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Comment: Important work - gives handle on earth's dynamo (Score 4, Insightful) 80

by Cliff Stoll (#47298935) Attached to: Satellite Swarm Spots North Pole Drift

This is important work, which compliments terrestial geomagnetic measurements and space based observations.

The earth's magnetic field results from a planetary dynamo. Magnetic field lines get frozen into the electrically conductive fluid core. Then, differential motions in the fluid causes the magnetic field to get twisted up -- it's no longer is the simple dipole (like those bar magnets that you played with as a kid). Instead, the earth's magnetic field develops high order moments (sorta like bumps and dips). These shapes evolve as the conductive core moves. Eventually, the magnetic field gets so tangled up, that it unravels. At that time, the earth's field reverses. These magnetic field reversals show up in the geologic record ... every 10,000 to 100,000 years, there's a flipover.

Measurements like the ESA Swarm satellite give us a handle on the evoloution of the Earth's magnetic field, as well as showing how that field interacts with the magnetic and particle environment of the solar wind.

(disclaimer - most of what I just posted is from a terrific graduate class that I took at the Lunar & Planetary Labs way back in 1979, and when I worked with Charles Sonett, who studied the solar wind. Likely, much of this is way out of date!)

Comment: Re:Key Point Missing (Score 2) 34

by NewYorkCountryLawyer (#47234405) Attached to: Appeals Court Finds Scanning To Be Fair Use

The summary misses a key point. Yes they scan and store the entire book, but they are _NOT_ making the entire book available to everyone. For the most part they are just making it searchable.

Agreed that it's not in the summary, but as you correctly note, it's just a "summary". Anyone who reads the underlying blog post will read this among the facts on which the court based its opinion: "The public was allowed to search by keyword. The search results showed only the page numbers for the search term and the number of times it appeared; none of the text was visible."

So those readers who RTFA will be in the know.

+ - Appeals Court finds scanning to be fair use in Authors Guild v Hathitrust

Submitted by NewYorkCountryLawyer
NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) writes "In Authors Guild v Hathitrust, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has found that scanning whole books and making them searchable for research use is a fair use. In reaching its conclusion, the 3-judge panel reasoned, in its 34-page opinion (PDF), that the creation of a searchable, full text database is a "quintessentially transformative use", that it was "reasonably necessary" to make use of the entire works, that maintaining maintain 4 copies of the database was reasonably necessary as well, and that the research library did not impair the market for the originals. Needless to say, this ruling augurs well for Google in Authors Guild v. Google, which likewise involves full text scanning of whole books for research."

Comment: Re:I hope they get whatever they can for them (Score 4, Insightful) 232

by Karl Cocknozzle (#47231985) Attached to: US To Auction 29,656 Bitcoins Seized From Silk Road

Let me blow your mind right now: all currency is fake. That's what makes it currency instead of bartered goods.

This. Times a million

Every currency (Yes, Virginia, even gold-standard currencies) are completely fake and arbitrary. The difference between fake and arbitrary fiat currency and fake and arbitrary gold-standard currency is exactly one layer of abstraction, because the "value" of gold is in itself pretty arbitrary. It is somewhat rare, but it's "value" is completely generated by the human mind. Which is actually for the best--can you imagine how high the price of gold would be if it was actually useful for something besides making jewelry and helping Fox News scam old people out of their savings with terrible gold investment opportunities?

Humans assigned "value" to gold because it was rare-enough to avoid hyper-inflation, but common enough that you didn't have to worry about deflation. And that worked just fine for a few tens of thousands of years... until there were too many humans for the world supply of gold to adequately represent new wealth and value as they're created.

If a more numerous race of aliens had evolved on this planet they might have assigned value to blades of grass, pebbles, or certain kinds of trees in a similar matter based on their own needs.

Which is why the entire "gold standard" argument (that "our money is fake and worthless") is so stupid: Yes, it is fake and worthless. So is all other money, everywhere--the value comes from the perception. So it doesn't matter if its "backed by gold" or "backed by Jell-O Pudding pops" the fact is, the value is based totally on the perception of value of something. With fiat currency, it's the perception of the value of what you can buy, with "gold-standard" currency it's the perception of the value of the gold. But neither has any "real" value without that perception.

Comment: Re:Well, yes, I was there... (Score 1) 120

by Cliff Stoll (#47182183) Attached to: Whom Must You Trust?

And my thanks back to you, oh Anonymous Coward: The 15 cents in royalties from your purchase of m'book is now helping my kids attend college. Uh, it'll last about 1.3 minutes.

You say that you're managing firewalls - all sorts of possibilities! I had the honor of working with Van Jacobson at LBL when he first researched TCP/IP traffic jams and compression. I was amazed at how much could be done by looking at traffic and thinking about the interaction of traffic, buffers, routers, and network congestion. Wonderful stuff - what looks like a boring problem may be an opportunity for research.

With that in mind, here's my encouragement to you: Go and sharpen your tcpdump & wireshark tools. Figure out what's really happening to those packets. Who knows what you'll uncover?

Comment: Re:IF you are the REAL Cliff Stoll? (Score 1) 120

by Cliff Stoll (#47182047) Attached to: Whom Must You Trust?

(blush). Thanks!

Now it's your turn: Go forth and make our networked community friendlier, stronger, more trustworthy, and more useful.

Best wishes,

PS: Of course, you raise a fascinating, self-referential question. How can you tell if this posting is from the real Cliff Stoll? I know it's me - and it's easy to prove in person, but difficult online. For the best proof, well, stop by for coffee. Way more fun than posting online.

Comment: Well, yes, I was there... (Score 5, Interesting) 120

by Cliff Stoll (#47181593) Attached to: Whom Must You Trust?

It's been a quarter century since I chased down those hackers. Hard to think back that far: 2400 baud modems were rarities, BSD Unix was uncommon, and almost nobody had a pocket pager. As an astronomy postdoc (not a grad student), I ran a few Unix boxes at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. When the accounting system crashed, my reaction was curiosity: How come this isn't working? It's an attitude you get from physics -- when you don't understand something, it's a chance to do research. And oh, where it led...

Today, of course, everything's changed: Almost nobody has a pocket pager, 2400 baud modems are a rarity, and Berkeley Unix is, uh, uncommon. What started out as a weirdness hiding in our etc/passwd file has become a multi-billion dollar business. So many stories to tell ...

I've since tiptoed away from computer security; I now make Klein bottles and work alongside some amazing programmers at Newfield Wireless in Berkeley. Much fun debugging code and occasionally uncorking stories from when Unix was young.

Warm cheers to m'slashdot friends,

Comment: Re:Culpability at the Top (Score 4, Informative) 307

Why did GM write into their bail-out a few years ago the clause that they cannot be held responsible for malfeasance which occurred prior to that bail out?

Makes me sick thinking about it.

GM's "bailout" was actually a managed bankruptcy with the terms pre-arranged, and bankruptcy in most US states incldues the discharge of liability, not just debts. It is done that way so creditors can't short-circuit the bankruptcy system and just "Wait to sue" until after you're out of bankruptcy protection.

This liability discharge is one of the main features of bankruptcy. It is why the company that polluted the Elk River in West Virginia (leaving the 2/3 of the state without safe drinking water--some of them to this day) declared bankruptcy in short order after the incident--they knew they had no possible defense against the legal onslaught that was coming, and their executives (who were owed sizable bonuses--coal executives really rake it in) wanted to make sure they filed for bankruptcy BEFORE anybody filed suit, because if a suit was pending when they filed bankruptcy that party could go to court to stop bonuses and incentive pay owed to executives from being payed out. Because if the company was facing a bankruptcy judge and had an already-filed suit for billions in damages he would never (EVER) approve bonus payments to executives and would probably listen pretty favorably to a creditor who insisted the executives not be able to loot the place ahead of their judgement.

Comment: Re:Just one detail they've overlooked (Score 1) 355

Well, the vandalism aspect can be "solved" by the simple means of on board video cameras. And since entry to the taxicab would most like require some form of ID prior to the doors unlocking, you could be pretty darn sure as to the identity of the passenger. And the "official" rational for the camera? Why, it's to gauge the customer's reactions to the advertisements. After all, that lets the system present advertisements that the customer finds more receptive.

George Orwell didn't go far enough. Google is correcting that mistake.

...Because on-board video cameras can't be vandalized, of course! And it may be the case that you have to identify yourself before the door opens on the car, true, but that doesn't stop a vandal from hopping in one of the other doors and damaging the car after you've identified yourself... Or they could just steal your mobile phone and summon a robot car with the robot car app...

Trust me: If it exists, there's a way to break it without getting caught. My first instinct is to use the technique used on british speed cameras: Kitchen plastic wrap strapped tight across the camera lens. If done correctly, the camera doesn't look "broken" to a casual observer, but this effectively renders images from the camera a useless, blurry, translucent mess.

Comment: Re:News at 11 (Score 1) 97

Random groupings of people say bad things about major international deal without any supporting evidence.

Seriously, the best they can do is "The language used is vague"? How about doing their own analysis instead of just pointing out that the documents aren't perfect?

I think the point is that the language is intentionally vague to conceal the meaning from an uncritical public. If critics of the agreements say they contain language that "could allow" certain bad things to happen, proponents can smear-them as "conspiracy theorists" to discount their point of view, and a pliant, lapdog corporate media will lap it up, eagerly.

"Those who will be able to conquer software will be able to conquer the world." -- Tadahiro Sekimoto, president, NEC Corp.