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Comment: Re:This is news? (Score 1) 203

> So you prefer the risk of massive law infringement, including invasive species smuggling, drug running, and terrorism, to a 5% risk that somebody who shouldn't know about Natalie Portman's meal choices finds out whether she's keeping Kosher? No operation on the scale of COINTELPRO could come from the TSA, because the TSA doesn't have the resources to pull it off.

I'm afraid that's a straw man argument. It's not been shown that the massive metadata gathering on USA citizens has been effective against any of those. Where are the convictions? NSA data gathering, in fact, is not supposed to be applied to domestic communications. It's far more useful, and demonstrably so, for internal political abuse. Look at the history of the Stasi for examples of how decades of broad information gathering can be used against moral, law abiding citizens.

Decentralizing the databases, spreading them out, is actually a good goal. Broad, flexible databases with large amounts of data are much easier to steal, and much easier to abuse, than smaller, isolated systems. That's a harsh lesson from decades of security work. And "random searches" are much safer than having it all stored in a central database where it can, and it _will_ be used for political and personal abuse.

Comment: Re:This is news? (Score 4, Insightful) 203

The Nisei were a wholesale incarceration, and was quite public. I was referring more to illegal acts in living memory. The other acts involved the abuse of private information, held in federal hands. It doesn't have to be in a database. The extent of the data and its ease of access _expand_ the risk, not reduce it.

> So we have a database, that will be useful in numerous perfectly legitimate law enforcement operations, and a small risk of it leading to bad things

The "risk" is real. I'm afraid that its abuse is inevitable with so much data concentrated behind closed doors, without any judicial review or enforceable consequences for its misuse.

Comment: Re:Not effective (Score 1) 203

> This kind of mass data collection on everyone is a huge waste of resources.

Compared to the cost of intelligently filtering it down to unpredictably "relevant" information, and only storing that? Picking out only the "relevant" or even "legal to hold" information would be, in espionage terms, a complete waste of time, prone to error and reducing the effectiveness of exactly the sort of personal, detailed information which this helps gather.

I sincerely doubt that the NSA cares about the fine grained accuracy of such bulk data. That's what analysis is for, not filtering. And by collecting bulk information on US citizens, they've gathered an enormous currency in private data that can be provided to the US government without a warrant, or that can be traded with foreign intelligence to gather the information they _are_ chartered to obtain.

Comment: Re:This is news? (Score 5, Insightful) 203

> And we can actually be quite sure it was not widely shared at the TSA, because if it had been some asshole would have stolen his Credit Card number.

Except that they're available, in bulk, to whoever administers that database. And a theft or loss of a backup of that database is hideously unlikely to ever be reported, for "national security reasons" but also to reduce bureaucratic business. And given the history of federal agency personal and political fraud against private citizens, especially politically active citizens, it verifies that they have far too much data, far too easily accessed, available at whim for whatever purpose is desired.

Just because "it's boring text" does not mean it's not incredibly useful for political espionage or frame-ups. Please, do not try to claim that it "wouldn't happen here" The abuse of confidential federal information to harass political opponents certainly _has_ happened here, in the McCarthy hunt for Communits, with the Committee to Re-Elect the President in Nixon's presidential reign whose failures cost Richard Nixon his presidency, and with the Valerie Plame affair during George W. Bush's presidency.

The collection and aggregation of "uninteresting" private information or "metadata" represent risks to political careers and private liberty that will not cease simply because "who would care" or "it's dull". It's hardly dull to be able to use someone's personal information and credit card data to track the nature, times, and location of _every purchase_, and have warrant free monitoring of travels and personal business. And there is, effectively, no oversight of such access because it's the NSA: they operate under a tremendous shroud of national security that prevents rational oversight of such sensitive information.

Comment: Re:Hoping this is not as bad as it sounds (Score 4, Insightful) 271

The _turf_ of bottom dwelling creatures can be quite small, especially of mollusks. Injuring them, or driving away their predators, is likely to have quite large ecological consequences. Even driving away vegetarian creatures from their feeding grounds is likely to interfere with stable ecologies.

Comment: Re:Paper tracked barter (Score 1) 100

by Antique Geekmeister (#47489547) Attached to: New Digital Currency Bases Value On Reputation

Thank you for pointing out those examples. I'll be quite curious to see if they manage to survive even a single generation.

It can take time for the factors I mentioned to destroy a private currency. The "Miracle of Worgl", for example was shut down by the Austrian National Bank. (Avoiding federal taxes and control of the economy is always grounds to shut down private or semi-public experiments.) The Egyptian example had actual backing for the currency, and seems to have been government controlled. I'll acknowledge that "government" and "private" currencies might not have meant the same thing in ancient Egypt.

I'm afraid that I'm not clear on what you mean by the "cathedral economy". The manufacture of cathedrals seems to have been a government sponsored "public work" in the modern sense. Can you point to a better description of what you mean?

The Ithaca and Berkshires cases are interesting, but only several of the dozens, perhaps hundreds of such currencies in US history. Are you aware of any that have lasted even a single generation? I'm aware of several that have _failed_ in other cities, in my lifetime.

Comment: Re:Paper tracked barter (Score 4, Informative) 100

by Antique Geekmeister (#47489095) Attached to: New Digital Currency Bases Value On Reputation

Or the way it _doesn't_ work, I'm afraid.

Inventing new, private currencies seems designed for abuse, and the harvesting of all money in the system by arbitrage traders with no practical regulation or control of the abuse. Such "non-currencies" have been tried before, and are inevitably brought down by one of these factors:

        Governments concerned about taxes not being collected on the barter scrip.
        Arbitrage abuse bleeding all the value out of the relevant currencies and destroying smaller investors.
        Fraud by the central scrip maintainers.

All of these occurred with the "company scrip" that was used by many railroads to pay workers and tie their economy to the "company store" in the US expansion west.

Comment: Re:Not fungible (Score 1) 525

From experience, you might be quite surprised at how many are transferable or retrainable to new roles. During the last few economic crashes in the US, quite a few younger or mid-level engineers had to withdraw from the higher tech markets because they needed to _eat_, or to support a family. They're now chronically under employed, and find it very difficult to get their next job to get back on the technology or professional hierarchical employment ladder.

Working with these people, and making sure they get _credit_ for the insights they bring to a workplace, is one of the pleasures of doing technology consultation or partnership. Finding out what they think and re-wrapping it with support and confirmation from an outsider can save tremendous amounts of work, and they're often _shocked_ when we make sure they get credit for it. These are people, in house, who should be taught whatever they were missing and transferred or promoted to the right role to use their skills. They've often been stuck behind various glass ceilings due to age, gender, native language, or cultural differences. If we can help open that glass ceiling for them, it's one of the delights of our work.

Comment: Strike that. Reverse it. (Score 4, Insightful) 253

by Antique Geekmeister (#47481139) Attached to: New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

[ I speak as an older programmer, with plenty of diabetic acquaintances and family. ]

I'm afraid there are plenty of Type 2 diabetics whose weight gain was _triggered_ or at least ballooned, under the influence of Type 2 diabetes. The insulin resistance can also cause high insulin levels, which triggers hunger. The spiral of high insulin levels and weight gain can get out of hand very quickly. The result is that people believe that the weight gain triggered the Type 2, not the reverse, especially as the early symptoms are quite modest and only show up with regular blood testing or a glucose tolerance test. It also makes treatment quite difficult, since lapses can leave the victims feeling surprisingly hungry and eager to break their treatment regimes.

There are certainly millions of Type 2 diabetics who'd welcome a much simpler treatment approach: the oral medications do have complications. Injections are awkward, but there are certainly millions of Type 1 diabetics who absolutely need frequent insulin injections or insulin pumps who will say "get over it".

Comment: Re:Ia! Ia! (Score 1) 45

There are levels of sophistication. Surprisingly, "The Science of Discworld" has an excellent narrative explanation of how evolution creates new types of organism. It's partly by expanding opportunities for current organism by creating sophisticated ecosystems which stabilize the environment, and make energy and resources available that new types of organism attempt to use est and, occasionally, prosper.

It's also entertaining science, with a fine appreciation of how catastrophe has shaped biological history.

Comment: Re:And? (Score 2) 195

by Antique Geekmeister (#47472715) Attached to: The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

Oh, dear. _Energy_ is half the mass times the velocity squared. I'm afraid that's directly tied to the amount of fuel needed, not counting losses, to achieve that speed without friction. It's not really tied to the capabilities of the engines involved.

The difficulty is the necessary _thrust_, or force, needed to overcome resistance and _accumulate_ that much energy, and that much momentum, in the train itself. Even a well designed train will have considerable friction losses, at those speeds, in its own wheels and bearings. And the air resistance of a not-well-streamlined object can go up as the cube or more of the velocity, as turbulence forms and makes the resistive losses even worse.

Comment: Re:Black hole? (Score 2) 276

by Antique Geekmeister (#47472407) Attached to: Sony Forgets To Pay For Domain, Hilarity Ensues

I'm afraid that the current "whois" practices were deliberately set up to allow plausibility deniability, to protect the domain owners from being actually reached by the spammers and numerous sales people or lawyers with cause to contact domain owners. The domain vendors benefit from this: they can follow the letter of the law, but not actually support contacting the domain owners to handle criminal or abuse behavior, and wait for days, weeks, or years while lawyers collect the evidence and chain of repeated contact failures before a court order can be obtained.

In the meantime, they're collecting the registration fees, in bulk, for the relevant domain and all the related domain names. The current system is a critical revenue stream, which the domain and SSL key vendors have no need or desire to encumber by enforcing legitimate contact information.

Comment: Provenance matters (Score 2) 178

For highly reliable code, knowing that the code you review is the code you compile with is vital both for stability and security. This can't be done by visual inspection: it requires good provenance at every stage of the game.

This is actually a security problems with many opensource and freeware code repositories. The authors fail to provide GPG signatures for their tarballs, or to GPG sign tags for their code. So anyone who can steal access can alter the code at whim. And anyone who can forge an SSL certificate can replace the HTTPS based websites and cause innocent users to download corrupted, surreptitiously patched code or tarballs.

I'm actually concerned for the day that someone sets up a proxy in front of github.com for a localized man-in-the-middle attack to manipulate various targeted projects.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

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