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Comment Re:Layman's Terms (Score 5, Informative) 155

'cause every layman knows what ASLR is.

I had the same thought. At first I thought it was related to digital photography. Here is what this is really all about:

In layman's terms: Keeping the locations of things in memory unpredictable so that, for example, if I am trying to exploit some arbitrary code execution flaw I can't count that my code will end up in the place I want or expect it.

Comment Here are the criteria I use to tell if I care (Score 5, Informative) 197

I've gone to quite a few different events (both as an attendee and as a speaker), including free events, pricey events, events where I went for my own reasons, events where I went for an employer or a client, etc.

Here are the criteria I have found that help me judge whether I should really care about the specific conference:

  • Cost: cheaper is better, because if the event costs $$$ to attend you know you are getting the business-only crowd where most of them have expense accounts, or plenty of manager-types, or any of a number of other elements that make the conference decidedly less "tech" (sweet spot is $0-$100)
  • Size: too small and you might not get much out of it, too big and you definitely won't get much out of it (sweet spot: 100-1000 attendees, though the number of sessions, tracks, etc., plays an important role as well)
  • Schedule: if it is on a weekend, you know it is all about people who love/enjoy the topic so much that they give up their own free time to hang out with a bunch of other people who are similarly inclined; if it is during the week it is an expensable business boondoggle, though there are some exceptions that I can think of, like DebConf (sweet spot: weekend events)
  • Bonus: If John "Maddog" will be there, you probably want to go, and if he will be speaking (as he often does) you would be a fool to miss it

For me, this mostly means that I end up attending events that resemble meetups, Linuxfest-type, coding workshops, hackathons, etc. While some of them do have vendors, the type of events which I favor make it pretty easy to stick to the "interesting" parts and avoid the vendors altogether.

Of course, if you want to just go and socialize, just about any event will end up with groups of people that skip all the sessions and do nothing but talk.

Comment Coding achieves the "expand your mind" objective (Score 5, Interesting) 328

So, if you look at the foreign language requirement for what it is (an "expand your mind" requirement), then it is plainly obvious that coding achieves the same objective.

Joel Spolsky,in his rant on Java Schools, sort of touches on this:

Heck, in 1900, Latin and Greek were required subjects in college, not because they served any purpose, but because they were sort of considered an obvious requirement for educated people. In some sense my argument is no different that the argument made by the pro-Latin people (all four of them). âoe[Latin] trains your mind. Trains your memory. Unraveling a Latin sentence is an excellent exercise in thought, a real intellectual puzzle, and a good introduction to logical thinking,â writes Scott Barker. But I canâ(TM)t find a single university that requires Latin any more. Are pointers and recursion the Latin and Greek of Computer Science?

Granted, he is arguing for CS students always having to learn fundamental CS concepts like pointers and recursion, but I think that it is not too much of a stretch to think that coding will eventually become the Latin and Greek of our culture. Everybody should have to learn a bit of it if they want to consider themselves well educated and well rounded, and a small number will choose to specialize in it as a field of endeavor.

And if you are thinking to yourself, "Well, what's the point, they won't remember any of it?" Please go find any random middle aged person whose only exposure to foreign language was their 2 year requirement in high school and ask them how much Spanish, French, German, etc. they remember? Hint: their high school foreign language class didn't make them an expert in the foreign language, so would two years of programming in high school be seen as any less valuable from a macro-pedagogic perspective?

Comment This keeps happening because mfgs won't fix it (Score 5, Interesting) 75

I've been giving some thought to this whole botnet epidemic. It occurs to be that there is a very straightforward solution:

Every manufacturer, software vendor, etc., should ship their hardware, software, device, etc., in a mode in which all remote/external access is completely disabled. Then the user would be required to at least take a positive action to enable the remote or network capability.

However, I am relatively certain this won't happen, for these reasons:

  1. If people can't just &plug and play" their devices, then the manufacturer will end up having to bear a greater support burden (i.e., more people calling with problems like "I can't make my printer work on the WiFi")
  2. If people have more problems many will complain, costing the manufacturer brand reputation
  3. The way things currently stand it is cheaper for the manufacturer, and when things go wrong the customer bears the cost of cleaning up the mess
  4. The vast majority of people either never have a problem or never realize that they have a problem (i.e., they are on a private network, a techie friend or family member does the setup and properly secures the device, etc.)

Given that manufacturers are in no rush to do anything that costs them more money (hardware margins are razor thin for just about every hardware company not named "Apple"), I really don't see this changing anytime soon, which is sad because this sort of mentality is making the Internet a worse place for everyone all around.

Comment Re:Ban temporary lifted for the wrong reasons (Score 3, Insightful) 476

Perhaps the President could convince Microsoft to hire back all of the American workers they laid off before worrying about getting more cheap tech workers into the country.

When I saw the headline that said "Microsoft's H-1B workers" I thought, "how many can that really be?" Then I got my answer in the summary: 5,000. Then I thought, "What!?!? Microsoft is so completely unable to find US workers that nearly 5% of their entire (global) workforce consists of people brought to the US under a program specifically designed to help companies bring in specialized skills which cannot be found in the US.

If anybody doubts that the entire program either needs to be massively reformed or completely eliminated (I think reform is the better route), then this single example should be all you need. According to the Wikipedia article on MS, they have laid off approaching 25,000-35,000 workers in the last three years. How many of those were H-1B visa holders? I'm not saying that H-1Bs should always be the first to go, but I wonder how many of those laid off would be considered to have specialized skills. The whole thing is just disgusting.

Comment Re:Can't (Score 1) 660

Teachers unions protect public education,

That may have been the case at one time. However, they have long since outlived their usefulness and have now become political behemoths that are so powerful that they can make just about every progressive (who claims to do everything "for the children") irrationally oppose anything that disturbs the status quo in education. I mean, we can't have hav communities or states set their own educational standards; it's all centrally planned in Washington now.

but your distain for democracy, workers and due process is noted.

Right, because taxing people and then also taking away their choice is the epitome of due process. The idea of vouchers or really any other meaningful reform of the public education system is all about due process for parents and students. The teachers unions don't like it because it is a threat to them.

Skip anecdotes as they are invariably 1) distorted 2) problem was lazy administration, not the union 3) easily countered with anecdotes from non-union, for-profit entities.

I live in a school district where everyone I know who can afford to have their kids in private school does so. Those who can't have to suffer with having their kids in a sub-par public system,with no way to change it other than moving to areas with considerably higher costs of living. You obviously don't know anyone with kids or have kids of your own. Or if you do, you don't have any actual experience with having or seeing kids in a school system that is simply failing them at every turn. If those schools feared losing their funding because the parents had the choice to move the kids elsewhere, things would change drastically.

Comment Re:Can't (Score 1) 660

Therein lies the problem, It doesn't matter if someone "agrees" with creationism: it's simply not a valid or useful explanation of our current existence. Unless by "valid" one includes subjugating impressionable people.

You seem really hung up on that. First, it isn't taught in all that many schools. Second, parents ought to have the right to choose for their children. Third, did you by chance grow up in a religious family and now you are rejecting all the mumbo jumbo? Because you seem really hung up on the creationism thing.

I care that children are taught real facts, objective history (as much as this is possible) and real science.

Right. You care so much that if some parents happen to decide to send their children to a school that teaches one thing you don't like you would rather force everyone who cannot financially afford to move their children to suffer with schools that effectively teach them nothing. Bravo, sir. What a noble approach this problem.

Your position on this matter is highly irrational.

Comment Re:Can't (Score 1) 660

Because sending kids to religious schools that will teach creationism as fact will help develop STEM education in the US?

Your argument makes no sense. You are saying that forcing people who cannot afford private school to send their kids to a failing school is the right answer because if you let them choose some of them might send their kids to schools that teach things you don't agree with?

Just curious, but would you agree or disagree with food stamps because some recipients might by junk food items instead of more healthful food items? Or, should Planned Parenthood keep getting federal and state funding? Because lots of people disagree with abortion.

Comment Re:Can't (Score 2, Insightful) 660

How will American kids even have the chops to enter university with Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education ?

Because she won't let the teacher's unions continue to undermine the quality of public education in the name of their own political and financial objectives? Seriously, why should parents who can't afford to live in good school districts be forced to send their kids to substandard schools? A simple voucher system where the parents choose the school and the money follows the student will produce some excellent competition. Of course, that is precisely what the teachers unions want to prevent. Ask yourself why that is.

Comment Re:Automatically fired (Score 3, Informative) 106

most of these same commenters also want to "shrink government", "cut taxes", etc. NONE of which is going to: improve training and testing; expand, fund and enforce standards across municipalities; enhance LEO capabilities to track and prosecute attackers. But - Hey! - we get to sound awful tough!!

Actually, it is not difficult to accomplish both. For example, you could shrink government substantially by implementing a national retail sales tax (lots of conservative lawmakers have proposals, so there plenty of choices) and replacing the entire IRS with something like a 10-20 person office responsible for processing sales tax receipts (this would actually be super easy since sales tax is already collected in something like 99.9% of the US). You could also eliminate entire executive departments that don't actually do anything productive (like education; seriously, the more money the federal government spends on education, the worse it gets, so we should try something different). Those two changes alone would free up considerable funding to apply to the items you list and would result in a net smaller federal government that is also leaner (as defined by doing more of what government should do, like LEO, and less of what it shouldn't, like anything not specifically listed in the constitution). And that is without even touching the sacred cows of social security and medicare.

Comment Is it still the same server? (Score 3, Insightful) 137

"Over the years, disk drives, power supplies and some other components have been replaced but Hogan estimates that close to 80% of the system is original," according to Computerworld.

Then is it still considered the same server?

Personally, I have a computer that lives in a case I got in 2003. I am on motherboard #4, power supply #2, processor #2, memory modules #6 & #7, hard drives #4 & #5, etc. However, I still consider it to be the same computer. Perhaps there is something psychological about it, but the name (or in this case the case) has a special significance even if all the guts have been swapped out.

Comment Re:The User is responsible for open sourse softwar (Score 4, Insightful) 114

I have to agree here.

If I buy a part for my car and the part's manufacturer claims that it complies with some ASE or similar standard, then if the part fails I might have a legal case (e.g., if I can prove negligence in the design or manufacture, or something that the established case law will respect). However, if I buy a part off a guy who makes them in his tool shed and hey tells me "hey, I'm not sure that this thing won't explode when apply the brake," then I am pretty sure I have no recourse whatsoever.

How is software different? If the manufacturer warrants it, then it should work as it is represented and if it fails then there is a discussion to be had. If the manufacturer disclaims warranty and it breaks (and the applicable laws don't override that; you know that in some jurisdictions that there are laws that still hold the maker or seller responsible to a degree for things they make or sell?) then I don't have a legal case.

Of course, even professionally produced commercial software normally has a EULA with a clause that reads something like "the manufacturer provides no warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose and shall not be liable for losses arising from blah, blah, blah..." If you are NASA and paying your contractors (an enormous amount of money) to mathematically prove their software correct then you might get a "yup, we certify that this software will work as designed," otherwise you have no such assurance.

Comment Re:That is *terrible* news (Score 1) 364

In a similar amount of time solar still hasn't taken off like the internet. ARPAnet started in 1969 by the 1990s the internet was really taking off. Solar on was a focus since 1979 , Carter solar heating panels on the white house. In 30+ years it still hasn't taken off, primarily due to cost.

I think that looking at it on a timeline is partly to blame for the current situation. The technology simply has a long way to go before it is mature enough and cheap enough to spur widespread adoption on its own based on cost-benefit, which is basically what you said:

he biggest issue holding back solar is the cost, once it gets the price of putting a new roof plus 2-3 years of energy savings I think it will take off, right now it isn't there.

Had someone come along in 1973: "hey this Internet thing is going fundamentally transform commerce, the government should start dumping billions of dollars into commercializing it." Had something like that been done it would have been a political and fiscal disaster (kind of like what has happened with solar). If instead we take the approach of maturing the technology, the rest will come on its own if the technology turns out to be a revolutionary improvement (which it seems likely to be). Sadly, there are people who will not be deterred from trying to make solar the answer regardless of whether the technology is ready. They might be helping a little bit in terms of advancing the idea, but they sure are creating lots of baggage with it.

Comment Re:That is *terrible* news (Score 4, Insightful) 364

So what this stat means is that it takes 110x more people to generate each kWh of electricity with solar than with fossil fuels. If anything, this is an excellent argument for not using solar to generate electricity.

I tend to be pretty dead-set against big government (I mean really, the government screws up just about everything), so I understand where you are coming from. That said, the main thought that comes to mind for me is not so much an argument against solar, but rather that isn't necessarily ready. Let me explain.

I think that if you were to look at the start of ARPAnet, you would look at that and wonder why it should be OK to have dozens or hundreds of very highly educated extremely talented engineers working on something that didn't really have a clear benefit moving forward. Sure, connecting computers together seemed like a great idea, but in the pre-ARPAnet days it wasn't really possible unless you bought all your gear from the same manufacturer. Even then it was a crap shoot in terms of how well it would suit your needs.

The government made a modest investment in an idea and some emerging technology, not to score political points but for something that would deliver a military capability. It turns out that it formed the basis of the modern information economy. But, the technology had to mature and the idea had to develop. While I know it is not a perfect parallel, I think that battery technology has followed a path more like that. I don't think it will fundamentally transform humanity, but the US government (particularly the Army) has been all about batteries for a long time (smaller, longer lasting so a soldier can wear more gear, and bigger, more powerful so they can use one to power a tank). There has been no political objective, just a legitimate "we want to see this technology improve because it helps us (in this case the military) and everybody else can benefit from the advancement in the state of the art and improvements in batteries across the board."

Sadly, solar is a political football. So, instead of focusing on the technology, people are upset about things like "loans" to companies that burn through mountains of cash only to go out of business. On top of that, there is an established energy industry that is actively trying to avoid being disrupted and one of their key strategies is to turn anything solar-related into a political issue.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I feel like it is part government-funded research (something like ARPAnet that was focused on technology and utility, not on politics), part technology maturation, part commercial marketplace leadership (when the technology matures and it makes financial sense companies will naturally go that direction), and part policy (remove some of the barriers that utility companies have put up; for example, if you fit out your house with solar panels and become a net generator of electricity, the local utility company should be required to purchase your power at market rates before they buy from outside their service area, or something like that).

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