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Comments

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Officials Say NSA Probed Fewer Than 300 Numbers - Broke Plots In 20 Nations

FoolishOwl Re:I'm sure it's effective (419 comments)

It's not even a plausible lie. It doesn't take billions of dollars and years of work to grep the phone book for a short list of numbers.

about 10 months ago
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Turkish PM: "To Me, Social Media Is the Worst Menace To Society."

FoolishOwl Re:American News Outlets... (418 comments)

You're clearly not following the same people I follow on Twitter.

about a year ago
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Google Drops XMPP Support

FoolishOwl Re:Bad Google (416 comments)

Oh, and how did it become a "generic pejorative"? From bigoted thugs, calling out details of one's personal appearance as evidence that they were gay, and therefore should be beaten.

That's my memory of high school in the late 80s. And college in the 90s. And, come to think of it, some incidents I've seen in the last month.

about a year ago
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Google Drops XMPP Support

FoolishOwl Re:Please explain (416 comments)

Yes, it will stop working. It's only because Google Talk is based on XMPP that third-party chat clients can work with it.

about a year ago
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Xkcd's Long-running "Time" Comic: Work of Art Or Nerd Sniping?

FoolishOwl It's a waste of time to look before it's finished (190 comments)

I was puzzled by the image, the first time I saw the regular XKCD page -- I didn't see the point. So I looked at Explain XKCD, and found out it that the image was being updated periodically. I checked in again later, and saw that it was basically an animated movie, which is easily missed if you look at just one static image. The thing is, there's no point to watching an animation going up, one frame at a time, over months. You're not going to get any special insights that way that you can't get when it's completed, by watching the whole thing. You could presumably go back over individual frames at that point if you want to do a close analysis of it. But there's not enough to go on yet to make sense of it.

From what I've seen of this series so far, I'm guessing it will turn out to have some meaning that can be fully explained in a sentence or two.

There's a trend in entertainment of measuring out some serial narrative, one tiny fragment at a time, and encouraging the development of a fanbase that will analyze each succeeding fragment. This happens with Webcomics, and augmented reality games, as well as with series of computer games, series of novels, and television series. While there's no shortage of bunk that appears in the fanbase's theorizing, you'll inevitably see theories emerge that are far more interesting than what the writer originally had in mind. Inevitably, the fanbase will end up burned out and disappointed.

At some point, people need to learn to develop the self-respect to just stop hitting refresh to find out what the answer is to the enigma. Just check in again in a few months, when it's all over. It'll probably seem quite clever or interesting for the minute or two it takes to watch the whole thing.

about a year ago
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My most frequent OS migration path?

FoolishOwl Re:Almost four years now on Linux. (413 comments)

That's interesting. I hadn't seen details on power consumption of idle computers. I'd assumed they were using nearly as much power idle as active.

about a year ago
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My most frequent OS migration path?

FoolishOwl Re:Almost four years now on Linux. (413 comments)

Now, I enjoy only rebooting when i update the kernel, instead of daily crashes and lockups.

While I certainly prefer the stability of Linux, I don't understand why people are so resistant to shutting off their computers when they're not going to use them for a few hours. A few years ago, boot times were less than the time it took to make my morning coffee; since then, most linux distributions have put a lot of work into reducing boot times, and I find a reboot cycle is only about a minute.

about a year ago
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"Historically, this is ridiculous"

FoolishOwl Maybe we won't know we're winning until we've won (32 comments)

Graeber made an interesting point, about how power groups are most concerned with denying the possibility of alternatives, to the point of undermining themselves. He gives the example of a demonstration outside a building where there were to be a series of IMF meetings. The demonstrators were met with an overwhelming police presence, and he went home feeling depressed, feeling the demonstration had been futile. But later, he learned that most of the IMF meetings had been shut down by security -- which is to say, the demonstrators had in fact scored a significant victory.

The lesson seems to be that we have to understand that our feelings of powerlessness are manufactured, and we need to learn to persist despite those feelings.

1 year,14 days
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Apple Angers Mac Users With Silent Shutdown of Java 7

FoolishOwl Re:Good (451 comments)

Good to know.

about a year ago
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Internet-Deprived Kids Turning To 'McLibraries'

FoolishOwl Re:Wow (331 comments)

Well said. I tried to make similar points, but you explained them much more thoroughly and clearly.

about a year ago
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Internet-Deprived Kids Turning To 'McLibraries'

FoolishOwl Re:Wow (331 comments)

In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis analyzes this at length: that in most of the world, the rich live in urban centers, and the poor have great difficulty affording housing in urban centers. The trouble is, of course, the urban centers are where all the jobs are. So, there are all sorts of messy, quasi-legal and illegal housing arrangements. It's quite common for people to have to pay rent to sleep on sidewalks, for example.

It's relatively recently that housing patterns in the US have started shifting to match those of the rest of the world.

Of course, many forms of work can be performed from anywhere, provided there's access to high-bandwidth communication, which would significantly ease the burden on many people to find affordable housing. But that rather brings us back to the problem illustrated in the original article.

about a year ago
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Internet-Deprived Kids Turning To 'McLibraries'

FoolishOwl Re:Wow (331 comments)

Then you don't understand poverty.

Conservatives used to occasionally kick up a fuss about "unfunded mandates". Poor people have to deal with those all the time. One unfunded mandate is that Internet access is a practical requirement for participation in contemporary society. If you don't have Web access, you can't search for jobs or apply for them, or fill out legally mandatory paperwork, or do your homework.

As we all know, web-enabled devices are bargains, because they enable access to many different forms of communication and entertainment. I remember a furor erupting when a local newspaper, for an article about long-term unemployment showed a photo of a family in a one-room apartment. There was a table, with a smartphone on it. There were a few chairs, and some blankets and pillows on the floor, and no other furniture; no television, no other telephone, nothing. Yet people complained they couldn't really be poor, because they had a smartphone.

And yes, McDonalds is bad food, and overpriced. Try visiting a poor urban neighborhood sometime. It's a major problem that low-income neighborhoods frequently lack grocery stores, that the only food sources within a few miles are corner stores with overpriced convenience foods and fast food restaurants.

about a year ago
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Free Wi-Fi: the Movement To Give Away Your Internet For the Good of Humanity

FoolishOwl Re:Open network? (505 comments)

The ASUS RT-N66U's stock firmware prominently features this as an option (though I'd recommend replacing the stock firmware with RMerlin's customized version that includes OpenVPN).

about a year ago
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Free Wi-Fi: the Movement To Give Away Your Internet For the Good of Humanity

FoolishOwl Re:Open network? (505 comments)

I have a router that allows for setting multiple SSIDs and for setting the access rules, so I set up an SSID of openwireless.org a few months ago, with no access to my LAN but otherwise unrestricted access. I live in a dense urban area, near a heavily-trafficked shopping and dining area. I get a dozen or so unique MACs connecting to the open WiFi a day. They usually just connect for a minute or two. The increase in bandwidth usage has been negligible: less than 1%.

I haven't checked exactly what they're connecting to, but it looks a lot to me like they're just checking Google Maps, and no one is downloading porn.

about a year ago
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Free Wi-Fi: the Movement To Give Away Your Internet For the Good of Humanity

FoolishOwl Re:Open network? (505 comments)

Hear, hear.

The degree of cowardice in this thread is astonishing.

about a year ago
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Hidden Viral Gene CaMV IV in GMO Crops Discovered

FoolishOwl Oh, there you anti-science hippies go again! (17 comments)

What is it with these anti-science hippies, quoting scientists, instead of trusting in corporations? We only produce about twice the amount of food needed to feed everyone in the world, so, clearly, we need to bring food production more tightly under the control of a tiny number of gigantic agribusinesses, in order to eliminate hunger.

about a year ago
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FDA Closer To Approving Biotech Salmon

FoolishOwl Re:stop complaining (204 comments)

Science has fed the world with an unbelievable array of giant, hearty and delicious foods. It's called agriculture, and it was invented 10,000 years ago.

Hunger and poverty are political weapons.

about a year ago

Submissions

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Treadmill shows medieval armour influenced battles

FoolishOwl FoolishOwl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

FoolishOwl (1698506) writes "Scientists at the University of Leeds tested the effects of wearing heavy medieval armor by monitoring volunteers, who were experienced medieval reenactors, as they walked and ran on treadmills, while wearing accurate replicas of 15th century armor. While the suits of armor weighed between 30 and 50 kg, comparable to the weight of gear carried by modern soldiers, volunteers who carried equivalent amounts of weight in backpacks had an easier time with the weight. Volunteers in armor burned more energy and had difficulty breathing. The scientists speculate that much of the additional effort was due to weight of armor on the legs — leg armor was one of the first things dropped in the shift towards lighter armor in the 16th century.

While it has long been assumed that heavy medieval armor limited mobility, and that this contributed to the outcome of battles, such as the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, this was the first study to quantify the impact of wearing heavy armor."

Link to Original Source
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US in fifteenth place for broadband access

FoolishOwl FoolishOwl writes  |  more than 3 years ago

FoolishOwl (1698506) writes "According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US has fallen to fifteenth in the ranking of nations with respect to the proportion of citizens with broadband Internet access, from third place ten years ago. While US consumers report satisfaction with their Internet access speeds, they receive less bandwidth at higher prices than consumers in Europe. One possible source of the difference is that most advanced nations require line sharing by ISPs, but the US does not."
Link to Original Source

Journals

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Every so often, I consider giving up on Slashdot entirely

FoolishOwl FoolishOwl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Sometimes I love Slashdot.

And sometimes, I read some horrible festival of unrepentant sexism, in which I can count on my fingers the comments that aren't offensive and blind to history.

I'm reminded of a critic's comment about Nietzche's frequent sexist rants in his books, that just when he seemed to believe he was bravely challenging the orthodoxy of the day, was when he was most emphatically affirming the orthodox notions of gender.

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I worry about the principle of least privilege and default-deny

FoolishOwl FoolishOwl writes  |  more than 2 years ago

I'm currently taking a course on network security; the class is, in itself, inane, but it does contribute to my continuing to think about information security over a period of time. It seems to me that issues in information security bring to a head issues that concern me about the social impact of computer and network technology in general.

It's hard to miss that there is a conservative bias in thinking about security -- conservative in more than one sense. There's the obvious political bias, with the prevailing law-and-order rhetoric and exaggerated concern about "terrorists". And there's the approach to computers and networking as problems to bring under control, not as opportunities; creativity is regarded as a threat, sharing as a vulnerability. That both these senses are in play is, I think, no coincidence, but I've been trying to find a succinct way to describe the link.

I was reading a discussion of auditing, which went into checking whether users have appropriate privileges, and reminded us of the principle of least privilege, in which a user or process should be granted no more than the absolute minimum level of privilege needed to perform their assigned tasks. And I thought of the concept of "default-deny", as in one should close all ports by default and only open them as needed.

Here it clicked. The principle of political liberty is "default-accept" -- you don't need permission to do as you will, except in specifically enumerated circumstances. An egalitarian society is a societ of equality of privileges. The model of secure computing is completely at odds with the model of a liberated, egalitarian society.

This should give you pause if you think of Lawrence Lessig's argument in Code 2.0, that software code becomes a form of social legislation, and we need to consider who is writing the code and what its effects will be. And consider the inverse of Conway's Law: if the structure of a computer system reflects the structure of the organization that created it, couldn't the structure of a society shift to reflect the structure of a computer system used throughout that society?

It's seemed to me for some time that much of the structure of Linux and Unix is intrinsically hierarchical and authoritarian: all filesystems are mounted to the root filesystem; all users are subordinate to the root user, with their limited privileges a subset of root's privileges, assigned by root. It's like the Great Chain of Being.

My sense is that the assumption of much of the free software community is that the implicit contradiction between the liberatory project of free software and the authoritarian model of Linux and Unix is that each person gets to be the system administrator of their own computer. But that runs into the classic mistake of hyper-individualist libertarianism, in ignoring the fundamental social character of human existence. Not everyone has the time, energy, or inclination to master their own machines, and even if they did, those machines are bound together in a global computer network. And I forgot to mention: there's the root of the DNS hierarchy, modelled on the Unix file system model.

Obviously, there are real reasons to limit what users can do on a system. If I run a Web server on my desktop computer, I still don't want other people to have access to my bank account. I would rather my nine-year-old talked to me before installing new applications. And so on.

I wonder if we could find a new and better paradigm for operating systems, which matched egalatarian ideals and the project of human liberation implicit in the free software project.

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