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52 Million Photos In FBI's Face Recognition Database By Next Year

larwe Re:tie that to K'nect camera (84 comments)

I'd love to argue with you... but I can't. Have a very pleasant and conformist day, citizen.

9 hours ago
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52 Million Photos In FBI's Face Recognition Database By Next Year

larwe Re:tie that to K'nect camera (84 comments)

Those won't work, there are acceptance standards for those photographs. No headgear (possible religious exemption), no tinted eyeglasses, etc etc. Also, how many women do you know with a full mustache and knee-length beard? (I realize the answer to this may be nonzero, but it's going to be small). When I went to renew my passport a few years ago [Australian], they had additional requirements "neutral expression, no smiling" and they were explicit about the fact that this was to improve facial recognition DB matching. All this is nothing at all compared to the databases in the United Peoples' Democratic Republic of Europistan, of course. Interestingly, all this facial recognition and cross-referencing is a real problem for spies. Passports with biometric information in them that can be cross-referenced to a central database are a serious problem to a guy whose job is to enter Russia as Mr. John Smith, tourist today and enter it again next week as Mr. Alphonse Gambolputty, international financier.

11 hours ago
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Ad Tracking: Is Anything Being Done?

larwe Re:Ghostery (303 comments)

fark.com is the one that comes immediately to mind. Of course, I then simply need to block the begging as well. Actually I find adblock indispensable not simply for removing ads, but for removing not-exactly-advertising meaningless UI elements that occupy screen real estate. I'm talking about boxes full of 35 different "share this page on these social media sites" icons, and static headers with flyout menus that stick to the top of the browser window, not to mention those goddamn annoying "toasters" that pop up in the lower right corner once you scroll past a certain spot in an article. And reader comment engines like Disqus, not to mention "recommended related content" IFRAMEs (e.g. Outbrain) on news sites. My Internet experience is completely different from that which would be experienced by someone without adblock, it's a lot more than just the absence of ads.

about two weeks ago
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Should Patients Have the Option To Not Know Their DNA?

larwe Re:Insurance Premiums (157 comments)

Yeah, this was one of my concerns too - but it would appear with Obamacare no longer allowing charges for preexisting conditions, an increased insurance premium because of DNA screening results isn't CURRENTLY possible. In general, my philosophy is that it should be possible for people to opt out of ALL data collection. Not merely disclosure, but collection. An infinitely large database of information has an infinitely large possibility of abuse. It should be possible for people to opt out of electronic health records, also - or at least have a user controlled kill switch to permanently erase their EHR.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is a Better Career Opportunity Worth a Pay Cut?

larwe In a word: Yes [I can relate] (263 comments)

I worked for about eight years for a Fortune 500 (actually its ranking was two digits... and it wasn't #99). Benefits were great, pay was very good since they let me relocate from NYC (cripplingly high taxes) to FL (no state or city taxes) and keep my NYC salary and bonus. Flipside, I'd already had to change career paths entirely within the organization (from engineering to product management) in order to get a promotion, because the peristalsis was just too slow. And on every side, beset by "you can't get there from here" processes and conflicting goals. The analogy I used was that the company was trying to use a standard process built around the nuclear weapons industry in order to make toy dolls, and wondering why it could never get a project finished in time to be relevant. The only turnover to speak of was people who came in, tried to get things done, and were either torpedoed by vested interests, or gave up the struggle and moved on to other pastures where they could satisfy their thirst for meaningful achievement. About a year ago, I happened across a job posting for a small software company close to my new home in FL. Much smaller, but *DOING THINGS* and generally accelerating upwards. I negotiated the same salary, but no bonus, no 401k match, and generally smaller benefits all round. So I took a "pay" cut of perhaps $20-25k, all things considered, but I do not regret the move for one microsecond; I've already had one promotion, of a sort, and I enjoy what I do (when I'm not cursing at it - hey, this is software, after all! :)). Other people in my position might have felt differently - especially those closer to retirement and looking to stick with a dead-end railroad job to harvest benefits. I'm not young, but I'm also not anywhere near an age where retirement will be possible. And a considerable amount of my personal happiness is tied up in the question "what useful thing did I get done today?" TL;DR: this is a personal decision and you have to decide how much risk you're willing to stomach. And yes there is the possibility you'll be screwed, either maliciously or simply because your employer had expectations beyond what any one person can achieve. All of us on the other side of the internets can't make the judgement call for you as to whether this is a possible malice situation - you've spoken to this new employer, we haven't - and as for the expectations-too-high part, the way to manage this is with explicit goals, preferably chopped up into slices no bigger than three months. Check in frequently to make sure management knows how you're progressing and what things are slowing you down.

about 2 months ago
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Australian Team Working On Engines Without Piston Rings

larwe Re:Nice idea but... (368 comments)

Eyeroll. "In the long term we are all dead". For the lifespan of everyone who is alive to read this today (discounting a war that destroys industrial civilization), the internal combustion engine will be the dominant powerplant for transportation. Deal with it.

about 3 months ago
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Australian Team Working On Engines Without Piston Rings

larwe This is an old idea (368 comments)

Turbulent obturation rings of this kind (well, technically I guess these are obturation cannelures) have been used in a lot of applications because they have some interesting properties. For instance they are used in mortar shells. When you drop the shell down the mortar barrel, you essentially want it to fall without retardation so the primer gets a good hard strike and the propellant ignites 100% of the time. However you want as much as possible of the propellant gas to do the job of propelling the projectile, without blowing past it in the barrel. You ALSO want it to be as consistent as possible so the CEP of where the projectile lands relative to the target is as small as possible. So this isn't impossible, but it's not easy either.

about 3 months ago
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Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo Form Alliance Against NSA

larwe This is a meaningless PR gesture (293 comments)

The real issue here isn't what specific thing NSA is or is not doing at a given moment. The issue is that they have been seen to act outside the law, which means all bets are off. There is no reason whatsoever, and will never be any reason, to believe any assurances that they might give in the future that "we've stopped doing X,Y,Z". If the NSA was a person, we'd fire him/her, probably fine and jail him/her, and revoke his/her security clearance and make it impossible for him/her to work in any position of trust ever again. You can't do that with a black-budget government agency, especially not one that has voluminous warehouses full of secret dirt on every US politican, lobbyist and billionaire, past and present. There is no way of ripping them out and replacing them, so you need to defang them. Plus, the NSA is not the only such lawless entity with the technical capability to intercept transmissions. Thus, if these big companies want to form an alliance "against the NSA", what they actually need to do is ally on developing privacy technologies that are impossible to subvert, and spending money on public education so the average man in the street knows better how to practice data hygiene. It has been demonstrated that the NSA regards the law as a set of guidelines about what to reveal in PR documents. You can't retreat from that point - there is no way to trust them ever again. Since we can't cure the disease, we need to manage the symptoms. What these companies have actually done is merely to take a public press position (the phrasing of which was likely developed in conjunction with members of the US government), designed to communicate to Joe Public that these various people with a stake in cloud-based computing are Deeply Enraged(tm) about the NSA. And everything will be fixed with a change.org petition and some legislation that will be obsolete by the time it's passed, and ignored by the NSA when inconvenient anyway. The goal is protecting business models, not protecting data.

about 4 months ago
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No Love From Ars For Samsung's New Smart Watch

larwe Re:Wearable computing... (236 comments)

You can make this argument all day long, and while it seems to make sense, it doesn't address the reality that the percentage of people who buy and wear wristwatches is falling (here's a fun article http://www.bbb.org/blog/2012/05/has-your-cell-phone-killed-your-watch/ ). I'll buy the argument that wearable computing devices simply have never been implemented well, but until you show me the killer implementation of the killer app, I'll continue to assert that the idea of pervasive wearables is a marketing wet dream, not an imminent reality. Perhaps the answer is that I don't CARE what time it is when I go swimming? BTW, just speaking for myself, when I go to the beach - which is all the time, because I live in central Florida - I take my cellphone in a ziploc bag. I even take it in the ocean briefly, so I can take cool pictures. If I have a containment failure and the phone dies, oh well... time for a new phone. I do own a couple of analog wristwatches, somewhere... they're showpieces I never wear. I also don't want a tan line on my wrist.

about 6 months ago
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No Love From Ars For Samsung's New Smart Watch

larwe Re:Wearable computing... (236 comments)

Yes, we've regressed to an era where we have to pull something out of our pockets to check the time. The thing is, the *simple* and *cost effective* answer to that is a $1 digital wristwatch. Wrist mounted timepieces just aren't as popular as they once were. The $300 smartwatch (which will cease to function as soon as you upgrade to a different brand of phone) is a ludicrous proposed solution to the problem "I don't want to have to reach into my pocket to check the time".

about 6 months ago
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No Love From Ars For Samsung's New Smart Watch

larwe Wearable computing... (236 comments)

... is like home automation. It's always "just about to explode out of a niche market and go mainstream". Specifically to the wristwatch: this device has more or less ceased to fill its original segment of "functional timekeeping, optionally alarm-playing device that's always with you because it's on your wrist" - that functionality is filled by the cellphone, which is also always with you and has a lot more functionality. Watches these days are considered jewelry, not tools - you wear them occasionally to go with nice clothes to achieve a specific aesthetic effect. (This line of thinking is not original to me, by the way, I first heard it when reading some strategic marketing training materials, and have since heard the same story - with credible market research justifications, several times. It seems to pass the sniff test, especially once I walk down the street and look at a few hundred wrists to see what's on them). Given this, the market segment that actually finds the "80s calculator watch" aesthetic to be appealing is pretty limited, and I say that as someone who owned and loved my calculator watches, FM radio watch, "space invaders game" watch, and B&W TV watch in the 1980s. It certainly isn't close to the size of the cellphone market, by orders of magnitude. This whole activity of creating smartwatches is simply a saturated market flailing around to create the Next Big Thing. Throw some hardware out there, see if someone (probably a startup) comes up with a use case that sets the world on fire, acquire startup, profit. In the meantime, hype the widget and milk it for PR exposure time.

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:Wrong way round. (182 comments)

I'll only post the tl;dr version of a response here: Show me a viable mobile ecosystem with significant world marketshare that is not originated from and centered around the North American market.

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:Let me get this straight (182 comments)

Waiiit... Apart from in one of Ballmer's wet dreams, when on earth was WinCE (or its descendants) ever en route towards monopoly status?

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:Trust Microsoft??? (182 comments)

Given the history MS has of pouring marketing dollars down the toilet, this is actually totally believable as something that might happen.

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:Wrong way round. (182 comments)

That's only technically true. It costs a lot of resource-hours (=money) to port and qualify Android onto a phone platform, and to get it carrier approved. The carrier approval processes are Byzantine and expensive beyond belief.

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:This is simple numbers pumping (182 comments)

Heh. Yeah, I hear that. Do you remember the days when computers used to be loaded with a dual OS choice of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and Windows 95? You had a onetime choice at boot, and the unused operating system got deleted. I hope at least the dual boot Android/Windows phones do the same - so the gigabytes of unwanted Windows crap get deleted when you pick Android at power up. Of course, they won't...

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:Wrong way round. (182 comments)

I agree in principle, but it's really not that simple. There are carrier approval issues - these have nothing to do with the phone vendor, they're inserted by AT&T et al. Common, obvious example: AT&T doesn't want you sharing your monthly data allotment between devices unless you sign up for a freakin' expensive shared data plan. So they don't want firmware on your phone that will allow tethering without checking to see if your account has the magic "this guy is allowing us to assrape his credit card with shared data fees" flag. Hence, they mandate locking and such. If the vendor wants to sell to AT&T, they insert the crippleware... I doubt any phone vendor will ever again have the leverage Apple created for the iPhone.

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe Re:Trust Microsoft??? (182 comments)

You know, I totally forgot about the Microsoft "we own critical Android patents" moneysucking. Lest we forget, Microsoft has (according to external analysis) earned more money from royalties on those patents, as shipped in Android devices, than they have on WinMo licenses. Anyway - the very simplest move Microsoft could make here is to tell all the vendors "make Win Phone a dual boot option, at no cost and the Android patents are free". Presto, massive free expansion of the number of devices with Win Phone installed - of course, it would be negligible expansion of the number of Win Phone /users/, but some marketroid inside Microsoft would make his annual numbers and get his bonus and get promoted.

about 6 months ago
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Microsoft Reportedly Seeks To Put Windows Phone On Android Devices

larwe This is simple numbers pumping (182 comments)

Microsoft has played games with numbers to pump its supposed Windows market share many many times. For instance, if you're a big corporation and you buy 10,000 machines with Vista installed, but backlevel them to XP, Microsoft counted those as Vista sales. This "dual boot" bullshit is almost certainly the same nonsense. HTC has a bigger market share by itself than all the Windows Phone devices in aggregate (I believe). Anyway, it's the #3 smartphone vendor behind Apple and Samsung. It's also in really dire trouble financially, or at least so the news-sphere seems to indicate. So, they're hurting for cash and might be willing to accept some cash to load Windows on their Android phones as dual boot. Practically nobody will use Windows, but Microsoft will be able to claim those dual boot handset sales as "Windows sales" and fake the numbers to make it look like Win Phone is growing in marketshare.

about 6 months ago

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