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Comment: Enabling industrial espionage. (Score 2) 212

by FellowConspirator (#46080503) Attached to: Edward Snowden Says NSA Engages In Industrial Espionage

I remember reading a story, which may well have been apocryphal, about organized crime and foreign agencies exploiting the old FBI carnivore e-mail intercept system to use for extortion and industrial espionage.

It seems to reason that if the NSA is compromising telecommunications protocols, having routers forward copies of data, stuffing radio transmitters in computer equipment, etc., then some enterprising third parties are going to piggy back on it for their own purposes. That, and the NSA can't possibly be the only players in town undermining the integrity of the system. It seems to me that we've enabled a new class of criminal information enterprise, not just by or for the NSA.

Comment: Anecdotal Experience (Score 4, Interesting) 314

by FellowConspirator (#46047801) Attached to: Office Space: TV Documentary Looks At the Dreadful Open Office

The company I work for has been migrating to the open-office concept over the past year or so, first with a new building, and then by doing floor-by-floor conversions of existing buildings on the campus. Some of the people are being migrated from offices to desks, some from cubicles to desks. Almost everyone has been very good about going along with the plan and giving it a shot. The results are a mixed bag, overall, but as time goes on, it's proving to be more a liability than an improvement.

Everyone gets new furniture, and the worse shape their old furniture was in, the better the first impression.
The lighting is MUCH better - even in areas that don't have direct sunlight; the large number of smaller light sources on the ceiling with little obstruction works well.
There's more people in the same area
- makes more efficient use of space
- don't have to walk as far to get to someone

There's more people are in the same area
- in the older buildings, this means that the number of toilets is no longer proportional to the demand
- its noisy; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot
- people sneeze and it hits their neighbors
- you can't make a phone call without annoying everyone, so now nobody uses the phone unless in a conference room; phone communication in general has dropped precipitously and now takes a back-seat to e-mail
- folks are increasingly annoyed with their neighbors and it increases stress and some talk less
There's visual distraction (things always coming in and out of your field of view)
The clever storage ideas don't make up for the overall lack of storage volume or shelf space
You can't have a conversation without annoying everyone, so you have to spend time hunting for a "huddle room" or chat in a stairwell or utility closet
Older employees (>40) especially have a hard time with the din (and the white-noise generators don't help).
It's super difficult to work on certain types of things - anything that has personnel info, or HIPPA protected info that you're not supposed to let your neighbors
Anything that really takes focus (reading a complex scientific paper, for example), is really out of the question
Lots of people try and drown out the din with headphones (which produces noises that annoy those without), and effectively the employees are being trained to tune each other out
There's lots of "unplanned interactions"

I think everyone agrees that we: are less productive, are not collaborating any more than before, and are collaborating less with the outside. HR is already noticing that people are using more sick days. However, I presume that the loss in productivity and decreasing office morale are offset by gains in energy and space efficiency (lower cost facilities).

For me, it means that my work space has shrunk by 50% and I no longer have shelf space that I used to put reference materials and manuals on (all that's not sitting in boxes in my attic). I also just walk away from my desk when the din gets to a certain level where I can't concentrate on what I'm supposed to be working on. If you call my phone extension, it automatically forwards you to a voicemail instructing the caller to e-mail me (there's not even a phone at my new desk, none of have them). I don't read papers in the office anymore, and sometimes take what the office calls "productivity days" where I work from home (no, they don't give anyone money for home office stuff or to pay for Internet service). All of our experienced job candidates that have rejected offers have cited the open-office plan as a contributing factor in their decision not to accept the offer (we lead in compensation, so it's not like they wouldn't be well compensated).

Comment: Microsoft as a device company (Score 2, Insightful) 1009

by FellowConspirator (#45943431) Attached to: Windows 9 Already? Apparently, Yes.

Microsoft themselves stated that they're corporate goal is to migrate away from the software business to become a device and service company. This plan means pushing people to the tablet as the delivery mechanism and the proverbial "cloud" as the platform. Microsoft sees the desktop PC as a dead-end and wants to be the one that drives a stake through it's heart - the future is software as a service and thin (razor) clients.

In that light, the dichotomous UIs of Metro and the Windows desktop make sense in an agenda where they want to slowly deprecate the desktop entirely. Once Office is migrated from the Windows platform to the Microsoft cloud platform, the desktop version of Office will also be deprecated. Users may not want the Microsoft, but, heck, if they do it sufficiently gradually enough, users will acclimate to the new world order.

I think this is one of the sources of friction between Microsoft and OEMs like HP. The manufacturers business models aren't aligned with Microsoft's objectives. I suppose the reason that a number of those vendors showed Android - Windows hybrid devices at CES wasn't because the vendors though anyone would be particularly interested or that it was a good idea, it was more to demonstrate that computer manufacturers would be just as happy (if not more happy) to jump in with the Android or ChromeOS camp unless Microsoft starts making certain concessions to them.

I see it going one of two ways: Microsoft succeeds and the Windows PC becomes history and long-time Windows users find themselves software subscribers with dedicated mobile consumption devices, or Microsoft shoots itself in the foot and stumbles about while the rest of the world grabs the Android / ChromeOS ball and runs with it. At this point, I think it's increasingly Google's game to lose rather than Microsoft's game to win.

Comment: The game is not copyrighted (Score 5, Informative) 361

Not that I disagree with the sentiment that copyright terms are indefensibly long, but it's important to recognize that the game is not subject to copyright. The original source code is, as is the artwork from the game. The characters of Mario and Luigi, as well as the Mario Borthers name and logo are trademarked.

The students could very well have innovated by making a rip-off game without any covered elements to it, but they wanted to make something looked exactly like the Nintendo game (trademarks and all). The thing is that in the US, trademarks are unique in that if you do not defend them, you can lose them. If Nintendo didn't react, then they could lose their trademarks. Were I Nintendo, I would approach the students about licensing the trademark (say, for $1 so long as they kept the terms of the arrangement a secret) rather than face any sort of backlash for being heavy handed - they save face and defend their trademark in a single act.

Comment: "Scientific Computing" is over-broad (Score 2) 465

by FellowConspirator (#45155905) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Language To Learn For Scientific Computing?

The problem with this question is that "scientific computing" is an over-broad term. The truth is that certain languages have found specific niches in different parts aspects of scientific computing. Bioinformatics, for example, tends to involve R, Python, Java, and PERL (the prominence of each depends largely on the application). Big-data analytics typically involves Java or languages built on Java (Scala, Groovy). Real-time data processing is generally done in Matlab. pharmacokinetics, some physics, and some computational chemistry are often done in FORTRAN. Instrumentation is generally controlled using C, C++, or VB.NET. Visualization is done in R, D3 (JavaScript), or Matlab. Validated clinical biostatistics are all done in SAS (!).

Python is a nice simple to learn start, very powerful, and the NumPy package is important to learn for scientific computing. R is the language of choice for many types of statistical and numerical analysis. Those are a good place to start, if incomplete. From there, I'd look at the specific fields of interest and look at what the common applications and code-base are for those.

With regard to the OS, that's pretty easy: Linux (though OS X is a reasonable substitute). Nearly all scientific computing is done in a UNIX-like environment.

Comment: Re:The short version... (Score 2) 233

by FellowConspirator (#44885115) Attached to: Ars Technica Reviews iOS 7

This is a semantic argument. The OS has always supported full multitasking. At first, only system services ran all the time and applications paused when they weren't in the foreground. Since iOS 4, APIs were added that allowed various registration of background activities, one of which being the Task, Task Completion, and Local Notification APIs which can be trivially used to establish a thread that would keep an application doing whatever it chose to do for as long as it wanted. The thing is that the background APIs in iOS require explicitly setting up background activity, otherwise an app sleeps when not in the foreground. I don't really see a problem with this as it effectively manages CPU and battery resources in a sensible way, yet it still lets the developer work around them, if necessary, provided that he's willing to go to the effort.

Comment: Re:Why a 64-bit phone is good: (Score 1) 348

by FellowConspirator (#44872815) Attached to: Did Apple Make a Mistake By Releasing Two New iPhones?

I doubt that the 64-bit CPU is about accessing more RAM. The previous CPU used a 48-bit virtual address space which would be more than sufficient for any phone in the near future, and the 32-bit limitation would be 4G per process - again, unrealistic for a phone, even one that has 8G of RAM.

The new CPU represents a very substantially new architecture with a new instruction set (as well as support for the 32-bit instruction set), more CPU registers, vectorized registers for SIMD parallel operations, encryption co-processing pipeline, new exception system, virtualization, etc. Essentially, the ARMv8 architecture that it is built on was designed anew to be a low-energy server platform. This is a big change and it opens up quite a big opportunity for increasing performance (particularly for tasks that take advantage of the additional registers and parallelism) with no appreciable increase in power consumption.

One things that iOS has always had going for it, compared to Android, is that it tends to be more memory and power efficient. I think that this is really what Apple's looking for. It wants it's tiny phones to have performance as good or better than competitors with just as good or better battery life. And, if they build a phone that's physically bigger (as is rumored), something that will be exceptionally performant and efficient by comparison.

It would be nice if they could make them cheaper too, though. And, pressure vendors to enable hotspot feature for no charge and to lower data rates (and international roaming rates). One could dream.

Comment: Steve Jobs didn't make Apple cool or compelling... (Score 5, Interesting) 692

by FellowConspirator (#44555367) Attached to: Larry Ellison Believes Apple Is Doomed

... Johnny Ive and the rest of the folks working for him did. Jobs did three things: he specifically insisted on being a premium brand and quality to justify it, he hired people that could execute on that, and as the voice of the company he sold the brand and it's products very well.

The same people are there and I don't suspect that they are being asked to do much different. I think that a lower-cost iPhone is not a bad idea -- BUT, it better adhere to the overall quality mantra and still be a premium device in the price-point or that will be deleterious to Apple.

However, Tim Cook, bright as he may be, seems utterly dispassionate about Apple and Apple products. When he gives a keynote address, it's as though he's selling the proverbial widget; he doesn't communicate that he's devoted to the product or that he is earnestly striving towards some grand vision. When Cook talks, you know he's there to sell you widgets - no vision, no excitement, just a product that he feigns a vague interest in so that he can sell them. Cook needs to be replaced - if not as CEO, then as the public face of Apple.

Apple's got a pretty nice tech stack going for it. There's a lot of possibilities there, and while the future of Apple is still in play, it's on pretty good footing. What it really needs to do, though, is pick up the pace on development of it's products. Jobs had a habit of making sure that there was always something new to keep the press coming back to report on the latest and greatest from Cupertino. Whether intentionally or not, Cook is not following that pattern. Jobs would rather suffice for a small but important upgrade than wait unknown periods of time for a show-stopper, and he'd always have product lined up to go when it was announced (again, Cook is behaving more like HP/Dell/Microsoft/Sony in not keeping with that tradition).

Comment: NSA = No Security for America (Score 1) 505

by FellowConspirator (#44478139) Attached to: Snowden and the Fate of the Internet As a Global Network

Another way to view it is simply that the NSA has undermined what little security there was. The TSA screening process can be used by terrorists to vet agents because of the way it works, reducing security. The NSA, they undermine security not only by taking personal data and making it accessible and reviewable by a large number of people, but they also implement schemes that presumably allow others to do the same thing. It you create backdoors, you have to exepect that you are the only one that will use them; if you add a new channel, you give 2 targets for someone to listen in; if you shanghai a private corporation for intelligence services, you open everyone to that sort of diversion from their purpose.

Complicity has a cost for these companies. Their shareholders will suffer. People will have a justified sense of mistrust of their government, AND big business.

Comment: Grint would be a peculiar choice... (Score 4, Interesting) 249

by FellowConspirator (#44458051) Attached to: New Doctor Who Actor To Be Revealed This Sunday

Personally, what I'd like to see is a more deliberative and cunning Doctor, more so than a rogue -- something harkening back to previous doctors. Also more 2-3 episode story arcs. Far too many of the stories seem rushed. The pace needs to be notched down and story given more depth with some more richness to the character. They should pick someone that could carry that sort of role. The only thing I've seen Grint perform in is the Harry Potter movies, and while he did an admirable job as Ron Weasley, I don't know that he'd have the presence to carry the role of the Doctor (perhaps I'm mistaken).

Also, I'd like the Doctor's mortality (and maybe a view into his psyche regarding the subject) to be explored. Presumably, Time Lords have finite regenerations (at one time indicated to be 12) - well, this new Doctor will be at (or nearly at) his final regeneration: will he accept it or struggle to for a way to prolong his life? Will it make him less brash/more timid? Will he consider retirement? Will he seek out his daughter and hand her the torch to become the defender of mankind and meddler in time and space?

Comment: Security Engineered Out (Score 1) 347

by FellowConspirator (#44436739) Attached to: Training Materials for NSA Spying Tool "XKeyScore" Revealed

Why is it that nobody points to the obvious?... That this is evidence that the NSA (and US government) has intentionally undermined the security of all communications and computer systems. The global financial and communications infrastructure is wide open for anyone that has the key. Every power the NSA has, they have also granted to everyone else on the planet with the interest and means to wield it. They might say, "well, if someone could do that, then we'd know about it..." but I don't believe that it would be so obvious. If someone set up a trade in industrial trade secrets, or skimmed financial transactions properly, the world wouldn't be the wiser. Blackmail, extortion, ...

Comment: He's lying. (Score 1) 273

"General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert S. Litt explained that our expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered it to a third party." - that's untrue. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Not only that, but many types of giving information to a third party are explicitly granted expectation of privacy at federal and state levels: anything you send by the US postal service, communications with lawyers, clergy, spouses, and medical and mental health personnel, and information provided as part of clinical trials conducted by drug companies or private institutes -- just to name a few.

The reasons that people don't fear sharing information on Facebook, but fear government monitoring:
      - People are aware of what Facebook has, and they can control it (even if they can't control how it's used after the fact)
      - Information on Facebook is under no pressure to be correct and is unreliable
      - Facebook cannot directly: seize all your assets, imprison you, assassinate you, put you on secret no-fly lists, etc.
      - If Facebook does something illegal or harmful, they can be sued - not true of the government, particularly secret programs
      - Facebook has a profit motive and doesn't want to piss you off, the government has fickle political motives and literally has advanced weaponry, standing armies, to enforce it's policies

TL;DR it's an issue of risk, reward, and accountability

C makes it easy for you to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes that harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg. -- Bjarne Stroustrup