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Oregon Sues Oracle For "Abysmal" Healthcare Website

JDG1980 Re:absurd (210 comments)

Nope. A website that has to hook into a bunch of poorly maintained, poorly documented databases. That's the hard part.

This kind of crap is par for the course. I've had to figure out poorly designed databases without documentation, and it didn't cost millions of dollars to do that. Admittedly, insurance company big iron is probably much hairier to deal with than what I'm used to... but $240 million worth? Sorry, I just don't see how this adds up.

4 days ago

New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

JDG1980 Re:Waaah. (336 comments)

The real problem here is that Europe hasn't given the vacuum cleaners enough R&D time to make more efficient vacuums; should have been a ban for 2018+ not 2014.

Why not just use the same designs that are currently sold in the United States? As others have noted, we're pretty much limited to 1600W already, because of the maximum capacity of standard household circuits (120V/15A).

4 days ago

Hackers Steal Data Of 4.5 Million US Hospital Patients

JDG1980 Re:VPNs don't solve this on their own (111 comments)

You need properly trained and aware users

In other words, we're doomed.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: How Dead Is Antivirus, Exactly?

JDG1980 The real problems go deeper (331 comments)

One major problem with security is that the permission model on both Windows and Unix doesn't really give you the tools you need to keep yourself safe. We're still stuck in the 1970s university mentality where the user is assumed to have written or at least compiled the program themselves, and is supposed to have a good understanding of what it does. The program is assumed to be operating as an agent of the user, so it inherits all the user's permissions. On modern systems, with semi-trusted and untrusted code downloaded from the Internet, this assumption is absurd and dangerous.

Rather than the program inheriting the user's permissions by default, a decent modern security model would instead restrict it to a sandbox unless it was explicitly given permission to get out – and even then the user should be given veto power over specific sandbox breaches. (Android used to work like this, but Google dumbed it down for reasons that are not clear.)

By default, a program should only be able to do the following:

  • * Get input from the keyboard and mouse (only when the application has focus)
  • * Get input from game controllers (even if the application doesn't have focus)
  • * Output video and sound using the normal system APIs
  • * Read/write temporary files to a scratch directory
  • * Open and save files only through standard system dialog boxes that are under the OS's control

Anything else – Internet access, ability to freely read and write to files/folders, ability to get keyboard input when not in focus – should require explicit user permission. And the user should have the option of unchecking any or all of these authorizations and continuing to run the app without it being able to do those things. These permissions should be as fine-grained as possible, so an application could have permission to only read certain specific folders, or could be allowed to access the Internet only through a particular API (say, for handling registration or online high scores) and only for certain domains.

about two weeks ago

Microsoft Considered Renaming Internet Explorer To Escape Its Reputation

JDG1980 Re:Renaming never worked to improve reputation (426 comments)

It was tied to the operating system, unnecessarily. The browser has exactly zilch to do with the operating system. ActiveX controls, tying versions of the browser with versions of the OS, varying behaviour of same browser version on different OS versions etc. If IE is renamed, it should be delinked from the OS like other browsers.

I agree that tying versions of IE to specific versions of Windows was a really bad idea. Many web developers are still stuck with supporting IE8 because it is the latest version that runs on XP, and many users (and even companies) still haven't upgraded. This has clearly retarded the adoption of modern technologies like canvas and SVG support, which is a serious problem.

But at this point you really can't fully remove IE from Windows without breaking stuff. Sure, you can use the uninstall option to remove iexplore.exe (and newer versions of Windows let you do that), but if the back-end components like mshtml.dll were also removed, then a non-negligible amount of existing software would break. Since backward compatibility is really Microsoft's strongest selling point, this is a non-starter. Don't forget that Microsoft Help files also use HTML, so the Trident rendering engine is needed to view them. You could argue that this is unnecessary tying, but I'm not sure a custom proprietary format would really have been a better choice than HTML for help files – it seems a fairly sensible choice.

about two weeks ago

Microsoft Black Tuesday Patches Bring Blue Screens of Death

JDG1980 Re:Kernel-mode drivers (179 comments)

I never understood why drivers had to be on the kernel ring anyway. Every single peripheral (GPU, sound card, etc.) driver I've ever encountered has had a history of stability problems. You'd think the largest point of failure on the computer could be moved to userland and restarted when necessary.

Audio drivers were moved to user mode starting with Windows Vista. (That's why DirectSound 3D is no longer supported.) Video drivers, however, pretty much have to be in the kernel for performance reasons.

about two weeks ago

Avast Buys 20 Used Phones, Recovers 40,000 Deleted Photos

JDG1980 Isn't this illegal? (231 comments)

How is this not a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)? They bypassed security measures (deletion) to access someone else's personal information without authorization. Given how broadly this has been interpreted in the past (Andrew Auernheimer was prosecuted for visiting public URLs on the Internet), Avast's act clearly should be considered a violation. Or is this a case of "if a corporation does it, it is not illegal"?

about a month and a half ago

Windows 9 To Win Over Windows 7 Users, Disables Start Screen For Desktop

JDG1980 Start menu is only part of the answer (681 comments)

Bringing back an actual Start menu is an important part of what needs to be fixed, but it's not the only thing. Windows 8, with its solid color design, looks flat and ugly compared to Windows 7 with Aero. Even if they plan to stick with the more spartan look, they should at least bring back frame translucency. (There is an add-on for Windows 8 that can do this, but it's still in beta and requires installation by hacking AppInit_DLL.) And the centered window titles are even more annoying. From Windows 95 onward, the title has always been left-justified. That's where my eyes are used to looking for it, and have been for nearly 20 years. Windows 8 moved it to the center because some graphics designer thought it looks cool, but this completely breaks my eye-tracking, wasting a few seconds here and there while I go hunting for the title that's not where my muscle memory says it should be. I don't care if they expose this in the UI, but there should at least be a registry key to fix that.

about 2 months ago

In 2012, Facebook Altered Content To Tweak Readers' Emotions

JDG1980 Re:consent (130 comments)

There are laws governing obtaining informed consent from humans before performing psychological experiments on them.

That only applies to federally funded research (which means almost all colleges and universities). Attempting to apply this to the private sector would raise serious First Amendment questions. What one person calls "psychological experiments", another might call "protected free speech".

about 2 months ago

Cracking Atlanta Subway's Poorly-Encrypted RFID Smart Cards Is a Breeze, Part II

JDG1980 Re:The REAL value of the transit system (170 comments)

And that is a major issue in mass transit. Most mass transit systems do NOT break even after collecting all the tickets and passes. Nearly all of them must subsidize their costs with taxes. And some of them even take money from federal and state programs because the systems are not actually affordable even using city taxes without adding money from the federal and state governments.

We generally don't expect roads to pay for themselves, so why should we expect that of mass transit?

about a month ago

4K Displays Ready For Prime Time

JDG1980 Re:Resolution or Definition (207 comments)

There are studies out there that claim an average user with 20/20 vision sitting 9 feet away from a 72 inch screen can't tell the difference between 720 dpi and 1080 dpi.

Do you regularly sit 9 feet away from your computer monitor?

I agree that for TV viewing, 4K is overkill, but it makes a big difference on PCs. Until text is sharp and clear without the renderer having to use hacks like hinting and subpixel AA, we still need higher DPI.

about 3 months ago

4K Displays Ready For Prime Time

JDG1980 Re:Lest we forget... (207 comments)

... that IBM had a '4K' (I abhor this term as much as 'HD') monitor in production from 2001-2005. ... 3840x2400 in a ~22 inch panel. Good luck finding a "4K" monitor of that resolution (~204 ppi) any time soon.

The Dell UP2414Q comes close – it's a 24" 4K monitor, and therefore has a DPI of over 180.

about 3 months ago

Professors: US "In Denial" Over Poor Maths Standards

JDG1980 Bad conclusion (688 comments)

From the article: '"There is a denial phenomenon," says Prof Peterson. He said the tendency to make internal comparisons between different groups within the US had shielded the country from recognising how much they are being overtaken by international rivals. "The American public has been trained to think about white versus minority, urban versus suburban, rich versus poor," he said.'"

But let's take a closer look at the information in the article and see if this way of thinking about it makes sense.

Southern states Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are among the weakest performers, with results similar to developing countries such as Kazakhstan and Thailand. [...] If Massachusetts had been considered as a separate entity it would have been the seventh best at maths in the world. Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey and Montana are all high performers.

There are some clear patterns here. The low-performing states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are poor, rural, and have large minority populations. Conversely, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are wealthy, urbanized states with relatively low minority populations. So maybe thinking about scholastic achievement issues in terms of "white versus minority, urban versus suburban, rich versus poor" makes quite a bit of sense after all.

about 3 months ago

Google Foresees Ads On Your Refrigerator, Thermostat, and Glasses

JDG1980 Re:Nope. (355 comments)

How else will it tell you "PC LOAD LETTER"?

A dirt-cheap character-based LCD display (2 lines of 28 characters) works fine for that. You can buy these ready-to-go for a couple bucks on Sparkfun or eBay, so they must cost virtually nothing when integrated into a mass-produced device made in China.

about 3 months ago

The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence

JDG1980 Re:Who is postulating this? (255 comments)

I take it you didn't read the comments on the 'self-driving car' story, just below this one? Where self-driving cars will be vastly safer than human drivers, and no-one will die on the roads any more?

I didn't see anyone say that no one will die on the roads any more. But being "vastly safer than human drivers" actually isn't that high a bar to clear. There are 35,000 traffic fatalities a year in the United States. (And it used to be much worse, before modern safety features like air bags and crumple zones were mandated.) Doing better than that is certainly an achievable goal and doesn't require omni-competent robotics.

about 3 months ago

The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence

JDG1980 Re:Morals, ethics, logic, philosophy (255 comments)

Self-driving cars don't and won't have morals, ethics, logic, or philosophy. They don't need any of that. They simply have a wide array of input sensors connected to a set of complex algorithms that provides the necessary vehicle inputs to drive from point A to point B while avoiding crashes. Not infallible avoidance, of course – if there's no room to stop when an obstacle pops up, there's no room – but better than human drivers can. And the truth is that this is a pretty low barrier. Regular cars result in about 35,000 crash fatalities a year in the U.S. alone. Self-driving cars just have to do better than that, not achieve absolute perfection all the time.

The question discussed by Patrick Lin and Eric Sofge is how the programmers designing the vehicle algorithms should configure them to behave when a collision is truly unavoidable. Lin and Sofge advocate that the programmers should use strict utilitarian philosophy when deciding what to hit. I don't think that is going to fly, either from a legal or a sales perspective; the least damaging choice is just to try to stop the vehicle even if there is no time, rather than trying to "select" a crash for the least possible damage.

about 3 months ago

The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence

JDG1980 Who is postulating this? (255 comments)

From what I can tell, the only one assuming sci-fi-style robotic super-competence is Sofge himself (and perhaps his interview subject, Patrick Lin). The original Pop.Sci. article postulates that self-driving cars can and should make accurate split-second utilitarian ethical calculations. That seems a lot more "sci-fi" to me than what most of the Slashdot commenters said in response: namely, that the car's programming can't tell with a good enough degree of accuracy what might happen if it tries to choose one crash over another, so if such a collision is imminent, the car should just follow traffic laws and slam on the brakes rather than jumping out of its lane.

about 3 months ago

Autonomous Car Ethics: If a Crash Is Unavoidable, What Does It Hit?

JDG1980 Re:These ethicists are overthinking it (800 comments)

I don't necessarily disagree. Peter Singer's utilitarian views in particular seem especially loathsome. That said, the average person is utilitarian enough that they will usually agree to flip the switch in the "trolley problem", killing one person to save five others. (They're more reluctant in the variant where you push a fat man onto the track to try to derail the train. Philosophers wonder why, but I suspect it's simply a matter of plausibility – no matter what the formal wording of the question says, most people don't think that the fat man actually will derail the trolley.)

One major part of the problem with pure utilitarianism is that it fails on its own terms. People are not Vulcans, and they will often be very upset and disturbed (disutility!) when you try to treat them as if they are. Another traditional utilitarian dilemma is whether a doctor should kill one innocent patient and harvest his organs if it's necessary to save half a dozen other lives. For utilitarians, this is a hard question. But it should actually be easy: as soon as people find out that doctors will kill them if they think it's for the "greater good", then they will stop seeing the doctor in all but the most extreme exigencies (preventive care, etc., goes out the window) and the overall result will be much worse for everyone than following the Hippocratic Oath. In other words, following deontologial rules can often be the appropriate thing to do from a long-term utilitarian perspective.

about 4 months ago

Autonomous Car Ethics: If a Crash Is Unavoidable, What Does It Hit?

JDG1980 These ethicists are overthinking it (800 comments)

It's important to keep in mind that when such crashes happen, the programmers/manufacturers/insurance companies won't have to defend them to a committee of ivory-tower utilitarian philosophers. They're going to have to defend them to a jury made up of ordinary citizens, most of whom believe that strict utilitarian ethics is monstrous sociopathy (and probably an affront to their deontological religious beliefs as well). And of course, these jury members won't even realize that they are thinking in such terms.

Thus, whatever the programming decisions are, they have to be explicable and defensible to ordinary citizens with no philosophical training. That's why I agree with several other commenters here that "slam on the brakes" is the most obvious out. It's a lot easier to defend the fact that the car physically couldn't stop in time than to defend a deliberate choice to cause one collision in order to avert a hypothetical worse crash. This is especially true since a well-designed autonomous car drives conservatively, and would only be faced with such a situation if someone else is doing something wrong, such as dashing out into traffic right in front of the vehicle at a high rate of speed without looking. In any other situation, the car would just stop before any crash with anything took place. If you absolutely can't avoid hitting something, slamming on the brakes makes it more likely that at least you hit the person who did something to bring it on themselves, rather than one who's completely innocent.

about 4 months ago

One-a-Day-Compiles: Good Enough For Government Work In 1983

JDG1980 Dead-end bureaucracy (230 comments)

Of course, the vast majority of people doing programming in 1983 didn't do any of this. If you count everyone who was entering any code (from "Hello World" on up), the vast majority of programmers were working on 8-bit microcomputers that didn't require jumping through any such hoops. If you had a Commodore 64, you could get a basic test program working in less than a minute:

20 GOTO 10

Then once you figured that out you could learn about variables, figure out how to write to the screen RAM, and eventually figure out sprites. And then once you figured out that interpreted BASIC at 1 MHz wasn't fast enough to do a decent arcade game, you'd move on to assembly. I'd wager a majority of the people programming today learned in an environment like this. Edsger Dijkstra and other academic computer scientists hated BASIC, which they thought taught bad habits and caused brain damage, but they were wrong. It was this kind of hacker culture that created the flourishing IT industry we have today, not the dead-end bureaucracy represented by Thatcherite Britain.

about 4 months ago



Microsoft Finally Relents: Start Menu Returning in Windows 9

JDG1980 JDG1980 writes  |  about 5 months ago

JDG1980 (2438906) writes "Microsoft's announcements at today's Build conference indicates that the change of leadership just might be having some effects on the company's flagship product. It looks like Windows 9 will bring back the Start Menu that so many users missed in Windows 8. It won't be exactly the same as the Windows 7 menu (there's a live tile section off to the right), but it will be a lot closer, and won't hog the whole screen.

Another common complaint about Windows 8 is that the full-screen paradigm for Metro apps – while it may work OK with a tablet or phone – doesn't fit well on a multi-tasking desktop with a large screen. To fix this, Microsoft will allow Metro apps to run within a window on Windows 9 – similar to what can currently be done with Stardock's ModernMix."

Krita 2.8 Released

JDG1980 JDG1980 writes  |  about 6 months ago

JDG1980 (2438906) writes "Krita, an open-source graphics editor, has been around since 2005, but no stable version existed for Windows users — until today. With the release of Krita 2.8, full and stable support for Windows users is finally a reality, thanks to input from KO GmbH and Intel. Krita brings some things to the table that GIMP does not: 16 bit per channel color support, adjustment layers, and a name that won't set off red flags at HR, just to list a few. You can download the Windows version here. Might be worth looking into, if you're tired of the lack of progress on GIMP and don't want to pay monthly "cloud" fees to Adobe."

Google Buys Nest

JDG1980 JDG1980 writes  |  about 7 months ago

JDG1980 (2438906) writes "Google just announced that they will be purchasing Nest, a company best known for their "smart" thermostats and smoke detectors, for $3.2 billion in cash. What will this mean for Nest devices going forward – greater integration with Android, perhaps?"

SSD Manufacturer OCZ Preparing for Bankruptcy

JDG1980 JDG1980 writes  |  about 9 months ago

JDG1980 (2438906) writes "OCZ, a manufacturer of solid-state drives, has filed for bankruptcy. This move was forced by Hercules Technology Growth Capital, which had lent $30 million to OCZ under terms that were later breached. The most likely outcome of this bankruptcy is that OCZ's assets (including the Indilinx controller IP) will be purchased by Toshiba. If this deal falls through, the company will be liquidated. No word yet on what a Toshiba purchase would mean in terms of warranty support for OCZ's notoriously unreliable drives."

Adobe Creative Suite Going Subscription-Only

JDG1980 JDG1980 writes  |  about a year ago

JDG1980 (2438906) writes "According to CNET and various other sources, CS6 will be the last version of Adobe's Creative Suite that will be sold in the traditional manner. All future versions will be available by subscription only, through Adobe's so-called "Creative Cloud" service. This means that before too long, anyone who wants an up-to-date version of Photoshop won't be able to buy it – they will have to pay $50 per month (minimum subscription term: one year). Can Adobe complete the switch to subscription-only, or will the backlash be too great? Will this finally spur the creation of a real competitor to Photoshop?"


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