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Google Explains Why WebView Vulnerability Will Go Unpatched On Android 4.3

mx+b Re:Good thing Android is open source! (579 comments)

We can patch it ourselves! Right? Right?!

Right, it is open source and we can patch it. Actually, Google already did that for us in Android 4.4. It's open source, so just download and enjoy!

Where it all goes wrong is the carriers/vendors. We get phones from carriers that are locked down and encrypted to prevent us from installing our open source patches on our open source operating system. We have to ask their permission, and most of the time the answer is "Fuck off, we're not supporting that".

Some make fun of GPLv3, but here is a great example of why RMS made the changed to GPLv3 that he did. GPLv3 was designed to prevent vendors from doing exactly this; GPLv3 requires that, if your device uses open source software and you in any way lock the device, then you MUST provide the decryption keys so that a user may reflash the firmware if they so choose. It's fine if you want to do a SecureBoot type thing for security, but you have to give the user an option to disable it or use the key to do whatever they want to accomplish. RMS knew it's not really free if you can never reflash the device to implement your changes.

Android according to their page is Apache licensed (aside from Linux kernel which is GPLv2). Apache is more in the BSD anything-goes category, and while that might be many people's preferred license (and honestly in a perfect world, it probably would be), it is not a perfect world and we need to have rules to prevent people from taking the community's hardwork and then saying "ha-ha!" to that same community as it prevents the community from hacking and modding. Until we live in a world without copyrights and lock-down devices, the GPLv3 attempts to address this, and it may have made a difference in this situation if the carriers were bound to the GPLv3 rather than the Apache license.

5 days ago

Google Releases More Windows Bugs

mx+b But CERT Also Allows Variances (263 comments)

90 days is really long. The US CERT vulnerability disclosure policy is 45 days as described in http://www.cert.org/vulnerabil... (see that more more details). The problem is that you have to balance two conflicting needs; in the words of the CERT, "the need of the public to be informed of security vulnerabilities with vendors' need for time to respond effectively."

It's definitely a fine balancing act, and regardless your opinion on the Google vs Microsoft disclosure debate, I am glad that we are having a public debate about it.

Vulnerabilities cannot really be effectively categorized (look at the attempts from MITRE, for example). Some are due to simple programming errors and can be fixed and rolled out immediately. Some are deeper architectural problems that, even if an "easy" fix, have a whole ecosystem of software built around that wrong behavior. A one-size-fits-all disclosure plan is not necessarily in the public benefit, and I'm glad discussion is being had on what a reasonable timeline looks like, as well as what are extenuating circumstances for changing that timeline.

about two weeks ago

Fewer Grants For Young Researchers Causing Brain Drain In Academia

mx+b Indicative of General Attitudes (153 comments)

This is really a general issue with our society right now. Young people can't be researchers because they don't get grant money, because no one trusts them to be doing research. Young people can't get jobs because everyone knows that you need at least 10 years experience to get a job -- never mind how you get 10 years of experience these days when no apprenticeships or similar seem to exist anymore. If you're lucky enough to find some job that doesn't make a big deal about experience, then young people aren't allowed enough pay to actually cover their bills and student loans. Instead of supporting educated young people and thinking of them as an investment that will bring us new ideas, new businesses, etc., I feel the elders tend to look at this young generation as lazy entitled bums (which is not true at all, at least not in general).

I was a young person college instructor for a few years before I quit. Why? Because pay is low as an adjunct, and the number of courses you can count on kept declining because I was continually at the mercy of what the elder teachers decided to do. (If one of them wanted a class, I was bumped and simply lost pay because I was contract and they could do that.). I had excellent ratings from all my students, many telling me personally that I was one of the best professors they had because I put effort into my lectures... and now academics has lost me, probably for good, because of how I was treated. (Not that I mean to be tooting my own horn here, but I hope you understand it as a situation that is probably being repeated across the country right now with people much more intelligent than I). There was a movement to form an adjunct union at one of my schools, and when I spoke up saying that we young professors need to be able to pay bills and given a chance to grow our careers, I was shouted down by elders saying I was entitled and need to go work a full time job and teach on the side if I wanted to be a professor and heaven forbid also be able to pay my monthly bills. I don't recall past professors having to do all that extra work, but it is expected of a young person now. So I took their advice and got a full time job... but left teaching entirely. I don't want to be in an environment like that, and it's not fair to my students to half-ass a class because I'm exhausted from my full time job. Most of those professors were at least in their 60s -- what will universities do in 10 years when they start to retire, and they've driven off of all the people like me that wanted to teach?

There just doesn't seem to be any opportunity left for a young person, especially in the technical fields. The older people are eeking out what they can until retirement, but at the cost of preventing younger people from having access to jobs where they can build their skills. I fear that in 10 years, our country will be in trouble as the Boomers retire for good and there will be no one left to replace them.

about three weeks ago

Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?

mx+b They Deserve It Too (545 comments)

Medical is likely to remain that way because of how hospitals work

Hospitals don't need doctors and nurses pulling insane 24-48 hour shifts (I know they do this because a friend is a nurse), they just do it to save money and not have to hire anyone new. We should let them get overtime and force hospitals to hire more staff and make better shift schedules -- maybe that would help cut down on the crazy wait time just to see your general practitioner, as well as medical mistakes from sleepiness too.

managers pretty much have to have OT on big projects

How about managers (upper management?) learn to make realistic project schedules instead of overworking the employees while they high-five and go to the golf course to celebrate getting a job "done early". Again, let's let managers get paid overtime, and expect employers to make real schedules.. or if they need it to be faster, hire more people before the project starts!

salesmen often work in a manner that makes tracking actual hours of work impractical.

Salesmen often have to travel and I agree that makes it more difficult. However, we can treat it like we would for truck drivers, etc. -- salesmen are allotted x number of hours/days of travel (the travel itself should be considered work, meaning they work 14-16 hour days if we don't include sleep and food), and when they get back, they MUST have mandatory paid time off or they earn overtime on their regular work in the office for the rest of the month. I'm just spouting off an idea here, I'm sure it has some flaws and could be refined, but the point is there is a way to handle odd schedules and still be fair to the employee.

IT could certainly use updated laws. Too many times you have to be on-call, come in on weekends at 3am to fix a server, rush a software project out the door, etc. Same things as above hold -- companies will learn to make better schedules or hire more people if such labor laws are in place. They will bitch about it at first, but they will adapt. There is nothing sacred that makes 60+ hour weekly schedules the only way to do work in these fields.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source?

mx+b Tired of this Mozilla Bashing (488 comments)

Mozilla is particularly bad. They've trashed the UI of their most popular product, to an extent that only hipsters can manage. They've employed a strict "we know better than you" hipster attitude toward user complaints about these changes.

I know its fashionable lately to bash Firefox, but since I know a few Firefox employees watch these forums, I want them to know: THANK YOU for your work.

The UI is about the same as it was before, just instead of a button at the top left, now its on the right. You can still hit Alt to get menus if you like them. But honestly I almost never find myself looking at settings or menus or whatever. I just want to browse, and you know what, Firefox stays out of my damn way and lets me browse. All that config crap is hidden in that button on the right - easy to find if I want it, but normally I just want it out of my way. Isn't that normally what people say? "Stop wasting screen real estate, I just want to do my thing". That's pretty much what Firefox gives you. You get a URL bar and the whole rest of the interface is web page. Awesome.

Plus, Firefox has been super fast for me lately. It's snappy, and since the change to the UI, it looks and feels the same (nice and snappy!) on Windows and Linux. I appreciate that. It loads up fast, switches tabs fast, and the memory leaks of the past seem to have been patched up perfectly many releases ago.

I tried to use Chrome just a couple weeks ago, and honestly, that browser felt down right sluggish to me compared to modern Firefox. Plus, it's always harassing me to log in with a Google account. Damnit I just want to browse, not constantly check Google+ or whatever they want. Again, Firefox wins hands down.

They waste resources on fucking idiotic projects like Firefox OS, just because they want to me-too the hipsters at Google and Apple.

My understanding is they want to provide a phone OS that isn't going to lock you into the Google/Apple walled garden, and that is important to me. I have an Android phone currently, and the Google Play updates drive me nuts. I just want a phone like my browser -- do its job well and stay out of my way. I don't feel I get that with Google at least. No experience with Apple but I bet it is the same.

And even if it ends up not working (which I would be disappointed!), I appreciate that they tried something. Do you see anyone else trying? The thing about research is you never know how it will turn out -- but it absolutely won't work if you don't try! So some times you have to commit resources to something that looks like a failure, because you don't know until you try. Since all of their research projects are about freedoms, I respect that and say more power to them. Keep it up. For example, I'm itching to try the feature in the newest Firefox to do a WebRTC video chat straight through the browser. It is peer-to-peer meaning it doesn't go thru Google Hangouts servers or whatever where it can be recorded etc, and it is encrypted. Hell yeah. Awesome. Again, freedom. Will it work out long run and gain traction? I hope so, but no idea, but we won't know unless someone tries. So thank you Firefox for trying. I donated $50 to Mozilla not long ago because I appreciate their work. Everyone that agrees, help me let them know we appreciate their work and to keep it up -- keep focusing on the important things, even if not everyone agrees they are important.

about 2 months ago

18th Century Law Dredged Up To Force Decryption of Devices

mx+b Jefferson (446 comments)

America's modern left often argues that portions of the US Constitution can be safely ignored because it's old and was written by white dudes. Here's a (fairly calm) piece that explores that argument. (Also look up "constitution living document".)

Thomas Jefferson was concerned greatly about the "Tyranny of the Dead" -- that the laws and debts of dead elder generations will inhibit progress in younger generations that are facing entirely new types of problems not envisioned by the older generations. He wanted the Constitution (or at least federal law) to be effectively completely rewritten every generation -- every 18-20 years or so. You can read about it in his letters.

I would say that probably the results of that poll are not people being "stupid" and "forgetting" that the Constitution is important, but rather, evidence of a yearning that the current system is not entirely working and it needs modification. Just like we have done so 27 times in the history of the US (i.e., the Amendments). It's not relevant today, but we Amend it to be more relevant. For example, the move to get a 28th amendment that strikes down the Citizens United ruling and makes more free and fair elections (see any number of organizations: Move to Amend, WolfPAC, etc.). We know there's money in politics, and here's one proposed solution to it. Not by ignoring the constitution or laws, but actually, working the way the constitution is supposed to work! The people can call for an amendment if our national leaders do not.

I don't think I've heard anyone make the argument that they can ignore laws because old white dudes wrote them. I *have* heard that we need to change laws because they are stupid and we want to make a more perfect union, though. Don't let people like the ones that wrote the article in your link trick you into think their opinion is public opinion (its easy to spot because of the use of words like "The Left thinks blah" and "The Right does blah" -- there is no Left and Right as one huge bloc, but a spectrum of smaller groups with differing opinions, and even if it was one big bloc, who is this author to be able to speak for half the country? I've never heard of him.).

I'm not that worried. I think when our current leaders that have been in office for 30+ years finally retire or are voted out as the younger generation comes up, we will see laws and constitutional amendments that fix problems. Not ignored, fixed.

about 2 months ago

NSA CTO Patrick Dowd Moonlighting For Private Security Firm

mx+b Re:Soon, this will be normal (83 comments)

I like how your solution to corruption is censorship. Yep, the best way to prevent this is prevent people from putting on ads for campaigns unless the federal government deems them allowed.

In what way is it censorship? The proposed constitutional amendment can be seen at this link. Note that there is nothing that says you can't put out ads or campaigns; no one in government has to approve your campaign. The only restriction is that CORPORATIONS are not people with voting rights and therefore cannot contribute money to campaigns. Which makes sense; a corporation is not a thinking entity, "it" only does what its CEO and upper management decide. Effectively, the corporation becomes a vehicle for the opinions of upper management, which the new amendment to the constitution will say is wrong. The CEO can have whatever opinion he wants as a private citizen, and back any campaign he wants as a private citizen, but he is NOT allowed to use the money and influence of his company to spread his message further -- it is an unfair advantage over the rest of the voting public and subverts true democratic debate and processes.

The only thing this is likely to solve it making it illegal to point out this is happening, which might be your objective.

Again, nothing about this amendment stifles a citizen's rights, only CORPORATIONS (which we declare are not people). You still have full 1st amendment rights, for example, and are free to speak out against government. We just require that you disclose publicly who you gave money to as a private citizen; you aren't allowed to funnel money through a company anymore to hide the fact that you are donating way more money than the average person (which is what some are doing with corporations and PACs, effectively using them to skirt already on-the-books current election law on donation limits). We want to make sure every citizen has the chance the speak up, rather than only the elite that can go around laws with the corporations.

about 3 months ago

NVIDIA Begins Requiring Signed GPU Firmware Images

mx+b Re:As Linus said "Fuck you NVIDIA" (192 comments)

Surely it is impossible to have an opensource software if it needs a key to build it into a runnable program?

I mean you have the binary but you cannot recreate it from the source without that key to sign it with. The key is part of the source and you don't have it.

This is pretty much the reason the GPLv3 was written, to take care of this loophole in other licenses. If there are other parts of the GPLv3 that people don't like, perhaps we can update it and make a nice GPLv4, but many people throw the baby out with the bathwater with their hatred of GPLv3. I think having the ability of signing the keys yourself is an important topic.

about 4 months ago

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

mx+b Re:Please describe exactly (392 comments)

I used to have affordable insurance for my wife and I. The ACA killed it. Were forced to go to a new plan that:

I used to not have insurance at all because I couldn't afford it, because teaching jobs want to pay you part time salary with no benefits, and two part time jobs don't magically qualify you for benefits. The ACA helped get me that insurance for the first time this year.

1) Has much higher monthly premiums (we went from roughly $230/month to about $500/month)

The premiums in my area were about $500/month for a single person (never mind a family plan). They are now about $150/month, and actually cover more medications and scenarios than before.

2) Has a hugely higher deductible (we went from $2,500 a year to about $12,000 a year). This means that we are much, much farther out of pocket every year, especially if we actually need medical care beyond one or two simple visits annually.

The deductibles for the plans in the past were, if I could even afford them, roughly $6-10k per year here. After the ACA, our deductibles are down to about $2500-3500 depending on the plan. Again, huge savings.

3) We are past any risk of pregnancy. None the less, we are being forced to pay for elaborate maternity care that we cannot possibly use.

This is, from a strictly money point of view, true. But instead of thinking of "I'm paying for something I don't use!", your family tree very likely has some daughters/granddaughters/nieces/cousins somewhere. Your premium helps keep it cheap for them. So why the complaints here? Your maternity care portion of your premium can't be very much, what, 5% of the total?

4) The new plan forced us to give up the doctor we've been using for 15 years unless we want to pay cash for that in a way that doesn't help with our deductible. 5) The two best local hospitals are no longer available to us unless we want to pay retail for their use, and get no benefit against our deductible.

I can't visit every hospital in the area either, but this isn't because of anything to do with the ACA, as much as it is a major insurance provider in the area is acting like a huge douche, and refusing to negotiate new contracts with the city and other insurance providers that allow the prices to remain low. This is a corporate decision, not a government one.

I share my story, not because I am trying to belittle your situation -- I definitely feel for you, having been insurance-less for a long time because of high payments, I understand worrying about costs -- but because I do not like the immediate jump to "I'm having a lot of trouble, therefore, this law was evil and wrong". It has its problems, but two things: (1) it has helped a lot of people, so completely scrapping it isn't helpful, we need to explore ways to keep the benefits in place while lowering your premium so everyone gets help; and (2) a lot of your complaints regarding losing doctors and hospitals and even premiums to some degree rely on the free market. It largely depends on how much competition is in your area, and the decisions made by your employer, the insurance company, and the doctors/hospitals themselves, as to what insurance they will provide or take. Nothing in the law says they are required to drop plans; that was a business decision they made, and businessmen are not always that smart. So instead of directing all the anger at the law, you should also be questioning why your company and insurance feel they need to raise prices so much.

If you are having trouble with your current premiums, the people on the Healthcare.gov hotline are very helpful. I would call them up and ask about private insurance plans are in your area. They can price check plans for any provider in your area, and check different levels of coverage, and tell you the cheapest one. From there you can contact the insurance company directly if it sketches you out to apply on the phone, but at least you know what's out there. It's entirely possible you can get a way better deal than you currently have, and don't even realize. I know people that dropped their employer coverage for a plan they paid out of pocket for, because the out-of-pocket personal plan this year was actually MUCH CHEAPER than the employer-provided one (which the employer just renewed old contracts, and so had the same old crummy insurance for larger premium/deductible than the year before, much like you are describing). You may not be as stuck as you think you are. I don't know your situation, and I wish you the best, but let's please not act like the ACA destroyed everything and insurance was rosy for everyone in the country before this. Let's work toward fixing the ACA's problems for EVERYONE (you and me included) instead of just propagating negativity.

about 4 months ago

The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

mx+b Re:Fundamental issues (182 comments)

Having done several online MOOCs, I can say that I learned a lot but mostly by myself. I followed a syllabus provided by an instructor and some homeworks as a guideline to what was important to learn or know, but other than that, the lecture format online is terrible. In particular, many courses have a habit of slapping powerpoint videos online that not only are boring, but simply regurgitate word for word the textbook. I hate to sound unappreciative, because I'm sure the professor put a lot of time into the powerpoints, but I wish he/she would have spent that time on something more helpful to us! When the book glosses over an important topic, I am relying on the instructor to explain that to me, and powerpoints of the book do not add any information.

In this sense, I think the MOOCs are not in general any worse than most in-person classes. Unfortunately many professors do the same thing in person. Thru much of my degree program, I was left adrift by professors that taught to the book, and books that gave only simple obvious examples then expected you to prove PhD theses for homework (for you mathematicians out there, the dreaded "Yellow Books" for a good example). They never updated and fixed their book-writing style or lecture style in person, so why are we surprised that its not working for MOOCs either? (Aside: maybe it isn't a matter of poorly written book so much as poor choice of book -- professors tend to choose more research-oriented books rather than teaching-oriented books, but again, this shows a problem where the teachers are not understanding the needs of the learners.)

The flipped classroom as you describe is much better. For a MOOC, I can imagine each section being given at least two small assignments. One to hit your head against the wall with as your read the book, then there are videos that go over problems on a whiteboard, then you are given a second chance to complete a new homework assignment (similar questions but different numbers, etc.) to boost your grade. This may work out a bit better. If I was told that you'd get second chances after we go over some examples, but think about it, I probably would be more interested. Instead, the lectures are no help, the homework is hard, and we're immediately moving on to something new. Help!

I have not finished many MOOCs, but not lack of interest or trying; partially was courseload vs work schedule, and the other part was that the title of the course sounded more interesting than the actual class was, so after seeing the intro videos, I withdrew because I found out I wasn't going to learn what I was hoping I would. I actually have finished and enjoyed a few MOOCs, that didn't do too badly with the lecture format. Again, I appreciate the professors investing time in making MOOCs to share knowledge, but if they are sincere in spreading that knowledge, they also need to realize that treating a MOOC as an online lecture hall for a typical college student in a typical degree program is not helpful. Don't make the content easier, per se (I don't want it watered down, I want to actually learn something!), but do realize that you are working around people's work schedules, time commitments. And most of all, boring powerpoint lectures that reiterate the book -- which itself only gives basic examples then leaves you to work out the rest of it yourself in the homework -- are not really suitable. I understand an interactive MOOC is not particularly feasible, but we need better experimentation in how to present the material online.

But for that matter we need better presentation in person as well. Hopefully more will embrace things like flipped classroom learning -- or maybe even try their own totally new techniques -- but we need an effort to improve learning overall no matter what medium, and not just focus on "MOOCs are failing". Our educational system in general is failing, if you really want to get picky about it.

about 5 months ago

Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

mx+b Different Kernels in OpenSUSE (282 comments)

One of my favorite distros is OpenSUSE. In its repos, it has several different kernels -- there is a default one, but also ones for virtualization and a desktop specific one. I always figured they had the different kernels that were tuned/tweaked for the different needs. If you wanted to switch from a desktop to a server or vice versa, simply install/uninstall the packages you need, including switch the kernel, then reboot and you're done.

I don't know enough about their tweaks to know if the desktop vs server kernel makes a difference, but I imagine it does or at least could in the right circumstances. I think the power of being able to change around some packages and get the effect you want is better than fragmenting the distro. I appreciate having access to all the features and being able to mix and match.

about 5 months ago

Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

mx+b PE In Software Engineering (546 comments)

There should be a professional "Software Engineering" (or call it something else if the Engineers get upset about the term) program for those that want to actually build code.

The engineering community seems to be accepting it. After talking with some colleagues about software engineering being a discipline that potentially needs certification, I found out you can actually be a PE (Professional Engineer) in Software Engineering now, in addition to traditional PEs in Mechanical, Electrical, etc. Link on NCEES website.. They just started this last year basically!

I'm interested in pursuing it potentially, I wonder how you get it if you normally need to study under a PE for x years but there are none at first? I guess there's a grandfather in period for those with experience, even though it wasn't under a PE. I do not know anyone with a PE Software Engineering yet though. Anyone out there taken the exam? What do you need to apply, how hard is it, what does it emphasize, etc.? I should probably contact the board myself and ask. My guess is that a cert like this will be a big thing in a few years. Some big companies will want PEs as the managers. Maybe government contracts will require a PE in charge.

If this is the case, then CompSci majors (or anyone really) will be able to take the FE exam and become Engineer-in-Training like other disciplines, and this will separate the professionals from the academics. Once the FE for Software becomes popular, I imagine Bachelor of Software Engineering will start popping up to start preparing student for the FE exam, much like mechanical, electrical, etc., today.

about 5 months ago

Qt Upgrades From LGPLv2.1 to LGPLv3

mx+b GPL is about User/Owner Freedoms (117 comments)

The GPL wasn't designed with freedoms of the developer/company in mind; it was developed with freedoms of the client/user in mind. RMS started the whole thing partially because of his experience with a printer that the company refused to give drivers so he could make it work on his computer (see the section A Stark Moral Choice).

GPL protects the user's right to do what they want with the software once they've received it (either paid for it, or were given it for free - most software these days is free, but the GPL allows the developer to sell it too). GPLv3 was written when it was realized that a loophole was being used to prevent the owner of the device from changing out the software on the device -- a device the owner paid for and of course now owns! How ridiculous to let a company tell you that you are not allowed to tinker/update the thing you now own. So the "TiVoization" clause was added to prevent that in the future.

The GPL is more of a developer's promise that, once you have paid for the software (even if the price was $0), you will be given complete freedom to use the software as you see fit and the developer/seller will not interfere. That promise is made stronger legally with v3.

about 5 months ago

Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

mx+b Teaching Windows/Linux (579 comments)

I teach IT classes for a living right now, and my experience has actually been the opposite.

In our intro courses, we double check that the students know the basics of the Windows GUI (what's on the start menu, control panel, etc.) and then teach them basic administrative tasks. We also do the same for Linux.

Windows is NOT user friendly. Neither is MS Office, etc etc. Pretty much anything Microsoft. How do I know? Because we have plenty of older students -- we're talking age 35-40 -- that used to be mechanics, truck drivers, etc., that are going back to school for a degree and have to take a basic computer class. If they don't know Window's idiosyncracies, which trust me they don't in general, then they are COMPLETELY LOST.

We really take for granted how much we've been indoctrinated as IT professionals into the Microsoft way. I mean, I'm not even talking configuring group policies or IIS or anything -- I mean, just finding things on the start menu, understanding that icons on the desktop have HIDDEN extensions, knowing when to left and right click on menus to get what you want (seems to switch in every program!). Where did the A and B drive go, why is it C? Why is it called C: anyway instead of just "Main Harddrive" or maybe even simpler "Main Files". You click and drag a window to move it out the way and now suddenly you moved to far and it is maximized. Let's install Firefox -- uhoh, pop up telling me "This came from another computer. Do you want to continue?" SHOULD I? IS THAT BAD?.

This stuff absolutely confounds my students. Nothing says anywhere that icon extensions are hidden -- you have to know how to go enable that. Nothing says anywhere "Right click here to change resolution!". You just have to right click everywhere and figure out what menu you get in every place. Stuff like that. List goes on and on.

It takes a while to teach them the basics. They can "use computers" in the sense of get on the internet, but they really have no idea what goes on otherwise, and really Windows gives no direction on what to do, where to do it, what is possible, and only bare minimum of messages (such as the error message -- instead of yes/no, why can't it ask if you want to install or not? Or explain why it might be a bad thing, or why it might be ok?). I mean seriously, they flip out.

Windows is NOT user friendly to a newbie. It just seems that way because we are so used to it and interact with it so much, and since it was the only major player for so long, a lot of its terminology has rubbed off people. Not because its easy, but because we're just exposed to it.

I won't say Linux is perfect, but they seem to get it pretty well, at least as well as Windows. A lot of the students have told me they actually enjoyed Linux more.

about 5 months ago

Of the following, I'd rather play ...

mx+b Fizzbin! (274 comments)

but only on Tuesdays.

about 6 months ago

Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

mx+b Yes year-round, No to all-day (421 comments)

I think that having such a large break means that, in many cases, kids are forgetting important knowledge and skills over the summer break as they sit at home or play football or work jobs. My old school district "solved" this problem by assigning required reading and book reports for the summer -- but if you're going to do that, why not just have full class?

Personally, I think constant reinforcement is better for people to learn things. They should be in school year-round, being constantly reinforced and challenged a little bit more each time, rather than having to devote the first 1/4 of the school year just to refreshers.

On the other hand, I completely agree with the parent poster that kids need to BE KIDS. Making them "work" (go to school) and sit still and listen for 8 hours a day, then come home to do more homework on top of that doesn't let them ever be kids for most of the year.

Rather than being so bipolar, I would like to see year-round school, but lessening of the school day. Say, a 4 hour day or so. Devote an hour to class, then send everyone home to do homework and work on extracurriculars (which maybe the extracurriculars could be robot club at school, or whatever, but not required classes).

I think this does the most to fix all the issues: kids can BE KIDS ALL YEAR LONG because they have plenty of time each day to sign up for clubs and sports activities after school, and aren't expected to "act like adults" and sit still for 8+ hours every day, but they also go to school all year so they don't get behind, instead always progressing and refreshing constantly. By the same token, our overworked teachers will also get some time off from classroom/school duties to actually get a damn vacation a few nights a week, and have time to actually sit and work on effective new teaching plans/projects to advance education even further (rather than being burned out and angry like they are now -- I know, I teach at tech schools and my sister is an elementary teacher). It seems kids and teachers will be happier.

The only negative I can think of is that with kids getting out after 4 hours, maybe some parents will need babysitters/after-school care and can't afford it? High schoolers can take care of themselves, and instead of current 6:30am to 2:30pm, why can't we let our kids sleep??? research has shown teens typically are night-owls, so lets let them sleep in and go to class 10:30-2:30pm instead). But elementary schools are more like 9am to 4:30pm, I imagine to fit work schedules for parents that need to pick up their young kids. Not sure about best thing to do with that, but I can say that kids that age need to be out of a classroom EVEN MORE than the older kids, so we need to rethink as a society that too.

about 6 months ago

MIT Considers Whether Courses Are Outdated

mx+b Interdisciplinary and Badges (205 comments)

I think it may not be as bad as you guys think, depending how this is implemented.

Definitely, especially at the bachelors level, it needs to be a "guided tour" to help students learn about subjects they didn't even know they existed. They need exposure to certain important topics to serve as a base, allowing the student to go forward.

I think where this module idea can help is that, under the current system, you get a very direct track through basic major courses, then a bunch of liberal arts requirements to satisfy (arts, philosophy, etc.). There is not, in my experience, a whole lot of in-major electives. Everyone takes the same track. Degree programs are largely the same across the country.

I firmly believe our future Einsteins will come from the ranks of those trained in interdisciplinary thought -- the people that DON'T just take the same track, but go a little off script too. If a student understands the basic concepts of a field, but doesn't like it, why waste the student's time with more of that just to fit in 3 semester hours of a class to meet a checklist, when the student can switch half way through a semester to another field and see if that is a better fit? As long as the student understands the basics, I see no problem of letting the student explore a little more rather than trapping them in the class for another 6 weeks.

I think this would be the idea of a badges system -- rather than a degree and classes, you get badges when you show levels of mastery in topics (a novice badge, an intermediate badge, master badge, etc.). A bachelors could be awarded when X number of badges are obtained.

about 6 months ago

More Quantum Strangeness: Particles Separated From Their Properties

mx+b Re:Limits of Measurement (144 comments)

And here you are completely wrong. Finiteness of the universe disagrees.

I am not sure what "finiteness of the universe" means in this context. Could you elaborate why that immediately says particles must be in two places at once?

You are wrong again. Stop. Double slit experiment has been duplicated using *individual photons*. Yes, one photon fired at detector at a time. ONE. No more, just ONE. After waiting sufficiently long, interference pattern was produced on the detector. The photon appears to have interfered with itself.

The photon does appear to interfere with itself, but only after sufficient time. Is it really interfering with ITSELF? The experiment description on the page you link to says that photon is absorbed by an atom to knock off an electron, which starts an avalanche, and we read the resulting current as a detection. Now, the original photon has been absorbed, however, anytime an electron accelerates it releases radiation (brehmsstralung). So it actually sounds like the photon is causing (a) a current to form, and (b) extra photons to be emitted by the electrons as they bounce around. The new photons scatter in random directions to be sure, but some of them must make it back into the apparatus, bounce around, and come back to the detector, producing a new pattern. Eventually this will settle down as the electrons and photons lose energy over time, but it happens long enough to produce a pattern.

So I don't really see how the original photon interfered with itself; it appears that multiple photons were generated and recorded, and as energy is lost, these waves overlap differently and produce a pattern.

This is my interpretation and I am glad to say I am wrong if provided with some evidence that shows we can rule this possibility out.

about 6 months ago

More Quantum Strangeness: Particles Separated From Their Properties

mx+b Re:Limits of Measurement (144 comments)

Wrong. when single particles are allowed through a single path yes. However, if multiple paths are available even a single particle interferes with itself. Take enough samples of a single particle going through with multiple paths, and you get an interference pattern: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...

I perhaps wasn't as careful with my language as I should have been. But even the article you link to says that you release more than one particle. It is one at a time, not perhaps the "flood" I stated (though I was thinking of a large number of electrons more so than time frame). But it is *more than one* particle, so I am not sure how this can be called "self-interference" with a single particle when other particles have already gone thru the apparatus.

If we could carefully release a SINGLE electron, and when we looked for it on the other side got multiple hits as if there were many electrons (or single electron in multiple places), then that would sound like interference. But since we get a single dot from one electron, then we release another and get another dot, and only over time see the interference, it sounds to me more like there is interference between the electron build up and the new electron than a "self" interference. The conditions in the apparatus are different than when the experiment started!

about 6 months ago

More Quantum Strangeness: Particles Separated From Their Properties

mx+b Re:Limits of Measurement (144 comments)

What you're describing is incorrect. The particle *actually* behaves as if it is two places at once - including things like interfering with itself.

I recall in classical electromagnetism class having to calculate the effects of the electric field of an object ON ITSELF as the particle was moving. I do not think strictly speaking it has to be a "weird" quantum effect if we had to do similar things in classical calculations. Are you aware of an argument on why it *must* be in two places at once, rather than simply seeming that way because of its interactions while moving (or interactions with nearby particles, which move and therefore change the potential on the original).

However, if you want an interpretation that seems more "intuitively correct" than the Copenhagen interpretation, I like Cramer's transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. It avoids any "magic" and sticks with a single universe; it does, however, introduce zero mass transaction particles going at the speed of light backwards in time. Assuming relativity as true, this is fine, because at the speed of light time is compressed into nothing, so going backwards or forwards makes no real difference (as there is no change.)

Aha! Thank you for the link, this might have been what I was thinking of. The advanced/retarded waves were what I was thinking of in the electromagnetic response above.

about 6 months ago


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