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

Sneftel Low-hanging fruit (170 comments)

The indictment claims that the ring called their organization the "Underground Railroad."

Srsly, guys, try harder.

about three weeks ago
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Was Turing Test Legitimately Beaten, Or Just Cleverly Tricked?

Sneftel Re:Stupidly tricked, not clever (309 comments)

So if there were an AI system which genuinely had the intellect and communication capabilities of a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy (conversing in English), you would not consider it intelligent?

about a month and a half ago
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Unlock Your Android Phone With Open Source Wearable NFC

Sneftel Re:Unlocking a phone.... (81 comments)

No, most phones don't have locks on them. They wouldn't be much use, as phones are intended neither to hold valuable objects, nor to be secured to a particular location.

about 2 months ago
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Inside the Stolen Smartphone Black Market In London

Sneftel Re:Changing IMEI is illegal (109 comments)

That's a significant problem, I agree. You could program the same IMEI onto all the mainboard chips and make them inoperable unless the IMEIs all match, but the screen and touchscreen are still expensive and useful to salvage. It's not a panacea. But it would precipitously drop the street price of a stolen iPhone, and that would make theft less lucrative. Every bit counts.

about 3 months ago
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Inside the Stolen Smartphone Black Market In London

Sneftel Re:Changing IMEI is illegal (109 comments)

The fuse bits would be on the radio chip, the IC that actually does the cellular stuff, so patching and soldering would be useless. Fuse bits are set in a manner similar to flash memory -- via commands to the chip. The only significant difference is that once set, they can't be changed.

Microcontrollers already use fuse bits. Your average less-than-a-dollar PIC microcontroller includes several fuse bits to do things like make it impossible to reprogram. It's well-known technology, and just as cost-effective as the current system. It just doesn't allow for IMEI modification, and it's starting to look like allowing IMEI modification is a win for the manufacturers.

about 3 months ago
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Inside the Stolen Smartphone Black Market In London

Sneftel Re:Changing IMEI is illegal (109 comments)

Storing the IMEI in PROM instead of EEPROM would have no effect on production costs. Fuse bits are, if anything, cheaper than their rewritable equivalent (though IMEIs are what, 64 bits, so honestly it wouldn't make a cent of difference).

about 3 months ago
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Inside the Stolen Smartphone Black Market In London

Sneftel Re:Changing IMEI is illegal (109 comments)

It would be trivial for manufacturers to make the IMEI absolutely unchangeable using fuse bits. The fact that they have not suggests that they see widespread phone theft as an overall benefit for them, which makes sense -- it drives sales of new phones among those able to afford them.

Enforcement of those laws would help, but enforcement of such things is always expensive and imperfect. Simpler and more effective to mandate that manufacturers make IMEIs absolutely unchangeable.

about 3 months ago
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Xbox One Reputation System Penalizes Gamers Who Behave Badly

Sneftel Re:OMG FAG LOL (183 comments)

They're not basing the reputation system on reports of cheating, though. As you pointed out, it's difficult, and hopelessly subjective, to tell the difference between a really good player and a cheater, so expert oversight is necessary to interpret those flags. (The good news is, automated analytics are getting remarkably good at telling the difference. It's an arms race, of course, but not as lopsided as it once was.) Rather, this system is for tagging griefers.

about 4 months ago
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Megatons To Megawatts Program Comes To a Close

Sneftel Re:Nuclear dangers... (125 comments)

If that were the case, then yes, you could argue that the use of aluminum is dangerous. A decrease in the use of aluminium would result in a decrease in deaths.

Bauxite is strip-mined, though, which is pretty safe as far as the miners are concerned.

about 6 months ago
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Code.org: More Money For CS Instructors Who Teach More Girls

Sneftel Re:Teaching programmer? (381 comments)

Bullshit, I self taught myself. I had no teacher and my parents were computer illiterate, and many of the greatest programmers I know followed the exact same pattern.

Wonderful! If, as you say, the greatest programmers are entirely self-made, purely because some god-given vocatio made them start BASICing up roguelikes, then applying incentives to teachers won't matter one way or another.

But if, on the other hand, this stuff isn't genetic but rather a matter of environment and upbringing, of a word of encouragement at the right time, of giving a seed of talent a place to grow.... well, but no. No, all you need is a computer and to be the chosen one.

about 8 months ago
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Code.org: More Money For CS Instructors Who Teach More Girls

Sneftel Re:Teaching programmer? (381 comments)

You don't know a single competent programmer who just started programming just because they wanted to. They started programming because they had the opportunity to, and the support. And if manipulating teachers is effective in countering their (probably unconscious, but nevertheless well-researched and documented) bias towards offering opportunity and support towards mostly boys, then it's the right thing to do.

about 8 months ago
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Printable Smart Labels Tell You When the Milk's Gone Bad

Sneftel TTIs (heh) (68 comments)

There are already time-temperature indicators, which are low-cost, (usually) non-electronic devices affixed to perishable products to check whether they've remained in the appropriate range, and how long they were out of that range. Those are what this new tech is competing with, not the temperature-sensitive LCD strips you see on aquariums.

about 9 months ago
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JavaScript-Based OpenRISC Emulator Can Run Linux, GCC, Wayland

Sneftel Re:triple threat (89 comments)

Really, if the universe is Turing complete, I think that's strong evidence that the universe itself is a virtual machine.

about 9 months ago
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JavaScript-Based OpenRISC Emulator Can Run Linux, GCC, Wayland

Sneftel triple threat (89 comments)

ScummVM

So it's a virtual machine running on a virtual machine running on a virtual machine. Nice.

about 9 months ago
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Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die

Sneftel ugh (479 comments)

Yes, let's enumerate all the structural untidinesses of Word. Let's blame that application -- which held its own, against many, many competitors, not because of a megacorporation strong-arming it (remember, MS was not always a megacorp) but because it was good at doing what users wanted it to do -- for the inelegance of its data model. Let's compare it to SGML, which is so much nicer and easier and so much more elegant if you're a programmer and can appreciate that sort of elegance, and if you're not a programmer, well then for god's sake why are you touching a computer?

If you want SGML, you know where to download it.

about 9 months ago
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RMS On Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

Sneftel Re:Traffic analysis; diverse double compiling (319 comments)

00 FF AA 55 and AA FF 55 00 are both serialized data, but are not the same. You are confusing the idea that data will exist on disk as a serial stream with the idea that two sets of data written to disk in parallel will somehow have the same order.

Erm. How do you think compilers work?

about 10 months ago
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RMS On Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

Sneftel Re:Traffic analysis; diverse double compiling (319 comments)

Of course you can. Consider X and Y to be two compilers. X compiled by X will, of course, be different than X compiled by Y. But X compiled by (X compiled by X) should be identical to X compiled by (X compiled by Y).

about 10 months ago
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Detroit's Emergency Dispatch System Fails

Sneftel Re:Should have turned to the HAMs! (191 comments)

I've heard about ham radio being used for emergency communications, but would it really have been helpful here? Do police officers' radios work on ham radio frequencies, or could thousands of ham radios actually be distributed to them in short order?

1 year,15 days
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Hackers Spawn Web Supercomputer On Way To Chess World Record

Sneftel Yay (130 comments)

I'm... kind of okay with this? Modern operating systems are hella-good at maintaining usability under high CPU loads, and the extra electricity consumed by the increased load wouldn't make much of a difference to me. If this is how they want to monetize web content, I'll take it over click-to-mute popunders any day. The "crooks" thing seems like it's just thrown in to increase the shock factor. Why wouldn't the site owners do this?

about a year ago

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