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Comment: Agreed, single-use numbers and Paypal FTW (Score 1) 117

by billstewart (#48687613) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Companies With Poor SSL Practices?

That also reduces the ability of the company to coordinate your purchasing information (though your name and address are probably relatively unique, unless you also use single-use versions of those, like random apartment numbers for your house.)

Somebody else also recommended using PayPal for sites that you don't want to trust on a regular basis. Any place that you don't trust, or that you think might be lax about security, or that you're not planning to use repeatedly can get by with that.

Comment: Sizes of Constellations (Score 4, Insightful) 83

The phrase "smallest of all 88 constellations" really irks me. Constellations aren't real things, they're imaginative descriptions of patterns people see to make it easier to remember which stars are which. There's at least one constellation "The Triangle*" which is smaller, or if you allow two-star constellations, "those two faint dots over there" is even smaller.

(*Yes, I stole that The Triangle from Terry Pratchett; it's the name of a Discworld constellation.)

Comment: Re: who cares how many children (Score 1) 260

by hey! (#48685669) Attached to: AirAsia Flight Goes Missing Between Indonesia and SIngapore

That's an interesting take on the idea. There may be, almost certainly is an "optimal" point of view where the balance of future carrying cost, productive potential, experience and future work expectancy.

If you value experience the highest, then older people are the most valuable. Children have highest carrying cost, least experience, but the highest adaptability and future earning potential.

Now you could take a *market* approach to valuing lives by holding an auction to see how much people will contribute to save a life. In that case I have no doubt that children would win hands down. In a sense we do this already; charities which rescue children have a distinct advantage over those that target adults or the elderly.

Comment: Re:Why not include the original IBM design? (Score 1) 182

by hey! (#48684259) Attached to: Know Your Type: Five Mechanical Keyboards Compared

I actually dug out my old Model M last year. Aside from the fact that the rubber.insulation had flaked off the keyboard cord, it still worked perfectly. And it was every bit as good as I remembered it being for typing, and if I replace the cord it will last forever.

There's only one problem with the thing: it's so damn loud. Every damn keypress is accompanied by a loud "POK!" Forget about annoying other people, *I* was annoyed. Years of typing on pretty good Thinkpad "scissor switch" keyboards had accustomed me to a low, pleasant sussuration.

Cherry makes a "brown" switch that is not quite as loud as the classic buckling spring. I have a cheap nixeus keyboard that uses "brown" knock-offs. They're pretty good and not so loud as to be annoying. I wouldn't use this keyboard in public, at a Starbucks or in the library, but it's fine in my home office.

Comment: Windows says 3:30 1:20 2:50 4:20 0:35 ! (Score 1) 70

by billstewart (#48682081) Attached to: My laptop lasts on battery for ...

Windows estimates on how long anything takes seem to be pretty random. For battery life, that seems to be exacerbated by the manufacturer's power management software as well (and I haven't figured out which lies my new HP tells, compared to the old Dell.)

We have a new program from the IT department at $DAYJOB, which puts the machine into hibernate overnight if you haven't used it for an hour or so after 7pm. (These are laptops, so the energy the company gets to brag about saving is on my electric bill, not theirs, but I've got electric heat so it doesn't really save anything.) The big impact is that the VPN connection drops, so I have to wake up the PC, then log in to the VPN, then before I do anything else, go into the browser and reload the autoproxy, so the firewall doesn't replace half my tabs with non-restorable "your proxy settings are wrong" banners. Costs me about 15 minutes extra in the morning, though I can get some of that back by making coffee while I wait.

Comment: Chimps (and humans) are Apes, not Monkeys (Score 1) 205

by billstewart (#48682017) Attached to: N. Korea Blames US For Internet Outage, Compares Obama to "a Monkey"

Ooook! Don't say the M-word near the Librarian!

You're thinking of the "Bush or Chimp" website. We're not monkeys!

And as the other poster said, at least in America, calling black people "monkeys" is specifically racist; calling white people that is just a non-racial insult.

Comment: Re:Mod parent up. (Score 1) 521

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48678647) Attached to: Paul Graham: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In

... the companies pushing for more visas are NOT doing it because they're looking for the best and the brightest from around the world. They're doing it to drive the price of programming

They're also creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The depressed prices for programmers and refusal of employers to hire Americans (for any but a few top-level jobs requiring rare or broad-ranging talents and experience), while importing H1Bs from several countries for any position short of startup principals and early-hires, has not been missed by the Millenials. The latter are, entirely rationally, avoiding computer science degree programs in droves.

There is no shortage of US computer scientists now. But if this keeps up, in another 20 years there WILL be a shortage of YOUNG US computer scientists.

Comment: I've managed a team full of H1bs.. (Score 4, Interesting) 521

by hey! (#48677749) Attached to: Paul Graham: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In

Not my choice, we got them in a deal with a VC. And I will tell you from experience that they're not all great programmers. A *few* of them were very good programmers, most of them were OK, and a few were very *bad* programmers. Just like everyone else. The idea that the H1B program just brings in technical giants is pure fantasy. This isn't 1980; if a CS genius living in Bangalore wants to work he doesn't have to come to the US anymore, there are good opportunities for him at home..

H1B brings in a cross section of inexperienced programmers and kicks them out of the country once they've gained some experience. I have nothing against bringing more foreign talent into the US, but it should be with an eye to encouraging permanent residency. I think if you sponsor an H1B and he goes home, you should have to wait a couple years before you replace him. Then companies will be pickier about who they bring over.

I have to say, managing a team of H1Bs was very rewarding, not necessarily from a technical standpoint but from a cultural standpoint. Because I had to learn about each programmer on my team and the way things are done in his culture, I think I became closer to a lot of them than I would have to a team of Americans.

Comment: Why Kozmo sort of succeeded (Score 1) 34

Ok, the company as a whole tanked rapidly, as one might expect, but according to friends who lived in its territory at the time, one reason the service was so popular was that one of the things it delivered was weed. The company itself didn't sell it, but the drivers did that themselves, so they were happy and the customers were happy, and there were an awful lot of deliveries that had only one random item on the books (plus weed.)

Comment: Skype Call Setup and Media Path Protocols (Score 1) 71

by billstewart (#48673601) Attached to: Ars Reviews Skype Translator

Skype used a server-based system to set up calls, going through supernodes if possible (so it was semi-P2P), which handled subscriber lookup functions and also NAT transparency (which was the big thing that Skype did better than standard VOIP protocols such as H.323 and SIP.)

For the actual media path, if it could go directly, it would, but otherwise it would carry the call through supernodes (again, the NAT traversal problem.)

These days it seems to be mostly central servers, partly as a result of Microsoft buying them and partly because there was a lot of corporate pushback against supernodes using your corporation's bandwidth to complete somebody else's call.

Comment: Not the first time hammering caused trouble. (Score 1) 138

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48670187) Attached to: Many DDR3 Modules Vulnerable To Bit Rot By a Simple Program

Story I heard about mid-20th-century IBM mainframe. (I think it was the 360 series).

Core memory was tight and had cooling issues. The designers examined the instruction set and determined that, given cacheing and the like, no infinite loop could hammer a particular location more than one cycle in four (25% duty cycle), for which cooling was adequate. So they shipped.

Turns out, though, you could do a VERY LONG FINITE loop that hit a location every other cycle, for 50% duty cycle (not to mention the possibility of hitting a nearby location with some of the remaining cycles). Wasn't too long before a student managed to do this.

And set the core memory on fire.

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. -- Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)

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