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The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

niftymitch But a lot was learned.. (182 comments)

But a lot was learned about internet education....

A good MOOC is harder to do than authoring a common textbook
and there are thousands directly involved being critical.

The most difficult part is the teaching assistants that make things work.
A MOOC quickly exhausts the ranks of teaching assistant talent and
taxes the normal teaching assistant pool with different tools and forces
them to interact in low leverage ways. The professor high leverage
but the middleware as it were is under provisioned for the extreme
fan out of a MOOC.

They will be back... changed but ultimately the extreme leverage potential
will be realized.

Now where is my source for BSD learn?

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Advice On Building a Firewall With VPN Capabilities?

niftymitch Re:geek or not ~ pfSense (238 comments)

Full blown Win-Server
software that can get the job done costs more than the hardware.

No, not really. Windows has the easiest internet-sharing and vpn configuration wizard you'lll find. And its not half bad, but...

The above is a rather nice little box. At half this price I would buy two.

I have an equivalent box, Instead of pfSense (which, besides the gui and the easy VLAN setup, is a crappy system for everything else), I run FreeBSD 9.2. And I use it everyday to tunnel into my windows machines with RDP via SSH :)

One caution is that Windows is not as secure an OS perhaps because
there is a rich set of stuff that is darn hard to replace or eliminate.

A FreeBSD or Linux based firewall+VPN system can be pruned to an astoundingly
short list of services and binaries. I say this but most Linux system owners
do not do this.... but it is better facilitated if you want to do it.

You open up a good context to make the point that a user should use what
they know best. If the poster knows how to manage one system and not
the other then the best answer for that user is obvious.

Opinionated discussions like this are really homework check lists
for others. At some point consensus identifies a winner to learn first.
Along the way issues, tools and options surface as alternatives worthy
or research and may cause the consensus answer to change.

I am not a fan of consensus science but it does have its place.

about two weeks ago

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) slams Mark Zuckerberg

niftymitch Schools in AL (1 comments)

So far FB has kept its head count lower than any might expect.
They are concentrated and very centrally located unlike other Internet
companies and Silicon Valley companies.

Any elected officials tilting at the H-1B visa program has to look
hard at the school system in their districts and review their
placement success factors. They also need to look at wages
paid at all levels.... If this gentleman does not push hard for
minimum wage improvements across the nation he or she is missing
the boat.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Advice On Building a Firewall With VPN Capabilities?

niftymitch Re:geek or not ~ pfSense (238 comments)

This indeed. I have pfSense running on one of these with a 60 Gig SSD drive. If it wasn't for the cat trying to hide behind it I wouldn't even know it was there and running.

The above is a rather nice little box. At half this price I would buy two.

I was going to reply to the original poster that if he had to ask
he could not get there from here. The above system has the
critical two Gig-E network ports. He would have to install
and learn how to administer a linux system or install a pile of odd
things on top of an IMO fragile WindowZ OS. Full blown Win-Server
software that can get the job done costs more than the hardware.

The best bet is to run the router that the ISP gives you and
then use that as the basic firewall and allow one port
access inside to a machine that runs VPN software.
That machine could be the above or it could be anything

The obvious other place to start is to Google for "gig-e router vpn".
When shopping VPN solutions make sure all three bits are
working.... Client, server, firewall...

VPNs are interesting... they punch a hole in a firewall that
once inside other security must be in place. Badly structured
VPN solutions increase the footprint and enable many
worms, viruses and other cruft to run free.

Well structured good things happen.

about two weeks ago

Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court

niftymitch Re:Double-edged sword (118 comments)

IMO, you should be able to patent processes that are based on new technological development, but not the logic/flowpath of the process. Software itself should fall under copyright law.

Copyright law has been polluted by Micky Mouse.
As a result software should NOT fall under copyright law.

It is "Goofy" as heck that each time the Copyright of the old
mouse comes up the bar moves is insane.

Copyright might cover the text of code as code tells a story of what
is happening but to patent all stories about "Boy meets girl, boy and
girl fall in love, something happens under the covers and they live
happily ever after" is not worthy of a patent or copyright.

Sadly many method and process patents are little more than outlines
of a screenplay level abstractions of an idea. Further some of the
Copyright laws cover characters and plot formats. To this end characters
and plot formats are kin of an API. We have seen the nasty bits
that can happen when API freedom is murky (Java: Oracle-Google).
When the API is found to have value in and of itself the "owner" wants
to pull in the reign and put a context on permissions. Hardback books
might be OK but not paperback and not eBook stories.

Authors of Sherlock Holmes and other serialized character based stories
protected their intellectual property with Copyright. Today I am prohibited
from crafting stories and screenplays about a character "Sheldon Cooper"
that ..... Well you get the idea.

Copyright is the wrong choice. We need a better answer, a much better answer.

It is good to note that code is authored. Good code like a good story has structure,
consistency, organization and purpose. Side effects are possible. It can be asynchronous
perhaps in a Kurt Vonnegut way. The choice of language, punctuation and typography
might reflect on e.e. cummings.. It can be vapid and return the empty set or return
vastly more to the point that some spend a lifetime building on it.

about two weeks ago

Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court

niftymitch Re:Double-edged sword (118 comments)

It decreases the incentive for some people. There are plenty of counterexamples of unpatented innovative software. I know I know, don't feed the trolls.

The part about "don't feed the trolls" is the important part.
If this shifts the balance of power such that patent trolls see less and less
value in flexing legal muscle things are a win.

True innovation still has merit but if the same obvious to try permutations criteria
that drug inventions are being held to apply we will be better off.

i.e. if a data link is used and a patent for RS-232 is issued it makes no
sense that an RS-485 is novel enough to justify a new patent. Same for
WiFi, Cell data, BlueTooth....

Design patents like rounded corners do need to be addressed.

about two weeks ago

Universal Big Bang Lithium Deficit Confirmed

niftymitch Unless... (170 comments)

OK, "there is about three times less lithium in stars than expected."


Unless the start of it all was coordinated by a gazilion elves
all co-ordinating things with cell phones (Li batteries).

about two weeks ago

UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

niftymitch Re:Meanwhile in the real world... (427 comments)

How do you emit less CO2 burning more coal? Most or all of these new coal plants are not intended to do underground sequestration as far as I can tell. And the reporting indicates that they expect to increase net coal consumption not just replace older plants. I think cleaner means fewer particulate emissions, which is good for lung diseases and quality of life, but still the plan is to burn more coal and therefore more CO2 which is bad for Global Climate Change.

And events that might naturally sequester CO2 are considered evil in the same context.

A large region of an ocean that flips into an anoxic state and starts to rain organics
on the ocean floor would be seen as a global disaster. Yet such disasters may
be necessary to reverse the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I have not seen any credible science that shows good analysis for any reversal
strategy. Without reversal strategies those with vast coal reserves might do
well to level mountain tops, mine the coal and terraform the mountain top into
agriculture or homes. Reclamation and terraforming is ill understood... and needs
to be understood.

about two weeks ago

UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

niftymitch's Joe vs CO2 (427 comments)

It's not likely that volcanic or tectonic activity has much of anything to do with it. Even the largest volcanic eruption of the past 100 years, Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 emitted only 42 megatonnes of CO2, only 0.2% of the 23 gigatonnes emitted by human activities that year.

And Mt Pinatubo was most famous for SO2 not CO2 emissions.

about two weeks ago

UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

niftymitch Acidification of oceans... (427 comments)

Historically, about half of the pollution from human sources has been absorbed by the oceans and by terrestrial plants,

The inability to absorb CO2 may have flipped and acidification may be
generating CO2 from oolitic sands and coral.

If acidification has flipped the oceans from a net sink for CO2 to a source
of CO2 we have issues with acceleration and underlying models in the

Sadly the global warming side may prove to be right for many wrong reasons
and the nonbelievers may be wrong for other reasons.

This is a case where two wrongs does not make a right----.

I find myself at odds in this because I see bad science that puts
me on one side of the issues and then I see observations that make
it clear that as bad as the science is they are getting essentially
the right answer. In this case it may only be necessary to get the
sign correct.

Any that study statistics and the camel will understand.

about two weeks ago

Research Shows RISC vs. CISC Doesn't Matter

niftymitch Re:isn't x86 RISC by now? (161 comments)

i've read the legacy x86 instructions were virtualized in the CPU a long time ago and modern intel processors are effectively RISC that translate to x86 in the CPU

Well the folk at Transmeta Corporation made it obvious that the external
ISA was no longer a necessary constraint on the way a modern processor
works. The explosion of the fast transistor count made it possible to craft
an instruction issue logic chain that was very rich in the clock times of modern

Strictly modern processors are more VLIW than RISC and trigger arrays
of resources selected by the expanded long instruction words.

about two weeks ago

First US Appeals Court Hears Arguments To Shut Down NSA Database

niftymitch The first five min... (199 comments)

Most interesting are the first five min...
It is not a debate....

Positions in writing... have already been submitted.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City sits where
in the chain.

Email is not covered... but there are parallel email issues.
Grand jury issues too. Bulk collection...

Back in a couple of hours.

about two weeks ago

Facebook Blamed For Driving Up Cellphone Bills, But It's Not Alone

niftymitch So my phone has FB installed by default.. (131 comments)

So my phone has FB installed by default and they know exactly what
data plan I have.

There seems to be no reason to pay data overages because of
vendor installed applications. There seems to be a fundamental
conflict of interest, evidence of fraud or bait and switch.

I am not talking about an auto with a speedometer that goes to 120 mph
sold in states with maximum speed limits well below but a clear misrepresentation
of purpose in marketing.

Speaking about strange numbers. Phones are marketed with standby
times and talk times that are impossible given the default software,
default settings and most likely distance to cell tower service.

I am most likely moving my number to my old old old Nokia flip phone.
It has standby time in days not hours. I see nothing smart in the battery
support for most smart phones.

about two weeks ago

Newly Discovered Asteroid Passing Within Geostationary Orbit Sunday

niftymitch What does woosh (1 comments)

What does a woosh sound like in space...

House size is not too bad. Last I checked Hugh Laurie weighs 185 pounds lbs.
so this asteroid is not so large that I would worry.

On another note larger objects take decades for a satellite to reach
and maneuver to. We will get clobbered by some big ass brick piles
because these things are hard to detect in a time frame that might
permit us to do anything....

about three weeks ago

In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment For a Novelist

niftymitch Does it take... (441 comments)

Does it take nineteen minutes to understand this.

When a kid cannot mime splashing his friends with imaginary
water balloons without getting removed from school and subjected
to interrogation and counseling.... we have crossed a line.

I consider this issue to have its roots in "zero tolerance" policies
that have morphed into "intolerance" policies. Worse they teach
hide bound behaviour as ideal, remove negotiation and listening
from the table. Intolerant management at work, school and yes
parenting evokes despair and helplessness in people.

It is true that some find solace in the strict adherence to policy
by administrators and bureaucrats mindset but when policy is
wrong much more goes wrong. When we are lucky Kafka chuckles
in his grave.

Currently in the news we are seeing a zero tolerance organization
run amok in Iraq and Syria as ISIS fighters impose an extreme
view of the rules and then enforce those rules with a "Zero Tolerance"

about three weeks ago

Why Phone Stores Should Stockpile Replacements

niftymitch Trade up and in is a scam. (253 comments)

Never give up a working phone when you get a new one.

Read above and now you know why.

A visit to the phone store can activate the old device perhaps
with the old SIM card...

I use my old phones to WiFi stream music and stuff into
my home. Bluetooth to the audio world for music.
Chromecast for other stuff...

about three weeks ago

Cellphone towers could predict flooding

niftymitch Why sure... (1 comments)

This is true for most microwave links as well.

Further a radar like echo return from cell towers could
be developed to fill in many gaps.

There is a big absorption band about 2.45 GHz and
yes cell tower frequencies. The 2.45GHz is interesting because
of the inexpensive low power WiFi chips that could be used to
build a solar power communication mesh to cover vast areas
with bandwidths better than the Telebit UUCP/UUCICO links
of the early Unix communication explosion.

about three weeks ago

New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption

niftymitch Re:Game changing big events beyond any planning? (121 comments)

Our current economic system has created existential risks by discounting the risks of centralization and just-in-time production and just-barely-works systems without huge margins of resiliency. One tragedy-in-the-making example is the USA recently selling off its emergency strategic grain supplies. .......

Good stuff except that the Yellowstone volcano risk is vastly bigger than any emergency grain supply we ever considered.

We are not talking about a regional disaster but one so big that with the modern population and population distribution
we would be well and goodly firetrucked.

You point is spot on if we consider lesser but still massive disasters. Most folk consider disaster planning of three days
food and water to be a difficult investment. A continent wide disaster with spill over to other continents needs to address
decades or more.

about three weeks ago

New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption

niftymitch Re:Do they know more than they let on? (121 comments)

Wow ... there is a lot of talk about the Yellowstone volcano. Do the authorities know more than they are saying to the public? Why all of the sudden interest in Yellowstone? Is an eruption imminent and we are not being told?

As a geologist the impact, size and risk of Yellowstone has been an ongoing learning experience.

Yellowstone like large eruptions and large asteroid impacts are global game changers.
Any that wake up in the morning and think about this get concerned.

Both issues invoke magical thinking... we could make the problem go away by -________-.

What we do know is that historic eruptions did blanket North America with ash,
we also have some decent data about how many and how often and when we
might be due...

The un-interesting bit is the mumble foo about a computer program. Some think
this is adding to the knowledge but the reality is hand drawn maps from
20 years ago tell the same OMG KYAGB story.

Add regions of Indonesia to the list right along side the Mammoth Mtn. caldera in California.

These game changing big events are well beyond any FEMA planning.
Have a good cup of tea and enjoy the fireworks.

about three weeks ago

Microsoft Defies Court Order, Will Not Give Emails To US Government

niftymitch Re:customer-centric (419 comments)

Microsoft's actions might seem "customer-centric," but really they're fighting for their lives.

If MS can be forced to give up European data, stored on European servers, that's game over for them.
Lawsuits and investigations will flourish in Europe, because their data protection laws are much stronger/stricter than ours.

This could kill MS's European business.

What largish Linux push in Europe was squashed in favor of MicroSoft products?

Microsoft has a lot to lose if they ignore international law and act as
the blind agent of a US court.

China is working to replace all MS and Cisco software already as
well as replace all Intel and other non-Chinese processors with their own
chip designs. Their early hardware efforts have shown that there
are few technical problems in their way to nationalize large markets.

about three weeks ago



A Polygraph is not private, OH MY....

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about 2 months ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "

"TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) – WIAT 42 News has obtained a copy of Justin “Ross” Harris’ personnel file from the time that he was employed as a dispatcher with the Tuscaloosa Police Department. The documents detail Harris’ employment history, some drug use, and the results of a polygraph test that was conducted before his hire. Harris was hired as a tele communicator basic with the police department in June of 2006. He was promoted in his second year with the department, and then in May 2009, he resigned."

This is a tangle of astounding reach. A polygraph is a process to coerce "honesty" from individuals... But there is no US constitutional protection and no privacy as this release demonstrates."
Link to Original Source


SF-fire-chief-bans-helmet-cameras BUT WHY?

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about a year ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "San Francisco's fire chief has explicitly banned firefighters from using helmet-mounted video cameras, after images from a battalion chief's Asiana Airlines crash recording became public and led to questions about first responders' actions leading up to a fire rig running over a survivor."
Link to Original Source

Like this cannot be hacked...

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about a year ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "Like this can never be hacked.... One can hope.

"A high-tech startup is wading into the gun control debate with a wireless controller that would allow gun owners to know when their weapon is being moved — and disable it remotely.

"The technology, but not an actual gun, was demonstrated Tuesday at a wireless technology conference in Las Vegas and was shown to The Associated Press in advance. It comes at a time when lawmakers around the U.S. are considering contentious smart gun laws that would require new guns to include high-tech devices that limit who can fire them.""

Link to Original Source

Should health departments relax in emergencies?... radiation did it...

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about a year ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "State health officials said several vendors have set up in Moore to help provide food to residents and workers in the area, but some are failing to follow basic health guidelines. Cleveland County Health Department officials say there have been reports of numerous vendors in the area giving away or selling food for people living and working in the area.

The director of the state health department's consumer health service, K.C. Ely, says that while they appreciate that people want to help, they are finding "multiple food safety hazards."

Ely said a check of several vendors found no means for washing hands, water, screening, overhead protection or other basic food safety requirements."

Link to Original Source

Man Jailed in UK 4 fake detectors.

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about a year ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes ""A British judge on Thursday sentenced a businessman who sold fake bomb detectors to 10 years in jail, saying the millionaire had shown a cavalier disregard for potentially fatal consequences.

"James McCormick made an estimated 50 million pounds ($77.8 million) from the sales of his non-working detectors — which were based on a novelty golf ball finder — to countries including Iraq, Belgium, Niger and Saudi Arabia."

Now will the purveyors of the of those body scanners to the TSA be next?"

Link to Original Source

CNN anchor Deb Feyerick opened with a rather odd question

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about a year and a half ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "The fifth branch of the US gvment needs an education!

On Friday, an asteroid will come within 17,000 miles of the Earth—“a very close shave” by space standards, as my colleague Phil Plait puts it on Bad Astronomy. Recently, Bill Nye the Science Guy went on CNN to discuss the phenomenon—and anchor Deb Feyerick opened with a rather odd question: “Is this an effect of perhaps global warming?”

BTW: The fourth branch is special interest groups."

Link to Original Source

Moo, Tracking School Children With RFID

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  about 2 years ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "Just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture mandates Radio Frequency Identification Device chips to monitor livestock, a Texas school district just begun implanting the devices on student identification cards to monitor pupils’ movements on campus, and to track them as they come and go from school.

Tagging school children with RFID chips is uncommon, but not new.

The risk is in the abuse. Merchants and many many more locations can deploy readers and track these passive ID tags. The result is that it is not only the school that can track the students."

Link to Original Source

The clairvoyant patent.. OMG #7,958,388

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  more than 2 years ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "And I quote from US patent 7,958,388
United States Patent 7,958,388
Bullen , et al. June 7, 2011
"The above description of the preferred embodiments has been given by way of example. From the disclosure given, those skilled in the art shall understand the invention and its advantages, but will also find apparent various changes and modifications that can be made to the methods and structures disclosed. We seek therefore to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the spirit and scope of the invention, as defined by the appended claims and equivalents thereof. Thus, it is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope and spirit of the invention being indicated by the following claims."

Which I take to claim that anything a workman like programmer discovers as missing is included even if they have not thought of it yet.


It is illegal to talk.

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  more than 2 years ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "Apparently it is illegal to talk about the superbowl. .....descriptions are a violation of copyright. Listen closely right before the commercials and you will find yourself being told that not only are unauthorized reproductions a no-no, but so are..."
Link to Original Source

Zappos - zapped

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  more than 2 years ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "Zappos tells us.

"First, the bad news:

"We are writing to let you know that there may have been illegal and unauthorized access to some of your customer account information on, including one or more of the following: your name, e-mail address, billing and shipping addresses, phone number, the last four digits of your credit card number (the standard information you find on receipts), and/or your cryptographically scrambled password (but not your actual password).""

Link to Original Source

How to file a friend of court brief?

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  more than 2 years ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "What is unique and novel in Patent number: 7822816 System and method for data management J. David Payne...

This claim sounds like BSD "learn" to me:
      "creating a questionnaire comprising a series of questions" or even the SAT tests. With swizzled bubble .vs. question mechanism to make shoulder surfing near impossibe.

Another sounds like classic bubble test read by a machine and even Myers brigs tests.
  "tokenizing said questionnaire; thereby producing a plurality of tokens representing said questionnaire".

This is hitting the courts in MacroSolve, Inc. v. Whoop, Inc.; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas; Civil Action No. 6:11-cv-00523

The whole thing reads like: "I patent the use of the following things when used in the manner that they were designed for and intended to be used." i.e I patent any method where when you have a hammer and you hammer nails.

The mention of XML is interesting because the design of XML was to address difficult to maintain compact data encoding methods. i.e. compact encoding predates XML.

Another claim reads like the "dragon book" where compact intermediate tokens are designed to be used as input for another program.

Anyhow the captcha for this is :retard: which makes me wonder if /. is a magic eight ball in disguise. Is it the patent or me.."

Obama Tax Plan implemented at ATT

niftymitch niftymitch writes  |  more than 3 years ago

niftymitch (1625721) writes "AT&T announced that it will reduce the data throughput speed of its biggest data users on the unlimited data plan. The company stated it's responding to the explosive growth in data usage and the network congestion that comes with it. ......
Instead, it's targeting the top 5 percent of heaviest data users on the unlimited plan, who use 12 times more data than other users, according to AT&T."

Link to Original Source


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