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Comment: Re:Schneier's opinion isn't what it once was (Score 1) 94

by Dutch Gun (#49143569) Attached to: Schneier: Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not From Them

When Schneider says "we", I understood that to mean he's talking about the vast majority of the public, not security or privacy-conscious people - who, let's face it, are almost certainly a minority. It feels like you're reading those statements as *advocating* those positions, when instead I think he's just describing the reality of the current situation.

Comment: Re:Welcome to reality (Score 1) 94

by Dutch Gun (#49143375) Attached to: Schneier: Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not From Them

No one of any credibility has ever claimed that anything can be made 100% secure. However, the bar for cracking today's state-of-the-art encryption schemes is significantly higher than older standards. Not just a little higher, but exponentially higher. At the moment, it would take a modern PC until far past the heat death of the universe to crack a modern 4096-bit encoded certificate. That means that unless a fundamental weakness is found or we invent quantum computers, no one will brute force that key in our lifetimes, and probably our children's lifetimes as well, even given continued improvements of hardware speeds and proliferation. Many of our modern encryption schemes rely on the premise that a very large semiprime number is hard to factor. As long as that holds true, it's likely our cryptography will hold as well.

Many early algorithms, such as WEP or early ZIP encryption, were created behind closed doors by security novices, and as such were broken by design. Current encryption standards are well vetted in public by crypto-analysists from all over the globe for many years before they're adopted. It's a really big deal if an analyst discovers a way to reduce even one or two bits of entropy in a modern encryption standard. Of course, it would be equally foolish to declare that we'll *never* crack our current standards, but I'm not sure I'd compare them to relatively simplistic or fundamentally flawed standards of the past. Our current technology is at the trailing end of a very Darwinian process, and has been made much stronger because of all the failures of the past. Engineering of all types works this way: failures result in gained knowledge, and we use that knowledge to build better systems going forward.

Nowadays (as you correctly indicated), security is much more likely to be breached because of a side-channel attack: a faulty implementation of an otherwise solid encryption algorithm, stolen keys, or even by deliberately weakened random numbers. I'm much more pessimistic about our current security in this regards compared to the actual encryption algorithms, simply because of the huge attack surfaces our infrastructure has.

Cryptography is a field where confidence can only be gained by longevity, so we'll just have to see how things play out. Still, the fact that our three-letter agencies seem desperate to force us to use encryption with backdoors seems like a pretty good indicator of how strong they perceive modern encryption to be.

Comment: Re:Ummm - Use a commercial pasta machine.... (Score 1) 54

by Dutch Gun (#49142883) Attached to: 3D Printers Making Inroads In Kitchens

If anything, my guess is that it may make possible the creation of unique dishes and designs that would be too time-consuming to create by hand, at least in the commercial market. It's probably only in the home market that you'd use it to create pasta or other dishes that commercial machines can already easily do, since an all-in-one machine may be more economical, both cost and space-wise.

Comment: Some minor bugs to report (Score 1) 20

by Dutch Gun (#49142791) Attached to: The Only Constant is Change

My rig: Firefox 36 on Windows 7:

* Signatures are overlapped by the Reply To This, Parent, and Share links.

* The Post and Load All Comments buttons at the top of the page are, in their default state, the same color as the dark green background, with dark grey text, making them barely readable. They turn gray when I mouse over them.

* The Post, Moderate, Moderator Help, and Delete buttons at the bottom of the page seem to be extending past the top of the dark green bar, and are overlapping with the advertisement content.

* After hitting the "Preview" button, the three new buttons "Submit", "Continue Editing", and "Preview" buttons overlap the yellow bar just above them.

* After hitting the "Preview" button, the user is presented with another "Preview" button, which of course is completely redundant.

Comment: Re:Ah, Damnit... (Score 1) 443

by Dutch Gun (#49142309) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

Windows 10 seems to continue this behavior. I was initially hopeful, because the auto-sorting didn't seem to occur when I made and renamed a few files in the root Documents folder. I recalled hearing that there are some exceptions to the auto-sorting in virtual folders, so I tried making a subfolder and renaming the files there, and saw the same auto-sorting behavior.

This is a good lesson for software designers. When you try to be too "clever", you're occasionally going to guess incorrectly and actually make things harder for your users instead. Always provide a way to turn those sorts of features off. Anyone who has experienced the frustration of MS Word refusing to let you precisely highlight a portion of a word (it helpfully highlights the *entire* word for you instead) well understands that phenomenon.

Comment: Re:Ah, Damnit... (Score 1) 443

by Dutch Gun (#49135503) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

Yep, I actually agree they've been listening and changing things that actually matter, such as things that really affect usability. It makes it all the more odd to me why they're so stubbornly focused on making the UI look like crap. Either I'm just part of a vocal minority which really doesn't like it and it is complaining about the modern look (it's possible, as a bunch of people don't seem to mind it), or the people in charge just believe so much in their new aesthetic that they don't really care what the ignorant masses (i.e. dinosaurs that can't get with the times like me) think.

Like I mentioned, Windows 10 is actually shaping up nicely in terms of both functionality and usability. The "flat" look just feels like a massive over-correction from the gloss, transparency, and eye candy of previous versions to me. I think the fact that one of the biggest complaint about Windows 10 is the aesthetics is actually a fairly positive sign for the new OS.

Comment: Ah, Damnit... (Score 5, Funny) 443

by Dutch Gun (#49135437) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

Yeah, they're doubling down on the "modern" look, which essentially translates to "flat and ugly" to me. I sort of knew that going in when I saw the Windows 8 styling hadn't changed. Microsoft's Windows 10 is shaping up to be pretty nice in terms of usability. I've been testing it out, and it's fixed most of the most horrible aspects of Windows 8, by which I mean they've pretty much chopped them out and replaced them with UI systems that actually work on a desktop. It's shaping up to be what Windows 8 should (or could) have been. But damn... it's still as ugly as sin.

I guess they're still trying to prove that they can ignore overwhelming customer feedback in a way that's uniquely suited to mega corporations. Seriously, I can't wait until this design trend ends, and people look back like we now do at 70's fashion trends and say, "Dear God, what were we thinking? We really thought that was cool?"


Keep in mind that this is still a Technical Preview build and the icons we see here might not make it to the final version of Windows 10

Hahahaha, oh man... that's just adorable. Seriously, they're not going to change them because a few people are bitching about them at this point.

Comment: Re:Politics? (Score 2) 101

by Dutch Gun (#49134021) Attached to: Argonne National Laboratory Shuts Down Online Ask a Scientist Program

I never knew that had a name, thanks. I think everyone has seen their local government threaten funding cuts to firefighters, emergency service (911, etc), parks, schools, and other popular services unless special bonds are passed.

It certainly could be that, although another possibility is that Wikipedia and other online resources have essentially supplanted the need for such a service.

Comment: Re:Breaking news! (Score 5, Insightful) 148

by Dutch Gun (#49132743) Attached to: Artificial Intelligence Bests Humans At Classic Arcade Games

Seriously, is there any doubt that a computer can easily defeat a human at a computer game that involves 95% pure reflexes and 5% strategy?

The article shows a picture of Breakout, and tends to focus on the wrong things entirely... especially the title, trumping that "computers can beat humans". It's fairly impressive that computers can learn the rules of a simple videogame on their own and perform well, but beating humans is not exactly an apples to apples comparison, because while we can formulate strategies to maximize points, we're also prone to making simple mistakes due to our much poorer reflexes and coordination. So AI has a massive advantage with precision reflexes and calculations that it can make much faster than humans.

Some of my previous jobs involved programmed AI game opponents for action games. As anyone who's faced an aim-bot knows, there's no real challenge for computers to perform many of the tasks humans find difficult, like putting a bullet through a moving target's forehead. I actually had do a lot of extra work to programmatically replicate the difficulties humans face when aiming at a moving target. However, collecting and processing global environmental knowledge and formulating complex strategies based on that knowledge is extremely difficult. That's why we typically build a lot of invisible hints into the environment itself for the benefit of AI, such as pathfinding-specific structures, or dynamic flags that signal potential rewards or danger. Even today, in many strategy games that involve complex ruleset (meaning brute force calculations can't work as well), the computer opponents inevitably have to cheat in order to compete with even modestly skilled players.

Early videogames have very few of these sorts of challenges because of their largely static environments and the basic nature of the games. For the most part, you just need to formulate a few simple rules for an optimal victory condition, and when combined with a computer's incredible performance, you can easily trounce the best human players, simply because a computer never gets distracted, tired, or makes silly mistakes in judgement.

Again, I'm not dissing the work the researchers did, which I found to be impressive, but the article and summary seem to be missing the point entirely by comparing them to human scores. It's fairly obvious that once a computer learns how to play with an optimal strategy, it's an absolute given that they'll score better than humans ever could.

Comment: Re:Dear Michael Rogers, (Score 1) 399

by Dutch Gun (#49131659) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data

That's a good point. However, an argument can be made is that there's no longer a bureaucratic "wall" between agencies, so there's no reason not to make more extensive use of fieldwork by more appropriate resources. If I'm not mistaken, it would probably be the FBI to do that fieldwork inside the US, and the CIA outside, right? The NSA should be working with them to make better use of that HUMINT and follow up with targeted interceptions.

Part of what Snowden revealed in documents was technology that did, in fact, allow much more targeted surveillance, such as electronic eavesdropping (I thought he shouldn't have released those documents, frankly). Believe it or not, I actually have no problem with that, because it means they've likely gotten a warrant from a judge, and have suspicions about a single person, and are tracking down leads. That's exactly what we both want and expect them to do.

Putting a back door in standardized encryption systems on phones and other devices is worthless anyhow. All it means is that if someone has something to hide, they'd use their own strong encryption. And if you make such encryption illegal, they'll simply break the law and use strong encryption anyhow because they're criminals.

Comment: Re:But... (Score 4, Informative) 249

They *could* get the definition instantaneously through a link and move on, but is that actually learning?

Seriously? Yes, that's learning! Please tell me you're not calling a dictionary a "crutch". My 8th grade English teacher would weep.

I'm guessing you haven't actually used this feature in a modern e-reader, right? You press and hold a word on the screen, and the definition pops up over the text. You've now learned a new word, and it's taken about five or ten seconds, and you continue reading, now slightly more knowledgeable.

You're reading the book's content to broaden your mind, and trying to puzzle out a new word by context is much more of a distraction than actually learning a new word when it's right there and instantly available. There's nothing noble about taking a harder path to easily obtained knowledge. There are plenty of ways in which a person will need to struggle in order to learn new things. Looking up a the definition of a word shouldn't be one of those.

Comment: Re:Dear Michael Rogers, (Score 2) 399

by Dutch Gun (#49121591) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data

This quote is priceless:

Rogers objected to using the word “backdoor”. “When I hear the phrase ‘backdoor’, I think, ‘Well, this is kind of shady. Why would you want to go in the backdoor? It would be very public,’” he said. “Again, my view is: We can create a legal framework for how we do this. It isn’t something we have to hide, per se.”

Too late, I'm afraid. You've lost any sense of credibility you may have had after essentially being caught spying on the entire internet, and especially US citizens. The only reason you're going public is because private individuals and companies are taking the ability to read data at will out of your hands by using state-of-the-art encryption.

He still can't even answer questions that would logically come up about other countries wanting backdoors, of course:

Alex Stamos, Yahoo (AS): So you do believe then, that we should build those for other countries if they pass laws?

Mike Rogers, NSA (MR): I think we can work our way through this.

AS: I’m sure the Chinese and Russians are going to have the same opinion.

MR: I said I think we can work through this.

AS: Okay, nice to meet you. Thanks.


There are other ways to find and investigate suspicious individuals - more targeted methods. Yes, they're more time consuming and more difficult. Why don't you use some of those billions of dollars used to build those mega data centers and spend them on more undercover agents and actual investigation, instead of simply sifting through everyone's e-mail looking for interesting keywords? Bulk-scanning the internet is a dinosaur of a solution, as eventually everything will be encrypted. I'm sorry you wasted so many of our tax dollars on a short-term solution instead of building up a better, more effective, long-term intelligence network.

Comment: Re:Yes. Yes they are (Score 1) 318

When I was researching my earlier answer, even those Korea is stated as an exception to our policy, I read:

The US does not maintain any minefields globally after removing its mines from around Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba from 1996-1999.

I took that statement to mean that the US had probably turned over management of those minefields to the Koreans. This blog on the wsj says the same thing, but doesn't give sources.

So, yes, actually. It looks like those minefields are maintained by the Korean forces - they manufacture their own mines now, and we no longer manufacture nor export them. It could very well be that it's just a convenient technicality so the US can make such a statement, of course.

The South Koreans have a bat-shit-insane northern neighbor that still occasionally declares to the world that it's going to conquer them, so I don't think South Korea cares much about what the world thinks of landmines. It's sort of hard to blame them, honestly.

Comment: Re:Yes. Yes they are (Score 1) 318

I did a very brief bit of research on this... As it turns out, we haven't actually deployed any landmines after 1991, apparently except for *one* single munition used in Afghanistan. I can't help but wonder what the hell one single landmine would be used for.

We also don't currently have any deployed minefields anywhere in the world. So, it's certainly not a case of "continual use". While we haven't signed the Ottowa Treaty banning the use of landmines, the US is the single largest donor in helping to decontaminate regions and providing assistance for victim's medical care, to the tune of 2.3 billion dollars since 1993.

The US does currently have a stockpile of them, but is no longer manufacturing, exporting, or importing them. The military is prohibited from deploying any mines that lack a self-deactivation mechanism. Our landmine stockpiles will likely be phased out with the development of viable alternatives... probably killer robots.

For what it's worth, I hope we can eventually get rid of the damned things as well.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn