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Comment: Try IT support/tech writing to start (Score 1) 279

by CresCoJeff (#48613677) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?
In college I had no idea what one subject I wanted to dedicate my life to -- I was (and am) interested in a wide range of topics. I pseudo-randomly settled on Psychology for my BA and after my internship and numerous interviews, one of which involved my having to run after an interviewer who was pretending to be a lunatic down several office hallways while dressed in a full suit, I learned that psych work might not quite be for me. I got a job after college doing simple desktop-support IT work at a software engineering company, and worked my way up to being a go-to systems administrator there. While I was fixing the computers of industry insiders, I gained both connections and the insight of successful STEM folks. I also paid off my undergrad debts and enrolled in a grad program that offered a 'bridge' of classes for non-CS undergrads to enter the Computer Science MS program. By continuing to work full time, I didn't need to take out any additional loans for grad school. After three and a half years of working in IT and attending night classes I graduated with my MS in CS and am now a happy software engineer. I would suggest looking for work in IT or tech writing to pay off your current loans, then consider enrolling in grad school for a STEM Master's degree. If you make sufficient connections in the IT job and amass a fair body of work in your STEM area of interest, you may not need the degree. If you're into software engineering, browse GitHub for interesting projects and request commit access; that way you can include the modules you've written of potentially large and popular applications as part of your body of work. Good luck!

Comment: Re:Encryption: (Score 2) 505

by CresCoJeff (#44477413) Attached to: Snowden and the Fate of the Internet As a Global Network
actually in this case, and many cases, they do. Social and political problems are just the brain-dead cousins of technical problems, and technical solutions can be applied across all of them provided a sufficient level of technical understanding of the given problem's cause and propagation pipeline; in the case of data theft by crooked governments, one need only encrypt one's data to upset and break that problem's pipeline, which requires seized data to be readable by unauthorized third-party entities who do not possess the necessary credentials to decrypt it. PGP's pub/priv key pairing solution for encrypting email is an excellent example of how this can work to disrupt the spying problem-- only the intended recipient can decrypt the message because his/her public key is used in the encryption process and will require his/her private key to decrypt. So long as we never share our private keys, spying should not be an issue. Of course these encryption algorithms could be broken by third-parties, but it would be an extremely arduous process requiring years of expensive processing by expensive computer clusters, and government spooks neither have the resources nor the knowledge to even attempt such actions, much less the motivation unless they are working with data intercepted from someone who is known to be an actual threat based on his/her actions. The lesson from all this spying business is not that the global internet is dead or that we cannot trust big corporations with our data-- everyone should have already known not to trust entities driven by money before anything else and the global internet can remain strong for as long as we wish; we just have to be more diligent in encrypting our secrets. That said, we also need to develop more advanced and difficult to reverse encryption algorithms which focus on peer to peer communication rather than single-point-of-failure keys held by corporations who might, and probably will, give them over to government spooks if pressured to do so. Consider the last twenty some-odd years as the 'free love' era of the internet, and the US government's crimes as the inevitable AIDS-riddled aftermath; when sexually transmitted diseases came to light, sexuality was not derailed. Instead we got smarter about protecting ourselves. The solution to the problem introduced by the disease that is the US government today is similar: encrypt everything, and trust no one until they've proven they are worthy of trust! Also notable is that encryption only breaks the execution pipeline of the problem, it doesn't solve it; that is sufficient to protect our data, but it should be kept in mind that the root of the problem, a sense of god-like entitlement by government officials and the ability to instill fear in citizens and corporations that backs up this false sense, also must be addressed as soon as possible. Organization like Demand Progress, RootsAction, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are doing some great work coordinating messages from the citizenry to government officials informing them that we will not stand for this abuse; check them out and lend whatever aid you can, and in short order the cause of the spying problem will be burned away and the internet can begin to heal.

Comment: CISPA + CFAA = Idiocracy (and death?) (Score 1) 231

Curiosity is the single most important driving force behind innovation and learning; with the CFAA threatening the curious with felony charges (and, indirectly [for now], death) and now CISPA granting unprecedented access to citizens' private data it will be child's play for copyright/patent/security trolls to imprison those of us who now act on curiosity, poking at systems to see what we can make them do with a genuine interest in innovating for the common good, and in so doing discourage open curiosity in children. In a generation or two all we'll have are laborers, lawyers, and politicians. We can't let that happen! Also notable, since GW Bush redefined military immanence to be 'the absence of threat evidence from a known danger is not the evidence of absence of threat from said danger, and a lack of the latter should be considered an imminent threat' and Obama recently re-redefined it (not formally yet, but in leaked communications) to state effectively that 'if target person/group A (regardless of citizenship) has not been proven to be unthreatening to the US government, it is an imminent threat' and the CFAA is already becoming MORE harsh, we h@x0r types could very well find drones at our doorsteps one day soon...

Possessions increase to fill the space available for their storage. -- Ryan