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Ask Slashdot: Designing a Telecom Configuration Center?

RGRistroph Re:Concise Checklists (52 comments)

Keep your text config files in git, and use gitlab or something similar to be able to browse and comment on, and link to from wiki documentation, all the changes.

about 4 months ago

Code Spaces Hosting Shutting Down After Attacker Deletes All Data

RGRistroph Re:Poor response. (387 comments)

Amazon doesn't normally do that -- they just rent the (virtual) servers, the dashboard and other software including the OS would have been installed by the customer, at most they might reboot or shutdown and restart a machine . . . but they provide a self-serve API to do that, so probably not even that.

Unless the access involved the attackers getting the AWS account credentials, I don't think there's much Amazon could do.

about 7 months ago

Snowden Used the Linux Distro Designed For Internet Anonymity

RGRistroph Re:Cue NSA infilatration in 3...2.... (171 comments)

We, the open source and freedom-loving community, may need an organized task force to keep track of these programmers, track their incomes, and store their communications -- just for future reference in case something comes up and a mole is suspected, not an actual search as the Constitution defines it, of course. Similar to the Apache Foundation and other Foundations for Open Source causes, but tasked with keeping our communications secure, and breaking the other side's communications where feasiable. We'll have to keep the existence of the Association secret as much as possible of course, and thus also hide it's budget in small items spread accross the other Foundations. They'll archive all the repos and mailing lists and IRC channels and any other communication medium, but advances in technology make the storage on that scale cheaper. We might have to rent a large building out somewhere that has cheap land and few pesky curious tresspassers, Utah or something. We'll just refer to it as No Such Association for now. A small and expedient measure given the threats of our times.

about 9 months ago

Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die

RGRistroph Re:Long live TeX and LaTeX (479 comments)

https://www.writelatex.com/ and https://www.sharelatex.com/ and several desktop latex editors seems to work OK despite your logic.

The main appleal of LaTeX is precisely that you aren't supposed to continuously re-render it, you are supposed to write things. Then you twiddle how it looks a bit at the end.

Optimizing web pages for speed of rendering the output seems reasonable, but I'm not sure that should be a big consideration in a document format.

about a year ago

Google To Encrypt All Keyword Searches

RGRistroph Will they hide search info from 3d party sites? (224 comments)

Will they make it so that if you arrive on a web page via a google search, the operator of that web page cannot see the search terms that lead you there ? I think that would be an improvement.

about a year ago

NSA Cracked Into Encrypted UN Video Conferences

RGRistroph Re:The dilema ... (427 comments)

According to the UN Charter itself, spying would not be an act of war, definitely not a reason to start one. See:


As a practical matter, we cannot allow spying to be considered a reason to go to war, because by it's nature it is hard to prove and easy to fake; it would basically be giving states the right to start a war whenever they want. At times in history we've tried that, such when most of the states of Europe were basically the persons of kings, and it didn't work out so we came up with rules.

This issue is a distraction, as is Private Manning's sexual identification. It just doesn't matter. It is actually the job of the NSA to spy on those communications, and as institutional, political communications they don't have the same moral scanticy and protection as private, individual humans' communications. Prior to Terror being the primary justification, the NSA used to justify some of their actions by saying that they discovered when large foreign contracts had been decided by bribe, and saved American companies the cost of bidding on them; that is also exactly what they are supposed to be doing.

The fact that the NSA got caught, or perhaps even worse yet chose to leak this activity to distract from the fact they got caught in their other activities, is more evidence the agency is out of control and needs to be brought to heel.

In my opinion, the NSA was basically killed by giving it an unlimited budget. Under such circumstances an organization tends to seek out the most expensive, least innovative, least risky things to do and firehose money into them. Take your favorite causes -- defense and law and order if you are right wing, education and health care if you left wing, or your perfered church if you are religious -- and the quickest way to thoroughly destroy that cause is to give it's institutions an unquestioning loyalty and unlimited budget.

In spite of the fact that I think some things the NSA does are good, and perhaps necessary in the long term, I think the best action currently would be to close the whole agency for a number of years. We'd run some risks in doing so, but leaving them on their current path is also running some risks. You can't wave the bogey man of an Islamic Caliphate or whatever and then pooh-pooh the bogey man of a internal Cheka or Stasi. I think if we cut the place down cold, and let the giant glass buildings and huge datacenters collect dust and mold for about 4 to 6 years, we'd be in a better position to restart something smaller and more disciplined around 2020. I think you need to close it for that long, so that all the careerists in there know they have to switch careers and get into other areas. You might end up hiring a large chunk of them back, of course, but half a decade in a different industry shakes up the bureaucratic allegences and gives people a different point of view.

about a year and a half ago

DIY Web-Controlled Robot That Takes 1 Hour To Build

RGRistroph Re:You can do this with more features! (56 comments)

I like your site and your portfolio and products.

If you want to get the free slashvertisement of a /. story, you need to use the platform to do something that slashbots would like to talk about, like maybe explore a walled-off section under the stairway of some historical building, or something.

Also, your store sends people to inertialabs.com which then in turn sends people over to robotmarketplace.com. Have it take people directly where they need to go.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Life After Firefox 3.6.x?

RGRistroph Re:Why the anxiety? (807 comments)

I don't think they are bullshit, as a user of the latest firefox that ships with Ubuntu I see this all the time:

23974 rgr 20 0 2656m 1.8g 40m S 55 23.3 164:03.18 firefox

It's a great laptop with 8 GB of RAM, 4 cores, etc. Still, I often restart firefox just to get work done.

The state of the browser world is pretty shabby right now. Basically, the browser is replacing the desktop window manager as a key piece of software - between webmail (gmail), web-based time tracking (harvest), keeping notes in an internal wiki, etc, much of my work is done in a browser. The state of that browser world is basically like the desktop world about 1995: the easiest solutions to use are filled with other people's programs running on my resources to their ends (usually advertising), the most private and ethical solutions lack the capability to do many things (in 1995 it was run specific programs, now it is use specific websites).

I don't see much hope from the web development and browser communities. When you talk to anyone in those communities and ask an open ended question such as "what's the biggest problem we're facing" or "what most excites you about the industry today" the response is usually about web standards, java script, and bastardizing page description into a bad programming language, making websites less ugly on mobile devices.

That your computer does what you want it to, instead of merely generating heat, or even worse yet computing flashy ads you don't want to see and collecting information for your enemies, isn't on their radar except as a knee-jerk platitude or afterthought. "Oh yeah, and privacy. We only write websites that don't track you if you put your name on a list."

I think it is in one of Artur Bergman's coffee-laced-with-hate fueled rants he points out that the browser / javascript infrastructure that is being built up is the largest attempt at distributed computing ever, and it is being built by people who have educations and backgrounds in graphic design and advertising, and learned programming along the way. All the issues of distributed computing such as latency and consistency are still there of course. I think it is not necessarily bad that the people building this don't have a formal background - those with a formal background haven't done so well sometimes - but it is bad that they all culturally come from advertising. They think in terms of slogans even when they think about ethical problems - "Don't be evil" - and their standards for what is acceptable ethical behavior are low.

So it is not a surprise that the browser they produce barely runs on the kinds of computers the top few percent of the world can afford, and that it collects information for the top 0.01 percent.

Perhaps if much of the world starts using tiny computers based on the new cheap system-on-a-chip ARM stuff, like the Raspberry PI and Beagleboard Bone and etc, there will be a brief opening where there is no good browser available for those machines and a new one could make headway. But I think we'd end up back in the same place on that platform for the same reasons unless we do something differently.

more than 2 years ago

Data Exposed In Stratfor Compromise Analyzed

RGRistroph Re:Inhibit Histrionics (141 comments)

I think the best inhibitors of histronics are the long and subtle posts on the value of contemplation of underlying forces acting in society. Post away, ignore the peanut gallery.

more than 2 years ago

How Does a Self-Taught Computer Geek Get Hired?

RGRistroph Consider Drupal Camps (523 comments)

DrupalCon can be expensive. If you can get there cheaply and perhaps share an AirBnB with someone or otherwise cut costs, it might be worth it.

However, you definitely need to continue freelancing or contracting so that you build a portfolio that you can point to.

In terms of self promotion, I would advise that one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck methods would be to present at Drupal Camps that you can attend cheaply. Make a 45 min presentation out of one of your projects as a "case study", those types of presentations are popular.

Eventually you will get a job offer if you keep that up.

In the longer term, you cannot neglect your education. This doesn't mean going back to school or taking formal classes necessarily, but you have to realize that you will have to be improving yourself for the rest of your career - either learning new technologies before your customers need them, deepening your theoretical background, learning a foreign language, something. Try to attend to that in a disciplined way.

more than 3 years ago

How Does a Self-Taught Computer Geek Get Hired?

RGRistroph Re:Get that degree (523 comments)

The degree does not do much to help employers evaluate people; a potential employer may apply it as a filter, but for development jobs and other creative work, it is not a good filter. The ones that are actually using it to refuse interviews are managed by lazy, unimaginative types and you don't want to work there. It is more likely that the requirement of a degree is posted as a formalism, perhaps the company doesn't want to suggest publically that they have low standards in hiring, and that an appropriately qualified candidate will get an interview.

The fact that you have taught people who finished a degree late, and they thought it was worth it, is not really evidence. The reason why they were still persuing the degree is that they thought it would be worth it in the end; perhaps they attached more importance to the emotional aspects of degree as a societie's validation of themselves, and this might also lead them into the more bureaucratic and entrenched parts of the industry, which also attach importance to degrees.

Learning that concrete technologies are meaningless but the large ideas behind them are, will happen in the workforce, much faster than the 4 years of a degree.

Finally, you trot out the old "it doesn't mean anything but you need it for advancement" nonsense. That just isn't true. It may have been true when GE, GM, and IBM were large portions of the workforce and had their corporate ladders in place, but few organizations trust their own internal promotions anymore - they prefer the validation, not of a degree, but validation that another company hired you for a similar position already. You advance two ways: a growing company grows underneath you, or you leave for a higher position somewhere else, perhaps returning later. The growing company method is mostly luck, and lateral switching depends mostly on the job you are leaving, not on the degree you do or don't have.

Education is not a waste, you will have to do that your whole career. But educational insititutions are a waste, and don't have as much education in them as you would think.

more than 3 years ago

Institutional Memory and Reverse Smuggling

RGRistroph Re:That's why the Feds declassify secret documents (312 comments)

I don't think the Federal Government is a good example of limiting secrets to save money.

Declassification is under funded, and mainly a fig leaf.

Classifying documents as secret is cheap, and has many bureaucratic benefits - making people and projects look import, shielding failures from review, etc. Thus the default is to classify everything.

I think this applies to other large institutions with secrecy programs as well, such as large corporations.

more than 3 years ago

Should a Web Startup Go Straight To the Cloud?

RGRistroph Pantheon as an example (442 comments)

You say "To progress the site I need to set up version control, continuous integration, and staging" . . . in the near future, I think you will be able to buy all that with a few clicks in the cloud environment. A good example that is available right now is the Pantheon evironment, although it is targeted at only Drupal: https://getpantheon.com/platform

I know the founders of Pantheon and have worked with one of them. The demos they have been giving, and the experiments I did with it using the Beta trail codes they gave out, were very impressive. I would start any large multi-developer, scaling project on Pantheon right now.

Eventually there will be similar offerings for all platforms. You probably should not wait for that, however. I would avoid basing the project on Microsoft products if I were you, and I would set up servers on the Rackspace Cloud, keep the code in a private github, and set up a single real hardware server at the house or office that has enough a development environment on it be to fall back and have that machine also keep backups of everything.

more than 3 years ago

AT&T To Acquire T-Mobile From Deutsche Telekom

RGRistroph Time to switch again ? (748 comments)

I have fled Southwestern Bell several times, only to have them buy the company I went to (including leaving to go to AT&T only to have them buy that and masquerade under that name).

I may have to do it again. Maybe I can move my number to a VoIP provider such as Vitelity in order to keep it, and then just go without a cell phone for a while. Americans spend a lot more on communications than other first world nations, and not having a phone bill for a while would fatten my wallet.

more than 3 years ago

'Colonizing the Red Planet,' a How-To Guide

RGRistroph Advertising is not an infinite well of money (288 comments)

Regardless of if it is a web site or traveling to Mars, if someone says something is to be funded by advertising, what they mean is they don't know how to get the money.

It is likely that the economy overspends on advertising by a large degree. Most of it is in untracked, and Google and others succeed with relatively limited tracking - just showing someone looked at something, not tracking it back to sales at all.

Given the unpaid externalities of advertising -- for example, not being able to find the site you are looking for in the first page of search results, and slow loading web pages crapped up with ads, etc -- we should not encourage this type of behavior, and when two equal options are available, choose the one less advertised.

about 4 years ago

BP Says "Top Kill" Operation Has Failed

RGRistroph Re:Solving problem in earnest (768 comments)

The big box failed because methane is coming out as well as oil, and at that presure and temperature the methane makes an ice with the water, which clogs it up. The bigger a box or cone you make, the more of this will form, and the oil and ice will float and lift it off.

You need a smaller box, not a bigger one, and possibly to heat it. You probably can't insulate it and let the hot oil keep it ice-free, because at that presure anything with air pockets like insulation has, is crushed flat and doesn't insulate any more.

more than 4 years ago


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