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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 two weeks 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 a month 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 2 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 2 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 4 months ago

Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

rbrander A known pattern surrounding deadlines... (723 comments)

If you tried to predict how many people would hand in term papers by looking at the numbers up to the last day before the paper is due, you'd surely conclude that there was no chance of nearly everybody handing in a term paper. But that's nothing on concluding how many people would file their tax return by the April due-date by looking at the submissions up to mid-March.
I mean, HONESTLY, it takes a few hours for most people to sign-up and everybody puts everything off until they have to.

about 4 months ago

Double Take: Condoleezza Rice As Dropbox's Newest Board Member

rbrander My Fellow Board Members... (313 comments)

...we must not let the next warning from be a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud!
We must send our youngest interns to effect regime change on their board!
Thank you, and God Bless Dropbox!

about 4 months ago

Should Microsoft Give Kids Programmable Versions of Office?

rbrander Re:VBA ?!? (226 comments)

When I was a boy, we learned to program with *regular* BASIC that did not even have functions or objects, subroutines were called with GOSUB and no parameters, and it couldn't do recursion. And we still became Real Programmers and learned all that stuff later. So get off my lawn.

Frankly, I think Excel VBA is an *awesome* programming environment for teaching. It's hard to explain an object-oriented program in Python or Ruby because you first have to invent the object and put together the data structure. Since you start with simple objects, the program is hardly tighter or easier to read than doing the example without objects and the lesson that they are Good Things is not learned.

With a spreadsheet, the whole thing is already this gargantuan OO data structure that has to be explored like a video game. Spreadsheets show how there are different ways to solve problems than by linear step-by-step algorithms, you can just write a bunch of interacting functions in the cells. But then they run into limits to this functional programming, where you need procedural programming - and VBA steps in to show how a short macro can save a whole lot of cell-filling...and you can do the best VBA macros by knowing a lot of Excel data structures and working with them.

In a remarkably short time, you find students working with statements like

Range("Total_Monthly_Spend").Cells(CurrentCell).Interior.Color = RGB(255,0,0) ...which is a property of an object within an array of range objects that's part of a range object. And nonetheless, people understand it...because they've used spreadsheets for a long time and already understand ranges and cells and multiple kinds of cell properties.

I'm not saying I'd do anything with VBA that wasn't best handled by a spreadsheet for 90% of the functionality and only needed to add 10% more with VBA scripting. But small programs are the best to teach with.

about 4 months ago

The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?

rbrander Re:Users will be "Printer Trash" (400 comments)

Sorry. I wasn't voicing my opinion about "trailer" homes, just stating that a cultural stigma exists.

Writing about the people around his hometown of Winchester, Va, Joe Bageant described the whole pyramid of mobile, manufactured, modular, etc and the relative esteem each is held in. It's around these pages:

I'm glad for your situation, but it doesn't affect the current norms of value for appearance unless it becomes more common. It's not just about how you value something; it's how brave you want to be about others opinions about it. Clothing is held to the strongest rules. Sweat pants and shirt are more comfortable and much cheaper than a suit, but what do you have to wear to the job interview? (Dr. Robert Frank's example.)

Because of other's opinions, people choosing non-manufactured houses aren't just misplacing values, they're counting on getting the added expense back at sale time, because of other's valuations of it. A lot of early manufactured homes had shorter lifespans and the perception they won't resell well continues. I'm all for the industry, but it still has a climb ahead of it.

about 4 months ago

The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?

rbrander Users will be "Printer Trash" (400 comments)

IN THEORY, factory-manufactured homes would be this huge step forward over built-on-the-spot. Buckminster Fuller devoted endless hours to the subject, and imagined deployment by zepplin or helicopter, dropping off the whole Dymaxion House. Robert Heinlein wrote sharply about what a car would cost if GM sent a team of automobile assemblers to build it in your driveway.

IN REALITY, the cheapness was a hidden sales-killer. Only those with the tightest budgets live in manufactured homes, with their constraints on shape, their reputation for short service life, and they are disparaged as "trailer trash".

Printed alternatives for factory-made products will have some compromises. I'm not aware of an ability to print leather, so the shoes, for instance, will probably be *visibly* printed shoes that will be known to cost less...and come with a stigma because they will "look cheap". ANY kind of clothing that can be seen to be made a cheaper way will always carry a stigma. Jeans in the early 70s went quickly from being chic because they were cheap and proletarian and showed anti-consumerist, non-bourgeois "hippie" values to...designer jeans that cost as much as the most conspicuous-consumption choices.

"Conspicuous consumption" is not regarded as a moral sin until it hits truly comical levels (see, Saddam's palaces or much of the Hamptons) within its own culture. Dr. Robert Frank of Cornell has devoted a lot of study to the subject, is one of the best even-handed reads about income inequality; showing that you have a little money, or just really take pride in appearance, is not a bourgeois evil, it's a constant in every society through history. Adam Smith wrote about there being some decent level of clothing below which even a tramp would not be seen on the streets of Edinburgh...he wrote in the 1700s when that level was better than half the population could have afforded 200 years earlier, because fabric production was already much-mechanized. Whatever is the cheapest way to make anything is in any culture is always going to "look poor" and carry stigma.

Printing cups and bowls? Could do, but notice that people actually keep two sets of china? You might print the kid's tableware, but you won't put it out for guests. Might was well put out placemats with the sign "we're poor".

People spend a lot of money on: homes, cars, appliances/electronics, furniture - as capital assets. And clothing and other items much on display for status as well as use, as consumable assets. Notice that none of these things are going to be popular as home-printed products. I'll happily buy a home printer, there's loads of things they will do: a box of just the right size to fit a storage space, a replacement part. I just walked around the house and came up with the TV trays, the TV stand, my CD cases, the picture frames, bookends, and a whole lot of containers. All acceptable if plain and utilitarian. Everything else, I'd want it to look like it wasn't produced the cheapest way possible.

about 3 months ago



NSA building yottabyte data centre

rbrander rbrander writes  |  more than 2 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 2 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 5 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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