the unofficial Slashdot digest for 2020-Nov-22 today archive

Alterslash picks up to the best 5 comments from each of the day’s Slashdot stories, and presents them on a single page for easy reading.

Mass-Produced, Librem 5 Linux Smartphone Begins Shipping to Customers

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
This week Purism began shipping its mass-produced Librem 5 phone to customers, according to announcement from the company: The Librem 5 is a one-of-a-kind general-purpose computer in a phone form-factor that Purism has designed and built from scratch following a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $2.2 million. Both the hardware and software design is focused on respecting the end user's freedom and giving them control over their privacy and security.

The Librem 5 doesn't run Android nor iOS but instead runs the same PureOS operating system as Purism's laptops and mini PC.

The Librem 5 has unique hardware features including a user-removable cellular modem, WiFi card, and battery. Like with Librem laptops, the Librem 5 also features external hardware kill switches that cut power to the cellular modem, WiFi/Bluetooth, and front and back cameras and microphone so that the user can control when these devices are in use. All hardware switches can also be triggered together to enable "lockdown mode" which also disables the GPS, accelerometer and all other sensors...

Another unique feature of the Librem 5 is convergence: the ability to connect the Librem 5 to a monitor or laptop dock and use it as a desktop computer running the same full-sized desktop applications as on Librem laptops. When in a phone form-factor, applications behave much like "responsive websites" and change their appearance for the smaller screen. This allows you to use the Librem 5 as a phone, a desktop, or a laptop with the same applications and same files.

Their announcement notes their work on software making desktop applications "adaptive" to phone form factors, adding "This suite of software has now become the most popular software stack to use on other handheld Linux hardware." And they close with an appreciative comment from Purism's founder and CEO Todd Weaver:

"Shipping the Librem 5 has been an immense multi-year developmental effort. It is the culmination of people's desire to see an alternative to Android and iOS and fund it, coupled with dedication from a team of experts addressing hardware, kernel, operating system, and applications that has turned a lofty near-impossible goal into reality. We have built a strong foundation and with the continued support of customers, the community, and developers, we will continue to deliver revolutionary products like the Librem 5 running PureOS."

Re:For who?

By Presence Eternal • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

Their emphasis is not strictly on the OS, but also the hardware. Their goal was to get hardware that isn't locked down wherever they could find it. That is why they also offer a USA supply chain version of the phone.

Re:For who?

By Compuser • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

There is a need for a phone which
1. Has kill switches for any data it is equipped to collect
2. Has auditable code base. Ideally all code would be auditable in code, realistically some binary blobs may exist for some time but they could still be reverse engineered and audited for back doors so long as the blobs are small. Not free software, not OSS, the minimum need is for just auditable software layer.
3. Has the ability to autodetect when an external monitor and power are connected and to run desktop applications in that context while running phone apps in the phone screen context at the same time.

1. Ability to carry your computing device on you at all times. Helps any time you need physical security and do not trust access controls at home. Most common example - you are cheating on your spouse and do not want your computer accessible when you are not home.

2. Eavesdrop security via kill switches. The benefit is obvious

3. Confidence that you will not be served ads via your OS and will be able to install ad blockers and filters at will. This includes easy access to etc/hosts or equivalent

4. An upgrade and maintenance plan for older hardware if you can get a community around it.

This is just the obvious stuff that comes to mind. Right now you can get most benefits of Librem 5 and PinePhone from almost any LineageOS phone by compiling MaruOS on top of it. That gets you Debian running in a container on an external monitor. However the MaruOS community is small, phones already supported are few, and the polish is lacking severely. The big deal with PinePhone and Librem 5 is that they have some hope of sustainable development. And kill switches dont hurt either.

not for me

By renegade600 • Score: 3, Informative • Thread

interesting concept but according to the specs, it left off several that would be a deal breaker for me. only 3 megs of ram, only 32 gigs of internal storage, no wireless charging, not water or dust resistant and no nfc. I don't think the 800 buck price tag is worth it.

Re:Android apps

By ISayWeOnlyToBePolite • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

I read that there are plans to support Android apps through but not sure if it already does.

Does anyone have experience with Anbox? Does it support Google Play or does one need to side-load all apps?

From the FAQ at the bottom of your linked page:

Is it possible to install the Google Play Store?
Yes, this is generally possible. However Google doesn't allow anyone to ship its applications as long as the device is not certified and the vendor didn't sign an agreement with Google.

The Anbox project does not have any interest in shipping the Google Play store and we're not allowed to do so. We may add an easy way for our users at a later point which allows easy distribution of Android applications suited for the Anbox runtime environment.

Re:For who?

By Anonymous Coward • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

It's not that simple. Librem 5 is first of all about open hardware: the idea is that every component of the phone can operate without closed-source proprietary binary blobs. It's more about trust than security. Achieving this is becoming increasingly difficult: for example, the most recent laptop that fully supports open firmwares is a Thinkpad from 2009. For phones it's even worse (basically impossible)

Librem admittedly succeeded only partially in this feat: the GSM module for example is still closed. But they engineered the phone so that the main CPU is isolated from the GSM CPU (usually it's shared). So you're only running a black-box for the GSM stack, which is at least a good start.

Purism's marketing campaign was aggressive and, according to many observers, dishonest. They advertised a phone 100% free as in freedom, but they knew this could not be accomplished completely because it's still impossible nowadays to fully liberate modern hardware components. Companies like Pinephone or Fairphone adopted a more nuanced stance and focused on other things such as sustainability of raw material or hardware modularity (which I think should just be MANDATORY in consumer electronics even if it requires compromises in design, sorry for your feelings dear hipster)

Another product that is a bit more under the radar right now but I think it's cool is Shiftphone. Don't hear many talking about this, unsure why.

My main concern with all these phones is that they are freaking BIG. Especially the Librem 5, it's like a brick. I am one of those increasingly rare people who prefer a small phone. My current one is a Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. I would sell my soul to have a small and "modern" smartphone with fully open hardware able to run LineageOS. With replaceable battery and SD card slot. Sigh.

(Daily reminder that Android OS is *not* free. A good compromise is Lineage OS without Gapps)

How Powerful Forces Collaborated to Peddle Misinformation about the Origins of the Coronavirus

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
There's "an overwhelming body of evidence" for scientists' belief that the coronavirus originated in an animal before making the leap to humans, reports the New York Times. ( Alternate URL here.) They add that U.S. intelligence agencies also "have not found any proof" for a fringe theory it somehow leaked from a lab.

Yet as recently as September, a Hong Kong researcher was appearing on Fox News "making the unsubstantiated claim to millions that the coronavirus was a bio-weapon manufactured by China." The Times traces it to "a collaboration between two separate but increasingly allied groups that peddle misinformation: a small but active corner of the Chinese diaspora and the highly influential far right in the United States." Each saw an opportunity in the pandemic to push its agenda. For the diaspora, Dr. Yan and her unfounded claims provided a cudgel for those intent on bringing down China's government. For American conservatives, they played to rising anti-Chinese sentiment and distracted from the Trump administration's bungled handling of the outbreak.

Both sides took advantage of the dearth of information coming out of China, where the government has refused to share samples of the virus and has resisted a transparent, independent investigation. Its initial cover-up of the outbreak has further fueled suspicion about the origins of the virus... Dr. Yan's trajectory was carefully crafted by Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire, and Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to Mr. Trump. They put Dr. Yan on a plane to the United States, gave her a place to stay, coached her on media appearances and helped her secure interviews with popular conservative television hosts like Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs, who have shows on Fox. They nurtured her seemingly deep belief that the virus was genetically engineered, uncritically embracing what she provided as proof...

The media outlets that cater to the Chinese diaspora — a jumble of independent websites, YouTube channels and Twitter accounts with anti-Beijing leanings — have formed a fast-growing echo chamber for misinformation. With few reliable Chinese-language news sources to fact-check them, rumors can quickly harden into a distorted reality. Increasingly, they are feeding and being fed by far-right American media...

The Chinese government often punishes critics by harassing their families. But when The Times reached Dr. Yan's mother on her cellphone in October, she said that she had never been arrested and was desperate to connect with her daughter, whom she had not spoken to in months. She declined to say more and asked not to be named, citing fears that Dr. Yan was being manipulated by her new allies. "They are blocking our daughter from talking to us," her mother said, referring to Mr. Guo and Mr. Wang.

Re:Misinofrmation doesn't matter

By drinkypoo • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Truly racist candidates generally get zero votes from minorities. To claim that minorities would be stupid enough to vote for a candidate who directly stands against their own interests is quite insulting.

Then let them be insulted, because the only people who share interests with Trump are the ultra-wealthy, and everyone else who voted for him is stupid enough to vote for a candidate who directly stands against their own interests. He is not restoring jobs, he is not doing anything meaningful to stem immigration, he is pissing away money needed for important projects on his worthless wall which can be cut through with cheap tools or climbed over by all the most fit people in Mexico but none of the people who need our help the most due to our foreign policies in central and South America or our domestic policies on drugs which have international repercussions, and he has demonstrated his racist nature time and again both before and during his presidency.

People can be resourceful and resilient and still dumb enough to fool, mostly through willful ignorance.

Re:Misinofrmation doesn't matter

By drinkypoo • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

91% of Republicans think he isn't racist.

So what? They probably think they aren't racist either, although they consistently vote for representatives who back racist policies. By their actions shall you know them. Jesus Christ would never vote Republican, but you can trick Jesus Moreno into doing it.

who do you trust...

By fish_in_the_c • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

The problem is most people don't know enough about viruses to actually make sense of what the scientist are saying. The general trust of the new media is so low that no body even expects them to get it right any more , so people choose whatever makes them feel the most comfortable.

A good question to consider is: Why shouldn't they? Truth is only important if there is such a thing as free will, which cannot exist if there is No god. If human beings are nothing more then accidental combinations of random elements that exist for no purpose, die for no reason and flame out like a flickering light in under 100 years. Why bother with 'truth' unless it serves your personal happiness. That is what the schools teach and that is what the people both subconsciously and sometime consciously have embraced.

That is what our news media suffers from, and why no one trust them. They have little interest in objective truth and it shows in almost every article they write, composed to sell with with emotion by telling a story rather then reporting the facts in a neutral fashion ( not as much money in that).

Re:Unknown origin

By dryeo • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

For the Spanish flu, it was due to Spain being neutral and not censoring the news. The Spanish press were the only ones talking about it.

Re:Missing the Bigger Picture

By Gilgaron • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
I have noticed that when reading the news or reading direct transcripts (rather than summaries by journalists) it is interesting how many words he can use to say almost nothing. In text form it is gibberish. In audio it is confusing. In video (and thusly also the rallies he likes so well), it actually seems more coherent with his presentation. Rather than telling them what they want to hear, he lets them think he told them what they wanted. He clearly has a talent for letting the audience project into the vacuity of his statements.

Twitter's Launch of Fleets: Lag, Some Crashes, Bugs, Skepticism and Cat Pics

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
CNET reports on Twitter's rocky rollout of "fleets" which disappear after 24 hours: In a blog post, Twitter said global tests of the feature indicated the tool helped people feel more comfortable joining public conversations on the service. "Those new to Twitter found Fleets to be an easier way to share what's on their mind," the company said. "Because they disappear from view after a day, Fleets helped people feel more comfortable sharing personal and casual thoughts, opinions and feelings."

And, apparently, sharing cat content. "Don't really care for fleets," one wrote, "but the fact that 90% of the ones I've seen so far have cats in them brings me joy...."

The feature's debut Tuesday brought its share of complaints about the product, with some people saying the Fleets froze, lagged or made their Twitter crash. "We're aware of some issues people may be having and are working to fix them," a Twitter spokesperson said.

"Earlier this week, Twitter officially rolled out Fleets, a new feature that — ahem — takes inspiration from Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories," writes Android Central, "and boy do people have opinions on it."

But users should warm up to the feature eventually, experts tell NBC News: [A]lthough users lambasted Fleets...those same users began to use the function almost immediately.

While there are valid critiques of Fleets and how they could be used in regard to misinformation and harassment, experts say the users' first reaction will typically be to resist changes to a site or app that they've grown accustomed to, even though they typically adopt the change as the preferred version of the platform later on.

Yet by the weekend Twitter was already acknowledging its first major bug with fleets, exploitable "through a technical workaround where some Fleets media URLs may be accessible after 24 hours," according to The Verge: The "workaround" referenced appears to be a developer app that could scrape fleets from public accounts via Twitter's API. The Twitter API doesn't return URLs for fleets that are older than 24 hours, according to the company, and once the fix is rolled out, even if someone has a URL for active fleet, it won't work after the expiration point.
The Verge also points out that "while fleets are only visible on users' timelines for 24 hours, Twitter stores fleets on its back end for up to 30 days, longer for fleets that violate its rules and may require enforcement action, the company says."

It won't be as advertised

By Chris Mattern • Score: 3 • Thread

It can't be. I guarantee there will be several people archiving every post. Just because it might be useful at some point.

Taking bets on how long til there's an archive?

By ThomasBHardy • Score: 3 • Thread

Someone's going to Internet Archive/Wayback machine this thing and start keeping it all.
They'll start working on it as soon as someone posts something inflammatory and then it vanishes and says it never happened.

The Audacious Plan to Launch a Solar-Powered Rocket Into Interstellar Space

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Ars Technica glimpsed a possible future at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory: a solar simulator "that can shine with the intensity of 20 Suns..."

" They think it could be the key to interstellar exploration." "It's really easy for someone to dismiss the idea and say, 'On the back of an envelope, it looks great, but if you actually build it, you're never going to get those theoretical numbers,'" says Benkoski, a materials scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory and the leader of the team working on a solar thermal propulsion system. "What this is showing is that solar thermal propulsion is not just a fantasy. It could actually work."

In 2019, NASA tapped the Applied Physics Laboratory to study concepts for a dedicated interstellar mission. At the end of next year, the team will submit its research to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Heliophysics decadal survey, which determines Sun-related science priorities for the next 10 years... In mid-November, [APL's] Interstellar Probe researchers met online for a weeklong conference to share updates as the study enters its final year. At the conference, teams from APL and NASA shared the results of their work on solar thermal propulsion, which they believe is the fastest way to get a probe into interstellar space.

The idea is to power a rocket engine with heat from the Sun, rather than combustion. According to Benkoski's calculations, this engine would be around three times more efficient than the best conventional chemical engines available today. "From a physics standpoint, it's hard for me to imagine anything that's going to beat solar thermal propulsion in terms of efficiency," says Benkoski. "But can you keep it from exploding...?" If the interstellar probe makes a close pass by the Sun and pushes hydrogen into its shield's vasculature, the hydrogen will expand and explode from a nozzle at the end of the pipe. The heat shield will generate thrust. It's simple in theory but incredibly hard in practice.

A solar thermal rocket is only effective if it can pull off an Oberth maneuver, an orbital-mechanics hack that turns the Sun into a giant slingshot. The Sun's gravity acts like a force multiplier that dramatically increases the craft's speed if a spacecraft fires its engines as it loops around the star... The big takeaway from his research, says Dean Cheikh, a materials technologist at NASAâ(TM)s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is there's a lot of testing that needs to be done on heat shield materials before a solar thermal rocket is sent around the Sun. But it's not a deal-breaker. "Additive manufacturing is a key component of this, and we couldn't do that 20 years ago. Now I can 3D-print metal in the lab."

Not crazy but not really "interstellar"

By joe_frisch • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Using solar thermal propulsion and taking advantage of the Oberoth effect is not crazy. It certainly works to some speed, at some reasonable distance from the sun.

The problem is that even their ~600Km/s is still something like 0.2% of C. so the nearest star is~2000 years away. Still, it migth provide some data on the outer parts of the solar system if any interesting targets can be identified. Not clear if there is enough science to be had out at say 1000 AUs for what looks like a pretty expensive and risky mission.

Hard to imagine Project Orion?

By BAReFO0t • Score: 3 • Thread

Just for fun, upgrade to fusion bombs.

I *think* literally a fusion drive is gonna beat your little mirror toy, no offense. :)

Re:Not crazy but not really "interstellar"

By hey! • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Well, the stated goal here is to reach interstellar space. I was a bit confused at first until I realized that this thing isn't supposed to produce thrust out there, it's just a way of getting there faster.

So you could potentially launch a scientific probe to study the heliopause without having to wait forty years for the data to start coming back.

Memory vs. Disk vs. CPU: How 35 Years Has Changed the Trade-Offs

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Long-time Slashdot reader 00_NOP is a software engineer (with a PhD in real-time computing) re-visits a historic research paper on the financial trade-offs between disk space (then costing about $20,000 per kilobyte) and (volatile) memory (costing about $5 per kilobyte): Thirty-five years ago that report for Tandem computers concluded that the cost balance between memory, disk and CPU on big iron favoured holding items in memory if they were needed every five minutes and using five bytes to save one instruction.

Update the analysis for today and what do you see?

Well my estimate is that we should aim to hold items that we have to access 10 times a second.

And needless to say, some techniques for saving data space are more efficient than they were 35 years ago, their article points out.

"The cost of an instruction per second and the cost of a byte of memory are approximately equivalent — that's tipped the balance somewhat towards data compression (eg., perhaps through using bit flags in a byte instead of a number of booleans for instance), though not by a huge amount."


By Tough Love • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

The echo chamber is when they all convince each other that their work is genius, and that they are geniuses.

Memory bandwidth is a major issue

By MtHuurne • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

In the old days, you would get very accurate performance estimates by adding up the clock cycles needed for each instruction. These days, often performance is dominated by cache misses rather than by actual CPU cycles spent on instructions.

So while having lots of memory is cheap, getting data from that memory into the CPU isn't. Making your data cache-friendly (compact and high locality), even at the cost of using a few more instructions, is very much worth it.

Consider Environmental Impact of your shit code

By Somervillain • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

You're right, of course, but...does it matter? Making it easier to write useful software, even at the expense of efficiency, is a good thing.

And don't forget - the stuff that REALLY needs to be fast still is. Yeah, most websites have horribly inefficient back-ends, but so what? It doesn't matter. Server hardware his cheap, and the latency/speed of the network undoes any efficiencies gained on the back-end anyway.

Check your AWS bill. Does efficiency matter? Sure, most customers aren't going to shop at Target if loads in .5s instead of 0.1s. However, if you're using 5x as much CPU, that does cost money. I thought the biggest hidden bright side of cloud computing was it would make organizations clearly see how much stupid is costing them money and motivate them to think things through more carefully.

Bad engineering has costs. It costs network bandwidth when you send too much data. It costs electricity to process transactions. That heat generated has to be cooled. The number of users you can serve per server goes down. You'd never do this with a car. You'd never leave your car running for 2h for no reason. You never load up your car with bricks and leave them there for 2 years for fun. Most people turn off the TV when they're done watching. Most never leave the faucet running for no reason.

So...why write a server side application with 20x more layers than it needs? Why use terrible tools for the job? The biggest offender I personally run across is Hibernate/JPA. I have seen soo many applications load entire object hierarchies into memory, use 1% of what was loaded and throw the rest a loop, across all applications. For those who don't work with Hibernate, this can be remedied by writing a query to get the exact 1% of data you need...but that requires some basic thought an minimal understanding of the tool you're working with and most "full stack" developers are competent in 2 tiers at most and wildly incompetent in 2 or more, usually the DB. Don't get me wrong, JPA/Hibernate and ORM generally is a great tool when used by a skilled developer, but people view tools and frameworks as religions..."if we're a Hibernate shop, it's blasphemy to write a native SQL query, even if it improves performance by 1000x" (I have literally had to fight to use native SQL to convert an import job from 15 min that failed regularly due to deadlock issues to .2 seconds by moving from sloppy JPA to native SQL)....the team thought it too hard to understand since it wasn't vanilla Spring JPA. I had to deal with that "does it matter?" question. Instead of learning DB 101, they just asked the customers if they would leave the company if we didn't make that functionality faster. It is important to ask "does it matter?" for very small optimizations. However, I have no patience for people who use that logic to justify not knowing how to do their job. Take some pride in your job and learn how to do it. Your customers will thank you. Your AWS bill will thank you.

Cloud computing eat a lot of releases carbon in the when you waste it, you're making your users miserable, your company poorer, and shitting on the environment....why? Because you didn't want to learn SQL? You wanted to write your app in Node (and few that do learn how to do it properly)? You thought it was too hard for trained programmers making over 150k a year to think through use cases as to whether or not to use the default framework or use something lower level when the framework is a bad fit? I have to argue with people like you every workday. I'll say it again. Take some pride in your profession. Learn how to do your job. Everyone will thank you, including me.


By tlhIngan • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

50 years ago, computing time and memory was expensive. Thus, having people spend time working things out on paper and coding it up on paper and optimizing the heck out of it was emphasized, because you got one run per day. So you spent hours simulating the code so it would run correctly with as few tries as possible. Tries includes assembling or compiling it, so you checked to make sure you didn't have syntax errors.

35 years ago is mid-80s and close to where the inflection point happened where human time started becoming more valuable than computing time. It's where we started having interactive debuggers and compiling was just a few keystrokes away. It was cheaper to do the edit-compile-debug cycle interactively so you could see the results instantly than have the human spend hours figuring it out.

These days human time hasn't gotten much cheaper. So people use libraries to help write less code that does more. Again, computer time is cheap.


By drinkypoo • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

Slashdot: let me edit my posts, or did you forget how to code?

You can edit your posts after previewing them, but before submitting them. Or did you forget how to preview?

Letting people edit posts is a misfeature that leads to confusion. If correctness were important to you, you would have used preview.

To Explain Away Dark Matter, Gravity Would Have To Be Really Weird

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
To discard the theory of dark matter, " you'll need to replace it with something even more bizarre: a force of gravity that, at some distances, pulls massive objects together and, at other distances, pushes them apart." That's how Science magazine describes a new study, adding that "The analysis underscores how hard it is to explain away dark matter" — even though "after decades of trying, physicists haven't spotted particles of dark matter floating around." [T]o do away with dark matter, theorists would also need explain away its effects on much larger, cosmological scales. And that is much harder, argues Kris Pardo, a cosmologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and David Spergel, a cosmologist at Princeton University. To make their case, they compare the distribution of ordinary matter in the early universe as revealed by measurements of the afterglow of the big bang — the cosmic microwave background (CMB) — with the distribution of the galaxies today....

Pardo and Spergel derived a mathematical function that describes how gravity would have had to work to get from the distribution of ordinary matter revealed by the CMB to the current distribution of the galaxies. They found something striking: That function must swing between positive and negative values, meaning gravity would be attractive at some length scales and repulsive at others, Pardo and Spergel report this week in Physical Review Letters. "And that's superweird," Pardo says...

In a paper posted in June to the preprint server arXiv, theoretical cosmologists Constantinos Skordis and Tom Zlosnik of the Czech Academy of Sciences present a dark matter-less theory of modified gravity they say jibes with CMB data. To do that, researchers add to a theory like general relativity an additional, tunable field called a scalar field. It has energy, and through Einstein's equivalence of mass and energy, it can behave like a form of mass. Set things up just right and at large spatial scales, the scalar field interacts only with itself and acts like dark matter...

Skordis's and Zlosnik's paper is "very exciting," Pardo says. But he notes that in some sense it merely replaces one mysterious thing — dark matter — with another — a carefully tuned scalar field. Given the complications, Pardo says, "dark matter is kind of the easier explanation."

Re:OTOH, dark energy?

By budgenator • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

my beef with dark matter is that despite making up more than half of all matter in the Universe there is magically none in the Solar system or even the local Milky Way. Yeah sorry but that does not pass the sniff test, and as far as I am concerned with have another ether on our hands.

Not being able to detect something isn't the same as it not being there. We detect dark matter by the way it warps spacetime, what we colloquially call it's gravity, we can't see that at sub-galactic scales. Very likely we're in a soup of dark mater.

Re:If assumptions dont work, needs more assumption

By Brain-Fu • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Maybe you are being sarcastic. I don't know. But what you said is a beautiful example of intellectual sloth.

You see, these "godless scientists" are doing their best to figure out how the universe works through observation. It's hard, and they aren't done yet, so the theories are full of holes, still.

You, on the other hand, are giving up and just taking someone else's word for it. Long-dead humans made up some stories about God, and you believe them. You think that you are putting faith in God, whereas logically you are just putting your faith in the fallible humans who told you stories about God. You haven't put God in a test tube, and thus you are as bereft as evidence as these scientists who haven't managed to put dark matter in a test tube either.

You mock them with this word "assumption," without seeming to realize that you are making an even bigger assumption. You mock them for being confused, but your way out of confusion is to simply stop thinking, and accept that utterly unprovable evidence-free rumors about supernatural beings are true.

It really is amazing.

Re:If assumptions dont work, needs more assumption

By sconeu • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

OP is being sarcastic. "Intelligent Falling" was a parody used to counter the religious zealots that wanted "Intelligent Design" taught in schools.

Missing the point

By Roger W Moore • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

It sound's like the "really weird" theory of gravity they're proposing...

They are not proposing it: they are saying that if you get rid of Dark Matter you end up with a really weird theory of gravity. The point is that the theory is so weird that it is hard to believe it is at all possible in which case we need some form of Dark Matter along with a normal theory of gravity.

It's like Schrodinger's cat. That was a thought experiment designed to show that the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics was seriously flawed. No physicist believes that the cat is in some weird superposition of alive+dead: the intent was that it was such an absurd idea that it would make people look for better explanations. Sadly, it seems to have failed and now those who do not know any better hold it up as a supposed example of how QM works!

Re:Looking forward to an answer

By crunchygranola • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

I have noticed that every single "dark matter skeptic" on /. shows no evidence of actually having done even minimal reading on the subject to find out what the observational evidence shows.

Is Bitcoin's Growth Driven By Speculative Investors?

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
"Bitcoin is now trading near $18,000, up almost 100% in six months," notes Bloomberg columnist Lionel Laurent, "and it's flirting with an all-time high reached in 2017 (which, given it was followed by an ugly crash, faithful Bitcoiners would rather forget)..." .

But what exacty does that mean? He challenges the notion that Bitcoin is the new wealth-protecting investment like gold, asking "is this really being driven by people seeking protection from a more uncertain world...?"

If anything, Bitcoin looks much more like the stock market on steroids than it does a digital version of gold, which has barely budged since the end of October as confidence about a Covid cure has gradually improved. You can see why hedge fund skeptics like Ray Dalio are dubious of Bitcoin's charms. The cryptocurrency's recent above-average correlation with equities is fine when everything's going up, but not in times of stress: In mid-March, for example, a flight to safety triggered by Covid cut Bitcoin's price in half. A recent Kansas City Fed study comparing bonds, gold and Bitcoin between 1995 and Feb. 2020 found Treasuries behaved "consistently" as a safe haven, gold "occasionally" and Bitcoin "never."

Behind the talk of digital gold is the reality of an erratic, still-speculative asset with the potential for big price swings...

While digital payment firms such as PayPal Holdings Inc. and Square Inc. have launched Bitcoin applications, this price jump is not about people buying cappuccinos. Data from Chainalysis estimates merchants made up only about 1% of crypto activity in North America between mid-2019 and mid-2020, while exchanges accounted for almost 90%... Crypto is still a heady bet on life-changing wealth, not a disruptor of how normal people use money.

Is the Pope Catholic?

By Latent Heat • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Does a bear "function" in the woods?

Makes me wonder what's going to happen

By rsilvergun • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
when Marijuana is finally legal in developed nations. Drugs & money laundering form the backbone of the Bitcoin economy since, well, you can't do anything else with it. The speculators jumped in when they noticed the drugs & money laundering had created a floor. But when drugs are legal there goes at least 1/2 the floor.

And eventually the cops will get wise to the money laundering. I know it seems like it's been a long time but they're way, way slower than you think.

Re:"Speculative Investors"

By hey! • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Actually those groups are using Bitcoin exactly as it was promoted to be: as an anonymous means of value exchange that is beyond the reach of government control. The volatility of that medium doesn't really help them, it's more something they work around. They can't denominate a contract for a future drug delivery in BItcoin; they have to denominate it in regular currency and convert.

We actually know who a lot of the BItcoin "whales" are, and I bet the government knows even more, because to be one you have to move lots of dollars into or out of Bitcoin and that triggers money laundering record keeping.


By MrL0G1C • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Stocks are backed, bitcoin isn't, it's a big difference.

I **LOVE** reading the comments here on Bitcoin!

By Adeptus_Luminati • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

I can't believe after 11 years of Bitcoin being around, at near all time highs (after passing through 4+ other bubbles and crashes), after Wallstreet starting to invest in it, after corporations starting to invest in it by the hundreds of millions, when Central Banks are trying to copy it, when mainstream banks are starting to offer exchange services to trade Bitcoin and other cryptos, when dozens of governments in various countries pass laws specifically considering crypto and Bitcoin thus making it legal to buy and trade, when trusts tradeable on wallstreet offer it, when Stock broker companies are all starting to offer trading services for it.... ... there's still piles and piles of idiots around here claiming it's for drug dealers, pedos, etc. Un-F'ing-Believable! That's all I gotta say.

I'll enjoy selling my Bitcoin to you after it hits $100K/BTC.

US Postal Service Announces a Nationwide Digital 'Operation Santa'

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
For 108 years Americans have helped their postal service perform "Operation Santa." But this year's program will be fully digital and nationwide, reports CNN: The program allows children and families to write letters to Santa, which will then be processed and shared online beginning on December 4 at Once the letters are live, anyone in the U.S. can go online and adopt a letter, and help make a child or family's holiday wishes come true. Companies also can help adopt letters as teams.

While anyone and everyone can write a letter, the program was started to help families and kids in need, said Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). "The program has always been about providing holiday gifts for families who may not have the means to provide for anything more than basic everyday needs," Frum told CNN in email. Over the last 108 years, the USPS has received hundreds of thousands of letters as part of the "Operation Santa" program, Frum said. Last year alone, more than 11,000 packages were sent to people who wrote to Santa and had their letters adopted. USPS first launched an online pilot of USPS Operation Santa in 2017 in New York City, Frum said. It expanded to seven cities online in 2018, and 17 cities in 2019. The success of the digitization of the program helped pave the way for this year's expansion.

The decision to go fully digital comes as coronavirus cases continue to surge nationwide, leaving the nation to grapple with the consequences, including the economic impact.

I'm probably going to get hate for this...

By RitchCraft • Score: 3 • Thread
but, what is this need for humans to impose non-existent mythical characters on their off-spring? It's like when your parents forced you to attend Sunday School only to realize later on when you get older that everyone around you must be bat-$hit crazy. Magical creatures creating and delivering presents to kids? A magical character deciding if I burn or live lavishly for eternity? Perhaps if we are truthful with our children they will be less prone later in life to falling for cults, fake news, misinformation, conspiracy theories, etc..

Re:Can't process ballots but kids letters okey dok

By Darinbob • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

The postal office did great, despite the administration's attempt to kneecap it.

How Firefox Boosted Its JavaScript Performance

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
InfoWorld reports: Firefox users can expect improved JavaScript performance in the Firefox 83 browser, with the Warp update to the SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine enabled by default.

Also called WarpBuilder, Warp improves responsiveness and memory usage and speeds up page loads by making changes to JiT (just-in-time) compilers... Warp has been shown to be faster than Ion, SpiderMonkey's previous optimizing JiT, including a 20 percent improvement on Google Docs load time. Other JavaScript-intensive websites such as Netflix and Reddit also have shown improvement...

Warp has replaced the front end — the MIR building phase — of the IonMonkey JiT... Mozilla also will continue to incrementally optimize the back end of the IonMonkey JiT, as Mozilla believes there is still room for improvement for JavaScript-intensive workloads.

oh well firefox

By serviscope_minor • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

It's a firefox thread so I look forwards to people listing why it's sucks. Taking points:

* it's worse than chrome because it's slower
* it's worse than chrome because it's faster and that only encourages mites JavaScript because it sucks
* it's worse than all the other browsers supporting DoH because... Cosmic rays
* pocket
* SJW unlike chrome which is made by Google Warrick has no... Ooh shit
* there's some very obscure extension I like so I still use waterfox and since I have unusual needs which don't involve decent multi core performance, firefox CLEARLY sucks
* did I mention pocket yet?
* rust is for hipsters. You should stick with C like I do
* it uses lots of memory so it sucks. I mean sure so go all the other browsers but I'm switching anyways
* while it's now privacy focused and trustworthy than chrome, they did something I don't like privacy wise so IT SUCKS and I'm switching to chrome.
* also pocket

Re:oh well firefox

By Actually, I do RTFA • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

You left out "I deactivated Javascript so this doesn't affect me"

Re: How Firefox boosted performance...

By BAReFO0t • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

C? That's for babies!
Abandon C, and write in machine code!

Remember: Assembly is a gateway drug. Next thing you know, you'll be huffin' macro assemblers, and then you're basically already writing C.

Boost your site's performance!

By bradley13 • Score: 3 • Thread

Eliminate Javascript.

Seriously, optimizations like this are like spitting on a forest fire. The real problem comes from all the unnecessary cruft that most sites load.

US Congress Passes an IoT Security Bill 'That Doesn't Totally Suck'

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Shotgun (Slashdot reader #30,919) shared these thoughts from The Register: Every now and again the U.S. Congress manages to do its job and yesterday was one of those days: the Senate passed a new IoT cybersecurity piece of legislation that the House also approved, and it will now move to the President's desk.

As we noted back in March when the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act was introduced, the law bill is actually pretty good: it asks America's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to come up with guidelines for Internet-of-Things devices and would require any federal agency to only buy products from companies that met the new rules. It gives a minimum list of considerations to be covered: secure code, identity management, patching and configuration management. It also requires the General Services Administration — the arm of the federal government that sources products and comms for federal agencies — to come up with guidelines that would require each agency to report and publish details of security vulnerabilities, and how they resolved them, and coordinate with other agencies.

Industry has also got behind the effort — Symantec, Mozilla, BSA The Software Alliance (which includes Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Cloudflare, the CTIA and others) — and Congress has managed to keep its fingers out of things it knows nothing about by leaving the production of standards with the experts, using federal procurement to create a de facto industry standard.

Though it will still be legal sell insecure IoT devices, "for those looking for good, secure products, there will be a baseline standard across the industry..." the article concludes.

"[T]his is an essential first step to getting secure IoT in place."

Re:Be leery of the standards

By DontBeAMoran • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

And before you think "who cares if the government knows the temperature I set at home?", imagine being billed even higher for setting your heating system at "temperatures above government approved levels".

It's a slippery slope, unfortunately we already have people buying spying devices with their own money and bringing them voluntarily into their homes.

Soon, people without those spying devices will be offered free ones, then it will be law to own at least one of those in your home. Then it will become illegal to block the cameras and microphones of those devices.

If you think that's crazy, remember that we all thought smart speakers were a crazy idea when they came out and that nobody in their right mind would buy those. Just wait a few years and the crazy becomes the new normal.

Re:what went wrong?

By crow • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Many of these devices are made in China. Of course they're nervous. My bathroom scales send data to Hong Kong if WiFi is enabled.

This seems good!

By Frank Burly • Score: 3 • Thread

Requiring Federal agencies to buy IOT devices meeting a minimum security standard creates a market for secure IOT that didn't previously exist.

And now when the Chinese know that the guys in Cheyenne Mountain prefer the temperature to stay between 74 and 78F, they at least won't know which guy keeps setting it to 84.

This will prevent a "Right to Repair"

By EMB Numbers • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

For the Slashdot folks who think a right to repair is very important: You won't like this law!

"secure code, identity management" means cryptographically signed executables and inability to run unsigned executables or executables signed by the wrong identity. If the original equipment manufacturer goes out of business or just doesn't want to provide updates, you are out of luck. Even if the source code is open-source (with a license more permissive than GPL3), you can compile the code, but you still cannot sign it. You are still out of luck.

Right to repair and security are opposing goals. Pick one.

Re:This will prevent a "Right to Repair"

By Arnonyrnous Covvard • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Right to repair and security are opposing goals. Pick one.

False dichotomy. "Secure code" is not synonymous with "signed code" and "identity management" does not automatically exclude the user.

Elon Musk Claims Full Recovery From Covid-19, Analyst Upgrades Tesla's Stock Forecast

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Slashdot reader Charlotte Web quote The Street: Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that he has "fully" recovered from his bout with a mild fever or cold about a week after he took to Twitter to say he tested positive for coronavirus... [T]his week, Musk took a more reliable PCR test that he said showed "unequivocal" evidence that he had Covid...

On Wednesday, Morgan Stanley raised Tesla to overweight for the first time in more than three years, predicting that the electric carmaker is on the verge of a "profound model shift" from selling cars to generating high-margin software and services revenue. "To only value Tesla on car sales alone ignores the multiple businesses embedded within the company," Adam Jones said in a research note to clients as he upgraded the shares from equal-weight and raised his price target by 50% to $540 from $360, suggesting 22% additional upside for the stock.

The analyst believes Tesla's electric vehicle business is Tesla's "entry ticket" for "unlocking much larger" potential markets, according to an earlier article in The Street: To better gauge Tesla's future earnings potential, Jones said his team was now including software/connected vehicle services revenue in their earnings and valuation forecasts. With the total number of Tesla's out in the world expected to reach 2.1 million next year, "a more in-depth understanding of the revenue streams derived from each car is warranted right now," he wrote.

Recovered already?

By smoofsmith • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
My experience with COVID is that you feel great a few days after the fever and the loss of your sense of smell. Then you start having breathing troubles, GI issues, heart flutters, exhaustion, and other interesting and uncomfortable symptoms, sometimes persisting for another 2-3 weeks. Unless he's had some special treatment like the Regeneron drug, he's got a few more weeks to go.

Re:What's going to happen

By BrainJunkie • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

The real car companies are about to overwhelm Tesla.

Tesla is a real car company. They produce real cars, sell them, and deliver them to customers.

The automobile industry is quite competitive, mainly because it has a tremendous amount of factory capacity. The bulk of it is fairly good at cutting material cost out of the products it produces, but very wasteful in other areas. Only Toyota stands out as being conscious of that waste, though the South Korean manufacturers are decent at it. Most of the rest still behave as if it is 1970 and they'll sell every car they can make a nice margin, so there is little need to innovate or respond to what customers demand due to the large capital cost of competitors entering their market.

Tesla is different in a number of very important ways. They took the demand for an electric only car much more seriously, and they recognized that self driving features were the future much earlier, which has put them well ahead in ways that just can't be bought. They also haven't let themselves get slow and bureaucratic (yet). They built a factory in China that was up and running in a year, and the one they are building in Germany should be producing in about a year. Ford and GM combined, couldn't build a picnic table in a year's time.

Re:What's going to happen

By Rei • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Old-school automakers generally earn negative-to-minimal margins on EVs. Tesla earns >27% w/credits / >22% w/o credits - despite facing transoceanic shipping and import tariffs in many of their markets, which most of their "competitors" do not.

It's not Tesla that needs help here.

"Competition is coming" has been the shorts' refrain ever since Tesla was founded. "The competition" keeps trying. And they keep failing. Shorts cheer every single time a new vehicle from "the competition" bursts onto the market, declaring it to be the death knell for Tesla, only to watch it peter out while Tesla keeps surging ahead.

Re:Let me pour you a Teslarita...

By Darinbob • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

"Clown Recovers From Covid. Circus Stocks Zoom. More At Eleven."

Experimental Antibody Treatment for Covid-19 Patients Wins 'Emergency Approval' in America

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
America's Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization Saturday to an experimental antibody treatment (for people already experiencing Covid-19), reports the Washington Post: The drug, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is designed to prevent infected people from developing severe illness. Instead of waiting for the body to develop its own protective immune response, the drug imitates the body's natural defenses. It is the second drug of this type — called a monoclonal antibody — to be cleared for treating covid-19. The FDA authorized Eli Lilly & Co.'s drug on Nov. 9.

Regeneron's drug is a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies, called casirivimab and imdevimab. The FDA said in authorizing the cocktail that it may be effective in treating mild to moderate covid-19 in adults and children 12 or older, and is indicated for those at high risk of developing severe illness. Doctors hope the drugs will keep those patients from being hospitalized... Regeneron executives said on the company's earnings call in early November that they project having enough doses for 80,000 patients by the end of November, and 300,000 total doses by the end of January...

In a clinical trial, the Regeneron drug reduced hospitalizations or emergency room visits when given to people at high risk of developing severe disease. It was also shown to reduce the amount of virus in people's bodies... The safety and effectiveness of the drug will continue to be studied. It is not authorized for use in hospitalized patients... In a study published Oct. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers said the Lilly cocktail lowered the risk of follow-up medical visits and reduced levels of virus in people with mild to moderate symptoms of covid-19.

The progress on monoclonal antibodies comes as pharmaceutical and biotech companies are racing to produce coronavirus vaccines... The antibody treatments can play an important role in making the disease less dangerous.

Re: $34,000.00 a dose

By quenda • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Don't be silly. This will be a big government deal.

$34,000,000.00 per dose!

From TFA:

the government has bought 300,000 doses each from Lilly and Regeneron at a cost of about $1,250 and $1,500 per dose, respectively


By JoeRobe • Score: 3 • Thread

I apologize for being pedantic and off topic (and acknowledge that it is both), but I get frustrated when the term "America" is used as a proxy for the place called the United States of America. Why not say "U.S." or "U.S.A."? Canada is in "America", as is Mexico, and Brazil, and Peru, and Honduras, and every other country in North and South America. I get that "American" has generally been accepted as meaning "someone from the United States", but geographically the U.S. is a part of the Americas. It's jarring to see a headline like "XYZ happened in America". That reads to me as akin to "XYZ happened in Asia". Not nearly as informative as "XYZ happened in Uzbekistan".

The closest example I can think of is the UAE. We don't colloquially refer to the UAE as "Arabia", because there are many countries that are part of "Arabia" (or at least the Arabian peninsula).

I will now step off of my soapbox...

Re: $34,000.00 a dose

By WindBourne • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
Actually, compared to hospital costs, this is a bargain.

Re: $34,000.00 a dose

By DontBeAMoran • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

It's also a bargain compared to paying people to stay at home for only a few weeks.

Re:Truth and elections

By sjames • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

That's because in 2000, the whole thing came down to less than 1000 votes in a single state that never did manage to do a recount and a then rare case where the results in the EC were in opposition to the nationwide popular vote.

Nevertheless, Gore did concede for the good of the country.

Currently, we are looking at margins of not less than 10,000 and the states have already recounted and certified their results. It looks like Georgia will actually do TWO recounts and the GOP is still throwing one of their own under the bus.

Then there's the matter of a sitting President, who took an oath to defend the country and it's Constitution urging legislatures to just throw out the entirety of the ballots and make an un-democratic decision that he gets to be President again...

And then just to show us what he's really made of, he skips out on a G20 meeting to discuss combating the pandemic to play a few rounds of golf.

Is that REALLY the sort of person you want running the country?

'Ubuntu Web Remix' Distro Offers Firefox-Based Chrome OS Alternative

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Rudra Saraswat is the creator of the Ubuntu Unity distro (which uses the Unity interface in place of Ubuntu's GNOME shell).

But this week they released Ubuntu Web Remix, "a privacy-focused, open source alternative to Google Chrome OS/Chromium OS" using Firefox instead of Google Chrome/Chromium. Liliputing reports: If the name didn't give it away, this operating system is based on Ubuntu, but it's designed to offer a Chrome OS-like experience thanks to a simplified user interface and a set of pre-installed apps including the Firefox web browser, some web apps from /e/, and Anbox, a tool that allows you to run Android apps in Linux...

You don't get the long battery life, cloud backup, and many other features that make Chromebooks different from other laptops (especially other cheap laptops). But if you're looking for a simple, web-centric operating system that isn't made by a corporate giant? Then I guess it's nice to have the option.

Rudra Saraswat writes: An easy web-app (wapp) format has been created to package web-apps for the desktop. You can now create your own web apps using web technologies, package them for the desktop and install them easily.

An experimental wapp store can be found at, for distributing web apps. Developers and packagers can do pull requests at to contribute wapps.


By bmimatt • Score: 4, Funny • Thread
WTF is 'Liliputing'? Did I miss something recently?

Sounds good

By 93 Escort Wagon • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

I've always said - they're just aren't enough Linux distros.

Any distro can do it

By xack • Score: 5, Funny • Thread
Just run firefox in a fullscreen window manager. Yet another distro. There's more distros than pokemon species.

Re:Should Go Over Like a Lead Fart

By AmiMoJo • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Chrome OS has a few advantages over stock Ubuntu.

It's basically maintenance free. It updates seamlessly, every app is sandboxed and heavily limited and 99% of stuff is just done in the browser anyway. It's great for people who don't need more than that, like my mum. Not had to do any tech support for her since I got her a Chromebook, except when here router died.

Oh and that means that it needs to be paired with hardware too. No mucking about with compatibility problems.

Wrong signal

By sg_oneill • Score: 3 • Thread

Can we stop encouraging people to make these horrible "HTML5 desktop apps". Bloated, slow and poor compliance with OS style guidelines. Its a bad technology, and its driven by fad seeking idiots hell bent on pumping out more and more intolerable JS frameworks that make developing software a miserable experience.

Just, draw a circle around the whole practice, declare it cancer and move on.

Are There Active Volcanoes on Mars?

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Mars is a dead planet — "Or is it?" asks the New York Times: Previous research has hinted at volcanic eruptions on Mars 2.5 million years ago. But a new paper suggests an eruption occurred as recently as 53,000 years ago in a region called Cerberus Fossae, which would be the youngest known volcanic eruption on Mars. That drives home the prospect that beneath its rusty surface pocked with gigantic volcanoes that have gone silent, some volcanism still erupts to the surface at rare intervals. "If this deposit is of volcanic origin then the Cerberus Fossae region may not be extinct and Mars may still be volcanically active today," scientists at the University of Arizona and Smithsonian Institution, write in their paper — which was posted online ahead of peer review and has been submitted to the journal Icarus...

If it holds up to scrutiny, the discovery would have large implications for Mars. In geological terms, 53,000 years is the blink of an eye, suggesting Mars might well still be volcanically active now. It could also have big implications for the search for life on Mars. Such volcanic activity could melt subsurface ice, providing a potential habitable environment for living things.

"To have life, you need energy, carbon, water and nutrients," said Steven Anderson, an earth sciences professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, who was not involved in the paper. "And a volcanic system provides all of those."

Ask slashdot

By backslashdot • Score: 3 • Thread

Yes, ask slashdot. Why not? We have a bunch of SpaceX and NASA scientists/engineers on here after all. Many of whom got their PhD by studying their own comments.