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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Why No Executive Order To Stop NSA Metadata Collection? 312

Posted by timothy
from the if-the-president-does-it-it's-legal dept.
An anonymous reader links to this editorial at Ars Technica which argues that "As chief executive, Obama has the power to reform the NSA on his own with the stroke of a pen. By not putting this initiative into an executive order, he punted to Congress on an issue that affects the civil liberties of most anybody who picks up a phone. Every day Congress waits on the issue is another day Americans' calling records are being collected by the government without suspicion that any crime was committed. 'He does not need congressional approval for this,' said Mark Jaycoxx, an Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney."

Comment: Build it at home? (Score 1) 88

by KermodeBear (#46644645) Attached to: Bunnie Huang's Novena Open Source Laptop Launches Via Crowd Supply

The original idea was simply to encourage others to build their own open source laptops at home

Yeah, um, let me see, I'll just fire up my clean room and source some rare earth stuff and plug in the old CPU creator I got at the garage sale, and I can bake screens in my oven I just add some plastic and finger paint and voila!

Earth

IPCC's "Darkest Yet" Climate Report Warns of Food, Water Shortages 703

Posted by timothy
from the c'mon-fellas-lighten-up dept.
The Australian reports that "UN scientists are set to deliver their darkest report yet on the impacts of climate change, pointing to a future stalked by floods, drought, conflict and economic damage if carbon emissions go untamed. A draft of their report, seen by the news organisation AFP, is part of a massive overview by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, likely to shape policies and climate talks for years to come. Scientists and government representatives will meet in Yokohama, Japan, from tomorrow to hammer out a 29-page summary. It will be unveiled with the full report on March 31. 'We have a lot clearer picture of impacts and their consequences ... including the implications for security,' said Chris Field of the US’s Carnegie Institution, who headed the probe.

The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming. It predicted global temperatures would rise 0.3C-4.8C this century, adding to roughly 0.7C since the Industrial Revolution. Seas will creep up by 26cm-82cm by 2100. The draft warns costs will spiral with each additional degree, although it is hard to forecast by how much."

Comment: Re:Nope (Score 1) 230

by KermodeBear (#46542345) Attached to: Facebook Introduces Hack: Statically Typed PHP

The single biggest problem with PHP is the tendency for old code and old programmers to keep their bad habits [...] code reviews will be rushed (or nonexistent)

I would be very surprised to learn that code review quality is language dependent. I always thought it depended on one's organization and the people working on the project. I also thought that a bad programmer would be bad no matter the language, too.

Here I was, writing well-formed PHP for over a decade (I had a background in C, C++, and Java before I started with PHP), using well known software patterns, dependency injection, and other best practices, but then I read this comment. Your well thought-out and decisive commentary has certainly changed my mind.

I haven't been writing good code at all! Obviously this is the fault of the language. I've never provided a good code review either, again, because of the language. That magic quotes thing? The thing that has been discouraged for the past decade, could always disabled, has been disabled by default many years, and has been removed completely? Yup, still a problem. It's the languages fault though, PHP made me use it, even though I could turn it off!

On a serious note, PHP does have its problems, but code review quality? Come on. Complaining about an ancient, deprecated, removed feature that nobody used (it wasn't a workaround, either - it was supposed to be a convenience feature)? Saying that the language itself creates bad developers? You're really reaching.

Poor education, bad mentoring, laziness, and plain stupidity make bad developers. Bad developers make bad code reviews. Bad developers rely on crap like magic quotes. Your problem isn't with the language. It's with the people who churn out crap. Let me tell you a secret: Bad developers will be bad no matter what language they're using.

Comment: Re:CSS variables? (Score 1) 256

by KermodeBear (#46539721) Attached to: Firefox 29 Beta Arrives With UI Overhaul And CSS3 Variables

Clunky indeed. Prepending var- in front of everything? It sure looks like a hack bolted on in desperation to provide this kind of functionality. I'm afraid I might need to DIM something next. Or perhaps even PIC.

Sure, it provides some nice functionality, but the great thing about the preprocessors like SASS and LESS is that they're very flexible, generally easy to read, and very extensible.

Thing is, with the tools available, I'm not convinced that CSS variables are even necessary. Do we really want to be injecting code into a style language? Wouldn't it be better to keep things relatively simple and leave the complex things to external tools, reducing the amount of cruft that browsers "have" to support?

Comment: Re:Ridiculous. (Score 1) 914

Do you find the story objectionable, or do you find it objectionable to find this story on Slashdot?

I agree to the former but not the latter. I think it is very, very important that these kinds of stories get LOTS of exposure. A bright light shining on the people who think this is a good idea is the best way to prevent them from taking the next step - implementing that idea.

Government

Obama Administration Transparency Getting Worse 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-to-see-here dept.
schwit1 writes "The government's own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records. In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government's efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office."

Comment: And Taxes. (Score 3, Insightful) 606

by KermodeBear (#46334773) Attached to: 'Google Buses' Are Bad For Cities, Says New York MTA Official

Maybe cities just don't have the right mix of amenities, price, space, parking, and other factors to make them better places to put certain businesses.

Not to mention the higher taxes inside of cities. In Cleveland, for example, Progressive Insurance wanted to put a big office building right in downtown Cleveland. Then they looked at the taxes they would be paying. The City of Cleveland refused to make an exemption for them. That is fully within their rights, of course. Anyway, where was the office built?

Right outside of the Cleveland city limits. Close to the city, but not where they'd have to pay the extra taxes. Cleveland City Council was pissed of course but they only have themselves to blame.

This stuff matters to businesses. It affects everything they do and it affects the end cost to the customer. After all - a customer, in order to purchase a product or service, needs to pay for all of the costs required to provide that good or service. That includes taxes the business must pay. People always clamoring for more taxes on business never seem to realize that in their fervor to punish businesses for being successful, the real person who is being punished is the customer. Not the business.

In a competitive market a company cannot afford to be paying unnecessary taxes.

Businesses aren't the only things leaving NYC either; many high profile wealthy people are leaving, or have left, for the same reason. Same in California.

Comment: The Worst Offender (Score 5, Insightful) 560

by KermodeBear (#46295591) Attached to: How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?

I can't speak to the accuracy of historic weather data or modern weather models, but I can say this:

Global Warming / Climate Change (pick one, please) alarmists do themselves an incredible amount of damage when they do the following:

1. Grossly exaggerate predictions and base everything on the worst case they can find.
2. Manipulate charts to make changes look far more significant than they really are.
3. Instantly ridicule anyone who disagrees with them on anything, even if that disagreement is valid.

Let's say for the sake of argument that all of the predictions from these weather models are 100% accurate, all of the research and data is correct, and that the climate is indeed warming because of CO2 emissions, and that the climate will warm 5 Celsius degrees in the next 200 years. Let's pretend that the science is completely perfect.

Even if all of that is true, you will find a lot of people who won't even bother listening because they remember crazy predictions like "New York city will be underwater in 20 years!" and "We're all going to be cannibals! Cannibals, I say!"

Do you see why so many people don't listen to those who are trying to push human-caused climate change?

Politics needs to be taken out of the equation. Completely. Everything needs to be 100% transparent. The science needs to be broken down in ways the average person can understand. Even if that happens, it will be decades before the damage the global warming alarmists have caused can be reversed.

Comment: Tabletop RPGs (Score 1) 669

by KermodeBear (#46285463) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Games Are You Playing?

Yup, I'm a nerd, but I bet I'm in great company here.

Lately I have played the following systems:

D&D 3.5 / Lots o' House Rules: Chief among them getting rid of that chaos engine known as the d20. It has been replaced by 3d6 to allow for a probability curve. Some other numbers have been adjusted. Because of the bias towards rolling 10 and 11, those feats which add +2 to skills are actually worth something!

FATE: Fate's aspect system is fantastic, and we have been incorporating it into other games as well. Had a fun time recently where I was playing a mercenary during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a small team had to infiltrate a Russian-owned (or so we thought) secret military base. We didn't find missiles - we found cloning vats full of JFKs! Oh no! Is our president even the real JFK?!

(Old) World of Darkness: Specifically Werewolf. Can't get enough of this vastly underrated game. The themes carried throughout the game as a whole are fantastic, and it reaches into all kinds of place historically and metaphysically. Besides - werewolves are cool.

Comment: Re:How common is cheating with VAC? (Score 4, Interesting) 511

by KermodeBear (#46276197) Attached to: Gabe Newell Responds: Yes, We're Looking For Cheaters Via DNS

Like you I imagine, I've been playing online games for a long time. I even ran a half dozen TFC / Natural Selection / CounterStrike / Half-Life Deathmatch / etc. servers for three or four years. I never found cheating to be common except for CounterStrike. For some reason that game attracted cheaters like crazy. The other games, not so much. Cheating wasn't just uncommon - it was rare.

When PunkBuster and similar products became popular it was amazing how much better I became compared to other players when playing on a protected server. (o:

VAC has, in my opinion, done a very good job overall of keeping up with the cheating crowd. I can't remember the last time I came across a player that I suspected of cheating - and having had to do detection manually by watching player behavior, I'm very confident in this.

There's a few things you can look for manually when looking for cheaters.

Your typical aimbot is easy to detect. Jump into spectator mode or whatever and pick the first person view for the selected player. Instead of the smooth movements a typical player will have, you'll see the player's aim snap to positions on a screen. It's rare to see these anymore because detection is so incredibly easy.

Driver hacks to provide see-through textures, or model hacks that have a long cross through them that extend through walls, are also pretty easy to detect by watching the player. Is someone across the map and scoring head shots through walls? Does he always seem to know where the enemy is? He's using one of these.

The interesting cheat is the second one (wall / model hacks) which allows one to see opponents behind objects, because it's not a mechanical advantage like an aim bot; it's a strategic advantage, an information advantage. It doesn't change the ability of the cheater to aim more accurately; it changes the cheater's behavior. A player without the cheat information will act as if the opponent is not there; a player with the information will.

So, you'll see tactical advances / retreats, shots fired / grenades thrown, etc. that would not occur in normal non-cheating game play. Yes; there will always be the person who gets the lucky what-the-hell shot. That happens.Sometimes more than once. What you need to look for is a consistent pattern over time that cannot be attributed to simply being "good", having a better overall strategy, or having an unusual play style.

I bet that with enough information collected it would be possible to detect this kind of behavior and flag individual players for follow-up manual inspection. It would be a fascinating bit of research, really.

Resource hacks are very dead these days, as information about resources (ammunition carried, money earned, life amount, etc.) are all stored server-side for most games. There's no way for the client to fiddle with that data.

Comment: Not Obsolete At All (Score 5, Insightful) 365

by KermodeBear (#46187921) Attached to: Do Hypersonic Missiles Make Defense Systems Obsolete?

Yes, there may be these incredible "Hypersonic" missiles, but only the people with the capability to build or purchase them will have those missiles. Everyone else will be using conventional sub-sonic missiles. Also consider the many, many missiles (hundreds of thousands? I don't know) that currently exist right now and will be used in the future.

Today's anti-missile systems will be useful for many years to come.

"Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished." -- Goethe

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