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Comments

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Google's New Approach For China Is To Serve From Hong Kong

Aram Fingal Re:Did I miss something? (295 comments)

I have as well. Actually they want it both ways. They want to be recognized as Chinese but not associated with the mainland Chinese government. To cover all the bases, you have to call them Taiwan-Chinese.

more than 4 years ago
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What's Holding Back Encryption?

Aram Fingal A closely related issue (660 comments)

The use of digital signatures in email is closely related to encryption because it requires the same PKI. That may end up being the driving force because of the increasing sophistication of phishing. The institution I work for is now frequently attacked with phishing emails. Our help desk is constantly answering questions about whether a particular email is phishing or not. What's even worse is the people who don't call (and don't know how to smell a phish). We are dealing with hundreds of compromised accounts per year because of phishing. I think this is not only a compelling reason to start authenticating email with digital signatures but also to integrate the recognition of digital signatures into our spam filtering.

more than 4 years ago
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What's Holding Back Encryption?

Aram Fingal Re:Self-signed is no good. (660 comments)

What about the argument that a policy of only encrypting sensitive information draws attention to encrypted information because it must be sensitive? If you encrypt everything, an attacker doesn't know which particular piece of information is worth trying to crack (or otherwise attack with key logging, social engineering attempts, etc.)

more than 4 years ago
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The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

Aram Fingal Re:Why most scientists and engineers screw up (190 comments)

There are a number of human traits (and the genes which cause them) that statistically cluster into groups that correspond to what we consider race. You can test a person's DNA and determine their racial heritage, to a fairly accurate degree. Obviously race is real, if you can nearly automate measuring it. The fact that statistical clusters don't have firm boundaries doesn't mean those clusters don't exist.

While this is true, it still doesn't validate existing concepts of race. You can pick out a preexisting notion of race and, indeed, find genetic markers which will correlate with that concept. However, if you do it the other way around, throw out all such preconceived notions, look at the data and derive groupings of humans, you get totally different results. You don't get what people typically think of as the major races. ALFRED has some of this information although it takes a lot of work to go through all the data and the maintainers of the site try to stay out of discussions of race.

more than 4 years ago
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How Many Admins Per User/Computer Have You Seen?

Aram Fingal Re:What are you really asking? (414 comments)

Is that ratio figuring that the sysadmin is only taking care of the servers at the OS level and not the application level? I administrate an application which has different functions spread out over eight servers. The OS level systems administration is handled by a staff of sysadmins who take care of many other systems in addition to my eight. Two of us (myself and an assistant) take care of the application. If the sysadmin staff had to administrate things like the custom server application for my department, there's no way they could maintain that ratio of servers to admins.

I have noticed, by the way, that the job of sysadmin varies with the size of the business. At a really small business, the sysadmin does desktop support as well as server support and will even teach users how to do things. At a larger business, the sysadmin will only take care of server level stuff but that includes applications and network management. At a really large business, all these jobs are much more finely divided and a sysadmin only manages the server OS.

more than 4 years ago
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The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds

Aram Fingal Technical need is one thing, business is another (453 comments)

Educators and technologists say...

Too bad the pointy haired bosses aren't on the same page. If there were actually job postings out there for people with hybrid careers then maybe people would try to develop skill sets in two separate fields. I have degrees in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics and work experience in both Biology (with publications) and IT but I have never been able to get a job which values both skill sets at the same time. Actual Bioinformatics jobs are very rare. Computer skills, including advanced database design and programming, are very useful in a bio lab but that doesn't mean you'll get paid anything more for having those skills. I don't know whether this is a bone headed insistence that people need to specialize (I hear that from management frequently) or just a failure to recognize that there are people out there with mixed skills you could hire. It's probably some of each. A lot of people see someone like me as "Jack of all Trades, Master of None."

more than 4 years ago
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Do You Provide Tech Support To Friends and Family?

Aram Fingal All of the above (606 comments)

It depends on which family member or friend.

Rather than feign ignorance about Windows, I just mention how great I think Macs are and they wrongly assume that I don't know anything about Windows.

more than 4 years ago
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What Belongs In a High School Sci-Fi/Fantasy Lit Class?

Aram Fingal Asimov (1021 comments)

Like other people mentioned, I would like to see some Asimov in a course like this but I would actually put "The End of Eternity" at the top of the list. No other book explores the paradoxes of time travel as well as this one and time travel is an important branch of SF. Having said that, I Robot or one of the other Robot books would also be a good choice. It was, in fact, Isaac Asimov who first coined the term "robotics."

more than 4 years ago
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Back-to-school time means ...

Aram Fingal Re:On the bright side (447 comments)

We didn't use to... The US Education system was on life support while I was growing up, but has really taken a turn for the worst in the last decade.

I think that depends on the state and locality you live it. Most administration and funding of US schools is local, although federal rules and funding does make a difference at the margin. That margin matters more in poor areas than rich ones. So, what you're saying is, no doubt, true in Mississippi but not so much in Connecticut, for example.

'No Child Left Behind' has actually lead to 'No Child Whose Needs Shall Be Met', partly due to that obsessiveness with STs.

What I have heard from friends who are school administrators is that it's more like educational triage. There is an upper fraction of students who will do well on STs without help and a lower fraction who won't do well even with extensive help. The best strategy to work with No Child Left Behind is to ignore the upper and lower fraction and concentrate on those students in the middle. An administrator told me that there was one particular school in his district where it came down to only four students who would likely make the difference for the whole school.

The other element of winning strategy is to encourage poor students to stay out sick or give them out-of-school suspensions when they misbehave. This works out well because many of the poorest students also have behavior problems. You can exclude a student from the figures for meeting NCLB if they have a certain number of absences. In some cases, that can make all the difference for a school.

The worst thing about the obsession with STs is that they ignore some very important aspects of education like creativity and the ability to work independently.

about 5 years ago
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We're In the Midst of a Literacy Revolution

Aram Fingal Voice Recognition (431 comments)

she concludes that we don't need to worry about computers and the Internet causing a decline in general literacy

Right now, text is a major part of the user interface with computers and the Internet. That is likely to change. Audio and video are increasingly becoming part of the web and replacing content that would otherwise have been text. This trend will only increase with the increasing availability of broadband. We're already seeing people blog by sitting in front of a webcam and posting the video to youtube. Voice recognition will probably reach a point where it becomes the primary means of giving commands to a computer and becomes the main method of data entry. Text-to-voice is getting better all the time and will eventually be as good or better than having someone read to you. When these things happen, it will be the end of our current golden age of literacy. It will become easier then ever to function without being able to read.

about 5 years ago
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LoTR Lawsuit Threatens Hobbit Production

Aram Fingal Re:Bad news all around (427 comments)

These are works that should be in the public domain now for a variety of reasons.

Actually, the LOTR movies included some scenes which were not in the LOTR books. The scenes involving Isildur, for example, were from The Silmarillion or other books, published after J.R.R. Tolkien's death, with Christopher Tolkien as editor.

more than 5 years ago
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Navy Spends $33 Million For Hybrid of the High Sea

Aram Fingal Re:Not exactly a new idea (210 comments)

Actually, there is a mature technology for powering ships with wind. It's called a sail.

more than 5 years ago
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Detailed Privacy Study Finds Loopholes Galore

Aram Fingal Re:Guilty as charged (126 comments)

Personally, I don't believe it makes sense to have a web completely free of "web bugs"...

Why? Why can't advertising work on the web without tracking? Advertising in newspapers, television and radio doesn't track people and that has worked just fine for many many years.

more than 5 years ago
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Detailed Privacy Study Finds Loopholes Galore

Aram Fingal Re:Guilty as charged (126 comments)

You're right but storing personal info in the cookie itself isn't the way it's normally done. More often, they store something like visitor#42383645934568125 which is a database key. Your personal info is in their database and not in the cookie. Part of the problem with web beacons is that they effectively allow different sites to share the same database key. This wasn't supposed to happen with cookies which are restricted to being read back only by the same site that set them in the first place. Web beacons get around this limitation by loading a portion of the site which you are visiting, even something as small as a one pixel graphic, from a common advertising agency site. Some of these advertising sites are backed by huge clusters and able to serve a bit of content to a huge percentage of sites on the internet. That's what the graphs about Google's reach are explaining.

more than 5 years ago
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Can "Page's Law" Be Broken?

Aram Fingal Re:Of Course (255 comments)

Well I disagree with your disagreement about OS X performance. I went through progressive upgrades of OS X on the same hardware on several machines and the upgrades, except 10.5, were definitely progressively faster. I would agree that Apple's speed improvements in Software were not as fast as Moore's law but that isn't the point. The point is that OS X did get faster on the same hardware, counter to Page's Law. It is also true that OS X started with very poor performance and then improved. Yellow Dog Linux did perform much better than 10.0 on the same hardware back then. Today, my experience is that the relative performance of OS X and Linux is a lot closer, though I think Ubuntu (which is what I use now) is still faster.

Your impression may be a matter of RAM. Under about 256 MB RAM, OS 9 will perform better than any version of OS X. But 10.3 and above are faster as long as you have more RAM than that. 10.3 and above run reasonably fast on G3 Macs (unless you're really short on RAM) and quite well on G4 machines. I still have a 500Mhz G3 PowerBook "Pismo", 768 MB RAM with 10.4.11 and that's at least as fast as the same machine running OS 9 (I have it set up to dual boot.) It's certainly much more usable. It's more stable and can remain very responsive while running more programs at once than it can with OS 9. This machine doesn't have a suitable graphics card for Quartz Extreme. 10.4 is even more impressive on G3 and G4 machines if you remove Dashboard.

The other possibility (besides RAM) is that you haven't done a good job with maintenance. The unwritten rule is that you really need a third party disk utility like Alsoft Disk Warrior or Prosoft Drive Genius. Without one of those, you will see deterioration of performance over time, if not worse problems.

Better support for multi-core machines is one of the improvements in 10.6. The other big one is the 64-bit kernel. It is also better optimized for Intel processors in general. In fact it's Intel only so there won't be any speed comparison on PPC machines. Single core Intel (Core Solo) Macs are very rare and I don't have one to try out but I think 10.6 will probably run as fast or faster on those than 10.5 does.

more than 5 years ago
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Asus Slaps Linux In the Face

Aram Fingal Re:What is the lie? (644 comments)

"Familiar - Windows is easy to use and familiar so you can be up and running right away" - with 94% market share (Mac at 5% and Linux at 1%) it is reasonable to assume that most people are familiar with the Windows environment.

I realize that exact figures don't really change your argument much but market share figures are something that have long been slippery. The more appropriate figures, in my opinion, put Windows at about 88%, Mac at 9.7 and Linux around 1%.

Market share properly refers to the number of computers sold during a given period of time, which is not necessarily a good indication of the number of computers actually in use, which is called "installed base." One reason is that the time period given may or may not be representative. For example, the Mac had almost 20% market share in the month immediately following the introduction of the original iMac in 1997. That was short lived and didn't really affect the installed base that much. Another reason is, Mac advocates contend, that Mac users keep their Macs longer than Windows users keep their PCs. Therefore, the Mac's market share translates to a higher installed base. In the case of Linux, it's really hard to tell because many copies of Linux are not sold at all. They're just downloaded and installed on as many machines as the user wants.

Market share is often cited because it's something that's easy to measure. Another method that's relatively easy to measure is the percent of web surfing observed. This can be biased because of different uses for different kinds of computers and different software configurations. For example, the inclusion of RSS feeds turned on by default in recent versions of OS X gives Apple an unfair advantage because it constantly generates multiple hits to popular sites which the user is not actually going to. On the other hand, pervasive spyware may give Windows an unfair advantage for similar reasons. Linux is underrepresented in terms of these kinds of unintended surfing. Internet share also doesn't do a very good job counting the share of Linux in the server and embedded markets since these machines aren't really used that much for web surfing. Web surfing figures are often, wrongly, published as "market share," as in this article. Nevertheless, it is interesting to look at the figures.

more than 5 years ago
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Using WiMAX To Replace a Phone?

Aram Fingal Forwarding (169 comments)

I think an important thing to consider is the ability to forward your number. I'm thinking of doing that in general. If I have one number which I can forward different places, I can give that out to people who want to call me and I can have it forwarded to a prepaid cell phone, my work phone or other devices as needed at any particular time. It makes your idea much more practical and I think it's how people will do things in the future. It also helps enable more competition in the market for mobile phone devices.

more than 5 years ago
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Funding For Automotive Fuel Cells Cut

Aram Fingal Re:fuel cells are/were a pipe dream (293 comments)

... and the grid is 92.8% efficient.

I've seen this estimate before but where does it come from? Is it an average for a metropolitan area?

I thought that the efficiency of transmission for electricity is a function which drops off quickly with distance. This is the basis for the idea of distributed generation - you put numerous smaller generators near the points of use rather than a huge generator farther away. It is supposed to be a great use for stationary fuel cells because they can be placed in the middle of metropolitan areas without creating problems with emissions.

more than 5 years ago
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Funding For Automotive Fuel Cells Cut

Aram Fingal Re:You mean redirect the funds. (293 comments)

USO is a good ETF of the sort you're talking about. I'm currently long on that because I think it's better than trying to time the market for home heating oil. My tank at home it currently empty but I won't need to fill it until fall. I thought about filling it now while prices are low but, if prices start to fall again, I can't sell it back to the oil company the way I can trade an ETF.

First Solar is not a bad idea but it may be better to buy a fund with a mix of alternative energy players like PBW.

more than 5 years ago
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Warrantless GPS Tracking Is Legal, Says WI Court

Aram Fingal Re:But... (594 comments)

... and if that's too invasive, they could just use pervasive surveillance cameras combined with facial recognition software.

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

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Should I Hackspeak my Address to Avoid Glitches?

Aram Fingal Aram Fingal writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Aram Fingal (576822) writes "When my postal address (snail mail) is written using standard postal abbreviations, it is far too easily misread by humans. The obvious solution would be to not abbreviate it but many computer systems do not allow this. Most software will automatically abbreviate what I enter. The example below isn't my real address but similar enough to illustrate the problem.

I enter my address: "4 South Main ST"
Computer changes it to: "4 S MAIN ST"
A human misreads it as: "45 MAIN ST"

From this point, they may just send to the wrong address or, worse, enter it into another computer system, propagating the error. I have lived at this address for two years now and already the same error has been made independently by the Department of Motor Vehicles, a university where I take classes, three financial institutions where I have accounts and an online merchant.

My proposed hack solution is to deliberately misspell "South" in a way that will prevent software from automatically abbreviating it but which will still be obvious to humans. One possibility would be "Sou+h" but I wonder if some software would reject non-letter characters. Maybe "Sowth" would be better. Am I going to just dig myself into deeper trouble if I try this? What could possibly go wrong?"
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China irks US with computer security review rules

Aram Fingal Aram Fingal writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Aram Fingal (576822) writes "Yahoo Finance has a story, reporting that China has a plan to start requiring government certification of security related software. The U.S. sees this as a trade barrier designed to favor Chinese software makers. There is also the concern, among large U.S. technology companies, that their trade secrets could be disclosed in the review process."

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