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Comment: Re:Duh (Score 1) 704

by Godai (#46766507) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

I agree with you, but I think we really need something other than first-past-the-post to make it really work right. It's great that we have these parties bubbling around as you say, but it'd better if the composition of parliament looked a little more like what popular support says it should. It's a bit weird to have parties with, say, 25% popular support have less than 10% of the house, for example. Still, everytime I get annoyed with our system, I watch the Daily Show or Colbert Report and get reminded how good we actually have it.

Government

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes? 380

Posted by timothy
from the what-you're-billed-and-what-you-owe-aren't-identical dept.
April 15, 2014 isn't just a full moon: it's Tax Day in the U.S. That means most American adults have already submitted a tax return, or an extension request, to the IRS and -- except for a few lucky states -- to their state governments as well. I filed my (very simple) tax return online. After scanning the free options, since I live in a state -- Texas -- that does not collect personal income tax, I chose Tax Act's free services. That meant enduring a series of annoying upgrade plugs throughout the process, but I could live with that; I have no reason to think it was better or worse than TurboTax or any of the other e-Filing companies, but I liked Tax Act’s interface, and it seemed less skeevy in all those upgrade plugs than the others I glanced at. The actual process took an hour and 19 minutes once I sat down with the papers I needed. My financial life is pretty simple, though: I didn't buy or sell a house, didn't buy or sell stocks outside of a retirement account mutual fund, and didn't move from one state to another. How do you do your taxes? Do you have an argument for one or another of the online services, or any cautionary tales? Do you prefer to send in forms on paper? Do you hire an accountant? (And for readers outside the U.S., it's always interesting to hear how taxes work in other countries, too. Are there elements of the U.S. system you'd prefer, or that you're glad you don't need to deal with?)

Comment: Re:Great points! (Score 1) 156

by Godai (#46565647) Attached to: In the Unverified Digital World, Are Journalists and Bloggers Equal?

I think you're right that perception is a big problem. It would be really, really helpful if there was some objective way to measure how rarely a news source gets stuff wrong. Kind of like a Golden Glove for news. If news organizations could compete for that instead of their version of "First post!", it could only be better.

Comment: Re:What's changed though? (Score 1) 156

by Godai (#46565541) Attached to: In the Unverified Digital World, Are Journalists and Bloggers Equal?

I completely agree, but you missed my follow-up point. They were already doing that more or less before the Internet era sprung on them (and to be fair, the 24-hour news channel didn't help). The problem is that those that kept doing that start losing ground to those that put the horse before the cart, as you put it. And that happened because we all tuned into the "Latest breaking something-we'll-check-later" News. I'm not saying they're blameless, but we definitely have a huge heaping share of the responsibility.

And I also agree about the obvious party affiliations, but I think a lot of that falls into "Tell people what they want to hear and they'll tune in." That isn't hurting their viewership unfortunately, it's helping. Again, that's largely on us. We should probably be tuning into news sources that offer differing opinions rather than the one we agree with, because when those guys look at the numbers, we're voting with our eyeballs that we *want* political affiliation. It's a case of "we want what isn't actually good for us."

Comment: Re:The issue is not about compliance with the law (Score 4, Insightful) 94

by Godai (#46564889) Attached to: Turkish Finance Minister Defends Twitter Ban

Actually, I disagree. Compliance with the law is the heart of the problem, the question is: whose law?

While I'm no fan Turkey's repressive laws, I do wonder how what Turkey is mad about differs all that much from the US or whomever complaining about pirated content being posted in countries where that's not illegal.

If country A does something we don't agree with, it's okay for technology to circumvent that. If country B does something we don't agree with, it's not okay for technology to circumvent that. The bottom line here seems to be less about technology and more: in a globally interconnected world, how do we decide what laws get applied where? So far it largely seems to be decided by the US leaning on anyone they don't agree with. You can bet if the positions were reversed, Turkey would be leaning on the US government to discipline Twitter. This works great if its something you agree with, and less so when its something you don't (maybe copyright laws). I could say we're fortunate that its the US with the Big Stick and not someone else, but maybe we only think that because we're in the West so we tend to align with our own values? And even if this works great, what happens when someone else takes possession of the Big Stick (China maybe?). Perhaps this won't be so appealing then?

Comment: What's changed though? (Score 2) 156

by Godai (#46563555) Attached to: In the Unverified Digital World, Are Journalists and Bloggers Equal?

I've often thought about what differentiates a blogger from a journalist. To suggest that there is no difference is demeaning to journalists -- and yes, I know there are lots of those are hardly worthy of the name, but to just flatly equate the two is unjust to the professional, fact-checking variety that is supposed to be the standard.

Before the rise of the internet, there was no platform for any old person to put their opinion in print (digital or otherwise) and reach a broad audience. Sure, you could print up pamphlets and hand them out on street corners, but wide distribution was gated by publishers. We've removed a lot of middlemen between content producers and content consumers, and a lot of that is probably good. But one of the benefits (and problems in some cases) was that some of those middlemen provided filtering. It's great that we no longer have that filtering in one aspect; it's allowed a lot of things that the 'powers that be' judged uninteresting and turned out not to be so. But it also means that a lot of pure noise that was filtered out is now crowding out the signal in some cases.

Part of the problem journalism faces is that in order to compete on speed, they're skipping steps. There was a time when a juicy story was held back while they triple-checked it. That happens less & less because time-to-print (or broadcast, etc.) has become the defining metric. When you're competing with someone who doesn't check anything they put up, you start to look pretty follow-the-leaders when you post after fact-checking.

So while some of this is definitely a problem for journalists, namely how to stay relevant in a world of instant publication, a lot of this is our fault too. If we were willing to wait a bit, preferring immediately accuracy instead of immediate attention grabbing, it would give those who want to do things right the breathing room to verify. So long as we're all grabbing click bait the second its available, we're screaming loud and clear to the conglomerates that run our news media that its far more important to be first than accurate.

Bitcoin

Russia Bans Bitcoin 207

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-coins-for-you dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "Russia has banned digital currency Bitcoin under existing laws and dubbed use of the crypto-currency as 'suspicious'. The Central Bank of Russia considers Bitcoin as a form of 'money substitute' or 'money surrogate' (statement in Russian) which is restricted under Russian law. However, unlike use of restricted foreign currencies, Bitcoin has been outright banned. The US Library of Congress has issued a report examining the regulatory approaches national financial authorities have taken to the currency."
Security

NBC News Confuses the World About Cyber-Security 144

Posted by samzenpus
from the think-of-the-athletes dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In a video report posted Feb. 4, NBC News reporter Richard Engel, with the help of a security analyst, two fresh laptops, a new cell phone, and a fake identity, pretended to go online with the technical naiveté of a Neanderthal housepet. (Engel's video blog is here.) Almost as soon as he turned on the phone in the Sochi airport, Engel reported hackers snooping around, testing the security of the machines. Engel's story didn't explain whether 'snooping around' meant someone was port-scanning his device in particular with the intention of cracking its security and prying out its secrets, no matter how much effort it took, or if the 'snooping' was other WiFi devices looking for access points and trying automatically to connect with those that were unprotected. Judging from the rest of his story, it was more likely the latter. Engel also reported hackers snooping around a honeypot set up by his security consultant which, as Gartner analyst Paul Proctor also pointed out in a blog posting, is like leaving the honey open and complaining when it attracts flies. When you try to communicate with anything, it also tries to communicate with you; that's how networked computers work: They communicate with each other. None of the 'hacks' or intrusions Engel created or sought out for himself have anything to do with Russia or Sochi, however; those 'hacks' he experienced could have happened in any Starbucks in the country, and does almost every day, Proctor wrote. That's why there is antivirus software for phones and laptops. It's why every expert, document, video, audio clip or even game that has anything at all to do with cybersecurity makes sure to mention you should never open attachments from spam email, or in email from people you don't know, and you should set up your browser to keep random web sites from downloading and installing anything they want on your computer. But keep up the fear-mongering."
Crime

NYPD Is Beta-Testing Google Glass 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the watching-you-better dept.
Presto Vivace writes "The New York City Police Department is trying to determine how useful Google Glass would be for law enforcement. From the article: 'The New York City Police Department's massive and controversial intelligence and analytics unit is evaluating whether Google Glass is a decent fit for investigating terrorists and helping cops lock up bad guys, VentureBeat has learned. The department recently received several pairs of the modernist-looking specs to test out. "We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we're trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes," a ranking New York City law enforcement official told VentureBeat.'"
Privacy

New Zealand Spy Agency Deleted Evidence About Its Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom 222

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The latest news in this: GCSB appears to have deleted key evidence in the case in a ham-fisted attempt to cover up its illegal activities. Even more ridiculous, GCSB is trying to cover this up by claiming that the material had 'aged off' — implying that it was deleted automatically. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key claims that they had to delete the information under the law. Of course, there are a few problems with that. The first is that under New Zealand law, like most countries these days, parties have an obligation to preserve documents likely to be necessary in a legal case. But, even more damning is that there's video of John Key in the New Zealand Parliament trying to defend against an earlier claim that GCSB had deleted some evidence by insisting that GCSB does not delete anything ever:"
Math

Second World War Code-cracking Computing Hero Colossus Turns 70 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the piece-of-history dept.
DW100 writes "The Colossus computer that helped the Allies crack messages sent by the Nazis during the Second World War has celebrated its 70th birthday. The machine was a pioneering feat of engineering, able to read 5,000 characters a second to help the team at Bletchley Park crack the German's Lorenz code in rapid time. This helped the Allies gather vital information on the Nazi's plans, and is credited with helping end the war effort early, saving millions of lives."

Comment: Re:I wish they'd do it here. (Score 1) 372

by Godai (#45238665) Attached to: NYC's 250,000 Street Lights To Be Replaced With LEDs By 2017

I think you're confusing street lights and traffic signals. Places in the snow belt have had issues with LED traffic signals getting blocked with snow, but I can't see the same thing happening with a downward facing street light.

Lord, I should hope not. If the snow's that high I think 'blocked street lights' is the least of your trouble!

Comment: Re:Yes, They Can (Score 4, Insightful) 277

by Godai (#45234743) Attached to: Can Nintendo Survive Gaming's Brave New World?

I agree. The WiiU has been a disappointment, but we're only just *now* seeing the first set of 1st party stuff show up. I rolled my eyes at "refusal to license out core properties such as Super Mario to other gaming platforms (or even iOS and Android)", since that's exactly why they'll survive just fine. Want the new Pokemon? Have to buy a Nintendo system. And they will!

And the new Mario game is set to show up soon, looks fantastic and should support online co-op finally. I haven't bought a WiiU yet, but that one might tip my hand so I can play Mario with my brother.

The Courts

Jury Finds Google Guilty of Standards-Essential Patents Abuse Against MS 278

Posted by timothy
from the within-a-framework-of-law dept.
recoiledsnake writes "A federal jury in Seattle ordered Google to pay Microsoft $14.5 million in damages for breach of contract for failing to license at reasonable terms standard essential patents covering wireless and video technology used in the Xbox game console. Motorola had demanded Microsoft pay annual royalties of up to $4 billion for use of patents that are part of the H.264 video and 802.11 wireless standards, which are baked into Windows and the Xbox video game console. Microsoft said it was willing to pay royalties but not at the 2.25 percent of the product price that Motorola sought. We previously covered Motorola's exorbitant demands."

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