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Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Often-Run Piece of Code -- Ever?

edp Re:Bios code? (533 comments)

I write some of Apple’s FFTs and other signal-processing code, and I happen to have been pondering this question lately. My software will be in a billion computers in the next few years, and there will be sextillions of executions of instructions I have written. However, somebody out there will have more...

1 year,13 days

Simple Virus For Teaching?

edp Comments (366 comments)

As others have noted, spreading a virus and teaching others to spread a virus is dangerous, even if the virus is "benign." If the virus spreads to the system of any person who did not consent, you have committed an unethical and possibly unlawful act.

That said, it is necessary to learn and to teach. If you have responsible students who have agreed to take proper precautions, it may be permissible to perform certain exercises with viruses. However, while you can get ideas from Slashdot, you should not accept advice. You should verify the ideas independently with professionals in computer security.

I am not one, but one idea is to take some ideas from the methods used to prevent biological organisms from spreading while experimenting on those. For example, design the virus to spread only to systems that contain a special marker, such as a file in a known location that contains the text "This system is part of the equipment for course 123 in the Fall 2012 semester." This would prevent the virus from spreading to other systems even if a network connection were made or somebody moved a disk from your isolated systems to a networked system. It would not, of course, stop one of your students from disabling that part of the virus and making themselves a fun "toy" to play with, which is why you need to ensure your students are trustworthy.

more than 4 years ago

Drug Company Merck Drew Up Doctor "Hit List"

edp Re:Big Pharma is evil, but... (281 comments)

"Hell, what if they said 'If you keep taking that pill, you will die in 10 years, otherwise you will die in 15'? Well, right now some might actually say 'I'll keep taking it', speaking for that person in 9 3/4 years who may answer VERY differently-- again a human inability to logically analyze the situation and come to an honest conclusion."

That example does not demonstrate any inability to analyze the situation. A person might value their quality of life with the pill more than 50% more than their quality of life without the pill, in which case 10 years with the pill is worth more than 15 years without the pill.

Then, in 9 3/4 years, their choice is 1/4 year with the pill versus 5 1/4 year without the pill, in which case it makes sense to discontinue the pill, unless their quality of life is much, much greater with the pill.

more than 5 years ago

Richard Stallman Warns About Non-Free Web Apps

edp Re:OK, dumb question after reading the article (747 comments)

Because your bank or broker gives you statements that you must keep for tax or evidentiary purposes, and you think you can read them, but they break sometime in the future when your bank or broker "upgrades" their system.

Because you keep important information in Google Documents or some other quasi-online service, and you lose access to them in the future when the service is discontinued. Or when the free service is changed to a paid service.

Because the software is important to your business, and you need to ensure you will be able to continue to run it.

Because you want to keep a copy of the agreement offered when you opened an account.

Because you want to study the encryption and other security features used to protect your information or to allow qualified professionals to study the security features so they can advise the public about them. (E.g., you would like skilled and informed university professors to analyze the security features so they can warn you when certain software is not up to snuff, so that extra care can be taken.)

If you just use your web "browser" to browse or play games, you might not care about the software running in it. But if you use it for things you rely on, for safety or security or important information or record-keeping or making money, then you care about the software running on it, and you want some assurance and control over it.

more than 5 years ago

Breach Exposes 19,000 Active US, UK Credit Cards

edp Re:Can some American please explain to me... (232 comments)

"What I mean, is that to pay with credit cards, from what I know, you only need the data that is written right on the card."

No, there are other safeguards. For one thing, you need to know some address information associated with the card, such as house number and postal code. If the product is not being shipped to an address the credit card issuer knows is associated with the card, then there may be additional checks. There is a three-digit verification code that the purchaser may be asked to supply. This code is not printed in raised lettering, so it is not recorded on old-style physical imprints of the card, and merchants are not supposed to keep a record of it once the transaction has been approved. (They have the credit card number and an approval number unique to the transaction.)

As another respondent mentions, the credit card holder is responsible for reviewing their statements and notifying the credit card issuer of fraudulent transactions. Then the issuer can withhold the money from the merchant or otherwise get it back.

In Germany, you can send money to people by writing some information about your account and about the payee and their account on a bank form and depositing it into a box at your bank. What prevents that from being used fraudulently? I wondered about that when I lived there. I suppose the fact that the money goes to account provides some safety, as the destination back should have some knowledge of their customer.

more than 5 years ago

State Dept E-mail Crash After "Reply-All" Storm

edp Re:Two questions: (384 comments)

"Why in the world do modern e-mail clients still allow reply all to hundreds of recipients without an additional safety question."

Because the client has no information about the number of recipients. It only knows the number of addresses the message is addressed to. A "reply all" on the lists I participate in commonly generates a message with two destination addresses, the individual sender and the list. The client does not know how many people are on the list or even that it is a list.

Certainly a client ought to ask for confirmation when there are more than a few addresses (subject to a customizable threshold so users who regularly send messages to many people can do so easily). However, you also need list servers to guard against email storms. Perhaps servers should request confirmation when there are symptoms of inadvertent, indiscriminate, or ignorant reply-all messages, such as trivial new text in a message with much quoted text, requests to unsubscribe, a reply from a new first-time sender on the list, etc.

about 6 years ago

What To Do Right As a New Programmer?

edp Learn to learn (662 comments)

Ideally, one should have a formal education before writing software professionally--there is a lot of theory that has been figured out that is useful to know in practice. However, given that that is not going to happen, then my advice is to avoid reinventing the wheel, or, worse, inventing a bumpy thing that the car rides on but is slow and inefficient and uncomfortable and breaks from time to time. Collect references where you can look up algorithms and theory--apply what other people have done instead of writing new algorithms. Most programmers' jobs are tailoring known algorithms to current situations, not writing new algorithms.

more than 6 years ago

Senator Questions Rise In US Texting Prices

edp Re:What are you talking about? The market is fine. (592 comments)

"People are willing to pay $0.10 to send a text message. What it COSTS to provide the message is irrelevant."

The cost is not irrelevant. If consumers are willing to buy for $.1 and the providers are willing to sell for $.01, economics says the price should be between $.01 and $.1. But why should it be $.1 and not $.01? Why is it clamped at what the consumers are willing to pay and not what the providers are willing to sell for?

It is because the providers set the stage. They have control of the market. They operate together, not necessarily directly through collusion, but possibly indirectly through using the same marketing research companies, industry organizations, et cetera.

In a healthy market, the price floats somewhere between the minimum price the providers are willing to sell for and the maximum price the sellers are willing to buy for. There is a give-and-take. Prices may hit one end of the clamp or another from time to time due to natural fluctuations, but when it is grossly disproportionate to actual costs, then there is something wrong. The market is unhealthy and is being unfairly manipulated.

That is why cost is relevant.

more than 6 years ago


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