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Snowden's Leaks Didn't Help Terrorists

ZahrGnosis Re:The real study (182 comments)

Thank you! Snowden's information release impacted far more than the use of a few specific cryptography tools. It pointed out a vast information gathering system that people can now take pains to avoid. I sincerely doubt we can measure that avoidance, but even this attempt is a ridiculously small proxy to the overall question of whether the leak "helped" terrorists.

3 days ago

Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

ZahrGnosis But let me elaborate (637 comments)

I agree with the parent (@HornWumpus -- good name), but I'd like to elaborate.

First, I agree that "There have always been a subset of CS students that didn't get anywhere close to the metal. They suck.", and I agree that "C isn't good enough." No language is good enough by itself. If you haven't played with Functional, Procedural, Object-Oriented, and hardware-level (Assembler) languages by the time you've graduated, you've missed something.

You can figure it out no matter what they teach you, you just have to be inquisitive and ask good questions. You should take compiler, operating systems, and a numeric computing class which will each teach you about overflow and precision and memory allocation, in different ways, regardless of programming language used. You should have a basic understanding of how to do everything from scratch, with bare hardware, short of soldering the chip to a board (unless that's your thing, then go learn that too).

But then you should also learn that many "higher" languages make this easier... they have garbage collection built-in and you should learn why and when that's a good thing and why and when it's a bad thing. Java is good for some things, bad for others. If you go through a CS degree and all that you come out with is knowing one language, get your money back. Ask "why" early and often.

You should learn concepts and hands-on. You should learn the ideas so that, when a new language comes up next year, you can understand the literature about the pros and cons. But you should also be able to sit down with a couple of languages and pound out some simple algorithms and I/O with no references.

I liked my CS degree, but there were things missing. I had to learn network programming (TCP/IP, etc.) on my own. We didn't do embedded systems, so I didn't have much experience with small hardware and the nuances that come with them. But the advice I'd give is to avoid too many classes that are "just" programming, and focus on the fundamentals. Use as many languages as possible. Take Artificial Intelligence, Compiler design, Operating systems, data structures, numerical computing. Take a comparative languages class if one is offered. Take a database class. And take these all realizing that they're teaching you exactly the same thing -- how to solve problems using computers.

It's all ones and zeroes in the end. Once you've mastered pushing them around for one thing, you should be able to push them around for another, it just takes practice. Practice as many things as possible.

about a month and a half ago

Is Time Moving Forward Or Backward? Computers Learn To Spot the Difference

ZahrGnosis Re:Easy (78 comments)

Actually, if you guessed that a randomly selected set of youtube videos were being played, you know... FORWARD, you'd probably be correct more than 80% of the time without having to actually think at all. I assume their 80% result was based on something more difficult, but it's still kind of a silly sounding number without context.

about 3 months ago

The Simultaneous Rise and Decline of Battlefield

ZahrGnosis Re:Haha, nobody will do this. (208 comments)

I did it. I loved BF3, but I didn't pick up 4 and I won't be picking up Hardline because of EA. In addition to everything the original article mentions, most of which I agree with, one thing not mentioned in the original article is the pay-to-have-everything (which is not "Pay-to-win" only in a very strict sense, but that doesn't make it right).

I don't mind these companies making money, but they do it at the expense of loyal customers, rather than in support of them... I don't think it's a good long-term practice, but that's just me. But it's definitely not nobody.

about 3 months ago

Robert McMillen: What Everyone Gets Wrong In the Debate Over Net Neutrality

ZahrGnosis Re:Everybody is wrong... (270 comments)

If I'm paying my ISP for a specific amount of bandwidth, then that's the bandwidth I should get -- if I get less bandwidth than I paid for going to any site, due to my ISP, then I'm not getting what I paid for from them, period. There is price difference -- cheap low bandwidth, expensive high bandwidth, and some variety in between (and probably price/speed inversion in some markets where low bandwidth is expensive, but whatever). The problem is when I pay top dollar for Filet Mignon, but I get flank steak. If the restaurant doesn't give me what I paid for then I have been defrauded. I don't care WHY they were out of filet... if they were trying to negotiate price with the cattle company, or get a kick back from them, that's not my problem... they advertised the Filet and they charged me for the Filet.

The price I pay to my ISP should support the delivery mechanism to give me the bandwidth I paid for, however I want to use it; that's why it's advertised and priced in terms of bandwidth. If they charged me per website it may be different (although I'd object for other reasons), but they don't. If they can't handle the bandwidth then they're not giving me what I paid for. Free markets don't let people charge for one thing and deliver another.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

ZahrGnosis Re:Paper, lock, and key (208 comments)

That's the deposit box. The lock-box under your bed is going to be tough even for the feds.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

ZahrGnosis Paper, lock, and key (208 comments)

Write down everything in paper, then lock it away in a fireproof box or a safety deposit box (or both).

I'm a fan of the phrase "we know how to secure a piece of paper". Not the sticky note taped to your desk that anyone can read and put back without your knowledge, but something really secure. You will know if your lock box has been stolen or broken in to; I would have no idea if someone broke into my e-mail or stole a file off of my computer or backup due to some weird exploit. If you want off-site safety, a deposit box is about as good as it gets with some assurance that no-one will go peeking. Let your close relatives and friends know where everything is so that when it is needed they can get to it, but they don't need access in the mean time if you have things you don't want them to know (or, you can give a copy of the key to someone if you want to... you have options, but you're still relatively safe in who accesses what).

about 3 months ago

4K Displays Ready For Prime Time

ZahrGnosis Re:Please quit conflating TV's and monitors. (207 comments)

I don't see how 3D gets permanent "gimmick" status while 4k doesn't... there are times when seeing things in 3D give you a completely different perspective, feel, immersion, and experience than something not in 3D. There are times when higher resolution does the same. And there are times when both actually seem to make things worse. Curved TVs as well... I run three monitors on my desktop and I'd be ecstatic if I could get the same resolution in a single curved display. If it weren't curved, though, then I'd have to sit farther away to see the edges properly and that distance is beyond the "retina" distance for my monitor's resolution, so I'm kind of wasting pixels.

Much of the math is different between TVs and monitors and, yes, much of what is gimmicky in one situation is definitely not in another.

about 4 months ago

Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

ZahrGnosis Re:What the f*$# is wrong with us? (1198 comments)

Of course we should fix that. I pointed out a few ways that may be effective, and there are many more. One way that is NOT effective is grouping people who aren't part of the problem in with people who are and then verbally abusing the whole group. It's unconstructive and, as this large thread shows, it has a lot of collateral damage to people who don't deserve it.

It's a venn-diagram, it's not that hard. Some nerds are misogynists, some aren't, and some (likely most) misogynists aren't nerds (the same goes for pretty much any group). Focusing on geek culture to solve misogyny because one obviously messed up kid was a geek is wrong headed. Some individual issues fall clearly into geek culture -- women in video games as an example -- but we can address those without equating the whole gaming population with a deranged mass murderer.

about 4 months ago

Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

ZahrGnosis Re:What the f*$# is wrong with us? (1198 comments)

"I don't know about you, but there's nothing wrong with me." Precisely. When the poster says "What the f*$# is wrong with us?", and at the same time uses "We" as if to group us all in together, the author is missing the point entirely. "We" are not all guilty of being misogynistic idiots. I'm open to a solid discussion of what "We" meaning all of us in the culture, community, country, or world can do about it, but don't lay this at the feet of "standard frustrated angry geeky guys".

This is like saying that video games cause violence... being a nerd doesn't make us misogynists nor mass murderers. There may be something wrong with you, there may be something wrong with lots of people, and you can bucket those people in lots of ways, but stereotyping any group (nerd, geek, woman, gay, etc. etc.) isn't helping.

Teach tolerance, patience, kindness, and practice those yourself. If you want to lobby for better mental health facilities, I'm right behind you. If you see abuse or stereotyping of any kind online and you want to call people out on it, please do. Start a hashtag, that seems to draw good attention to the topic, although there's a lot of talk about that being too much talking and too little doing. I personally think every bit helps. If you think there's a law that needs to be changed or something doable, speak up and I'm glad to listen and add ideas to craft it.

But don't rant about a problem, and group me in it because I have something (being a geek) loosely in common with someone who went completely batshit as if that makes us (geeks) more culpable than any other group while offering nothing constructive. Even if you have a correlation between misogyny and a cultural group like geeks, you better be damn sure that it's causal rather than just coincidental before accusing the culture, and given high incidents of rape culture in many male-dominated areas, it's very likely that it is NOT causal; at least not to an obvious and naive degree. And, by the way, not all males are misogynists either. It's difficult to not lump everyone in and accuse large groups, but it's important to put blame where it belongs. For the record, Chu's full article is much better than this /. summary at being balanced (surprise), but still many of the same issues exist. Big Bang Theory shouldn't get more scrutiny than Game of Thrones, for example, but it does, clearly, because it supports the author's point. I'm not giving it a pass either, just saying we need to level criticism evenly and appropriately.

"We" are not all the problem. You may be part of it, I don't know. Everyone has to be part of the solution. Some of us are trying to be without vilifying and pushing away those that are less aware.

about 4 months ago

Kids With Wheels: Should the Unlicensed Be Allowed To 'Drive' Autonomous Cars?

ZahrGnosis Re:no (437 comments)

Agreed. If there WERE fully autonomous vehicles (like computer controlled trams in airports are now), it shouldn't matter who drives them. If we get to the point where we trust automobiles to be completely devoid of manual control and override then what difference does it make who's inside?

Until then, no... as long as there are controls or overrides that someone can cause dangerous scenarios then you should have a license. Maybe we can have a different conversation about an "emergency stop" or changing destinations or minor route corrections, but the way the cars are built now allow for pretty complete driving responsibilities, and they should require similar of not identical rules for the drivers.

about 4 months ago

Declining LG's New Ad-friendly Privacy Policy Removes Features From Smart TVs

ZahrGnosis Re:Sony did it with OtherOS (221 comments)

Ah, good, someone pointed this out already. Of course... you got down-modded because you gave like ZERO useful information, so here's some elaboration:

Sony upgraded the PS3 software and removed the capability to dual-boot into Linux (the "OtherOS" feature). There was a class action lawsuit that was dismissed apparently because the plaintiffs didn't do a good job showing actual damage.

I remember some good analysis of the issue at the time. One analysis concluded that the PS3 owners had the right to reject the upgrade, and that the system itself could function as normal, but the ongoing use of the Sony servers represented a "continuing relationship" whereby the company did have the right to change the agreement and the users could either accept the changes or stop using the service entirely. The "service" was free, or paid monthly, and differentiated from the "hardware" which performed precisely as it was sold _if you didn't upgrade the firmware_.

Of course this varied from country to country, but I know of no country where Sony was held liable (someone should correct me -- I could easily have missed one).

I'm sure there was more nuance, but I'm paraphrasing something I read long ago. Anyway, the same logic may or may not apply here... did the LG TV advertise these features? Could the streaming "features" be considered a subscription based service, rather than tied to the hardware advertising? LG can argue that every online service faces some time-dependant obsolescence and change; they may end up being in the clear.

about 4 months ago

The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence

ZahrGnosis Measuring Competence (255 comments)

Given this article mere moments ago on /. indicating that Google's autonomous cars have driven 700,000 miles on public roads with no citations, it's difficult to argue that they're not more competent, if not hyper-competent, compared to human drivers (most of whom get traffic tickets, and most of whom don't drive 700,000 miles between doing so).

Article has many good valid points, though, but that point irked me.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Beginner To Intermediate Programming Projects?

ZahrGnosis Re:Something else? (172 comments)

While I agree with parent in the case you actually are interested in newt farming, I actually code mostly just for the fun of coding, and focus on the type of code rather than the end product. To give an alternate approach, then, depending on what type of code you like there's probably a hackathon or a set of "challenges" or some competition that can provide motivation if you just want random problems to solve. I'm mostly an algorithms guy, so I do a lot in Kaggle, and Project Euler. Project Euler for example has hundreds of problems that more or less increase in difficulty, making it relatively easy to find something that will increase your skill, and the Kaggle forums are full of code examples from past projects to help you get on your way.

If you're interested in graphics or UI programming these examples may be less help, but I'm sure there are similar things out there. The results of hackathons are great places to start because the code is generally written by competent programmers but they have no time to do clean up nor to build the spaghetti that years of updates often brings... bug fixes and hacks are common, so the code needs some TLC, but it typically has very few hands in it and so has some good consistency. iosDevCamp (from a quick google search), has links to github code for some of its results.

about 4 months ago

To Save the Internet We Need To Own the Means of Distribution

ZahrGnosis Re:Yes, totally (338 comments)

I disagree that it's "usually due more to corruption than anything else". I consider the problem one of accountability and politics (but not the corrupt type)... in the short term politicians are glad to have their names associated with grand projects -- building a new city-wide WiFi would be a boon, just as a new bridge, new bike paths, and other projects are. But long-term maintenance may get whittled away when the economy tanks, or due to other high priority budget concerns. As long as the politician can avoid disaster during their tenure there's no real incentive to provide adequate budget to these projects, and in fact there's a large disincentive as voters quite often push back against budget increases that aren't for their pet projects. The result is that politicians who can keep taxes low are re-elected but infrastructure budgets are stretched thin. None of that is necessarily corrupt, it's just short-sighted. Most cities "need" to replace their plumbing infrastructure, repair and replace roads and sidewalks, shore up levies, and at some point they'll need to upgrade internet infrastructure.

Here's some interesting reading on the topic that has specific examples across infrastructures (not a plug, I don't know these people):

Consider the Comcast/Netflix issue... Comcast argued that other entities weren't upgrading their high-bandwidth lanes quickly enough for capacity to justify charging content providers extra money. How would that argument look if the entities were governments? Could you convince a municipality to spend money on a high-speed backbone when everyone appears to have working internet but experts see bottlenecks in the future, but when that budget must be split between roads and sewers and buses and...? Now that could become a corruption issue if, for example, an outgoing politician sees that an opponent from another party is going to win the next term; could they stack the budget to ensure a problem during their opponents term? Absolutely. But that isn't required for there to be problems.

about 5 months ago

New Shape Born From Rubber Bands

ZahrGnosis Bell Knot (120 comments)

Well, they're no the first to TRY to name it.

about 5 months ago

DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist

ZahrGnosis Re:80% of people working in a field (170 comments)

I don't know if I'm naive... I admitted it happens, although I may underestimate how much (and you may overestimate how much; it's really difficult to know). But I asked for possible solutions; I even offered non-competes as a conversation starter. I suppose there's some value in just complaining about it, since it brings attention to a topic, but it's MORE constructive to actually discuss solutions as well as the problem. What do you propose? Force someone who retired from a government job to avoid any conflict of interest until death? Limit lobbying to make these post-retirement positions less attractive? We need to attract more qualified people into government jobs, so any solution that provides a disincentive to work for the government could backfire in that regard.

I ask in earnest. I'd like to see transparency and I agree that in general the power-sway between corporations and citizens seems imbalanced when it comes to lobbying, but I truly don't see any conversation about a workable solution in the article, and little in the ./ threads.

about 5 months ago

DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist

ZahrGnosis Re:80% of people working in a field (170 comments)

I see that there's the potential for abuse there, and I'm sure it is abused this way sometimes, but I don't see the job offers as proof that it's happening. It DOES make good sense for these companies to hire people with inside, high profile jobs from the governing organizations, whether or not the policies they enacted hurt the company (in some ways probably more so). These are very strong job candidates even without bribery being a consideration. Even if we were omnisciently certain that no quid-pro-quo existed, these are people who would get (and arguably deserve) great job offers.

The questions then become how do we identify actual abuse (vs normal labor market forces) and how do we stop it?

In non-government positions, if this were a concern (not to the public, but to the original employer), there would be a non-compete clause of some sort. I'm not aware of government jobs ever having non-compete clauses, but it would probably be prohibitively difficult to do (not that it shouldn't be done, but it's so difficult to fire most US government employees that I can't imagine it being easy to implement even more labor restrictions). We could perhaps lobby for that, but it's doubtful to happen. I'm open to suggestions, but without other options this just seems like unconstructive complaining.

about 5 months ago



Conflicting Views on the Science of Pain

ZahrGnosis ZahrGnosis writes  |  about a year ago

ZahrGnosis (66741) writes "Popular Science, a stalwart of the scientific literature community, posted a couple of articles about pain research recently that are causing a bit of controversy. First, they posted an article titled Fetal Pain Is A Lie: How Phony Science Took Over The Abortion Debate that argues fetuses don't feel pain at 20 weeks due to a scientific consensus that the nervous system is underdeveloped at that point. Ironically, this argument has been used for years in a different setting: to claim that crustaceans don't feel pain (justifying among other things the live boiling of lobster). But PopSci also posted an article titled Crabs And Lobsters Probably Do Feel Pain, According To New Experiments. And now there's mild internet flaming going on. I know Slashdot doesn't venture into the abortion arena much, and I'm not trying to wade into political territory so much as understand the competing scientific commentaries (in so much as fetuses and lobster can be compared). But mostly I'm just curious what the Slashdot crowd thought."

Giving away personal info byte by byte for "security"?

ZahrGnosis ZahrGnosis writes  |  about a year and a half ago

ZahrGnosis writes "Through work, and bad planning, I've been subscribed to a lot of trade magazines. I don't generally hate them, most come electronically now, and some are actually useful. What I despise is the annual calls to renew my "free" subscription and update my info. Ok, giving away my work e-mail, title, and line of business info isn't that bad, it's practically good marketing. But at the end of each call the phone people say "in order to verify that we talked to you, can you tell us" followed by something tiny and seemingly innocuous. The last digit of the month you were born in, or the first letter of the city you were born in. Today it was the country you were born in. I've started lying, of course, because noone needs to aggregate that sort of personal information byte-by-byte, but now I'm convinced that's what they're doing. Does anyone have any details on this? Can someone confirm or deny that these seemingly innocuous "security" questions are being aggregated. Yes, I tried some google searches, but my fu seems weak in this area... or noone is talking about it yet. Bueller?"

The Downfall of Book Burning

ZahrGnosis ZahrGnosis writes  |  more than 2 years ago

ZahrGnosis writes "In 1953, Ray Bradbury's book "Fahrenheit 451" described "a dystopian future in which the US has outlawed reading and firemen burn books". Book burning has long been a symbol of censorship or protest, and Bradbury's book was a great Science Fiction introduction to the topic for many readers alive today.

How should we feel, then that Fahrenheit 451 is becoming an e-book despite its author's feelings? Am I the only one that finds it ironic that a seminal book about book burning soon can't be burnt? In many ways, electronic media has put a serious dent in censorship so perhaps this is a fitting conclusion — even the author may not have the ability to ebb the flow of information in the digital age: the opposite problem of censorship. As a book lover and a technophile (who has yet to make the e-book transition), I find this story oddly interesting and wondered what the Slashdot crowd would think."

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