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How the NSA Is Spying On Everyone: More Revelations

Squiggle Re:Honest question ... (148 comments)

Everyone has been spying on everyone for at least a couple of centuries.


Nothing's changed, other than public awareness of espionage.

But it is obviously not the same becuse of the scale. The reach and power of the spying have increased dramatically along with the general reach and power of technology. Spying has always happened but the nature of the beast transforms at certain levels of scale and pervasiveness. You could assume that if you "had nothing to hide" in a free society you were generally safe from surveillance because it wasn't worth the effort, that is no longer the case. You could assume that the means of surveillance were effectively limited to nation states, not to anyone with some technical proficiency. Things are not the same.

about 2 months ago

IoT Is the Third Big Technology 'Wave' In the Last 50 Years, Says Harvard

Squiggle Security (196 comments)

How does the IoT handle security problems? That seems the biggest stumbling block.

"Dumb" things have an important advantage in that they can't be hacked and remotely controlled - especially without your knowing.

The current maintenance nightmare of securing networked devices is already overwhelming (me) and the effects of being hacked are already incredibly expensive. I'm not sure the value gained from IoT is worth it.

Perhaps if the devices were not update-able and only sent and recieved particular commands... but then you lose some of the value that IoT promises?

about 2 months ago

Code Quality: Open Source vs. Proprietary

Squiggle Re:Biased data set perhaps? (139 comments)

I would expect both "open source" code to be of approximately equal quality to proprietary code. In each ideology you will get people who care (about quality), and people who don't, in approximately equal proportions, the same with skill, ingenuity and passion for the work.

The difference is that proprietary software is constrained by the number of developers able to view and work on the code. An open source project may have a similar number, or smaller set of core developers, but a much larger pool of developers that can spot problems, suggest alternatives, fix the one bug that is affecting them, etc. Having a more diverse set of developers will increase the chances that the software improves.

You could also make an argument about the motivations of the developers. Open source projects are often a community of people passionate about what they are building and have a strong incentive to make their code readable by others. By the nature of open source a developers reputation is on the line with every bit of code they make public. I've met far more developers scared to make their horrible code public than those worried about getting fired for equivalently horrible code.

about 9 months ago

Senator Accuses CIA of Snooping On Intelligence Committee Computers

Squiggle TL;DR (242 comments)

For those that didn't read the article, there are a few important points to clarify:

Feinstein's staff is being (falsely) accused of hacking/spying on CIA since they got their hands on some documents the CIA did not want them to have: namely the CIA's own internal investigation of the documents being released to the senate investigation. It seems like the "search tool" provided to the senate staff picked up more than the CIA thought it would. The staffers smartly made their own copy of these docs (as previous evidence had disappeared) and then the CIA did a search of the investigations computers without seemingly any authority to do so.

The final twist is that the CIA internal investigation supposedly agrees with the senate investigation, while publically the CIA disagrees. Feinstein basically has them over a barrel, plus they pushed their luck to try and escape the trap and got themselves in deeper with the potentially highly illegal search.

It also seems likely that the CIA lawyer who allowed all the CIA torture is heavily involved now in trying to save his own ass.

about 10 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Modern Web Development Applied Science Associates Degree?

Squiggle Teaching the latest greatest workflow (246 comments)

Math, algorithms and data strctures are not really the critical thing to learn for web development. Hopefully your grads are not starting out architecting anything complicated but instead following best practices and good workflow and leaving the majority of the algorithm architecting to people with much more experience and training.

The important thing to teach are the best practices in web component composition and workflow. These are also rapidly changing, with many competiting tools, but in a consistent direction: modular, testable components as services on top of robust development infrastructure including source control (git), code reviews, continuous integration, rapid, numerous deploys wth no downtime etc. There are lot of good resources about this, but the key thing is to see it in practice, to get hooked on how good workflow and a focus on code quality can make your work a joy instead of a nightmare. There is a huge amount to learn about the latest web development processes, but students (like yours) should be helped to paddle out and get on top of the wave so they can keep riding it - not be taught liquid mechanics or how to build a surfboard.
My dream web dev class would have one website that is built many ways but with similar workflow and final result. Rails stack, python stack, php stack, node stack, etc all using the same assets. Enough versions of the same site that all the students can work in groups to implement the same thing on each stack. Teach what is the same between the stacks (e.g. MVC), without the details of the stack's implementation of that concept and you'll be teaching a lesson that they can carry with them for a long time. Although that might be too difficult for people who haven't done any programming ever, but I think I'd enjoy that class. Regardless, you should have some code that implements a real website with real workflow that they can learn from.

about a year ago

Agbogbloshie: The World's Largest e-Waste Dump

Squiggle Re:Most workers die from cancer in their 20s (117 comments)

Couldn't find much about cancer rates except people repeating that particular line. However, this seems reiable and seems pretty deadly:
from http://www.worstpolluted.org/p...
"Samples taken around the perimeter of Agbogbloshie, for instance, found a presence of lead levels as high as 18,125 ppm in soil."
From wikipedia:
"No safe threshold for lead exposure has been discovered—that is, there is no known sufficiently small amount of lead that will not cause harm to the body."

about a year ago

"Microsoft Killed My Pappy"

Squiggle Re:The greatest single disaster in computing histo (742 comments)

Sorry to reply to self, but the GP said: "The blame lies of course with politicians and industry regulators who had no clue what an immense influence personal computing would have on society until it was too late."

This isn't the case, the blame lies squarely on Gates, et al, who couldn't imagine how to run a successful software business using free software. They thought it was impossible, and perhaps for people of their ethical character it is. They have been proven wrong, ethically lacking and incredibly short sighted countless times.

about a year ago

"Microsoft Killed My Pappy"

Squiggle Re:The greatest single disaster in computing histo (742 comments)

I'm surprised this is (currently) marked as flamebait, this is essentially the sad truth of Gates, Jobs, Ellison, etc choosing to create a proprietary software industry rather than a free software economy (that has been proven to allow for successful businesses but without the horrible costs to the customers). Gates in particular may have had a choice to be remembered throughout human history as the great uplifter, the bringer of empowerment and freedom through software, a sort of software Ghandi / MLK, if he had run MS like Red Hat, etc.

about a year ago

"Microsoft Killed My Pappy"

Squiggle The struggle for freedom continues (742 comments)

It has become obvious over time which ecosystem is free, open, vibrant, and diverse and which puts corporate control, profits and lock-in first. Developers by in large want freedom to make what they want and proprietary software ecosystems have a feel of authoritarianism that is hated. Regardless if your Pappy was killed by Microsoft, or any oppressive regime, you fight for your own freedom, your children and the hope that no one will ever again be in a situation where their Pappy is killed (presumably because he was a threat to the regime). It is a complete rejection of an ideology that chooses control over liberty.

"The kids these days" that reject Microsoft and other proprietary regimes out of hand are an indication that the lessons from the sacrifices and hard fought non-violent struggle of the free software movement are starting to sink in. At some point we may be lucky enough to not have any of these authoritarian software companies around and instead enjoy a renaissance in software.

about a year ago

Obama Praises NSA But Promises To Rein It In

Squiggle Re:Hey Obama! (306 comments)

"Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws."

and how is that working out for your foreign relations?

This. I find it appalling that this is seen as acceptable. The surveillance power that is now possible is not equivalent to anything we've seen before and changes the nature of the "lawless" foreign surveillance. Surveillance of foreigners used to mean having them spy on you when visiting their country plus some high value target monitoring in their own countries, but the cost and risk of surveillance enforced the selective nature of it. To treat every foreigner like an enemy is madness. For the most part non-US citizens felt that the US was an ally or at least harmless. Now the day-to-day decisions of all those people will take into account that the US is actively working against them. It won't be long before that is ingrained into the culture, tools and business practices of the rest of the world. Imagine the US being thought of as a worldwide Stasi: the day-to-day the common sentiment amongst the rest of the world will be "%*$k the US".

about a year ago

Should the US Copy Switzerland and Consider a 'Maximum Wage' Ratio?

Squiggle Re:Stock Options (1216 comments)

I just don't buy this argument. Do you also think that if the corporations decided to limit executive pay voluntarily they would have trouble enforcing that? How is limiting executive pay different from limiting pay for all the other classes of employees? If there is a difference then how is that difference a benefit for the organization? Best in class non-executive workers are obtainable at lower rates, why would attracting the best executive talent require different pay scales?

More importantly, since history shows pay rates in relation to others has changed significantly while the effectiveness of the executives has not, it is simply an evolution of a business culture oddity, not a business principle at stake here. It may be a cultural mistake that cannot be corrected internally, but needs significant external pressure (preferrably from competitive markets, but regulation will do) to enact change.

Lack of (free) competition creates opportunities for exploiters to siphon ill-gained money into their own pockets at all levels of the corporation, but it's always easiest for those that control the money flow to enrich themselves first. However, there is no reason why you can't use external controls to make it harder for exploiters when the organizations are weaken from lack of compeition.

about a year ago

Should the US Copy Switzerland and Consider a 'Maximum Wage' Ratio?

Squiggle Re:Yes. (1216 comments)

There is nothing equal about taking from one and giving to the other. (...) What matters is the wealth and progression of the middle class and the freedom to move freely through the classes, based on ones' abilities and desires.

But reality is more messy than that, there are all sorts of people whose abilities and skills (ranked on how useful or desired by others) are a poor match for today's society. Having a system that only rewards those who fit in best is a recipe for disaster and dehumanizing/neglecting those that don't fit in / are less fit. Diversity is longterm strength, but more importantly we have the capability for rational compassion and care for others and the wealth to make supporting everyone a minor burden at worst. Anyone who has experience with family who cannot succeed financially, but brings them great joy otherwise could tell you how important compassion and care for others is for their entire family.

Setting up a system that takes away the fears and worries about living with a decent quality of life: food, shelter, health care, meaningful work, etc brings unimaginable, but generally indirect (until something terrible happens directly to you or your family), benefits to all. Think reduced crime, more opportunity for someone to make the thing you've always wanted, etc. In a perfect world, this would be common sense and giving and support of others would be voluntary, but (especially in societies that emphasize the rightness of owning and hording regardless of the impact on others) the enforcing of distribution of wealth is a useful but blunt tool.

In addition, in this particular example, capping pay has a direct benefit to the companies: the last sort of person we want running a large business/organization that is designed to outlast their tenure is someone motivated strongly by financial incentives. That sort of leader is a real risk to the organization as they will always make mistakes in their favour rather than sacrifice for the organization.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: MMORPG Recommendations?

Squiggle Another recommend for GW2 (555 comments)

Although it really depends *why* you play MMOs, for people that have less OCD collector/min-maxer and an interest in both casual exploration and challenging (PvP) gameplay, Guild Wars 2 is by far the best designed game I've seen in years. The skills and combat are well thought out (particular PvP) and are now quite finely balanced and tuned. They are also using an extremely fair monetization/content model where you get enough content for the price of the box, but they are also adding new content regularly every month for free. Plus WvW is a blast, virutal fantasy war should be a bucket list item for every gamer.

about a year ago

Where Does America's Fear Come From?

Squiggle Re:Fear and Paranoia... (926 comments)

I've always wondered by the US has any fears of invasion whatsover. The US is a massive country that is generally well populated throughout which basically makes it impossible to invade and the supply lines for any invader coming from the east and west are basically unsustainable given the size of the country as well. Your neighbours to the north and south have no incentive to attack nor any sort of militaristic culture. The US seems the safest country in the world in regards to invasion. If I was the dictator of the US I'd scrap the military nearly entirely. That money and man/brain power could be better spent making the US a real superpower to go down in the history books as true light shinging through the ages.

Even through the lens of a nuclear war or WMDs it makes much more sense to invest in creating a country that no one fears and everyone loves rather than some form of fear of retaliation. Retaliation is a poor stick against smaller and smaller, but more and more powerful opponents. The only way to ensure that future superpowered opponents don't use WMD on you is to create a world where that is unthinkable. Unthinkable not through fear but through self-interest, laziness and education.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Get Open Source Projects To Take Our Money?

Squiggle Cat in Can? (301 comments)

Might not work in this siutation, but perhaps posting a reward for a feature you wanted would be close enough to purchasing services?


Certainy this seems like a good, and likely typical problem for someone to solve so that the interface between free software and large organization accounting mesh better.

about a year ago

Bradley Manning Sentenced To 35 Years

Squiggle Re:Good (491 comments)

I don't find him either a hero or a villian, just a young troop with serious personal issues who went attention-whoring without thinking it through despite his training.

How was he attention seeking? He leaked the documents through the most protective and secure whistleblowing service ever created at that time. He never wanted to be identified but was exposed by someone he thought he could trust, but who didn't take any repsonsibility for the information that Manning shared with him and thus doomed Manning to his prison term.

Leakers are in a difficult position, especially given massive databases of documents. One person could not possibly safely release all the documents, but he trusted Wikileaks to look through and responsibly release the documents (which they did along with other reputable news agencies). He had seen what he considered to be crimes in the documents he did look at, so it is reasonable risk to leak the entire corpus in hopes of illuminating more crimes. Wikileaks states "we may remove or significantly delay the publication of some identifying details from original documents to protect life and limb of innocent people."

If you are a leaker, especially at that time, Wikileaks was a seemingly responsible choice. That all the documents eventually got released without redaction was a security mistake (by Wikileaks and others) that cannot be blamed on Manning. The important thing to remember is that exposing crimes of those with great power is extremely valuable and worth considerable risk and cost to those innocent of the crimes.

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_cables_leak

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For Non-US Based Email Providers?

Squiggle mailpile ? (410 comments)

I have only recently heard about this project and haven't investigated too closely yet, but they seem to be trying to solve similar issues, and have an indiegogo campaign active:


about a year and a half ago

Julian Assange Says Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen Are "Witch Doctors"

Squiggle Re:who cares (253 comments)

.. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, etc... are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire. " You know, that's pretty patronizing and dismissive of all these groups, just for starters. Those are real people with real needs, dignity, culture, volition, goals etc of their own - not props.

Exactly why Assange is unhappy that they are brought up. Do you think those groups were actually involved in the book or asked about their needs? Assange's criticism is yours - they are props.

about a year and a half ago

Canonical and China Announce Ubuntu Collaboration

Squiggle Re:I'm sure China has the Windows source (171 comments)

Does anyone compile their own Windows? If you don't compile it then the source code that you see is just for show.

Hm, I am curious if orgs like the NSA do compile the source and compare their binary to the official one, they wouldn't have a licence to distribute if the binaries differed, but if they were identical that seems pretty safe. If you're serious about security you compile and distribute your own version of the software yourself.

about 2 years ago


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