Beta

# Slashdot: News for Nerds

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### Speeding Ticket Robots — Laws As Algorithms

variable speed limit algorithms (400 comments)

The idea of using algorithms should be applied to the speed limit itself.

The concept of fixed limits is outdated given modern tech and borderline ludicrous on most roads.
An empty freeway that could safely permit speeds of 100 mph (in a modern vehicle,
with an experienced driver), whereas the exact same stretch of road might need a
limit of 25 mph on a snowy day or in a rainstorm (40), fog (20-50) etc.

Why not tie the "limit" to realistic parameters and then ding anyone breaking the variable speed ceiling displayed by the vehicle (or linked to the cruise control)?

I have often seen drivers on highways going at dangerous speeds in awful conditions,
but nonetheless technically "legal"; we need to drop this one speed fits all circumstances bs.

The other idiocy built into this study is blind and literal interpretation of law.
That may be convenient for the profit seeking highway robbers (you know what I mean),
but even in America that level of ass-hattery is fairly rare (but mindless legal stuff is happening much too often)

It's really disturbing to see the massive disconnect between this kind of academic study and any kind of reality.

Ok... academic faculty dweebs, here are some real world algorithms you should go figure out:

a. How to implement speed algorithms for safe but variable limits
b A study that shows the de-facto algorithm in use for cop pay and grade review cycles as related to ticketing stats (gotta be a function in there somewheres).
c. Develop for the FBI an algorithm that alerts the district attorney of "municipal highway robbery" scams, on the vast stretches of "permanent construction" zones, where no one ever really works but lots of tickets happen near monthly quota time...

1 year,11 days
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### Internet-Deprived Kids Turning To 'McLibraries'

Gotta change some laws (331 comments)

In many locations politicians of dubious ethics and room temperature intelligence, have passed laws
to make it illegal and/or impossible to build a community wifi.

I realize there are some technicalities and costs to amortize, but really! so what?
Compared to expecting kids to hang out in fast food joints so they can do homework, or look for a job online,
how can communities really believe that some shared wifi is a bad thing?

It's mostly the "asleep at the wheel" voters fault, that's us folks...

These messed up laws should be reversed at the Federal and/or State level immediately and
funding provided to make community wifi and broadband happen.
Plus some serious people tasked and responsible to make sure it actually does and report progress frequently, this is already way overdue.

We have to choose between allowing our leaders to force us into either:
a third world style information access (no access)
or having a well educated and employed society.

Patriotism, basic community spirit, ethics, makes this seem like a no brainer to me.

IMHO, there can be no excuses, no apologistas, no rationalizations that justify continuing a monopoly at the expense of the USA's future generations.

The way I see it, this is also part of the rich corporations strategy to dumb down America, and we need to make an effort to buy/bribe the politicians into changing their "screw the people, if it helps me get re-elected" laws.

The Europeans have it defined correctly, internet access is now a basic right, a need.

Suggested action: Let your political critters know that voting for this kind of dumb stuff, is not acceptable, if they ever want your vote.

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### Can the US Still Lead In Space Despite Shuttle's End?

NASA has done a great job, they got us all to this point.
Now, NASA's strategy and role needs to change, their funding must change, it's way overdue, they know it, we know it.

To their great credit, they are doing it, they are adapting and embracing the change; it's hard for them, an era is ending.

Space is big, the opportunities are literally infinite, but science budgets are always way too small, efficiency matters.

So we cut the well known tech and commercially viable elements loose from the taxpayers dollar.

Let whatever NASA morphs into, fund and guide the basic research and science, spend more on that, less on vehicles.
That's the stuff NASA does well, the right stuff, basic research, initial exploration, the stuff that shareholders and businessmen looking at next quarters results typically do poorly.

NASA exploration vehicles and science packages can buy rides on whatever commercial launchers they need, at the going rate.
We buy planes and ships, trains and trucks from commercial vendors, shipyards, and aviation companies, so whats different?

Clear out the cold war, legacy buck rogers, pointy spaceship with fins thinking, and move onto real space-drives, profitable commercialization and real sustainable colonization.

As for the shuttle.... well I am as jingoistic as the next fella, I admire their bravery just getting into the thing (i think i would be terrified, but i'd also go...)
However... continually launching the mass of 7 people crammed into a vehicle that has twice failed, killing the entire crew...

Empirically, it seems obvious that the efficient way to do successful science in space is, small fast vehicles, robotics and AI's; humans should only boldly go... when their is a proven and compelling reason to do so, and little expectation of them making it back alive if anything fails.
Spirit and Opportunity did more, for far less, for far longer... than any human crew could likely have done.

That's the kind of research I want my tax-money to fund. Efficient hard science.

So lets figure out how to mine and move asteroids, survive indefinitely in deep space, harvest the oort cloud, build CHON Food factories, go where the resources are available, easy pickings...

If we want to get off this unguided mud-ball, we must adapt to new strategies as necessary, however hard they may be.

http://youtu.be/zxsJeND_D-k

more than 2 years ago
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### Flight 447 'Black Box' Decoded

What has been changed to prevent re-occurrance ? (449 comments)

I am not a pilot. I am a regular commercial airline passenger, a so called "frequent flyer", sometimes internationally; all of which often involves taking long night flights over ocean and into undisclosed/random weather.

I like the flying itself, but for the last few years I have avoided casual air travel for two reasons :
1. the airlines for their miserable attitude to passenger comfort and schedules
2. airport/security for their poor facilities, ludicrous security theater, cumulative irradiation and civil rights violations.

Reading this discussion, and writing simply as a passenger, I conclude that the equipment on planes and the capabilities of a regular airline crew are inadequate to prevent a modern airliner from simply flying into the ocean, given what seems to be a very common set of conditions. I appreciate that this is an interim report, fair enough, but are we simply hoping it does not happen again?

I now have a new reason to avoid flying - a credible, common, and yet apparently unmitigated risk:
3. A generic airliner (it's just another passenger vehicle to me), experiencing common high altitude flight conditions, with a nominal/average crew, may kill everyone on board, because the flight control protocols cause the crew to fly it into the ocean.

Is there any clear and credible statement by the airline industry as to what they are doing to prevent this from simply happening again? What have they changed so that more people wont die, the next time this set of circumstances occur ?

I am guessing many people will want to tell me I am wrong to be concerned; if so, that's a good thing, but please explain why, in simple terms a frequent flyer can rationally believe. IMHO, "The next crew won't do the same things..." seems a bit too optimistic and basically unprovable to me...
What has been changed to prevent this tragedy from re-occurring ?

more than 2 years ago
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### What Can a Lawyer Do For Open Source?

I have a friend who was all set to become an IP lawyer, but then they found out her parents were married.
I was shopping in New York last week, it was so cold I saw a lawyer with her hands in her own pockets.

more than 3 years ago
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### Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (1328 comments)

I accept your point that for some, faith and religion is an irresistible temptation; like a drug, it partially suppresses natural fears and loneliness.

Those that take advantage of human weakness to sell faith, the pushers of religion, the clergy, are the real evildoers in most human cultures.

When history records the worst abuses of the 21'st century it will not be the predatory sexual acts of priests that are viewed as the most horrible of religions crimes against humanity (terrible though they are), but rather the ongoing mental abuses, indoctrination and outright deceptions forced onto defenseless young minds, by many religious organizations.
"suffer the little children to come unto me" is both a mandated and abusive practice, and a terribly irony.
Amazingly, and a real cause for hope, many children survive and recover from these wicked mental abuses, and become Atheists, like myself.

more than 3 years ago
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### Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (1328 comments)

IMHO, Pascal's wager proceeds from the, unstated and unproven premise, that a god will both judge, and require a person to have belief (in that specific deity presumably).

That the premise is unstated, shows either a lack of logical rigor, or an intent to deceive on behalf of Pascal, which detracts from his argument.

That all the arguments premises are also unproven and unprovable, (which Pascal himself acknowledges of his stated premises) makes the entire argument worthless, as the proposition is unfounded.

Extraordinary claims (such as the existence of a god) require extraordinary proof, which Pascal and all religious believers decline to provide.

Another version might claim that a malicious (and arguably insane) deity, may well choose to send all "true believers" the faithful, martyrs, straight to some Dantean hell
simply for having faith, for holding an unconditional belief, for not demanding better proof prior to committing to a "belief".

Dante's hell, is of course a fate no Human could ever possibly deserve, no matter how evil or misguided their lives.

more than 3 years ago
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### Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (1328 comments)

Mea Culpa, you got me, I used a red herring to make my point, as entertainingly and in as few words as possible.

Your logic is sound, there is no reason to subscribe to any specific rationale of judgment by a deity, because there is no deity.

I chose this particularly bloody herring, as a small homage to Socrates.

When he was sentenced to death, Socrates chose to die rather than give up Philosophy, because "The unexamined life is not worth living." I paraphrased (and partially disguised it) as 'choosing' or 'thinking for yourself'

Socrates considered philosophical self examination one of the "highest goods", and paid for that choice with his own blood.

more than 3 years ago
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### Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (1328 comments)

Is it an original? Yes. I try to do all my own joined up thinking.

Just to be clear, there is no sure bet, in my humble opinion, and to an extremely high probability, there is no god. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

more than 3 years ago
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### Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (1328 comments)

Being a moral atheist is a total win win, compared to being a mere Theist.

Version 1:

Dead Atheist: Oh!, um hi God..., didn't think you existed, oops!

Deity: No problem, it's not like I left any useful clues... Welcome to my heaven.

Dead Atheist: Nice... How come I qualify?

Deity: Because you were a moral and ethical being, because you lived by a code of ethics; you understood that love was the right thing to do even in a universe that you had good reason to believe was completely and utterly godless. You were moral because you chose to be, not because you "believed" in some silly magic book; or were too scared, or weak minded, to think for yourself.
You chose to do the right thing, even when you did not have to; you lived by a moral and honorable code, not by some mythical manifesto of terrorism and fear...

Dead Atheist: So what happens to all the myriad god followers, "believers", the Theists, martyrs, crusaders, suicide bombers, terrorists, etc?

Deity: Tricky one that! They are not really worth anything much, because they never thought for themselves ethically speaking... What do you suggest?
Anyway, no hurry, they can wait outside indefinitely while you decide what to do with them. Welcome to heaven!, go pick yourself out some virgins...
Etc...

Version 2:

Dead Atheist: Thought So! (vanishes in a sudden total existence failure)

So........

Looks like a Win Win to me!

more than 3 years ago
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### The Long Shadow of Y2K

There are none so blind as... (257 comments)

those that refuse to see...

Some software lasts decades and has big side effects. Techniology management is ephemeral, with life-spans measured in months, rarely years.

Managers knowingly mandate stupid decisions, because there is no personal downside and a short term budget upside.

Y2K was because large organizations (or the incumbent management) repeatedly ignored technical advice to allow for 4 digit years, because it saved a few bytes storage for each date (which was significant back then) and they could argue "that problems still 15 years away, we will replace it", "that's still 10 years away, we may replace it", "that's still 5 years away, maybe we can fix it later", "that's still 2 years away, we are asking for a Y2K budget"...

Y2K? Oh Sh*t Fix that now..., then blame the developers!

Technology "management" typically refuses to see or respond to anything with an effect longer than their own Mayfly existence. At the same time mangers (as a group) are hypocritical and unethical enough to blame others, when the fertilizer hits the windmill... Couple that asshattery with a wilfully ignorant and fear mongering media, and you have the recipe for shifting the blame from chronic management incompetence to "the techies did it..." which is completely bogus.

There are few, if any, real technical issues remaining unsolved for most business purposes, and none that go completely unpredicted by systems analysts.

There are an enormous number of fundamentally incompetent CIO's and (worse) "Project managers", who should not be permitted the long term indirect technical influence they possess.

Their myopic decisions can cause potentially dangerous and expensive impacts on society, such as Y2K.

The negative influence, spin, and misleading media, continues; for example, the poor design of security in most commercial applications is directly attributable to short term "not my problem" management thinking.
Fortunately, we have better controls on building bridges than we have software, but the impact of some types of software is now much more serious and far reaching than mere mechanical and civil engineering.

Technology management needs a better professional accreditation and system of ethics, see acm.org for in depth discussions.
In particular, the ludicrous notion that you can manage construction of something you don't understand, (and don't attempt to understand) )by setting arbitrary dates and budgets, is commonplace in IT.

When the time comes to fix the next disaster, our failure to fix chronic management incompetence, will be the root cause.

more than 4 years ago
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### The Key To Astronomy Has Often Been Serendipity

Re:In the fields of observation (51 comments)

I beg to differ.
How can chance, any truly random event, favor anyone ?
I have always wondered how odd little quote was ascribed to Loius Pasteur, I doubt that he meant it as it was translated.

Successful discovery, may indeed favor a knowledgeable and persistent observer.

Those ready, willing and able to say "That's Odd" because their preparedness allows them to know why some event seems anomalous...
Whereas other other, perhaps less knowledgable or persistent (or both), may fail to see an anomaly in the data and ignore the result.

It's human nature to ascribe the success of others to chance, especially when it reflects poorly on our own lack of knowledge and efforts.

more than 4 years ago
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### Where Should We Focus Our Space Efforts?

Re:To all that say space is waste of time (703 comments)

Your conclusion simply does not follow, atheists have extremely well formulated and reasoned ethics, morals and duties. It is ad hominem deist dogma and misinformation that suggests otherwise.

Ethics and morals need not, and should not flow from some superstitous belief.

Secular ethics has a far more respectable basis than a pathetic fear of punishment by an unproven and unprovable deity, for failing to follow some literal translation of ancient scrolls.

By the way, it's not 72 virgins.. it's 72 fresh olives... were you confused ?

more than 4 years ago
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### Legal Code In a Version Control System?

Buggy Whips and Legal Sausages (334 comments)

I work (for a few different gigs) on interpreting laws (policy) into rule based systems, the resulting logic gets used to provide advice on arcane topics. I am not a lawyer (just work with em, don't worry I wash my hands regularly). Just a working stiff, yer logic chopped and rules wrangled, for a fee.

Many folks ere' on slasherdot flog the analogy with procedural code, yuss that sort of exists, but clouds the issue a bit cos it needs flow of control logic, which is irrelevant see...; instead jest think declarative stuff, yer basic natural language rule based documents and application...

we could:
express the rules in the laws using natural language (some mildly constrained version of English)
include decent definitions, examples and structure
be intended for normal folks to read and use; "normal" is overrated, but you catch my drift, the audience shoudl be anyone with a reasonable level of common sense and basic: Readin, Ritin and Rithmetic
be published prior to becoming law (draft plain English form)
the language could and should express laws in ways that can be tested and verified by logic choppers
the documents should be placed into version control and organized for retrieval and use and research (candidate solution, Hire Google, et-al)

The internet (thanks Tim, et-al), shines a stark and ghastly light on the multiply regurgitated texts that come out of the legal sausage factories. Publication online will shock people when they realize what the politicos have been doing, so expect changes; also expect this process to be publicly supported and privately resisted by the politicians and legal jaberrwocky merchants.

Politicians are now unnecessary anyway, classic buggy whip makers, they need to morph into something useful.
Their current role was needed when we could not all assemble and vote together because of distance, hence the need for a "representative".

The corrupt and self serving crooks that huddle in remote "legislatures" are not respresenting we the people, they are representing the highest bidders for their votes. The few decent ones we send are (a) lost in the crowd and thus ineffective (b) ephemeral, as they are fiscally ill-equipped to survive.

Could be Sarcasm:

Currently law is clearly not written to be understood, by anyone. Obscurity, obfuscation, the sheer volume of the texts, lousy cross referencing schemes, absent citations, absent change logs, these and many other methods are used to render the law as a write only document, inaccessible to those who must remain ignorant of what it really says (any member of the public). No one in software engineering would stand for this bullshit for even ten seconds.

The resulting sausage quality is insanely poor: with innumerable glaring errors, obvious conflicts, silly omissions, absent or unusable definitions, lack of examples, poor organization and formatting, no version history or change logs, etc...

There is no quality control, because no one takes any responsibility for the legal text, no feedback loop, no one ever gets fired for errors no matter how massive: Even the politicians that vote on it don't read this muck, so no one does.

The "technology mindset" of the people involved in drafting laws is mid 17th century, think quill pens and green eye-shades, they are boldy striding into the century of the fruitbat.

At the same time... there are many wealthy and self satisfied industries of people who's only "value" is to interpret (for a fee) the resulting legal sausages. This is, of course, not a situation the will want to change.

Sam Sixpack (aka jane doa) has been "edumacated" to believe themselves incapable of understanding the law, despite the fact Sam and Jane are(a) contributing members of society and thus more valuable than the dickheads that wrote the legal drivel (b) expected to be intelligent enough to comply with the stuff.

A semi serious suggestion:
Let's require a capability test: Before any "representative/crook" can vote on a bill, they have to answer 20(n) plain English simple questions about the bill's content.
If the "representative" does not pass the test (75%?) their vote on the Bill does not get counted.
The results of the test are published online at the same time as the results of the vote...

We could also of course, just bypass the whole dumbass "representative" thing and just let people vote directly, online... if they pass the test...
That would be like living in, well..., a really informed democracy...

more than 4 years ago
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### Why Users Drop Open Source Apps For Proprietary Alternatives

Re:My experience with Ubuntu (891 comments)

I can confirm this experience with Ubuntu by schnikies79 (788746), a similar sequence of problems with Ubuntu updates breaking stable and working wireless connections on an HP laptop. I had to discover and make a similarly frustrating and time consuming sequence of fixes.

This problem was discussed extensively in the Sep 5th article on slashdot: http://linux.slashdot.org/story/09/09/05/195219/Microsoft-Attacks-Linux-With-Retail-Training-Talking-Points
To avoid repeating myself, I posted: http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1359331&cid=29327329

It seems we are running into some unintended consequences, side effects imposed by a combination of the FOSS philosophy and the limitations of UI development, where the first users are the developers themselves.

Linux, does not permit reliable installations of devices, because of a lack of a stable binary interface. We all want Jo Internet to walk into a store, look for a fat penguin (Tux) on the box and know the gadget will just work.
Similarly the packaging and update schemes' assume control and overwrite (break) locally updated configuration files by default (I have no idea why anyone would permit that in the packaging architecture but apparently it does).

FOSS user interfaces are naturally enough initiall designed by the developers, for the developers. Most FOSS is built by a small group for their own use, so that's perfectly natural and ok.
It's not ok, if we then assume it can be packaged up and dropped onto the public, sorry... but I think that's massively naive.
Jo Internet, the public end users, expect that UI's have been designed for them, by the developers. They also expect it to be tested. They expect it to be intuitive and to do the right thing. No one reads documentation, a small amount of context sensitive hints are borderline tolerable.
There are many shades of grey with Doc: some technical areas (graphics, audio, Video editing, etc) may tolerate some documentation just to connect common domain knowledge (Terms of Art) to sophisticated software features.

That's a big difference in expectations.

I have worked with software development folks for more than25 years, I still do. Developers may be brilliant, but creating usable UI's for end users is not generally one of their talents, neither is writing comprehensible documentation.
I have seen entire and valauble product lines killed because of this inherent inability. What makes it worse is that most developers think they are good at it UI's, ego's get in the way, a lot, I have no clear idea why.

These three challenges: fat penguin labelling for retail devices and machines, stable user system configurations, and usable end user oriented UI's are what is holding linux distributions and FOSS back from expanding it's market share.
Until the community can recognize the root causes of the problem, very little will change.

I am a supporter of FOSS and linux, philosophically, professionally, personally, but I am also a realist about building software for end users
I am sure the FOSS apologists will (once again) leap on my post to tell me why I am an idiot, so let me save you some time; I do know that I don't know how to tweak every obscure config option, no one does, that's really the major point.

With any software, either FOSS, or closed source, if you have to apologize for instability, inoperative devices, or explain how to use an App, the software is broken.
IMHO Linux/Gnu/FOSS will remain a niche OS for Geeks; sadly, Jo Internet loses out in the long run, because of these apparently immutable and inherent limitations of the FOSS culture.
I would be delighted to have this opinion proven wrong; constructive ideas welcome.

more than 4 years ago
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### Which Breakthrough Is Most Likely?

All items are certain, so are equally likely (903 comments)

Sharks With Frickin' Lasers, available now for a small fee, QED.
Human Immortality: Pre-Requisite, Transcription from Biological Human Minds onto a Non Biological, Intelligent Life, Substrate.
Post Human Level Immortal AI: Pre-Requisite, Human Immortality merged with Non Human AI.
Discovery Of Aliens: Pre-Requisite, Long Term Space Exploration.
World Peace: Pre-Requisite, Earth is abandoned by merged Post Human Level Immortal AI and Alien Cultures.
FTL == Time Travel: Pre-Requisite, Post Human Level Immortal AI's merged with Alien Cultures + the EPR (Einstein- Podolsky - Rosen) paradox, Many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (You can change history, but never in the universe you started from, which may not matter from your own perspective)

An infinite multiverse suggests that any event with non zero probability, has probably already happened, is happening somewhere else now, and will happen again, an indefinite number of times that itself asymptotically approaches infinity.

Your subjective experience of these events may vary; so be careful what you wish for.

more than 4 years ago
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### Microsoft Attacks Linux With Retail-Training Talking Points

I think the poster has a significant point.

I have been a linux user for many years, various distros; I recently decided to get myself an up to date Ubuntu capable laptop, that would run wifi, etc without 4 hours of installing ndiswrapper or other weird stuff from odd sites.

Clearly I can order a box from a specialized builder, but I was curious to see of that could be bypassed, apparently not.

So far I estimate I have spent at least 4 hours trying to identify a laptop I can simply walk in and buy from Sams Club, or any major store, and expect it to run Ubuntu and have the devices work.

This is not something Jo Internet should even attempt, or be expected to figure out.

Hardware compatibility lists are basically obscure and useless, and often outdated. The detail is way inadequate.

I like many HP laptop boxes (price quality choice mix is good), but there are so many variants and so little detail on the installed chipsets, no sane person should try to figure it out. Both dell and HP seem to have recently (quietly) walked away from providing ready to go linux on their sites.

So what does the linux community expect Jo Internet to do, randomly buy a laptop and hope it works, until an update breaks it silently?

My Girlfriend (yes, really) recently had a working laptop (HP Pavilion) with working wifi connection (probably the most critical item for most laptop users) which was silently broken by an Ubuntu upgrade. It took me several hours to find the necessary changes, download stuff and fix the driver, security is unavailable. Not acceptable and not someting Jo Internet will do.

I agree with the posters comment that the purist view of open source is impractical in the real business workld of patents and hostile trolls.

If there there was a usable and stable binary interface, and the distro's included the install of closed source drivers, then rational self interest will take over and the hardware manufacturers will release drivers, to enable increased sales of their gadgets.

Clearly there will be anticompetitive actions, which will probably be quietly ignored by our open source hostile and arguably incompetent/corrupt DOJ, (the ludicrous never ending failure of the war on drugs shows the DOJ has no idea what supply and demand even means). Supply and demand always wins in the end. Anticompetitive actions don't really matter in the long run, unless we choose to think they do.

The problem is not linux, or any distro, or the boot, or the desktop, or Gnome vs KD; The problem is that the wise and ancient Self Appointed Benevolent Dictators For Life have slowly become Self Appointed Barriers to Success.

This is a common problem in any form of endeavour, when successful it can grow far beyond the capabilites of the original inventors;

Dear SABDFL's, you have won, the future is going to be open, so take the bows, polish up your egos, do the lecture circuit, write books, FOSS is here to stay, many thanks; now, please let the rest of us do business in the real world.

Please don't misunderstand me, I am not saying we give up the ideals of open source software and the real freedoms and security it provides.

Is enabling closed (redistributable) device drivers a slippery slope?

Not really, it is a necessary evil, so lets not get paranoid, just allow it carefully in the legal licensing and Distros.

I agree with parent post that we need to provide a hybrid? closed source + open source license structure and a usable Binary Interface, so hardware manufactureres have the business incentives to provide working

We all want Jo Internet to walk into a store, look for the fat penguin on the box and know the gadget will just work.

Eventually, there will have been so many boxes sold because of the fat penguin, that business folks may be willing to open source drivers, if that really even matters, (it does not matter to Jo Internet); but until that bright shiny morning arrives, we should simply make it a no brainer for the device driver manufacturers to release working drivers, because it increases their profits.

more than 4 years ago
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### Sending Astronauts On a One-Way Trip To Mars

The bottom of a well is no place to start a farm (917 comments)

1. Professor Stephen Hawking is probably right, we do need to get off this rock, sooner rather than later. "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species"

2. We evolved to survive on an unguided mudball, third rock out from a slightly variable star; we haven't found the thermostat yet. Sooner or later, our luck will run out, one natural extinction level event and it's game over.

3. It's worth boldly going somewhere that will probably kill you, if and only if, there is a damn good reason to be bold.

4. Our current space drive technology consists of throwing stuff as hard as we can in one direction so we get a bit of usable thrust in another. It's a losing game, a pathetically inadequate method, compared to our needs and dreams.

5. Mars has a deep gravity well, with an unbreathable, and (worse) unflyable atmosphere. We have no known scientific or commercial reason to go there, or means of survival if we did.

6. Robots are expendable, cheap to make, specialized, and inexpensive to remotely control, even in space. Humans, are expendable, cheap to make, generally useful, but ridiculously expensive to operate, especially in space.

7. Robot probes in space, historically have produced vastly more science per dollar expended, than humans. We should boldly go somewhere when we intend to colonize, not to send back wish you were here postcards... 8. To colonize, there must exist usable resources, in vast and accessible quantities, easy pickings. At minimum we will need Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen (CHON), plus metals, trace elements and usable energy. There must be shielding from radiation and the other obvious space hazards. Such resources do in fact exist in limitless abundance, in open space, as the larger comets and asteroids. The orbital vectors and masses (that we know about) are currently a little inconvenient.

IMHO:

a. We (Humans) need to invest heavily in science and engineering that may lead to much better space propulsion, techniques for mining and commercial and civic use of such open space accessible resources.

b. We need to develop much better remote probe and manipulation technology, so the robots can investigate anywhere we want, and possibly alter the orbits of low mass, high value objects, as cheaply as possible.

c. We need to develop space habitats, on comets and asteroids, to exploit their resources as a long term (effectively infinite) space habitat.

d. Our most likely cause of extinction as a species is our non-existent space colonization strategy. We are led by a clueless collection of dumbass politicians who cannot see beyond Buck Rogers pointy spaceship sci-fi and (much more importantly) their own short term military and pork barrel political aims. There is no coherent, international, long term, human survival and colonization oriented strategy.

e. When some damn big rock arrives at 5 miles per second, we are all going to look equally stupid and just as extinct; fossilized human politicians will look almost identical, as the "intelligent" humans remains.

more than 4 years ago
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### Which Language Approach For a Computer Science Degree?

The answer is 54, you just have to know that reads as 42 in base 13.
The discussion in our small software ecosystem about skills and capabilities gets similarly confused. All the marketing, sales and head hunters have no deep understanding about the business of software. In their ignorance, they believe that they don't need to understand us; they are wrong. They are parasites, not symbionts.
To all of them, people like me are an inconvenient truth, an irritating oxymoron, because... I specialize in being a generalist. I dont fit into their curricula, or populations, or territories, or verticals, or skillsets, or . So screw them!, Their opinions, though much publicized, do not matter.
You will see irritating jobs and career adverts that list required skills in excruciating detail, often impossibly so. You may be interviewed by idiots who ask for 5 years expereince in a 3 year old Tech, just ignore all that crap.
I believe that building software should always be fun and practical Any software woth developing, has never been built before, it's complex and hard, but you must think it worthwhile, worth the effort; that's kinda the point.
I am just a happy SOB that got into this business to build real and useful systems for real and useful people. No BS, I figured I would usually get paid that way, for once I was mostly right.
Whatever your reasons may be, I suggest pursuing whatever is interesting and fun and practical. Learn the original meaning of "Hacker", before it was corrupted by the lazy media to be a synonym for "Cracker"
Find the edge, the too hard stuff, the useful stuff, the stuff people really need, the stuff that nobody has done, yet. Then build it, using whatever tools and languages you may need.
Learn how to learn whatever you need to know.
For me... Expertise in particular things... was, and is, a random side effect of the effort to create something useful.
Some people call it experience, mostly I call it irrelevant, or history.
You asked a great question, and surprisingly your school seems to doing the right thing.
Kudos.
Enjoy the ride, and welcome to the real world.

more than 4 years ago
top

### Evidence For Liquid Water On a Frozen Early Mars

"We found that the salts in water solutions can reduce the melting point of water, which may help explain how liquid water existed in a frozen Martian environment" -- Alberto Fairen, a space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. and the lead author of the study.

Scientists concluded that salty liquid water on Mars may explain the stability of fluids against freezing on the Martian surface at temperatures below 0C

No! Really? That's completely well... unsurprising...

I always wondered why we spread salt on the road in wintertime, turns out it helps melt ice. Thanks for spending valuable research money to clear that up NASA!
There are however, three real mysteries here:

• 1. How to get a job at Ames re-discovering totally obvious stuff.
• 2. Why such a lame waste of taxpayers money makes it as an Article in Nature.
• 3. Why lame articles in Nature make it into Slashdot as "news"

more than 4 years ago

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