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Comment: Genius. (Score 3, Funny) 149

by hey! (#49149869) Attached to: Lenovo Saying Goodbye To Bloatware

CEO: This Superfish incident has put our credibility in the toilet. Even corporate customers are looking askance at us now, and we didn't put it on their computers. Suggestions?

Executive 1: Lay low until it blows over.

Executive 2: Hire a new PR firm.

Executive 3: Start a social media campaign.

Genius executive: Maybe we should promise not to do stuff like that anymore.

Comment: I heard the news in the car today. (Score 5, Interesting) 354

by hey! (#49148919) Attached to: Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83

It'll be one of those moments I'll remember, like coming into work and being told about the Challenger disaster, or turning on the car radio and hearing the hushed voices of the announcers on 9/11. Like so many people I feel a connection to this wonderful man.

Of course he did more than play Spock; and in the early post-TOS years he was famously ambivalent about his association with the role. But he did something special with that role. It's easy in the fog of nostalgia to forget that man TOS scripts weren't all that great (although some of them were). The character of Spock might have become just an obscure bit of pop culture trivia; instead Nimoy turned Spock into a character that I feel sure actors in our grandchildren's generation will want to play and make their mark upon.

What Nimoy brought to that role is a dignity and authenticity, possibly rooted in his "alien" experience as the child of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. In less sensitive hands the part might have been a joke, but I think what many of us took away from Nimoy's performance was something that became deeply influential in our world views. Nimoy's Spock taught us that there was something admirable in being different even when that is hard for others to understand; that winning the respect of others is just as rewarding as popularity. The world needs its oddballs and misfits, not to conform, but to be the very best version of themselves they can be. Authenticity is integrity.

It's customary to say things in remembrances like "you will be missed", but that falls short. Leonard Nimoy, you will live on in the lives of all us you have touched.

Comment: Re:... Driverless cars? (Score 2) 249

I wonder how much direct or even second-hand knowledge of unions you have.

In my family we've been on both sides of this issue. My sister, who is an RN, just recently led a successful but bitterly contested unionization drive of her hospital. The impetus for bringing in the union was that after privatization the hospital cut staff so much the nurses feared for patient safety. Nurses don't just administer medicine and make beds; one of the most important things they do is catch mistakes. When a surgeon starts prepping the wrong limb for amputation or an internist accidentally prescribes a medication that will kill the patient. It's nurse's job to catch that. It was unequivocally fear of making mistakes that drove the nurses at that hospital to unionize.

Did she piss off the hospital's new owners? You bet she did. But would you rather go to a hospital where the nurses *lost* that fight? How would you feel about the nurse checking your medications had worked back-to-back weeks of double shifts caring for more patients than she (or he) can keep track of?

On the other hand my brother is a senior executive at a large food service company. He told me about a meeting he had with a local African-American union representative where she played the race card with the first words out of her mouth. This was pointlessly antagonistic, in part because while my brother is a conservative he's open-minded and has a good track record of working with the unions. But mostly pointless because we're not white. We can pass, but as the genealogist in the family recently figured out we have only about 1/3 European ancestry. Fortunately he could laugh that off but if he'd been white and thinner-skinned that might have driven the negotiations into a ditch.

Comment: Re:Sick (Score 5, Insightful) 249

Well, this "richest country in the world" business is somewhat misleading. It means the country with the greatest aggregate economic power, not the country where people tend to be the best off. You need to look at several measures before you can begin to understand the thing that's mystifying you.

By total GDP the US is by far the wealthiest nation in the world. It has almost twice the total GDP of the second country on the list, China. By *per capita* GDP, the US is about 10th on the list, just below Switzerland; so by global standards the typical American is wealthy, but not the wealthiest. On the other hand the US ranks about 20th in cost of living, so the typical American has it pretty good.

Where things get interesting is if you look at GINI -- a measure of economic disparity. The most equal countries are of course the Scandinavians, with Denmark, Sweden and Norway topping the list. The US is far from the *least* equal (Seychelles, South Africa, and Comoros), but it is kind of surprising when you look at countries near the US on the list. Normally in most economic measures you see the US ranked near advanced industrialized countries in Europe, but it's neighbors on the GINI list are places like Turkmenistan, Qatar, and El Salvador.

What this means is that we have significant classes on either end of the scale: the *very* wealthy and an economic underclass. Now because of the total wealth sloshing around in the US, the US underclass has it pretty well compared to the underclass in, say, India. But what this doesn't buy is clout or respect. "Poor" households in the US usually have TVs and refrigerators -- a fact that seems to anger some people, who see the poor in the US as ungrateful people who are too lazy to improve themselves. But a study by the OECD suggests that they don't have the *time* to improve themselves. In a ranking of countries by time spend on leisure and self-care the US ranks 33rd, at 14.3 hours lagging almost two hours per day behind world leader Denmark (big surprise). But remember this is an average; it doesn't represent the time available for the poor.

Most Americans seem to think that poor people spend all their time sitting around waiting for handouts. This willfully ignores the phenomenon of the working poor. After selling my company, I volunteered on a lark at a charity which refurbishes old furniture and household stuff and furnishes the homes of poor people, and I found poor people to be neither lazy nor ungrateful. Let me tell you I have never met so many people who work two or sometimes more jobs. Particularly shocking were the number of women who took their children out of abusive relationships, and then have to work a full time job, raise three or four kids, without a car and in a neighborhood that doesn't have a grocery store. You don't know what gratitude is until you've given a poor, overtaxed mother beds when her children have been sleeping on the floor for months.

When some smug, ignorant and conspicuously well-fed media head starts whining about the poor having refrigerators, it makes me want to punch them in the mouth.

Comment: Wasn't this the main point of "Agile"? (Score 1) 327

by hey! (#49142597) Attached to: The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates

Find a compromise between predicting too much of the future and just managing a project by the seat of your pants; get into a rhythm where you check how good your estimations and learn to get better at them.

Of course you can't develop every project this way; I've used Agile and it's worked for me. I've used waterfall and it's worked for me too. You have to try to be sensible; you can't completely wall of other people's need to know when you'll accomplish certain things, nor can you build a solid plan based on pure speculation. You have to have an intelligent responsible way of dealing with future uncertainty, a plan to cut it down to size.

I've even had the good fortune at one point of winning a $750,000 grant to build a system for which no firm requirements had been established. It was kind of an uphill-flowing waterfall: we knew how long it would take us and how much it would cost but we had no firm idea of what we were supposed to build. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it was; but my team was *successful* and built a product which was still be used and supported over a decade after the grant finished.

What's missing from many programming estimates is honesty. It's a matter of ethics; you can't take people's money and say maybe someday you'll deliver something useful to them. People don't have unlimited time and money to accomplish all the things that need to be done in the world. It's an honor being entrusted with people's aspirations, and a serious responsibility. It's hard, even nerve-wracking, but you've got to care enough about the impact of your planning on other people to make the effort to do the very best job you can.

And what I've found is that if you do make the effort you can do a surprisingly good job of estimating a project if it's in an area and with technologies you're reasonably familiar with. If you look closely your specific predictions will often be way off, but if you care enough to be brutally honest the pleasant surprises tend to balance out the unpleasant ones.

Comment: Re:He's off his rocker. (Score 1) 505

by RatBastard (#49139069) Attached to: Machine Intelligence and Religion

No purpose if we cease to exist after we die? Is not leaving a better world for our descendants not purpose enough? Is not making life better for our fellow humans not purpose enough? What is it with Christians and their "if humans do not matter for eternity they do not matter at all" sickness?

You are a member of a very unique species: a species able to define a purpose for itself. Nature spent 13,500,000,000 years creating a brain capable of this unique task. Honor the effort and use it. Or, wallow in your nihilist mental squalor. It's up to you.

Comment: Re: Not surprised (Score 1) 301

by American AC in Paris (#49134515) Attached to: Reddit Imposes Ban On Sexual Content Posted Without Permission

When a forum starts to limit legal speech a slowly growing cancer of censorship is inevitable.

1. Reddit cannot, in any way, stop you from expressing your opinion. The most they can do is refuse to facilitate said expression.

2. I find it amusing that such a staunch, unyielding proponent of True Free Speech would use such a tremendously wiggly, pro-oversight qualifier as legal In defining what they consider acceptable. Legal implies a level of trust in the state that is entirely at odds with the rest of your post.

Comment: Re: Not surprised (Score 5, Interesting) 301

by American AC in Paris (#49134509) Attached to: Reddit Imposes Ban On Sexual Content Posted Without Permission

When a forum starts to limit legal speech a slowly growing cancer of censorship is inevitable.

1. Reddit cannot, in any way, stop you from expressing your opinion. The most they can do is refuse to facilitate said expression.

2. I find it amusing that such a staunch proponent of True Free Speech would use such a tremendously wiggly, pro-oversight qualifier as legal In defining what they consider acceptable. Legal implies a level of trust in the state that is entirely at odds with the rest of your post.

Comment: Re: GPG is another TrueCrypt? (Score 1) 295

by Martin Blank (#49132959) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

No, those who want perfect solutions want the impossible. I want a framework that can be improved over time.

What's the goal? With maybe a handful of exceptions, everyone does something that can compromise their security. HTTPS relies on a trust architecture that we're being reminded recently (Superfish, PrivDog) is actually extremely fragile. And yet it's being encouraged to make the job of the average surveillance tool more difficult. It's very much letting The Other Guy(TM) (remember, three caps minimum on the TM'ed stuff) handle security. It has flaws, but it raises the bar.

That's what we need for end-to-end crypto. It can have flaws, but it needs to raise the bar, and be able to keep raising the bar.

As for understanding how it happens, how many people can describe how an RSA key is generated, much less how a proper PRNG produces a suitably random number and then how AES/Blowfish/whatever encrypts the data? Does the average person need to know that? Not really. And even if they did, they don't care, which is why they don't use it now.

Right now, we have options where you can let a CA provide you your TLS certificate (usually 2048-bit and SHA1). If you know what you're doing, you can roll your own with better security. We need something with that flexibility (though I recognize the flaws of that exact model) for end-to-end crypto, too. We need clients that auto-update, that add or deprecate algorithms as they arrive or are broken without the user having to worry about it, and that can provide safe (and revocable) storage for the keys so they survive a catastrophic loss or be deleted with near-absolute certainty if the user wishes. We need common libraries or protocols that can allow new or existing clients to safely implement connections to these services without having to build them from scratch, thereby preserving and encouraging competition.

These don't lead to a perfect system. They lead to a good enough system with room to grow and improve. But I would argue (as I think Moxie does) that what we have now is far from a perfect system because it's too difficult to use.

Comment: Just Remember (Score 5, Insightful) 188

by American AC in Paris (#49130461) Attached to: Google Now Automatically Converts Flash Ads To HTML5

I cannot even begin to count the number of commenters here who pushed HTML5 as the best way to end, once and for all, those incredibly invasive and annoying Flash ads.

You got exactly what you were asking for.

So long as business is on the web, there will never, ever, ever be a technological "solution" to online advertising. There's simply too much money at stake for that to happen.

Comment: Yes and no (Score 1) 295

by jd (#49129871) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

First, the complexity of the engine shouldn't matter. You will never get the bulk of users out there to use, or care about, the real power of the engine. They don't want to mess with the engine. The engine should be under the hood, in a black box, whatever engineering metaphor you want. Users just want things that work.

I remember way back when I was at university. There were various absolute rules for good software engineering. The first was that the user should be presented with a must-read manual no longer than one paragraph. Tips and tricks could be more extensive, but that one paragraph was all you needed.

The second was that the user absolutely must not care about how something was implemented. In the case of encryption, I take that to mean, in the case of e-mail, that the engine should not be visible outside of configuration. A supplied key should trigger any behind-the-scenes compatibility mode or necessary configuration to talk to that user. If the keys the user has aren't suitable to correspond with that person, the system should ask if one is needed and tie it to that protocol.

There should be no extra controls in e-mail, except at an advanced user level. If a key exists to correspond with a user, it should be used. If a key exists for inbound e-mail, the key should be applied. The process should be transparent, beyond getting passwords.

Any indexes (particularly if full indexes) should be as secure as the message, good security practices on both will take care of any issues.

Ideally, you want to have the same grades of authentication as for the early certification system, adapted to embed the idea that different people in the web of trust will have done different levels of validation and will be trusted to different degrees. The user should see, but not have to deal with, the level of trust.

Last, GnuPG is probably not the system I'd use. Compatibility cruft needs to be as an optional layer and I'm not confident in implementation.

There should be eight main libraries - public key methods, secret key methods, encryption modes, hashes (which encryption modes will obviously pull from), high level protocols, key store, index store and lacing store. (Lacing is how these are threaded together.) The APIs and ABIs to those libraries should be standardized, so that patching is minimally intrusive and you can exploit the Bazaar approach to get the best mix-n-match.

There should also be a trusted source in the community who can evaluate the code against the various secure and robust programming standards, any utilized theorum provers and the accepted best practices in cryptography. Essentially replicate the sort of work NIST does, but keeping it open and keeping it free of conflict of NSA interest.

Comment: Re:GPG is another TrueCrypt? (Score 4, Interesting) 295

by Martin Blank (#49127783) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

Not remotely. He's encouraging good encryption, but calling for some updates (it hasn't significantly changed since the mid-'90s) and a better wrapper. GPG is still largely by geeks, for geeks. I couldn't get my parents to use GPG because they'd dismiss it as too hard, even if one of them is happy to stick it to the man. The suggested minimum settings vary based on where you look and when they were posted.

Example: An RSA key size of 2048 bits is largely considered secure, but NIST recommends 3072 bits for anything that one would want to keep secure into the 2030s. People still often see their e-mail as their private papers and may be concerned over who can read them well past the 2030s. But does that mean they use 3072, or go with the random crypto weblog guy who says to always go with 4096? And why can't I create 8192- or 16384-bit keys like that software claims to over there?

And what to hash to use? Plenty of sites still say MD5, but they were written years ago. Some have updated to SHA1, but others point out weaknesses there. OK, SHA2, then. But then there's SHA256, which must be better, right? (I know SHA256 is a subset of the SHA2 family, but those unfamiliar with crypto will not.)

Until GPG-style crypto becomes relatively automated, it won't be embraced by more than a handful of people. HTTPS is widely used because people don't have to think much about it. This has some downsides for poorly-configured servers and Superfish/Comodo-style backdoors, but browsers and other software help take up the slack by rejecting poor configurations. PGP/GPG were designed to reach near-perfect levels of encryption, but that bar is clearly too high for significant uptake. We should instead be looking for something that encourages end-to-end encryption that is good enough. We can build on if the underlying structure is properly designed, and as people get more accustomed to crypto in their lives, they'll be able to adjust to improvements.

When the majority of communications are relatively well-secured, it makes it far more difficult for a surveillance state to conduct its operations. Perfect security can still be a long-term goal, but we need more realistic goals to encourage uptake in the meantime.

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux

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