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Comment: Points+Insurance... (Score 1) 760

equals a huge deterrent. Granted it's not exactly tied to income, but it does complicate the issue given that auto insurance is mandatory in the US. This system could be interesting to experiment with, but we'd have to visit and clean up the rats' nest of insurance first. Also, an income-based fine system would have to look harder at what a person's daily spending power actually is than just yearly income/365.25 -- bonuses, dependents, medical conditions etc. all combine to make spending power a very tricky number to calculate within reason. Finally the main point of contention: 'day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor.' This would only really be relevant if the harassment of poor folk was primarily in the arena of flat-rate traffic tickets; I'm pretty sure the problem goes deeper than that. Also, I'd suggest reforming maniacal bully cops as a preferable primary approach to a solution...

Comment: Treat coding like labor... (Score 1) 200

...and you get websites like Healthcare.gov I love that this post appeared right above the latest security hole in that site. You can't just train to be a 'coder' -- (good) software engineering requires very high intelligence, keen mathematics aptitude, creativity with a quantitative bent, and a potent imagination. Ditto for robotics. I'm all for outreach and promoting STEM interest in schools, but only if it's understood that not everyone is cut out for a cerebral career path. Those that aren't cut out for it will, sadly, probably wind up as highly paid managers of programmers

Comment: Re:instant disqualification (Score 1) 648

by CresCoJeff (#48860857) Attached to: Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming
Agreed. Also, what does he mean by "when it comes to more complex constructs Python cannot do them and I would be forced to rely on C"? Python is a general purpose language, so it should certainly be able to tackle any complex constructs that VB, and C for that matter, can. Perhaps he meant constructs requiring low-level memory fiddling? I would call that an implementation detail rather than a modifier of a given construct's complexity. What I can get behind is the raised-hairy-eyebrow wrt implicit typing in Python for a student; for someone just starting out in programming I expect an implicit type system would be incredibly confusing and might lead to an 'it works because of magic' mentality. I cut my teeth on VB in junior high and high school and I found the transition to Java, C++, and eventually C (mostly so that I could understand what all the saccharine syntax of the above was doing) fairly easy to make. I'd recommend teachers in college plan for Java or C++ and high school teachers stick with something simple like a BASIC dialect. That said, they should use an open BASIC, like FreeBASIC instead of VB. On the other hand, Dijkstra said "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration." So... maybe stick with Java as a fair middle ground?

Comment: Slippery Slope (Score 1) 894

by CresCoJeff (#48824139) Attached to: Pope Francis: There Are Limits To Freedom of Expression
My religion's chief dogma states "And ye, verily, none shall limiteth free speech, nor even discusseth the potential limits of free speech, excepteth for the shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater thing." The Pope's statement about not offending religion offends my religion. Seriously though, nobody has the right to not be offended. If you don't like folk drawing your prophet-dude, leave an angry comment below their Tumblr post like everybody else, don't shoot/bomb/ anyone.

Comment: Re:Start with Venus... (Score 1) 319

by CresCoJeff (#48770087) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?
Indeed, we need much more data before trying something like this at home. Are we even certain the earth's climate is changing dangerously? Last I heard on the matter all we had were climate change trends and lots of ugly-looking man-made emissions - two items which might not even be correlated - analyzed using about 100 years of fairly good planetary ecology data and maybe a thousand years of empirical-but-primitive data total if we include crusty old ships' logs with 'here be dragons' annotations and illustrations of fire-breathing walruses. That's not even a fraction of an eye-blink in geological time. Assuming that warming trends observed within a tiny window of geological time are permanent, unusual, deadly, unnatural/man-made, and can be reversed by man through simple 'planet hacks' seems quite dangerous. That said, we should all really look into not burning dinosaurs to get from point A to point B anymore...

Comment: Try IT support/tech writing to start (Score 1) 280

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...

The 11 is for people with the pride of a 10 and the pocketbook of an 8. -- R.B. Greenberg [referring to PDPs?]

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