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Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Get (or Share) News About Open Source Projects?

physicsphairy I need a replacement for a different reason (85 comments)

Perhaps it's now hidden somewhere, but I no longer see the search function, which I wouldn't mind having even for a static archive. My typical first operation in looking for a peace of software was to go to freshmeat, do a search, and sort by popularity/vitality.

Variety in open source is wonderful, but unless I have very specific requirements, I often just want to install one of the 'community approved best' options and not worry about deciphering reviews and forum posts to find out what is featured, active, and stable. In my experience, freshmeat was always the best place for that.

sf.net and the ubuntu software center do have some decent rankings. I recently used the later to preload Ubuntu for a friend with software I thought would showcase what opensource can do for him.

What would be awfully nice, however, would be some sort of cross-platform aggregation of statistics which includes downloads from package managers.

4 days ago
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States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

physicsphairy Re:Short-Lived? (778 comments)

One would kind of hope that the states are doing their own economic analyses. The ones that found a minimum wage hike would be most productive and sustainable for their economies did so; the ones that didn't, didn't. Given how much cost of living and average income vary across the nation, it's hardly surprising that some places would want a different minimum wage than others.

about two weeks ago
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Can the Multiverse Be Tested Scientifically?

physicsphairy Re:My favorite test (147 comments)

While the idea was developed with a mind toward the quantum multiverse, the result is effectively the same for any multiverse model which allows for infinite universes. It doesn't really matter whether they are the branching kind or the spatially separated kind.

about two weeks ago
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Can the Multiverse Be Tested Scientifically?

physicsphairy My favorite test (147 comments)

Yes, quantum suicide. The idea is if you attempt to kill yourself, your consciousness persists only in the subset of universes where the attempt fails, and can become justifiably suspicious that, in its own experience, every effort prove ineffective.

However, I think it is a bit small minded to use this only to test the muiltiverse hypothesis. Given that it's true, why not build a huge robust death chamber which you activate based on, e.g., whether or not you win the lottery, whether or not you quantum tunnel to an alien world, whether or a friend comes by with free pizza.

I admit that cruising the multiverse in a giant suicide chamber is not quite as romantic as other science fiction. . . .

about two weeks ago
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German NSA Committee May Turn To Typewriters To Stop Leaks

physicsphairy Re:So what? they can be tapped to. (244 comments)

Okay, but how are you going to conceal a microphone in a room that has gone purely mechanical? A computer gives off all sorts of RF, and is complex enough that there may be other tricky ways of getting information out. Not to mention that America may be the only source of processors and other components.

I'm sure the germans are capable of producing the typewriters completely in-house. Stick them in a well-shielded, soundproofed, unelectrified room, treat any signal as a bug, and it's much harder to get access to the information contined within, especially just by being clever with some transistors.

about two weeks ago
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Seat Detects When You're Drowsy, Can Control Your Car

physicsphairy Re:Creepy? (106 comments)

I feel this technology has the potential to make the problem worse. People will think it is a full solution to driving under imparied conditions and lose all inhibiiton to doing so. The system will doubtless rescue some of them but time will tell whether the mortality rate ultimately goes up or down.

about two weeks ago
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Obama Administration Says the World's Servers Are Ours

physicsphairy Re:Maybe, maybe not. (749 comments)

If the company has access to them and the ability to procure them, what does the physical location of the records or their headquarters matter?

Because they are storing someone else's data. That someone else (and their locally stored property) should receive the full protection of their local laws when dealing with a local subsidiary of an international company. This is not an embassy, it is not considered a territorial extension of the United States. The server is owned and taxed as Irish property. It should require an Irish court order to forcibly extract data off of it, same as it would taking letters out of an Irish safety deposit box (even if the bank had an American presence).

Would we be comfortable with courts in China being able to subpoena any US held data from companies with a Chinese presence? "Sorry Yahoo but as part of your incorporation in China we need you to produce any emails from the personal accounts of Boeing employees held on your US owned servers."

about two weeks ago
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Obama Administration Says the World's Servers Are Ours

physicsphairy Re:Maybe, maybe not. (749 comments)

if a country's legal system has a valid case for something, and issues a court order ordering you to turn something over, you can't just avoid a court order by saying "it's in my summer home in another country!"

That's fine. I'm perfectly okay with saying Microsoft has to produce all of their financial information, legal analysis, etc., when required, no matter where it is stored, as a provision of being legally incorporated in the United States.

Where this gets pernicious is that the data they are being required to present is *not* their data. They are a third party holding the data on someone else's behalf. Note the courts specifically say that this would not be okay if it was a physical document, their reasoning for being allowed to subpoena an electronic document is essentially that it's trivial for them to get away with it.

From the article:

The e-mail the US authorities are seeking from Microsoft concerns a drug-trafficking investigation. Microsoft often stores e-mail on servers closest to the account holder.

So presumably this data belongs to someone in Ireland. It's data which was created in Ireland. It may be data which has never left Ireland. But because they made the mistake of dealing with a US company, the data of an Irish citizen sitting in a room in Ireland where Irish law prevails is now being exported to America without Irish courts having any say in the matter.

about two weeks ago
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US Arrests Son of Russian MP In Maldives For Hacking

physicsphairy Re:Imperial Police (176 comments)

Respecting territorial sovereignty is for when other countries can do something about it. A small island nation of a few hundred thousand people need not apply.

Still, it seems a bit excessive to do an extradition raid for someone who is apparently accused of hacking into zoo and deli websites. His relation to the Russian MP is probably what has earned him the special attention, part of Obama's plan to punish Russia. The message is clear, "Invade its allies and America will spoil your vacation."

What do you suppose the probability is that after some further negotiations the MP's son and Snowden trade places?

about three weeks ago
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Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

physicsphairy Re:If everyone loses their jobs... (530 comments)

Let's say everybody does lose their jobs and is unable to buy goods or services. Is it more likely they will (a) resign to slowly starve or (b) start growing and trading for food amongst each other, providing each other the services they can't get from the robot elite, band together for social protection, etc.?

Shutting someone out from one economy just puts in them in another economy.

Ultimately, even if it costs the unsophisticated people more in time and investment to produce the same goods, the robot elitists don't care about *that* cost, they only care how many of the newly minted Robot Supreme Data Coins the poor humans want in exchange for the same service. That's an arbirtary quantity and the poor humans can always offer a lower bid than the robot automation centers.

But, remember, this whole problem came about because we found such an incredibly cheap and efficient way to produce all our resources. So, even though the humans are going to be forced to trade for what the robot elitists consider virtually nothing, for them it will have vast purchasing power since goods are now so cheap.

In general, I don't think keeping people employed is ever going to be a problem. What the onset of robot workers actually means is that relative income for human workers is increasing to where it is too costly for manufacturing companies to compete for their services compared to the other opportunities they have.

The real problem with super-efficient resource generation is its effect on political dynamics. One person controlling half the economy may be perfectly harmless up to the point where they realize they can use that vast wealth to dictate what laws will be passed. But, who knows, maybe at that point we'll all be so well off that it will actually be harder to buy votes and loyalty than it is today.

about three weeks ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

physicsphairy Re:Distinct DNA (1330 comments)

Personally, I have no interest in making humanity a race of immortal lineage. People get old and die, I am on terms with that. But I am definitely not on terms with taking a gun and shooting someone, even if they are getting on in years. I imagine a similar argument can be made with respect to abortion vs. "self-abortion."

That said, I'm not sure of their ideological affiliation, as it is also of interest for simply improving fertility, but you'd be wrong to think there's not a lot of research done into improving embryonic implantation.

about a month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

physicsphairy Re:a few hundred years earlier than that (1330 comments)

It takes a good deal of cynicism to speculate this is about profit, given that
(a) in all cases covering contraception is a whole lot cheaper than providing pre- and post-natal care
(b) Hobby Lobby continues to cover all forms of contraception which are not considered to possibly interfere with uteral implantation
(c) Hobby Lobby has provided health care and decent wages, including contraceptive coverage long before the mandate was passed
(d) They also keep closed on Sundays for religious reasons (Sunday being the most profitable day to be open)
(e) There's plenty of much more expensive things covered -- I'm not aware Hobby Lobby attempting to use legal means to wrangle out of any other form of coverage

Investing in funds which invest in companies which among their portfolios develop the contraceptives is not the same as investing in the contraceptives. But what is being said is that that was an accidental investment, which I don't see as unreasonable to believe.

about a month ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

physicsphairy Re:Myth: Corp shields you from company failure (1330 comments)

Absolutely true. But despite the common meme this is not about assigning a corporation personhood. A book is not a person either, but if Congress said "You can say what you want, but we're going to ban your book" you would rightfully be up in arms about it, because the book, while not itself a person imbued with constitutional rights, in some ways acts as an extension of such a person, and therefore receives some comparable protections (if you want to look at it that way).

This is the same issue. Mr. Green's religious beliefs are intricately tied into his position as CEO and his ownership of Hobby Lobby. Funnily enough, no one squawks about him giving Sundays off or paying double minimum wage and offering decent benefits, both of which are driven by his religious convictions. If this was not a closely held corporation I imagine he would have been sued by shareholders for such unprofitable decisions long before the ACA became a concern.

about a month ago
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Alleged 'Bigfoot' DNA Samples Sequenced, Turn Out To Be Horses, Dogs, and Bears

physicsphairy Re:Myths are socially hilarious (198 comments)

To be fair, in the domain of common experience a 7' tall ape man living in the pacific northwest *is* far less crazy than the idea of a subatomic particle being in two places at once.

Many scientists of yesteryear were hardly willing to accept such preposterousness, though I imagine they would not have batted an eye at an undiscovered hominid of unusual cleverness. (In fact, sometimes they seemed to be far too trusting when evidence of new hominids was presented to them.) People can go to the zoo and encounter all sorts of species they never anticipated. Where can they experience quantum mechanics?

It's only through substantial and careful methodological treatment of the evidence that we're able to develop the capacity to distinguish truth which contradicts intuition, accepting the fantastic but real and dismissing the common but false.

My wild and probably quite unpopular thinking on this is as such: the people you describe are perfectly reasonable people. They are drawing reasonable(ish) conclusions. They just lack access to the expanded toolset and and supply of evidence modern science has provided. What if instead of calling their theories a bunch of hocus pocus, we simply sent them on the right trail? Used the Socratic method, as it were. They are clearly already interested in the subject of undiscovered species, so "You think there is a wild ape man? Interesting. I wonder how we could prove its existence. What about DNA evidence? There's this great book called 'Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.' Maybe we could read it to learn a bit more about genetics and see if it helps us come up with any ideas."

about a month ago
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Mass. Supreme Court Says Defendant Can Be Compelled To Decrypt Data

physicsphairy Re:Ruling doesn't change much. (560 comments)

Because forensic analysts have determined the same gun used to kill the president may have been used to kill the Joint Chiefs. Because they think someone else may have used your gun. Because they believe the person who sold you your gun is an accomplice. Because you are contesting your confession.

It's a rather cynical view that the only point of trying someone for a crime is to send them to prison for that crime. The point is to find out the truth and mete out justice accordingly. That requires a full evaluation of all of the evidence. In this case, the lawyer has admitted the evidence exists and is located on the harddrive, but it's not clear how the details of that evidence will affect the case and subseqeunt sentencing.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch?

physicsphairy There are no such features (427 comments)

Frankly, I stopped wearing a digital watch because I noticed when I forgot it class passed by much more quickly and enjoyably than when I was counting away the minutes until it was over. Also, it lead to the rude habbit to be checking my watch when conversing or keeping company with someone, as if I was just waiting to get away.

Having technology always at the ready is at least mildly antisocial, especially when it's visible to others. If I'm sitting down to do work then I want my full laptop. I will carry a smartphone for alarms, texting, important email, GPS, etc., but that stays in my pocket until it's needed, I don't fiddle with it and distract myself while I have any kind of company or other work to do. If there were useful features that only a smartwatch could perform, then I would carry the smartwatch in my pocket. I absolutely don't want some gaudy box on my wrist which can distract me from whatever I am presently doing. For the most part, each feature you add to it is another reason I don't want it.

about a month ago
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

physicsphairy Professors are disposable (538 comments)

The fact of the matter is that there are far too many people who want faculty positions compared to the number of available positions. I quote directly from our university president, "I can get professors anywhere."

This is detrimental to learning as well. Some adjunct faculty, desperate to keep jobs, rely on easy courses and popularity with students to stay employed. Many others feel obligated to help students beyond the limited office hours they're paid for, essentially working for free in order to get the students the help they need. At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?

There is pressure from the administration to buffer grades, as that effects various important statistics for the school, and it's far easier for them to give out As rather than worry about complaints and legal action etc., but otherwise the administration couldn't give a rats arse about how popular the professors are with the students. They care most about how much research money the professor is bringing in. Maybe at some big private school where you have legacies and wealthy donnors to worry about the administration actually cares about the students' feelings.

No one goes into a professorship expecting a 9-5 job, but pointing out professors are spending extra time with their students isn't really making the case the situtation is detrimental for education, either. When you get your degree, you have a decision -- do I enjoy doing research/teaching so much that I go into academia, or do I want a profitable career and go into industry? Professors aren't in it for the money. They're the sort of people who just wouldn't fit anywhere else. You don't need to pay them well. The professors making $40k tend to work as hard and spend as much time in the lab as the professors making $80k. I'll bet many would work for room and board if you gave them a nice lab to go with it.

If you want to improve the situation, your options are either establish some legal minimums, or curb the excess of academics by providing either positions for them and/or doing a better job of training people for other positions. Unless you're an engineer, most bachelors degrees are more or less geared toward becoming an academic, even though relatively few people will wind up in academia, and it doesn't help this situation when you have a flood of graduates who aren't really sure what they can do with themselves besides stay in the university environment.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk: I'll Put a Human On Mars By 2026

physicsphairy Re:Bad idea (275 comments)

It's like saying, "I'll get around to it when pigs fly," except in this case the pigs are being strapped to very large rockets.

about a month and a half ago
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Washington Redskins Stripped of Trademarks

physicsphairy Re:My two cents (646 comments)

Unequal application of the law is always a challenge to our freedoms, including free speech. When two men are fighting, you are commiting far less of a crime by pinning both down than by pinning just one down while the other pommels him. If libel laws were "loosened" to apply only to liberals and not to conservatives, that would not be a gain in freedom as you propose: that would become far more of an affront to free spech than the fully implemented law ever was. Allowing trademarks to some and not others is the same sort of distortion.

Trademarks are a (very limited) restriction on free speech, but they also increase our freedom to express ourselves through the cultivation of a particular symbol. A government which decides it will make political assessments on whether to grant that freedom is not upholding the principles of free speech. Whether the term Redskins is actually offensive is a matter of ongoing social debate, and the government should not be deciding the answer.

about a month and a half ago
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Emotional Contagion Spread Through Facebook

physicsphairy Re:Turn off, tune out. (127 comments)

Or set the tone yourself by posting words of encouragement. As someone who has never quite mastered the hug or unsolicited complement or prying into what's bothering people, I find the broadcast medium of facebook a means of providing what I can. I mostly post humor (which has helped me through dark times), mix in occasional inspiration quotes from people like Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, some art I find beautiful, and try to be open about my struggles and the good places they have lead.

Over the years many have taken time to thank me for encouraging them (sometimes they are persons who have never interacted with me on facebook but eventually tell me in person), occasionally I receive a private message from someone who needs a friend, an ear, or advice, and other times they post something about their struggles and I am able to approach them about it. There is a lot to be said if you have the social skills to offer these things in person. But most of us are accustomed to the "Hi, how are you?" "Oh, I'm fine" routine where it is impolite to turn someone's general courtesy into a demand for their time and sympathy. The rules are different on social media, where all information is broadcast and can be ignored as easily as it is read. Why not let us introverts do something good with that?

I don't know if I can claim credit in anyway, but over the years the character of what is posted among my peers on facebook has definitely become more positive. Perhaps people have simply realized they don't enjoy the drama and the complaining. Or maybe a few of us have had an impact. But this study seems to show that having a positive impact is something you can set out to do. Pursuing that may be worth considering.

about a month and a half ago

Submissions

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Automatic Translation Without Dictionaries

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  about 10 months ago

physicsphairy (720718) writes "Tomas Mikolov and others at Google have developed a simple means of translating between languages using a large corpus of sample texts. Rather than being defined by humans, words are characterized based on their relation to other words, e.g., in any language, a word like 'cat' will have a particular relationship to words like 'small', 'furry,' 'pet', etc. The set of relationships of words in a language can be described as a vector space, and words from one language can be translated into words in another language by identifying the mapping between their two vector spaces. The technique works even for very dissimilar languages, and is presently being used to refine and identify mistakes in existing translation dictionaries."
Link to Original Source
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Tech School Implements Jedi Council

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  more than 6 years ago

physicsphairy (720718) writes "The Student Association of New Mexico Tech has formed a new government, host to a Jedi Council. The change remains controversial, with an attempted overruling by the organization president, but a 4-1 upholding by the Supreme Court. According to the new constitution, the Jedi will fulfill a largely diplomatic role, participating in such activities as peer mediation and student outreach, while also stepping in as an additional check on the other branches of government. Students have a month to mull over their next move as the Senate will not reconvene until January. The constitution, while effective immediately, will also be up for ratification or censure by the general student body in late April when the Spring Elections take place. The vote will determine whether the Jedi Council remains as a permanent branch of the student government."
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physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

physicsphairy writes "Perhaps in commemoration of earth day, students at New Mexico Tech placed a seventy pound toilet and pirate flag on top of a 150' clock tower. It was too high to be reached by either the school cherry pickers or the local fire department, and the school had to call a company from out of district to come remove it. No one is quite sure how they got it up there... a rumour on campus is that one of the rock climbers bear-climbed it. Yours truly has some pictures from it being taken down."

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