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Adobe Spies On Users' eBook Libraries

CptJeanLuc Congratulations to Adobe (150 comments)

Congratulations to Adobe, as I would congratulate a fellow human being (since the supreme court ruling that corporations are people), for truly living the hardcore capitalist version of the American Dream. Doing whatever you can legally or illegally get away with to make more money, and not giving a [your favourite naughty word for excrement goes here] about anyone you walk over in the process.

It is the spyware part which bothers me the most. It is like having a plummer come to fix your toilet, you step out of the house for a few minutes, only to find when you come back that he is going through all your stuff - in order perhaps to understand you better as a person so that he can service you better in the future - or figure out if you are rich so he can charge you more. Or perhaps sell a list of your inventory to someone, for whatever purpose which is no longer the plummer's concern once he gets payment.

I should probably be upset about this whole Adobe thing, but after watching John Oliver's Last Week Tonight show from yesterday about how the police in the US can cease assets and bring cases against physical objects such as money or houses on a guilty until proven innocent basis, and proudly spend the money on whatever they want including machines for making frozen margueritas in the office - I just give up. How can you expect companies to do the right thing when the whole system is rotten to the core.

about three weeks ago

Will Windows 10 Finally Address OS Decay?

CptJeanLuc Re:The bigger Problem is their "updates" (577 comments)

Sadly the way updates work with MS they become the far bigger problem. You can easily see this by installing a "clean" system, examine its timing (please don't even think about using system internal benchmarks...), then patch it and notice just how much speed you suddenly miss.

Compared to osx and linux distro updates, Windows (at least Win 7) is a true dinosaur. Imagine how many man-hours are wasted worldwide while waiting for Windows to update, with a reboot required pretty much every single time. Even if you don't consider the time spent applying a patch during shutdown, there is often the additional waiting during boot, and more often than not it seems Windows want an additional reboot during startup. Which sucks hard if you have default dual-boot into Linux, because you fire up the PC, choose Windows, go grab a coffee, and when you come back ... behold, there is the Linux login. Because Windows of course decided to do some additional rebooting.

Yes, osx some times goes offline for a while when applying a large system patch, but this happens only every few moons, whereas with Windows you know you are in for a system update ride if you haven't touched that particular install in a couple weeks.

about three weeks ago

Will Windows 10 Finally Address OS Decay?

CptJeanLuc Same q as "is this feature an MS talking point" (577 comments)

If it's not part of the Win 10 sales pitch, then my 99% confidence answer is no. They are not going to invest in some feature that no customers will know about (because noone is talking about it).

Plus, as someone else pointed out, it may very well be part of the master plan, that system rot leads to users wanting to upgrade. And there definitely is some system rot going on - someone wrote in another post that this is no longer a problem since Win 7, but I have experienced this countless times with Win 7 over the years, with just standard installs without any fancy tinkering on my part.

about three weeks ago

Researchers Propose a Revocable Identity-Based Encryption Scheme

CptJeanLuc Better to make the public key the identity (76 comments)

It makes sense embedding into the identity itself the means to prove that identity. Linking a public key identity to an email address would be simple; you just put a self-signed certificate somewhere which claims "this email address belongs to me". There could be public, distributed lookup services for this.

To make things simpler, instead of using complex schemes for carrying private keys around, better just to use a deterministic key generation scheme which builds the identity from a passphrase. It is easy to use slight variations of this data to create alternate identities for different services and "ID spaces". There exist implementations of this concept, e.g. search Google for "decentral identities". There would be no need for password based login to services, because you would log in with the public key of your identity, and you would use the private key to prove your identity. Server side password theft is no longer possible. With such a scheme, you could possibly maintain only one single very complex password, and all identities are generated from that password, by adding e.g. service name. No need for any password manager or such.

If the key is compromised, then the identity is effectively lost. The identity would have to be revoked by distributing a self-signed revocation certificate, and the user would have to register a new identity to associate with service accounts and for contacts.

about a month ago

KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity

CptJeanLuc Re:Simplification, n. (184 comments)

Simplification: the act of removing features that are deemed unnecessary, redundant, irrelevant. Simplification (UI design): the act of removing or transforming discoverable, one-step, procedures in opaque, 3-step-after-reconfiguration procedures. See Gnome, Windows, OSX. Hopefully not KDE.

Or perhaps, an alternative ... Simplification (Software): the act of modifying software so that it offers an efficient, intuitive and "good enough" user experience for a broad range (and possibly various groups of) users, with minimum complexity in UI and design.

Simplification is not so much about removing features, as it is about transforming user experience into something leaner. Simplification does not have to be a bad thing, it is all about how you do it. Simplification is really hard; it has to do with how a piece of software is structured, from the ground up. E.g. stuff that is not encoded into the data model, you will never be able to do in the UI. If you have a data model that does not fit the problem, the UI will never be a good one. You cannot simplify an UI just by rearranging icons. Well, you can rearrange, but it does not necessarily get any simpler - you are only giving it a minimalistic appearance, which "fakes" simplicity.

I organize my kitchen on a Huffman-style principle. The stuff which needs to get accessed more often, is more accessible. Why should a UI be any different. You want the stuff you need more often to be readily available, thus minimizing the total number of user actions. That does not mean you cannot have layers of functionality, or possibly alternative UIs (click to enable/disable wizard menu mode).

"Power tech users" are doing themselves and communities a disservice by inisisting on cumbersome, archaic, complex UIs in order to be able to fully wield their power in the UI they know already. Why? Because it hurts general adoption, which hurts software usage, which makes it less attractive as a software ecosystem, which gives it a competitive disadvantage vis a vis other platforms. You want lots of users, so the platform can live on for years and years.

Don't misunderstand me here; I hate ribbons as much as the next guy, and after I recently had to try out Office365, that interface had me going absolutely bonkers, having to send off an angry user feedback in order to vent.

I consider myself a power user, but tech is not my day job, and I am getting old enough that I no longer wish to spend evenings sitting in a basement learning the ins and outs of every piece of program I come across. I spent years creating complex high tech infrastructure setups at home, only to change it all into something simpler because I cannot be bothered to maintain it anymore when it breaks. Life is too short, and even as a "power user", you may not want to have to be an expert on everything. These days, I will choose the program which just works without having to spend too much time figuring it out.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

CptJeanLuc Re:Regular boards are a lot smarter (96 comments)

It's funny, I've never, ever (in 20+yrs in IT including plenty of travel to client-sites) seen a smartboard used in business and only once seen one (possibly broken, never used) in a business at all. On the other hand I have seen loads and loads of them in schools.

Good point, they are not as widespread as I projected they would be at this point (I've left business to do other things the last 4-5 years). Though in a business, it could actually be useful. Not so much for interactive apps, but for interactive presentations, and for note keeping. I've had countless meetings using whiteboards, and at some point "invented" (locally in my company) the technique of using the cell phone camera for taking pictures of the whiteboard. It was quite frustrating having to work with regular whiteboards, because in a previous job they had these fancy boards which you could just push a button and the board content would be printed to a sheet of paper. Which was absolutely brilliant.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

CptJeanLuc Regular boards are a lot smarter (96 comments)

Smart boards can be useful for businesses. The people who manage schools want the schools to have the same stuff as the businesses, so they end up investing in smart boards. Unfortunately, they are not all that useful in school.

Students quickly get tired of powerpoint slide shows (which is how smart boards would normally be used, run some type of slide show and draw circles and stuff as you go), and most presenters tend to overload slides with information - because they can, and because they are bad at organizing and prioritizing information. School is not about putting content before students, it is about students actually learning. Using a regular board is a great learning tool, because it forces the presenter to pace himself to a speed which students can follow. Plus you actually have to prioritize a bit.

Smart boards are usually a bad replacement for regular boards. Why? Because they add little value. I have not heard about any great smart board apps that are actually being used in class, it is all about the "possibilities" which never quite seem to actually happen in real life. But are there any disadvantages to smartboards? Yes, instead of a nice and big board which you can structure into segments and organize lots of content, you are now limited to this tiny little smart board. Plus you have to fire up the computer, and there are all sort of technological pitfalls.

The best type of board; an old style board for using with chalk. Extremely low tech, and as long as there is any tiny piece of chalk around, you have a functional setup. No PC to boot, no spending time getting the smart board set up - you just grab the chalk and start the lesson.

about a month ago

Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

CptJeanLuc Perfect long-term provider for key infrastructure (115 comments)

I can highly recommend Logitech for home infrastructure. I decide to invest in the Logitech Squeezebox line with two SB Touch, four SB Radios, and even a Boom sitting around somewhere. Rather than going with something with short shelf life, it is good to be on a platform from a known long-term player, with a long-term commitment for maintaining and further developing that platform. Their server software is rather well hidden on the internet, but hey ... if something is not worth spending lots of time chasing, then it is probably not of much value - I understand, you are just playing hard to get Logitech. I know that deep down you actually want my business.

I also own a Harmony remote. It works great, except the one annoyance that it cannot be programmed so that the TV button actually controls the TV, unless you reprogram the entire thing. I am sure they will get around to fixing that eventually, they are probably just too busy rolling out the next Squeezebox upgrade, so I don't mind waiting a few years more for that one.

Given Logitech's reputable history in the home media center market, I certainly have expectations what they could do to home automation.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?

CptJeanLuc Don't overcomplicate (268 comments)

Just buy a bunch of appropriately sized external drives, set them up with encrypted file systems (and make sure whoever may need it has the password), copy all videos to each drive, and get some friends and family to store them for you. Put all your other important content such as family photos etc. on the same drives (if you are going through all this hassle anyways, might as well save more data in the process). Redistribute updated copies in a few years (to back up new content, and to protect against ageing drives). In order for this scheme to fail, each drive has to either fail, get lost, or otherwise kept from you due to a scheming ex-friend.

But seriously ... what is the value of this data, really. Is anyone ever going to watch this stuff; will they notice if it goes missing. There is no need to over-engineer a system for nice-to-have data. If you have 2-3 independent offsite copies, that is already approaching that limit. Assuming this video material is probably never going to be used or watched, the best scheme is likely some system which provides a feeling that the data is safe - and then one can go on for the rest of one's life ignoring it exists. In this case, the subjective feeling of data safety is more important than actual data safety.

I may be wrong, your tapes may be really important ... but if they were, why would they be a random organization of clips sitting in a drawer, with no copies in the first place. This does not sound like something that requires a complex setup.

about a month ago

Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

CptJeanLuc Re:Dear God, no (368 comments)

Why do these successful companies allow themselves to be bought up by behemoths who almost never improve upon them?

Using the voice of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movie: "two ... b i l l i o n ... dollars".

There are two options; either cash in and take the 2 Bn which then becomes a sure thing, or keep running the company with the two possibilities that you could make even more money (that you would never have the chance to spend anyway so there is in reality zero additional value in that scenario), or you could lose some or all of the value. The owner may even have knowledge they are currently headed in a bad direction. First option you have to do zero work for the rest of your life, second option you have to work really, really hard running the company.

Think of it in terms of game theory. For society as a whole, this is a suboptimal decision. However for the owner, it is probably the right decision.

about a month and a half ago

AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

CptJeanLuc 5Mbps is enough ... (533 comments)

... if you don't have to share it with family members. If you do not mind not watching content in HD. If your 5Mbps connection is actually stable and always delivering peak. If none of the devices in your house want to suddenly update themselves when you are trying to watch something. If you have have the self discipline and masochistic tendencies that you actually enjoy buying that shiny new game on Steam, and then spending hours waiting for it to download ... while also not being able to do any streaming. Source: I have a 5Mbps/750kbps wireless based connection, and it is the only option in my area. I also have several household members, a preference for watching content in HD, sometimes shitty connection with only 1-3 Mbps, and a bunch of PCs, tablets and mobile phones which may all suddenly decide to use the net.

I don't know; you would think society should be moving forward when it comes to planning and managing infrastructure. In the last century, they were able to deliver electricity, phone lines, paved roads, water, and what not to pretty much everyone. These days, it is a global news event if a couple cities in the US get Gbps home networks (which supposedly they have had for years in e.g. Japan), and fixing a few kilometers of road is a major investment which will drain local infrastructure budgets for a year.

Even today's corrupt authorities should take a page from the Romans' playbook, giving the people "bread & circus". If you want happy citizens, make sure everyone has a fast internet connection.

about a month and a half ago

Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

CptJeanLuc Structured thinking and problem solving matters (546 comments)

Some form of higher education involving logic, problem structuring and rational thinking is needed, though not necessarily computer science. Either that, or taking some sort of structured approach to learning that set of skills elsewhere, e.g. through mentoring or self-studies. You need to figure out what skill set it is that you need to learn, and then make sure you somehow learn it, either at university or some other way. That being said, I know plenty people with CS education who I would say make very poor programmers - it is easy to go through higher education and still learn very little. One of my favourite quotes, "he who has no plan goes nowhere fast". Just being somewhere and following some curriculum is not the same as pursuing a roadmap towards becoming a "real" programmer.

I myself am pretty much self-taught when it comes to programming, having taken an interest in that since the age of 9 with Basic and C64, but never taking any formal training. Higher education in mathematics has given me all the additional experience and skills I have needed. I have worked with programmers and managed programmers for several years, and though they are often better at coding than I am (which is not so strange given it is their job, whereas for me it has been just one of many different responsibilities), I often have an edge when it comes to e.g. structuring, algorithms, wading through complexity, or taking a critical point of view whether we are building the right thing.

If you want to be a top programmer who is productive in a work place, you need both programming skills and higher order rational logical thinking (plus being able to collaborate). It doesn't matter how you acquire it (in terms of learning it, not necessarily how attractive you are to employers). Everything else, e.g. new programming languages and such, is typically easy to learn once the basics are in place.

about 2 months ago

You Got Your Windows In My Linux

CptJeanLuc Re:The Future! (613 comments)

It's messy sometimes but so is anything that involves people.

That sentence has the potential to become one of my frequently used quotes going forward, along with "it is what it is".

about 2 months ago

Microsoft Lobby Denies the State of Chile Access To Free Software

CptJeanLuc Re:Wow (159 comments)

You sir have probably been watching too much regular US news (i.e. propaganda, sponsored content or advertisement). For something resembling actual news I recommend Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show or The Colbert Show. Yes, the only place to get decent commentary about the important stuff which is happening these days, is from comedians. Spend a year watching stories about the stuff that politicians and companies are not only doing but also proudly getting away with, and you might want to rethink how tough your country really is on corruption.

about 2 months ago

Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

CptJeanLuc Yes, but they should be paying me (611 comments)

Yes, if such a system actually worked, I would gladly pay. But in fairness, I should be paying way less than the global average. I have developed pretty good skills of ignoring anything resembling an ad. Actually I make it a point to avoid buying from anyone pushing their ads too aggressively, as long as there is reasonable competition. Probably those ad pushers should be paying me money for not wasting their budgets.

about 2 months ago

If You're Always Working, You're Never Working Well

CptJeanLuc Counter-productive American work culture (135 comments)

From working from Europe in a global organization a few years ago, it was interesting to see how American colleagues always seem to be projecting the importance of their work and their persona, with an always-on mindset. And it was interesting how emails got answered in the late evening US time zones, with replies that were clearly in the style of "I want you to know that I read your email and am working in the evening", but with no real effort behind the response. And with silly emails like "going away with family on vacation for two days, so I will be reading email less frequently" - dude, why are you checking your emails on a vacation.

Furthermore, US colleagues often seemed obsessed about strengthen their own work position, paranoid about any initiative which may reduce their importance, and generally working relations and politics to make themselves as hard-to-fire as possible. Some people clearly playing their own agenda not really caring about what is right for the company. And creating as little transparency as possible about information they own, making it hard to objectively assess their performance, or replace them with someone else. The kind of person who will do what they are asked, and little else.

In Scandinavia, my experience is we tend to focus on getting sh%# done, and nobody really cares when you do it. In most work environments people are not expected to be always-on, and we embrace the idea that it is good for people to be able to take some weeks vacation once in a while. Plus with public welfare systems - yes, the dreaded "socialism" - you don't have to be overly paranoid about the consequences of losing your job.

One of the most effective tools I have had in terms of time management, is that whenever someone has asked me something with a questionable or unreasonable timeline, I have questioned the time frame and discussed what are actual requirements - and usually there is no problem shifting the timeline to something reasonable. Just because someone asks, that does not mean you have to say yes. There is nothing worse than under-delivering. It is better both for yourself, and for whomever is asking, to push back and find something that works - and then deliver a quality end product. Or some times reducing the scope - someone asks for a big presentation, which you know they may end up changing everything - and you agree on instead making a rough draft and storyline. So you just saved yourself a ton of work, and all it took was 2 minutes of intelligent discussion.

As for changing the culture, I'd say just take a position regarding how and when you plan to work, and let your colleague and peers know. Or at least discuss what is the expectation in terms of work commitments. So they will not be expecting an always-on mindset. In the end, if you keep delivering your stuff, I would think that is what matters.

about 3 months ago

Microsoft Takes Down Domains

CptJeanLuc Great move alienating tech savvy people (495 comments)

Our company has found evidence there are people driving cars while under the influence of alcohol in and out of the city, every single day. In order to safeguard our customers who frequently travel the city streets, we move to block all roads accessing the city.

Come on Microsoft ... if you want to be the hip guy who are just as cool as Apple and Google, you need to stop doing this kind of stuff. If you want to steam ahead as you are currently going, with draconian initiatives with questionable legal base that mess up the infrastructure of mostly tech savvy users (you know, the people who give advice to others what they should buy) who will tell their friends exactly what they believe people should expect from your company, then here is a free suggestion for a new company slogan, "Microsoft - because we can".

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

CptJeanLuc Secret Sharing (208 comments)

The problem; trust. Say you had a number of deposit boxes with valuable contents. Do you give someone copies of all your keys, as you intend for them to get the contents later - and trust them not to open any of it until the time comes. Do you invent some clever scheme that they will find the keys when they go through your stuff when the time comes - though the thing is they may never find it, and noone will ever know. Or do you buy some service from ShadyCo Care Services to keep copies of your keys, with a promise they will be delivered to the right people when the time comes.

The problem is trust. Ultimately with these examples, you either trust one particular person more than you would normally want to do (it is nice to have close family and friends, but we do not necessarily give them all the passcodes to access our bank accounts and do stuff in our name), trust some entity which ultimately cannot be trusted (e.g. corporation), or bet on some chain of events to unfold as planned.

Within the area of cryptography, there is a concept called "secret sharing", that instead of one password (or "master secret"), a number of secrets are produced which when combined in various pre-defined ways, will create the master secret. You encrypt a file with the secret information you want to pass on, using very strong encryption and a very strong password - and then create a number of secrets from the master password. E.g. if you have 2 siblings and 3 children, you could split up the key such that any one sibling together with two of the children, would be able to reconstruct the master password.

So what is the nice thing about this type of scheme? It means you do not need to trust people as much. In order to "screw you over" by going against your instructions, with the above example three of the people you think are closest to you would have to collaborate - which is a lot less likely to happen than if one single person held all the power.

There are some practical issues - each person would have to get a secret to be protected, preferably in some way which cannot be hacked - and a piece of software that they will be able to use to reconstruct the secret - something portable which will run on anything and which can also be operated by computer illiterates. I would not expect anyone has written software specifically for this, though it would have been quite easy, as the concept of secret sharing is pretty straightforward, e.g. the secret lies along a n-th degree polynomial with known x-value e.g. x=0, and each person gets coordinates for a different point along the graph. Any n points are sufficient to resolve the coefficients of the polynomial f(x), and thus determine f(0).

about 4 months ago

X Window System Turns 30 Years Old

CptJeanLuc Re:1994-95 (204 comments)

Oh, the memories. 1994 in university, and they had a room of SGI Indy workstations, with Internet connection. Everything was utterly confusing with Unix, X11, ctwm and what not. Asking the wizards for help was pretty scary, as they would stare you down as if you were a waste of perfectly good carbon. Those were good times.

And then installing Slackware from floppy, onto a 486DX33 I think it was. Getting the X server up and running was pretty scary, which involved getting a supposedly supported graphics card, and playing around with dot clock frequencies while reading warnings about how this could fry the monitor. No manual, no search engines to turn to for help the way you can look up almost any question today and find an answer in a forum somewhere, and no internet at home.

I think it was a couple years later when Linux got initial support for multiple processors, and this was before the concept of "cores". Which was pretty cool. Got a Tyan Tomcat III motherboard with two pentium processors, and had a lot of fun figuring out how to get that to work. Those were the days when you had to compile your own kernel, at least for that type of functionality.

Actually, the Tyan Tomcat III motherboard was the only piece of hardware I owned which got ruined due to Y2K. Because I was afraid the PC would get broken, I downloaded a new BIOS and followed instructions to flash. The computer never booted again; would probably have been just fine if I had the wisdom to just leave it alone.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy?

CptJeanLuc Throw most of it away? (201 comments)

I was about to write a longer post, but it boils down to this; you probably have too much stuff you don't need. And VHS tapes which you think you may want to watch later, but 95% of them you never will, and the remaining 5% is no big loss, or you can just get them on DVD or similar. If you are afraid of losing information, just put the VHS tapes in a box somewhere. If you find out later you really want to watch one of them, then you will find a technical solution at that time. Which is going to be cheaper and/or less time consuming than converting a bunch of commercial and/or personal videos, which you can then not watch in digitized format instead of not watching them on VHS.

about 6 months ago


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