:Buy plain bricks.... (425 comments)

Go online:

You can buy tubs and boxes of generic bricks, pick a brick or themed groups such as all windows and doors or all wheels.

The Creator range is where you find your classic feel sets. Generic buildings and cars with multiple ideas per set.

City is still there if you want the early 80s style minifigs and fire stations vibe.

And for those with a sense of the dramatic, they have their huge modular buildings line.

Stores don't sell them due to licensed sets selling faster. But Lego absolutely still makes "plain kits."

about 2 years ago
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Has Lego Sold Out?

nick_davison Lego or the retailers sold out? (425 comments)

You can absolutely buy raw bricks and simple generic sets still. You just need to go to Lego's website, Legoland or somewhere like Amazon. If you go to Target or Walmart, they'll sell you the odd tub but everything else is branded because that's what sells better. Where shelf space isn't a premium, you can find the whole range. So is it Lego selling out or the retailers?

You can buy tubs and boxes of generic bricks, pick a brick or themed groups such as all windows and doors or all wheels.

The Creator range is where you find your classic feel sets. Generic buildings and cars with multiple ideas per set.

City is still there if you want the early 80s style minifigs and fire stations vibe.

And for those with a sense of the dramatic, they have their huge modular buildings line.

If you want "traditional lego," it's very much still available. You just can't buy it in stores because the stores choose to stock the faster selling branded sets. I'd argue that's not Lego selling out - as they still make their product for anyone who wants it - but rather the retailers doing so.

about 2 years ago
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Director General of BBC Resigns Over "Poor Journalism"

nick_davison Resignation Genius (214 comments)

Resigning is the RightThingToDo(TM), it's the ultimate apology

His payoff is equal to one year's pay of £450,000 (approaching $700,000).

Which he gets to claim for 54 days of work that he's also already been paid for. By quitting now, he's made just a hair under £10,000/day ($16,000/day), including weekends.

If he'd stayed for five years plus a final year's payoff, he'd have been paid a fifth of that rate.

I wish I could fail that hard.

about 2 years ago
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Blizzard Sued Over Battle.net Authentication

nick_davison They May Be Evil... But No One's Car Lot Evil! (217 comments)

"When I buy a car the dealer doesn't tell me that I have to buy a car alarm with it at extra cost."

You've not bought a car from a dealer lot recently, have you?

Expect to find LoJack (even in markets where the local police have bought zero units), alarms, windshield VIN etching, clear paint protectors, sealants, rust proofing, teflon upholstery protection and a wide variety of exciting floor mats pre installed and added on to the price of every actually available car, taking them way above and beyond the "Starting From..." low, low advertized MSRP on the banners around the lot. Listen to the radio commercials where whichever "mile of cars" with "over X thousand vehicles to choose from!" has "three at this price."

The difference between Blizzard and a car lot is, if Blizzard were a car lot, they'd be telling you, "We're sorry, the only copies we've got on hand today already have their accounts hooked to a validator and we can't remove it. We could order you a copy without a validator in 8-12 weeks or you can pay the premium to take a copy home today."

about 2 years ago
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US Government: You Don't Own Your Cloud Data So We Can Access It At Any Time

nick_davison As Kim Dotcom Just Heard That (531 comments)

US Government: "You don't own anything stored in the cloud."

Kim Dotcom: "Sweet. The US government has declared cloud stored data is not 'owned.' If you don't own it, if it's not yours, how could you possibly be liable for it? Everyone please subscribe to my new service fuMPAAItsAllInTheCloud.com!"

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Hackable Portable Music Player For Helicopters?

nick_davison If the dock connector's the problem, don't use it. (158 comments)

"Our first choice would be to give each pilot an iPod, but Apple is notoriously anti-hacking and anti-open source, plus you have to pay them ridiculous licensing fees to get access to their USB interface."

If your first choice would otherwise be an iPod but you can't hack their USB... don't. You don't need to.

Every time I ride my motorcycle, I control my iPhone playlists just fine without anything USB driven. The bike headset uses bluetooth and gives me play, pause, skipping in both directions, volume, controls.

I'm guessing what's already on your flight controls is no more than that. So find someone else who's already done the work and piggyback off it. All you need to do is wire your controls to the controls on the pre-existing device and you're done.

The iPod/iPhone connects in via aux so it's not hard wired. The controls themselves, you were always going to have to reconnect and get FAA approval anyway. If you want to save even more money and go with a pre bluetooth spec iPod, bluetooth receivers that mount in to their dock connectors are $50. Should be solveable in an afternoon and you get your first choice of player.

Note: It's pretty much taken as a confirmed rumor that Apple's changing dock connectors with the new iPhone. That said, bluetooth means you're only replacing the charging cable anyway.

more than 2 years ago
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Who's Your Favorite Vampire Hunter?

nick_davison Re:JCVH? (336 comments)

3) He survived in a desert without any food or water for 40 days & nights

Rather a lot of sun in the desert. Few recorded reports of him sparkling.

Plus vampirism doesn't explain, "Whoa, like look at my fish. It's so awesome, it could, like, feed thousands of people. Hey, I bet I could walk on water. Dude, did you see that, he totally rode in to the sky on a cloud?!"

Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon's only slightly less well known Shaving Brush: Never attribute to vampirism that which is adequately explained by a big bag of weed and some shrooms.

more than 2 years ago
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Who's Pirating Game of Thrones, and Why?

nick_davison I'd pay for JUST an HBO subscription (1004 comments)

"The fact that the show is only available to those who pay for an HBO subscription doesn't help either."

It's worse than that. An HBO subscription is only available with a cable subscription. That generally comes with a cable box subscription. That generally comes with an upsell for the DVR version. That generally comes with another upsell for an HD compatible box and HD DVR. All conveniently priced such that, after the initial outlay for the basic service, you'd be stupid not to add these very small and reasonable charges on top.

I'll happily pay HBO or Showtime's monthly fees for access to their HBO Go and Showtime Anywhere services. But I can't without paying another ~$60/month for a cable service I don't want.

Game of Thrones, Californication, True Blood, Dexter, they're all great shows. But they're not worth an additional three quarters of a grand a year on top of HBO and Showtime's subscriptions just to be allowed access to pay for those subscriptions.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Holding ISPs Accountable For Contracted DSL Bandwidth

nick_davison First Ask, *Then* Get Angry (345 comments)

All of the comments I'm reading are making the assumption you've actually tried getting the ISP to send an engineer out first.

They're assuming the ISP is maliciously shorting you on service and talking about calling lawyers, BBB, FCC, cancelling service, etc. Yet it's worth making sure you actually have called the ISP and had them send an engineer out.

My cable internet from Cox was similarly terrible. I'd convinced myself they were spreading their connection too thin amongst too many houses, that they knew they were giving me a fraction of the bandwidth their ads promised "up to." I looked for FIOS but it hadn't rolled out to my area, I hated Uverse previously. Not being able to find a decent alternative, I decided to deal with the inevitable stupidity of the dreaded tech support call. I knew I was going to waste an hour being told to turn everything off and back on, that I would be talking to a guy in India... and that was after it took me half an hour to find an actual customer service as opposed to sales number.

The call was predictably painful but, after a few tests, they sent someone out... And the guy was utterly amazing.

He got to the appointment a little early, while I was still heading home. I found him at the top of the phone pole outside the house already re-running cable. He had checked it, it was noisy, so decided to re-run the line in to my house. The house had been used as a nursing home at some point so there were splitters to every room. He pulled all of those out with a clean run to where I actually wanted the line to come in. He tacked the cable up neatly, he disposed of the old garbage.

Inside, he rewired the plug where it came through the wall then showed me how to hit up my cable modem at http://192.168.100.1/. Recognizing I work with the net and was curious, he then explained the signal to noise ratios, the power levels, the frequency spread. He explained what the previous values were, what I should be looking for in general, in best cases and showed me how what I was getting now was within it. He then asked me to pull up the speed test of my choice and we confirmed I was getting everything I was promised, not just an "up to" fictional value.

I had lousy cabling left over from half a centurty of abuse to an older house. I wasn't being ripped off by the cable company, I just had such a stupid amount of noise very little signal made it through and even less when others jumped on in the evenings and added to the noise.

Yet I'm a coder. I know the web pretty well. I knew tech support would be a terrible waste of time so I didn't call them for months, getting angrier and angrier at the perceived terrible service.

The moral of all of this is: Before you assume malice, incompetence, cheapness, etc., give them a chance to send a tech. You may find the answer's much simpler and doesn't require going to war.

And, yes, I totally recognize I got a tech in a million. I made a point of calling Cox to make damn sure his bosses heard my praise. But the core's still there - it's not always as nefarious as we like to assume.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Making JavaScript Tolerable For a Dyed-in-the-Wool C/C++/Java Guy?

nick_davison Two Book Recommendations And A Philosophy (575 comments)

The key, as others have said already, is to stop fighting it.

JavaScript, as it was seen five years ago, was just an ugly language with horrible conventions. Then some very smart people looked at how to embrace those conventions and start doing utterly cool things that you can't do in other languages.

Learn from what they've done. Look at the cool tricks you can perform when everything is a hashmap, is an array, is an object. Look at how stupidly easy it becomes to do concepts that are endlessly painful in other languages. Have fun with it.

If you can see JavaScript for what it's become, you can have a huge amount of fun. The same part of your brain that has fun with optical illusions, M.C. Escher and even Jon Carmack's ability to break all the rules set before him to create amazing code that does amazing things, the nerd part that liked the idea of Neo bending reality? Don't fight it, revel in it. JavaScript, as it's become over the last few years, is an amazing playground.

So where do you learn to have fun poking all of those holes in reality? I learned a lot by looking at the uncompressed jQuery code and figuring out how they did things smarter than I knew how. I've also found two great O'Reilly books... Douglas Crockford's (learn that name) JavaScript, The Good Parts and Stoyan Stefanov's JavaScript Patterns.

JavaScript, The Good Parts will give you a really solid understanding of what JavaScript really is, how it can be used for evil (the old assumption) but also a lot about how it can be used for good (what we've all been discovering over the last few years).

JavaScript Patterns is fascinating because Stefanov certainly covers the standard patterns you should already be used to (Factories, Builders, etc.) but then, and this is key, recognizes that JavaScript functions in sufficiently unique ways it's worthy of having its own patterns considered.

Both of those books, plus the jQuery code, will give you a real sense of how it's possible to play in JavaScript's playground. When you're aching for structure again and miss having a compiler tell you you're an idiot and you've done everything wrong... Run it through jslint. JSLint is brutal. It's not there to be your friend. But use it constantly and it'll turn you in to a way better JavaScript coder. Now you get to code fantastic rule breaking whilst still keeping it clean and intelligently structured anyway.

It's not C/C++. But, let yourself think in the new ways JavaScript offers and it's incredibly refreshing.

more than 2 years ago
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iPhone 4S's Siri Is a Bandwidth Guzzler

nick_davison Correlation != Causation (290 comments)

People who most heavily use a phone are the most likely to upgrade.
People who less heavily use a phone care less and don't upgrade as much.

The iPhone 4s has the heavy users who've migrated.
Leaving the iPhone 4 with still fairly heavy users who're stuck in a contract and so it's not quite worth upgrading.
Leaving the iPhone 3Gs users who are the ones who could've upgraded if they cared but their phone works and they don't do much with it anyway so why bother.

So clearly it's the new feature, Siri, on the iPhone 4s and not that heavier users are simply the ones who upgrade.

In other news, the s on the logo uses 20% more bandwidth! Scientists investigating bandwidth savings if only Apple would consider other lower bandwidth letters!

Although, sadly, as most blogs have discovered: Sensational headlines, even if untrue, do get attention. And scientists, even more sadly, are learning that attention, even in place of good science or basic statistical understanding, gets research funding.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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Latitude Arrives On The iPhone With A Whimper

nick_davison nick_davison writes  |  more than 5 years ago

nick_davison (217681) writes "The long anticipated Google Latitude location service has finally arrived on the iPhone with something of a whimper. Their blog, whilst trying to remain tactful, says it best, "We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.""
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Jail as judge says emoticons are just punctuation.

nick_davison nick_davison writes  |  more than 5 years ago

nick_davison (217681) writes "The Journal Star reports: Government inducement — by case law — is opportunity plus "something else." A man who declined what he was led to believe was a 15 year old girl was then sent angry then flirtatious emoticons. By definition, the police officer involved continued to aggressively pursue after the man expressed disinterest because of her alleged age. The judge, however, refused to allow the jury to hear this argument because he conceives them as nothing more than punctuation: "'Cause that's what an emoticon is. It's a form of punctuation," Because of the judges ignorance of the meaning of emoticons, the man is now in jail."

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