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Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework

l2718 Exactly (278 comments)

Homework -- self practice -- is where you actually learn the material. When parents do their kids' homework, the kids lose the opportunity to learn the material for themselves.

This isn't to say that students don't need help. Rather, they need help thinking through the material instead of the "help" of being told the solution.

about three weeks ago

BSD Real-Time Operating System NuttX Makes Its 100th Release: NuttX 6.33

l2718 This isn't BSD! (64 comments)

The headline creates the impression that this is a real-time adaptation of BSD (the "Berkeley Software Distribution", that is, BSD Unix). In fact, this OS is an original development; it is merely licensed under the terms that BSD is licensed under.

Would the headline have said "A GNU real-time OS" if it was licensed under the GPL, the license of the GNU operating system?

about 2 months ago

Why Whistleblowers Can't Get a Fair Trial

l2718 Paywalled articles on slashdot (441 comments)

The link is to a news story behind the Wall Street Journal's paywall; I think such stories should be reconsidered. Such situations are acceptable with posts on science, which often link both to a popular-science write-up and to the original journal article: probably those readers with the expertise to read the original literature are subscribers. Links to ordinary news stories should follow the same policy: if there must be a link to a paywalled story, a link to a generally accessible version should be expected as well.

about 3 months ago

Nintendo Defeats and Assumes Control of 'Patent Troll's' Portfolio After Victory

l2718 Re: not exactly a troll. IA made similar, met Nint (87 comments)

Labelling your opponents "trolls" will be the new corporate propaganda term, just like labeling copyright infringement "pirates".

about 3 months ago

Linux Distributions Storing Wi-Fi Passwords In Plain Text

l2718 Usually, no (341 comments)

What is your threat model?

  • -- If your main concern is someone remotely accessing your machine while it is connected to the internet, then full-disk encryption is irrelevant. Programs running on your computer must be able to read the disk. Specifically regarding those WiFi passwords the article is trying to scare you with, they are stored in a file which is only readable by the root (=administrator) user. If the "evil" program can read the file, it has already achieved full privileges on your machine, and it reading WiFi passwords is the least of your concerns.
  • -- If, on the other hand, you would like protection against people who physically hold your machine (border guards when leaving/entering countries, or your business competitor who has stolen your machine) then you absolutely need full-disk encryption. Having restrictions on which programs can read a file is no protection against someone who can extract the harddrive from your machine and plug it into theirs (or simply boot your machine from a live-CD), gaining automatic access to every bit of information.

In short, in order to decide what security you need, you must first formulate your threat model. For a funny take on this see XKCD.

about 3 months ago

'Approximate Computing' Saves Energy

l2718 Re:Accuracy isn't important anymore (154 comments)

I don't think you appreciate the point. In most cases, rather than multiplying 152343x1534324, you might as well just multiply 15x10^4x15x10^5 = 225x10^9

. And to understand this you need to be very comfortable with what 2+2 equals exactly.

about 4 months ago

'Approximate Computing' Saves Energy

l2718 Numerical computation is pervasive (154 comments)

This is not about data centers and databases. This is about scientific computation -- video and audio playback, physics simulation, and the like.

The idea of doing a computation approximately first, and then refining the results only in the parts where more accuracy is useful is an old idea; one manifestation are multigrid algorithms.

about 4 months ago

Researchers Build Covert Acoustical Mesh Networks In Air

l2718 Lock down I/O (107 comments)

An "air gap" means making sue a computer cannot exchange information with other computers. LAN is one way to do so, but other sensors on the computer can be used for input, and other devices for output. Is it really a surprise that the microphone on a computer can be used as an input device?

about 5 months ago

Arizona Approves Grid-Connection Fees For Solar Rooftops

l2718 Simple restructing of the fee (363 comments)

The cost of delivering power has two components: fixed costs (say, power lines to the home) and variable costs (say, of producing the power) The current system was to bundle the fixed costs into the variable ones, and just chage proportional to consumption. Since those selling back power to the grid still need to pay for the fixed costs, this principle of this change seems right. Better execution would have been to add the fixed cost to everyone and make a corresponding reduction to the marginal (per KWh) tariff, at which point those with and without solar panels would be treated equally.

about 5 months ago

Oregon Extends Push To Track, Tax Drivers Per Mile

l2718 Raising the tax doesn't have to raise revenue (658 comments)

If you assume that consumption of gas is independent of price (totally ineslastic demand), then raising the tax will increase revenue. But in the real world, when prices go up consumption goes down, and at current prices it is very well possible that raising the tax rate will lower consumption enought to lower revenue -- at which point lowering the rate would be the way to raise more revenue.

The problem with a gas tax is that as energy-efficient vehicles become more common, the state's expenses (road maintenance) are becoming less and less correlated with fuel consumption. But since tracking drivers to collect actual usage tax is far worse, I agree that gas taxes are better.

about 6 months ago

Will New Red-Text Warnings Kill Casual Use of Java?

l2718 Bad for science education (282 comments)

Java applets are an essential tool for science education -- as simulators, calculators etc. Are all these research groups supposed to get some authority to digitally sign their applets?

Fundametally, a major aspect of Java security is that, since it runs on a VM, an applet it is inherently encapsulated. Yes, VM bugs can cause problems, but the value of all the free educational applets online far exceeds any possibly security benefits of unptached VM bugs.

about 7 months ago

RSA Warns Developers Not To Use RSA Products

l2718 The other half of the backdoor (128 comments)

When it was discovered in 2007 that the NSA insisted on adding this PRNG to the standard, with constants they chose the general reaction was "so what? after all, this is one of many alternatives, and it is the slowest and least efficient". I assumed their idea was to somehow choose the PRNG in applications where they were one of the parties, but that seemed unlikely.

It's now clear what the idea was: secretly having companies use this PRNG. The original assumption was that companies voluntarily choose what products to put out, and that no-one would choose the obviously worst alternative. But if the NSA chould be the ones choosing ...

about 7 months ago

Yahoo and Facebook Join Google In FISC Petition After Government Talks Fail

l2718 "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" (114 comments)

First, note the name of the court. Second, consider the surveillance Google et al would like to discuss.

about 7 months ago

Technologies Like Google's Self-Driving Car: Destroying Jobs?

l2718 Less waste of human labour (736 comments)

This is the old Luddite argument: without technology a lot more effort is required to get things done -- so more people get work. It follows that technology is bad.

In fact, the situation is exactly the opposite: if a machine can drive a car, then having a person drive the car is a waste of the person's time. They can instead do something else with their time, so society get both that and the driving done. In the 19th century, more than 80% of US population directly worked in agriculture. Today, the propotion is 2-3% -- yet we have a lot more food, and many other things to boot.

It's true that in the short term, there is a loss when the specialized skills (say driving) of the people displaced become less valuable, and those people lose their jobs. But this is a transient effect. Some skills were standard 30 years ago, yet rare today.

The more important issue is that technology more easily replaces low-skilled workers. Computers have reduced the demand for secretarial work; robots and other industrial automation reduce the demand for factory workers, and so on. This increases the returns to IQ and education, and reduces the number of well-paying jobs available to less-educated workers. But this seems inevitable, and needs to be solved by changing the attitudes of society toward education rather than by hamstringing technological progress.

about 8 months ago

San Jose State Suspends Collaboration With Udacity

l2718 Re:Is that not a good thing? (116 comments)

Wake up and smell the roses. And then try to fix elementary school. It's practically impossible to repair this damage by the time students reach college (and even highschool is too late).

about 9 months ago

Google and NASA Snap Up D-Wave Quantum Computer

l2718 Not a scam, just not a quantum computer (108 comments)

This is definitely not a scam. This company built a device which uses quantum-mechanical effects to quickly solve simulated annealing problems. They get a huge speedup in solving quatum annealing problems — which is what the customers are paying for. The customers understand exactly what they are buying -- no shenanigans here.

However, D-Wave's publicity is rather dishonest. They call their device a "quantum computer" and issue press releases with that term, despite the fact that their device is definitely not a quantum computer in the sense that theoretical computer scientists use the word. It may be that we need to redefine what "quantum computer" means, especially since D-Wave are the only ones with a product on the market that uses quantum mechanics in a computation, but so far this hasn't changed.

about a year ago

N. Carolina May Ban Tesla Sales To Prevent "Unfair Competition"

l2718 Re:The best part of the article is at the bottom (555 comments)

So the right to free speech doesn't include the right to speak together with other people, unless you grant me that right? That's downright offensive. I have a right to free speech — including the right to band together with other people and speak jointly.

Specifically, do you think the ACLU and the NAACP (both of which are corporations) have a right to free speech? What about the AFL-CIO? Of do you think that it's OK for the governmet to limit what the ACLU can say on the theory that it's a corporation, not a person?

about a year ago

E-Sports League Stuffed Bitcoin Mining Code Inside Client Software

l2718 The role of analogies in moral discussion (223 comments)

I think you miss the point of arguing by analogy here, which is to establish a moral or legal reference point (depending on the discussion). Most of us have a personal idea of the moral weight of (relatively) common actions like robbing a bank, stealing a car for a joyride (you asked for it!) and helping an old woman cross the street. When we are faced with a new phenomenon (abusing the fact that users run your code to suborn their computing power for personal gain), we need to decide what moral weight to give it. The natural approach is not to start from first principles, but rather to compare it with our existing framework -- in other words to argue by analogy. We say "this was not nearly as serious as bank robbery" or "this is certainly more serious than selling crappy software". The situation is very similar when we address the legal question ("considering our existing set of legal rules, what should the punishment be?"). To me such thinking is very important, or you end up with the current US regime where criminal hacking into a computer can lead to more jail time than raping the sysadmin.

about a year ago

W3C Finalizes the Definition of HTML5

l2718 Codec? (113 comments)

Could you state the final decision regarding elements?

about a year ago

Schneier: We Don't Need SHA-3

l2718 Useful replacement (143 comments)

Faster computation of hash functions is very important, especially to low-power devices. In other words, even if the improvements in cryptographic strength are irrelevant I'd expect the new standard to be adopted quickly.

about a year and a half ago



The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents

l2718 l2718 writes  |  about a year ago

l2718 (514756) writes "The Electronic Frontiers Foundation announced today a large donation by Mark Cuban and Markus Persson to the EFF Patent Project. Notably, part of Cuban's donation is for the creation of the "Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents" (the first holder is current staff attorney Julie Samuels). Time will tell if the new title will help her advocacy work."
Link to Original Source

Predicting extreme longevity using genetic tests

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "Cue the Howard foundation? Boston University researchers published yesterday a paper in Science, claiming to be able to predict using genetic testing whether (controlling for lifestyle-based risks) someone will have "average longevity" or "exceptional longevity" with 77% accuracy. The densely written paper itself is only available to subscribers."
Link to Original Source

Diebold vote-tabulation software loses votes

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 5 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "A bug in Diebold's vote-tabulation software has come to light, where the software may ignore some votes if other Project". It seems Diebold knew of the bug at least since 2004. Probably posting the source code on-line before the elections would be a nice complement, as well as verifying that the software you run is the software that gets posted."
Link to Original Source

Voting machine discrepancies in NJ primaries

l2718 l2718 writes  |  about 6 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "Prof. Ed Felten has posted a voting machine summary printout from the recent New Jersey primaries, clearly documenting a bug in the Sequoia "AVC Advantage" machines used. Specifically, the machine claims 362 Democratic ballots and 60 Republican ballots have been accessed, while at the same time recording a total of 361 votes for Democratic party candidates and 61 for Republican party candidates. The results literally do not add up. Sequoia's concern that the State might arrange for independent investigation of this bug is what prompted the nastigram we discussed yesterday."
Link to Original Source

Warner Music CEO: war with consumers was wrong

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "Edgar Bronfman, CEO of the Warner Music Group, publicly framed the music industry's failure to accomodate file-sharing as an "invadvertent" war on consumers. I'm left wondering how you can file a series of lawsuits inadvertently.

"We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding ... By ... moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won."

Link to Original Source

Vodka used as medicinal alcohol

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "A large dose of ethanol is commonoly used to treat poisoning by other alcohols. When Australian doctors ran out of pure alcohol while treating an Italian tourist who drank ethylene glycol, they tried an alternate medical protocol instead.

"The patient was drip-fed about three standard drinks an hour for three days in the intensive care unit," [a doctor] said. "The hospital's administrators were also very understanding when we explained our reasons for buying a case of vodka."

Reports: Voting machines fail review

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "The California Secretary of State has released the reports of the teams studying e-voting machines from Dieblod, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia. These were three source code study teams (one for each manufacturer), a "red team" tasked with developing exploits, and an accessibility review team. The conclusion: in all cases the design and implementation are extremely insecure and vulnerable. See also the reactions by Ed Felten and Avi Rubin."
Link to Original Source

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "Novell has made their next move in their lawsuit against SCO. Clause 4.16(b) of the contact of sale for UNIX System V between Novell and the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO's predecessor), says, in part:
at [Novell]'s sole discretion and direction, Buyer shall amend, supplement, modify or waive any rights under, or shall assign any rights to, any SVRX License to the extent so directed in any manner or respect by Seller.
Background: After SCO claimed to terminate IBM's UNIX license, Novell directed them (on June 9th, 2003) to waive their right to do so. If granted this motion will make another part of SCO vs. IBM go away — IBM's attempt to enforce the clause in their amdended license agreement saying the license grant is irrevocable and perpetual. Fortunately the same district judge and magistrate judge are overseeing both cases."

l2718 l2718 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

l2718 (514756) writes "Recently installed in Boston University's campus is the world's first mix-to-order ice-cream vending machine. Controlled by a standard PC board and running a Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP combo the machine makes any of 96 flavours of ice-cream as requested by the customer, and can be remotely monitored and controlled. This should be an interesting AMD-Redhat flavour to try."


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