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Comments

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How much of your media do you store locally?

AliasMarlowe All of it locally. None of it "in cloud". (187 comments)

The only media that leaves our home (the media server has local backup), does so on our portable media players.

Some of our mp3/video players are dumb enough (only a USB link) to trust. If the telephones which also serve some of that purpose are uploading them - or the media's metadata - to outside agencies, there's no trace of it in the logs. This doesn't mean that it's not happening, but there is no trace that I can find.

about 9 months ago
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Elsevier Going After Authors Sharing Their Own Papers

AliasMarlowe Re:Breach of contract, copyright infringement (259 comments)

So yes, fuck Elsevier.

You are too kind. They might possibly enjoy it.
Instead, ream them with commensurate consideration: insert baseball bat in glue, then in broken glass, then in ...

about 9 months ago
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Fearing Government Surveillance, US Journalists Are Self-Censoring

AliasMarlowe Re:Deluded ... (376 comments)

Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free

Continuing to believe that is a sign you're delusional, not 'free'.

Ah, but they have the freedom to be delusional in any way they wish...

about 9 months ago
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Why People Are So Bad At Picking Passwords

AliasMarlowe Re:Crutch (299 comments)

And to prevent any of the command lines going into your command history, and thus exposing your passphrases, be sure to run (once on each account that will use the shell script):

echo "export HISTIGNORE=\"safepassword*\"" >> ~/.profile

Or you could just put a space before the command you are running - this works for me in every bash shell I've encountered recently.

Which only works if you have either

"HISTCONTROL=ignoreboth"

or

"HISTCONTROL=ignorespace"

in your .bashrc file.

about 10 months ago
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Why People Are So Bad At Picking Passwords

AliasMarlowe Crutch (299 comments)

Here's a crutch for those with too few passwords on too many sites. Just paste it to something like safepassword.sh in /usr/local/bin or similar:

#!/bin/bash
# script: safepassword
# this script depends on sha512sum
if [ "$2" = "" ]
then
echo "usage: safepassword constant_key password_purpose"
echo " where constant_key is a string of printable non-whitespace characters,"
echo " and password_purpose is a memorable string related to the purpose of"
echo " the password, e.g. a website address and year. Since the script removes"
echo " any characters outside 0-9 a-z A-Z it is possible that the password"
echo " could be too short in some cases."
else
echo -n "$1-$2" | sha512sum | xxd -r -p | tr -cd [:print:] | sed -e "s/[^0123456789abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ]//g" | sed -e "s/ //g"
echo
fi

And to prevent any of the command lines going into your command history, and thus exposing your passphrases, be sure to run (once on each account that will use the shell script):

echo "export HISTIGNORE=\"safepassword*\"" >> ~/.profile

Since sha512sum should work the same way on all operating systems, a script such as this could probably be made for Windows as well as BSD/Linux/OSX.

about 10 months ago
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62% of 16 To 24-Year-Olds Prefer Printed Books Over eBooks

AliasMarlowe Re:price (331 comments)

The article was about 16 - 24 year olds. They probably already know how to pirate. Ease of sharing was also another issue. Prices can be reduced, but the business model of eBooks seems to be based on reducing sharing, so that road block isn't going away.

My own kids put it differently. It's the feel and smell and convenience of a book that counts. Above all, it's the feel of the paper as the pages are turned.

Having to use an ebook reader would probably diminish their liking for books (we're all bookworms). They have little or no interest in ebooks, although we have a good number of PDF books on topics which interest them. So accessing books with file-sharing tools is also not an issue. Also, the cost is irrelevant; we give them books whenever they want, and they also get lots of books based on their marks at school (this turns out a bit pricey, but it's worth it for the motivating effect).

about 10 months ago
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Speed Test 2: Comparing C++ Compilers On WIndows

AliasMarlowe Re:Calling home (132 comments)

Who mods this garbage up?

You can bet it's not me. I almost get sex more often than Slashdot mod points.

Damn. I get 5 mod points almost every day. It can be quite exhausting.
A couple of years ago, I was getting 15 mod points daily for a few weeks. Couldn't have taken it much longer...

about 10 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Laptops For Fans Of Pre-Retina MacBook Pro?

AliasMarlowe Re:Lenovo. (477 comments)

Vertical lines are still very key to some people. Long before 1920x1080 became "HD" after a few years of severe regression in vertical resolution, there *were* 1600x1200 screens.

Yep. And there were 1920x1200 displays as well, giving 16:10. Actually, I'm writing this on a 9½ year old laptop with 1920x1200 pixels on its built-in 17" screen (it's a Sony Vaio VGN-A117S). It runs fine with Xubuntu, and if its replacement lasts as long, it will be a bargain. I had planned on upgrading to something with more pixels, but some years ago all the laptops - other than a few linux-hostile Macs - went to fewer pixels. Luckily, that looks like changing again, although I'll wait a bit for the price to drop before getting one with 3200x1800 pixels. Even 16:9 is acceptable with enough vertical pixels, avoiding the shortscreen consequences of full HD.

Incidentally, we still have a 20" 1600x1200 display on one of the desktops. It was bought in the last century and has been used daily, often for several hours; it's in perfect working order and a real joy to use. The other desktop has a pair of full HD screens. Turning one sideways gives a narrow screen for viewing A4 pages, while in regular orientation, they're an annoyance even for editing photos. They're going to get replaced by something more useful...

about 10 months ago
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Electric Cars: Drivers Love 'Em, So Why Are Sales Still Low?

AliasMarlowe Re:2 Words (810 comments)

anyhow, in finland I never noticed that much of a difference in fuel range from +30c to -30c.

Agreed. Most of the apparent range difference between summer and winter is attributable to differences in the wheel diameter. Usually studded winter tyres are less compliant with the road, thus having a greater effective diameter, even if their nominal diameter is about the same as summer tyres on the same car. The odometer on cars is just counting revolutions of the wheels, so a difference in effective diameter of a couple of percent gives a comparable effect in apparent fuel economy. The engine is working slightly less hard for the same apparent distance.

On our cars (both diesels), the apparent economy difference between summer (10C to 30C) and winter (-30C to -10C) is less than 8%, about half of which is due to the compliance and diameter of the tyres. It's easy to check the accuracy of the odometer by passing through the roadside speed checks at a constant 80km/h according to the speedometer. The speed indicated by the roadside radar gives the error in the speedometer.

I never noticed any particular difference when using the same tyres all year around (in Canada) on a car with a petrol motor. Then again, fuel in Canada was so cheap it was almost an irrelevancy and I didn't track economy much. Here, the price of fuel is more significant, being about US$8 per US gallon.

about 10 months ago
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Monthly net electricity use in my household:

AliasMarlowe Re:Tesla (327 comments)

And as for those of us living in Finland (and not the South of the country either)...

;) Theoretically, cosine law applies in Finland too: double the installed panel surface and get the almost the same power as at ecuator. ;)

Hah! You must be thinking of summer only,

The cosine law to which you refer assumes at least two things: (i) a constant length of day, and (ii) no orbital obliquity. The obliquity affects both the length of day and the greatest angle of insolation. In midsummer, the sun here is almost circumpolar - albeit much of the time near the horizon - so with steerable solar panels, one would only need about one and a half times the area of panels in Ecuador. If the panels were not steerable (in Ecuador or in Finland), then the area of panels required would be double at midsummer. While not at the Arctic Circle, the daytime here in midwinter is reduced to a couple of hours with the sun reaching about 5 degrees above the horizon. Some trees or small hills can block it fully. In mid-winter with a clear horizon, one would need roughly 100 times the area of panels in Kuopio as in Ecuador to generate comparable energy per day. No point making them steerable, as the sun only comes above the horizon in the south.

With steerable panels both in Finland and in Ecuador, then the average over the year would be about triple. With unsteerable panels, the required area would be greater. Alas, Finland's insolation is almost entirely during summer, and the energy is not needed then. It does not get very hot here in summer (25C is considered "scorching"), so air conditioning is absent or modestly dimensioned, unlike most of the US. On the other hand, it can get quite chilly in winter (-40C happens often enough), when we need energy for heating but there's not much solar energy available.

FYI, here is a comparison of day length, solar irradiance, etc, for Kuopio and Quito.

about 9 months ago
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Monthly net electricity use in my household:

AliasMarlowe Re:Tesla (327 comments)

Chances are you already live somewhere with better insolation than Germany so the enough sun part is taken care of.

And as for those of us living in Finland (and not the South of the country either)...

about 10 months ago
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How Your Coffee Table Could Pass Your Coffee

AliasMarlowe Re:And? (55 comments)

Screw passing the coffee, we can all do that easily enough. So, can it pass a kidney stone, or do some other job that would save effort?

about 10 months ago
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Linux 3.13 Kernel To Bring Major Feature Improvements

AliasMarlowe Re:bcache is a HUGE improvement for some workloads (190 comments)

Bcache, merged in 3.11, improves IO up to 100X. Not 100%, 100X, or 10,000%. It may well be worth an upgrade if you're running a distro 2.3x and have random IO on multi TB storage.

The multi-queue block layer which is merged in kernel 3.13 gives a 3.5x to 10x increase in IOPS. This change is mostly targeted for SSDs, but gives similar improvements on HDs as well. However, it's not clear whether this improvement is relative to 3.11 or not.

about 10 months ago
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Google Bots Doing SQL Injection Attacks

AliasMarlowe Re:How about Yahoo "bots", Bing "bots" ? (156 comments)

Actually, now that you mention it, I can't find any yahoo bots in recent log files. Perhaps yahoo is also responsible for some of those stupid multi-gigabyte downloads as bingbot.

about 10 months ago
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Google Bots Doing SQL Injection Attacks

AliasMarlowe Re:How about Yahoo "bots", Bing "bots" ? (156 comments)

Actually, bingbot is particularly stupid. It has downloaded several zip files of public domain material (each exceeding 1GB with total over 10GB) from our web site at home. It does so about once per month despite the fact that these files are unchanging, instead of merely doing a conditional GET and checking for a 304 return. The various googlebots all do it this way, as do other bots (e.g. docomo, yahoo, yandex).

We don't yet bar bingbot, but if it starts dowloading several GB at times when other visitors are looking at videos (mostly 720p and 1080p), it will find itself in the wrong part of robots.txt. If I get really irritated, then it will get customized garbage results, just like the ZmEu crap...

And you can't just exclude the problem files instead of blocking the whole site?

Well, yes I could, obviously enough. But then the googlebot and other bots would be handicapped (I expect a change to at least two of those PD zipfiles during 2014). In summary, bingbot does it wrong while other bots do it right. These PD zipfiles are the most egregious examples, but there are also many smaller files where bingbot does it wrongly. So I'm likelier to bar bingbot than to bar other bots or to exclude these specific files.

As I said, bingbot is earnestly hoping for a customized middle finger instead of getting the entire >100GB site every time it looks. In short, bingbot does it wrongly.

about 10 months ago
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Google Bots Doing SQL Injection Attacks

AliasMarlowe Re:How about Yahoo "bots", Bing "bots" ? (156 comments)

Actually, bingbot is particularly stupid. It has downloaded several zip files of public domain material (each exceeding 1GB with total over 10GB) from our web site at home. It does so about once per month despite the fact that these files are unchanging, instead of merely doing a conditional GET and checking for a 304 return. The various googlebots all do it this way, as do other bots (e.g. docomo, yahoo, yandex).

We don't yet bar bingbot, but if it starts dowloading several GB at times when other visitors are looking at videos (mostly 720p and 1080p), it will find itself in the wrong part of robots.txt. If I get really irritated, then it will get customized garbage results, just like the ZmEu crap...

about 10 months ago
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RAF Pilots Blinded At 1000 Mph By Helmet Technical Glitch

AliasMarlowe Red Army Faction? (154 comments)

What's with the Red Army Faction these days? Did they get some fast airplanes or what?

about a year ago
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Full Details of My Attempted Entrapment For Teaching Polygraph Countermeasures

AliasMarlowe Re:Don't teach, and certainly don't learn ... (465 comments)

The way I see it, no one would be using encryption nowadays if Obama managed to be president in the nineties.

Not before 1997, according to the age rules in the constitution. Since Obama was born in August 1961, this limits his eligibility for presidency to August 1996 onwards, which effectively means January 1997 onwards due to the schedule of presidencies in the US.

about a year ago
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Full Details of My Attempted Entrapment For Teaching Polygraph Countermeasures

AliasMarlowe antipolygraph.org (465 comments)

is already a Slashdotted site...

about a year ago

Submissions

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Bullshit jobs

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  1 year,27 days

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "In the 1930s, it was expected that by the year 2000, people would work about 15 hours per week. Instead, we have seen increases in hours worked, but the actual effort is about equivalent to a 15 hour week. The rest is just bullshit of various types. Productive jobs are downsized and denigrated, but bullshit jobs are valued and preserved. Do you have a bullshit job?"
Link to Original Source
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Warner Bros beats Siegel estate

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  about a year and a half ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Warner Bros have won an important legal victory over the heirs of one of the creators of Superman, giving it total commercial control of the superhero. An appeals panel unanimously ruled that Jerome Siegel's heirs must abide by a 2001 letter accepting Warner's offer for their 50% share of Superman.

The letter was never formally turned into a contract, but the Judge considered that it represented an oral agreement, which was binding. Warner Brothers now owns 100% of the Superman franchise."

Link to Original Source
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Which Philip K Dick story for a movie?

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 3 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Several of Philip K. Dick's stories have been made into SciFi movies: A Scanner Darkly, Blade Runner, Imposter, Minority Report, Next, Paycheck, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall. More are on the way, either made but unreleased (Radio Free Albermuth) or entering production (Ubik).

Dick's stories often feature dystopias of different sorts, and some are regularly referred to on Slashdot. So which of Philip K. Dick's other stories do denizens of Slashdot think would make the best SciFi movie:
  • none, enough already!
  • Faith of our Fathers (hallucination, religion)
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (police state, identity erasure)
  • The Man in the High Castle (alternative history, Allies lost WW2)
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (collective hallucination, obsessive toy play)
  • The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (religion)
  • all of them!
  • some other story, as explained in comments
"
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Moment of truth: Nokia-MS

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 3 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Nokia may be approaching its "I don't want to go on the cart" moment sooner than many anticipated. A new rumour hit the financial markets that Microsoft will buy Nokia's mobile phone business, with the price thought to be around $19billion. It was not revealed whether Elop would be returning to Microsoft along with the phones, or whether he would wreak destruction on other parts of the Finnish company.

Of course, this rumour came just a day after Nokia's shares plummeted, so it may have even more nefarious underpinnings (MS grabbed once the price was down, or other traders want to remove losses, or short sellers being punished by bigger traders, etc.)."

Link to Original Source
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Alcohol most damaging drug, according to UK expert

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 3 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Prof. Nutt, who was formerly scientific advisor to the UK government on drug policy, has published an article in the Lancet comparing the damaging effects of various drugs on (i) the individual, and (ii) others in society. Top of the damage list is alcohol, followed by heroin and crack. Cocaine and tobacco came at about one third the score of alcohol, while ecstasy and LSD are estimated to be among the least damaging. No word in the BBC article on cannabis, perhaps to avoid influencing the Proposition 19 vote in California.

Just as a reminder, Prof. Nutt was sacked from his advisory position by the previous (Labour) government, apparently because he relied on actual evidence for making his recommendations instead of echoing what the politicians wanted to hear."

Link to Original Source
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Bad news! Porn film-making suspended.

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 3 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Two of America's biggest porn movie studios have suspended all movie making. It's because a male star (un-named) has tested positive for HIV, and now they have the unenviable job of notifying his many recent co-stars. There may be some job openings in these studios, since HIV-infected performers are not at all welcome. The studios are Vivid Entertainment and Wicked Pictures. But nobody will be surprised if they try to blame the financial hit on piracy of some sort."
Link to Original Source
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3-strikes law cancelled in Ireland

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 3 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "The High Court in Ireland has essentially gutted the "Three Strikes" style laws passed in that country. To the dismay of media companies, the Court ruled in a case pitting an ISP (UPC, which initiated the action) against the media companies that a law cutting off file sharers was contrary to EU legislation, and could not be enforced. Other ISPs in Ireland may review their 3-strikes policies, although the biggest, Eircom, says it has not actually cut anyone off."
Link to Original Source
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Journal: Marching with al Qaeda?

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 4 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Looking at the "shoe bomber" and the "underpants bomber", it is hard to escape the conclusion that they intended to fail at blowing up airliners. They intended instead to push Western society further from its own ideals and towards repression and reduction of rights and liberties. In this, they succeeded, and advanced the cause of their sponsors. My journal suggests what some of their next steps might be to lead the U.S. and others further down that slippery slope, and why the reflexive responses of "security" will do exactly what the terrorists want and further advance the cause of the terrorists and their sponsors."
Link to Original Source
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Recession hits porn industry

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  about 5 years ago

AliasMarlowe writes "The unthinkable has actually happened. The porn industry, which was been untouched by several previous recessions, has been severely hit by the current recession. The Economist, ever watchful of important trends, includes the porn industry among the sectors its reporters monitor and analyze. They consider the 50-80% cuts in porn production to be a critical difference between the present recession and other, lesser recessions, with work for "actors" being greatly reduced, pay per performance being cut back. The industry spokespersons, of course, also blame the internet for supplying cheap plentiful porn which had already caused hardship; the economic slowdown was merely an additional hit. "The industry will shrink and stay shrunken" said one performer. Hard times or flaccid times?"
Link to Original Source
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Habitual multitaskers do it badly

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  about 5 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Those who multitask regularly, and consider themselves good at it were compared with those who generally single-task and consider themselves poor multitaskers. The comparison involved multitasking with a number of attention or context related tests. For the study, multitasking was defined as consuming multiple media sources at once — gaming, TV, IM, email, etc. Interestingly, the habitual multitaskers were much worse at multitasking than the single taskers in these relatively straightforward tests. In self-assessment the multitaskers considered themselves good at it and the single taskers considered themselves bad at it. An extreme case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, perhaps, with consequences for business and society."
Link to Original Source
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Too many humans on Earth

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 5 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Dr. Nina Federoff (a science advisor to the US government) asserts that the human population is at or past the Earth's limit for sustaining us, according to a report in the BBC.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: "There are probably already too many people on the planet."

In her opinion, to feed the current population adequately will require a departure from traditional agriculture, including increased use of GM crops and novel approaches to cultivation.

"We wouldn't think of going to our doctor and saying 'Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century', and yet that's what we're demanding in food production."

Dr. Federoff is an advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
Link to Original Source

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Intel and ASUS ask what kind of PC you'd like

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 5 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Intel and ASUS have started a web site to collect users' ideas on what kind of PC to develop http://www.wepc.com/ Although the usual requests such as faster boot or longer battery life can be entered, the Dream page on the site http://www.wepc.com/dream is intended to go beyond mere tweaking of the standard netbook, laptop, desktop, and server configurations.
So far, dream ideas proposed include the "ghetto blaster PC" equipped with powerful speakers, and the "happy PC" to wake you up in the morning http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7704709.stm. Another submitter wants a PC to recognize that he is the user, but from analysis of typing style rather than login/password or a dodgy fingerprint scanner.
Obviously very few ideas will make it, either through technical infeasibility or perceived market size."

Link to Original Source
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On the spot drug test needed to enter bars

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 5 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Scottish police in Aberdeen have started a campaign to find drug users and dealers. Anyne wishing to enter a bar in Aberdeen will have to submit to a hand swab for immediate analysis. The analyzer can apparently detect cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin, even in trace amounts. If drugs are detected, the person will be searched and possibly arrested. This process is "voluntary", but anyone who refuses to allow a swab to be taken and analyzed will not be allowed into the pub. It is not known if refusal will lead to other consequences, but it may be viewed with suspicion. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/north_east/7702856.stm

The unintended consequence will probably be to push a significant amount of alcohol use into unmonitored locations, such as private clubs, or completely out of view just like use of other drugs. Bars will likely see a drop in revenues, since it will not be safe to visit one for weeks after consuming certain drugs."

Link to Original Source
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Old materials resurface for "prebiotic soup

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 5 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Stanley Miller performed the famous experiments in the 1950s showing that amino acids and other building blocks for biomolecules could be produced by passing lightning through a mix of simple hydrocarbons, water vapour, and ammonia (thought at the time to approximate the Earth's early atmosphere). Other experiments approximated the environment around volcanic eruptions, but those results were not published. Following his death last year, a colleague discovered the materials from those experiments, in labelled vials http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7675193.stm

Analysis of the contents of the vials indicates that the conditions around volcanic eruptions (still thought to be representative of such events in the early Earth) resulted in a higher yield of amino acids than the simple lightning experiments, and resulted in a greater variety of amino acids.

Yet again, corroborative evidence for the production of prebiotic materials in the very early Earth, on which more complex chemical processes could be built."

Link to Original Source
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Yet another rootkit for Windows via IE

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "Yet another rootkit is being installed on Windows PCs via an Internet Explorer exploit which modifies the MBR to load malicious code on startup. Apparently originating in Russia, it is spreading mostly in Europe. The rootkit can download malware such as keyloggers, and can reinstall the malware if it is deleted by anti-virus programs. Typically, the purpose is to intercept login details for online banking (900 financial institutions), and send the harvested information to its originators.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7183008.stm Windows Vista, XP, 2000, and 2003 may all be vulnerable."
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AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 7 years ago

AliasMarlowe (1042386) writes "The BBC reports that a creationist organization (Answers in Genesis) is building an alleged museum in Petersberg Kentucky, not far from Cincinnati Ohio. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own _correspondent/6549595.stm

The museum will be replete with animatronic dinosaurs and suchlike, with tyrannosaurs shown peacefully cohabiting with human children in a sort of Garden-of-Eden paradise. Geology, paleontology, and other branches of accepted science are not considered relevant to the "bible-based" twisted storyline. Of course, it's all presented as fact supported by the usual wierd hypotheses of creationists.

The BBC report has overtones of incredulity that such an inane insane fantasy world could really be promoted as fact. Even one of the museum park guides tactfully said he preferred to stick to accepted science. The BBC reporter was accompanied by Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, who castigated the creationist's misuse of facts intertwined with mythology.

Now that Kansas has started cleaning up its school board, is Kentucky stepping forward as the next base for the loony fringe?"

Journals

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Galloping down the slippery slope?

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 4 years ago The airplane hijackings and subsequent mass murders of 11 September 2001 did not rely on bringing bombs aboard. They were simply hijacked using pocket tools (box-cutter knives), then used in a novel way to wreak destruction. A large number of security restrictions were subsequently brought in to prevent hijacking, but many have noted that the circumstances of hijackers changed that day. Before, passengers meekly obeyed the hijackers, knowing that they would eventually be released when the hijackers' demands were met, or perhaps when the plane was stormed by special forces. There was no point trying to play the hero. After the twin towers were hit - and even in the fourth plane hijacked that day - passengers realized that they had to overpower the hijackers to save their own lives, and preferably do so before the hijackers had control of the flight deck. Since then, there have been attempts, not actually to hijack airliners, but apparently to destroy them in flight using explosive devices. The "shoe bomber" and the "underpants bomber" are the two that come to mind, but in each case, the perpetrator was overpowered by fellow passengers before he could get his device to work. Following each case, additional ham-fisted security procedures were implemented in airports and inconvenient restrictions imposed on passengers on the ground and in the air. More time wasted in terminals; shoes and belt off at security checkpoints; no liquids or metal combs on board; no washroom or laptop in the last hour of flight; and so forth. The list of restrictions and inconveniences is quite long.

The question I have is whether these post-9/11 attempts were actually intended to destroy an aircraft. If that were the case, the terrorist would have been instructed to prepare and use the device while in the washroom, and not while in his seat. I suspect that the real objective was to cause the very security escalations that we have seen. These "security" procedures further cripple air transport (and indirectly handicap many other forms of business), and divert resources from other potentially productive activities into large bureaucracies and security organizations which have negative economic value. More insidiously, they undermine the very basis of Western society, removing or reducing freedoms and grossly expanding powers of state organizations (police, DHS, border patrols, etc.) to resemble those of totalitarian states.

We've blundered several steps down this slippery slope already. We went from mild and fairly unintrusive security procedures (to prevent tragedies such as the bomb on an Air India 747) which largely accomplished their purpose, to heavy-handed and extremely intrusive "security" procedures, which have no chance of achieving theirs, and are, in fact, utterly unnecessary and ultimately self-defeating. Here are some further steps down this slope, as I see it, and the reasons they are futile:

1a. Well, terahertz scanners can see through clothes to the skin revealing every little detail (ooh, privacy violations, creepy pedo images, blah-blah outrage, etc.), somewhat like a "hands-off" strip search. But once they are installed at every airport and used on every passenger, it would be impossible for a passenger to hide explosives/flammables/nerve gas/etc. on their person. WRONG. Ever seen a fat person naked? There are often rolls of flesh, with nice deep folds which the terahertz scanner does not see into - it can't penetrate skin, remember. Ladies with pendulous breasts also have nice hiding places which are not seen by the terahertz scanners. Men might even manage to hide a small item with creative placement at the scrotum. Perhaps armpits could be used, if one is not required to perform gymnastics while in front of the scanner.
1b. Before long, some terrorist takes advantage of having rolls of fat, and smuggles nasty things onto an airliner in them. But that terrorist gets overpowered by fellow passengers as he/she prepares the nasty things at his/her seat, and before the nasty things can be used (assembled/detonated/activated/whatever). Note that I expect the preparation to be at the terrorist's seat on the plane, where other passengers can spot what's happening, since the real objective is to escalate the security procedures.

2a. Next, passengers are required to raise limbs and adopt lewd postures etc. while being scanned, so that their entire surface is visible to the scanner. Those whose flesh folds are incompletely observed are required to step to the side so a security officer can have a grope inside those folds. This is tantamount to a "hands-on" porno strip search for those who are not particularly lean. Now this is quite intrusive, and some people would simply stop traveling by air. It would also require a certain type of security person to do the job correctly at low wage - exploring dusty crevices of human blubber with his/her fingers (indeed, the best candidates for this job might be in jail). But it's for the security of you and your fellow passengers, so you can't complain! Surely nobody can smuggle anything nasty aboard with these procedures. WRONG. How does contraband get into prisons? That's right, some of it travels in smooth containers shoved into body cavities. Every human has one such cavity, and ladies are blessed with a second suitable cavity.
2b. Soon enough, some terrorist passes through the scanner, with or without the extra grope-search, with one or more plastic containers concealed in a body cavity. These containers are retrieved in a washroom trip during the flight, but the terrorist is overpowered by fellow passengers as he/she prepares the nasty things contained therein at his/her seat, and before the nasty things can be used (assembled/detonated/activated/whatever). Note that I expect the preparation to be at the terrorist's seat on the plane, not in the washroom, since the real objective is to escalate the security procedures.

3a. Obviously, we need to add body cavity searches to the security procedures to prevent this sort of attack. Either it's full rubber gloves & lube, or an equivalent manufactured probe (presumably sterilized between uses), or some kind of ultrasound scanner that you can sit on (is ultrasound able to distinguish between a tampon/IUD and some other object?). This kind of examination would be required for every passenger. Of course, this would be an outrageous violation of civil rights, but how else to keep you and your fellow passengers safe from attack? After all, with this procedure added to the others, it would be impossible to get anything nasty on board an airliner! WRONG. How do high value drugs get smuggled via airliners? Some travels inside swallowed condoms, which would not be detectable via cavity search or ultrasound of the area around body cavities. Drug mules commonly swallow multiple condoms containing pure drugs.
3b. As soon as these procedures are widespread, some terrorist swallows one or more condom bombs before getting on a flight. There are numerous ways this could be arranged to cause an explosion or equivalent in-air catastrophe, which I will not go into. Here's one: two latex condoms are partly filled with binary components which will spontaneously ignite/explode on contact; they are placed inside a silicone condom, which also contains a small amount of a material which will corrode or dissolve latex; the terrorist swallows one or more of such silicone condom bombs. Note that in this method, no external device is required, and there may not be any indication that there is an explosion coming (unless the airline makes the terrorist puke via food poisoning). In this case, the other passengers do not overpower the terrorist, and the device presumably explodes (messily), but it is not certain that the airliner would be destroyed in every attempt. In some attempts the airliner would survive, albeit with a very messy and somewhat devalued interior, and the modus operandi would become evident, provoking further posturing by security agencies.

4. Citizens, rejoice! To protect you against terrorists who have swallowed bombs or other nefarious devices, new security procedures have been instituted. But what could they be? Any option I can think of (using existing technology) is appallingly intrusive and/or costly in time and money. Here are a few possibilities: expensive and time-consuming MRI scan of all passengers; compulsory stomach pumping; administer fast acting emetics and purgatives (and provide a sufficiency of toilets at security). The MRI scan would see most things, but not confidently distinguish among them: an apparent prosthetic implanted in the abdomen might need to be examined laparoscopically or even excised for proper identification. What of partly metallic implants to replace a damaged hip bone? Any sort of implant would completely pass by the stomach pump or emetic/purgative approach. And yes, there are ways to remotely detonate implanted explosives without using metals on the inside or outside. Short of MRI scans coupled with exploratory surgery as standard security procedures, a determined organization could still get a suicide bomber and bomb onto an airliner.

And where have we descended to on this slope? While airliners have been discussed in the steps above, other modes of mass transport and places of mass gatherings could also be targeted. Would trains and concert halls also be encumbered with such ludicrous pseudo-security antics?

I submit that there is actually no sure-fire defense against some forms of terrorist attack. In particular, it is impossible to prevent all possible ways to get a bomb or nerve gas on board an airliner. Note that this analysis even assumes that all of the security procedures are carried out competently, which is perhaps not the case. Protecting against a subset of those ways merely ensures that the unprotected methods will be employed. The steps outlined above can be viewed as a classical "arms race" between cannon and fortresses. The fortress never wins the race in the end, however many steps and twists the race contains.

I also submit that the best defense of an airliner is the self preservation instinct of its passengers (similarly for trains, concert halls, and so forth). By all means, employ the security procedures we had before 9/11, as they will catch the egregious large bombs and obvious suicide bombers. They were much less intrusive and much less expensive, and were a much lighter imposition on civil rights and freedoms. And that's what we should be preserving - our traditional liberties and civil rights, and the duties that accompany them. The slippery slope we are descending is rapidly eroding those rights and liberties, at great expense and without providing the security it pretends. It is also eroding what little is left of the notion of a citizen's duty to defend the society around him/her, replacing it with more encouragement to be a passive and powerless victim or bystander, while the "security" theater attempts to fulfill that duty on his/her behalf but inevitably fails.

This slippery slope of "security" theatrics leads nowhere that we should wish Western societies to go. It has us in lock-step with terrorists all the way, marching to the same destination; a destination of the terrorists' choosing. Every step down the slope is an act of surrender, including the steps already taken. How can that message be brought to those who are steering us downwards? And how can we reverse the process, and recover some of those lost liberties?

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Achievement?

AliasMarlowe AliasMarlowe writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Apparently, having a journal entry counts as a /. "achievement". It's about the only reason I can conceive of for making this journal entry. It's a fairly weak reason, at that, since most /. "achievements" are by no means achievements.

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