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Call Yourself a Hacker, Lose Your 4th Amendment Rights

n5vb Ability does not imply intent, nor should it (488 comments)

Quoted by the OP from source material:

The Court has struggled over the issue of allowing the copying of the hard drive. This is a serious invasion of privacy and is certainly not a standard remedy, as the discussion of the case law above demonstrates. The tipping point for the Court comes from evidence that the defendants – in their own words – are hackers. By labeling themselves this way, they have essentially announced that they have the necessary computer skills and intent to simultaneously release the code publicly and conceal their role in that act. (underline added) And concealment likely involves the destruction of evidence on the hard drive of Thuen’s computer. For these reasons, the Court finds this is one of the very rare cases that justifies seizure and copying of the hard drive.

The thing I'm very uncomfortable with is the conflation of "capability" with "intent". There are many things I can do that I don't want to do, because I'm basically an ethical person and I respect other people's rights and property, and if there's one thing I'm touchy as hell about, it's the assumption that people who are able to do things outside what people of average intelligence consider "normal" skills are inherently dangerous and/or criminal if their knowledge, skills, or abilities aren't somehow sanctioned by an "authority" like a higher education institution. I'm very much a hacker in the sense of having fairly extensive self-education and hands-on experience with technology outside of the sanctioned channels. I'm not a "hacker" in the sense in which the court understands the term. (And there's a whole other rant there, in terms of how the word's meaning has been loaded with negative connotations it really shouldn't have.) In this case, the court has taken the word out of the context and applied a meaning to it that I'm sure the original author did not intend, as an excuse to sidestep 4th Amendment protections. That's troubling, to say the least.

about 6 months ago

Apple Maps Flaw Sends Drivers Across Airport Runway

n5vb Re:The real question is (311 comments)

Alaska is different. People fly planes there like most of us down here in the lower 48 drive cars, because there are places in AK where there is literally no other way to get there. There are a lot of very small unsecured airports.

about 7 months ago

Apple Unveils iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S

n5vb Re:Fingerprint database, anyone? (773 comments)

The fingerprint is saved locally and encrypted on the individual phone's A7 chip. Never goes to iCloud. Never touches Apple servers.

Encrypted, or hashed?

about 7 months ago

Iran Plans To Launch an 'Islamic Google Earth'

n5vb So there's "Islamic" geography now? (181 comments)

Is that like extremist "Christian" geography? (Or astronomy, for that matter?)

1 year,10 days

Sources Say ITU Has Approved Ultra-High Definition TV Standard

n5vb Re:Oh good... (341 comments)

We've already got something like that with ATSC standards, at least in the RF modulation schemes -- broadcast used 8-VSB (time domain), and the alternatives considered were OFDM (frequency domain) and 256-QAM (phase domain). Well, the cable industry is using 256-QAM and broadcast is using 8-VSB, last I heard, and I think what edged 8-VSB ahead for broadcast was that it's not sensitive to the phase jitter in antique GEO satellite transponders. So with modulation, at least, yeah, we're already there. (The fortunate thing is that, unlike when NTSC rolled out, TV manufacturers aren't forced to design around just one demodulation standard, and it's not all that difficult to incorporate both 8-VSB and 256-QAM demodulation in modern receivers, even within a single demod chipset, so for the most part you never notice it.)

I suspect as standards get more and more complex, we'll start seeing a lot more of this kind of thing, and it will help rather than hurt, as the TV manufacturers design more and more agile multi-standard receivers that can handle anything the standards folks throw at them. Note that most if not all of them will also still display analog NTSC-M VSB-modulated signals just fine .. because there are still a lot of cable providers offering analog basic cable tiers ..

(<- still thinks the way NTSC-M avoided obsoleting the first-gen monochrome TV's was a cool hack, even if the chroma performance sucked most of the time)

about a year and a half ago

Earth's Corner of the Galaxy Just Got a Little Lonelier

n5vb Re:Look at the bright side (224 comments)

Everything is impossible until you figure out how to make it possible...

It's not impossible -- it's just really, really improbable given the current state of our energy and propulsion technology, and there's not much big propulsion tech on the horizon that would seem likely to change that anytime soon. VASIMR is pretty promising for small manned spacecraft (and even more so for large robotic spacecraft) but it's basically in the realm of ion engines -- high efficiency, long run times, but relatively small thrust even compared to fuel/oxidizer engines. Even Orion-style propulsion would be a stretch for the kind of delta-V each individual rock would need to get it to where you're assembling your planet, and that's just getting them there, not even including controlled impact. (Granted, you could use the kinetic energy to heat up the mass so it melts and forms a core/mantle structure kind of like Earth's, and you'd have a hard time maintaining an atmosphere without a magnetosphere to shield it from solar wind, but that means waiting for the crust to cool..)

So, not impossible. Just really really difficult and expensive on a scale humanity has never even approached, with engineering complexities several orders of magnitude beyond what we have any experience with. And we're not *that* good at getting subsurface oil out of the Gulf seabed and even worse at stopping it gushing out when the well blows out. Imagine how badly we could screw up a planet construction project. :p

about a year and a half ago

Algorithmic Trading Glitch Costs Firm $440 Million

n5vb Too bad, so sad.. (377 comments)

If they didn't sufficiently analyze the code they were going to turn loose in real time trading, and it did something they didn't expect it to do, then that's their screwup, and theirs alone, and they need to own it. Period.

I can see NYSE cancelling some trades because the volume of trading was getting people confused about what the pricing should be, but I can't see it as fair that they'd cancel trades as a favor to the company. If a day trader screws up and takes a bath on a stock due to poorly-thought-out trade orders, they don't get a do-over, those trades are placed and cleared and they're done, no going back. I don't see any reason wild program trades should be held to any lesser standard, and I see plenty of reasons why they shouldn't be. What the company needs to do is get some competent programmers in to code their algorithms properly, and get some competent analysts in to double check the coders' work and validate the algorithms, and be prepared to own their own s**t if the code does something like this. Sorry, no sympathy, these guys should d**n well know better.

about a year and a half ago

Political Science Prof Asks: Is Algebra Necessary?

n5vb Short answer: yes. (1010 comments)

Longer answer:

The fact that anyone felt the need to ask this question says to me that we're doing education wrong in the USA. Very wrong. Fundamentally wrong. Yes, algebra is necessary, possibly more necessary than any other branch of math, because there are so many other fundamentally useful concepts wrapped up in it -- formal logic, proof, and a whole bunch of other basic building blocks of epistemology, not just mathematics -- that IMHO it's crucial to teaching students to think and reason answers and not just churn them out by rote memorization the way they do with arithmetic .. the way we're currently teaching it.

But why are we approaching the subject as though it's something "hard" that we have to "work" to learn and then question whether the effort is necessary? The only reason we have that view of it is that by the time our kids hit algebra, they've had all the curiosity and fascination for new knowledge hammered out of them, by normalizing their curriculum to death assembly-line style. Arithmetic by addition and multiplication tables and memorization is boring, mind-numbingly so, and any kid who gets through that gauntlet and is still interested in algebra didn't learn his/her math in the classroom, they learned it by exploring and playing around with it and getting a feel for number theory and how arithmetic operators work .. you know, real math, the kind that gets the imagination flowing.

And if you haven't had curiosity crushed out of you by memorization drills, algebra is fascinating. If you're teaching it right and letting the math itself do the teaching, you'd be hard pressed to stop kids from learning it. Case in point: In my 6th grade math class, a "substitute" (who I'm fairly sure was actually an education researcher experimenting with math teaching methods, but "substitute" was what they called him) came into the class, which was starting on basic algebra, and taught us what turned out to be differentiation by the power rule. I ended up using that one method in every math class I had from then on -- much to the consternation of my teachers who weren't quite sure how to deal with me doing differential calculus on high school algebra tests -- but I also ended up exploring how polynomials went through simpler and simpler derivatives until they ended up as a constant, and then zero, and gained a whole new appreciation for how they worked, and later on, integration and the fundamental theorem of calculus just sort of fell into place. The power rule is still one of my old friends when it comes to math. But I have that "substitute" to thank for most of the algebra I learned on my own because I couldn't get enough of it -- that one little seed sparked a whole adventure that continued to teach me mathematics for decades afterward.

Granted, I'm a hardcore nerd in a lot of ways, but I'm not entirely sure that's an aspect of who I am and not just an artifact of a society raised on the "math is hard" meme. It's hard, yes, but it's irresistible to a curious mind, and we're all born curious .. it's how we bootstrap every bit of knowledge we gain firsthand about the world. If we stop killing it in the schools, give it a few generations and our PolySci professors wouldn't even think to ask this question..

about a year and a half ago

Is Pluto a Binary Planet?

n5vb Re:Now it makes sense (275 comments)

Ugh. The entire idea of the 'death star' shows how little imagination Lucas has. Even moving the death star into a system would effect the planetary orbits. Why would you need a big laser gun when you can simply wobble a planet out of its habitable orbit using the gravity of your space station.

Wouldn't take much, if you pick the right resonant orbit and aren't in a hurry .. ;)

about 2 years ago

Is Pluto a Binary Planet?

n5vb Yes? (275 comments)

As closely as they orbit each other, I'd say Pluto-Charon would be almost the example of such a system. Heck, it's almost a Rocheworld. :p

about 2 years ago

Why Ultra-Efficient 4,000 mph Vacuum-Tube Trains Aren't Being Built

n5vb Not buying my tickets yet .. (625 comments)

Wake me up when someone actually manages to build a tunnel anywhere near that size that's vacuum tight and has a realistic notion of what size and number of vacuum pumps would be required to keep a high enough vacuum in it. Oh, and handling the exterior pressure loading without risk of accidental implosion would be nice. ;)

The other problem which is less trivial than it might seem is how to get people and cargo (and possibly vehicles) onto and off of these trains without breaking the vacuum .. really big airlocks at the stations maybe? .. and how to evacuate one of these safely in case of an emergency on the main line ..

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Evacuate a Network

n5vb Start with what you can least afford to lose. (331 comments)

Whatever stores data first -- if it's a SAN, then your RAID chassis and metadata controllers, and if you have time, the SAN fabric switches and cabling, but you can replace the latter if you have to, and if it's ordinary SAS, the servers if they're all internal storage, or the RAID chassis or whatever's external. Definitely grab any non-offsite backup media with that. Rest of it in descending order of priority after you grab the most valuable stuff, mostly to avoid having to replace it.

Best strategy overall is to think "what if we had to abandon this evacuation mid-process and run?" Try to have what you most want already in the truck at any given moment, and concentrate on data before hardware -- the data is far more valuable in most cases.

If you haven't done an offsite backup, for god/dess' sake do one *now* and get the backup media to a safe location .. :/

about 2 years ago

Startup Skips IE Support, Claims $100,000 Savings

n5vb Re:Article is wrong; no IE support on the ADMIN pa (273 comments)

Depends on how much client-side functionality you're using for your web app UI. If all you send to the browser is flat HTML (whether it's from a file or dynamically generated, and I usually generate mine pretty dynamically), your page may not render pixel-perfect on every browser but it'll render consistently and look acceptable at least. If your client side scripting reloads with the page frequently, probably still ok. If you have persistent scripting that relies on Ajax-type RPC backend fetches, there are significant differences that will make the scripts behave noticeably differently (at least) if you try to use the same code for everything and you pretty much have to detect which browser you're in and select between different versions of functions. I often just dynamically generate flat HTML for this exact reason.

about 2 years ago

Startup Skips IE Support, Claims $100,000 Savings

n5vb Re:Useless (273 comments)

And the original concept of the Web was specifically not intended to do pixel-perfect rendering of anything. HTML was specifically designed to mark up flexibly depending on the dimensions of the window space, and use local fonts on the client rather than supply fonts from server side, so getting pixel perfect rendering of a site is essentially fighting a whole pile of client-side unknowns that may vary widely even between instances of the same browser rendering engine that are doing exactly what they were designed to do based on the HTML spec (although because everyone wants their site to "pop" and grab viewers' attention and all that other marketing BS, the spec itself is now starting to drift toward pleasing high-end art departments .. ::eyeroll::)

And remember that JavaScript was originally part of MS' "embrace, extend, extinguish" strategy, and the open standard it evolved into differs subtly from the version MS still implements in IE. (And that aspect of IE integration can be a massive rectal pain loaded with horrendously screwy little gotchas.) So if you do anything major on client-side, including pretty much anything even vaguely resembling Ajax, you're stuck with two parallel development/testing cycles, one for IE, one for pretty much everything else. I actually abandoned IE support on one site I was building because I just didn't have the time to mess with it.

about 2 years ago

Sales of Unused IPv4 Addresses Gaining Steam

n5vb Re:not for sale! (329 comments)

I know! is like the best pr0n site ever!

I did not know that about you..

about 2 years ago

Ten Cops Can't Recover Police Chief's Son's iPhone

n5vb This could also mean .. (277 comments)

.. that none of the ten officers they sent out looking for the phone were good at correlating live location data on a map to real-world locations. You'd be surprised how many people, cops included, lack that very basic spatial-visualization skill.

Then again, if the phone was physically well hidden and the people around it had enough acting talent to not look too hinky, it would be pretty difficult for the cops to make much progress even if they *could* narrow down to a relatively small radius. And depending on the EPE of the phone's GPS and the resolution of its tower location, the radius might not have been that small. (And the hiding location could have been specifically selected to optimize that..)

about 2 years ago

Rare 'Annular Solar Eclipse' Tonight

n5vb Re:Need not begging (116 comments)

Historically, most of the well-known rules for English seem to have originated as Latin rules, imposed on English by people who thought that Latin was the perfect language, and any language that worked even slightly differently was wrong, wrong, wrong. But lately, we've heard from people who seem to have just made up rules, and critcised people who weren't even violating them. Thus, we have the common advice that "passive" is wrong, but it's clear that most people who criticise its use have no idea what "passive voice" even means.

"English follows other languages into dark alleys, beats them up for their words and goes through their pockets for loose vocabulary." -- variously attributed

Anyone have any idea how many languages English has taken words from? Spelling rules in English are mind-bogglingly complicated because they include sub-orthographies for pretty much every one of those languages, some based on standard transliterations, others maybe kind of sort of quasi-phonetic, still others whatever worked for the first batch from that language. And of course spellings mutate over time in common usage, and sometimes the colloquial spelling will displace the "linguistically correct" one, as in almost any other language, but ten times as much in English because English has at least ten times as much vocabulary .. for the reason above. The bulk of the language is Germanic (via Old English which was basically an esoteric dialect of German), Romance (via Norman French), Latin, and Greek, in roughly that order, and the Latin/Greek distinction definitely influences a lot of seemingly contradictory rules. There's some "making it up as they go along" in the case of some source languages, but with others, the original spelling (or transliteration for non-Latin-script languages, where transliteration systems exist, and often archaic ones like the Wade-Giles system for Chinese) tends to take precedence unless it's just too weird for the average English speaker. But whole theses or possibly even dissertations could be written on this subject..

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Wrist Watch For the Tech Minded

n5vb Actually .. (466 comments)

I actually want a watch that I can pair with my phone via Bluetooth, that will let me do things like dial and answer calls. I don't know if the protocols for that even exist, but it's what I want. Touch screen for a multi-modal display that's a watch when it's not being used for something else, but switches to a dial with send/end buttons when I need it, Maybe make it switchable between various analog and/or digital dial skins. Open source/open architecture if that can be done without introducing malware vectors.

If I had the time and resources to develop it myself, that'd be the watch I want.

about 2 years ago

Paul Vixie: 100,000 DSL Modems May Lose Their DNS On July 9

n5vb Re:Why bother warning them? (193 comments)

I'm still in favor of the big red button with a clearly worded warning on it that says it will render the computer unusable and/or void the warranty if pressed. The people who read instructions and warnings and in general have some clue what they're doing will leave it alone and get years of service out of the computer; the ones who just poke and click at things totally at random when things don't do what they expect get what they deserve...

about 2 years ago

Paul Vixie: 100,000 DSL Modems May Lose Their DNS On July 9

n5vb Re:Why bother warning them? (193 comments)

There are some people who will call tech support whether they get a warning or not. Usually the wrong support, and usually to unload a half hour of angry rants that do absolutely nothing to fix the problem. If there's any reading involved beyond about the 2nd-3rd grade level, they'll ignore warning dialogs and just call and complain. This is a constant in the tech support universe.

(And I still have to laugh when people tell me their internet isn't working but they can send and receive email..)

about 2 years ago


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