Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment: There are still issues ... (Score 1) 254

by MacTO (#49501383) Attached to: The Upsides of a Surveillance Society

Whether it is surveillance by the state, corporations, or individuals, the issue (in my opinion) is not with the collection of data. It is with how the data is used.

Let's say that you were at a party and did something unbecoming, albeit still legal. Someone got a video of it, but no harm is done because the act and the video fade into a distant memory. Except that it doesn't disappear. Perhaps someone digs it up as a funny story, or because they're bitter about something you've done, or because there is some sort of way for them to benefit from the situation. Now you have people looking at something that is a snapshot in time that doesn't reflect who you are, or even who you were. Perhaps the video didn't capture the context, or maybe the context was removed from it. It has the potential to be damaging.

Actually, it can be more damaging than a video captured by a police or business surveillance camera. In many countries, the police have restrictions on how data is collected and handled. If it isn't being used for an investigation, they simply cannot disclose that information. If a case goes to court, you have an independent judiciary body examining it as evidence. Businesses don't have the same restrictions, but they can get themselves into legal hot water if they use or disclose data in an inappropriate manner. Contrast that to individuals, who are much less likely to be conscious of the boundaries between private and public information or who may not be thinking of the consequences of their actions. Unlike institutions, a lot of what they observe will simply end up as gossip.

Comment: Comparing the girls and boys schools ... (Score 2) 599

The girls get a school which emphasizes a broad range of subjects, most of which are geared towards targeting gender inequality by creating a safe learning environment. Even if one of those emphasized subjects doesn't appeal to a particular girl, one of the others may. In other words, it will be labelled as an enrichment program.

The boys get a school which emphasizes a singular subject, most of which are geared towards targeting gender inequality by addressing low test scores. While English will appeal to some boys, it will not appeal to the majority of boys. That is true even if those boys are interested in fields that are traditionally dominated by women. In other words, it will be labelled as a remedial program.

I fail to see how this addresses gender inequality in any meaningful way. If the boys were offered a school geared towards the humanities and the arts, it may be possible to make such an argument. But that's not what's happening here.

Comment: Learn how to use Wikipedia ... (Score 2) 186

by MacTO (#49485553) Attached to: How Many Hoaxes Are On Wikipedia? No One Knows

Yes, there are pitfalls to using the Wikipedia. Many of those pitfalls can be avoided if you know how to use it. Examples include examining the history page, which is available for each article. It will give you an idea of the maturity of the article, if certain details are under contention, and whether something is likely to be a hoax or agenda driven. In many cases, sources are provided. Examine those sources. Determine whether the sources are reliable, and have been interpreted in a reasonable manner.

Oddly enough, people question the Wikipedia when it gives more information about the providence of the writing and content than virtually any other source, yet people insist upon making blanket statements about how unreliable it is. All that really says is that people want an authoritative source rather than a verifiable source. They want someone to tell them what is "true" rather than giving them the tools to assess what they are reading. That is dangerous, because it is far too easy to put yourself in a bubble of misinformation by choosing inaccurate sources that cannot be assessed.

Comment: Re:Speed isn't all there is... (Score 1) 101

by MacTO (#49475079) Attached to: Fifty Years of Moore's Law

Um, yeah. I had one of those, and elegant is not a word that was used to describe them, even when new.

Elegant depends upon context, and I would argue that those computers were elegant in the context of their era. Difficult to use, sure. Yet compare that to the technology that preceded it. If you needed to type something out, typewriters sure were simple. Needed to make changes, then you needed to use a correction tape. Except that wasn't always appropriate, so you had that thing called drafts. What about doing calculations? There were machines of various sorts that could handle that, yet you had to perform all of the calculations each time they needed to be done. Spreadsheets allowed people to do things that were burdensome before, like modifying a cell in a spreadsheet and telling it to recalculate the new scenario. Accounting software allowed people to input ledger entries and have the computer update all of the accounts. Even then, specialized software abstracted the data away from the process, so you wouldn't have to hire people with specialized knowledge or look up formulas in books.

The list could go on, but the simple fact is that the power of those computers with respect to automating processes was elegant. How people interacted with those machines may have been inelegant, but that is an entirely different aspect of the technology.

Comment: Implant it ... (Score 1) 445

Yeap, stick it under your skin. Five gigabytes isn't that much after all. It could easily fit on a uSD card, so you'll hardly even notice that it's there. If you happen to have an untimely demise in a house fire, it is no longer your concern. You can also be reasonably assured that the storage medium will melt when you combust, which further enhances the security.

Seriously though, decide upon your priorities. Your data is too important to store offsite. Yet it is too important to store onsite too. Which is it? If you decide to store it offsite, there are plenty of options that don't including storing it online. This includes placing it in a safety deposit box or giving it to a family member or longstanding friend. Just store the data on an SD card inside of an envelope, so that it can be filed away without being lost. Encryption will solve most of the trust issues. If something goes wrong on their end, such as them being a victim of a fire or burglary, remember that it is just a backup. You can create another backup to replace it.

Comment: Re:Worked with blind programmer (Score 2) 79

by MacTO (#48947057) Attached to: How Blind Programmers Write Code

For those small companies, I can foresee two ways to contribute to the GUI. One is to test for and implement accessibility features. Another consideration is that they can still learn about GUI fundamentals and implement them. While they won't be able to see the outcome (as well or at all, depending upon the limits of their vision), this is certainly a possibility in many development environments.

Comment: Re:Now I understand why most UIs are so awful (Score 2) 79

by MacTO (#48946569) Attached to: How Blind Programmers Write Code

I realize that you are just cracking a joke, but the reality is that computers are a great enabler. My deficiency is minor in comparison, being colorblind, but knowing a bit about the theory of color and having colors being handled numerically allows me to overcome that in the digital realm. I may not see the world as other people see it, but I'm not going to create an eyesore either.

Comment: Responsiveness ... (Score 2) 592

by MacTO (#48844431) Attached to: Why Run Linux On Macs?

OS X does a good job on my 2012 MacBook Pro, yet I have noticed that it becomes very unresponsive at times. It appears to be due to memory management issues, and switching to Linux is a far less expensive upgrade route than bumping up the memory. The other consideration is my ability to maintain the system. While OS X does make certain things easier, Linux is easier to maintain over the long-term.

Comment: Re:Shame it's not open source (Score 4, Informative) 19

by MacTO (#48786635) Attached to: Crowdfunded Linux Voice Magazine Releases Second Issue CC-BY-SA

Third parties can charge whatever you want for FLOSS software, including Linux, because that is not what they mean by free. The only restriction is that they cannot violate the terms of the license agreement. That means, among other things, that they cannot place restrictions upon duplication and distribution. In other words, Linux is usually gratis because there is no incentive to pay for it unless services are bundled with it (e.g. technical support or development).

Yet none of that is relevant because we are discussing a publication about Linux. Anyone is free to write about Linux, place restrictions upon the articles or books that they write, and charge whatever they please. That is because they are not distributing open source software (beyond excerpts of code and documentation) so the license agreements simply do not apply.

Comment: We need definitions for "speech" and "freedom" ... (Score 1) 189

by MacTO (#48778727) Attached to: EFF Takes On Online Harassment

A lot of people will be talking past each other on topics like this because we don't agree upon what is meant by freedom or by speech.

Sometimes the answers are easy. Many nations protect the people from the government with respect to the political freedom of speech. That's great, but harassment is rarely political and is usually an act of individuals or (non-governmental) groups. Yet expanding the definition of freedom of speech presents problems. Harassment is not about imposing upon people speaking loudly or frequently. It is about intimidation. This intimidation takes many forms: threats, diminishing one's sense of self, reducing a person in the eyes of others. All of this is to achieve a particular aim, by reducing a person's ability to respond to the harassment. That includes creating an imbalance of speech to favour the perpetrator (i.e. the victim cannot speak out). The question isn't so much, "is it a valid form of speech," as it is, "should one person's speech be able to suppress other people?"

Comment: Tried it, sort of ... (Score 3, Informative) 437

by MacTO (#48763489) Attached to: Is Kitkat Killing Lollipop Uptake?

People have to wait for their vendor or carrier to release an update, or use an alternative ROM like Cyanogenmod. In the case of the latter, Cyanogenmod only started releasing official nightlies for a limited range of devices 2 days ago. Prior to that, it has been a case of scouring forums to obtain unofficial releases of alternative ROMs.

Even after the upgrade has been released, people actually need a chance to perform the update. For some people, that may be several months down the road -- e.g. when they know that they'll have a chance to perform the update and get used to the changes. It isn't a matter of being good enough. It is a matter of giving people an opportunity to perform the upgrade.

Comment: Why the anger ... (Score 0) 95

by MacTO (#48731261) Attached to: After Outage, Sony Makes Peace Offering To Users of PlayStation Network

Sony is extending memberships to account for the downtime and offering a discount on top of that, for a type of "hacking" that they can only marginally protect themselves from. Yeah, it inconvenienced *some* PSN members by reducing their enjoyment of the service over the holidays. On the other hand, I suspect that many Sony employees had a much less pleasurable time of cleaning up the mess.

Comment: Lots of missing software ... (Score 3, Insightful) 421

by MacTO (#48730023) Attached to: What Isn't There an App For?

Quite frankly, I don't care about small single-purpose apps. The UI on phones and tablets aren't designed to help us find one app among dozens. In most cases, you bump into limitations as soon as you start using it. In many cases, you'll use it a handful of times then never use it again.

If you are looking for anything that is even moderately sophisticated, chances are that no one has made an app for it. There will already be an app in many software categories, but they provide basic functionality at best. Consider what passes for word processors and spreadsheets, or even web browsers and email clients these days.

If you are looking for anything that doesn't lock your data into an unsupported proprietary file format that is hidden in some unfathomable directory on your device, or forces you to use a network service to access your data -- well, good luck. While there are usually options for content consumption, content creation is hit-and-miss.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest one is profitability. Very few people want to make a cheap app that takes a lot of time to develop. A lot of people want to translate the sale of cheap apps into more profitable online services. So what we tend to end up with are a bunch of apps that go after the low hanging fruit and sound revolutionary, when in reality they are little more than toys that you could easily accomplish with a single generic application.

We declare the names of all variables and functions. Yet the Tao has no type specifier.