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$125,000 Settlement Given To Man Arrested for Photographing NYPD

Frobnicator Re:precedent (133 comments)

Right, because trial can set precedent and the city *really* doesn't want that.

Precedent is only part of the story.

A settlement comes with the clause that they do not admit to any guilt. If the courts get involved, and a guilty verdict comes down, it also comes down with the "under color of law" modifier. That comes with a year in prison at the lowest tier. If there was bodily injury if weapons were used or threat of weapons was used, it jumps to a ten year prison term. The third tier, which triggers if the acts result in death, threat of death, or if they include kidnapping (which false arrests can qualify under), attempt to kidnap, sexual abuse or its attempt, the punishment can grow to life in prison.

It doesn't matter what their original violation was, those are additional bonus punishments of up to a year, a decade, or life in jail.

They will fight in the courts right up until the court decides they are no longer immune. The moment the immunity is broken they will do anything to take a non-guilt settlement.

LEOs (both as individuals and as departments) will do all they can to avoid an actual guilty verdict when their own acts are done under color of law. They will try to get any other deal or settlement they can rather then spend time in the prisons they helped create.

7 hours ago

German Intelligence Spying On Allies, Recorded Kerry, Clinton, and Kofi Annan

Frobnicator Re:No surprise here (134 comments)

Yes, countries spy on other countries. All of their hands are dirty to some extent.

The difference is the method and extent of targeting. As a wartime example, it is the difference between a sniper rifle vs Agent Orange.

There are various 'socially acceptable' levels of international espionage. Military groups are going to spy on other military groups, sure. Installing listening devices inside embassies, I understand that. Under international law it is well regarded that those INDIVIDUALS who engage in an activity against another party can be subject to similar activities by other nations. That is, government spying on government is okay. Government spying on citizenry is NOT okay.

The Geneva Convention implemented and now all nations are bound to treat non-combatant civilians as 'protected persons'. While they might be affected by actions, they are unlawful targets and violators are considered international war criminals. Those same protections should apply even during times of peace and apply to espionage, but unfortunately they don't.

"Ethical espionage" is not a contradiction in terms. Just as in traditional warfare the common citizenry are protected and are illegal targets, so to should they be off limits to espionage. The "Just War" doctrine, which currently includes details like only attacking war-related targets, ethical treatment of prisoners, post-war reconstruction and recovery for the citizens, should apply just as well to espionage.

12 hours ago

The Man Responsible For Pop-Up Ads On Building a Better Web

Frobnicator Re:Not sure I believe him... (130 comments)

He made great improvements on the book.

Improvements along the same way we see many improvements in software. Things are certainly different and a few changes are enjoyable, but some changes leave me longing for the original.

4 days ago

Ask Slashdot: Should You Invest In Documentation, Or UX?

Frobnicator Re:False dichotomy. (198 comments)

On the projects I've worked on over the years, I had the pleasure of working with one that created a lot of little items. (My contribution was 48 unique creations over 21 months, as a team bringing in roughly $16M and bringing in nice bonuses to everyone.) Our designers had a wonderful philosophy:

1. Write the requirements as the final outcomes. These are along the idea of a sprint's acceptance criteria defining the what, not the how.

2. Write the end user documentation with complete screen mockups. For us, everything could be done in no more two mouse clicks. Take time to ensure everything is consistent and uniform and easy. These were reviewed by the ten people on the team, our QA group, and about fifteen people on completely unrelated projects who had no experience working with our systems.

These two items, the "what" of the requirements and the end user documentation, were typically fought over and revised many times over the course of one or two weeks.

Only after we had firmly established what precisely the tasks were and how exactly the user accomplished them did we start into main development. Once we knew the "what" and we knew the UI steps to trigger them, building the parts in the middle was a simple matter; The initial tests and acceptance criteria can be built directly from the design doc, and with a bit of TDD the new components could be created and tested easily while the next round was designed.

I miss that group. It was rather frustrating to have the entire profitable team get dismantled because a newly-hired CEO wanted to shake up some parts of business and make complicated what was once easy with mega-apps rather than pluggable pieces.

5 days ago

A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes

Frobnicator Re:"kilobots" (56 comments)

I also misread at first and needed a double take. If it was 1024 killbots I'd be rather worried.

If they're Futurama killbots we can just throw wave after wave of soliders and police into them until they exceed their kill limit safeties.

If they were more like Terminator killbots, the world would be screwed.

But since they're kilobots rather than killbots, having a kilo of kilobots sounds like fun.

5 days ago

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Frobnicator Re:liability coverage is needed (338 comments)

Like most things in real life, there is nuance to that case.

The companies DO provide insurance. $1M in coverage, but it is only in effect from the time the ride is accepted to the time the passengers exit. That situation was an edge case, an auto/pedestrian collision right at the border of that time, immediately before the passenger was in the car. They denied coverage because the event happened immediately before coverage took effect. Much like having an insurance policy that takes effect October 1st and having damage reported September 29th, the collision happened immediately prior to the policy becoming active. Tragic, but unfortunately it happens sometimes. Rather importantly, they have since extended the time of coverage so if it happened today it would be covered. So when another tragedy like that inevitably happens the full $1M insurance will be in effect.

Both Uber and Lyft have added additional insurance which is in effect any time the driver marks themselves online as 'available'. The insurance rules can be summed up pretty easily:

* Logged out / unavailable: Your own insurance covers you, nothing from company as you aren't on the clock.
* Available but between jobs: Company provides $50K in supplemental insurance, after your insurance pays as the primary.
* From "ride accepted" to "ride finished and passengers is away from vehicle": Company provides $1M as primary insurance, personal insurance is secondary.

I assume it is similar for all their locations, but it may be different in Germany where they were banned.

The California proposal is to increase the insurance coverage for the "Available but between jobs" segment from $50K to $750K, which would cost quite a lot more for the company and is dramatically more than what traditional taxis must have for collision and liability. I would only agree with the bill if it affected all transportation companies, not just the newcomers.

5 days ago

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

Frobnicator Re:Great - If you already HAVE a social network (274 comments)

Not to mention that, in software, I'd be in a bit of a quandary over recommendations. I am willing to testify that numerous of my friends are smart and honest and do stuff, but I've almost never seen any of their code, so I can't comment on their technical proficiency and programming ability.

That isn't how employee referrals work.

For the existing employee, you get a copy of their resume and contact information and give it to the boss with the opening. You tell them "I got this from a friend [or friend of a friend], I have no idea how good he is, but we are offering a $500 referral bonus. He looks good on paper and they are very interested in working at this company." The referring employee does not need to forswear their firstborn child against the referral being the perfect worker.

All it says is "this person is particularly interested in the job. I think they should pass or bypass the first two HR filters since it looks like they are qualified."

about a week ago

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

Frobnicator Re:Great - If you already HAVE a social network (274 comments)

It seems you missed an important part of my post:

This means that while it is still important to apply through the web because they pull many workers through there, it is far more effective to get an employee referral.

I did not state nor imply that you should not apply through the web sites. Instead I recommended that you maximize your efforts on the most effective path.

Once that most effective path is exhausted, spend your time on the next-most effective path. Once that path is exhausted, work your way down through the various less-effective job hunting methods.

While 40% of workers coming from direct referrals, 35% come through web sites. That is still a large number, but your application is less than one-tenth as likely to get the job. That doesn't mean "don't apply", instead it means "apply through the most effective method". One of those two methods is an order of magnitude more successful, so take it.

As for not having a social network, that is a fairly rare thing. You probably have family members (unless you are perhaps an unadopted orphan with no siblings, and unmarried and childless). You probably have one or two friends or at least acquaintances. If nothing else you have a weak social network that includes several thousand active /. users.

While a direct friend is best they may not work at the target company. You probably have a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend at every corporation in the world. Find that chain and you instantly boost your odds by an order of magnitude.

about a week ago

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

Frobnicator Re:No relationship between online app & gettin (274 comments)

There is no relationship between an online job application and getting a job. Online job applications are neglected because no one needs 10,000 online forms filled out for 1 job.

It is well established (through most of history) that direct contacts and personal networks are the most likely way to get jobs. A few seconds on Google pulls up many research studies and sites that maintain real statistics (rather than just made-up numbers) on the topic. Like this one among many.

That one linked to is interesting because of the various charts. For those companies they track, direct referrals are only 6.9% of the applicants but represent 39.9% of those actually hired. Job boards and web sites account for 74.9% of the job applicants and 35.8% of the hires. This means that while it is still important to apply through the web because they pull many workers through there, it is far more effective to get an employee referral. In other words, one hour of working your social network looking for a referral is equivalent to roughly 12 hours of submitting web-based job applications.

The Internet is great for research and finding people in the organization, great for learning about openings. But when it comes to actually applying for a job, spend your time farming your social network to find someone who knows someone at the company rather than just applying through their site.

about a week ago

Oracle Hasn't Killed Java -- But There's Still Time

Frobnicator Re:Nobody kills Java (371 comments)

Besides, who would want to work on a stable platform where all the major library needs have been met and vetted when one can be on the bleeding edge of something new to show off?

It is nothing to be too concerned about, it is part of the normal life cycle.

Like happens to all languages before it, Java has slowly changed from a lean and sexy system into an overweight, middle-aged, sometimes nagging system that is not really much to look at. While it is great to have around, cooks great meals, and keeps the house clean, it is not attractive any more.

Nothing to be ashamed of.

Systems get older. Usually they get less attractive as they age and stop attracting people.

Java was once that lean and sexy system when compared to its contemporaries. I was there when C++ was lean and sexy compared to predecessors. I remember hearing stories about C being lean and sexy compared to needing to rewrite the program for every system.

Lots of new languages are popping up that are new and sexy. Dart and Go and Boo languages are all cute (and are mature enough that people don't look away and mumble 'tsk tsk'). Apple's new Swift language looks cute but is still a bit too young. While I have a lot of code in Java, I'm not married to the language and can use them as they appeal to me.

Now for my rambling "get off my lawn" story. Stop reading here if you don't want to listen to grandpa babble about his old conquests and drift into a drooling sleep.

I first started playing with C++ around 1985. It was so easy to create systems compared to the C systems I was also working on. I could modify behavior really easy with inheritance. I didn't need to specify my structure on every single function, just use the fancy new member functions that passed it automatically with the this pointer. Function names were much simpler, instead of the format NounVerbNoun they could be reduced to VerbNoun or just Verb. So much less typing. I didn't need to maintain tables of function pointers inside every object. I didn't need to follow every allocation with a series of intialization statements, but throw them into a constructor. I didn't need to search the entire code base and make hundreds of changes when adding something to a structure, I could just modify a single file. It was wonderful. But over time people kept adding new requirements and best practices; when you do this you also need to do five other things. Build times radically increased as features like templates were added (they were not there originally) and then huge swaths of code was automatically generated at runtime, or hundreds or even thousands of potential types were evaluated as potentially deduced types. It slowly changed from young and sexy to old and ugly.

I first started programming with Java back in the 1.1 days, around 1996. It was so easy compared to the C++ systems I was also working on. I could create a good looking graphical program that I could run from a web page in a matter of minutes, or hours at most. My first real project at the time was a distributed image processing tool, with back-end clients running on 12 machines and a coordinating server, and the whole project took less than a week. If I needed to build a similar tool in C++ at the time it would have taken five or ten times the effort. Being able to simply rely on* rather than trying to find a networking library, relying on java.awt.Image classes to process the work, and otherwise having everything instantly available made development very easy. I could dynamically build images and pass them over the web with a trivial amount of human effort.

Today I could still do that, but it would upset people. I would be asked things like "Why doesn't it use Maven to build it? Why don't I use more advanced image processing packages? Why are these talking directly with network libraries rather than using a comprehensive REST-based system? Why is there no comprehensive unit testing?" All the little additions have crept in to the process making it just as time consuming --- if not more --- than C++ was at the time I picked up Java. That makes it no longer lean and sexy, more of an overbearing source of frustration.

Finishing up my ramblings, Java has become annoying to use. There are lean, sexy, young alternatives. Java could re-invent itself to appeal to a new crowd, but I don't think it will.

about two weeks ago

Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

Frobnicator Re:Not without warning. (267 comments)

Yes, the posted on their blog that old versions would be discontinued in the ambiguous future date. It applied to all platforms. A few tech news sites picked up on it, but nothing major.

A post on their company blog is vastly different from notifying customers (especially corporate customers) that their paid service is going to become inaccessible.

People pay for the service, and shutting out older clients should have much more notification.

A proper response would be to sending out an email to ALL active accounts and their billing addresses notifying them of all the versions that were being discontinued due to the change. This would allow businesses (where software is sometimes tightly controlled) adequate notice to update all the machines and conference rooms. It would also allow users (who are now stranded) an opportunity to report that there are no viable upgrade paths, and a chance to use the balance of their accounts.

Instead it has become a PR nightmare.

about two weeks ago

San Jose Police Apologize For Hiding Drone Program, Halts Until Further Review

Frobnicator Re:Not good enough (59 comments)

People should be going to prison for such deceit. We don't hold our officials accountable.

The people who broke the law are not elected officials, they are employees. It is very difficult to hold those people accountable.

Lying in an FOIA request is potentially a federal crime. But 5 USC 552 provides a very long list of exemptions from the law, and it is federal prosecutors that need to decide to prosecute.

So the first thing you'd need to do is convince the federal prosecutors to go after the problem, which is very unlikely since they're part of the same Good-Ol'-Boys Network. Then you need to break through the qualified immunity enjoyed by all government workers and government agencies. Once the federal prosecutors fight through the process of appeals to gain permission to sue, the next step is to prove intent since that's what the law requires. The police can easily slip out of it through the gigantic loopholes like saying it might have an impact on current or future police investigations, or claiming it was one of the various legal oversights.

So in summary, they'd need to:
1. Anger a federal prosecutor enough to interest them
2. Convince their boss who controls the money (usually an elected person) to sue another branch of government (breaching the Good Ole' Boy's Club)
3. Fight through the courts, usually all the way to the state's supreme court, that qualified immunity doesn't apply
4. Convince the court that the individual should be personally liable, otherwise it is just a budgetary transfer from department to department
5. Prove it was either malicious or that the negligence was at criminal levels, otherwise it doesn't trigger any penalties
6. Reasonably counter all the objections that the person broke the law, knew or should have known they broke the law, and didn't fit the long list of exemptions
7. Get a conviction from a jury, since this is criminal law. Or just pressure the person into submission with a plea deal, which is the typical response once you hit #5 above.

Yeah, that will happen. </sarcasm>

These are not people you can vote out of office. You might be able to find a way to vote out a city mayor; in some places people like the police chief are elected rather than hired, but otherwise they're just regular government employees who enjoy things like tenure, golden handcuffs, and all kinds of legal immunities.

about two weeks ago

Aaron's Law Is Doomed and the CFAA Is Still Broken

Frobnicator Re:Face it ... (134 comments)

And what, as American Citizens, would you have us do? Rise up in arms? Overthrow our government?

First, contact elected officials, both your own and those in a position over the bill's progress. I wrote to six of them today when I read the story. I also contacted several of the committee members including Bob Goodlatte who is the committee chairman. Yes, one person is unlikely to get much change, but enough people contacting his office can induce change.

Second, encourage those around you contact their representitives, and encourage them to directly contact those in the committee who can get things changed. Just like I did up there in that first paragraph. Post the links on facebook and other social media (also already done this today). Encourage people to send a message, ANY MESSAGE, that references the bill to their legislator's office.

One or two messages won't do it. When it gets to be enough messages that the staffers notice, or even better enough that it overwhelms their office staff.

What would I have you do? Make a noise. Any noise you can. This reply is the first one that would be considered "preaching to the crowd", but is about my 15th communication about it today. That is what you can do. Make it clear to the legislators that it is important to you, raise the layperson's awareness of the issue, and help encourage others to contact the right offices. Even if it is nothing more than writing your own messages and then calling on the Internet Trolls that you know to send them messages, that is still something. Do what you can to get your voice heard, since it needs to be heard over the corporate money.

about two weeks ago

Comcast Gives 6 Months Free Internet To Poor and Unpaid Bill Amnesty

Frobnicator Re:Rather than Google Fiber, let's have municipal. (71 comments)

The biggest problem with iProvo, which the residents didn't usually see, was the lawsuits.

Back when I lived there from 1999-2003, the mayor was pushing iProvo quite a lot. Many businesses and apartments signed up. The city started their rollout by providing hubs to the various city buildings, the historic library, and they even ran lines to the major traffic control cameras. They hooked up quite a few businesses along the main roads, like the main street plaza was covered from the overpass on the west to the roundabout on the east. University Ave, Freedom Blvd, and 500 West were installed from Orem on the North down to the mall and the Novell campus on the south. They got quite a lot of core infrastructure in place during those years. ...

... Then they were sued by basically everybody who had an interested in providing Internet services. As a result of the lawsuits they rolled back to just giving fiber to the city's buildings, to their own infrastructure like traffic cameras, and to some existing contracts. If you attended the city council meetings or watched their broadcasts (yeah, I know, who does that, except I remember it was on channel 17 at the time...) you could have listened to reports on how many million they were spending fighting off Qwest (now CenturyLink), Comcast, and the rest. They provided erratic service largely because the money was frequently redirected to the courts. Existing companies REALLY did not want municipal fiber, and they fought it hard.

While the mega-corps know they can stomp on a small city like Provo very easily, they were quickly outmatched when Google came in. They stopped the decade-long hemorrhaging of money to lawsuits, so the service became much better.

Utopia has also been heavily plagued by lawsuits and governmental contracts cancelled mid-deployment. Even the US government (under RUS) contracted out some services and then abandoned it, leaving the fiber network on the hook for over $11M (the lawsuit is still ongoing). People complain and suggest Utopia is mismanaged, and while they have had a few management missteps, their biggest problem has been the many millions of dollars spent trying to fight legal battles against incumbents.

Even today if you look a bit North up the Wasatch front corridor, Centerville is right now the hotbed of the issue. Comcast and CenturyLink are funding a bunch of signs for anyone who wants them. They're discussing putting municipal fiber in as a tax, complaining that residents shouldn't have to pay because they already have Internet providers. ... conveniently overlooking the fact that the very small tax will provide everybody in the city a minimum fiber to the home connection with 5 megabit if you don't pay for any plan, and 150 megabit or faster if you do pay for a plan, and the plans are far cheaper than either Comcast or CenturyLink.

Municipal fiber is the future, just like municipal sewer, municipal water, municipal trash, and other city-managed services. The incumbent companies are fighting with all their power and disinformation campaigns to keep their high profit system in place. Just like your Comcast salesmen knocking at the door trying to convince you fast and unlimited is bad, slow and bottlenecked is good, disinformation is really all they can rely on these days.

about two weeks ago

Judge: US Search Warrants Apply To Overseas Computers

Frobnicator Re:It's almost sane(really) (502 comments)

Actually doesn't matter if your US or Foreign a subpoena is a subpoena. You must produce the evidence if it is in your control. Where the evidence is irrelevant you are within the jurisdiction you are compelled to produce it. This has been applied to physical documents. Not this is not seizing evidence it is compelling an entity to produce it.

That is all very correct.

Note that first off, this is a warrant rather than a subpoena. This was covered in depth when the magistrate ruled on it. If they are looking for specific information and the company can review it and provide the information then a subpoena is the correct tool. The police stated in both reviews that they are searching for a broad range of documents and that they want their own discretion to review all of them associated with the email address. You wrote "This is not seizing evidence it is compelling an entity to produce it". If they could have just seized a US server, they would have gladly stormed the office and taken the entire box, as is the custom with a warrant. In this case they could not seize a specific computer and they could not justify attempting to seize all of Microsoft's mail servers. A subpoena would normally be the correct implement, but that is not what the police are using. They want a huge amount of stuff rather than specific stuff, which is why they are using a warrant.

Next, you are correct about things being in your control. Microsoft Corporation is a US based company. Microsoft Ireland is a different company. It is more along the lines of an umbrella company. Much like you have Viacom as the big NASDAQ traded company, then you have Viacom International, Paramount Pictures, BET Networks, and the rest. You don't sue Viacom (the parent) when you want documents from Paramount Pictures. Viacom owns Paramount but they don't control Paramount's documents. Similarly the police are going against Microsoft Corporation in Seattle when they should have been suing Microsoft's Irish subsidiary. The US based corporation owns the Irish subsidiary, but they don't control the documents of the subsidiary.

So as has been written, they are using the wrong tool, on the wrong company, in the wrong country. There is a proper way to do things, and this is not it. Microsoft is going to win this one in the long term. The judge may understand some aspects of law, but he clearly doesn't understand corporate organization and ownership.

about three weeks ago

EA Tests Subscription Access To Game Catalog

Frobnicator Re:"small catalog" and "subscription" (63 comments)

There are quite a few games from their back catalog of acquired games I would love to play again. Remember that EA has bought a long list of companies and products.

It is terribly unlikely that most of the games will be brought back (which is a shame) but potential is there. They added a few to Good Old Games but most of them have problems or require dosbox or have multiplayer disabled.

My short list:

* Wing Commander series, including Privateer (some already on GoG, but buggy on some systems)
* Ultima series (already on GoG but buggy on some systems)
* Populus series, with LAN multiplayer
* Old Dune and old C&C games that allowed LAN multiplayer
* The Neverhood

My long list would include a considerable number of games that are not on GoG and have not been updated to run on newer platforms. For that cost and a catalog including updates or even patched current versions of those games, it would be worth it to me.

I fear it will just be games that have the full version still available at a reduced cost, and become more of a games preview service. But hey, maybe they will get this one right.

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do With Half a Rack of Server Space?

Frobnicator Re:Public Service (208 comments)

That's similar to a BOFH story arc.

1. Configure the servers to serve as a 'cloud' resource using various open source software.
2. Show executives that this cloud computing system has much faster ping times than all the competitors.
3. Get the contract to provide cloud services.

about three weeks ago

FBI Studied How Much Drones Impact Your Privacy -- Then Marked It Secret

Frobnicator Re: Transparency (139 comments)

Well, I don't think anyone is likely to rebel against the US government -- not by force anyway, given that the latter is armed to the teeth. 1.6 billion bullets for DHS, was it?vBut not everybody is claiming that the possibility of armed rebellion (preposterous though it may be) makes for a valid argument in support of the second amendment.

Well, we could always quote someone from the previous administration:

"The cost of one bullet, if the [...] people take it on themselves, is substantially less than [the cost of a war]." -- White House press secretary Ari Fleischer 1 Oct 2002.

At the time they were talking about an overthrow of Iraq. It applies well to the US as well.

about three weeks ago

Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

Frobnicator Re: surpising (168 comments)

How long do long term investors have to wait for consistent profitability?

Math time... $126M loss / $19B revenue = 0.66%, less than one percent loss for a quarter. The company is worth about $140B, so the quarter's drop is less than a tenth of a percent, meaning absorbing a the loss is a tiny decrease in a large bucket. In contrast, the skittish investors yesterday cost the company about $12B compared to the $126M business loss. The skittish investors who cause huge overnight drops like this create opportunities.

We're not talking about a company that is hemorrhaging money. It isn't a company plagued by mismanagement. It is a company that since their first day built a track record of tinkering with models. That is all Amazon has ever done. They have the resources to continue operating when they discover unprofitable ones. It takes money to make money, and many tests and changes cost time and money. Yes, some investors refuse to see the long term and demand a profit every single quarter. Other investors see this as an opportunity to buy or to hold.

Last night they took a 10% drop because short-term investors are skittish. Today you can buy it at a 10% discount; so thanks skittish investors!

about three weeks ago

Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

Frobnicator Re:let me correct that for you. (619 comments)

The problem has been that once a relatively few people got all that authority, under a socialist or fascist regime, they then never wanted to give it up. So societies never "evolved" beyond that to true communism. Nor is it likely to ever happen. Marx was a loon.

Pure communism is an interesting idea that is unlikely to work with humans in the long run.

It does not follow that "Marx was a loon". Given a society or species that is much more altruistic, willing to contribute to the entire society rather than focusing on personal benefit, the result would be elevation of everybody.

The idea by itself has merit, where all of society is doing all it can to contribute to everyone. But humans are greedy, selfish, lying, power hungry, egoistic creatures. Good idea, just not for humanity.

about a month ago


Frobnicator hasn't submitted any stories.



From an article about the degradation of the Internet

Frobnicator Frobnicator writes  |  more than 10 years ago

You sell a simpler box where security is the primary factor. A lot of grandmas and older people might go for something that only does AOL, mail, web browsing and maybe printing and digital photos.

That might solve part of the problem (consumer side) but not the issue that the article was about. It does not solve the real issue.

Making a grandma-friendly, secure, e-mail and download-only box would not do what the article suggests is happening. It might keep grandma from getting infected with the latest worm, but she will still get progressively less useful bandwidth from her modem. Grandma might have a 256Kbps DSL modem. She might even be fairly lucky and after dropping the malformed packets and garbage already out there, get a 200Kbps rate right now. But next year it might be 150Kbps, then 100Kbps as a few million script-kiddies are scanning for the next generation of BackOrafice trojans. Then she'll go buy a faster connection, because her Internet connection is slower than she wants. Her new connection will give her more visible speed, but would still be dropping a majority of the packets.

I've seen the issue first hand. I'm with a small business, where we have a shared T1 line. Our upstream provider performs some packet filtering, but not much. After we pay for the data through our T1, we filter it. We drop malformed packets, packets from reserved and unassigned addresses, source-routed packets, and so on. We detect and block portscans and other obvious attacks at that point as well. We average a 7-10% packet loss through that filter daily. Next, we run SpamAssassin at a high filter level (15) along with attachment and virus blocking of emails, which collectively drop thousands of e-mail messages daily. Additionally our computers are running ad-filtering programs that save us a lot of bandwidth, but ads still slip through.

If we were to assume that all the ads also got through, that is about 20-25% of our bandwidth wasted in complete junk, and that percentage has been increasing for the past two years that I have been watching it. Next we have a bunch of legitimate, but unwanted, traffic. That includes file sharing and trojan ports, incoming http, mail, telnet, DNS, ftp, rpc, and other assorted ports. We get a few hundred of these each day, and the number is always growing. Some might be people in the company trying to use NetMeeting or something, even though it is against policy. Some may be legitimate errors, while the remaining others are probably probing for systems to attack.

The article says that the problem is this growing collection of junk -- currently about a quarter of our bandwidth -- which will quickly kill the Internet unless there is a change.

Unfortunately, I agree with the author of the article; unless we see some fundamental changes, it will become unusable. There are a number of good ideas already out there as to what that may be.

One idea that I like is to remove the anonymity of end-to-end, while preserving the end-to-end functionality. Every handler of every packet signs the packet, and drops packets from sources they do not trust or with invalid signatures. The sender cannot deny sending the message, each handler signs the packets and cannot deny that they handled it, each handler can state that they directly know who they received it from, and that all end-points can verify the sources. That allows any message not properly signed and not properly addressed to be dropped, and allow for law enforcement or system admins to find out who the attackers are, or exactly which machines have been compromised.

The only significant drawbacks to that system are the resources involved in all the digital signatures and the loss of anonymity. I can only see a few reasons for anonymous speech (whistle-blowers, victims of crime, etc.) but there are other anonymous outlets for them. Online, I think non-repudiation should be built in, so long as you have encryption tools available. Your boss/government/police/mafia could know that you said something, but not know what it was.

Until that level of fundamental infrastructure change spreads across the Internet, making a grandma-friendly Internet console isn't enough. The DDoS attacks on everything from spam blacklists, litigous companies like RIAA and SCO, honest mistakes like U. Wisconson's time servers, and script-kiddie behavior will continue to degrade the Internet. The spammers clogging up mailboxes and usenet will degrade the Internet. Tomorrows worms, along with todays worms on unpached systems, will continue to degrade the Internet. More people with cable-modems downloading movies will degrade Internet performance. In short, continuing our course will be just a little worse until we hit a very-near critical threshold. Then our performance will be like a figher jet slamming into a wall of jello. We need to change course, or face some serious performance losses.



Musings about a Corpus of Truth

Frobnicator Frobnicator writes  |  more than 11 years ago This is just some ramblings based on views.

I've had a problem with the corpus of facts that people are willing to allow in their arguments lately. These in turn lead to stupid arguments, that lead to my compliants. So here are the complaints.

The first is:

Mankind has been wrong about science for all of recorded history, why are some people assuming that the newest theory is the absolute, final, last word?

Science is a progressive refinement of ideas. There was a time when the public believed that that maggots came from rotting meat and that frogs came from mud around lakes and streams or that they came from rain. Given the corpus of facts that they could work with, those were perfect, scientific beliefs.

The corpus of truth, or the accepted facts at that time [through Europe, at least] included only what could be viewed by the naked eye, and what was accepted by the Church. Since the Church probably didn't have much to say about maggots and rotting meat, it was a simple observation that (1) you had rotting meat, (2) maggots appeard, therefore maggots came from rotting meat. Similarly, (1) While at a pond there were no frogs, (2) It started raining, (3) the area got muddy, (4) frogs appeared. Sure, modern science has pretty much cleared up the origin of maggots and frogs, but it doesn't stop there.

Newtonian physics was around for quite some time, and they have been succeeded by similar equations based on Relativity. These are being further refined today. But these refined models will probably be succeeded in a few decades by yet another model that more accurately describes the Universe, and our current views will be considered 'Wrong'. But that won't mean that Newtonian models will suddenly stop working, or that the Einstienien models will stop working, just that there are more accurate models that can be used.

The point is that our current scientific views should never be taken as the absolute fact of the thing, but just as another iteration that is better than what was there before. Each of these 'facts' is added to our corpus of truth, which helps us better understand the things around us.

This leads to my second complaint,

Some people claim "Religion cannot be demonstrated by Science". That is a stupid argument.

This comes back to the corpus of truth. What are you willing to give me in my corpus? If you give me only the things I can observe with my naked eye and bare hands, I'll prove that maggots come from rotting meat and frogs come from either rain or mud. But with only my bare hands and my naked eyes, I cannot prove cellular theory, or astronomy, or even how reproduction works. If you give me only what can be observed with the naked eye and manipulated with bare hands, it becomes difficult to prove religion.

If you take one simple thing from a mathematician's corpus of truth, let's say the definition of equality or the definitions of addition and subtraction, they will lose all ability to operate. Sure, it is possible to prove addition and subtraction with advanced math, but that math cannot be proven without addition and subtraction. Similarly, if I require proof that a number is always equal to itself, but I refuse to allow any definition of equality, I can destroy all of mathematics.

The point here is that all science is based on postulates. Things that cannot be proven for whatever reason but are accepted as fact anyway. For most people, things that can be directly observed are postulates -- you cannot prove that what you saw is actually what happened, or even that you observed it, but you accept that it is what you observed, and that it is correct.

If you give just enough postulates, those can be expanded to a corpus of truth that can demonstrate the existance of a higher power.

Finally, there are the people who never accept into their corpus of truth anything that contradicts their world-view.

These are the people I most feel sorry for. Yes, there are many things out there that I may disagree with, but I am willing to accept as a theory into my corpus of truth. I may not accept it as a fact, but at the least, I will accept that you accept it. But as is the way with science, contradictions in your corpus of truth must be resolved, or at least marked as 'further research required' before being accepted as fact. When enough evidence is collected to resolve the things to fact, Science is content.

So to the people who assert that Aliens are near Earth, that Alien UFO's abduct people and return them after performing whatever experiments they had in mind, I look at the body of observations that counter them. Air traffic controllers around the world would likely detect such a vessel. Millitaries and governments would quite likely have seen them. Their motion would be seen by astronomers of all kinds, those paid for by governments, by corporations, and by schools, the students and private researchers, and arm-chair scientists. Anything trying to cover it up would be improbable (not impossible).

Of course, I DO beleve in UFO's. They are simply that -- unidentified flying objects. Individuals cannot identify them. Governments deny them, and often for good reason. Many people saw classified aircraft and the governments denied their existance until they unveiled them publically. These were UFO's. Many people have been exposed to (in many cases illigal) radition tests or toxicity tests or other experiments that governments have denied, only to admit to decades later. Yet other things are not easily explained by governments, but by bizzare acts of nature. Lakes turn over, and can even explode. Mists of a dense fog, carbon dioxide, can form naturally and flood towns with death.

While these things may not be easily explained, theories can be developed, and they can be enterered into the Corpus of Truth, to be later accepted or denied.

But now I have looked at my watch, and looked at the time. I don't want to accept the consequences that my Corpus of Truth says I will likely face if I spend more time on this article, so I am finished now.



Frobnicator Frobnicator writes  |  about 12 years ago This is here so I have a journal entry.

For anyone interested, the nick "Frobnicator" is a derivative of "frobnicate", which I haven't heard before. I started using the nick in 2000. I take it to mean 'one who frobnicates'. Here is the definition:


/frob'ni-kayt/ (Possibly from frobnitz, and usually abbreviated to frob, but "frobnicate" is recognised as the official full form). To manipulate or adjust, to tweak. One frequently frobs bits or other 2-state devices. Thus: "Please frob the light switch" (that is, flip it), but also "Stop frobbing that clasp; you'll break it". One also sees the construction "to frob a frob".

Usage: frob, twiddle, and tweak sometimes connote points along a continuum. "Frob" connotes aimless manipulation; "twiddle" connotes gross manipulation, often a coarse search for a proper setting; "tweak" connotes fine-tuning. If someone is turning a knob on an oscilloscope, then if he's carefully adjusting it, he is probably tweaking it; if he is just turning it but looking at the screen, he is probably twiddling it; but if he's just doing it because turning a knob is fun, he's frobbing it. The variant "frobnosticate" has also been reported.

Between '95 and 2000 I used the nick "Ixion" based on the Greek mythological king who did some pretty nasty things, incluing try to bed a god, and was punished.

Before that I went by "Zug", which I got from my older brother, but had to stop when Warcraft II came out and used "Zugzug" as a quote from one of their characters.

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