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Comment Re:Too early for criticism. (Score 4, Informative) 238

Yeah, it had only been operating for three months in the surveyed period, and they'd only spent $1.7 million dollars, meaning about $21,000 per job. Not too bad, and it's only 2 percent of the program's projected budget, according to the second linked article. The 'article' is ridiculous equivalent to hiring a coder, then the next morning issuing a performance evaluation saying "he's only written 12 lines of code!"

Comment A better article, not behind a paywall: (Score 3, Informative) 85

This is not really a purely online college, as the poster describes. It's an interesting mix between online and offline: all the students are supposed to live together; they do their classes on computers. The physical location can change annually too. The Atlantic had a better article about Minerva a couple of months ago, and it's not behind a paywall: What's really interesting is the instant and continuous feedback from the professor described here as the Minerva method. It sounds like truly scientific learning, a much better technique than the big lecture hall format, with students zoning out half the time.

Comment Re:Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune also have rings. (Score 2) 85

Every grammar school kid knows that the other gas giants also have (faint) ring systems. How did the submitter AND the Slashdot editor put such a ridiculous mistake on the front page of a nerd site? (Also this is kind of old news, widely reported last week).

Comment Re:Let's hope ... (Score 5, Informative) 38

Reading the Effing Article suggests that this was a more or less planned separation, even before the crash. They were doing a contracted design/build for Virgin, and were supposed to handoff the project after successful completion of these test flights; Virgin decided (for publicity reasons I suspect) to take nominal control now. Also, note that Scaled Composites is now an (autonomous) unit of Northrop, so the end of their direct partnership with Virgin isn't a very big deal for Rutan and his team.

Comment Re:The Forbes author misquoted the finding. (Score 1) 557

Glad somebody pointed this out. The Forbes writer, and the Slashdot headline and introduction are extremely, and in the case of Forbes intentionally, misleading. Who knows, the numbers may well be true. But to say that "Actual Results were Leaked" is a crock of shit; this is just some Putin-sock-puppet human rights "council" *speculating* on what the true numbers might have been. Sort of funny that his own people are saying this, but not actually informative. Makes you more suspicious of Forbes than anything else.

Comment Re:Higher SAT scores, etc (Score 1) 529

It's interesting that the Boston Globe's article talks about astrophysics and chemistry PhDs as if that is still where all the smart people end up.

I would say that one of this country's biggest problems is that we 'track' so many of our best and brightest into the financial 'industry' where their mathematical and creative talents are frittered away coming up with better arbitraging formulas and the like. In other words, not doing anything useful at all, just figuring out ways to make the overall economy more unstable and susceptible to crashes. If all of the great minds who ended up on Wall Street over the past two generations had ended up in science careers, there would have been less market instability, and more scientific and industrial advancement.

On a side note, it's too bad (and somewhat depressingly predictable) that the 'debate' here largely turned into a boring malthusian/eugenics discussion.

Comment Re:$19 billion not for WhatsApp (Score 1) 136

I deleted my Whatsapp account from my phone and my wife's as soon as this news broke for this precise reason. I don't want Facebook having my telephone number, IMEI, router information, etc.

But you make the very good point that all of my 2 dozen or so Whatsapp contacts that have my phone number will be giving it to Facebook anyway. As we are all well aware, Facebook's backend is VERY good at identifying who you are through its analysis of social networks [viz. the 'People You May Know' feature], so they will likely be able to fill in phone numbers for basically all of their users using Whatsapp's database, even if those users do not actually have a Whatsapp account.

When I lived in Egypt some years ago, before the fall of Mubarak, I used to hang out with quite a few anti-regime activist types. They would organize pathetic little demonstrations, frequently via Facebook. And every once in a while, if they were organizing something that the regime really didn't want them to do (demonstrating at the Interior Ministry or something), the government would come in and efficiently round up everyone who had checked in or whatever via Facebook, before the demo got started. It was pretty clear that they had penetrated the online social networks pretty thoroughly, either with or without help from Menlo Park. I've had a very healthy skepticism of Facebook ever since.

It's funny how when we were kids (and for generations before), the bugbear was the all-encompassing government surveillance state. And it has arrived, but it crept in through the ethernet port, with our own little voluntary checkmarks next to the User Agreement. And it came through private companies like Facebook and Google.

The ship has sailed.

Comment Re:Oh for fucks sake (Score 1) 136

As you say, cue the fawning Forbes ''analysis.''

The fact that Jan was on food stamps just a couple of years ago and now is worth something like 10 billion dollars on paper should say...something to all of the right wing assholes who hate on the poor for being shiftless losers, and who try to destroy the tiny little safety nets this country has left for people on the edge of starvation or homelessness.

Comment Re:No. (Score 4, Informative) 213

Public key cryptography using open source tools that have been tested and retested by lots of other coders still works pretty well. The RSA backdoor you are referring to is certainly discouraging news. But on the other hand, the fact that RSA had backdoored itself was sort of understood by the community at large as far back as 2006, shortly after they issued the compromised tool. This week's news is merely confirmation. That's why PGP and its ilk, open source and made by activists, might be a better option than commercial tools by companies with a strict profit motive.

If you are really concerned about security, you might very well want to roll your own machine, and certainly should run a fresh, clean linux install off a CD every time you start up, to reduce the chances your machine is compromised.

Comment cultural immersion (Score 1) 200

"Cultural immersion is the most effective way to learn a foreign tongue" because you are forced to communicate exclusively in the foreign tongue. It's a lot more practice in a lot more contexts 100 percent of the time, instead of just some casual class time that you barely pay attention to. It has nothing to do with this fairly irrelevant research about cues for your home culture causing temporary confusion.

Likewise immigrants who settle in ethnic enclaves don't learn the local language as fast for the very simple reason that they don't have to; they get most of their business done in their original language, and most of their social interactions are in their original language. Less practice, less forced use of the new language means slower learning.

I have experienced both alternatives; I have twice been put into complete immersion situations. Both times I learned the local language relatively fluently in about 4 to 6 months. And the one time that I lived in a sort of foreign enclave bubble for two to three years, despite working very hard at studying the local language, I never attained full fluency. It's just too easy to fall back on speaking English if it's there all around you.

Comment Re:Apple (Score 1) 314

While there is probably some truth to the notion that Samsung took the best external design elements of the Ipad for the Tab, it's sort of ludicrous to ban their product because of it. The underlying principle of the law in the US as I understand it is that Samsung can't sell something that confuses buyers into thinking that they are actually buying an Ipad. I imagine that the basis of the German law is similar.

I am quite surprised that Apple actually won this case, and dare I say that I think Apple is probably surprised as well? I think that they do these design lawsuits mostly as pushback against competitors, kind of policing the boundaries, scaring the Samsungs and Sonys of the world from copying too much. I don't think they actually expect to win injunctions though.


Some WikiLeaks Contributions To Public Discourse 299

Hugh Pickens writes "The EFF argues that regardless of the heated debate over the propriety of the actions of WikiLeaks, some of the cables have contributed significantly to public and political conversations around the world. The Guardian reported on a cable describing an incident in Afghanistan in which employees of DynCorp, a US military contractor, hired a 'dancing boy,' an under-aged boy dressed as a woman, who dances for a gathering of men and is then prostituted — an incident that contributed important information to the debate over the use of private military contractors. A cable released by WikiLeaks showed that Pfizer allegedly sought to blackmail a Nigerian regulator to stop a lawsuit against drug trials on children. A WikiLeaks revelation that the United States used bullying tactics to attempt to push Spain into adopting copyright laws even more stringent than those in the US came just in time to save Spain from the kind of misguided copyright laws that cripple innovation and facilitate online censorship. An article by the NY Times analyzed cables released which indicated the US is having difficulties in fulfilling Obama's promise to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and is now considering incentives in return for other countries accepting detainees, including a one-on-one meeting with Obama or assistance with the IMF. 'These examples make clear that WikiLeaks has brought much-needed light to government operations and private actions,' writes Rainey Reitman, 'which, while veiled in secrecy, profoundly affect the lives of people around the world and can play an important role in a democracy that chooses its leaders.'"

If God had not given us sticky tape, it would have been necessary to invent it.