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Tracking Down How Many (Or How Few) People Actively Use Google+

atfrase flawed methodology (209 comments)

This analysis (by necessity) only included *public* posts to Google+, which makes the conclusion completely meaningless.

You can't just sweep that detail under the rug when comparing Google+ to something like Facebook. One of Google+'s biggest selling points is the ability to actually control exactly who can and cannot see everything you post, so the proportion of posts that are completely wide open to the public is going to be much, much lower than on Facebook.

There's plenty of activity there, this guy just can't see it because it's being shared privately among friends and not with the entire internet. And rightly so.

about a week ago

Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay

atfrase Re:Not a chance (631 comments)

The trouble is the stuff that is bad-by-design: the fact that it's even more expansively invasive than the existing 'loyalty card' schemes

I keep hearing this and I don't understand it. How is it any different than the majority of people who use the same credit card at different stores?

It is very illegal for a merchant to store your credit card number for more than the 5 seconds it takes to authorize the transaction, unless they implement fairly strong protection to make sure nobody can steal those numbers later. But even if they do this, it is still very illegal for them to try to share those card numbers and what they purchased, which would be necessary for different merchants to "track" your purchases.

CurrentC probably does not have this protection. Merchants would be free to store and share the fact that your CurrentC account number bought X here, Y there, and Z there. Merchants would love that ability, which is why they've designed CurrentC to allow it; as a customer, you have very little to gain from that kind of data mining, and almost definitely plenty to lose.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Good Hosting Service For a Parody Site?

atfrase Re:nearlyfreespeech.net (115 comments)

This is my recommendation also. Never had any issue with their service, billing models are very straightforward, and their philosophy specifically embraces things like parody sites (within the law).

about 3 months ago

ISPs Violating Net Neutrality To Block Encryption

atfrase Re:Competition urgently needed (149 comments)

I think this hints at the fundamental disagreement between people's thoughts on "net neutrality."

Some folks think business is business and should be able to do whatever it wants, probably because they have money or some other vested interest in the current telecommunications behemoths, so they want the maximum return on that investment no matter who gets screwed in the process.

Other folks (like you) see a problem with the current arrangement, and believe that the solution is to create more competition so that the telecom industry "regulates itself." In principle I agree, but I think that's just not possible in this case.

The rest of us believe that telecom is, was, and (for the foreseeable future) always will be a *natural* monopoly. You can't have meaningful competition for building roads and sewers and power grids, in part because those things cost so much money that it is effectively impossible for a new player to enter the market, and in part because our cities would be a mess if we had to deal with multiple parallel networks of these kinds of infrastructural utilities. Telecom has exactly the same issues; no matter how data transmission technology evolves (in the foreseeable future), be it telephone wires, coaxial cables, fiber optics, or whatever is next, it will always be vastly more efficient for a single entity to install and manage that physical data network, at least at the local level. There just can not be meaningful local competition in data transmission services (which includes telephone, television, internet, etc). So the solution for telecom is exactly the same as it is for water, sewer, roads, etc: allow one entity to run it, but regulate them heavily as a public utility.

The problem we're facing now is "how to get there from here." We should have made this transition decades ago, but for a variety of reasons didn't, and so now those telecom monopolies have been allowed to remain private for too long and grow to enormous size. Wrangling them back into a public utility arrangement is the only sustainable path forward, but it will also be extremely politically difficult.

about 3 months ago

Texas Ebola Patient Dies

atfrase Re:The Conservative Option (487 comments)

Just to play devil's advocate here for a moment:

This guy knew he had been in the hot zone and may have been exposed, and was trying to get back to the US. So his options were

  • a) be honest about his exposure and almost certainly be denied re-entry; or
  • b) lie about exposure in order to get back into the US.

Now, if he had not actually contracted ebola, he was likely to live in either case, (a) just would have been more inconvenient. But if (as was the case) he really did have ebola, then he would have seen (a) as suicide, and (b) as a small but measurable chance to live, given the quality of health care facilities in the US.

So, he had quite an incentive to lie about his exposure, didn't he? I'm clearly not condoning it, but... that's quite a catch, that catch-22.

about 4 months ago

The Physics of Space Battles

atfrase Re:After working missile defense for years... (470 comments)

That sounds a little like submarine combat, as opposed to the surface naval or air combat that currently inspires our space battle sci-fi.

about 4 months ago

The Physics of Space Battles

atfrase Re: Umm no (470 comments)

Well, but consider: space is big. Detecting things in it is hard, unless they've giving off light or radiation that you can detect more easily. For example, today, it is very common that we don't notice near-earth asteroids until they're less than a day away, and asteroids are a lot bigger than missiles.

Atmospheric missiles must maintain constant thrust to keep flying, in order to counteract gravity, air resistance, and to maintain course skimming the ocean, as you mentioned. That makes them easy to spot as soon as they cross the horizon, giving you that 10-20s warning.

But in space, constant thrust is not necessary. The missile can be fired initially just like a dumb projectile, and only engage its thrust once it's very close to the target and needs to adjust course to hit it. Until that time, it just looks like a very small rock hurtling through the void, giving off very little energy, making it very hard to spot.

Even if you had radar or some other kind of active sensors to detect incoming missiles before they engage their thrusters and give away their position, the attacker could simply fire their missiles inside a cloud of other flak to camouflage them. So you can see a cloud of thousands of tiny objects coming in, but you can't tell which of them are missiles with warheads until the whole cloud is close enough that those missiles activate and start homing in on your position.

about 4 months ago

Massachusetts SWAT Teams Claim They're Private Corporations, Immune To Oversight

atfrase Re:Two sides of the coin (534 comments)

Yes, there are legitimate situations where some police records need to be sealed for a modest period of time, in order to preserve the safety of undercover operatives/informants etc. Laws and procedures already exist to allow for that, all they have to do is convince a judge (privately) that some document needs to stay secret (for now) and it's fine.

This is different. This is an entire branch of law enforcement claiming that they never have to release any documents ever to anyone, no matter what's in them or whether they actually have any legitimate need to keep them secret. Given how friendly judges usually are to law enforcement on these kinds of things, the fact that they don't even want to have to convince a judge to let them keep their secrets is a big red flag to me.

about 7 months ago

Massachusetts SWAT Teams Claim They're Private Corporations, Immune To Oversight

atfrase court response? (534 comments)

Any legal/judicial experts care to weigh in on whether this argument has a snowball's chance of being accepted by any court?

about 7 months ago

Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base

atfrase Snowden/Greenwald NOT the source (237 comments)

The article cites Snowden's files as their source, but Snowden and Greenwald have both explicitly denied that, and even go further to assert that neither of them have provided any information whatsoever to the Independent:


That means somebody is lying, and that is extremely important and worth your careful consideration, no matter who you think it is.

I'm disappointed that this development hasn't already been modded up in the comments here; a lot of folks are jumping to conclusions by taking the Independent at their word about who leaked this particular information.

about a year and a half ago

Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base

atfrase Re:Yes, and? (237 comments)

Snowden gave the trove of files to The Guardian at least. The specific leaks, after the initial ones, are decided by Glenn Greenwald and not Snowden.

Whether Greenwald gave some stuff to the Independent or Snowden did that earlier is unknown.

No, it is known, straight from both Snowden and Greenwald themselves: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/23/uk-government-independent-military-base

They deny giving any information to the Independent. Since they are not the source, as the Independent claims, they further surmise that the timing and nature of this particular leak make it plausible that the UK intelligence agency did it intentionally, in order to justify even harsher "anti-terrorism" and "anti-leaker" laws and powers.

about a year and a half ago

Intelligence Director Claims NSA Surveillance Reports Inaccurate

atfrase the key word is "targeting" (262 comments)

Yes, sure, "it cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen" -- but a sweeping dragnet that intercepts and logs every private communication of every citizen of the United States isn't exactly "targeting" any particular citizen, is it? Of course to us, that makes it worse and not better, but to the agents of the modern US surveillance state it is a lovely loophole indeed.

about a year and a half ago

Active Video Games Don't Make Kids Exercise More

atfrase Re:Same as school exercise (304 comments)

Yeah. All for the opportunity cost of one of those parents being at home to cook three square meals a day.

It is very, very important for people to read and understand the significance of this comment.

Many folks from the "middle"-class on up simply don't understand what life is like for single parents, or even or dual parents who must work multiple jobs to pay the bills. Yes, raw food of the sort that can be prepared into healthy and nutritious meals is not (necessarily) inherently expensive; what puts it out of reach for many low-income folks is not the money but the TIME it takes to go to the grocery store, bring those foodstuffs home, and then prepare them.

Single parents cannot leave their small children unattended that long, and bringing them along adds even more logistical overhead. There often isn't a single grocery store in low-income neighborhoods, requiring an even longer car trip, if the family can even afford a car; otherwise, an even longer bus ride, which also limits the trip to how much can be carried in two hands to, from and on the bus.

Making a healthy diet accessible to low-income families is not an issue of price, it is an issue of availability and logistics, and those issues are NOT insignificant. People need to understand that, to avoid falling into the trap of thinking poor folks are just lazy -- they're not, most of them work harder than you do, I promise you. Unless you've actually been a low-income single parent, don't presume to understand what the challenges are.

more than 2 years ago

Sony Sued Over PSN 'No Suing' Provision

atfrase Re:Common Nonsense (384 comments)

Can any legal types comment on whether it would be viable to fight back with our own Service Provider License Agreements?

"By providing me, <NAME> with service, you, <COMPANY> agree to be bound by this Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA)..."

Could we craft a generic boilerplate SPLA with provisions that nullify these kinds of anti-consumer restrictions, and just all print them out and mail them en masse to the legal dept. of any company we do business with? Would it be considered legally binding on them, just exactly the same way EULAs are legally binding on us? Has this already been done?

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: An Open Handheld Terminal For Retail Stores?

atfrase PCI (114 comments)

If you intend to process credit card payments through your custom application on the point-of-sale device, you'll likely fall under the purview of the Payment Card Industry's Payment Application Data Security Standard (PCI PA-DSS), which may require a source code audit and limit what you can have the software do. That may be no problem for you depending on your resources and intended use of your software, but it's worth keeping in mind.

more than 3 years ago

Ubuntu Dumps X For Unity On Wayland

atfrase binary video drivers and wine (640 comments)

Can anybody more knowledgeable than I comment on how this will affect binary (nVidia/AMD) video driver performance or compatibility, and thus Wine gaming?

more than 4 years ago

How Google Avoided Paying $60 Billion In Taxes

atfrase Re:Corporations shouldn't pay any taxes. (1193 comments)

If corporations were not recognized as individuals in a number of other annoying contexts (political contributions, "personal" rights, etc) then I *might* be inclined to agree. But as it stands, they've got the best of both worlds; no meaningful taxation like individuals are burdened with, but all the same protections and "rights" as well.

more than 4 years ago

Record-Breaking Galaxy Found In Deep Hubble Image

atfrase Re:Does it still exist? (196 comments)

I think there's a maximum length after which a galaxy cannot exist; diminishing element returns from supernovae. Unfortunately I'm not sure how long it is, but it's much longer than 13 billion years; individual red dwarves can last for hundreds of billions of years. As for merger with other galaxies or destruction by a supermassive black hole though, its anyone's guess.

If the universe is under 15 billions years old, how do we know red dwarves can last 100 billion years?

more than 4 years ago

DMCA Takedown Notice Leveled Against Ohio Congressional Race Ad

atfrase Re:Fair use? (130 comments)

But the baffling thing here is that this isn't some big company demanding a political ad be removed; it's a tiny film studio. And the film in question is free on the internet.

It just seems like there has to be a missing piece to this story.

Is it really that baffling? Let me take a stab at that missing piece:

Campaign manager: Hey tiny film studio, how do you feel about perjuring yourself to shut down this ad that's making us look bad? We'll owe ya one, and we have this funny feeling the perjury won't be prosecuted anyway.
Tinyfilmstudio: A corrupt congressman in my debt? Yes please; consider it done.
Campaign manager: I knew we'd see eye-to-eye on this one.

more than 4 years ago


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