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FBI Seeks Suspect's Web Game Records

Wowlapalooza Re:This one makes some sense (446 comments)

An insanity defense has nothing to do with whether it was pre-planned or not.

Insanity is about whether the defendant knew what he was doing was wrong. Not whether or not it was planned.

That may be true as a matter of legal theory (IANAL), but I think the sad reality is that juries are often swayed towards or away from an Insanity defense, based on the (perceived) issue of "pre-planning". I have seen many court transcripts where both sides focused heavily on "pre-planning". Why would they do that if it's legally irrelevant?

Maybe what we need is better jury instructions so that irrelevant factors will (hopefully) be ignored by juries when they perform their deliberations

more than 3 years ago

FBI Seeks Suspect's Web Game Records

Wowlapalooza Re:This one makes some sense (446 comments)

OK, what's the difference between me believing that my father is possessed and so it's OK to kill him, and me believing that marijuana is wholesome and beneficial and so it's OK to smoke it? I mean besides the fact that the latter is true. From the standpoint of the law, aren't these equivalent?

Not equivalent.

  • Case #1: Legislature determines that murder is injurious to the population as a whole and makes it illegal. Subsequent case law allows for intentional homicide in self-defense. Person A believes that their father is possessed by some evil entity, which puts said person in imminent danger of their life. They act in (mistaken) self-defense, which, if the disputed fact (the possession) were actually true, would allow them to escape a murder prosecution. The "fact" turns out to be the product of a deranged mind, so Person B successfully pleads insanity.
  • Case #2: Legislature determines that certain substances are harmful, not "wholesome and beneficial", and prohibits their use. Person B believes that maijuana, one of the prohibited substances, is in fact "wholesome and beneficial" and uses it, thus breaking the law. There is no case law supporting the proposition that a prohibited substance can be legally used if said substance can be scientifically proven to be "wholesome and beneficial". Therefore the prosecution of that person for using marijuana still stands, regardless of whether Person B got their "fact" wrong or not. The truth or falsity of the "fact" has no bearing on the prosecutability of Person B for breaking the drug law.


more than 3 years ago

NASA Says 2010 Tied For Warmest Year On Record

Wowlapalooza Let's All Be Careful with Our Units (554 comments)

Summary is wrong: the difference was actually 0.018 degrees Rankine, not Fahrenheit.

Sheesh, don't these article-summary writers know anything about Science...?

more than 3 years ago

TSA Pats Down 3-Year-Old

Wowlapalooza Re:What's the deal with the rush of TSA stories re (1135 comments)

>>>Flying isn't a right.

Yes it is. Read Amendment 9.

Wow, someone badly needs a refresher course in Con Law. Amendment 9 doesn't mean that anything you can dream up is your "right" automatically. It's typically only applied to certain areas of "privacy" (e.g. the original Roe v Wade decision was based largely on the 9th Amendment). Anything that falls within the "police power" of the states or the federal government, i.e. anything that touches on areas of public concern, such as safety, health, monetary policy, etc., is not covered by the 9th Amendment.

Plus it would be impossible for me to attend a Friday meeting in California if I had to travel by car or train (2500 miles is a frakking long distance).

Now you're just being even sillier. Where oh where in the U.S. Constitution do you find a "right" to attend a particular meeting at a particular time? This would only plausibly have a constitutional relevance if the "meeting" had some sort of public significance, like going to the ballot box to vote, attending a court hearing, presidential inauguration, etc. But even then, it's up to you to plan your trip accordingly so that you get there on time: you don't have the constitutional right to bypass a bunch of safety regulations just so you can make a timely arrival. "I'm late for my meeting, so everyone else has to suffer the probability that I might try to fly this plane into a building, or drop some sarin gas on a densely-populated urban area".

the government has no more right to block me from using a plane, than they do to stop me from drinking alcohol,

Are you sure about that? According to Wikipedia (was too lazy to research any farther than that), Minnesota state law allows local jurisdictions to "enact laws which are more strict than state liquor law, including completely prohibiting the sale, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages" (emphasis added). Whether any such Minnesotan jurisdictions have enacted such laws, or whether any such laws have been challenged on constitutional grounds, remains to be seen. Counties in many states, however, can and do go "dry", meaning no liquor can be sold. And the 21st Amendment clearly gives states the power to control "transportation or importation" of liquor. The constitutional "right to booze" isn't nearly as clear-cut as you imply.

or having sex with the same gender.

This was only recently recognized as being a right of "privacy", protected under the 9th Amendment and similar "privacy" Supreme Court precedents. But it has little or nothing to do with the safety regulations that apply to certain modes of travel. Other than, of course, your wishful thinking that 9th Amendment makes every individual's preference or desire automatically a "right" under the U.S. Constitution.

To be sure, the fine line between what is "public" and what is "private" is constantly under review and re-definition. But flying on airplanes is pretty far over the public/private line to the "public" side. If we had any doubts about that pre-9/11, I don't think those doubts exist any more, in the mind of anyone reasonable.

about 4 years ago

Greg 'Ghostcrawler' Street, Lead Systems Designer For World of Warcraft

Wowlapalooza Re:Too little too late. (175 comments)

Mmmm... yeah. That's why my Trade Chat window is always empty and I never see anyone in Dalaran. Dungeon Finder is a waste of time, too, since all the other servers are the same way. Completely deserted. It's sooooo lonely...

more than 3 years ago

Riskiest Web Domains To Visit

Wowlapalooza TLD = Laughable Metric of "Dangerousness" (106 comments)

In other news, researchers have revealed that most mass-murderers had 2 arms, 2 legs and 2 eyes. So be especially wary of such people.

more than 4 years ago

How Should Poll Numerical Increments Be Set?

Wowlapalooza Re:Obviously missing ...Prime (311 comments)


You do understand the new glyph system, yes?


more than 4 years ago

Lawyer Is Big Winner In Webcamgate Settlement

Wowlapalooza Re:Failure isn't civil law it's criminal law (475 comments)

others have made the same comment - the only 'justice' these kids are getting is through the flawed but functional civil system . Why haven't any criminal cases been brought .

I guess RTFA isn't your strong suit?

The FBI investigated whether the district broke any criminal wiretap laws, but prosecutors declined to bring any charges.

more than 4 years ago

How Long Until We Commonly Use Flying Cars?

Wowlapalooza Re:WTF is wrong with you people? (606 comments)

Actually, I took a slightly different tack in my "never" response. The question was: " How Long Until We Commonly Use Flying Cars?" (emphasis added). But there was no explicit choice for "We will never commonly use flying cars" (again, emphasis added). I looked at the "We'll never have flying cars" option and asked myself "who is this mysterious, ambiguous 'we' in the question? human society as a whole? Some subset of human society?". I convinced myself that "we" (= human society as a whole) will some day produce flying cars, that will be used for special purposes (emergencies? search and rescue?), but that "we" (= the common folk, such as myself) won't be in flying cars as a matter of course, because of the energy inefficiency of flying objects through the air versus driverless cars on the ground, or (as one poster speculated) underground in some sort of artificial vaccuum. Never mind all the fanciful stuff about teleporters and such; I was only comparing "in the air" versus "in/under the ground".

In short, I "repurposed" the "never" option. Sure, we (human society, considered abstractly) will have flying-car technology, and some people will use it some of the time, but "we", you and me, the common folks, won't use it, due to more energy-efficient alternatives being available and preferable.

This is not about being narrow-minded, it's about understanding, finally, at this point in human history, that almost every technological advance has tradeoffs. Don't just implement technology for the sake of implementing it. Do so with a full understanding of both the benefits and the costs.

more than 4 years ago

RIM Announces BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet

Wowlapalooza Re:playbook? (184 comments)

I suggested that the follow-on from Blackberry should be Dingleberry.

more than 3 years ago

Rackspace Shuts Down Quran-Burning Church's Sites

Wowlapalooza Re:well done (1695 comments)

Indeed. And the funny thing is, people like this pastor who provoke Muslims despite receiving death threats are called "Islamophobes." The real Islamophobes are the ones who are, you know, afraid of Muslims. Pretty ridiculous use of the word these days.

The combining forms "-phobia"/"-phobe" have undergone a transition over the years. Originally they meant "fear", but then came to be used in contexts where fear is not possible, e.g. hydrophobic, meaning to repel or be repelled by water, acquired the general sense of "repelled by" or "having an aversion to", and eventually became used for psychological states or belief systems characterized by a dislike or hatred of a particular grouping, attribute, or belief system. Hence, "homophobic" (fear or hatred of homosexuals or of being homosexual), {country}-phobic, e.g. "anglophobic", a fear or hatred of people of a particular country, or {religion}-phobic, e.g. Islamophobic, a fear or hatred of people belong to a particular religion.

Also, even if we take "-phobic" in its original "fearing" meaning, I think there's a valid distinction between fearing individual Islamic people, versus fearing Islamic ideas or concepts. This Bible Belt moron may not fear physical attacks from Muslims -- after all, there isn't a Muslim-dominated country within thousands of miles of Gainesville, Florida -- but he probably fears, with good reason, that the Islam religion, it's theology and practice, may overtake Christianity. After all, Islam has been gaining on Christianity for many generations now, even in modern, "western" countries.

more than 4 years ago

Why You Shouldn't Worry About IPv6 Just Yet

Wowlapalooza Re:most hated part of ipv6 (425 comments)

That's cute, you think DNS solves his problem. Hate to break it to ya but often in testing you don't want your host to have a name until it's ready for production. Then of course there are times when DNS breaks due to service lockup or someone misplacing an encryption key. It's adding complexity back to a system that is supposed to reduce complexity plain and simple.

Wait, let me see if I've got this right: IPv6 is going to be resisted by the legions of users

  1. who can't get their network admins to set up a reliable DNS infrastructure,
  2. on whose network no device ever needs to be re-addressed,
  3. who never use DNS-based load-balancing, round robins, MX records, SRV records, or any of the other features that only DNS provides, and therefore
  4. for whom it actually makes sense to access resources on the network by IP address rather than by name, and
  5. who can't deal with the extra digits of an IPv6 address, because such addresses are long and scary, and the users' fingers are -- if their complaints are to be believed -- so fragile that they will literally fall off their hands if subjected to even a modicum of extra typing.

Let's call this set "those who should be mocked and giggled at", or TWSBMGA for short.

Is the IPv6 transition truly imperiled by TWSBMGA? Stay tuned folks.

more than 4 years ago

Why You Shouldn't Worry About IPv6 Just Yet

Wowlapalooza What a Maroon (425 comments)

Who is this Steve Cassidy guy anyway, and how did he get a gig writing about network technologies for a magazine?

Distilled, what this nimrod's article amounts to is:

  • The fears of IPv4 runout have been somewhat exaggerated since at least 1998.
  • Home users generally don't need to worry about runout because their little SOHO router NATs their addresses
  • The default IPv6 address for a device includes its MAC address, which Mr. Cassidy finds quaint and old-fashioned
  • The IPv6 transition/co-existence mechanism are scary and confusing to Mr. Cassidy
  • Some IPv6 documentation seems (to Mr. Cassidy, possibly no-one else) to favor using literal IP addresses over DNS names

While I agree with Mr. Cassidy about the runout exaggerations, I'm willing to give the exaggerators some benefit of the doubt with respect to intent, since they're just trying to motivate people to move to IPv6, which is clearly superior from a technical perspective. NAT is evil, breaks many applications, and is not the long-term solution to our runout problem. Perhaps if Mr. Cassidy would actually educate himself on the horrors of NAT -- what he refers to as "hiding" -- he would understand why IPv6 is not just an academic pipedream being foisted on the rest of us. I would invite him to try to integrate two large enterprise networks (not over his arbitrary theshold of 100,000 "seats", but still large nonetheless) which are both extensively using 10.*.*.* addresses, with tons of overlapping address space. This is something I personally struggle with every day, so I don't exactly appreciate some ignoramus telling folks to ignore IPv6. Many enterprises need it yesterday. What's ironic is that one of the co-authors of RFC 1918 actually worked here at the time of its publication -- classic case of "be careful what you wish for".

As for Mr. Cassidy's whining about the format of default addresses and about documentation slant/quality, I really don't see those as particularly relevant to the core argument that NAT is evil and must die

more than 4 years ago

San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

Wowlapalooza Re:Run (330 comments)

Please cite a legal authority for your assertion that passwords are "property".

Go put a chain and padlock on your neighbor's gate and see if you get in any trouble.

Well, in criminal terms, that's "vandalism", as a Tort, might be considered "trespass to chattels" (warning: IANAL). Withholding a password is not "vandalism", and I think that would be even more of a stretch than the "anti-hacking" statute under which he was convicted.

Essentially what they got him on was "denying services to authorized users", which takes quite a bit of intellectual contortion, since no-one ever proved that his actions directly prevented services to any end-user

He denied access to the replacement administrators.

But they are the providers of the "service", not the intended beneficiaries of it. I think that's an important legal distinction to make -- there's no evidence that Terry ever targeted the users of the network with any kind of malicious intent. It was merely a scuffle amongst the providers of the service, something that happens all the time in workplaces. Even if he had remained in the employ of the City of San Francisco, he could have -- and reportedly did -- keep information about the particulars of the network, its architecture and its configuration, from other administrators and his management. This happens every day in workplaces all across the U.S. and in fact the world. No-one is compelled to disclose everything they know about their work, at the request of anyone and everyone who works in the same place. While a secretive, distrusting and/or insular employee may be grounds for disciplinary action, up to potentially -- actually, as it turns out in Terry's case -- termination, having "special" knowledge about the network, and not sharing it, is not "hacking" and not criminal.

I think the main disconnect here is that people view passwords as disconnected facilitators of "access" (however that is defined), more analogous to a physical key than to a piece of information. But I see those passwords as being at the end of a continuum of "special knowledge" that one may have about a network, or some other IT system, whether it be Operating System, application, or network infrastructure. What use would it be to give someone a password to a network infrastructure device, but they have no clue how to configure it, how to troubleshoot problems, how to even understand the role that the device plays in the overall infrastructure? Having the password to a router, a switch, a fiber concentrator, or whatever, doesn't mean you can do anything useful with it. So the threshold isn't just "password", in practical terms it's "password + other special knowledge necessary to do something useful with that access". Certainly Terry had "special knowledge" about FiberWAN that he wasn't willing to share with his co-workers or management. Passwords were only the tip of the iceberg. But to criminalize this behavior threatens to drill deep into the iceberg to other forms of "special knowledge" that workers withhold from each other and from their management on a regular basis. That's why it's such a dangerous ruling, and why it has vastly overextended the concept of "hacking", which is about protecting the society at large from the malicious actions of individuals against electronic systems.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this precedent endangers all of us in the IT field -- taken to its extreme, it means employers can lay claim to anything that ex-employees know, if it helps them run their systems or their networks better.

Only because you're trying really, really hard to turn this into something it's not. Not turning over the passwords blocked the new adminsitrators from accessing the systems, just as if he DDoS'ed the management ports.

It didn't block them; it merely failed to facilitate the handoff process. That's another important legal distinction -- between acting and failing to act. I think it's stretching the concept of "hacking" way too far when someone who declines to act can be held criminally liable. There are some examples of so-called "duty to assist" laws (look it up) on the books, where someone can be held liable for not lending their (minimal) assistance in an emergency or while a crime is being committed, but as far as I know, no such law exists in California, and, in any case, to return to the point, Terry wasn't convicted of a failure to assist the City of San Francisco to maintain and secure their network; he was convicted of "hacking" it, framed in terms of "denying service to authorized users". That -- like DDoS'ing the management ports -- implies an affirmative malicious act, not merely a "failure to assist".

more than 4 years ago

San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

Wowlapalooza Re:Yet another "There oughta be a law" rant (330 comments)

Well, guess what. No matter how much you may think it, generalized poor management is not actually a criminal offense. Whereas, denial of service is.

Justice is not about fairness. It's "did you break the law, and if so what's the stated punishment?"

Was the ordinance used to convict him fair and reasonably applied?

I don't think it was reasonably applied. The obvious intent of the statute was to criminalize actions by person A, interfering with a network or system of organization B, which ultimately delivers (or doesn't deliver, if it's interfered with) services and/or content to user community C. But in this case, person A was part of organization B. He was on the inside, not the outside, had no malice towards user community C, and simply had a disagreement with other members of the organization about how best to deliver services. AFAIK, no evidence was ever presented that the end-users were affected by any of this (except later, as a side-effect of the City's incompetent attempts to "fix" the "damage").

What I think sticks in the craws of most of us IT professionals, especially those in the network area, is the absence of evidence that Terry himself denied "service" to anyone for whom the FiberWAN was ultimately supposed to benefit. The only "service" that was denied was to those who disagreed with Terry's methods and ended up being his accusers. This smacks more of a petty reprisal against Terry than the legitimate complaint of someone who has been hacked. These are not innocent victims here -- they clearly had an axe to grind with Terry, and had the power of the whole city bureaucracy behind them to mete out punishment.

Normal workplace disagreements are not prosecutable as "hacking". Fire someone if you consider them to be secretive, distrustful, or that they don't work well with others. Sue them for monetary damages if you think they increased your operating costs by putting up unnecessary and/or unjustified obstacles to an orderly handoff of responsibility. But don't throw them into jail over it. Crimes are reserved for harm that people commit against the whole society, not just wrongs committed between individuals or by an individual against a particular department of a particular organization. Those don't warrant the stigma and loss of liberties than a criminal sentence entails.

more than 4 years ago

San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

Wowlapalooza Re:Run (330 comments)

5th amendment doesn't hold here; everyone knew he was withholding the password, the password is not incriminating -> not protected under 5th amendment.

We don't know for sure that the password was non-incriminating. Certain combinations of letters, numbers and/or symbols are criminal ipso facto (how soon we forget the "munition" crypto algorithm, expressible on a t-shirt or other relatively compact media?).

If some piece of information could be incriminating, generally speaking we give broad latitude for the holder of the information to invoke the Right Against Self-Incrimination, since to determine whether it's incriminating or not, one would have to divulge it, which is a Catch-22, since it might result in criminal penalties for the divulger. Of course, the way to cut through that Gordian Knot is for an agent with the power to do so to offer Limited Immunity, with respect to that particular piece of information. Free of any possibility of incrimination, the holder of the information can then be compelled to divulge it, in accordance with usual rules of testimony, production of evidence, etc.. As far as I know, no-one offered Terry any kind of Limited Immunity in this case.

more than 4 years ago

San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

Wowlapalooza Re:Run (330 comments)

Sorry to followup on my own post, but I neglected to mention the Free Speech aspect of this case. Free Speech means, in part, that (unless life or limb are in imminent danger, perhaps) one cannot be compelled to speak. But that's exactly what happened here. He was forced, by an "anti-hacking" statute, to utter something upon which he obviously preferred to stay silent.

Along Constitutional lines of thought, as a "what if" experiment, I wonder what would have happened if Terry had invoked his Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-incrimination. After all, there might have been something criminal in the passwords themselves (a terrorist plot, a threat against a head of state, an encoded fragment of a prohibited image). Could a mere California statute override the hallowed and vaunted federalRight Against Self-Incrimination? I guess we'll never know...

more than 4 years ago

San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

Wowlapalooza Re:Run (330 comments)

(1) Childs was wrong. You don't withhold passwords from your employer. It's his property, and he's allowed to be an idiot with his own property.

Please cite a legal authority for your assertion that passwords are "property". Since they are intangible, I can only think that Intellectual Property laws would have bearing on that assertion. But, since the passwords were neither patented nor trademarked nor copyrighted (copywritten?), I don't see how your assertion can hold up.

In any case, even if you could make a "property" argument, that's not the basis of his conviction. He wasn't convicted for stealing the city's "property". He was convicted under an "anti-hacking" statute. Essentially what they got him on was "denying services to authorized users", which takes quite a bit of intellectual contortion, since no-one ever proved that his actions directly prevented services to any end-users, only that his inaction (i.e. his initial refusal to disclose passwords after his employment was terminated) temporarily inconvenienced administrators, until they could complete their password-recovery procedures. That's clearly not the scenario that the statute was meant to cover, and this turned out to be an incredibly novel precedent for applying "anti-hacking" rules to a run-of-the-mill employer/employee confrontation.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this precedent endangers all of us in the IT field -- taken to its extreme, it means employers can lay claim to anything that ex-employees know, if it helps them run their systems or their networks better. Passwords, code optimizations, little quirks in configurations of various systems/subsystems, the list goes on. All of these are now potentially fair game for employers to force ex-employees to divulge, if they can make a plausible claim that -- however indirectly -- they are necessary to deliver services to their end-users. If the ex-employee refuses to comply, they're in violation of an "anti-hacking" statute. Silence = hacking. Wonderful.

What is even more amazing is there was a (supposedly) tech-savvy member of the jury, who should have been able to explain what a crock this was, but was swayed by the tech-illiterate arguments of the prosecution and thus could not, or would not, prevent this travesty of justice. He's even posted here on /. trying to rationalize his actions, and his vote.

I suspect, however, that some peer pressure was involved here, as often happens on juries (I know this firsthand from one of the juries on which I've served).

more than 4 years ago

No, Net Neutrality Doesn't Violate the 5th Amendment

Wowlapalooza Re:he's right, but.... (322 comments)

IANAL and this is not legal advice.

Where the hell did you learn to talk like that then?

Did you pass the bar but decide to go into computers? I can't even get through reading those papers without getting a headache.

There's actually quite a bit of intersection between legal thinking and information technology-slash-programming. Law is, after all, a language, with its own syntax and rules of construction. Some statutes are practically algorithms, complete with if-then branching, etc. Legal opinions, even more so, since often they're just a stream-of-consciousness "brain dump" of how the judges/justices logically came to a particular decision/conclusion, given a set of facts and/or applicable statutes/precedents.

One should distinguish, however, between legal theory, which I find rather fascinating and have dabbled in amateurishly from time to time, and legal practice which is riddled with all sorts of human factors, psychology, empathy, gray areas, gamesmanship, showmanship, public speaking, having to facilitate, compromise, etc. and frankly turns my stomach...

more than 4 years ago


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