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Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

rbrander Re:So long as it is consential (362 comments)

Please don't apply that belief to ASTM standards for wiring. Poor states would have 50 house fires per day.

It's funny, nobody suggests applying "local standards" to other professions. Yes, each state may have their own certification for accountants and engineers and so on, but the *standards and practices* are much more widespread. Nobody shops around for the doctor that meets local standards for appendectomies.

I don't crap on people who believe this stuff, but MY private belief is that they want to ensure that money from wealthier school districts never leaks over into poorer ones.

about two weeks ago

Oregon Sues Oracle For "Abysmal" Healthcare Website

rbrander Re:Because they could't sue the Government (212 comments)

I've got a hunch you typed that statement by hitting these keys:

F1 in Congress that passed the law to begin with.

about three weeks ago

Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

rbrander Re:Expert?? (442 comments)

No, not Heinlein. Very old joke, it may even pre-date Heinlein.

about a month ago

The Benefits of Inequality

rbrander Gwynne Dyer went over this in a column (254 comments)

...about how the West is not really special about democracy:

Writing about your original, even pre-homo-sapiens hunter-gatherer groups, who had democracy since we had language:

They were all very little societies: rarely more than 50 adults (who had all known one another all their lives). On the rare occasions when they had to make a major decision, they would actually sit around and debate it until they reached a consensus. Direct democracy, if you like.

People have been running their affairs that way ever since we developed language, which was almost certainly before we were even anatomically modern human beings. So 99.9 percent of our history, say. That is who we are, and how we prefer to behave unless some enormous obstacle gets in our way.

The enormous obstacle was civilization. All hunting-and-gathering societies were essentially egalitarian. The mass societies that we call civilizations arose less than 10,000 years ago, thanks to the invention of agriculture. Until very recently all of them, without exception, were tyrannies, pyramids of power and privilege in which the few decided and the many obeyed. What happened?

A mass society, thousands, then millions strong, confers immense advantages on its members. Within a few thousand years the little hunting-and-gathering groups were pushed out of the good lands everywhere. By the time the first anthropologists appeared to study them, they were on their last legs, and none now survive in their original form. But we know why the societies that replaced them were all tyrannies.

The mass societies had many more decisions to make, and no way of making them in the old, egalitarian way. Their huge numbers made any attempt at discussing the question as equals impossible, so the only ones that survived and flourished were the ones that became brutal hierarchies. Tyranny was the solution to what was essentially a communications problem.

...and notes that tyrannies have been going downward ever since printing, much less twitter.

about a month ago

The Benefits of Inequality

rbrander Re:Can't leave (254 comments)

That's what I loved about Heinlein. One time he'd write that, the next time, 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', which is very libertarian. He just posited that the Moon exiles would all just get along and not form into bloods and crips. He really loved thought experiments even when he clearly knew they contained a big assumption; shame so many mistook things like "Starship Troopers" as his serious proposal for government. He wrote a whole essay once about all the other fun ways to restrict franchise: "Why not just \women? Men had their day. Or better yet, why not just mothers? The only humans with an inarguable stake in the future." (quote is approximate.)

about a month ago

William Binney: NSA Records and Stores 80% of All US Audio Calls

rbrander Re:Uh (278 comments)

Keeping in mind they can't possibly have humans listening to all that, the only way to flag human-worthy content is voice recognition and transcription to plain text files. If you keep voice only on the 0.1% that are "likely" to be interesting, and simply voice-recognize the rest after a month and compress the plain text, the storage problem drops by orders of magnitude.

about 2 months ago

OpenSSL To Undergo Security Audit, Gets Cash For 2 Developers

rbrander "Audit"? Try massive rewrite. (132 comments)

The comments from the folks who started LibreSSL at a meeting of the Calgary Unix Users Group the other night were beyond scathing. Bob Beck's first slide shows Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, up to her elbows in stegasaurus dung, as a metaphor for what the first skim of the code felt like. It's a hopelessly overpatched mess of spaghetti code and #IFNDEF mazes that nobody can really maintain. Their fork has already tossed out tens of thousands of lines of code and started again. (Another slide shows the line from Aliens: "Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure").

If not a from-scratch rewrite, think of a home reno where you have to strip it to the frame and put up new drywalls.
And this situation was allowed to grow by the current bunch that manage OpenSSL; they're only doing this at all because one of the hundreds of time-bombs in the code finally went off, and anybody who's looked it knows how many hundreds more there are. For shame.

There's a link to the slides from the site, which is very minimal, as they say "We're too busy deleting code to make web pages".

It was just a very sobering presentation. To think we let so much depend on a pile of cruft.

about 4 months ago

Declining LG's New Ad-friendly Privacy Policy Removes Features From Smart TVs

rbrander Accept no computer you don't control (221 comments)

I was glad to grab my LG TV - because it was the last one at Best Buy that wasn't a "smart" TV, no internet connectivity at all. Just a monitor.

I really hate my $129 media player that adds 20 new for-pay services every time it updates....also LG, but I am so getting rid of it when I pull the $ together for a little computer I'll build on FLOSS from scratch, and that'll be the only thing with any smarts in my media life. Not a privacy fanatic, but it all just makes me uncomfortable and suspicious.

about 4 months ago

Declining LG's New Ad-friendly Privacy Policy Removes Features From Smart TVs

rbrander Re:LG in decline? (221 comments)

With a little luck they'll be called "the declining LG" ever after.

about 4 months ago

Australian Exploration Company Believes It May Have Found MH370 Wreckage

rbrander Re:Does it make me a bad person... (293 comments)

That's not consistent with the statement (not one you made; your post is internally consistent) that "America is a center-right nation" - a statement that gets broad agreement from all news outlets, I think. Certainly Fox reminds its viewers of that fact (or claim) whenever the R party has a bad day at the polls, and you can find the sentiment in CNN and MSNBC reportage (and many papers) as well.

If America is a "centre-right nation" - certainly it has a Gini number (measure of inequality) out of step with the rest of the developed West, a military budget that stands out as way different, and tax structures on high incomes that are different -- then reportage that most American news outlets would describe as "left leaning" would be "dead centre" in (almost all) other Western developed nations....which have a total population comfortably in excess of America's.

I mention other nations because the original post praised the BBC; this also clarifies the one respondent's complaint that the BBC is hardly "left leaning" but takes pains to be neutral. (I *can* get BBC here in Canada, where I would also say that the CBC, CTV, and Global networks here would all be described as "left leaning coverage" by most Americans...but we don't see it that way. I saw Paul Krugman worked over politely but very critically by a panel of three commentators on the BBC, who were all pretty skeptical of his negative views on Austerity; he gave as good as he got, but nobody would call it a lefty spin session.)

And I have to add that the almost universally recognized as "right-leaning" channel, Fox News, describes itself, not as right-leaning, but as Fair and Balanced - with pretty explicit statements by many of their staff that ALL other outlets are left-leaning so they have to step in an provide a truly factual, neutral viewpoint to serve the public better...but in a few cases (Jon Stewart I think?) their staff have been gotcha'd in conversation stating that they really are quite a necessary counter-balance, of course, to all that leftism on every other channel.

Some other posters here seem to be attempting a discrimination between "leaning" as in editorial statements and as in their choice of WHAT topics to cover, purely factually. That is, you can be strictly factual about stories of "voter fraud" or "racist comments by old white men", while giving what many would call extreme amounts of airtime to a given topic, given its impact on the world.

I'm sure many would call me "left leaning" for stating my opinion that the "Democracy Now" program by Amy Goodman et all is pretty good at sticking to facts - it's their list of topic choices that differs from most other media. It's hard to call the Annenberg School for Communications a biased source, they're very highly respected (and the Annenberg's were the Reagan's best friends), and their dean remarked: "She's not an editorialist. She sticks to the facts... She provides points of view that make you think, and she comes at it by saying: 'Who are we not hearing from in the traditional media?"

I would say that BOTH editorial positions and choice of topics are both ways to lean; and indeed the news-topic way of leaning is more insidious than outright opinion, because people have their guard up more when opinion is clearly rather than implicitly the source of the content.

about 5 months ago

Male Scent Molecules May Be Compromising Biomedical Research

rbrander Male odor could explain a lot (274 comments) why women don't enter scientific fields...

about 5 months ago

White House Worried About Discrimination Through Analytics

rbrander Re:Crossing a Line is Easy for Some (231 comments)

You mean like Afghans who sold out rivals (often relatives) to the USA, to become some of the longest-serving Guantanamo captives? Yeah, that happens. Has for centuries in any regime that takes people away upon suspicion. That's what's wrong, not the information-gathering system; why you don't circumvent the protections of due process. I'm not sure what's new about this particular complaint system.

about 5 months ago

How the FCC Plans To Save the Internet By Destroying It

rbrander Problem 1 is to get people to pay attention (217 comments)

The Globe and Mail did a story on it the other day. I took a few minutes to put in a longish comment, thinking this would be yet another right/left shoutfest.

I dropped back a few hours later to see who'd called me a commie, only to see it only got a few comments and was dropped off the main page already - presumably because the web server had noticed almost nobody was reading it.

If people don't pay attention to government, the bad guys generally win.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Books for a Comp Sci Graduate Student?

rbrander Need a list of "non-traditional" programming books (247 comments)

For me, it was "Thinking Forth" by Leo Brodie. Forth is a pretty unique language, barely above assembler level, but able to (quickly) build up code/data structures of Lisp-like complexity (and like Lisp, can self-modify). Brodie's Thinking Forth pulls apart how you'd solve problems with procedural language and completely re-factors them to take advantage of how Forth works.

Even if you don't ever use Forth (and most of us enthusiasts never did for anything but school and our own utilities), learning it changes your thinking. But I'd concede that Forth itself isn't the necessity - it's to learn languages and approaches that solve problems in whole different ways. There should be books on functional languages, APL, or Lisp.

I'm not sure what the classic list would be - but for me, Starting Forth I pull off the shelf decades later to peruse when I need to pull my head outside the box. (It's now available as a free PDF, by the way.)

about 5 months ago

Obama Delays Decision On Keystone Pipeline Yet Again

rbrander The points that convinced me... (206 comments)

I'm all for the End of Oil. But the tar-sands vilification got so it pissed me off and I find myself in a surprising place - in the trench with companies I've never liked. What gets to me:

- Greenpeace created the "world's dirtiest oil" moniker with a large, sustained media campaign. I'm amazed it survived the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. I mean, really, it's worse than just spewing a fantastic amount of raw crude right into one of the world's most fecund ocean biomes and commercial fisheries, no way to clean it up at all? Greenpeace isn't a bunch of guys around a card table anymore, their budget is $300M/year. They love theatrical campaigns more than scientific ones; it's about what creates emotion, not real ecological results.

- Presuming (perhaps, a big presumption) that we keep on top of them with regulation, the open-pit mines are eventually filled back in and trees stuck on top - the ones where they've already done it are of course the first stop on the tour. Yes, the current mines are 200 sq. mi., "you can see them from space" ...where they look like a brown postage stamp on a green billiards table, the boreal forest being over 200,000 sq.mi. Know what else is 200 sq. mi. or so? New York City, which was a rich hunting and fishing land of the Manhattan Indians. It's not being restored to forest any time soon, because it provides living space for 8 million people, rather than 8000 Manhattans. The tar sands are providing what currently is an (unfortunate) necessity of life for 20 million people.

- Accounts vary (for some reason) but I tend to trust New Scientist Magazine as pretty objective - their figure was that it takes the release of 70kg of carbon to extract tar sands oil, compared to 50kg for conventional. But both barrels are then *burned* releasing 200-300kg (depends on gas/diesel/etc), so the total lifecyle increase of carbon is under 10%. Yes, that's bad, but concentrating all hatred of carbon onto one source of it is, again, theatre, not science. It's like banning 3000lb SUVs and feeling very virtuous as you buy a 2700 lb SUV.

- But above all, picking on these companies and their pipeline schemes is attacking the *producer*, not the consumption end. Speaking of "America is addicted to oil", how has that strategy worked out for the War on Drugs? It's funny, the same very liberal folks who will shake their heads at the raw stupidity of the Drug War ("all it does is drive up the costs and bring in more ruthless producers to fill the hole") imagine it will work on energy that everybody wants to buy.

I'm all for shutting down the tar sands - but by hitting the consumption end, with research and incentives for batteries, electric cars, thorium and fusion power plants...the latter having the much greater benefit of first killing off coal-powered electric generation, a greater greenhouse issue than all oil. But when the inflection point hits with electric transportation and oil consumption actually goes *down*, the most expensive sources (tar sands) will be the first ones shuttered. Speed the day.

PS: Yes, I'm from Calgary. But I don't work in oil/gas, nor does anybody close to me. This is not as much about Canada as you may imagine. Almost all the $200B invested up there is from American companies. We barely tax them - less for oil than Palin's Alaska or Cheney's Wyoming. Our cut was just jobs building it. My family pioneered Alberta for two generations before oil was discovered - and they'll be around after it's all gone. Good riddance; but the ridding has to *work*. To make it work, we have to change a whole technological base of a society, not just rail at scapegoats.

about 5 months ago

Cody Wilson Interview at Reason: Happiness Is a 3D Printed Gun

rbrander Yeah, that'll bring Utopia (207 comments)

Pretty funny to have this article right after the one about two large new corporations as "unelected superpowers". All the guns you can print won't materialize a factory for you to work in if unelected superpowers in our society decide to outsource your job. Waving a gun around your ISP offices won't make the oligopoly they're part of cut your Internet rates.

Threatening violence in the 30's didn't get poor people anything but far more violence used against them. (Turns out the Powers That Be have guns too, and way more of them.) Peaceful organizing of protests, labour unions, and voting blocs, on the other hand, shifted power (and money) from the old-millionaires-club of the 19th century to the new unfamiliar concept of the middle class. Granted, successful war against it has been waged for over 30 years, but it sure as hell won't be turned around because somebody starts handing out cheap guns.

about 5 months ago

Declassified Papers Hint US Uranium May Have Ended Up In Israeli Arms

rbrander Re:Isn't this story ancient? (165 comments)

Oh boy: grammar nazi vs actual nazis. Who'll win?

Yes, I know Baath weren't literally nazis. And this isn't actually about grammar. Oh, man, now you're going to call MY joke "bullshit". I hate to tell you, but "funny" has come and gone before the brain starts processing issues like the one you raised. I think the "funny" posts should be exempted from the usual slashdot arguments about the details.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

rbrander Compaq P1210 (702 comments)

My Compaq P1210 catwarmer only died a few months ago, after daily use since early 1998. When the cat went to jump on top of the new LCD and simply landed on the desk behind, he was not amused. I put a pillow back there, and now it's his secret hiding place; he leans up against the back of the LCD for his catwarming needs. (This is Canada; as I write, a nasty mix of snow and rain is blustering around outside.)

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

rbrander Re:Medical doctor (737 comments)

If she could reduce a fracture and sew up a wound; if she could diagnose the most common ailments and give the best advice you could get with the technology available, she'd be about 80% as useful as a modern doctor.

about 5 months ago



NSA building yottabyte data centre

rbrander rbrander writes  |  about 3 years ago

rbrander writes "James Bamford, author of "The Puzzle Palace" and NSA-watching journalist for many decades, notes in a recent article in Politico that the NSA is building a $2B, 1-million-sq.ft. data centre in Utah expected to eventually hold one "Yottabyte" of data.

In contrast to previous NSA focus on foreigners, the bulk of it will probably be data about Americans."

Link to Original Source

US Army Unveils New $35,000 "Rifle"

rbrander rbrander writes  |  more than 3 years ago

rbrander (73222) writes "Don't call it a "rifle", call it the "XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System" and get your $35,000 worth. Much more than a projector of high-speed lead, this device hurls small grenades that automatically detonate in mid-flight with 1-metre accuracy over nearly 800m. The vital field feature is the ability to explode 1m behind the wall you just lazed, the one with the enemy hiding behind it."
Link to Original Source

Israeli army developing robotic snake for recon

rbrander rbrander writes  |  more than 4 years ago

rbrander (73222) writes "The IDF has released a video showing their new development, a robotic snake with a camera for a head. The camo-covered tube can wriggle through the smallest of openings and tunnels to feed back a continuous video to a field laptop."
Link to Original Source

City of Vancouver, Canada adopts open standards

rbrander rbrander writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rbrander writes "Vancouver, Canada's third-largest city, has adopted a policy of "open standards, interfaces and formats" for all public data. They will also consider open-source software on an even footing with proprietary for all new software purchases. Fifteen of the fifteen people who signed up to speak to city council on the topic spoke in favour. Their only criticism was "can't you do more?" with one advocating that FOSS software be given preference, not equal footing."
Link to Original Source

US Strong-Armed Canada to Have DMCA

rbrander rbrander writes  |  more than 6 years ago

rbrander (73222) writes "Canadian copyright watchdog Michael Geist has written the story of How the U.S. got its Canadian copyright bill". The arm-twisting was pretty up-front: "Canadian officials arrived ready to talk about a series of economic concerns but were quickly rebuffed by their U.S. counterparts, who indicated that progress on other issues would depend upon action on the copyright file." ... "the USTR...made veiled threats about 'thickening the border' between Canada and the U.S. if Canada refused to put copyright reform on the legislative agenda.""
Link to Original Source

MPAA chases uploads, ignores open sales of DVD-Rs?

rbrander rbrander writes  |  more than 6 years ago

rbrander writes "Go to and find a remarkable sales site for box sets of TV shows — including not only surprisingly cheap deals, but offerings not found elsewhere, such as all ten seasons of "JAG" in a box set, when the production company is only up to season 4 so far. Oddly enough, they are all described as "region free".

Then Google "tvboxset" and find every link below the first is to a complaint or news website complaining of the scam. Add "gazette" to the query and be quickly taken to this story in the Montreal Gazette ...which states that those who do get a product shipped find it to be a DVD-R apparently recorded off the air.

The really odd thing? They're still in business! The Montreal Gazette story is six weeks old. Now what's in it for the content industry to beat up private citizens with $220,000 judgements or scrambling to get DeCSS sites shut down within hours, while corporate scammers openly sell pirate DVDs for months on end, unopposed?"

Link to Original Source


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