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Comment: Re: Fraud is fraud (Score 1) 312

by LrdDimwit (#43606061) Attached to: Video Poker Firmware Bug Yields Big Money, Federal Charges
Yes, you have. If you look carefully, many vending machines (especially those run by vending machine companies renting space inside other businesses) will have a little placard on the side, instructing you to call some telephone number if you have any issues with the machine.

And it isn't a joke, either. You can call up that number, leave your name and address, and a couple weeks later you'll get a check in the mail for 75 cents (or what have you). Sure, nobody ever actually bothers to try to get a refund from a mis-vend, but that doesn't mean the option isn't there.

Also, the key difference? Vending machines are unlikely to remain change-eating black holes for long. People will complain vociferously and it will be resolved real fast. Nobody will complain they got free stuff.

A better analogy would be a vendor deliberately modifying their machines to occasionally take people's money without giving them anything, banking on the fact nobody ever demands their 75 cents back to make a profit. And you better believe that if you get caught doing that, you're going to jail.

Comment: For once, I underestimated these sleazeballs (Score 2) 66

by LrdDimwit (#42848603) Attached to: Canadian ISP Fights Back Against Copyright Trolls
It's even more sleazy and disreputable than that (which is one of the reasons this troll is likely to lose). The letter said "Law A allows up to $20K in damages" and then a little while on, it said "In addition, Law B allows up to $5K in damages". The clear implication is the recipient could be on the hook for twenty-five grand.

The bit they forgot to mention? Law B was actually a modification to law A, reducing the maximum damage award from $20K to $5K. The motion calls this "a clear misrepresentation of the law" - in other words, a lie.

I also like the bit where the ISP says "we cross-referenced their GeoIP info with our records, and we found almost every single one was wrong". Then the ISP says well, they've provided zero information about how they do their investigation, they haven't proved it's accurate. So all we really have to attest to how accurate it is, is all the proof of their ineptitude.

Comment: Let's not get carried away (Score 1) 255

by LrdDimwit (#41556689) Attached to: Stolen Maple Syrup Found and Returned To Strategic Reserve
If some nefarious group really wanted to poison people, there are a lot less flamboyant and troublesome ways to get your poison into the food supply. For example, why not just contaminate the supply? If they can break into the reserve and go undetected long enough to siphon off hundreds of gallons of the stuff, that's surely long enough to poison the whole reserve. Much easier.

The stuff's really valuable, right? That's why they keep a strategic reserve in the first place, after all. So the motive is obvious - money. And pure maple syrup is worth more than contaminated deadly maple syrup. A lot more. So poisoning the maple syrup would be a really boneheaded move.

Only movie crooks would come up with a plan that involves stealing hundreds of gallons of valuable merchandise, moving it across a border, then poisoning it and letting it be recovered. About the only thing missing are the sharks with frickin laser beams.

Comment: Re:Mabye you should look elsewhere? (Score 1) 573

by LrdDimwit (#39873633) Attached to: NY Times: 'FBI Foils Its Own Terrorist Plots'

if you look long and hard enough, you'll find someone gullible and disgruntled enough to try and do something illegal. That's a fact of life.

That's absolutely right. But while I admit that I'm disquieted by the FBI's persuasiveness in some of the cases reported, let's turn that around a bit.

How do you think Al Qaeda recruits people? Probably more or less the same way, right? After all, it's very rare that people who aren't disgruntled about something go out and join a terrorist group.

So by trawling for these people, you accomplish two things. First, the ones you directly catch can't join Al Qaeda because they're in jail. There isn't a terribly great supply of recruits to begin with, and having to compete with a huge organization like the FBI makes it much harder for Al Qaeda to get to them first. Second, mimicking real terrorist recruiters means that people who ARE like minded, and are approached, can't be sure by whom - Is it the FBI, or a real operative? So it will discourage people from throwing in their lot.

Without knowing all the specifics, I can't judge any of the specific cases. But setting up 'fake crimes' and 'manufacturing' criminals is a bit much. There are dozens of similar stories where people try to hire a "hit man" to off someone -- usually a spouse. Invariably it starts off with someone asking a friend if they know anyone who can get hold of a hit man. The friend calls the police, who are all too happy to have an undercover cop perform the sting. Now, there is no actual murder-for-hire contract here; just a sham. Does that really mean the person was entirely innocent? In my book, no, it makes them guilty of attempted murder.

Comment: Re:Barry Hughart (Score 1) 1244

by LrdDimwit (#39278071) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels?
Such a shame he doesn't plan on making any more. I would have at least liked to read his planned ending.

Definitely second Bridge of Birds and its ilk. I'll also just throw these out there: Wizard of the Pigeons. The Iron Dragon's Daughter. The High Crusade. Revelation Space. Traveller in Black. . And finally, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Also, for the sources of many of these recommendations: The obvious, and the much more obscure. That second link is ... Well, it's a great source of recommendations. The style ... I don't think it's pretentiousness; doesn't seem to me like he's 'pretending' to be anything. His style can be very off-putting, and I dunno if he's a professor or what, but I fear for the minds of his students if he is. But the book recommendations to be found there are indeed quite good.

Comment: Oh, there's recourse alright. It's just unpleasant (Score 1) 730

by LrdDimwit (#39179361) Attached to: YouTube Identifies Birdsong As Copyrighted Music
If they're actually claiming birdsong is copyrighted to them, then that is either a lie or a statement made with gross disregard for the truth. And it (the takedown notice) is a false statement made for the purpose of negatively impacting your reputation (accusing you of illegal activity), that in fact did negatively impact your reputation (Google believed them) and the result of which is they gained real money.

IANAL, but in most jurisdictions, this is called libel, and it's highly likely you can sue Rumblefish for it. But that would be an awful lot of work for very little money - the cost of the lawyer would far eclipse what you could get. However, just the act of having a lawyer send them a threatening letter might be enough.

Comment: Life is a giant long-term/short-term tradeoff (Score 1) 422

by LrdDimwit (#39040753) Attached to: White House Wants Devastating Cuts To NASA's Mars Exploration
In any organization, there are basically two optimization games being played at any given moment: The long-term game, and the short-term game. In general charting an optimal course is hard, both because the long game is very hard to play, and because how well you play the short game affects your long game. The negative effects are well-known: witness big business' almost being straightjacketed to quarterly and yearly forecasts. The consequences of this? A tendency to play for short-term gain at the expense of foreseeable long-term ruin.

But also witness Netflix shooting their feet off at the knees. Why did that happen? They played too much in favor of the long game, essentially. Far enough down the road, it will make as much sense to be in the DVD-by-mail business as it currently makes to be in the DVD-by-rental-store business. The problem is, their long-term plays were premature, and very harmful to the short-term game.

So, space exploration. Everyone agrees that it's very important, right? But it's a long-term game, with long-term payoffs. Possibly very long term. The true maturation of space exploration - the transformation from mankind's journey into space being a herculean endeavor, funded at considerable expense by entire nations - into the space industry, undertaken by various firms for different businesses ... This is the long term goal. But how long term? I think it's not unreasonable to estimate that it will be a hundred years. Now, the US is less than 250 years old. A hundred years is a VERY long time. A hundred years ago, it was 1912, and WW1 (yes, 1) was more than two years off.

Meanwhile, there is a very real chance the financial system underpinning the entire world economy could implode within a few decades. If that happens, every penny that has ever been spent on long-term goals with a maturation significantly further into the future than this ... will have largely been wasted, spent building castles in the sky.

So it makes sense to cut the Mars stuff. I want to know what kind of life is on Europa, or Mars, or wherever else ... just as much as you do. But it just doesn't make sense, given the realities of enormous deficits, and a political process paralyzed by gridlock.

Comment: How is that a criticism? (Score 3, Insightful) 228

by LrdDimwit (#39001871) Attached to: What Does a Software Tester's Job Constitute?
Criticizing someone by saying that they got less done than a group of other people is a pretty lousy criticism. All you've really done is establish that there's a benefit to two types of testing: methodical testing, and let's-just-mess-around-with-it stress testing.

Just messing around is way faster, and it will quickly catch a lot of bugs. But it's no substitute for methodical testing. How many bugs did she find that the entire group of other people would have never noticed?

I feel sorry for her. It seems like she did a pretty good job, and it sounds like she did exactly what the business hired her to do, yet it doesn't sound like she got any respect for it.

Comment: You're solving the problem the wrong way (Score 4, Informative) 330

This problem is not amenable to technical solution. Trying to stop attackers from cheating via the Internet, by using some a filter or other form of limited access -- is as futile as trying to solve the halting problem, and enumerate the irrationals, at the same time.

The halting problem fails because it's too easy to craft countermeasures aimed deliberately at the scanner. Enumerating the irrationals fails because there is so much complexity, it's literally impossible to go throgh it all.

But just because you can't solve this problem technically doesn't mean it can't be solved. It's difficult, but I believe it might be possible. Don't bother beyond the basics. Get a computer lab set up with computers you control. Don't allow the students to bring in any USB sticks or CDs.

Then simply install tracking software on every PC. (You can also use a network sniffer to back this up.) The idea isn't that to prevent cheating technically; rather, you want to preserve the ability to tell that people have cheated, and simply punishing them under the existing rules.

You tell everyone in the class that you'll be monitoring their internet usage during the exam. Then tell everyone what you consider cheating. Have your grad students go through the logs manually; the difference should be fairly obvious.

Comment: Re:This was predicted to happen two years ago (Score 1) 238

by LrdDimwit (#38919447) Attached to: French Court Calls Free Google Maps Unfair Competition
Unfortunately, the part where you said "If some of them aren't paying attention, then too bad" is plain and simple against the law. It is a copyright violation to redistribute someone's work without their permission, and you are contemplating doing precisely that.

It doesn't matter that what you proposed is a reasonable-sounding way to deal with the issue. It's against the law.

This is the thing holding up a lot of really interesting things, like Google Books. Hell, even the big multinationals can't do that kind of thing. Sony would probably like to make every PS1 game available for download. They can't due to rights issues. Their contracts 10, 15 years ago didn't give them permission to do X, so now they can't.

I'm sorry, but the plain truth is you propose to ignore the rights of people on the grounds it would be too much of a burden.

The Linux model is amazingly powerful, but at the same time, its reliance on an army of contributors creates legal problems. If those contributors didn't give you permission to do something with what they contributed, then you have 3 choices: 1) Don't do it; 2) Get permission; 3) Rip out their contribution.

It might be feasible to do what you proposed, get say 90% buy-in ... and then rip out the remaining code and re-implement that portion. But you cannot simply ignore their copyrights. They didn't give permission to license their work under GPLv3, and you can't relicense it without their approval.

Comment: Re:This was predicted to happen two years ago (Score 1) 238

by LrdDimwit (#38918585) Attached to: French Court Calls Free Google Maps Unfair Competition
Respect for the law is important. It's the difference between Sony (at least, back when they fought for Betamax) and Grokster. Groups that figure it's so much easier to simply ignore the law and do whatever they want tend to get smacked very hard. And it doesn't even matter whether the authority being ignored is just, or corrupt, they all react the same. Why do you think corporations spend all this money trying to slant the laws in their favor? It'd be so much cheaper to simply ignore them.

You really think (say) the EPA could file enforcement actions against every major company in the US? They couldn't, and neither could any other law enforcement agency in the world. The way to maintain law and order is to essentially intimidate people into respecting the rules using the powers you have, so that you don't have to try to smack down the entire world.

The key is that every organized group in the entire world knows this fact. So they come down hard on disrespecting authority, because they have no choice.

Besides, it's kind of hard to condemn others (for instance, large multinationals doing things like polluting the environment) for feeling that they shouldn't have to obey the laws because they're inconvenient ... if you're doing the same thing yourself.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil