Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!



As NASA Seeks Next Mission, Russia Holds the Trump Card

sweatyboatman What are they doing up there? (250 comments)

Maybe the reason more Russians are going up than Americans is because it costs $71Million to send an American.

NASA's 2014 budget is ~$17.5B, and they do a lot of really good stuff, the ISS is kinda low on that totem pole, if you ask me. There's a lot more to space exploration than sitting in the ISS, babysitting experiments, chatting with school kids and waiting for your ride

about 7 months ago

Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

sweatyboatman Re:The reason is private insurance (786 comments)

You're assuming the information was there to be read at that time. I don't know if that is the case. It might have been, but it might have also been that insurers were waiting to see how the Supreme Court case would work out and how the states would address their issues and any number of other things before settling on a price.

I think they should have rolled it out as an "invitation only" service like gmail. Do that for about a month to work out the more egregious problems and then open the floodgates. That is hard to do with a piece of legislation, especially in the current political environment.

After the fact it's always obvious what should have been done. Oddly enough, it's always a different thing with each failure or accident. Things never seem to go perfectly, with even the most carefully planned projects.

Not knowing much about it, this seems like a pretty run-of-the-mill project management failure. The same kind that afflicts nearly every private enterprise (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, IBM) you can name.

about a year ago

Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

sweatyboatman Re:The reason is private insurance (786 comments)

How many failed Supreme Court challenges did the Slashdot comment system face, Mr. Non-sequitor?

We can have a discussion about the merits of the law anytime you want. This is a discussion about the difficulties of designing and implementing a website. In particular, we are discussing whether "government" (however you want to define that) is inferior to private enterprise when designing and building things. In this discussion, I pointed out a way that private enterprise we're all familiar with struggled to do something kinda similar.

No one is facing the threat of fines for not using the healthcare.gov website. The exchanges are open. The website is working. If you have a state with a functional government, your state exchange is probably working quite well. If you don't want to use a website you can sign up by phone or with a printed application. You can also get free in-person assistance from organizations in your area. Of course, if you already have insurance from your job, you don't need to do anything.

about a year ago

Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

sweatyboatman A sense a proportion (786 comments)

No one is going to die because the website doesn't work. Comparing this to the moon landing is so sophomoric it could only come from USA Today. But it's nothing like landing on the moon in scale, expense, or national achievement. healthcare.gov is a website. It's important for the ACA and it's important for individuals looking to purchase health insurance, but there are alternative ways to shop for insurance on the exchanges.

Not everything need be bandied about for political gain.

about a year ago

Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

sweatyboatman Re:The reason is private insurance (786 comments)

there's nothing complicated about integrating the federal income and identity verification with state eligibility systems and dozens or hundreds of private insurers systems, ensuring that no information "leaks out" and that everything works in real time? There's nothing complicated about that?

It should have worked. It didn't. That's life. Remember when Slashdot rolled out its new commenting system? That sucked. We all complained. Now it works fine and nobody thinks about it. But I don't remember anyone arguing that it was a sign that private web companies were incapable of designing functional websites.

about a year ago

Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

sweatyboatman $136 Billion in Today's Dollars (786 comments)

NASA's budget peaked in the period 1964-1966, during the height of construction efforts leading up to the first moon landing under Project Apollo which involved more than 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industrial and university contractors. Roughly 4% of the total federal budget was being devoted to the space program.


My back of the envelope calculation puts 4% of the US's 2013 budget expenditures at $150 billion. So an equivalent enterprise by the United States government would be roughly half a trillion dollars.

The failure of healthcare.gov to work properly shows what everyone here on Slashdot already knows: project planning is difficult.

about a year ago

Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

sweatyboatman Apollo 1? Apollo 13? (786 comments)

Our efforts to land on the moon didn't go smoothly. Also we spent a lot more money to go to the moon.

Apollo 1 was scheduled to be the first manned mission of the U.S. Apollo manned lunar landing program, with a target launch date of February 21, 1967. A cabin fire during a launch pad test on January 27 at Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the Command Module (CM).


Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon... but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.


Complex problems are complex.

about a year ago

Apple Starts Blocking Unauthorized Lightning Cables With iOS 7

sweatyboatman Re:"Authorized cable" (663 comments)

When the street thugs mug you for your iPhone, they might be so disappointed to get a Galaxy S3 that they just kill you. You should thank Apple for being so thoughtful.

about a year ago

Apple Starts Blocking Unauthorized Lightning Cables With iOS 7

sweatyboatman Re:God f-ing DAMMIT Slashdot, really? (663 comments)

You're adding emphasis wrong. And you completely misquoted the article!

First of all, the first sentence of the article says unambiguously:

[Apple] is blocking the use of unauthorized third party Lightning cables with iOS 7

Your quote comes from a couple lines down:

There is word going around that some unauthorized cables with cracked chips have been working with iOS 7. Apple will probably shut the door on the usage of the latter in a future update.

OK, inappropriate use of the phrase "the latter" but in context it's pretty clear. TFA says that Apple is currently blocking "unauthorized" cables, but despite this some unauthorized cables with "cracked chips" may still be working. Of course, since iOS 7 is blocking unauthorized cables it stands to reason that Apply will try to disable unauthorized cables that use "cracked chips".

Whether they will be able to do so is kinda irrelevant to the main thrust here which is that Apple used an operating system upgrade to lock out third party cable makers. Wont someone think of the poor airline stewardesses!

IMHO, this news is just piling on considering the fact that your iPhone uses a custom adapter that is incompatible with all other phones, costs 5 times as much as it should, and will be forced into obsolescence after a few generations.

about a year ago

Training Materials for NSA Spying Tool "XKeyScore" Revealed

sweatyboatman Re:Security Engineered Out (347 comments)

Because Occam's Razor suggests that the simpler explanation is that these leaked documents far overstate the capabilities of the NSA's surveillance program.

about a year ago

Training Materials for NSA Spying Tool "XKeyScore" Revealed

sweatyboatman Re:How do they get the data? (347 comments)

the part of all this reporting that's weirdly missing is the implication (to my mind) of across the board compliance of every major telco, ISP, service providers, and software company around the globe. Not only is Google/Yahoo/Microsoft/Facebook mining your searches and scanning your emails to target advertising, but they are apparently actively assisting the NSA to do even more intensive sorting, storing, and mining of your activity.

about a year ago

Training Materials for NSA Spying Tool "XKeyScore" Revealed

sweatyboatman Slides read like advertising copy (347 comments)

"No other system does this!" is repeated on practically every slide. This smells a lot like a sales pitch. Kinda like a private contractor trying to upsell a government agency. I am not saying that this isn't legit, but if a salesman tells you that their system does "unbelievable and unparalleled thing X" (ahem, decoding, storing, and indexing all VPN traffic around the world) he better have more than just a slide to prove it.

about a year ago

"Slingatron" To Hurl Payloads Into Orbit

sweatyboatman Re:My oh my (438 comments)


about a year ago

Linus Torvalds Explodes at Red Hat Developer

sweatyboatman Re:Where should we start? (786 comments)

No one plays with MS and comes out ahead.

No one? Not one of the millions of software development houses, game studios, hardware manufacturers, etc. that have built successful businesses on and around the Windows platform have come out ahead?

about 2 years ago

Linus Torvalds Explodes at Red Hat Developer

sweatyboatman woooooosh (786 comments)

you wish you worked with people who suggested you like to suck dick when they disagreed with you?

about 2 years ago

Stanford Study Flawed: Organic Produce May Be More Nutritious After All

sweatyboatman ... Sigh... (305 comments)

Let me get this straight:

The fact that organic produce looks, smells, and tastes so much better than conventional is just BS marketing.
It's also just BS marketing that those foods that look, smell and taste better also have been found to contain more nutrients (despite the Stanford study's conclusions).

And therefore I'm a sucker for buying into that BS marketing hype and paying more for food that tastes better and is better for me. Gotcha.

more than 2 years ago

Stanford Study Flawed: Organic Produce May Be More Nutritious After All

sweatyboatman Re:This is how we do science? (305 comments)

no, a well publicized Stanford study by people working outside of their fields of expertise is found to have obvious mistakes and draws sweeping conclusions from a curiously limited examination. Those conclusions also contradict other published studies.

But you know, calling organic food "snake oil" is certainly a tip that your opinion has solidified regardless of any actual research.

more than 2 years ago

Stanford Study Flawed: Organic Produce May Be More Nutritious After All

sweatyboatman Re:A flawed rebuttal (305 comments)

what if the Standford researchers chose the nutrients they did because they were the ones least effected by organic. The Newcastle research suggests that their are nutritional benefits to organic produce. The Stanford research says there aren't, mainly by excluding or mis-spelling the nutrients from the Newcastle study.

more than 2 years ago

Stanford Study Flawed: Organic Produce May Be More Nutritious After All

sweatyboatman Re:Did anyone else notice (305 comments)

hmm, missing the link to the article from which I got the Brandt quote:

which links to the summary of Brandt's research, which says:

A meta-analysis of the published comparisons of the content of secondary metabolites and vitamins in organically and conventionally produced fruits and vegetables showed that in organic produce the content of secondary metabolites is 12% higher than in corresponding conventional samples (P

more than 2 years ago


sweatyboatman hasn't submitted any stories.



Vonage vs. Verizon = AARGH!

sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I really never thought Vonage would lose this Verizon case. I mean, I recognize that Verizon had patents and that maybe Vonage was violating them. But I just thought that Vonage's lawyers would be able to convince a jury that the patents were invalid. (This post describes the patents. I would add to that list is that once you have a VoIP network, connecting that up with regular telephone is both obvious and simple.)

It all just makes me want to spit. Slashdot has devoted a lot of coverage to this issue and from the number of posts on the last item, I think people are getting bored with it. I however, am just starting to get worked up about this.

This post pretty much sums up the state of the patent game these days.

But the real problem with this suit is that Verizon is basically suing over a process. Process patents (including software) are completely infuriating. Could a painter patent a type of brush-stroke or the use of a particular combination of colors? Apparently. Why wouldn't the process of applying paint to canvas in a particular way not be protected just like a business process? I am sure that if painting is ever industrialized, we will see such process patents.

The one saving grace of the whole debacle of the patent system was supposed to be that these companies would have to convince a jury that their ridiculous patents were enforceable. The problem is that the jurors are no more qualified to judge this case than the patent officers who granted the patents in the first place. We expect 12 random people (selected more for their malleability than their wisdom) to be able to make an informed decision over whether switching packets from one type of network to another should be patentable? Give me a break!

And, of course, that same lack of understanding means that this problem will never be resolved. The corporations are the only entities with sufficient power, knowledge and interest to change patent law. However, they're also the entities most heavily invested in the status quo. So, even though the patent system is broken and even though everyone (who would care) knows it's broken, no one will lift a finger to fix it.



The Utility of the new Slashdot Tagging System

sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  about 8 years ago

Recently, Slashdot started showing "Tags" for the articles on its front page(s). Consistently, these tags fill up with silly one-liners, inside-jokes, and the like. And consistently, posters complain that the tags are "broken", that no one is going to search for no or itsatrap to find something interesting.

These critics have a very literal understanding of the tagging feature. They need to recognize that while the tags are pretty much useless as a means of organizing information, they're actually quite excellent for displaying the immediate reaction of the unwashed masses (without scrolling through the posts at -1).

Slashdot already has a categorization system for each story. The editors choose the categories and stories can belong to more than one. And if you're looking for stories about Windows Vista, you'll notice the large search box in the upper right corner of the screen.

I think that the tagging beta has shown that while the rank and file cannot be trusted to rationally sort the news, they can be trusted to make the most of any new features slashdot offers. I hope the editors understand this and keep the feature active and usable.

Since no one reads this journal I'd probably be better off shouting this post at the top of my lungs. But this is the only place I can think of where writing about this makes sense and wont just be embarassing.


sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  more than 12 years ago

The debate over whether to allow PDAs or sophisticated calculators in the classroom is as confused as the goals of high school education.

Should the goal be to teach the kids:
A) to think by themselves
B) how to get the right answer
C) how to use advanced tools
D) the underlying concepts in many subjects
E) specific problem-solving devices
F) how to solve a multiple-choice problem ...

In the end, no matter what they set out to do, they end up just baby-sitting. Because one teacher can't teach 40 kids anything in an hour. But he/she might just be able to keep them from running around the halls.

My high school experience was essentially a waste of time academically. I got good grades and was an honor student, but I can count on one hand the classes that interested me (5 out of 64) -- not counting phys ed.

If a teacher considers that a child needs to focus to learn. She needs to be interested and needs to feel like she's accomplishing something, earning more than just a grade. Otherwise she will just do the least work neccesary.

But teaching kids 7 completely disparate subjects each day? Are you kidding? No child can focus like that.

They will flit from classroom to classroom, and their minds will approach each subject from the common denominator of rote memorization. The way one thinks about American History isn't the same as the way one thinks about Calculus or French or Chemistry. "Yes," someone might say, "It requires a context shift. But that's not unreasonable." Except the child isn't aware of that requirement. It all blends together into one long, confusing, jumble.

Using a PDA wont change the education experience at all. A PDA or a calculator is just a tool. The student might be able to get the right answer faster or easier or with less knowledge, but getting the answer isn't the point of the class. It's knowing how to do something, the process of learning, of using the tools available. That's the point of education.

If the only way you can figure out how to teach kids is by handicapping them back to the 17th century, then fine. But if the handicap is imposed because it makes it too easy to get the answer than you might as well not teach the subject. In their future lives, your students are going to need to know how to approach a problem, how to look for solutions, how to evaluate tools and apply them to new situations. That would be the most powerful knowledge you could impart.


sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Okay, today I created a message filter based on the word "Penis". If I get a message with the word Penis in the subject, it goes right in the trash. I would just delete it outright, but who knows, I might one day get an email from a girl who's truly interested in my penis. And that I would like to keep.



EULA's and Product Contracts

sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  more than 12 years ago EULAs and click-wrap agreements are completely bogus and probably wouldn't hold up in court. Yet, recently (as I was remaking an evaluation version of a product for the company I work for) I found myself putting in place a EULA. Even though I find them reprehensible. It's just a standard one (in fact I got most of it from this), but I initially tried to make some changes to it so that it was more in tune with "Fair Use". And I found out that I didn't really want to make changes. I wanted it to be as strict as possible.

Remember when your mother told you "your face will stick that way!" Well, your face didn't stick that way and there was no chance that it would. But it got you thinking (at least when you were younger) and sometimes, it made you hesitant to pull out all the face-making stops. That's what the EULA is for the software publisher. It's just a warning. Not a contract.

What software publishers want is the user happily installing the software and enjoying the product and recomending it to all their friends. They want them to think highly of the company that made the software, not to be scared or threatened.

But they have to balance what they want with what they don't want. What software publishers don't want are people hacking the software, reverse engineering, or reselling it as their own. And the EULA just says "Please don't do these things! PLEASE!" Beyond that, it's not really a contract, there's no signature, no record of agreement, no bargaining, etc. so it can't bind the user to anything.

Happily there are plenty of laws restricting the way a person can use a product they bought. They're all pretty much covered in a EULA and then some. It's the "and then some" that make people chomp at the bit. But for software publishers, it's just a little extra padding.

The EULA is not a contract

The EULA is not a contract. That's the irony. It shouldn't be presented as a contract and it's not enforceable as a contract. In reality it's a reminder to the user of what his/her rights under law are. And maybe it's a little wishful thinking on the part of the software publisher as well.

By presenting as a contract and filling it with CAPSLOCK and lawyer-sounding words like liability they make most users think that there's bite in the bark. But there aint. It'll kinda freak out some users, but fortunately, they see it only once. And then they get to use the product which is (hopefully) very nice and they forget all about that mean ol' EULA thing.

Where EULAs Get Into Trouble

EULAs that piss people off (and I can't really think of one that doesn't) generally contain a lot of stuff that isn't covered in current copyright law. This gives EULAs a bad name. Since they're dressed up like contracts, it appears like you're signing away rights. But you're not signing anything and a EULA isn't really a contract.

The big offender is: "We are not responsible for this software crapping out". Which really should read "We are not responsible for unintended results from misuse or misnhandling of the software". This means that if I am selling you a disk formatting program and you format your disk without backing up your pulitzer-prize worthy novel, well that's your damn fault. Same as if I sell you a bathtub and you slip and fall in it. As long as I took reasonable precautions and didn't design my product to hurt you, I am not liable.

A EULA that says the publisher is not responsible for any damage that comes from any use of the product is full of shit. But again, since the EULA isn't really a contract, just a notice, it's not really neccesary that it be factually accurate. Instead, they're just covering their bases and trying to discourage as many lawsuits as possible.

Then there's the part about making copies. There isn't much law to back up that you can't make copies for your own personal use. You can make as many copies as you want, according to law. The EULA is not a contract and should not be enforceable and thus cannot bind you not to make copies. However, copyright law prevents you from distributing those copies.

In fact, following up on this point, you should logically have the right to install the software anywhere you like as long as the only person using it is the purchaser. But this brings up a problem. What about a family with one computer, should they buy a copy for each of the family members? Etc... And here we get into some trouble.

Software and Copyright Law

When we start talking about software the way people actually use it, things start getting pretty messy.

When you go to the bookstore and buy a book, you're getting a device that presents a story to anyone capable of reading the language the book is printed in. Now, this means that you can share the book with friends, donate it to the library, etc. However, it's very difficult to create another copy of the book yourself, so there's never the case where more than one person's using the same book at two different locations.

With software, copying the disk is easy. A feature of computers. And there's nothing wrong with copying the disk. There's something very wrong with giving that disk to others for their use.

However, and here's the part where software publishers get into trouble. What they sell you, what's on the disk, is not the software you bought. It's a system for building the software on your computer. If publishers wanted to force the book model on software, they would come to your home and install the software there.

The installer, which is what you get physically, allows you to install on multiple systems. The purchased item is separate from the used item. And this means that you can use the same installer to create different software on different machines for multiple users. And the EULA can't prevent this. It's just reminding the users that they're not supposed to do that.

What Software Publishers Do

So, say you click past the EULA without reading it (have you ever read a full EULA?). How are you supposed to know what you're supposed to be able to do and what you're not supposed to be able to do? Well there's the obvious rule. If you can do it, you're probably allowed to do it.

Software developers have an enormous amount of flexibility in how they build their software. If they didn't want you to do something, they would just make it hard/impossible for you to do it. Some things they can't prevent: physically copying the media is the big one. And that bugs them, which is why they try to prevent such copying.

But then they pay because the user, who's supposed to be enjoying the software, instead is frustrated because he/she can't do what they want with it. This is tricky. If you're distributing a demo, it may be good that they're frustrated. If they purchased it from you or if your prices are too high then they'll resent you. So we try to disuade the user from doing it by saying "Shame on you for wanting to do that" in the EULA. And we try to pass laws.

Breaking Fair Use

As I said ealier, everyone has the right to copy as part of fair use. But the publishers try to prevent this. Which is a violation of our fair use rights. To the publisher however, it's the same as writing restrictions into the code. It's just a way of making sure the software is used as it should be

Fair Use cannot handle the way software is distributed. It's designed around millenia of trade with physical objects, where part of the value of the thing was in its physical presence and copying was expensive as well.

The DMCA and other such legislation are attempts to restrict fair use in digital media. They hope to use new legislation to change the way people think about it. But this is bass-akwards.

Fair Use arose out of common law understandings of what a sale and purchase is. So any new laws addressing what one can and cannot do with purchased software should reflect the current common law model. Which is the following:

Extensions to Fair Use

The sale of software represents a license as follows.
Holders of the license:

  1. Can use the software on as many systems as they use
  2. Can share use of the software on their computers with others
  3. Can be copy the software for the purposes of back-up or use on personal systems
  4. Can resell the license to another person

The following exceptions apply

  • The license holder may not sell "the software", only the license
  • 1-4 are transferred whole upon sale of the license
  • The license holder does not have explicit rights to hack, reverse-engineer, or otherwise fiddle with the software
  • The license holder may not in any way portray the software as his/her own work

Obviously, I am not a lawyer, but I think that these extensions to the law would accurately reflect the current common-sense understanding of what is meant by a purchase of software. /blockquote.


sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  more than 12 years ago An interesting thought.

I was thinking about my comment here and wondering about punishing the people you're selling to, your audience, in the context of T(H)GSB.

About comments. The first thing I read, usually before I read the article, are the comments. They ground the article, point out flaws or highlights of the story. And generally, the community here is wide enough that there are plenty of opinions.

I have access to MSNBC, NYTimes, CNN, Space.Com, etc. I get the Times delivered in the morning and read through it. On most subjects (excluding, for example, Case Mods or Anime) I am already covered. I come to Slashdot not for the links to sites I've already perused, but for the thoughtful and thought provoking comments of the users.

So, the Comment system is not just vital to my Slashdot experience. It is my Slashdot experience.

Now, about Subscription services. It appears that the Subscription service is already in place at Slashdot. I have a little link on my personal page that says "Subscribe" and when I click on it there's a PayPal button. And then there's the ads (which are probably the least intrusive -- and yet still visible -- ads I have ever seen). Still, the level of posting is unaffected and Slashdot still offers the same level of service and the same excellent community. Just with ads now.

The hubub appears to be over nothing. And even now it hasn't settled down. Why? Probably because Slashdot made its users, mostly the die-hards who love Slashdot like a brother, feel like criminals. They feel betrayed, even though nothing seems to have changed. Betrayed how? By suggesting they should pay for Slashdot.

And this is my thesis. On the net there's a collusion between the concepts of punishment and payment. Mainly because of the "service that was once free is now no longer free" effect.

The second factor I think is the DMCA and the bill formerly known as the SSSCA. The term piracy has spilt out over everything free on the internet. Getting things free, reading things for free, saying things for free has been stained; it's pirate. Even if the author's intent is to have them be free.

Telling someone that they should pay for something, telling them that it's valuable, worth money echoes in our minds. It makes the thing seem dirty and that makes us feel used. We feel like we were trapped, lulled, or bamboozled into this newfound "criminality". When we did nothing wrong, in fact, we did what's natural, what the web seems designed to do, shared information.

Slashdot is stained with that same thing. The fear that Slash will become Napster, will convert from something that was open to something that suddenly is closed... That's what's driving the frenzy. It may be irrational, it may be startlingly close to the truth, it doesn't matter.

What is the solution? What should Slashdot do? Slashdot is already doing the right thing, has struck a fine balance between making money and being open. Hopefully that will continue. But the internet community, the world community needs to reject the label of pirate/theft. We need to promote the concept that information wants to be free. That the sharing of ideas, even copyrighted or company-core ideas, enriches everyone.


Read the post I linked to above. The point I was trying to make is that no matter how many laws are passed, data will be shared, media will be copied and distributed through this seive that is the internet. But rather than lock down the internet and turn it into a prison, IP holders need to embrace information flow, accept it, not as a loss, but as a natural occurence. Not just thinking of it as free advertising or mind-share, but actually accepting it as we do friction or rainfall or any other thing that affect business.

Blah blah blah.



sweatyboatman sweatyboatman writes  |  more than 12 years ago

When the people that love and nurture slashdot are chased away by the intrusive ads and the subscription-only services, the good posts and interesting news items will dry up.

Where will I go? How will I wile away the hours of my workday?

I can only make The Onion stretch so far.

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?