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Comments

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Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

guttentag Re:Slashdot BETA Sucks. (2219 comments)

From Bruce's Web site:

Hot topics as I write this: Why doesn't Bruce resurrect Technocrat.net now that Slashdot is owned by Dice.com and stinks more than the last two times I've shut down Technocrat.net due to lack of readership?

Think it would really work this time? You've got my email and phone.

So yes, email him to give him an idea of how much actual interest there is so he knows the readership will be there.

about 2 months ago
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Half of US Nuclear Missile Wing Implicated In Cheating

guttentag Re:Dr. Strangelove (313 comments)

Nothing to worry about. It's just a 50th Anniversary tribute to Dr. Strangelove.

Interesting sentiment, considering things got to a point in Dr. Strangelove where soldiers breaking the law was the only hope for saving the world:

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel... that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.
Colonel "Bat" Guano: That's private property.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel! Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That's what the bullets are for, you twit!
Colonel "Bat" Guano: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: What?
Colonel "Bat" Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.

Perhaps encouraging these officers to come up with outside the box solutions is a good idea. Not that it worked in the movie, but they need to be prepared to piss on a spark plug if they think it will do any good.

about 3 months ago
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US Forces Coursera To Ban Students From Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria

guttentag What About Facebook? (306 comments)

Certain United States export control regulations prohibit U.S. businesses, such as MOOC providers like Coursera, from offering services to users in sanctioned countries, including Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Under the law, certain aspects of Coursera’s course offerings are considered services and are therefore subject to restrictions in sanctioned countries...

Facebook is a "U.S. business" that is "offering services" to users in sanctioned countries. Only it's the Iranian government that tries to block it and redirects you to a page informing users the Web site they are trying to access is "bad for your health." I suppose the difference is that Facebook can be used to help people organize to overthrow the regime the U.S. government does not want, so that makes it OK. Plus, more people using it in a sanctioned country gives the NSA a clearer picture of the trends, attitudes and threats in that country.

I'm not saying Facebook should be restricted from offering services in countries like Iran. I'm saying laws should be applied equally, not politically.

about 3 months ago
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Man Jailed For Refusing To Reveal USB Password

guttentag Re:I'll be in trouble (374 comments)

I'll be in trouble if I'm ever raided -- I have several USB devices and CD-R's that I used in the past to make a backup of something, and have lost or forgotten the passwords.

Forget your CDs, it's your DVD collection you should be worried about. "All I remember is the first part! 09 F9... then the hex code for some shade of red... I swear!" This is why everyone should have that number handy.

about 3 months ago
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BitTorrent's Bram Cohen Unveils New Steganography Tool DissidentX

guttentag Re:Leak Tracking (124 comments)

You would have to know where the signature was. If the document was distributed to a few dozen people, a single character could be used to identify which one leaked the document. It could be a punctuation "mistake" or any number of other minor things you wouldn't think to change. It could be a different thing that is changed in each version (in John's copy there is an extra space after the end of the first sentence, but in Jane's copy there is an extra space after the second sentence, etc.).

about 3 months ago
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BitTorrent's Bram Cohen Unveils New Steganography Tool DissidentX

guttentag Re:Steganography has always one big problem (124 comments)

All the other side needs to know is that you have something to hide, and depending on the level of society you live on, water boarding, lead pipes, or court order to make you divulge what it is.

Unsophisticated societies use lead pipes to force people to divulge information.
Sophisticated societies use court orders.
Modern societies use waterboarding.
Postmodern societies use facebook.

Think about it.

about 3 months ago
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BitTorrent's Bram Cohen Unveils New Steganography Tool DissidentX

guttentag Leak Tracking (124 comments)

But it uses a new form of steganography based on cryptographic hashes to make the presence of a hidden message far harder for an eavesdropper to detect than in traditional stego.

I think steganography is far more likely to be used to track the people who leak information. When information gets out that was apparently available to multiple people, the leaker may not realize that his copy had a specific steganographic signature that identifies him as the source. It could be a pattern of extra spaces or line breaks in the code of document that he doesn't even see. The increased availability of the technology will likely mean smaller companies or government agencies will use it to suppress leaks.

about 3 months ago
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BitTorrent's Bram Cohen Unveils New Steganography Tool DissidentX

guttentag Brilliant (124 comments)

To the typical user it just looks like a random bunch of ones and zeros.

01101110 01101111 00100000 01101101
01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000
01110011 01100101 01100011 01110010
01100101 01110100 01110011

about 3 months ago
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How China Will Get To the Moon Before a Google Lunar XPrize Winner

guttentag How will China get there? (173 comments)

I give up. Are the Chinese running KitKat or Key Lime Pie on Chang'e 3?

about 4 months ago
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FOIA: NSA Contracts Stored In Paper Files, Unsearchable, Unindexed

guttentag Re:aha (114 comments)

And if you believe that, I have some healthcare to sell you.

You can keep your stinking healthcare! Oh wait...

about 5 months ago
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FOIA: NSA Contracts Stored In Paper Files, Unsearchable, Unindexed

guttentag Re:I have this marvellous new invention for you! (114 comments)

It's called a Hollerith card tabulating machine. I can make you a good price!

NSA PROCUREMENT OFFICE (EQUIPMENT DIVISION)

Mr. Kyosuke:

Thank you for your recent letter offering a good price on a Hollerith machine. I regret to inform you that the NSA already has several of these in its possession that were purchased at an IBM auction of surplus machines that had been leased to the German government in the 1940s. We have made many custom improvements to the German machines over the years and would not think of wasting them on something as trivial as contracts.

However, as replacement parts for these machines are in short supply and knowledge of their purpose is a forgotten state secret we have sent agents from the Procurement Office (Human Division) to collect you and your machine. They are at your front and back doors now. Please cooperate with them fully to make this easier on everyone.

Again, thank you for contacting the NSA and helping us keep you safe.

about 5 months ago
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Bitcoin Tops $1,000 For the First Time

guttentag Re:Where is all of this money coming from? (371 comments)

With the high profile shutdown of Silk Road the number of things you can buy with Bitcoin would be considerably less. While it's true that there are other services available, it seems strange to me that so much money is being dumped into the system now.

The largest private university in Cyprus, the University of Nicosia, announced last week it will begin accepting BTC for tuition, books, room and board, and it will offer a master's-level course of study on digital currency to help people outside the Bitcoinsphere understand it. Those two developments would seem to inject a significant amount of legitimacy into Bitcoin.

Although, if you invest in Bitcoin to attend UNic (official abbreviation of University of Nicosia) and the currency crashes, you may find that you've become a financial eunuch. It's all Greek to me.

about 5 months ago
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Sex Offender Gets New Hearing After Hearing Officer Rants Against Arial Font

guttentag Re:stupid coments, but.... (312 comments)

More than that: the wording was that he "can't trust anyone who..." This would seem to indicate that it's a personal bias, and not some kind of technical requirement.

Perhaps there was some dark paperwork incident in his past of which we're unaware:

I've never trusted Arial documents, and I never will. I could never forgive them for the death of my boy.

Careless words like that in a personal log can earn you a one-way ticket to Rura Penthe.

about 5 months ago
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Jury Finds Newegg Infringed Patent, Owes $2.3 Million

guttentag Re:Good advertising? (324 comments)

Hopefully this turns out to be good advertising for NewEgg - I know I'll be making my next computer purchase from them to help support them in fighting a patent troll.

So, once you know, you Newegg?
And once you patent troll, you patent troll Newegg?

about 5 months ago
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Why Not Fund SETI With a Lottery Bond?

guttentag Re:Well (191 comments)

I would suggest that such aliens have something better than radio to use.

Like the Internet. Or call centers. Possibly call centers which are connected to the Internet for cost-efficiency. Next time you're talking to "Bob" while trying to troubleshoot your cable modem, ask him if he's an alien, and tell him you'll keep his secret in exchange for some small compensation, such as a couple of Higgs bosons (one to lose and the other to not show to Stephen Hawking)... or the secret to consistent and reliable cold fusion.

about 5 months ago
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LeVar Burton On Google Glass

guttentag Re:"Celebrity?" (211 comments)

You've never heard of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek?

He just didn't recognize Geordi without his Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement. Happens all the time, and Burton likes it that way. If everyone wore Google Glass he'd be recognized everywhere he goes, like poor Patrick Stewart. He couldn't ring the bell at the NYSE the other day for Twitter without people yelling, "Look, it's Captain Picard! Make it so! Come on, say it!" The guy dressed up as Nerval's Lobster for Halloween, but people still recognized him. Burton has plenty of reason to value his visual anonymity.

about 5 months ago
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North Korea Developing Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons

guttentag Re:Size, range and much hype... (191 comments)

North Korea's real weapon is fear. Has been for decades.

South Korea has the world's 15th-largest economy, but it is largely driven by electronics exports. North Korea has been threatening nuclear weapons for so long it's like the boy who cried wolf. The world knows the North is not going to resort to a nuclear strike unless something goes very, very wrong. So it needed a new, more-plausible boogie man. What better, and cheaper, to scare the world into giving it economic aid than the threat of an EMP strike that could cripple the South's economy? It wouldn't set the North back that far, and the world's response would be far less punitive than the response to a nuclear strike.

Of course, it's quite likely the North lacks the ability to deliver an effective EMP weapon, just as it lacks the ability to deliver a nuclear strike on the U.S. But to the masses, its just believable enough thanks to Western media plot devices. Did your parents ever waste electricity leaving a night light on to keep the monsters away from your bed at night? They knew there were no monsters, but it was a small cost compared to having you spend the night in their room. Likewise, the North is betting that the first world governments would rather spend a token amount on aid than waste all their time trying to reassure their citizens that the EMP monster isn't really going to take away their TVs/smartphones/etc.

about 5 months ago
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Big Box? Nissan Note the First-Ever Car You Can 'Buy' On Amazon

guttentag Re:$1000 off? (182 comments)

Can I pay them an extra $1000 and buy directly from amazon? Why get a dealer involved?

A dealer gets involved so they can get that $1000 back from you. Familiarize yourself with the Four Square Worksheet. You probably won't see the physical sheet, but they're using it. It's a shell game where they get you to pull the trigger on the purchase by giving you a deal in one area but they get that money back, and then some, in another area. Half the reason the salesperson keeps going to visit his boss is so the boss can ensure the salesperson got the money back somewhere else on the four square. The other half is to make you sweat it out so you'll give in and pay more. Eat a good lunch before going but act like you didn't... bringing your lunch only tips them off that you're ready to wait out their nonsense and they don't want to business if they think they can't fleece you. They will offer you coffee to make you edgy... accept it and pretend to drink occasionally, but don't swallow it or anything else they give/tell you. Argue for a fair price, but once they agree on it in writing and you have your own written copy, let them think your guard is down... then absolutely refuse to let them add anything in any square.

I've negotiated prices on five car purchases for myself and others. When going into a dealership you need to remind yourself that you're not dealing with a human being. You're dealing with a Ferengi. You might want to bookmark the Rules of Acquisition on your phone to read while you're waiting for their latest offer so you see things through their eyes:

  • Anything worth selling is worth selling twice
  • Anything stolen is pure profit
  • A deal is a deal ... until a better one comes along
  • A bargain usually isn't
  • Acting stupid is often smart
  • When the customer is sweating, turn up the heat
  • Only negotiate when you are certain to profit
  • Never trust a man wearing a better suit than you own
  • et al

about 7 months ago
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Letter to "Extended Family" Assures That NSA Will "Weather This Storm"

guttentag Re: It's not the NSA who will pay the price (286 comments)

I read somewhere that all NSA restrooms switched their toilet paper to Quilted Northern a couple years ago. Allegedly, the employees had grown so accustomed to wiping their rear ends with "the cloud" they refused to use anything less.

about 7 months ago

Submissions

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The Kid-Friendly Faces of the NSA

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about 3 months ago

guttentag (313541) writes "“It is never too early to start thinking about what you want to do when you grow up.” To enter the “How Can I Work for N.S.A.?” section of the NSA's CryptoKids site, children click on a picture of a bucktoothed rabbit, who says in his biography that he likes listening to hip-hop and rock. In his free time, the bunny says, he participates in cryptography competitions with other cartoon characters named Decipher Dog and CryptoCat. The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really “kewl,” is pushing something far weightier: the benefits of the National Security Agency.

The New York Times notes that the site has existed for nine years and that other government agencies have sites aimed at kids, but none of those they list are pushing cartoon animals to market themselves. Unless you count the Counterterrorism Center's cartoon eagle, Beaker."
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NSA's "TAO" Intercepting Packages to Install Backdoors, Exploiting Crash Reports

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about 4 months ago

guttentag (313541) writes "German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reports that the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) intercepts computer or accessory shipments and carefully opens the packages to install hardware backdoors or malware. It also intercepts Windows crash reports to learn what software vulnerabilities may exist on target computers. Its internal documentation on this includes a joke at Microsoft's expense, showing the usual error message with the words "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine." The report also claims the FBI helps the NSA attack isolated networks that are not connected to the Internet, making an FBI jet available to ferry a TAO team to its target so it can quickly appear, conduct its work in as little as half an hour and disappear undetected."
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U.S. Postal Service to Make Sunday Deliveries for Amazon

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about 5 months ago

guttentag (313541) writes "The New York Times is reporting The USPS has struck a deal to deliver Amazon’s packages on Sundays — a first for both. The Postal Service, which lost nearly $16 billion last year, often loses money on first-class mail delivery, but package delivery is profitable. The Postal Service said it expected to make more such deals with other merchants, seeking a larger role in the $186 billion e-commerce market. For this holiday shopping season, Sunday delivery of Amazon products will be limited to the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas. In 2014 it is expected to expand to other cities including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix."
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Snowden: Microsoft's NSA Cooperation Closer than Acknowledged

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about 9 months ago

guttentag (313541) writes "Classified documents Edward Snowden has released to the Guardian newspaper show Microsoft helped the NSA circumvent its encryption on Outlook.com, worked with the FBI to allow Prism access to SkyDrive and to study how users create email aliases. The NSA documents claim that Prism tripled its collection of Skype video calls nine months after Microsoft bought the service, and that the NSA shares data from Prism with the FBI and CIA as a "team sport." Microsoft launched a new "Your Privacy Is Our Priority" marketing campaign just days before Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong. The NY Times also has a story on the release."
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AT&T Quietly Adds Charges to All Contract Cell Plans

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about a year ago

guttentag (313541) writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T Mobility, the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., has added a new monthly administrative fee of 61 cents to the bills of all of its contract wireless lines as of May 1, a move that could bring in more than a half-billion dollars in annual revenue to the telecom giant.

An AT&T spokeswoman said the fee covers "certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance." The increased cost to consumers comes even though AT&T's growth in wireless revenue last year outpaced the costs to operate and support its wireless business. The company has talked of continuing to improve wireless profitability. Citigroup analyst Michael Rollins noted that the new administrative fee is a key component for accelerating revenue growth for the rest of the year. He said the fee should add 0.30 of a percentage point to AT&T's 2013 revenue growth; he predicts total top-line growth of about 1.5%.

Normally, consumers could vote with their wallets by taking their business elsewhere. AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a "surcharge," effectively forcing millions of people to either pay more money per month or pay the ETF."

Link to Original Source
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Horse Meat Found in IKEA's Swedish Meatballs

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about a year ago

guttentag (313541) writes "Last month we discussed the implications of horse meat in European foods that were labelled as beef. The Czech State Veterinary Administration has now reported finding horse meat in IKEA's 1-lb packages of Swedish meatballs, which are sold in the retailer's stores and served in its restaurants around the world. IKEA has only one supplier for these meatballs, a family owned company in southwestern Sweden, and has pulled meatballs from shelves in Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland out of concern for "potential worries among our customers." However, it said it saw no reason to extend that action to other countries, including the U.S., where deceptive trade practices involving horse meat have not been as prominent in the news."
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Photoshop 1.0.1 Source Code Released

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about a year ago

guttentag (313541) writes "With Adobe's permission, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, is making available, for non-commercial use, the source code to the 1990 version 1.0.1 of Photoshop. All the code is here with the exception of the MacApp applications library that was licensed from Apple. There are 179 files in the zipped folder, comprising about 128,000 lines of mostly uncommented but well-structured code. By line count, about 75% of the code is in Pascal, about 15% is in 68000 assembler language, and the rest is data of various sorts. To download the code you must agree to the terms of the license."
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Microsoft to Announce New iTunes Rival: Xbox Music

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about a year and a half ago

guttentag (313541) writes "On Monday, Microsoft plans to announce a service called Xbox Music that will offer access to a global catalog of about 30 million songs. The service will let consumers listen free to any song on computers and tablets running the latest version of its Windows software, as well as on the Xbox console. Microsoft will not initially limit how much music can be streamed, though that could change over time.

The service is part of a broad set of bets Microsoft is making this fall to help regain ground it has lost to competitors Apple, Google, Amazon, Pandora and Spotify. In addition to Windows 8, which will start shipping Oct. 26, the company is close to releasing a new version of its Windows Phone operating system and the tablet device called Surface."

Link to Original Source
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Hitachi Creates Quartz Glass Storage Medium

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about a year and a half ago

guttentag (313541) writes "Hitachi has announced (original press release in Japanese, translated to English) a new storage medium that uses a laser to imprint dots on a piece of quartz glass that correspond to binary code. The dots can be read with an optical microscope and appropriate software. The company says this medium is resistant to extreme heat, radiation, radio waves and should still be readable after a few hundred million years. It's intended as an archival format with data density similar to a music CD (40MB per square inch with 4 layers). Additional stories at Tom's Hardware and ZDNet."
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India Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile That Could Reach Beijing

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about 2 years ago

guttentag (313541) writes "The New York Times reports that India said Thursday it had successfully launched a missile with nuclear capability and a 3,100-mile range, giving it the ability to strike Beijing and Shanghai. It is suggested that this intended as a "deterrent" against attack by China. One hopes that China will not respond by announcing plans to deter India from using this."
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ACLU Obtains Cell Phone Tracking Training Materials

guttentag guttentag writes  |  about 2 years ago

guttentag (313541) writes "The New York Times has published a large collection of law enforcement training documents obtained by the ACLU. The documents describe in detail what kind of information can be obtained from cell phones and cell phone carriers, and how to obtain it. The 189-page PDF also contains dozens of invoices from the major carriers for their services to law enforcement that describe the fees for those services."
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Netflix Streaming Down

guttentag guttentag writes  |  more than 2 years ago

guttentag (313541) writes "The Huffington Post is reporting that Netflix streaming has been down since about 5 p.m. EST. This comes just days after Netflix announced price increases for the service, prompting outrage among subscribers. Calls to Netflix's "24/7" customer service number were initially answered by a machine that hung up on the caller after advising them to call back later, but they are now met only by a busy signal. DownRightNow has a graph of when reports of trouble started to come in."
Link to Original Source
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War Between Russia and Georgia, Online and Offline

guttentag guttentag writes  |  more than 5 years ago

guttentag writes "As Russian tanks and troops take up positions in Georgia, The New York Times reports that prominent Web sites in the besieged country are being defaced or hit with denial of service attacks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (whose regular site appears to be up now) has set up an alternate site on Google's blogspot to release its press dispatches, and Estonia, which dealt with Russian cyber-warfare last year, is providing technical assistance. The article quotes a security researcher as saying, "You could fund an entire cyberwarfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread, so you would be foolish not to." Watching these events unfold could provide a good idea of what to expect in the future when a major power invades your country."

Journals

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guttentag guttentag writes  |  more than 11 years ago Every now and then I find I'd like to refer to an old posting, but I don't want to spend five minutes running various searches on Slashdot and Google for it. So I've decided I'm just going to add them here:

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Why Are NY Times stories so prevalent on Slashdot?

guttentag guttentag writes  |  more than 11 years ago Let's look at newspaper front pages from a recent big news day (Thursday):

I would post examples from The NYTimes, but they don't let you see previous issues of the paper online for free. However, as I recall their picks closely mirrored The Washington Post's:

The Washington Post
Top Story: Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared
No. 2 Story: SEC Charges WorldCom With Fraud
No. 3 Story: U.S. Court Votes to Bar Pledge of Allegiance

The Los angeles Times
Top Story: 'Tweens: From Dolls to Thongs
One of the store mannequins wears a fringed denim skirt riding low on the hips and a top pushed high on the midriff. Another has shorts that roll down on the tummy and a one-shoulder top.
No. 2 Story: Pledge of Allegiance Violates Constitution, Court Declares
No. 3 Story: WorldCom Hit With Federal Fraud Lawsuit

The Los Angeles Times shows a consistent bias toward "Reader's Digest" type stories that are entertaining and give you something to gossip about but don't really tell you anything of value. I also get the sense that many LA Times reporters are really failed screenplay writers who can't let go of the need to create drama. However, they do occasionally print something worth reading.

The LA Times is owned by The Chicago Tribune , which puts even less original content on its Web site and is more "in-your-face" about pressuring you to subscribe.

I suspect Slashdot would link to The Wall Street Journal more often if the paper made more than 1% of its content available to non-paying subscribers. (I had a paid subscription to wsj.com for about a year, but I no longer do because it's just not worth that much to me.)

I'd like to read Le Monde , but the French refuse to publish an English version. Go figure.

All of Knight-Ridder's newspapers (The San Jose Mercury News , Miami Herald , Philadelphia Inquirer , et al) have been crippled by the "RealCities Network" which forces all of its sites to use the same content-poor, ad-rich design. The saddest story of the group is the SJMercury though, which has just fallen apart since the parent company began slashing costs and forcing the RealCities conformity on its once industry-leading site. The Miami Herald is an unofficial training school for future Washington Post reporters, but that doesn't matter if you can't find their content on the Web.

Slashdot doesn't link to the Financial Times often (ever?), though it's a great paper. It just doesn't turn out a lot of unique content that's of interest to most Slashdot readers.

Newspapers aside, Slashdot has linked to CNN and the BBC in the past, though not the CBC . ABC, CBS and NBC generally provide watered down news for people who don't like to read newspapers -- not Slashdot readers.

Slashdot often links to MSNBC , but I expect that will begin to decline -- MSNBC.com's founding editor (Merrill Brown, a former Washington Post reporter) recently announced that he's resigning after 6 years to pursue other, undisclosed "opportunities." The New York Times noted on June 12 (you'll have to pay for the archived version of the story) that he offhandedly mentioned that MSNBC.com is about to be swallowed by MSN for economic reasons. (In other words, Microsoft put its foot down and said financial concerns outweigh editorial concerns.)

The International Herald-Tribune writes some of its own content, but a lot of the paper is an amalgamation of New York Times and Washington Post stories.

I haven't read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer or the Seattle Times in a while, but you may find some good technology stories there.

Bottom Line: Slashdot links to a disproportionate number of New York Times and Washington Post stories because both papers' sites post a lot of content and that content is top notch. It also helps that they're among the most recognizable names in journalism, but the Slashdot system is set up to allow editors to pick from the best stories that are submitted, regardless of the content provider's brand recognition. If you read a good story somewhere, submit it -- the quality of the story is more important than the misguided registration policies of the content provider. And if I've missed a good site people should be reading, reply to this message and let people know.

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Letter sent to Sen. Feinstein on the Pledge

guttentag guttentag writes  |  more than 11 years ago Senator Feinstein:

As a California resident who voted for you in the 2000 election, I find your recent comments on the Pledge of Allegiance embarrassing, cowardly and ill-informed.

In your press release of June 26, 2002, you stated:

"This nation from its foundation has had a belief in God, and has a long tradition of expressing that belief."

In 1791, the first amendment added the following to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In 1954, 163 years later, Congress passed a law adding the words "under God" in response to lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, a religious group that proudly states its purpose as "Protecting Catholic Families for Generations." (see http://www.kofc.org/index_eng.cfm) The bill was forced through the legislature at the height of Senator Joseph McCarthy's reign as a statement to distinguish America from "Godless Communism" and signed by President Eisenhower (who was under direct attack by McCarthy at the time) just five months before Congress censured McCarthy (see http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/60.htm).

The individual's right to pursue his own religion without the pressure of government-imposed religious tenets is one of the oldest of American traditions. The profession that all true Americans believe in God is a modern, flawed tradition born of fear and political terrorism. The words "under God" must be stricken from the Pledge to preserve the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

I find it hard to believe that you truly believe it is Constitutional to require public school educators across America to teach children that this country is "one nation under God." It is a government endorsement of religions that believe in a God. I suspect it is more likely that you fear the backlash of the uninformed masses who believe that this ruling is an attack upon their religions.

Your comments on this subject only serve to perpetuate the cycle of fear and misinformation, heralding a return to the political climate of Sen. McCarthy. In an era where the Justice Department has declared that President Bush has the authority to arrest and hold American citizens ("enemy combatants") indefinitely without evidence, review or trial, our country cannot afford the kind of acquiescence you have demonstrated.

In your press release, you stated: "The words 'Under God' were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and I have never heard a single comment from anyone in half a century objecting to that." Now you have heard an objection, and you heard an objection in the ruling by the 9th Circuit Court justices, who are California voters as well.

If you cannot reconsider your statements on this subject, I must reconsider my vote. I will be vocal and precise in explaining that I cannot vote for you again because you have failed to serve your country in your capacity as a United States Senator.

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Karma Caps and Beanies

guttentag guttentag writes  |  more than 12 years ago Dear Rob (Taco, Whatever-you-go-by, etc.),

When I began regularly posting comments on Slashdot, I had a motivation. Every time I posted something good, I was rewarded with karma beans.

After I amassed about 25 of these beans, I was given the ability to "speak louder" with a +1 bonus. I got fewer beans per good comment, but my comments were more noticeable, so my bean hill grew faster.

When my mountain of beans grew to 50, I found (as expected) that I could no longer acquire beans. In fact, if three people modded my comments up and then one person modded a comment down for being moderated to high, I would lose a bean! The only logical thing I could do to protect my mountain was to keep my mouth shut, which I did.

A funny thing happens when a person shuts his mouth... he tends to hear a lot more. What I heard was that other people in the same situation were looking for ways to "spend" their karma. After all, they had earned it, so why couldn't they spend it?

Some people griped publicly about the existence of a karma cap, others complained about the non-existence of a karma store, and others went karma-postal -- they decided to blow their karma by being the biggest, loudest trolls they could muster.

All these people

  1. Were positive contributers, and
  2. Had lost their artificial impetus to contribute

So I think the karma cap ultimately hurt Slashdot by discouraging these contributors who have moved on to Troll-world, Abraham-Simpson-world, or silent retirement.

My Solution

Open a karma store where positive contributors can cash in their beans... and their cash. 50 karma beans plus $9.99 plus shipping plus tax (where applicable) gets you a beanie propeller cap with the words "I'm a 'karma whore'|'Slashdot nerd' emblazoned on the front. The first time you buy one you get yellow. Next time you get blue. Then another color, until you reach green, and finally black.

I envision a day when I can look out across a cubicle farm and tell the true nerds by the color of their beanies; and workers can be heard proudly stating "I have a Black Cap in Slashdot."

Thank you for sharing my dream.

Good morning.

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