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Passport Database Outage Leaves Thousands Stranded

Hans Adler Re:Change management fail (162 comments)

The problem is that that's often not how they think. In some cultures you only ask a yes or no question in order to hear a yes answer, no matter what. You think you are enquiring for information. The poor Elbonian you are talking to may be totally stressed out because he thinks you are telling them that you are very angry about him because you lost face before your superior due to his poor performance. And that, even though nobody knows or can know how to do things better, you now have to report back to that superior, untruthfully (as everybody including the superior knows), that the Elbonian will solve the problem. You just need a yes from the Elbonian, so it can travel up the chain of command. The Elbonian just needs to confirm that he is doing that impossible thing that nobody has ever heard of, and everything will be fine for a while.

If, instead, you wanted him to try to actually do this, then you would - in the mind of the Elbonian - ask very differently.

Now of course you can try to find Elbonians who know how to communicate with Americans. Just don't be surprised if it's hard, and maybe impossible at the price you are willing to pay.

about three weeks ago

Passport Database Outage Leaves Thousands Stranded

Hans Adler Re:Change management fail (162 comments)

I don't think it's so hard. Extreme example:

"Some of our computers are more important for our business than the others. For example, every hour that kremvax is not running costs us roughly half a million dollars because people worldwide then buy somewhere else.

It often happens that new firmware from the vendor does not work properly. So suppose you make a firmware update on kremvax, reboot it, and it does not start. What will you do in that case?" ...

"That's probably the best thing you can do in this situation, though I would ask you to also ... so that ... . Unfortunately, if this happens, it can take days to resolve the situation. Two days at half a million dollars each, that would make, um, ... How much is that, help me out please..." ...

"Yes, exactly, 24 million. That's why our last system administrator was always very scared. He wouldn't have lost his job if this happened once, but some people would have been very angry. So he was always reading those books about anticipatory system administration [I just made this term up; use a proper, searchable technical term if there is one] to minimize the danger. He always came up with new tricks. For example, there is this server called deepthought that is not doing anything really important most of the time. We call this a development server. Now when he wanted to do a firmwareupdate, what do you think: which of the servers did he do first, kremvax or deepthought?"

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Is Running Mission-Critical Servers Without a Firewall Common?

Hans Adler Re:Its Fine. - not (348 comments)

Sorry if this is a stupid question - I may just be out of touch with what firewalls can do nowadays. How would the firewall know whether it is dealing with sqlserver.exe on port 40264 or some other program? If it's not running on the same computer? I can imagine that some expensive solutions can do this, but I would be surprised to learn that a stock OpenBSD, say, can do it.

about three weeks ago

Study: People Would Rather Be Shocked Than Be Alone With Their Thoughts

Hans Adler "Most people" or "most US college students today"? (333 comments)

As usual, the abstract draws a general conclusion. Due to the paywall I can't check it, but presumably, as usual, they didn't actually test a wide variety of people from all sorts of international cultures. To judge from their results, I guess they didn't test primarily Tibetan monks.

I am not surprised that the likely demographic of the tests, when you deprive them of their cellphones and don't give them anything else to do, turn to autoaggressive behaviour. Over the past year I have experienced how students at a German school behave nowadays if they have to hand in their cellphones, and how the behaviour improves if they are allowed to keep and use them or if they have a PC with internet connection.

about a month and a half ago

LinkedIn Spam Lawsuit Can Continue

Hans Adler Re:PCworld doesn't honor unsubscribes (50 comments)

Look at my post "My experience with LinkedIn spam" for a method that worked with LinkedIn for me. I sent those emails to privacy at Of course your request may be considered less explosive if it's not related to a mentally unstable person with a history of making threats. (Potential for really bad publicity.) Maybe you can make up for this by asking a targeted question that shows you mean business. E.g. with a German company I would ask for the data protection officer's direct contact address and a company address suitable for a summons.

I have read that in some companies directly mailing someone high up in the hierarchy also works wonders. I guess they don't like losing plausible deniability concerning knowledge of what their underlings are up to.

about 2 months ago

LinkedIn Spam Lawsuit Can Continue

Hans Adler My experience with LinkedIn spam (50 comments)

I once got LinkedIn invitations in the name of a American who was totally unknown to me. When it finally occurred to me to search my correspondence for his name, I learned that this was a banned Wikipedia editor who had written one email to my professional email address to advertise his evidently psychosis-induced website. I had never answered.

Here is my complete correspondence with LinkedIn after I found this out.

----- My first email to LinkedIn ----- Mon, 23 May 2011 08:37:04 UTC

It is an impertinence to send "invitations" to people who are not even
using your service, based on email address books of your users. It is
almost criminal to repeat them periodically and not to include the
usual spam opt-out links with these unsolicited messages.

I keep getting such reminders "from" a person who I do not know and
who was banned from Wikipedia for stalking and making threats.

You *will* add the following email addresses to your "do not contact"
list. Your confirmation that you have done so will be the last
communication that I will receive from your servers.

[my 2 email addresses deleted]

----- My second email to LinkedIn ----- Tue, 24 May 2011 10:58:27 UTC

May I ask you to confirm that you have received the message below and
that it will be handled. I am somewhat reluctant to go public with
this incident.

[quotation of my first email deleted]

----- First email from LinkedIn to me ----- Tue, 24 May 2011 11:03:21 UTC

We’ve received your message and we’re working to get you an answer. If you have a Premium account or you’re a LinkedIn Ads customer, we strive to reply within 24 hours. For all other members, we do our best to respond within 48 hoursbut at times we do see delays. We’ll get back to you soon!

[quotation of my *second* email deleted; I never received such a confirmation for my first email, even though this one looks like an auto-response]

----- Second email from LinkedIn to me ----- Wed, 25 May 2011 15:40:33 UTC [55 hours after my first email]

Hi Hans,

Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention.

Per your request, the email addresses provided have been added to our "do not contact" list. You will no longer receive any email from LinkedIn or our members on these email addresses. If you decide at a later date that you want to set up a LinkedIn account, you will need to first contact us to have your email addresses removed from the “do not contact” list.

If you have further questions, please feel free to reply to this message.

[some first name deleted]
LinkedIn Customer Service

about 2 months ago

"Smart" Gun Seller Gets the Wrong Kind of Online Attention

Hans Adler Re:Gun nuts (1374 comments)

Well, I have never been robbed at gunpoint and the only people I know who were, are friends who live on a different continent. (It happened in Columbia.) In fact, the only guns I have ever consciously seen outside the media were *always* held by uniformed police or soldiers. And most of these were not even in the countries where I have lived for longer (Germany, Austria, UK), where you see very few soldiers and to the extent that the police are wearing arms these are generally quite unobtrusive and extremely rarely used. No, most of these were in Columbia and in Israel. (I have never been in the US.)

In most of Europe, when you are dealing with violent crime, the thought of firearms usually does not even arise because they are so rare. Criminals have knives, people who want to be prepared for a criminal attack have pepper spray. This works because neither side has an expectation that the other side has, let alone will use, a firearm.

The total number of people shot dead by the German police since 1978 is less than 500. That's less than 15 per year and would correspond to 60 per year in the US, after adjusting for the higher population. (The number of shots fired by police on people was about five times the number of people shot dead, corresponding to 300 such shots per year in the US.) The situation in most other European countries is quite similar due to the relatively strict gun laws. Not just in the UK, where most police officers are completely unarmed.

about 4 months ago

"Smart" Gun Seller Gets the Wrong Kind of Online Attention

Hans Adler Re:Gun nuts (1374 comments)

The 2nd amendment is very explicit that it's about *collective* self defense, not *individual* self defense. Here is how it must have worked: People had guns on their farms and were well trained with them because they were using them all the time. In cases of armed conflict (with England or France, say, or with those pesky people who had older claims to the continent, or with a bunch of unhappy slaves), these well trained civilians formed militias that were more efficient than they would have been if they had had no guns at home.

about 4 months ago

"Smart" Gun Seller Gets the Wrong Kind of Online Attention

Hans Adler Re:Gun nuts (1374 comments)

Your hypothetical example *would* in fact set implicit bounds on the constitutional right to keep and read books. An absolute right to keep and read books would simply leave that justification out. But with it, it is clear that the state is prevented from restricting this right only in so far as democracy could be affected.

Under an absolute right to keep and read books, books detailing state secrets, how-to literature on serious criminality and hard pornography (to give only some examples) would be constitutionally protected. But they are generally not necessary or even helpful for a working democracy, and so - due to the justification part of your right to keep and bear books - a simple law on the federal, state or local level could restrict them, as long as it is specific enough and maybe has a few necessary exceptions.

Similarly, the US constitution only protects the right to keep and bear arms to the extent that it is beneficial for well regulated militias. Given the very limited number of occasions for unorganized shooting practice in downtown Chicago or New York City, it is perfectly reasonable to have strong restrictions there. These restrictions are not going to affect the fighting power of the National Guard at all.

Here is another example:

A well trained army, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and drive Cars, shall not be infringed.

This would not imply that people can drive while drunk or without a license, that they can drive where they want or as fast as they want (I am actually writing this from my home country, where people *are* allowed to drive as fast as they want on a large part of the motorway system), that children can drive, or that someone's driving privileges cannot be suspended. It just means that everything is organised so that normal people normally have no trouble buying cars, getting the necessary permits, and finding roads where they are allowed to drive.

However, this example shows that even without the prefixed justification such a right always comes with implicit restrictions. Even under an amendment to the effect, "The right of the people to keep and drive cars shall not be infringed", you would still not be allowed to drive drunk, without a license, or off-road on public land.

about 4 months ago

UN Court: Japanese Whaling "Not Scientific"

Hans Adler Background (188 comments)

I have said it before, but I think it's worth repeating:

When it comes to exploiting (other) natural resources in a high seas region it's important to prove that you have been economically active there for a long time, and still are. The whaling is an investment. This investment requires that the programme is pretty openly non-scientific. Just 'scientific' enough so a sufficient number of other countries in the International Whaling Commission can be convinced to allow it, where necessary through a bribe. But no more so, because at some point later Japan will have to prove that it was an economic activity, not research.

about 5 months ago

Hungarian Law Says Photogs Must Ask Permission To Take Pictures

Hans Adler Re:The country is already out of step with Europe (149 comments)

I was asked for sources on the pogromes against gypsies, and it was questioned that the ruling party was involved. As this was only from memory, here is what I found out with a quick search.

Apparently, the worst incident so far was the one in Gyöngyöspata, a village with 2500 inhabitants and a Jobbik mayor. Jobbik is fascist party comparable to the Greek party Golden Dawn. It does not seem to have been in any government coalition. However, the incident in Gyöngyöspata was so serious that it reflects very badly indeed on the government for not preventing it or at least ending it swiftly. Here is what happened.

In March/April 2011, the leader of a local right-wing militia invited neo-nazis from around the country to his estate for military exercises. In the sequel, local gypsies were terrorised by uniformed nazis for several weeks. In the end, the Hungarian Red Cross chartered several busses and evacuated 300 women and children.

So for several reasons it wasn't precise to say the ruling party (Fidesz) openly supports pogroms. Jobbik is quite open about it but has 'only' little over 10% of votes nationally and has never been the ruling party. And Fidesz doesn't support the pogroms openly but only through selective action. This may, however, be due in part to a large percentage of Jobbik supporters in government institutions such as the police.

Regarding the desire to annex parts of neighbouring countries: The reactions here speak for themselves. *Of course* these were once Hungarian. And before that they belonged to another country which also left its traces in the languages represented in the region. It's like that everyhwere in Europe. The Alsace region of France was once German, and the old people there (as well as some of the young ones) speak a German dialect. (And the trains still run on the right-hand side as in Germany, not on the left-hand side as in France.) Yet nobody in Germany wants to annex it. Nowadays. That's what the EU is all about.

about 5 months ago

Hungarian Law Says Photogs Must Ask Permission To Take Pictures

Hans Adler The country is already out of step with Europe (149 comments)

Hungary was deprived of an important step in the development of today's Europe: fascism. And they insist on catching up without any shortcuts. Unfortunately I am not joking. As the current government wants Hungary to leave the European Union anyway, they are shamelessly breaking all of its principles. Apparently this is only going to end after the Hungarians have spectacularly lost a war right in the heart of Europe.

Being homeless is now officially a crime. The ruling party quite openly supports pogroms against gypsies. Hungary is quite open about wanting to annex all Hungarian-speaking regions of neighbouring countries. (Ethnic Hungarians in those countries can already obtain Hungarian passports.) The media is censored to such a degree that when the current law came into effect, lots of journalists had to look for a job immediately as they were left with a choice between creeping up the government's posteriors or facing draconian punishment. Even citizens from other European countries cannot by land in Hungary. Austrian farmers who already own land in Hungary are punished when they cross the border in a tractor to cultivate it. When the Swiss Franc rose a lot, causing problems for enormous numbers of Hungarians (and Hungarian institutions) that idiotically had taken Swiss loans because of the low nominal interest rates, Hungary *unilaterally* decided that they only have to pay back these loans to the amount owed theoretically if the exchange rate had been constant. In other words, the Hungarian government unilaterally partially dispossessed the banks of an EFTA country.

The new photography law is just another in a series of rubber laws that criminalise almost everything so that they can be applied selectively to members of the opposition and other likely targets.

about 5 months ago

Gov't Puts Witness On No Fly List, Then Denies Having Done So

Hans Adler Re:No popcorn yet (462 comments)

I almost agree. But there is the little detail that she probably doesn't have too many airlines to choose from and this one will likely put her on its own blacklist if she does this.

about 9 months ago

Australian University Unveils New Carbon-Trapping Bricks

Hans Adler I think I know what this is about. (142 comments)

The article says they have spent 6 years researching the technology. 6 years ago is also when German researchers published their discovery: (The German version of the Wikipedia article is much more informative.)

As far as I know, it started with a researcher wondering how exactly the Earth produced coal and oil and discovering that for almost a century nobody had done any new experiments. So he did some, adding some of today's knowledge.

It turns out that if you put water and basically arbitrary organic waste (wood, grass cuttings, leaves, entire weeds, whatever) into a pressure cooker, add some citric acid as a catalyser and then heat it to 200 degrees Celsius, then you get an exothermic reaction which makes the stuff keep that temperature without further input of energy. Provided you are not using an ordinary pressure cooker (which will explode) but some special thingy.

You stop the reaction after 8-12 hours and filtrate the water to get the product. Depending on the precise time you stop, you can create topsoil, oil, brown coal or low-quality stone coal. While the method doesn't seem to produce any excess heat, you can theoretically make an industrialised country CO2 neutral by treating all of its green waste that way and storing the resulting low-quality coal underground, e.g. in an old coal mine.

about a year ago

Man Campaigns For Addition of 'Th' Key To Keyboard

Hans Adler It was the Germans' fault. (258 comments)

As Gutenberg was German, the first printing presses only had letters as required for German. Discarding the umlauts from the printing presses imported from Germany was easy, but creating new letter types for eth and thorn was tricky. An initial workaround for eth was to use y because in certain handwritings the two looked similar. Later they used th for both eth and thorn.

about a year ago

Man Campaigns For Addition of 'Th' Key To Keyboard

Hans Adler Re:No (258 comments)

You abused it anyway. Thorn is not for the sound in 'that' (which is the same as the sound in 'this'), but for the one in 'with'. Just think about whether someone with a heavy accent would replace th by d or by f. ('dis' and 'dat' require an ed, 'wif' requires a forn).

about a year ago

Chinese Firm Approved To Raise World's Tallest Building In 90 Days

Hans Adler Re:Units in the summary (307 comments)

Well, yes, there are times when I have to use the system of measurement used by roughly 5 % of the world population rather than the one used by the other 95%. But there shouldn't be so many of these occasions.

Just like a news report in the US should not assume familiarity with the Spanish language just because it's the mother tongue of 12 % of the US population.

about a year ago

With Sales Down, Whale Meat Flogged As Source of Strength

Hans Adler Little known fact about whaling (311 comments)

It's not really about whales or their meat. It's about oil and similar resources.

According to international treaties, under certain conditions a country has the right to drill for oil in a certain area if it has traditionally and recently been exploiting the area economically in other ways. This explains a few things about the Japanese whaling programme that would make no sense otherwise. Why they are doing this even though they have no need for the meat, as the article makes clear. But also why they are not making a better effort to disguise the whaling as scientific. Sure, they are arguing before the IWC that it's primarily scientific. But sooner or later they will have to argue before a different body that it's primarily economic, and has always been so. The more obviously economic the programme is, the better it is for their purpose, so long as they can get away with it before the IWC.

about a year ago

One-Time Pad From Caltech Offers Uncrackable Cryptography

Hans Adler Re:Impossible? (192 comments)

Who would have thought that the f... article addresses this devilishly ingenious workaround?

"And even if Eve steals the glass, they estimate that it would take her at least 24 hours to extract any relevant information about its structure.

This extraction can only be done by passing light through the glass at a rate that is limited by the amount of heat this creates (since any heating changes the microstructure of the material). And the time this takes should give the owners enough time to realise what has happened and take the necessary mitigating actions."

about a year ago

Carnivorous Plant Ejects Junk DNA

Hans Adler Re:Relative of the tomato??? (116 comments)

Obviously you (the authors) are not to blame for this. In the original article everything was in the proper context. But the author of the report in Science should have explained what bladderworts are like and instead ran away with a misunderstood bit of information ripped out of context. *This* is what provoked comments such as "Where pray tell then are the GM tomatoes that eat aphids?" and references to killer tomatos. (Of course, otherwise we might have been speculating instead on how many of you gave their lives for science during this research. Carnivorous plants are still a man-bits-dog topic, after all.)

about a year ago


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