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Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda Resigns From Slashdot

Fractal Dice O Captain! My Captain! (1521 comments)

Thank you for all the hard work in hosting this little club over the years. I can't begin to tell you how much this site has meant to me through its glory years (and to the loweruid-alias-me I misplaced somewhere along the way). I've discovered more nooks and crannies of the Internet because of this site than I can count. Back in the day, it saved my job more than once with something I learned or was forewarned about here.

I wish I could dream up some proper tribute to say farewell with ... some little wave across the 'net. You were (are) one of the great pioneers of the web and the world is a better place for what you did here.

about 3 years ago

NASA Discovers 7th Closest Star

Fractal Dice Distribution of the trail (137 comments)

At what point do we start to see a picture of the small/cold tail of size distributions? One of the questions that interests me greatly is the frequency of rogue planets in the interstellar medium. If you could see a curve of brown dwarf sizes (weighted by the difficulty of detecting them), it would be fun to just naively extend the graph and see how common gas-giant sized objects would be relative to detectable stars.

about 3 years ago

AT&T Kills $10 Texting Plan, Pushes $20 Plan

Fractal Dice Re:It's the market (348 comments)

The irony of a free and competitive market is that it most lavishly rewards those who find a way to make the market controlled and anti-competitive.

more than 3 years ago

Canada To Adopt On-Line Voting?

Fractal Dice Since the CBC moderators won't accept my comment (405 comments)

The key metric in the credibility of an electoral system is what is the maximum amount of fraud that can be committed with a small number of people. The paper ballot system is a remarkable piece of engineering when you stop and think about it: you have to be physically present to vote and the physical ballot is accounted for at all times, making ballot stuffing difficult to pull off on a large scale by a small number of people. The observation and counting of votes is distributed, likewise limiting the scope of an fraud.

In any electronic system, the vote moves through countless devices that could be corrupted internally or externally. Any attempt to identify fraud using statistical deviation from polling numbers now trusts the pollsters (whose numbers were wildly skewed in the final days of the last election) as much as the actual vote.

In any centralized counting system, is going to be IT team that the nation has to have absolute trust in: their intregrity, their flawless execution and their ability to detect any tampering.

Note that tampering not only covers changing the results and ballot stuffing, but also removing the veil of annonymity. In an increasingly polarized environment, being flagged in party's database as an enemy voter could easily come to affect how your career prospects in government and how you are treated by a beaurocracy

Finally, its not enough that the election is not tampered with, it needs to be provably tamper-free. It's not enough for the chief electoral officer to be satisfied with the results, the public needs to be confident that for systematic tampering to have occurred that it required a conspiracy too large to realisticly remain secret.

more than 3 years ago

S&P's $2 Trillion Math Mistake

Fractal Dice The politics matter (1040 comments)

I would argue that the mere fact that the threat of a default was bargaining chip on the table makes a downgrade justified.

Either the last month was all empty rhetoric or it wasn't. The fact that the threat of forcing a default elicited significant concessions proves that it was considered a legitimate risk and therefore, a downgrade makes sense.

more than 3 years ago

World Wide Web Turns 20 Today

Fractal Dice Memories of Predictions Past (169 comments)

I didn't discover the web until 94 but I have fond memories of going to yahoo and skiimming through all the new websites on the Internet each week.

When I look back at my predictions from those early years, I was right about predicting the emergence of services like ebay, wikipedia, online newspapers and how the web would eventually supplant tv as the number one medium for wasting time.

I imaged social networking would be a bit like slashdot but that everyone would have their own personal webservers and that discussions would unfold as flat files. I imagined there would be tools that aggregated all the homepage discussions of your friends into threads of a single feed of "what's new and hot" and that you wouldn't care so much about modding comments up or down because it was all happening within smaller communities and if you didn't like a thread, you'd just drop it from your feed.

I was mostly wrong about universities (I thought that they would eventually become completely redundant with the web but they actually seem to be enduring more intact and unchanged than any other part of society). I was also worried that the decline of mass media in favour of user-to-user communication and hiveminds would mean an explosion of new relgions and religious-type thinking, but even though hiveminds are a problem on the web, they aren't as much of a problem as I had expected.

I also expected that there would be a lot more sentimental/poetic websites - I imagined a web of maps of the world would emerge, marked up with layers of memories, comments about why people found certain locations, virtual graffiti or game-like systems using real maps. Sort of a google maps / geocaching mix

more than 3 years ago

Wikipedia Losing Contributors, Says Wales

Fractal Dice Re:Sick of the cabals (533 comments)

The probability that a random new edit will be beneficial drops as the project matures and becomes more polished. Increasingly powerful and conservative cabals are natural consequence of any academic system defending its signal:noise ratio.

more than 3 years ago

China's 5-Year Cyberwar Met With Western Silence

Fractal Dice Re:Not so much that they are weak (185 comments)

I think there's another potential actor to consider: large scale organized crime. Investment houses routinely profit off of talking up and down stocks in ethically questionable ways. Small scale organized crime may manipulate a company with a few threats to employees or infrastructure. What if the two combine and the threat of copying/corrupting key corporate databases become a vulnerable spot by which megacorps can be manipulated by criminals safely sitting in a sanctuary country but using the same general tactics as a shakedown of a corner store?

more than 3 years ago

China's 5-Year Cyberwar Met With Western Silence

Fractal Dice Governments are acting, just ineffectively. (185 comments)

National governments send in non-technical spokespeople from their security agencies to talk to company IT departments, giving general ominous warnings along with cryptic and non-specific hints ... essentially the same things you would see on the evening news. Then the IT people go back to their desks and see that in the elapsed hour a new batch of tickets has arrived about failed servers, a meeting invite to discss the state of an overdue project and a voicemail from a manager suggesting a better shade of orange for the spreadsheets to be coded in.

more than 3 years ago

I try to learn something new every...

Fractal Dice every minute (160 comments)

Every time I refresh slashdot is an attempt to learn something new.

more than 3 years ago

Limits On Growth of Energy Use and Economies

Fractal Dice Re:Endless growth is impossible (482 comments)

Even in a near-steady state, there are pockets that expand and displace their surroundings at an exponential rate. Within the ecology of the planet, humanity itself is an example of this.

One possible "steady state" economy may be a continuous froth of bubbles - pockets of exponential growth draining money from the rest of the economy. Seen through the eyes of those riding the bubbles, it would look little different than our exponentially growing economy, you just have a much larger percentage of the population of the edges of society dropping off into the gutter during crashes.

As we get closer to the limit of *global* economic growth, is there really any point at which we shouldn't still reward *local* economic growth? Do the merits and flaws of different economy systems really change depending on whether or not you are playing a zero-sum game?

more than 3 years ago

Limits On Growth of Energy Use and Economies

Fractal Dice Space is not an answer (482 comments)

Space increases as r^3 (give or take a little gravitational bending) and the speed of light limits the rate at which the radius of inhabited space can grow. Any process that depends on exponential growth to maintain stability will quickly overwhelm our ability to expand outwards. At best we buy ourselves a couple more millenia - a blip in cosmic timescales.

more than 3 years ago

Are We Seeing the End of Big Oil?

Fractal Dice Re:logical (230 comments)

Something that deserves more study is the question of why a large monolithic company can outcompete an ecosystem of smaller units in the first place. The existance of large companies seems to contradict all the theory of how a free market is supposed to efficiently self-organize and motivate people.

more than 3 years ago

Are We Seeing the End of Big Oil?

Fractal Dice Re:Yes but not because of that but (230 comments)

A small quibble over terminology but in a post-oil world, the capture of energy and the transportation of energy are two seperate problems. "Hydrogen as fuel" is one possible solution to the transportation problem, completely seperate from the capture problem.

more than 3 years ago

Nortel Patent Sale Gets DoJ Review

Fractal Dice Re:Value... (109 comments)

If Nortel had booked them as a $4B asset, would they have had to go into bankruptcy in the first place?

more than 3 years ago

Seigniorage Hack Could Resolve Debt Limit Crisis

Fractal Dice Re:"printing" money (696 comments)

He can't because there's a law capping the amount that can be printed bills. However coins are handled by a seperate law that fails to specify a limit on denomination.

Of course a president shouldn't do this - spending authority is supposed to come from Congress, but Congress has given the President contradictory orders: it has passed a budget that mandates spending, then turned around an said it might deny him the authority to raise the money to carry out the orders. At the same time, the 14th Ammendment says that public debt *must* be honored. So how does a president resolve the conflicting orders?.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, then whatever he does whether it's spent or default, will come down to some technicality/loophole. Openly talking about actually doing to the trillion dollar coin or defaulting on debt is basically acknowledging that we're down to the endgame of this silly debate. The Debt Ceiling is a stupid concept - the debate over how far to go into debt belongs in the budget. Cutting it out of the budget and treating it like it can somehow be a seperate issue is just a recipee for pointless bickering and brinksmanship.

more than 3 years ago

House Websites Jammed After Obama Debt Speech

Fractal Dice Re:too big to fail? (1042 comments)

The population of the planet isn't going to decrease just by breaking up large countries. You'd be replacing the problems with democracy amongst large groups of people with the problems of diplomacy.between large groups of peoples.

more than 3 years ago

Review: Captain America

Fractal Dice Good flick. (295 comments)

The only moment where my suspension of disbelief ran into problems was a brief technobabble tossaway about the super soldier serum and his "genetic code". So when I got home and googled around a little to learn a little more of the history of what the state of knowledge was between Mendal and Watson&Crick. Now I find myself reading Schrödinger's 1944 book "What is Life?".

more than 3 years ago

Malware Is a Disease; Let's Treat It Like One

Fractal Dice Re:Not so much a disease as... (160 comments)

Agreed. The analogy with real viruses breaks down when there is any sort of command and control involved in the malware. Also, a real virus will never pass up an opportunity to spread the moment it mutates, while a malware author might save their best new trick for a really special target. On the other hand, this might be a good opportunity to model a few aspects of how a hypothetical bioengineering arms race might play out.

more than 2 years ago


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