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Comments

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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

swillden Re:The article is more extreme than the summary (609 comments)

"Science is the best method of obtaining Truth"

I worked in science for over a decade but never saw truth with capital T either defined in science or stated as goal of science.

Substitute "correct explanation of the universe" for "Truth" if you prefer. I think they're the same thing.

There is no notion of "Truth" there, useful information is the best one could hope for, and any physicist will tell you that it is quite possible the fundamental workings and principals of the universe might be unknowable and untestable though they hope that is not the case.

It might be unknowable, but (a) there's no indication of that (no, I don't think our failure to find a unified theory in a few generations is an indication; that just means understanding reality is hard, which we already knew) and (b) it's not clear how we could even know that it's unknowable. As we devise ever better explanations for the workings of the universe it's possible that we're not obtaining a true knowledge of what's "really" there, but if not, then what we are obtaining is completely indistinguishable from said knowledge.

What's very interesting to contemplate is how we could arrive at the knowledge that the structure of reality is unknowable. The only way I can think of is if we were to determine at some point that below (or above?) a certain scale interactions and processes become truly random, not in the sense of Quantum Mechanical randomness, which still appears to obey clear and fairly simple probabilistic rules (and which can be explained by the many-worlds hypothesis, if you want), but random in the sense of being completely without observable order.

But, even if we did achieve that knowledge, would that not, itself be Truth with a capital T? It would not be at all useful, but it would be an accurate description of reality. It would, perhaps, be the clearest example of pure science, since it would have no possible engineering applications.

Oh, one more point: Note that I'm not claiming that science ever achieves "Truth". It is and always will be an asymptotically-approaching approximation to a completely correct explanation. That doesn't change the fact that correct explanations are what science is seeking.

6 hours ago
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Ask Slashdot: Who Should Pay Costs To Attend Conferences?

swillden What is your goal? (161 comments)

Why do you want to attend the conference?

If your goal is to be able to do a better job for your current employer, then the employer should pay.

If your goal is to become better at the kind of thing you do, then ideally your employer should recognize that value to them and pay, but if they don't recognize it, then you have to decide whether the personal growth is worth it for the personal cost... and perhaps seriously think about finding an employer who is less short-sighted.

If your goal is to have a bit of a vacation, save your money and go on vacation some place that's interesting to you. Perhaps even Las Vegas (though that wouldn't be my choice).

10 hours ago
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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

swillden Re:The article is more extreme than the summary (609 comments)

No, science is not the pursuit of Truth, that would be philosophy down the hall.

Science is the best method of obtaining Truth that we have yet discovered, namely: conjecture and criticism, with a willingness to discard ideas which fail, and no interest in ideas which are so disconnected from reality as to be impossible to test via criticism. As such, useful philosophy is a branch of science, even though it's not often viewed that way.

There's also much philosophy which doesn't allow itself to be subjected to criticism, but that's useless because without criticism it's impossible to separate error from truth. Such philosophy not only isn't the pursuit of Truth, it's completely unable ever to say anything objective about Truth.

10 hours ago
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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

swillden Re:The article isn't any better. (609 comments)

From TFA:

So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That's the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet.

No - engineering "gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet". Science gives us the theoretical (in the scientific sense) frameworks and tools that engineering can apply to do that. The author shows at least as much confusion as those he decries, and he does it from the start.

Yes. That quote describes the philosophy known as "empiricism", which asserts that the epistemological purpose and process of science is to derive methods for prediction, as opposed to creating explanations. The modern, Popperian and post-Popperian, understanding of science is that it is based on the philosophy of falsifiability, and is a process of conjecture and criticism, with the goal of creating expanations for how the world works. The explanations do enable prediction, but they're deeper than that, because rules of thumb that provide accurate predictions can exist without explanations of the underlying phenomena, and such rules of thumb are strictly less valuable and less useful than explanations. The most essential difference, though there are many, is that explanations explain their own "reach", making clear the set of phenomena to which they apply, while rules of thumb don't, regardless of their accuracy.

Also, some of the criticism takes the form of experiment, but not all, and in fact not even most. Most conjectured explanations are discarded after only a little analysis, because that's all it takes to show them to be inconsistent with what's already known, or to show them to be bad or shallow explanations for other reasons. Controlled experimentation, per se, isn't even necessary. This is a good thing because in some areas of science, for example, astrophysics, we don't have the ability to experiment on the objects of study. Yet we can still theorize, criticize, examine evidence and move gradually towards ever more accurate and deeper explanations.

The explanations provided by science are, as you say, what make engineering possible, but science is the process of creating ever-better explanations of the universe, not merely of producing reliable predictive rules.

10 hours ago
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Secret Service Critics Pounce After White House Breach

swillden Re:Bullshit. (217 comments)

You didn't read all of my post, did you?

11 hours ago
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Secret Service Critics Pounce After White House Breach

swillden Re:Bullshit. (217 comments)

I'm gay. I live in Belgium. Our Prime Minister is gay. I saw him in the club Friday night. It doesn't _have_ to be like it is in the US.

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but your example really doesn't have much bearing. The US has 30X the population of Belgium. 40X the GDP, 56X the military personnel and probably 100X the impact on world events -- all of which means there are perhaps four orders of magnitude more people interested in killing the US President than the Belgian Prime Minister (these things scale non-linearly), even when the US isn't actively trying to piss off a lot of people. Which, unfortunately, it has been for several decades now.

Though on second thought, the fact that "Belgium" is the most offensive word in the galaxy (off Earth) may mean that there are more people annoyed at your country than we think. Perhaps Mr. Di Rupo should be more cautious. At the very least, he should keep a towel handy.

yesterday
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Secret Service Critics Pounce After White House Breach

swillden Re:More and serious threats (217 comments)

It's only since the Civil War that the federal government has started to play more of a role than state government in the every day lives of people.

More recent than that. Until the New Deal the federal government was actually smaller than most state governments, and definitely had less impact on most peoples' daily lives.

yesterday
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Fork of Systemd Leads To Lightweight Uselessd

swillden Re:kill -1 (440 comments)

It's just a slightly-faster reboot that's especially useful when you must ensure the kernel doesn't change (ex. unknown illo/grub state).

I suppose, though I, at least, have never had a situation where I needed to reboot and make sure the kernel doesn't change. I've had mucked-up bootloaders aplenty, but the solution there is to fix the bootloader (and to keep a boot floppy / CD / DVD / USB stick handy).

yesterday
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Fork of Systemd Leads To Lightweight Uselessd

swillden Re:kill -1 (440 comments)

Yes, but in the times when i needed it, it was really helpful.

Meh. It's just a slightly-faster reboot that's only usable when you don't need to change the kernel.

yesterday
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Fork of Systemd Leads To Lightweight Uselessd

swillden Re:kill -1 (440 comments)

If it still doesn't adequately support the "kill -1" functionality of initd (which kills and resets all processes init manages, especially the getty processes on the terminals), I still don't want it.

What do you do that makes you need kill -1 regularly? I think I've only used it a handful of times in 30 years, and not at all in the last decade or so.

yesterday
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Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple

swillden Re:As a matter of fact... (387 comments)

Then you made a bad choice.

Yes, the bad choice was as Lisias said, catching the attention of Microsoft.

2 days ago
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Android Apps Now Unofficially Able To Run On Any Major Desktop OS

swillden Re:If this works, then Microsoft is doomed. (101 comments)

yes....but did Java have all of the millions of apps that were indexed by a single entity, and more importantly made it easy for anybody to access and use?

Neither does Android. Oh, there are millions of apps, but most of them are completely uninteresting on a desktop or laptop and the rest won't run well. Oh, there will be apps, over time, but there's no huge number already available, developers are going to have to start more or less from scratch.

The index is new-ish, yes, but I still don't think it's going to provoke the sort of sea change the GGP supposes. If that were all it took, the Chrome store would already be doing it (there's also an index of apps).

No, what's really going to happen is that Microsoft is going to continue its slow, gradual slide into obscurity, unless it finds a way to create a new market for itself (which is likely, frankly, though no one knows what it'll be). Android apps on Windows may even play a role, but a small one. Phones and tablets are becoming the dominant computing platform for the masses, a platform they don't participate in meaningfully, and a combination of web apps, cross-platform toolkits (like Android, but also including Java, their own .NET, Qt and Chrome apps) and maturation of free/open source offerings are breaking their stranglehold on the rest.

2 days ago
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My resting heart rate:

swillden Re:A bell curve! (157 comments)

Hey, look: a bell curve!

Well, except for the bump at "100 bpm or greater". I didn't realize so many squirrels read slashdot.

2 days ago
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Dropbox and Google Want To Make Open Source Security Tools Easy To Use

swillden Re:How about buying PGP? (24 comments)

It has a decent UI

Really? Why Johnny Can't Encrypt: A Usability Evaluation of PGP 5.0. Yeah, it was a while ago and some things have improved, but most of the issues remain and I doubt another focus group study would find significantly different results.

The problem is that designing a UI that makes it easy for people who don't know anything about cryptography or security to achieve useful cryptographic security is really, really hard. Almost as hard as educating everyone about cryptography and security enough that they can achieve useful cryptographic security with PGP.

2 days ago
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Android Apps Now Unofficially Able To Run On Any Major Desktop OS

swillden Re:If this works, then Microsoft is doomed. (101 comments)

If this technology matures to the point that it's stable on every desktop OS, then the OS is reduced is reduced to simply being a platform

Java did that years ago. Notice how it destroyed Microsoft?

2 days ago
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Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google

swillden Re:Really? (126 comments)

I'm not sure what the motivation for that decision was. I think some of the coming work will make it less painful, though I can't provide any detail.

3 days ago
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Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google

swillden Re:show stopper (126 comments)

Sorry, I can't comment on future changes, planned or possible.

3 days ago

Submissions

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Google Wallet now works with any card

swillden swillden writes  |  more than 2 years ago

swillden writes "Google posted on Wednesday: 'we’re releasing a new, cloud-based version of the Google Wallet app that supports all credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Now, you can use any card when you shop in-store or online with Google Wallet. With the new version, you can also remotely disable your mobile wallet app from your Google Wallet account on the web.'"
Link to Original Source
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Google+ for Google Apps Released

swillden swillden writes  |  more than 2 years ago

swillden (191260) writes "Finally addressing a problem with the new Google+ social network that has generated a great number of complaints from long-time Google users, Google has announced the availability of Google+ for users with Google Apps accounts. The feature isn't enabled automatically for all Google Apps domains, though, it's necessary for the domain administrator to turn it on."
Link to Original Source
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Real-world RAID0 performance

swillden swillden writes  |  more than 5 years ago

swillden writes "I recently got the opportunity to play with some fairly high-end hardware and I was very surprised at the poor I/O performance. The machine was a 4-way Xeon with a high-end RAID controller and five 300GB SCSI Ultra-320 15,000 RPM drives, to be configured as a very high-performance database server. I didn't care so much about the real database workload, though, I just wanted to see what kind of data rate I could get, for fun.

Given that each of these drives individually can sustain over 100 MB/s, and given that I'd expect RAID0 to scale roughly linearly with the number of drives, I was expecting in the neighborhood of 500 MB/s. What I got (according to bonnie++) was about 200 MB/s, less than half the expected data rate. Disappointed, I decided to give Linux MD RAID a try, which got me up to about 240 MB/s, 20% faster than the hardware RAID, but still disappointing.

My question for the slashdot geeks that play with this kind of stuff all the time is: What kind of performance should I expect out of a system like this? Does RAID0 always scale so poorly? And, just for good nerdish fun, what's the fasted storage I/O you've ever seen?"
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What examples of Security Theater have you seen?

swillden swillden writes  |  more than 6 years ago

swillden writes "Everyone who pays any attention at all to security, both computer security and "meatspace" security, has heard the phrase Security Theater. For years I've paid close attention to security setups that I come in contact with, and tried to evaluate their real effectiveness vs their theatrical aspects. In the process I've found many examples of pure theater, but even more cases where the security was really a cover for another motive.

Recently, a neighbor uncovered a good example. He and his wife attended a local semi-pro baseball game where security guards were checking all bags for weapons. Since his wife carries a small pistol in her purse, they were concerned that there would be a problem. They decided to try anyway, and see if her concealed weapon permit satisfied the policy. The guard looked at her gun, said nothing and passed them in, then stopped the man behind them because he had beer and snacks in his bag. Park rules prohibit outside food. It's clear what the "security" check was really about: improving park food vending revenues.

So, what examples of pure security theater have slashdotters noticed? Even more interesting, what examples of security-as-excuse have you seen?."
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swillden swillden writes  |  about 8 years ago

swillden writes "I've come across an increasing number of GPL programs lately that display an EULA-style click-wrap agreement during installation. While not exactly wrong, this seems like a bad idea to me, since it perpetuates the idea that you must agree to some arbitrary set of conditions in order to install and use a piece of software. In this case the conditions are very liberal (there are none, really), but still it reinforces the notion that you can't install a package unless you agree.

The FSF says that such click-wrapping is neither required nor forbidden but it seems like a bad idea to promote the click-wrap meme, even if the license is user-friendly. What do slashdotters think?"

Journals

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10 seconds that can help boot Orrin Hatch out of office

swillden swillden writes  |  more than 8 years ago

I'm sure all of you have seen the many articles about various wacko things Senator Orrin Hatch has done to support the RIAA and MPAA. Among other things, he'd like to empower the media industry to remotely destroy the computers of people they suspect of illegally sharing files.

Wouldn't be great to give him the boot? You can help, by doing nothing more than voting on a web site.

See, for the first time in quite a few years Hatch has a serious contender for his seat. Pete Ashdown is a smart, tech-savvy businessman who's taken a year off to run his campaign. Ashdown is the sort of moderate Democrat who has a chance to win in Utah, and Utahns have expressed their opinion in polls that Hatch has been in office long enough and they'd like a change.

However good Ashdown's chances in theory, though, campaigning is about money, and he needs it.

That's where this vote comes in. Barbara Boxer has some campaign cash she's going to give to one of the Democrats running against a long-term incumbent senator. If Ashdown can win that vote, he'll have a great warchest to start the campaign with. It won't be enough, but it will give him a good start and will hopefully prime the pump for other large democratic contributions.

So go vote, and get all of your friends and neighbors to do the same! Even if they're Republicans, they still have to appreciate that an utterly one-sided race like Hatch has had in the past is not good for democracy. Get them to vote!

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