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Comment: A closely related issue (Score 1) 660

by Aram Fingal (#30811514) Attached to: What's Holding Back Encryption?

The use of digital signatures in email is closely related to encryption because it requires the same PKI. That may end up being the driving force because of the increasing sophistication of phishing. The institution I work for is now frequently attacked with phishing emails. Our help desk is constantly answering questions about whether a particular email is phishing or not. What's even worse is the people who don't call (and don't know how to smell a phish). We are dealing with hundreds of compromised accounts per year because of phishing. I think this is not only a compelling reason to start authenticating email with digital signatures but also to integrate the recognition of digital signatures into our spam filtering.

Comment: Re:Self-signed is no good. (Score 2, Interesting) 660

by Aram Fingal (#30811354) Attached to: What's Holding Back Encryption?

What about the argument that a policy of only encrypting sensitive information draws attention to encrypted information because it must be sensitive? If you encrypt everything, an attacker doesn't know which particular piece of information is worth trying to crack (or otherwise attack with key logging, social engineering attempts, etc.)

Comment: Re:Why most scientists and engineers screw up (Score 1) 190

by Aram Fingal (#30605664) Attached to: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

There are a number of human traits (and the genes which cause them) that statistically cluster into groups that correspond to what we consider race. You can test a person's DNA and determine their racial heritage, to a fairly accurate degree. Obviously race is real, if you can nearly automate measuring it. The fact that statistical clusters don't have firm boundaries doesn't mean those clusters don't exist.

While this is true, it still doesn't validate existing concepts of race. You can pick out a preexisting notion of race and, indeed, find genetic markers which will correlate with that concept. However, if you do it the other way around, throw out all such preconceived notions, look at the data and derive groupings of humans, you get totally different results. You don't get what people typically think of as the major races. ALFRED has some of this information although it takes a lot of work to go through all the data and the maintainers of the site try to stay out of discussions of race.

Comment: Re:What are you really asking? (Score 1) 414

by Aram Fingal (#30596376) Attached to: How Many Admins Per User/Computer Have You Seen?

Is that ratio figuring that the sysadmin is only taking care of the servers at the OS level and not the application level? I administrate an application which has different functions spread out over eight servers. The OS level systems administration is handled by a staff of sysadmins who take care of many other systems in addition to my eight. Two of us (myself and an assistant) take care of the application. If the sysadmin staff had to administrate things like the custom server application for my department, there's no way they could maintain that ratio of servers to admins.

I have noticed, by the way, that the job of sysadmin varies with the size of the business. At a really small business, the sysadmin does desktop support as well as server support and will even teach users how to do things. At a larger business, the sysadmin will only take care of server level stuff but that includes applications and network management. At a really large business, all these jobs are much more finely divided and a sysadmin only manages the server OS.

Comment: Technical need is one thing, business is another (Score 1) 453

by Aram Fingal (#30528502) Attached to: The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds

Educators and technologists say...

Too bad the pointy haired bosses aren't on the same page. If there were actually job postings out there for people with hybrid careers then maybe people would try to develop skill sets in two separate fields. I have degrees in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics and work experience in both Biology (with publications) and IT but I have never been able to get a job which values both skill sets at the same time. Actual Bioinformatics jobs are very rare. Computer skills, including advanced database design and programming, are very useful in a bio lab but that doesn't mean you'll get paid anything more for having those skills. I don't know whether this is a bone headed insistence that people need to specialize (I hear that from management frequently) or just a failure to recognize that there are people out there with mixed skills you could hire. It's probably some of each. A lot of people see someone like me as "Jack of all Trades, Master of None."

Comment: Asimov (Score 1) 1021

by Aram Fingal (#29650081) Attached to: What Belongs In a High School Sci-Fi/Fantasy Lit Class?
Like other people mentioned, I would like to see some Asimov in a course like this but I would actually put "The End of Eternity" at the top of the list. No other book explores the paradoxes of time travel as well as this one and time travel is an important branch of SF. Having said that, I Robot or one of the other Robot books would also be a good choice. It was, in fact, Isaac Asimov who first coined the term "robotics."

Comment: Re:On the bright side (Score 1) 447

by Aram Fingal (#29301459) Attached to: Back-to-school time means ...

We didn't use to... The US Education system was on life support while I was growing up, but has really taken a turn for the worst in the last decade.

I think that depends on the state and locality you live it. Most administration and funding of US schools is local, although federal rules and funding does make a difference at the margin. That margin matters more in poor areas than rich ones. So, what you're saying is, no doubt, true in Mississippi but not so much in Connecticut, for example.

'No Child Left Behind' has actually lead to 'No Child Whose Needs Shall Be Met', partly due to that obsessiveness with STs.

What I have heard from friends who are school administrators is that it's more like educational triage. There is an upper fraction of students who will do well on STs without help and a lower fraction who won't do well even with extensive help. The best strategy to work with No Child Left Behind is to ignore the upper and lower fraction and concentrate on those students in the middle. An administrator told me that there was one particular school in his district where it came down to only four students who would likely make the difference for the whole school.

The other element of winning strategy is to encourage poor students to stay out sick or give them out-of-school suspensions when they misbehave. This works out well because many of the poorest students also have behavior problems. You can exclude a student from the figures for meeting NCLB if they have a certain number of absences. In some cases, that can make all the difference for a school.

The worst thing about the obsession with STs is that they ignore some very important aspects of education like creativity and the ability to work independently.

Comment: Voice Recognition (Score 1) 431

by Aram Fingal (#29232543) Attached to: We're In the Midst of a Literacy Revolution
she concludes that we don't need to worry about computers and the Internet causing a decline in general literacy

Right now, text is a major part of the user interface with computers and the Internet. That is likely to change. Audio and video are increasingly becoming part of the web and replacing content that would otherwise have been text. This trend will only increase with the increasing availability of broadband. We're already seeing people blog by sitting in front of a webcam and posting the video to youtube. Voice recognition will probably reach a point where it becomes the primary means of giving commands to a computer and becomes the main method of data entry. Text-to-voice is getting better all the time and will eventually be as good or better than having someone read to you. When these things happen, it will be the end of our current golden age of literacy. It will become easier then ever to function without being able to read.

Comment: Re:Bad news all around (Score 1) 427

by Aram Fingal (#28718641) Attached to: LoTR Lawsuit Threatens Hobbit Production

These are works that should be in the public domain now for a variety of reasons.

Actually, the LOTR movies included some scenes which were not in the LOTR books. The scenes involving Isildur, for example, were from The Silmarillion or other books, published after J.R.R. Tolkien's death, with Christopher Tolkien as editor.

Comment: Re:Guilty as charged (Score 2, Informative) 126

by Aram Fingal (#28195577) Attached to: Detailed Privacy Study Finds Loopholes Galore
You're right but storing personal info in the cookie itself isn't the way it's normally done. More often, they store something like visitor#42383645934568125 which is a database key. Your personal info is in their database and not in the cookie. Part of the problem with web beacons is that they effectively allow different sites to share the same database key. This wasn't supposed to happen with cookies which are restricted to being read back only by the same site that set them in the first place. Web beacons get around this limitation by loading a portion of the site which you are visiting, even something as small as a one pixel graphic, from a common advertising agency site. Some of these advertising sites are backed by huge clusters and able to serve a bit of content to a huge percentage of sites on the internet. That's what the graphs about Google's reach are explaining.

Comment: Re:Of Course (Score 1) 255

by Aram Fingal (#28188163) Attached to: Can "Page's Law" Be Broken?
Well I disagree with your disagreement about OS X performance. I went through progressive upgrades of OS X on the same hardware on several machines and the upgrades, except 10.5, were definitely progressively faster. I would agree that Apple's speed improvements in Software were not as fast as Moore's law but that isn't the point. The point is that OS X did get faster on the same hardware, counter to Page's Law. It is also true that OS X started with very poor performance and then improved. Yellow Dog Linux did perform much better than 10.0 on the same hardware back then. Today, my experience is that the relative performance of OS X and Linux is a lot closer, though I think Ubuntu (which is what I use now) is still faster.

Your impression may be a matter of RAM. Under about 256 MB RAM, OS 9 will perform better than any version of OS X. But 10.3 and above are faster as long as you have more RAM than that. 10.3 and above run reasonably fast on G3 Macs (unless you're really short on RAM) and quite well on G4 machines. I still have a 500Mhz G3 PowerBook "Pismo", 768 MB RAM with 10.4.11 and that's at least as fast as the same machine running OS 9 (I have it set up to dual boot.) It's certainly much more usable. It's more stable and can remain very responsive while running more programs at once than it can with OS 9. This machine doesn't have a suitable graphics card for Quartz Extreme. 10.4 is even more impressive on G3 and G4 machines if you remove Dashboard.

The other possibility (besides RAM) is that you haven't done a good job with maintenance. The unwritten rule is that you really need a third party disk utility like Alsoft Disk Warrior or Prosoft Drive Genius. Without one of those, you will see deterioration of performance over time, if not worse problems.

Better support for multi-core machines is one of the improvements in 10.6. The other big one is the 64-bit kernel. It is also better optimized for Intel processors in general. In fact it's Intel only so there won't be any speed comparison on PPC machines. Single core Intel (Core Solo) Macs are very rare and I don't have one to try out but I think 10.6 will probably run as fast or faster on those than 10.5 does.

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time alloted it.