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Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist

McNally Missing Critical Information (499 comments)

It's a shame that the summary and the article omit the most important information needed to judge whether this is reasonable or not -- details and evidence in support of the characterization of the groups Barr belonged as "linked" to the group responsible for the armored car robbery & murder. What does "linked" mean in this context: members in common? command structure? who knows? The article doesn't say, and without that information none of us can have a really informed opinion on the topic.

Since there's not much to discuss from TFA, I'm going to tell you a little story from back when I was in school, because it's conceivably relevant (but then, as I've said, we don't really have the details we need to know..

Annnnyyyyway.. Once upon a time, long ago (but still some years after this woman was in school) I was a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During the time I was on campus there were a group of chuckleheads who fancied themselves the vanguard of the socialist revolution that was sure to sweep the country Real Soon Now (tm). They were the scourge of all of the small clubs on campus because of a trick that they pulled, over and over, quite successfully until the other student groups learned to defend themselves against it.

Here's what would happen.. A small, inoffensive campus group having little or nothing to do with the main goals of the revolutionary organization in question would have a meeting at the beginning of the year to welcome new members and to elect leadership positions for the coming school year. Let's imagine we're talking about the Campus Knitting Society.. Well, a group like that might have 8-10 members who attended meetings regularly, and a few more who would drop in when their schedules allowed. The Revolutionary Chuckleheads League (not their real name) would descend en masse on the Campus Knitting Society the week that group was electing new officers and since a lot of groups had open membership the RCL would nominate its own slate of officers and take over the Campus Knitting Society. They'd use the small budgetary stipend the group got from the student government activities fund to print up flyers and the next thing you'd know, every kiosk on campus would be covered with fluorescent orange flyers saying "U of M Campus Knitting Society DEMANDS AN END TO US IMPERIALISM" and "U of M Campus Society Says: Free Mumia!". Then the Revolutionary Chuckleheads League would abandon the burned-out husk of the club they'd taken over and move on to play the same trick on some other organization. The shellshocked original club members, if they weren't completely soured by the experience, might form a new club to replace the one that had been stolen from them, which is why from time to time you'd see flyers pop up on campus saying things like "First Meeting Sunday Night: Michigan Knitting Club (NOT THE Revolutionary Chuckleheads League)"

So.. I've got no idea from the article what Barr's politics were at the time, what they are now, and what her level of involvement with the banned group might be. But it wouldn't surprise me if there were a lot of people that I went to school with who belonged to perfectly harmless clubs who could conceivably fall afoul of the same shadow that blighted Barr's career just because they belonged to a club that got infiltrated and taken over by a group of radicals whose interests were only tangentially related to the club's original goals. I don't think that happens very often, but I would like for the government to have a higher standard than "affiliated" or at the very least to make clear what they mean by that.

about three weeks ago
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FreeBSD 9.3 Released

McNally Re:OpenSSL (77 comments)

Does anyone outside of the vanishingly small and shrinking circle of OpenSSL developers know what that number means or why they persist on inflicting whatever stupid, parochial numbering convention it's the fault of on everyone?

Yes, why can't they use alphabetically-sequenced Alliterative Animal names, or maybe choose selections in no particular sequence from an unordered set such as large cat species?

Sure, they could be clearer, but they're very far from the worst version naming out there.. Count your blessings.

about 2 months ago
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Senator Wants 'Terrorist' Label On Blogs

McNally Re:Guess the Party (370 comments)

Lieberman is a Democrat. Just saying, if he was a Republican, all the trolls woulld be out about "OMG Republicans are teh evil."

He once was a Democrat but the last time he ran for office he was defeated in his party's primaries by a candidate that Connecticut Democrats apparently felt better reflected the values of their party. Subsequently Lieberman ran, and was re-elected as, an independent.

more than 2 years ago
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Book Review: Getting Started With Audacity 1.3

McNally Re:Really? (51 comments)

Why? Why can't I expect a book on a piece of software that has to do with editing and mixing audio to teach me those things? That's like saying you can't expect a book on Windows to actually teach you how to use Windows.

It's more like expecting a book on Microsoft Word to teach you how to write.

more than 3 years ago
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Book Review: RESTful Java Web Services

McNally Another Packt "Classic" (49 comments)

I tried clicking on the "Disable Advertising" checkbox but it didn't make this story go away..

more than 3 years ago
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Leaked Docs Show UK ISP BT Plans Music Service

McNally The Cynical Take.. (84 comments)

Services like Spotify already exist and are hugely popular in the UK meaning BT will have to go the extra mile to convince users they have a service worth using."

Let's hope they don't simply find it easier to degrade the quality of competing services. I get nervous (and cynical) when my ISP wants to sell me anything other than a pipe for bits.

more than 3 years ago
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Page Can't Turn Back Clock At Google

McNally Re:Leave Page alone... (205 comments)

Apple is mainly a hardware company and Google is a software one.

Arguably, Google is an advertising company, not a software company.

more than 3 years ago
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Musician Jailed Over Prank YouTube Video

McNally Re:wonder what the story is here (538 comments)

By railroading this guy, what the Muskegon County Prosecutor is actually doing is weakening the severity of real child abuse in the public's mind by diluting it with dumb but ultimately harmless comedy.

Gee, I wonder why he would possibly want to do that....

Without knowing the particulars of this particular case, I still feel free to speculate that it's because the Muskegon County Prosecutor, a man named Tony Tague, is a self-promoting sleaze who loves nothing better than to get his name in the papers.

I grew up in Muskegon County. Tague became prosecutor about the time I left to go to college, 20 years ago or so, and during that time he has repeatedly shown a penchant for pushing the envelope and excersising his considerable prosecutorial discretion to criminalize behavior in any case where he can whip up public outrage -- the first one I can remember was when he elected to prosecute a pregnant drug addict for delivery of cocaine to a minor -- her unborn child.

His "family values" and "tough on crime" posturing resonate with a certain portion of the local electorate but I wouldn't describe the area as particularly prudish or inordinately socially conservative. It's less that the community is really up in arms about such things and more that Tague loves the publicity such cases bring and has been successful throughout his career in exploiting such cases to mobilize a certain segment of the electorate. Besides the sleaziness of such tactics, it's also pretty hard on the individuals who are singled out to advance his political career.

more than 3 years ago
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The Fall of Traditional Entertainment Conglomerates

McNally If you say so.. (204 comments)

new technological advances, enabling systems and cost considerations WILL change the entertainment industry as we know it within 5 years.

Well, OK, if some guy with a Wordpress blog says so, I'm convinced!

Being less snide -- I wish these pioneers godspeed; I'd be happy to see big changes. I'm just not sure it'll happen as easily or as quickly as the write-up asserts.

more than 3 years ago
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Take This GUI and Shove It

McNally Re:Bad GUI and no CLI: way too common (617 comments)

AIX's SMIT did this, or rather it wrote the commands that it executed to achieve what you asked it to do. This meant that you could learn: look at what it did and find out about which CLI commands to run.

It's been years since I administered an AIX machine but my recollection is that the CLI command strings it came up with were generally amusingly-specific unique-to-AIX commands with very long names like resizepartitionandinstallbootblock or something like that. They were generally specialty scripts built to parallel SMIT menu choices and you'd never wind up guessing the command without SMIT telling you what to use, but having the command-line version was nice because you could do something by menus in SMIT on one machine and then use the command-line equivalents to automate the same operations on dozens of other hosts.

more than 3 years ago
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Defending Self In a Case of On-Line Identity Theft?

McNally Re:Uh, what? (390 comments)

I am however somewhat surprised by/skeptical about this story. How did the poster's name and info get associated w/ this?

Perhaps the malfeasor(s) "borrowed" his name from the contact information in his company's bona fide domain registration?

about 4 years ago
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AMD Hates Laptop Stickers As Much As You Do

McNally Re:Goo Gone or limonene (597 comments)

thus something invented by us is more likely to cause serious trouble for our metabolism than something that bees or trees invented millions of years ago.

I've got some foxglove growing out in my yard if you want to test that theory.. And if you survive that, there's a local amanita variant I can probably find without too much trouble if I go looking for it.

about 4 years ago
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A New Species of Patent Troll

McNally Please Don't Squeeze the Charmin (258 comments)

While I think the statutory damages here sound excessive, if it really gets to be a problem the legislative branch can easily pass an amended statute correcting that. Meanwhile it does seem to be desirable to have some disincentive in place to prevent manufacturers from claiming the protection of expired patents. A better system might require a company be served with notice to stop claiming the patents, giving them a reasonable amount of time thereafter (30 days?) to correct their manufacturing; any devices produced after the grace period would be subject to penalties if patent protection continued to be falsely claimed.

It probably wouldn't be such a problem if we hadn't gone absolutely patent crazy in the past fifty years. I made a ludicrous discovery the other day while replenishing my toilet paper supply. The brand of TP I had purchased claims no fewer than 36 patents on the packaging, and I believe that's not even counting the additional design patents (or at least I presume that's what the series designated D########## represented.) C'mon, really -- 36 patentable innovations? It's toilet paper.

about 4 years ago
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What 'IT' Stuff Should We Teach Ninth-Graders?

McNally Teach Them That Computers Are Not Magical Boxes (462 comments)

Some of the responses so far seem to be based on the assumption that this is an information technology class for students who intend to specialize in the field. I'm assuming, rather, that this is intended to be a basic primer class offered to everyone and intended to give a general grounding in the subject.

My suggestion is that you start by talking to adults to find out what they do and don't understand about the technology they use. In my experience (20-some years' worth of dealing with end users in various capacities) many, probably most, adults have an extremely limited idea how the technology they are using really works in the physical world and deal only with it as an abstract unit. And some of the assumptions they make based on the mental model they have built up lead to really bad decisions because they don't understand very basic concepts that the rest of us take for granted.

To give an example: perhaps the single most misunderstood concept I encounter is the notion of storage. A great number of people seem to have no idea what actually happens on a computer when they save something. Generally they don't understand the difference between various types of memory (i.e. the difference between temporary short-term storage in RAM and long-term storage on a file system on some sort of disc or flash device. They have a very limited understanding, if any, of the filesystem and the concept of hierarchical organization. They are generally unable to distinguish between the various components of their system (e.g. display, CPU, input devices, file storage.) These are things that seem idiotically simple to most of us because we have completely internalized the knowledge, but deal with people who don't have the same underlying framework and you will soon see how it affects their reasoning about their computer.

People with this sort of limited understanding of the computer as one abstracted whole, a magic box that they interact with, generally get along adequately as long as everything is working the way they expect but as soon as they run into any sort of exceptional circumstance they have virtually no recourse because they have no real understanding from which to base hypotheses about a possible cause for the problem or method for proceeding. Their ability to use their systems is therefore fragile and subject to disruption from virtually any sort of unusual situation.

If you've worked in the field you've seen this over and over and over again and you can probably call to mind some of the unfortunate results of this kind of shallow understanding and "magical box" mindset.

I think the best thing you can do for kids just getting started (though I think 9th grade is pretty late to be getting started) is to help them understand that computers are not magical and that their behavior is not arbitrary, that with the proper basic understanding of what's happening most of what follows can be predicted by fairly straightforward logic.

more than 4 years ago
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House Proposes Legalizing, Taxing Online Gambling

McNally Re:The Math is Screwy on This One (473 comments)

The proposed rate (depending how you read the write-up either 6% total, or 6% plus 2%) has either been set by someone who has no understanding of the math behind gambling or by someone who is looking to deliberately kill on-line wagering while not appearing to do so.

I should have allowed for a third possibility -- that the write-up summary was egregiously inaccurate in its description of the proposed tax. The sad thing is that here on Slashdot that would have been the smart money bet..

more than 4 years ago
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House Proposes Legalizing, Taxing Online Gambling

McNally The Math is Screwy on This One (473 comments)

The proposed rate (depending how you read the write-up either 6% total, or 6% plus 2%) has either been set by someone who has no understanding of the math behind gambling or by someone who is looking to deliberately kill on-line wagering while not appearing to do so. A 6% (or 8%) government rake on top of the the existing house edge (or house rake for games where you don't play against the house) will crush players, making virtually every gambler a short-term loser.

more than 4 years ago
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Googling the Trail of a Serial Rapist

McNally Re:Not very impressive (204 comments)

Baking bread is not easy; baking store-bought bread is even less easy. The problem is that when you stop making failbread, the barely-tolerable product coming out of your oven is a thousand times better than the garbage you get from the store.

Baking truly great bread requires some real skill. Baking surprisingly decent bread can actually be very simple and require no skill at all. I realize we're seriously off-topic, but posted for other DIYers here on Slashdot who (like me) don't necessarily live within convenient traveling distance of a great bakery. Go to your library, check it out, give it a try..

more than 4 years ago
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How To Exploit NULL Pointers

McNally Re:Assumes a CALL to the NULL ptr (not any referen (139 comments)

I was intrigued by the ./ posting, which claimed that the tutorial would show how to exploit any NULL pointer dereference. The actual article, however, requires a CALL to the NULL pointer.

For further context, see my whitepaper on how to turn any kdawson-posted Slashdot story into a NULL issue.

more than 4 years ago
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South Korea Announces Daily MMO Blackouts For Youths

McNally Re:Great! (148 comments)

you missed the w it seems

You think he's expecting more kids on the guy's LAN?

more than 4 years ago
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5-Axis Robot Carves Metal Like Butter

McNally Re:Craves Metal (277 comments)

The idea of wearing a helmet made of a material hard enough to efficiently transmit blows directly to your skull, soft enough to deform under impact, ductile enough to stay deformed, and a sufficiently good conductor of heat to making cutting its deformed remains off of your head without burning you; but before you bleed out, a specialized operation makes me very nervous.

That's exactly what They want you to think.

This represents a tremendous step forward in aluminum hat technology.

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

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McNally McNally writes  |  more than 7 years ago

McNally writes "Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins and their alter-egos Gabe and Tycho were the subjects of a nice write-up today in the 12/27/06 edition of the New York Times (registration required) recognizing the substantial accomplishments of Child's Play, the gaming-focussed children's charity the two have organized and tirelessly promoted. Let's hope the additional recognition by the mainstream national media helps spread awareness of the good work they're doing beyond the tech and gaming communities."

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