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Comment: Great move alienating tech savvy people (Score 1) 495

by CptJeanLuc (#47363003) Attached to: Microsoft Takes Down Domains

Our company has found evidence there are people driving cars while under the influence of alcohol in and out of the city, every single day. In order to safeguard our customers who frequently travel the city streets, we move to block all roads accessing the city.

Come on Microsoft ... if you want to be the hip guy who are just as cool as Apple and Google, you need to stop doing this kind of stuff. If you want to steam ahead as you are currently going, with draconian initiatives with questionable legal base that mess up the infrastructure of mostly tech savvy users (you know, the people who give advice to others what they should buy) who will tell their friends exactly what they believe people should expect from your company, then here is a free suggestion for a new company slogan, "Microsoft - because we can".

Comment: Secret Sharing (Score 1) 208

by CptJeanLuc (#47277123) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

The problem; trust. Say you had a number of deposit boxes with valuable contents. Do you give someone copies of all your keys, as you intend for them to get the contents later - and trust them not to open any of it until the time comes. Do you invent some clever scheme that they will find the keys when they go through your stuff when the time comes - though the thing is they may never find it, and noone will ever know. Or do you buy some service from ShadyCo Care Services to keep copies of your keys, with a promise they will be delivered to the right people when the time comes.

The problem is trust. Ultimately with these examples, you either trust one particular person more than you would normally want to do (it is nice to have close family and friends, but we do not necessarily give them all the passcodes to access our bank accounts and do stuff in our name), trust some entity which ultimately cannot be trusted (e.g. corporation), or bet on some chain of events to unfold as planned.

Within the area of cryptography, there is a concept called "secret sharing", that instead of one password (or "master secret"), a number of secrets are produced which when combined in various pre-defined ways, will create the master secret. You encrypt a file with the secret information you want to pass on, using very strong encryption and a very strong password - and then create a number of secrets from the master password. E.g. if you have 2 siblings and 3 children, you could split up the key such that any one sibling together with two of the children, would be able to reconstruct the master password.

So what is the nice thing about this type of scheme? It means you do not need to trust people as much. In order to "screw you over" by going against your instructions, with the above example three of the people you think are closest to you would have to collaborate - which is a lot less likely to happen than if one single person held all the power.

There are some practical issues - each person would have to get a secret to be protected, preferably in some way which cannot be hacked - and a piece of software that they will be able to use to reconstruct the secret - something portable which will run on anything and which can also be operated by computer illiterates. I would not expect anyone has written software specifically for this, though it would have been quite easy, as the concept of secret sharing is pretty straightforward, e.g. the secret lies along a n-th degree polynomial with known x-value e.g. x=0, and each person gets coordinates for a different point along the graph. Any n points are sufficient to resolve the coefficients of the polynomial f(x), and thus determine f(0).

Comment: Re:1994-95 (Score 2) 204

by CptJeanLuc (#47271951) Attached to: X Window System Turns 30 Years Old

Oh, the memories. 1994 in university, and they had a room of SGI Indy workstations, with Internet connection. Everything was utterly confusing with Unix, X11, ctwm and what not. Asking the wizards for help was pretty scary, as they would stare you down as if you were a waste of perfectly good carbon. Those were good times.

And then installing Slackware from floppy, onto a 486DX33 I think it was. Getting the X server up and running was pretty scary, which involved getting a supposedly supported graphics card, and playing around with dot clock frequencies while reading warnings about how this could fry the monitor. No manual, no search engines to turn to for help the way you can look up almost any question today and find an answer in a forum somewhere, and no internet at home.

I think it was a couple years later when Linux got initial support for multiple processors, and this was before the concept of "cores". Which was pretty cool. Got a Tyan Tomcat III motherboard with two pentium processors, and had a lot of fun figuring out how to get that to work. Those were the days when you had to compile your own kernel, at least for that type of functionality.

Actually, the Tyan Tomcat III motherboard was the only piece of hardware I owned which got ruined due to Y2K. Because I was afraid the PC would get broken, I downloaded a new BIOS and followed instructions to flash. The computer never booted again; would probably have been just fine if I had the wisdom to just leave it alone.

Comment: Throw most of it away? (Score 1) 201

by CptJeanLuc (#46910041) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy?

I was about to write a longer post, but it boils down to this; you probably have too much stuff you don't need. And VHS tapes which you think you may want to watch later, but 95% of them you never will, and the remaining 5% is no big loss, or you can just get them on DVD or similar. If you are afraid of losing information, just put the VHS tapes in a box somewhere. If you find out later you really want to watch one of them, then you will find a technical solution at that time. Which is going to be cheaper and/or less time consuming than converting a bunch of commercial and/or personal videos, which you can then not watch in digitized format instead of not watching them on VHS.

Comment: Simple, use your own PC and network (Score 1) 572

Buy your own computer/tablet/phablet, and if you need to do private stuff while at work, use your own 3G/4G or whatever. It is that simple. Don't use the company mail for private mail. Get your own cellphone for your private stuff. It is that simple. You can either have full control of your privacy, or you can save a few bucks by using your company's stuff for free. You cannot have it both ways. If you need more network bandwidth at work than you can transfer over a 3G network, in order to download or watch stuff which you don't want your employer to know about, then well ...

Comment: Benefits vs disadvantages vs risk (Score 1) 263

by CptJeanLuc (#46340037) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When Is a Better Career Opportunity Worth a Pay Cut?

You will need to prioritize, and noone can do it for you.

On the benefits side, improved work life quality. Think about it; mon-fri people spend more than 50% of the time they are awake, working. And the life quality of remaining time, is influenced by work satisfaction. Work satisfaction is not an unimportant thing! Sure, we can do the noble "I sacrifice myself for the rest of my family and keep a job I don't like just so everyone else can be happy" thing. But there _is_ an I in family, and it is ok to think about oneself as part of the equation. From what OP is writing, there may also be opportunities to work on new types of assignments, leading to an improved CV, leading to possible later economic benefits?

Disadvantages. A pay cut is something tangible which can easily be related to. "Other benefits" would depend, e.g. health insurance and those types of things are not to be taken too lightly. But ... these are very tangible benefits that are possible to prioritize.

Risk. This is the tough one. What is the probability that you end up with a good scenario. And the probability that Murphy's Law kicks in, and you end up without a job, not able to get the old job back, and suddenly things look grim. I would like to think of this similar to gambling and financial investments. If the scenario that you lose is unacceptable, and the risk of that happening is not miniscule, then the risk is probably too high. Problem is it is hard to assess what is the real risk; whether the job is as good as the sales pitch.

Maybe it is possible to do some negotiations, if you are leaning towards not taking the job, then trying to get a better deal would not hurt. Letting them understand that you need them to provide some safety net before you are willing to jump ship.

I am guessing you work in the US. In my opinion, the impact of losing one's job is one of the worst "features" of the US work economy, and it is sad to see US colleagues holding onto their jobs for dear life. The free economy thinking has taken it one step too far, hindering work mobility - which hurts the economy. When the risk associated with taking a new job involves a potential "I may end up with no health coverage" scenario, and no financial safety net, I can see why people stick around with a job they find less than exciting, and put up with all sorts of crap from management to work extra hours etc. to keep the job. Plus always appearing super excited about everything related to work, keeping up good appearances. And just as bad for the work place ... employees who deliberately sabotage work processes to make themselves indespensable, the "noone else knows how this setup which I never documented works, so they can't fire me" type of mentality - and falling into "group think" mentality, afraid to criticize poor management or processes. I am seriously glad I don't have to work in the US.

Anyways, good luck with the decision!

Comment: Re:Ahh, religion (Score 1) 745

by CptJeanLuc (#46265443) Attached to: Mathematician: Is Our Universe a Simulation?

Well, science is religion. Only a minority of scientists would agree with me on that point. However, it really is, and I frankly don't trust scientists who don't see the religious nature of science for what it is. They have lost their objectivity, which means they are just a different type of religious leaders or followers. Real scientists are open to alternative ideas and mechanisms for how the universe works, that cannot be disproved. Just because you are not able to run an experiment to disprove it, doesn't necessarily mean that it is false. It just means that it cannot be determined by the scientific method, so it falls into the realm of philosophy.

There are some fundamental beliefs in the scientific method, or at least in how we human beings apply the scientific method in practice. We believe we have "understood" the forces of gravity on a macroscopic level, because we have performed a number of experiments that all fit with current theory. However, who is to say that tomorrow, the forces of gravity might not just change direction? Simply because that is the way the universe works, every once in a while (on a very long timescale), that just happens? Or who is to say that the physical laws work the same way in remote areas of the universe. The whole understanding of cosmology, is based on layers and layers of assumptions, that "if all these things are true, then maybe this is what happened and how the universe develops". Plus how can we even know that we human beings are able to make objective assessments and be fully rational in our application of the scientific method.

Who knows. Maybe our current scientific "understanding" of the universe is correct. Maybe there is a higher power that somehow spawned the universe and can interfere with it. Perhaps we are just a simulation of sorts (which we would perceive no differently than being in a world controlled by higher powers). But no reason for a smug attitude about silly people mixing religion with science by suggesting something like the universe being a simulation. Because it is no less religion than your own scientific beliefs.

Comment: Need managers who understand non-technical aspects (Score 1) 249

by CptJeanLuc (#45853183) Attached to: Do Non-Technical Managers Add Value?

Former semi-technical manager here. Related questions seem to come up frequently. What value do managers add. Why can't they get out of the developers' way and let them just do their thing. Well, I have parachuted into some teams which were run by developers and engineers without clear commercial leadership, and those projects always turned out to be in a pretty bad shape. Even though there were senior and highly qualified engineers in place.

So as a manager, you start asking some basic questions. What is this we are building here. What features are we working on. What vision do we have for the final product, what experience is it supposed to deliver. Ok, we don't know - maybe we should figure that out, rather than doing development for 3 months and just see what comes out of it. Is what the team is working on now and with current plans, going to deliver the target experience. Who is sponsoring this project, that we need to keep informed and who will champion this project when resources get tight. Why is the most junior guy fresh out of university working on the most critical piece of code. How does what we are building fit with what the rest of the organization is doing. Why are you guys forking some piece of code creating your own special version of one of the company's products just for this project; have you got any idea whatsoever of the implications on maintenance costs down the line. (Well - that is one of the problems that a purely non-technical manager is going to have a hard time discovering, because he is not going to ask about it, and the engineers are for sure not going to tell him about it - they don't even know it is a problem.) What is it you are doing differently so that the core engine is going to work _this time_, given that the previous three attempts failed - did we learn from that at all, or are we just trying random new things.

You can just go on and on. A team run by engineers without clear leadership by someone with sufficient managerial level to be a real manager and not just an "architect" or "technical manager", will end up in a mess 90% of the time. The remaining 10% of the time is for projects that are so simple or small in scope or technical in nature that the engineers will get it right.

Crappy managers will ruin any project. Non-crappy but non-technical managers have a bit of a challenge, but you would be surprised what a competent general manager will be able to figure out, just by starting with some innocent questions and going from there, and spending some time getting to learn more about the subject matter at hand. Unfortunately, only a small percent of managers have the level of leadership skills and ability to figure out new things on the fly.

Comment: True experts are always in demand (Score 1) 629

by CptJeanLuc (#45538983) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are We Older Experts Being Retired Too Early?

My 50 cents, and based on experience from a non-US country, but still ... true expertise IMHO is always in demand. However, you need to demonstrate that expertise by showing it in your work, and saying the right things in an interview. At least, if I was the one hiring.

Unfortunately, in terms of getting hired, there is a stereotype you need to fight, as some managers are sceptical towards hiring older IT employees. And I will be as politically incorrect as to bluntly state the truth as I see it ... there is a reason for that! If you encountered enough developers in various jobs, you have all encountered that person. The one who is starting to get a bit older, who is not quite up to par in their output, who absorb things a bit slower, always try to solve a problem in terms of the tools they know, not quite the level of energy of younger peers, without the same willingness to work late hours, not the one who brings a positive energy to the workplace. While at the same time possibly politically savvy and putting up "an air of expertise". Though as their managers eventually discover, there is a discrepancy between the level of expertise they project, and their actual contribution. And unfortunately, these "old farts" are often the most expensive guys on the budget, since they want to get paid for their "years of experience". Plus they are typically in positions of influence, and so bad performance has worse consequences. And thus, you get quite cautious as a manager about making a bad hiring decision for those types of positions.

So whereas age should not be a disqualifying factor, there is the reality that as people get older, an increasing share of those people will have lower output and less flexibility to adapt than younger peers. You need to be "ahead of the curve" in anticipating those concerns, and ensuring you demonstrate that there is nothing to worry about. You can even bring it out in the open, and state that "look, I know that there is some times concern about hiring older employees, and I can assure you that everything is ok in that area. Here is why ..." Real experience and skills will always show. But don't use age and tons and years of industry experience as the main selling point. Whenever I get that pitch without hearing the substance behind to actually prove it, I get sceptical.

Comment: Re:Focus on your local encryption method first (Score 1) 200

by CptJeanLuc (#45318561) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Which Encrypted Cloud Storage Provider?

Yes, this is exactly the type of solution. If OP does not run Linux or otherwise have access to EncFS, something similar like TrueCrypt might work. Also, with EncFS, though I don't remember the expert mode configuration options by heart, there may be some regarding how file names are encrypted, that need to be properly configured in order to work across multiple systems, e.g. avoid dependency on absolute path. The main point is not trusting any 3rd party to handle the secrecy of your data. By controlling the encryption, you effectively alter the level of trust you have to grant to a 3rd party.

Obviously, you are still exposed to whatever spyware may be on your PC. Managing encryption locally does not offer much additional secrecy if the dropbox (or similar) client you are using, contains a back door which allows snooping on your file systems. So even though you don't trust the cloud service provider to keep your data safe, you may have to trust their client if you want to use a cloud service. For me personally, I like the "roll-your-own" alternative of sshfs plus encfs (on Linux). I trust those related technologies and clients, and the providers of the related clients I run locally. If I keep data with a hosting provider, I don't need to trust any client they provide me, because I get that elsewhere - and ssh has been around for ages and the openssh source code is probably heavily audited.

All this being said ... at the end of the day, most of us will never need tinfoil level secrecy for most of our data. So I would tier the type of solutions I use for various data, and use the heavy-encryption stuff only for data that I feel deserves extra protection. For everyday stuff, I am perfectly happy to just use Google Drive. I don't think anyone is going to get too excited about getting their hands on my weekend shopping list for groceries.

Comment: Old one looks better and is more efficient (Score 1) 1191

by CptJeanLuc (#45011887) Attached to: Come Try Out Slashdot's New Design (In Beta)

I've been reading Slashdot every day since more or less the beginning, and I want to be able to efficiently scan through the articles and selectively open links and comments. Scanning through the current layout is pretty efficient. The beta layout fails in that aspect. A lot more scrolling, too much space taken by pictures which add nothing to readability, and too little text to get a good summary of the stories without clicking to expand.

With the new layout, I might as well read Slashdot in an RSS reader.

Comment: World of Warcraft or similar MMO (Score 1) 337

by CptJeanLuc (#44671129) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Good Ideas For Creative Gaming With Girlfriend?

World of Warcraft or similar could be a good alternative. At least that is how I remember the experience of leveling a couple characters together with good real-life friends (though not my significant other), before I eventually grew bored of the world of Azeroth and the repetitive nature of quests and game mechanics. WoW strikes a reasonably good balance between playing a game together with a shared purpose and creating collaborative experience, while at the same time having plenty of 'downtime' (traveling and quests that don't require much thinking) for chatting and being social.

Comment: Look for alternative explanations (Score 1) 241

by CptJeanLuc (#44277719) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Enterprise Level Network Devices For Home Use?

For lots of the various gadgets I own, whenever I visit related forums, there are posts about how these gadgets "always break". Which I find interesting, because I almost never break anything I own, including those products. Yes, stuff may break, even under normal use. But when it happens too often, there is some other factor involved. Normally this would be due to careless use, so a user problem. If you feel that cannot be it, because you are not somehow physically abusing your gear ... then something else is going on, e.g. room conditions, power input, someone is messing with your stuff, violent sleepwalking.

Let's say there is a 1% chance you get a faulty piece of equipment which breaks within a year. The chance that happens e.g. 4 times in a row is pretty slim, i.e. 0.01^4. So either you have simply lost the lottery, or you are looking for the wrong type of solution.

Comment: Devices with external open APIs (Score 1) 141

by CptJeanLuc (#42770159) Attached to: Cooking Up the Connected Kitchen

Having connectivity to such gadgets would be nice, both for monitoring and controlling. What I do not want is to either get trapped in some vendor's ecosystem in order to get any level of integration, or to have to deal with tons of apps, one for each gadget. Similar to devices on the PC, there should be an abstraction level between the device's controlling interface, and the programs for accessing the devices. I think any vendor who did a "first mover" step into that space, offering control over their devices at an API level, would have a nice advantage, in terms of going towards where the market will likely eventually end up.

That, plus it needs to have integrated WLAN (don't want the hassle of setting up additional networking technologies in the home), plus of course some reasonable authentication mechanism.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard