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Comments

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Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

langelgjm Taxicabs (865 comments)

But are you actually proposing that a carrier of human cargo not be allowed to refuse service?

The idea isn't nearly as absurd as you make it sound. Regulated taxicabs in many cities are not allowed to refuse service - they must pick you up and take you where you want to go.

3 days ago
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Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

langelgjm Re:Back in the day? (502 comments)

Me too. Every time a sound played on my Compaq SLT 386, the entire system would lock up until it was done playing.

about two weeks ago
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Facebook's Emotion Experiment: Too Far, Or Social Network Norm?

langelgjm Advertising =/= scientific research (219 comments)

It's different from A/B testing in that the experiment is explicitly designed to cause harm to half of the participants.

Presumably most A/B testing would be designed to figure out which choice performs better on a set of metrics. But going in, there is little evidence to point to one or the other, and the "harm" caused would simply be in user experience. In this experiment, the researchers had a prior theory about which choice would cause harm, and the harm is emotional and psychological.

All that aside, if this was purely internal research at Facebook, it would still likely be unethical but probably nothing out of the ordinary. The fundamental different is that this is being presented as scientific research. It's published in PNAS. It involve three co-authors from various universities. There are standards, both legal and ethical, that must be followed when engaging in scientific research, and the concern is that such standards were perhaps not followed.

Manipulation and even inducing harm may be widespread throughout the advertising industry, but that's advertising, not science.

about a month ago
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In 2012, Facebook Altered Content To Tweak Readers' Emotions

langelgjm It's called the Common Rule (130 comments)

It's called the Common Rule, although it generally only applies to federally funded research. There is some evidence that this study was in part federally funded. I think there are serious questions about whether a click-through agreement meets the standards of informed consent.

Although the study was approved by an institutional review board, I'm surprised, and the comment from the Princeton editor makes me wonder how well they understood the research design (or how clearly it was explained to them). This would never have gotten past my IRB.

about a month ago
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Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

langelgjm Re:Some people may not afford to work less. (710 comments)

I'm sure there are stats on this, but I was under the impression that most people working more than 40 hours a week were salaried and overtime exempt, so they don't see any extra income from the extra work.

I would be surprised if it were otherwise - employers loathe time-and-a-half overtime pay, and would consider it unaffordable to pay someone for all those extra hours.

about a month ago
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Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

langelgjm It's probably annual (710 comments)

It's ambiguous, but it doesn't explicitly say "112 hours per week" which led me to assume it meant over the course of a year.

about a month ago
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Computational Thinking: AP Computer Science Vs AP Statistics?

langelgjm What about statistics vs calculus (155 comments)

It's not really a new debate, but the assumption that high school students will on average be better served by taking calculus instead of statistics could use some scrutiny.

Practically speaking, basic familiarity with statistics is also a form of civics - teaching kids when to call BS on bogus claims, helping them to understand what statistical significance means and doesn't mean, etc.

about a month ago
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2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

langelgjm citation needed (619 comments)

Well over 25% of gas tax funds go to side walks and bike trails and shit like that. How about we start with this.

Be honest. You just made up this number, didn't you?

about a month ago
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1958 Integrated Circuit Prototypes From Jack Kilby's TI Lab Up For Sale

langelgjm No. (76 comments)

OP complained about use of the word "gifted," claiming it was derived from Farmville jargon. This is factually incorrect and demonstrably false. I have never heard "gifted" in the context of Farmville or any other Zynga game until this Slashdot discussion. I have, however, heard it many times in normal English usage, used in ways similar to the examples given by the OED.

Just because OP is not familiar with the English word, which predates Zynga by centuries, does not mean that all modern usage derives from Zynga, which appears to be what you are arguing.

about a month ago
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1958 Integrated Circuit Prototypes From Jack Kilby's TI Lab Up For Sale

langelgjm Learn to use a dictionary (76 comments)

From the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of "gift" as a verb:

2. To bestow as a gift; to make a present of. Const. with to or dative. Also with away. Chiefly Sc.
1619 J. Sempill Sacrilege Sacredly Handled 31 If they object, that tithes, being gifted to Levi, in official inheritance, can stand no longer than Levi [etc.].
a1639 J. Spottiswood Hist. Church Scotl. (1677) v. 278 The recovery of a parcel of ground which the Queen had gifted to Mary Levinston.
1711 in A. McKay Hist. Kilmarnock (1880) 98 This bell was gifted by the Earl of Kilmarnock to the town of Kilmarnock for their Council~house.
1754 J. Erskine Princ. Law Scotl. (1809) i. 51 Where a fund is gifted for the establishment of a second minister, in a parish where the cure is thought too heavy for one [etc.].
1801 A. Ranken Hist. France I. 301 Parents were prohibited from selling, gifting, or pledging their children.
1829 J. Brown New Deeside Guide (1876) 19 College of Blairs..having been gifted to the Church of Rome by its proprietor.
1836 A. Alison Hist. Europe V. xlii. 697 Thus did Napoleon and D'Oubril..gift away Sicily.
1878 J. C. Lees Abbey of Paisley xix. 201 The Regent Murray gifted all the Church Property to Lord Sempill.

I'm not sure when Zynga was founded, but I'm pretty sure it was after 1619.

about a month ago
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Why Mobile Wallets Are Doomed

langelgjm Re:I can't see a benefit, so there is none... (272 comments)

And then there's always the good old, "Respond as if the commenter said something they actually didn't say." On that note, vi is clearly superior.

about 2 months ago
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Why Mobile Wallets Are Doomed

langelgjm I can't see a benefit, so there is none... (272 comments)

... is a time-tested Slashdot commenting strategy!

But seriously, I don't always carry my wallet with me, but I almost always carry my phone with me. Last year I found myself in the perfect position to benefit tremendously from a mobile wallet on my phone.

I was on mile 4 of a long bike ride when my rear tire failed. Not the tube (I carry a spare), the actual tire. I had decided not to bring my wallet with me, but I did have my phone. Anyway, I needed a replacement tire, but I had no money on me, and I realized that despite having my credit card number memorized, I didn't actually have any direct way to pay a bicycle shop for a tire, so I walked home.

But it felt silly - that I was carrying around a smartphone that has access to multiple bank accounts and payment services, and that I even knew my credit card number, yet without a little piece of plastic, I couldn't pay for anything.

Since then I don't go on bike rides without my wallet, but that's not really the point. Sometimes I take walks and don't want to bring my wallet. Occasionally I change my mind on the way home and decide it would be a good idea to stop at the grocery store. But no wallet, no way to purchase anything, despite having my phone.

In other words, there do exist situations in which one might reasonably have a phone but not a wallet. You may argue they are edge cases, but I am just one person. Other people mentioned check splitting, which is especially a headache in recent years since no one seems to carry cash anymore.

about 2 months ago
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London Black Cabs Threaten Chaos To Stop Uber

langelgjm Re:This (417 comments)

I hate having to pay the local super high taxi fares, but on the other hand, the service is first class. They are on time when preordered, the cars are nice and clean and safe. The drivers won't rob you, beat you, cheat you, or anything. They actually know their area, they also have navigators in every car, as well as the taxi centrals help. They are not allowed to refuse a drive because they don't feel like going to a direction where they won't find anyone to come back the other way.

Problem is, where I live, cabs are regulated, but the service is anything but first class. They're not on time, they're not nice and clean (seems like DC usually gets other cities' worn out cabs). At night, sometimes drivers turn off their meters. They're not allowed to refuse taking you to a destination, but they do anyway. They're not allowed to force passengers to share rides, but they do anyway. They are legally required to take credit cards, but they lie and say their machines are broken (until you say you can't pay because you don't have cash, at which point the machine magically starts working).

Point being, regulation doesn't necessarily mean good service. I've never used UberX, but the few times I've used Uber, while more expensive, it's been a much better experience than the typical cab.

about 3 months ago
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McAfee Grabbed Data Without Paying, Says Open Source Vulnerability Database

langelgjm Re:From a legal perspective, Swartz is probably wo (139 comments)

Well, he was going to be prosecuted primarily for violations of the CFAA, not copyright infringement.

Anyway the point I was trying to make is that I'm not convinced that OSVDB has any exclusive right to the information, period. If they don't have any exclusive right to it, then can try and "license" it all they want, but it doesn't matter. You don't get to just throw up a bunch of factual, non-copyrighted (and non-copyrightable) information on a public web page, then claim that anyone who doesn't comply with your "license" is doing something illegal... because they're facts. If you want to play that game, you'd better get your audience to sign a contract. There's no trade secrecy here, either, because the information is public.

Maybe OSVDB has some claim for unfair competition under state misappropriation laws, similar to the "hot news" doctrine. But their case would be much more convincing if they had a copyright claim, which even they don't seem convinced about.

Actually, given the way the CFAA is written (and abused), maybe that would cover the situation.

Of course McAfee is probably being a bad citizen here - I assume the point of the license, whether enforceable or not, is to try to defray the costs of establishing and maintaining the database. But simply being a bad citizen isn't necessarily illegal.

about 3 months ago
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McAfee Grabbed Data Without Paying, Says Open Source Vulnerability Database

langelgjm Re:From a legal perspective, Swartz is probably wo (139 comments)

Yeah, I also read something suggesting he wanted to do some text mining on the articles to find bias in corporate funded research. I think it was the prosecution pushing the idea that he wanted to release the articles, based on quotes from the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, etc.

about 3 months ago
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McAfee Grabbed Data Without Paying, Says Open Source Vulnerability Database

langelgjm From a legal perspective, Swartz is probably worse (139 comments)

There is no copyright in facts, which is why the Register article says there is a "debate" about copyright protection in databases. If a database is nothing more than a collection of facts, it won't be eligible for copyright protection. (It might be eligible for a database protection right in Europe, though)

That said, databases can be copyrighted if they contain original creative content, or if the selection and arrangement of the facts is original and creative. The article hints at a sweat of the brow justification, which would not work - just because you spend a lot of time compiling facts doesn't mean you get copyright in them (well, at least not in the U.S.). But the threshold for originality and creativity is pretty low, so if OSVDB does any editing or categorization or summarizing of reports, that might be enough to get them copyright in the database.

From a purely legal perspective, Swartz's intentions would probably be considered "worse." He mass-downloaded a bunch of articles from JSTOR (and no, I doubt all of them or even most of them were funded with public money), although he arguably had the right to do so. From what I understand, his intention was to release the articles to the public, but he never got that far. Had he done so, that would certainly have been a massive copyright violation, and there would have been multiple suits from multiple publishers (meanwhile, I'd imagine most of the authors of the articles wouldn't care, since they rarely if ever receive royalties for those articles, and often have to pay fees to have them published).

Whereas McAfee scrapes data from a publicly-accessible database that may or may not be protected by copyright. OSVDB will first have to prove they have a valid copyright in order to claim infringement. Maybe they'll fall back on this argument that even if not copyrighted, the data was licensed, but it's hard to throw up uncopyrighted data on a public web page and claim that there is some kind of binding license on everyone who accesses it. When uncopyrightable databases are licensed, that will usually involve signing a contract.

about 3 months ago
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$200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?

langelgjm Where do you live? (252 comments)

In my neck of the woods, educational institutions are legally allowed to break copyright for educational purposes. So it's fine to take one book and photocopy it a bazillion times.

Unless you live in a non-WTO member country, I highly doubt that's accurate. Maybe you're referring to the clause that sometimes appears in fair use/fair dealing statutes that says "multiple copies for classroom use"? If so, no, that doesn't mean you can take a book and copy the entire thing an indefinite number of times (although it does give a lot more flexibility than most educational institutions use).

I would wager it's more likely that that may be the de facto practice where you live, and nobody enforces the law.

about 3 months ago
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Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches

langelgjm Re:Jewelry (399 comments)

Agree. I have 6 watches. One is a dirt cheap analog Casio which is strapped to a motorcycle. One is a dirt cheap digital Timex which is also strapped to a different motorcycle. The other four are fancier, various colors (gold & leather, aluminum, steel, copper). I might wear a watch once a week, and I pick it to match what I'm wearing.

All the fancy ones were gifts. The next watch I buy will probably be another cheap Casio to strap on my bicycle. I think a smart watch is going to be a tough sell when everyone already has what will likely be a more capable smart phone on them already.

about 3 months ago
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The Best Parking Apps You've Never Heard Of and Why You Haven't

langelgjm Re:Bicycle! And motorcycle. (163 comments)

I'm surprised you even find garages that let you in. Most garages around me (and even just lots) specifically say no motorcycles. I think it's liability fears about the gate coming down on your head or something.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Can I Prepare For the Theft of My Android Phone?

langelgjm Re:Physical security? (374 comments)

Theft/burglary is extremely common in South Africa. Also, the Metrorail is well-known to be a prime location for crime. I visited a few months ago, and the advice was that the train was fine with more than a few people, but sometimes the cars will be nearly empty, and that is bad news. At the flat where I was staying, a tourist had had her baggage rifled through when she accidentally left a window open (virtually all properties are fenced in, so the burglar had to climb the fence to get in through the window).

about 5 months ago

Submissions

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When Asked, 90 Percent of Businesses Say IP is "Not Important"

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about 7 months ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In 2009, the National Science Foundation teamed up with the Census Bureau to ask U.S. businesses how important intellectual property was to them. Now, after three years of surveys, the results are in. Astonishingly, it turns out that when asked, 90 percent of businesses say intellectual property is "not important". While some very large businesses and specific sectors indicate that patents, copyrights, and trademarks are important, overall, the figures are shockingly low. What's more, the survey's results have received hardly any press. It appears that formal intellectual property protection is far less important to the vast majority of U.S. businesses than some federal agencies, such as the patent office, are willing to admit."
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How Perl and R reveal the United States' isolation in the TPP negotiations

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about 8 months ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "As /. reported, last Thursday Wikileaks released a draft text of the intellectual property chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Since then, many commentators have raised alarm about its contents. But what happens when you mix the leaked text together with Perl regular expressions and R's network analysis packages? You get some neat visualizations showing just how isolated the United States is in pushing for extreme copyright and patent laws."
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Supreme Court Upholds First Sale Doctrine

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about a year ago

langelgjm writes "In a closely-watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court today vindicated the first-sale doctrine, declaring that it "applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad." The case involved a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who sold cheap foreign versions of textbooks on eBay without the publisher’s permission. The 6-3 decision has important implications for goods sold online and in discount stores. Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion (PDF) that the publisher lost any ability to control what happens to its books after their first sale abroad."
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Apple and Amazon flirt with a market for used digital items

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about a year ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The New York Times reports (registration may be required) that Apple and Amazon are attempting to patent methods of enabling the resale of digital items like e-books and MP3s. Establishing a large marketplace for people to buy and sell used digital items has the potential to benefit consumers enormously, but copyright holders aren't happy. Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, "acknowledged it would be good for consumers — 'until there were no more authors anymore.'" But would the resale of digital items really be much different than the resale of physical items? Or is the problem that copyright holders just don't like resale?"
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Rep. Darrell Issa requests public comments on ACTA

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 2 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "After repeated dismissals by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Congressman Darrell Issa has taken matters into his own hands by posting a copy of ACTA, online and asking for public comments. ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a secretly negotiated multilateral trade treaty with the potential for profoundly affecting the Internet. "ACTA represents as great a threat to an open Internet as SOPA and PIPA and was drafted with even less transparency and input from digital citizens," Issa said. You can comment here."
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NYC to Release Teacher Evaluation Data over Union Protests

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 2 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "Bringing a lengthy legal battle to a close, New York City's Department of Education will today release detailed evaluation reports on individual English and math teachers as a result of a request under public information laws. The city's teachers union has responded with full page ads (PDF warning) decrying the methodology used in the evaluations. The court's decision attempts to balance the public interest in this data against the rights of individual teachers. Across the country, a large number of states are moving to evaluate teachers based on student performance in attempt to raise student achievement in the U.S."
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US Supreme Court upholds removal of works from Pub

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 2 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "While much of the web is focused on the SOPA and PIPA blackout, supporters of the public domain today quietly lost a protracted struggle that began back in 2001.The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, rejected the argument that Congress did not have the power to convey copyright upon works that were already in the public domain. The suit was originally filed to challenge provisions that the U.S. adopted when signing the TRIPs agreement. Justices Breyer and Alito dissented, arguing that conveyed copyright on already existing works defied the logic of copyright law. Justice Kagan recused herself. The text of the opinions is available here (PDF)."
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Report Finds Most Piracy Driven by High Prices

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 3 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The Social Science Research Council, an independent, non-profit organization, today released a major report on music, film and software piracy in developing economies. The product of three years of work, the authors conclude that piracy is primarily driven by excessively high prices and that anti-piracy education and enforcement efforts have failed. Still, chief editor Joe Karaganis believes that businesses can survive in these high piracy environments.

The report is free to readers in low-income countries, but behind a paywall for certain high-income countries, although the SSRC notes that "For those who must have it for free anyway, you probably know where to look.""

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ACTA not about counterfeiting, official admits

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 3 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "ACTA negotiators met with a limited number of civil society representatives at an informal lunch yesterday, in Washington, D.C. Biggest news from the event? Explicit admission that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement isn't actually about counterfeiting. According to those present, Luc Devigne, a lead EU negotiator, "asked more than once how you could have an 'IP Enforcement' treaty and not include patents—and dismissed suggestions that ACTA was specifically an 'Anti-Counterfeiting' treaty rather than a broader enforcement treaty." For those unaware, yet another ACTA negotiating round is taking place this week in Washington. It was announced with little fanfare by the United States Trade Representative's office hardly a day before beginning. Even stranger, a South Korean negotiator indicated that some civil society groups in South Korea are pushing for "internet morality" provisions to combat slander. No word yet on whether a new text will be released after the round ends; now would be a good time to call up USTR and demand more transparency."
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Google & Verizon's Real Net Neutrality Proposa

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 3 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "Announced this afternoon in a joint conference call held by CEOs Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg, Google and Verizon have released a joint net neutrality proposal in the form of a "suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers." This comes on the heels of last week's assertion (and subsequent denial) that Google and Verizon were close to concluding talks that would permit Verizon to prioritize certain content in exchange for pay. A look at the actual text of the framework shows some positive net neutrality principles, but there is also some more curious content: "Wireless broadband" is singled out for exclusion from most of the agreement, and providers would be permitted to prioritize "additional online services... distinguishable in scope and purpose." Public Knowledge, a watchdog group based in Washington, has criticized the agreement for these provisions."
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90+ Experts say ACTA Threatens Public Interest

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In the lead up to next week's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations in Lucerne, a conference that drew over 90 academics and experts from six continents has released a statement issuing a harsh condemnation of both the substance and process of the agreement.

Held last week at American University's Washington College of Law, the attendees say "We find that the terms of the publicly released draft of ACTA threaten numerous public interests, including every concern specifically disclaimed by negotiators." The "urgent communique" covers more than the usual ACTA topics of interest on Slashdot: in addition to the agreement's effect on the Internet, it also considers the effects on access to medicines, international trade, and developing countries.

Meanwhile, Public Knowledge has an action alert where you can send a note to the White House expressing your opposition to ACTA."

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A Dream for Music, but Labels’ Nightmare

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "Michael Robertson, a "serial entrepreneur" of MP3.com fame, has made Slashdot news several times before. A recent article in the New York Times (registration may be required) discusses MP3tunes, the successor to MP3.com. MP3tunes allows you to rip your entire CD collection and store it online, whence it can be streamed to computers and various internet-equipped devices, including the iPhone and Android, and even the Playstation and Wii. However, the record industry is in the midst of a lawsuit against Robertson and his service, claiming that he should be paying licensing fees. The industry points to its blessed competitor, Catch Media, as the proper alternative: "Mark Segall, its business development adviser, says the company will soon announce which music companies will use the technology but suggests that consumers will have to pay a "convenience fee" for streaming their music from the Web, comparable to charges at an A.T.M. Won't people balk at paying again to listen to R.E.M. songs they have owned since the 1980s? Catch Media hopes not.""
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Man swallows flash drive; obstruction of justice?

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In an incident that is ripe for puns, Florin Necula, a New York City man, swallowed a flash drive in an attempt to deny investigators access to its contents. The ploy worked — at least temporarily. After four days, Necula agreed to allow doctors to remove the drive. Necula is being charged with obstruction of justice; he and three others are suspects are believed to have installed ATM skimmers on several machines in an attempt to obtain bank account information. Should've used TrueCrypt."
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Major ACTA Leak shows divison among US, EU, others

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist is reporting that the "biggest ACTA leak yet" is available today. The 44 page document (PDF) goes further than any leaks yet by discussing the individual positions of negotiating countries on particular issues. For example, "On the issue of anti-circumvention legislation and access controls, the U.S. wants it included per the DCMA, but many other countries, including the EU, Japan, and New Zealand do not, noting that the WIPO Internet treaties do not require it." Geist's blog list a number of other topics from the document, including ISP safe harbor and notice-and-takedown. The document reveals significant divisions in negotiating parties, often with the U.S. pushing for greater enforcement measures than other countries are prepared to accept.

In related news, USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk will meet with members of the Senate Finance Committee this week to discuss US trade policy. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon recently expressed concern over the lack of transparency and possible provisions of ACTA, sending a letter to Kirk about the issue. Any Oregonians should take this opportunity to call Wyden's office and ask him to question Kirk directly about ACTA."

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D.C. detective pulls gun at snowball fight

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The Washington Post reports that during Saturday's record-breaking snowfall, hundreds of twenty- and thirty-somethings gathered in a mostly-empty area of the city and proceeded to have an enormous snowball fight. Things were all fun and games until a D.C. detective in plainclothes stopped in the middle of the fight, leaving his Hummer and confronting the crowd with his gun drawn. At first, D.C. police denied the claims, but the incident was caught on tape. The detective is currently on desk duty pending an investigation. The tech angle to all of this? 25-year-old Yousef Ali, a one-time Apple Genius, said he was inspired to start the snowball fight by a friend's Facebook status and used a dormant personal blog and extensive Twitter promotion to expand the participant list: "Basically, I used a lot of my social media promotions techniques... to really push this thing pretty big.""
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Obama Sides With Blind in Copyright Treaty Debate

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In an unexpected turn of events, Wired is reporting that the Obama administration has expressed support for a treaty that would permit cross-border sharing of copyrighted works accessible to blind and visually-impaired people. A few days ago, we discussed the nearly unanimous opposition from U.S. industries to any treaty expands copyright limitations and exceptions. A Department of Commerce advisor spoke before the World Intellectual Property Organization today, saying that "We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view."According to the EFF's Eddan Katz, the move represents a "an historic paradigm shift in international technology policy." At the same time, however, the U.S. representative cautioned that the administration was willing to strengthen international copyright laws in other regards."
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Copyright Industries oppose Treaty for Blind

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "According to Wired, "A broad swath of American enterprise ranging from major software makers to motion picture and music companies are joining forces to oppose a new international treaty that would make books more accessible to the blind." With the exception of Google, almost every major industry player has expressed disapproval of the treaty, which would allow cross-border sharing of digitized books accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Google's chief copyright counsel believes the industry-wide opposition is mainly due to “opposition to a larger agenda of limitations and exceptions... We believe this is an unproductive approach to solving what is a discrete, long-standing problem that affects a group that needs and deserves the protections of the international community.”"
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Will books be Napsterized?

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "An article from yesterday's New York Times asks the question, will books be Napsterized? So far, piracy of books has not reached the degree of music or movie piracy, in part due to the lack of good equipment on which to read and enjoy pirated books. The article points to the growing adoption of e-book readers as the publishing industry's newest nemesis. With ever-cheaper ways to conveniently use pirated books, authors and publishers may be facing serious changes ahead. Interestingly, this is something I wrote about three months ago in my journal, where I called the Kindle DX an "iPod for books.""
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Wikipedia slammed for Rorschach test "cheat sh

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The New York Times reports that Wikipedia is attracting criticism from many psychologists (registration possibly required) after having published images of the ten standard Rorschach inkblots, along with the most common responses given for each. Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach created the inkblot test in the 1920s, and the test is still widely used in the mental health field.

Several vocal psychologists have argued that posting the inkblots is potentially harming scientific research. Bruce L. Smith, president of the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods, says "The more test materials are promulgated widely, the more possibility there is to game it." But James Heilman, an emergency room doctor who originally posted the inkblots on Wikipedia, counters by suggesting that "If someone had previous knowledge of the eye chart, you can go to the car people, and you could recount the chart from memory. You could get into an accident. Should we take it down from Wikipedia?"

Despite the fact that the images themselves are no longer under copyright, a German publishing company has stated that they are considering legal action against Wikimedia."

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Psychologists slam WP's Rorschach "cheat sheat

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The New York Times reports that Wikipedia is attracting criticism from many psychologists after having published images of the ten standard Rorschach inkblots, along with the most common responses given for each. Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach created the inkblot test in the 1920s, and the test is still widely used in the mental health field.

Several vocal psychologists have argued that posting the inkblots is potentially harming scientific research. Bruce L. Smith, president of the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods, says "The more test materials are promulgated widely, the more possibility there is to game it." But James Heilman, an emergency room doctor who originally posted the inkblots on Wikipedia, counters by suggesting that "If someone had previous knowledge of the eye chart, you can go to the car people, and you could recount the chart from memory. You could get into an accident. Should we take it down from Wikipedia?"

Despite the fact that the images themselves are no longer under copyright, a German publishing company has stated that they are considering legal action against Wikimedia."

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A Slashdotter's thoughts on the Kindle DX

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about 5 years ago

I've been using the Kindle DX for about a week now, and I thought I'd post some initial thoughts about the device. There are plenty of reviews on tech sites out there, so while I will cover some of the typical review ground, I'm also going to include some other, non-review type thoughts for your consideration.

First, why bother with an e-book reader in the first place? The answer depends on the individual. If you read a lot of paperback fiction, a smaller format reader like the Kindle 2 or a Sony model might suit you; digital books seem to cost slightly less than their physical counterparts, though the difference is small enough that it might take you a long time to recoup the cost of the device.

However, if you find yourself having to read a lot of PDFs, an e-book reader becomes more attractive. In academia, journal articles are distributed as PDFs; often professors distribute scanned materials as PDFs; dissertations and book chapters circulate as PDFs. Outside academia, lots of government and industry reports are distributed as PDFs. In other words, there's simply a lot of PDF reading material. Typically, your options for reading this are: 1) read it on a computer screen, or 2) print it out and read it. Option 1 becomes tiring after about 10 pages, and also requires having a computer. Option 2 costs time and money, and either results in a significant amount of paper waste, or a lot of paper that needs to be catalogued and stored somewhere.

Enter the e-book reader. E-ink displays are not backlit, are fairly glare-free, and provide a contrast comparable to a newspaper. This means, for example, that they can be read outside in direct sunlight (try that with a laptop). Eye fatigue is no longer an issue (I've read about 500 paper-back size pages on the DX so far without any issue); waste is avoided; storage and cataloguing are made infinitely easier.

Second, why the Kindle DX? Quite simply because it is a large-format, (relatively) high-resolution reader. The DX's screen measures 9.7" diagonally, with a resolution of 824 x 1200. Compare this with the typical small-format e-book reader, which sports a 6" screen, and a 600 x 800 resolution. The only products I am aware of that compete with the DX in screen size and resolution are manufactured by iRex; they appear to be superior feature-wise, but they are also significantly more expensive, and there are numerous complaints about iRex's products and support (or at least enough to make one very nervous about plopping down the cash - see the iRex fora for details.). While the DX is not cheap, iRex's products range from EU 600 to EU 700. Furthermore, the DX is Amazon's first Kindle to natively support PDFs. In this respect, Amazon is somewhat late to the game; competing devices such as Sony's PRS-505 have offered native PDF support for about a year already.

The DX's PDF rendering is, frankly, superb. I have viewed about a hundred documents from various sources and distiller versions, and so far, only one has rendered improperly, and even that was only a font issue (it was a local government report, so I'm not confident of the quality of the original document, either). Images look surprisingly good, despite being shown in a mere 16 shades of gray. Anything other than rendering, however, is hit-or-miss. Full-text searching depends on whether the original document contains searchable text, of course. While the screen is large enough to mostly obviate the need for zooming, it is unfortunate that the only way to enlarge the size of a PDF is to rotate the DX to landscape mode, and even this only seems to work with about 75% of the documents I have. Links within PDFs do not function. In keeping with the nature of PDFs, text size cannot be automatically adjusted. In spite of these flaws, for me, the PDF rendering is the killer feature. Journal articles, many of which are printed on less than letter size paper in the first place, fit perfectly on the DX's screen.

Another touted feature of the DX (as well as other Kindles) is Sprint's 3G Whispernet service. This essentially functions as a free internet connection, primarily designed to allow you to browse and purchase selections from the Amazon Kindle store; however, the DX also includes a basic web browser that is fairly capable. I have used it to read Slashdot and the New York Times, search Wikipedia and Google Maps, and to browse Project Gutenberg. The latter is particularly exciting; the DX can directly download certain file formats, such as the MOBI format e-books offered by Project Gutenberg, through the Whispernet service. All this comes with the caveat that Amazon reserves the right at any time to change the terms of service regarding Whispernet. I can only hope that DX users do not abuse the service and cause Amazon to begin charging for its use.

Many of you will have heard of the debates over the Kindle 2 and DX's text-to-speech feature, which allows the device to read documents aloud. Suffice it to say that I do not anticipate using this feature much, and don't feel like discussing the issues of copyright and accessibility raised by publisher-imposed limitations on the feature (at least not in this review). The DX can play MP3 files, but I find this also to be mostly a novelty, since you cannot feasibly control the order in which they are played. If this feature were improved, the DX might be useful for people who wish to listen to music while reading sheet music (and sheet music looks pretty good on here, though it's probably a bit too small to be used while playing).

The DX includes a dictionary which will be extensive enough for most users. Other features include the ability to insert bookmarks and various annotations. Excerpts can also be "clipped" and saved to a file which can be retrieved when the DX is attached to a computer. When the DX is attached, it functions as a simple USB mass storage device, meaning it is essentially platform independent. No special software or drivers are required (or available). These annotation features appear to be fairly rudimentary, and the tiny chiclet-style keys force me to emphasize that the DX cannot function as a note-taking device.

Flaws include a total lack of organizational ability, which Amazon, in perennial mulishness, refuses to address. The solution would be a firmware update that allows the DX to browse the directory structure. One of their developers could fix this in an afternoon, but instead they have chosen to ignore repeated requests, a fact which is costing them sales (seriously - I read one review where the professor returned the DX because of the lack of folders). My less-than-ideal solution involves manually renaming files with tags, which are then alphabetically sorted and can be searched.

In short, the DX is first and foremost a reader. It does this job well, and well enough that someone who does a good deal of large-format or PDF reading may be able to justify its cost.

Now to other thoughts. I can sum these up simply: the DX is an iPod for books.

Think carefully about what that means. What are most people's iPods filled with? We'll not kid ourselves: pirated music. Of course pirated books and texts have been on the Internet for years, long before the MP3 reached its zenith. But just as the iPod made listening to those MP3s simple and enjoyable, to really enjoy a pirated book, you'll need an e-book reader, unless you want to read on the computer or print it out. Now, even e-book readers have been around a while; however, there are a variety of formats, and conversion between them is not always simple. PDF, on the other hand, is an extremely common and widely used format. This means that one could load up their DX with hundreds of pirated PDF books, all in one portable, simple to use package.

I won't be bold enough to call this a prediction, but rather a possibility: with the increasing adoption of e-book readers, particularly those capable of reading PDFs, we might witness digital book piracy on a much wider scale than before. I doubt it will ever reach the levels of music piracy, since books require a much larger investment of time to digest, but I do think it will increase markedly. The interesting thing about this is that while music piracy seems to cluster around recent and highly popular works, I don't think this will be as much the case with book piracy. Don't get me wrong; you can find all of J. K. Rowling's or Stephanie Meyer's works on The Pirate Bay, but you can also find the works of Isaac Asimov and Ayn Rand. Slightly older books such as the latter, despite not being classics of all time, still elicit continued interest. So, when book piracy increases, sure, we'll see this year's bestsellers being shared, but we'll also see a lot more books published between 1923 and 1980 being shared than we see music from that time. This also means that we'll see a lot of books that, while still under copyright, were written by authors who are now dead. And if the copyright debate turns toward digital book piracy with even partially the same furor it has over music piracy, it's going to be a lot harder to convince people to feel bad about violating the copyrights of dead authors.

If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks, lent to friends, and forgotten carelessly. The DX is the first step in that direction. Like all consumer electronics, the price will drop eventually (remember how expensive the first VCRs and DVD players were?). And the idea of having free, wireless access anywhere in the U.S. to a sizable library of public domain works at Project Gutenberg is pretty inspiring. Imagine expanding that idea so that anyone with an e-book reader had access to a universal library of books. It'll be possible... let's hope that copyright doesn't stand in the way.

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Meta: Total Number of Comments?

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Before all the changes to /.'s system, user's comment pages used to display the last 24 comments that had been posted (subscribers could see more). On that page, there was a heading that read "User's last 24 of X comments", where X was the total number of comments that the user had ever posted under that nick.

However, this disappeared a while ago, and as far as I can tell, there is now no way to ascertain the total number of comments that a user has posted. This is mildly annoying, because it was an interesting way to see how much someone has participated in discussions over their /. lifetime.

Does anyone know where/how to find this information? I e-mailed help one time and got a response, but I don't think they understood what I was asking, as they simply directed me to the user comment page.

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