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Comment: I used to see that all the time (Score 5, Interesting) 242 242

Before NMCI came along, I was tasked with taking over a mapping application for the Navy and discovered the app was sending admin credentials in clear text in the URL string. Instead being of grateful I found the obvious sloppy coding they accused me of trying to pad my billing with make work and blaming the previous programmer. When I explained their application was crap and a giant security hole they would say, "Well, it works for us."

So I totally understand how apps like that make it online.

Comment: We need accountability (Score 2) 127 127

Whatever your political disposition, it must surely be obvious that - just as in the world of banking and finance - the incentives are dangerously skewed. The arguments in favour of private enterprise focus on efficiency and the profit motive. So far, so good: but how are we to guarantee the quality of work done by private enterprise? It's surprisingly easy to enter the low bid, and then use weasel methods to deliver far less than was required and promised.

Take the analogy of big banks. They gamble dangerously, so dangerously in fact that they are almost certain to fail after a fairly short time. Because they gamble so riskily, they make big profits. Then, when they step on a mine and get blown up, instead of being allowed to go bankrupt, they are bailed out by government using taxpayers' money. This has been described as "social security for the rich". The obvious solution is to forbid the creation of banks "too big to fail", and then allow nature to take its course. Also, no doubt, to enforce the separation between everyday consumer banking and legalised gambling.

When it comes to government contracts, especially for potentially very dangerous projects such as nuclear power stations, we need to demand a far greater degree of accountability from the contractors. The Romans are said to have required that, whenever a new bridge or aqueduct was built, the designers and architects should stand underneath it. That gave them a powerful personal interest in safety; and they built in such adequate safety factors that much of their work is still standing (and even usable) today.

What is the modern day equivalent of making an engineer stand underneath an aqueduct as it fills with water? If an industrial accident of any kind happens, possibly causing great harm, all those responsible should have to answer for their actions. Maybe the death penalty would be excessive, but certainly very long jail sentences would be in order. For a corporation, perhaps a fine equal to twice its annual profits coupled to prison sentences for all executives involved...

It will be objected that this would raise the cost of such projects excessively. So be it: if there is a serious element of danger, the cost of avoiding that danger must be factored in. If we can't afford the project, again so be it.

Comment: Re:Shocker... (Score 2) 277 277

A segment of the population has views that are different from the average of the entire population.

You don't get a "view" on conclusions that are supported by an overwhelming weight of facts and data. You are also not entitled to a "view" that comes from a coordinated and deliberate effort to mislead by news outlets with a political agenda.

It boils down to the simple reality that one side of the debate thinks they're entitled to their own facts.

Comment: Re:"It's all about perception" (Score 2) 371 371

My, what a long comment! And all based on a misunderstanding. Of course I do know that "Hill Street Blues" is fiction. But one of the reasons I enjoy it is that it appears to be accurate, realistic fiction. Regardless of the many details, the basic plot idea I mentioned - a political boss who is willing and eager to throw a subordinate to the wolves "for the look of it", regardless of the facts - is something that is common in real life.

Comment: Re:"It's all about perception" (Score 1) 371 371

Actually I do think about these things before I write. The Daily Mail story is something quite unusual nowadays: a well-researched, fully documented, professional piece of journalism. We already knew that Sir Tim Hunt was a distinguished scientist who has made great contributions to his field. After reading the story, it's clear that his accuser is not quite what she pretends to be - to say the very least.

In short, my reaction might sound "pretty kneejerk" to you - but it's not.

Comment: "It's all about perception" (Score 4, Interesting) 371 371

We see this kind of outcome all over the place nowadays. It's mostly because those in positions of power are far too worried about public perception. (Of course, their almost complete lack of any firmly held moral principles leaves them adrift, and very much at the mercy of popular sentiment). Obviously Sir Tim Hunt is of infinitely more value to society than Connie St Louis - a glance at the Daily Mail story referred to in the summary makes that clear. So why was he forced to resign as a kneejerk reaction to a wave of ephemeral indignation, which will be forgotten by next week (and it's Saturday as I write)?

Recently I have been glued to a box set of the complete "Hill Street Blues" - yes, I know that telegraphs my age and unadventurous taste in TV. It was only the other night that I got quite angry at the spectacle of the police chief twisting Captain Furillo's arm to get him to abandon his defence of an apparently "bad cop". This guy, a narcotics agent, had shot and killed a young black man while interrupting some suspicious activity in the small hours. The cop claimed that he had given due warning, and fired only after being fired on - all of which was true. Also, the group he tried to apprehend were in fact committing crimes. Nevertheless, the police chief tells Furillo that it's vital for the department to be seen to throw this "bad cop" to the wolves. It's all about perception, he explains. The facts don't matter at all; all that counts is that this is a good time to throw someone to the wolves.

University College London (UCL) has indeed stained its reputation. Its refusal even to consider reinstating Professor Hunt makes matters worse. And Britain, which seems to prefer Ms St Louis to Professor Hunt, will get what it has chosen. Not to its advantage.

Comment: Re:Dont understand the outrage (Score 1) 80 80

"Think every government does this to each other, it just seems the US is better at it. Nations don't have friends they have interests and spying on friends is the norm I think".

Fine. Just don't act surprised next time your government asks ours for help and we tell you "No, because we know you are only pursuing your own interests and everything you say otherwise is a lie".

Comment: Re:Odd... (Score 1) 244 244

Ah. OK. Now I see. When I posted the parent, I had only read the summary on Slashdot. I assumed the research was competently done, and accurately reported. As I finished posting, I realised those are not safe assumptions, so I took a closer look.

Well, folks, the study was done on... mice. Because obviously mice have evolved to eat the same diet as human beings, and react in exactly the same ways to changes in diet. Right.

Reminds me of the early researchers in the "cholesterol will kill you" racket, who did painstaking studies that showed a diet of fatty foods leads to clogged arteries and death. Right - in *rabbits*. Herbivores. Those "scientists" fed exclusive herbivores a diet heavy in *animal fat* - something they would never have consumed in nature - and then wondered that it harmed them.

Comment: Odd... (Score 1) 244 244

As far as I can see, the study concluded that "too much" fat or sugar impairs cognitive function. Presumably the study itself explains what is considered "too much"; but obviously no diet can reduce both fat and sugar very far, or the majority of calories would have to come from protein. And that is very unhealthy. It is well known that deriving more than 40-50% of calories from protein leads to ill health and, in extreme cases, death. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

So at least half of daily calories must come from carbohydrate and fat in some combination. And all carbohydrate is rapidly broken down to simple sugars in the gut. Sounds like Scylla and Charybdis.

Comment: Re:Russia's longer hours... (Score 2) 381 381

"You'll always have your very rich who don't have to work and your very poor who choose not to..."

Huh? Run that by me again...

The "very rich who don't have to work" amount to perhaps the wealthiest 1% (or much less) of the population. So we can ignore them, as it's a vanishingly small proportion.

But "your very poor who choose not to [work]..."?

Surely someone who is very poor has the greatest incentive of all to work? According to all economics textbooks, anyway. Remember how the marginal value of income increases the less money you have? Consider that someone who is hungry and cannot get anything to eat has a strong motive to get some money.

Of course you may be one of those superficially sophisticated, callous people who like to feel better by condemning millions of complete strangers for their supposed "laziness". In which case, please think again.

Comment: Re: Tell me... (Score 4, Insightful) 172 172

The 'purchaser' doesn't pay less, but the writer gets paid less because Amazon just wants to pay them less.

That's it right there. If the reader turns the pages and you end up getting more at the end of the book, then I can work with that. But that's not what's happening. If someone buys your book and doesn't read it, you get squat but Amazon still gets paid.

It's kind of a ripoff for authors.

Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 1) 401 401

I think you're kinda screwed either way, actually. Words do hurt; you can tell people to just tough it out but it means that you end up conceding large amounts of the political space to the ones most willing to be cruel and least injured by being defamed.

I'm not calling for speech policing here. I'm just pointing out that the real people who participate in political processes are subject to human failings. It's not a logical conversation; it's emotionally charged rhetoric. So just saying "everybody says whatever they want" amounts to a different kind of censorship. It may well be the most unbiased form of censorship and the one that is most "just", but it's not without downsides.

You see it in social media all the time. Trolls can shut down conversations. Web sites that don't want to be primarily about trolls and up providing tools to reduce their visibility, one way or another. It's often called "censorship", and in some senses it is, albeit not government censorship because it's not a state matter. The national conversation is a state matter, and a state may well want to think about what kinds of tools are appropriate for keeping the conversation civil and productive.

Again, not calling for censorship. I haven't got any policy to offer. It's just that I think it's important to recognize that free speech has non-obvious feedback loops that make it less free than it appears.

Most public domain software is free, at least at first glance.