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Comment: Re:Communism (Score 1) 404

by David Jao (#47312485) Attached to: San Francisco Bans Parking Spot Auctioning App

The other two examples, however.. even if I don't personally agree with them, why shouldn't they be allowed? I think those are perfect examples of good free market. Someone should be able to sell something they make for whatever they want.

Monopoly power leads to deadweight loss and suboptimal consumer surplus. This is economics 101. The theory is very well known. I wouldn't expect members of the general public to know basic economics, but on slashdot, it's fair game.

There are other obvious examples of free market failure. Do you let factories pollute the oceans? What about overfishing and tragedy of the commons? How about photocopying books at cost -- do you prevent this (via copyright) even though it's obviously market interference?

Comment: Re:It depends on the field (Score 1) 538

by David Jao (#47292807) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job
We're talking about two different things. Yes, a school like Harvard pays top dollar for a full professor that they really want. Those positions are not underpaid. Harvard will outbid Ohio State and anyone else for the cream of the crop. But when it comes to untenured assistant professors, Harvard absolutely does underpay, and so does every other elite math department. For example, BPs at Harvard make $60600 per year. That's low even compared to the national average, never mind compared to what you would expect at a top institution.

Continuing with the Harvard theme, if you google Benjamin Pierce assistant professor, the first page of Google results links to the following former BPs: Lauren Williams, Pavel Etingof, Danny Calegari, Nathan Dunfield, and Xinwen Zhu. These people, obviously, landed on their feet and got hired in other universities, quite prestigious universities in fact. And I am sure if you did a comprehensive survey of all former BPs, you'd find the majority working in R1 universities and on the tenure-track. Similar remarks would apply to the untenured named instructorships at any other elite math department, e.g. Dickson Instructor, C.L.E. Moore Instructor, Veblen Research Instructorship, and so on. They're all slightly underpaid. They're all hugely prestigious. And few people have trouble landing a job afterwards.

If you get denied tenure at a lower-ranked school, then yes, that is a disaster. Those schools are set up to give you every opportunity to pass the tenure review. If you fail to do so, then that's on you, and as you say, you'll be an outcast.

Comment: Re:It depends on the field (Score 1) 538

by David Jao (#47291285) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job
I addressed this issue in the last sentence of the paragraph that you quoted (or misquoted, as the case may be, by omitting that critical last sentence). The GP was talking about "professors in technical areas" which I interpret to mean areas such as computer science or engineering as opposed to mathematics, in other words the "TE" part of "STEM". Salaries in these fields are quite a bit higher than in mathematics.

Comment: Mary Margaret Vojtko (Score 2) 538

by David Jao (#47291163) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

When Mary Margaret Vojtko died last September—penniless and virtually homeless and eighty-three years old, having been referred to Adult Protective Services because the effects of living in poverty made it seem to some that she was incapable of caring for herself—it made the news because she was a professor.

The story of Mary Margaret Vojtko is more complicated than it seems on first glance. Vojtko was a hoarder who rebuffed numerous attempts by others to reach out and help. Among other things, she refused to let a repairman fix her boiler because she didn't want anyone disturbing her house. Yes, she was paid poorly and had no benefits, but there were other factors at work.

Comment: Re:It depends on the field (Score 2) 538

by David Jao (#47291143) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job
Well, that's the trade-off of working at a top university. The top universities have no problems attracting top talent, and they can get away with underpaying their professors. People will still compete for those jobs because of the prestige. As a rule, the phenomenon of associate professors without tenure exists only at a few elite universities. Even if you get denied tenure at these places, it still looks good on your CV. The mathematics community understands that you can be extremely strong and still not meet the standards for tenure at these places.

Once you get below the very top, the GP is basically right, all the way down to at least liberal arts institutions (at community colleges, the situation is again different). I'm an associate professor of mathematics at a very good but not absolute top university (Waterloo). All associate professors here have tenure. I make north of 10k gross per month, although perhaps not well north. I'm very happy where I am. I could make more money in private industry, but tenure is worth more to me than the salary difference. In more technical fields than mathematics (such as computer science or engineering), the salaries are higher, as they have to be, to compete with Google and engineering firms.

All of the above applies to tenure-track professors only. Contingent faculty positions are much more financially precarious.

Comment: Re:Cross-platform (Score 1) 146

by David Jao (#47206631) Attached to: Auditors Release Verified Repositories of TrueCrypt
If you're seriously interested in disk encryption, it's pretty clear that there is no viable platform other than Linux, and maybe BSD. Any other platform will be riddled with NSA backdoors, and you'll have no way to check. So I don't understand why cross-platform compatibility is even desirable, much less necessary.

Comment: Books about graduate school (Score 1) 247

by David Jao (#46837337) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Books for a Comp Sci Graduate Student?
Strangely, nobody has addressed the graduate student part of the question. Being a CS grad student involves much more than technical knowledge. You also need to internalize the social norms of this career choice. For this purpose, there is no better information source than The PhD Grind by Philip Guo. The book is completely free (as in beer) from Guo's web site. His web page also contains a great deal of career advice worth checking out.

Comment: Re:Cut off your nose to spite your face (Score 1) 86

It's really not that hard to design a provably secure random number generator without a backdoor. My colleagues at Waterloo did it. Here's another construction. And another. For that matter, you could even backdoor-proof Dual-EC-DRBG itself, by reducing the output rate by 16 to 33%, depending on the curve size (so that it's 5/6th to 2/3rds as fast as before). Any of these choices would be more appropriate than simply keeping the algorithm as-is.

Comment: Re:Cut off your nose to spite your face (Score 1) 86

by David Jao (#46829787) Attached to: NIST Removes Dual_EC_DRBG From Random Number Generator Recommendations
But then you run into the problem that Dual_EC_DRBG is orders of magnitude slower than the other three algorithms contained in the standard. As far as we know, the only good reason to include Dual_EC_DRBG in the first place was because the NSA wanted a backdoor in the standard.

Comment: Re:Cut off your nose to spite your face (Score 1) 86

by David Jao (#46826419) Attached to: NIST Removes Dual_EC_DRBG From Random Number Generator Recommendations
You seem to be suggesting to "keep the standard but change the constants." But there's no way to do that. The standard requires the use of the particular constants specified in the standard. Contrary to what you seem to believe, these constants were not created via an open process. We actually have no idea where these constants came from, but the likeliest candidate is the NSA, simply because if it had come from any other source we would have found out by now. There's no question that using the required values for the constants is just suicidally insane. On the other hand, you can't keep the standard and change the constants, because by using different constants, you are by definition violating the standard. It's like trying to use DES with different constants; well, sure, you can do that, but it's no longer DES.

Comment: Re:Cut off your nose to spite your face (Score 2) 86

A deterministic random bit generator has no need for even a possiblility of a backdoor. Ever. We're not talking about encryption where there needs to be a backdoor so that one person (the legitimate recipient) can decrypt the communication. Also, most experts in the field, including myself, hold the subjective opinion that it is very unlikely there could be any innocent explanation for the existence of the possibility of a backdoor. There are many other much more straightforward designs for deterministic random bit generators that provably contain no possibility of a backdoor under standard number-theoretic assumptions. You cannot reasonably compare this situation to DES. Symmetric key cryptography doesn't come with security proofs. Public-key cryptography primitives are a completely different ballgame.

They are relatively good but absolutely terrible. -- Alan Kay, commenting on Apollos