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Comment: Missing Critical Information (Score 5, Interesting) 499

by McNally (#47876651) Attached to: Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist

It's a shame that the summary and the article omit the most important information needed to judge whether this is reasonable or not -- details and evidence in support of the characterization of the groups Barr belonged as "linked" to the group responsible for the armored car robbery & murder. What does "linked" mean in this context: members in common? command structure? who knows? The article doesn't say, and without that information none of us can have a really informed opinion on the topic.

Since there's not much to discuss from TFA, I'm going to tell you a little story from back when I was in school, because it's conceivably relevant (but then, as I've said, we don't really have the details we need to know..

Annnnyyyyway.. Once upon a time, long ago (but still some years after this woman was in school) I was a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During the time I was on campus there were a group of chuckleheads who fancied themselves the vanguard of the socialist revolution that was sure to sweep the country Real Soon Now (tm). They were the scourge of all of the small clubs on campus because of a trick that they pulled, over and over, quite successfully until the other student groups learned to defend themselves against it.

Here's what would happen.. A small, inoffensive campus group having little or nothing to do with the main goals of the revolutionary organization in question would have a meeting at the beginning of the year to welcome new members and to elect leadership positions for the coming school year. Let's imagine we're talking about the Campus Knitting Society.. Well, a group like that might have 8-10 members who attended meetings regularly, and a few more who would drop in when their schedules allowed. The Revolutionary Chuckleheads League (not their real name) would descend en masse on the Campus Knitting Society the week that group was electing new officers and since a lot of groups had open membership the RCL would nominate its own slate of officers and take over the Campus Knitting Society. They'd use the small budgetary stipend the group got from the student government activities fund to print up flyers and the next thing you'd know, every kiosk on campus would be covered with fluorescent orange flyers saying "U of M Campus Knitting Society DEMANDS AN END TO US IMPERIALISM" and "U of M Campus Society Says: Free Mumia!". Then the Revolutionary Chuckleheads League would abandon the burned-out husk of the club they'd taken over and move on to play the same trick on some other organization. The shellshocked original club members, if they weren't completely soured by the experience, might form a new club to replace the one that had been stolen from them, which is why from time to time you'd see flyers pop up on campus saying things like "First Meeting Sunday Night: Michigan Knitting Club (NOT THE Revolutionary Chuckleheads League)"

So.. I've got no idea from the article what Barr's politics were at the time, what they are now, and what her level of involvement with the banned group might be. But it wouldn't surprise me if there were a lot of people that I went to school with who belonged to perfectly harmless clubs who could conceivably fall afoul of the same shadow that blighted Barr's career just because they belonged to a club that got infiltrated and taken over by a group of radicals whose interests were only tangentially related to the club's original goals. I don't think that happens very often, but I would like for the government to have a higher standard than "affiliated" or at the very least to make clear what they mean by that.

Comment: Re:OpenSSL (Score 1) 77

by McNally (#47473055) Attached to: FreeBSD 9.3 Released

Does anyone outside of the vanishingly small and shrinking circle of OpenSSL developers know what that number means or why they persist on inflicting whatever stupid, parochial numbering convention it's the fault of on everyone?

Yes, why can't they use alphabetically-sequenced Alliterative Animal names, or maybe choose selections in no particular sequence from an unordered set such as large cat species?

Sure, they could be clearer, but they're very far from the worst version naming out there.. Count your blessings.

Comment: Re:Guess the Party (Score 4, Informative) 370

by McNally (#38168262) Attached to: Senator Wants 'Terrorist' Label On Blogs

Lieberman is a Democrat. Just saying, if he was a Republican, all the trolls woulld be out about "OMG Republicans are teh evil."

He once was a Democrat but the last time he ran for office he was defeated in his party's primaries by a candidate that Connecticut Democrats apparently felt better reflected the values of their party. Subsequently Lieberman ran, and was re-elected as, an independent.

Comment: The Cynical Take.. (Score 4, Insightful) 84

by McNally (#35704544) Attached to: Leaked Docs Show UK ISP BT Plans Music Service

Services like Spotify already exist and are hugely popular in the UK meaning BT will have to go the extra mile to convince users they have a service worth using."

Let's hope they don't simply find it easier to degrade the quality of competing services. I get nervous (and cynical) when my ISP wants to sell me anything other than a pipe for bits.

Comment: Re:wonder what the story is here (Score 5, Informative) 538

by McNally (#35257126) Attached to: Musician Jailed Over Prank YouTube Video

By railroading this guy, what the Muskegon County Prosecutor is actually doing is weakening the severity of real child abuse in the public's mind by diluting it with dumb but ultimately harmless comedy.

Gee, I wonder why he would possibly want to do that....

Without knowing the particulars of this particular case, I still feel free to speculate that it's because the Muskegon County Prosecutor, a man named Tony Tague, is a self-promoting sleaze who loves nothing better than to get his name in the papers.

I grew up in Muskegon County. Tague became prosecutor about the time I left to go to college, 20 years ago or so, and during that time he has repeatedly shown a penchant for pushing the envelope and excersising his considerable prosecutorial discretion to criminalize behavior in any case where he can whip up public outrage -- the first one I can remember was when he elected to prosecute a pregnant drug addict for delivery of cocaine to a minor -- her unborn child.

His "family values" and "tough on crime" posturing resonate with a certain portion of the local electorate but I wouldn't describe the area as particularly prudish or inordinately socially conservative. It's less that the community is really up in arms about such things and more that Tague loves the publicity such cases bring and has been successful throughout his career in exploiting such cases to mobilize a certain segment of the electorate. Besides the sleaziness of such tactics, it's also pretty hard on the individuals who are singled out to advance his political career.

Comment: If you say so.. (Score 1, Redundant) 204

by McNally (#34977754) Attached to: The Fall of Traditional Entertainment Conglomerates

new technological advances, enabling systems and cost considerations WILL change the entertainment industry as we know it within 5 years.

Well, OK, if some guy with a Wordpress blog says so, I'm convinced!

Being less snide -- I wish these pioneers godspeed; I'd be happy to see big changes. I'm just not sure it'll happen as easily or as quickly as the write-up asserts.

News

Assange Could Face Execution Or Guantanamo Bay 973

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the exagerate-much dept.
An anonymous reader writes "WikiLeaker-in-chief Julian Assange faces the real danger of being executed or languishing in the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay if, as a result of his extradition to Sweden, he ends up in the hands of the Americans, his lawyers argue. In a skeleton summary of Assange's defence, posted online, Assange's lawyers argue that it is likely that the US would seek his extradition 'and/or illegal rendition' from Sweden. In the United States 'there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantánamo Bay or elsewhere,' his lawyers write."

Comment: Re:Bad GUI and no CLI: way too common (Score 2, Interesting) 617

by McNally (#33791314) Attached to: Take This GUI and Shove It

AIX's SMIT did this, or rather it wrote the commands that it executed to achieve what you asked it to do. This meant that you could learn: look at what it did and find out about which CLI commands to run.

It's been years since I administered an AIX machine but my recollection is that the CLI command strings it came up with were generally amusingly-specific unique-to-AIX commands with very long names like resizepartitionandinstallbootblock or something like that. They were generally specialty scripts built to parallel SMIT menu choices and you'd never wind up guessing the command without SMIT telling you what to use, but having the command-line version was nice because you could do something by menus in SMIT on one machine and then use the command-line equivalents to automate the same operations on dozens of other hosts.

Comment: Re:Goo Gone or limonene (Score 2, Funny) 597

by McNally (#33458776) Attached to: AMD Hates Laptop Stickers As Much As You Do

thus something invented by us is more likely to cause serious trouble for our metabolism than something that bees or trees invented millions of years ago.

I've got some foxglove growing out in my yard if you want to test that theory.. And if you survive that, there's a local amanita variant I can probably find without too much trouble if I go looking for it.

Comment: Please Don't Squeeze the Charmin (Score 1) 258

by McNally (#33446848) Attached to: A New Species of Patent Troll

While I think the statutory damages here sound excessive, if it really gets to be a problem the legislative branch can easily pass an amended statute correcting that. Meanwhile it does seem to be desirable to have some disincentive in place to prevent manufacturers from claiming the protection of expired patents. A better system might require a company be served with notice to stop claiming the patents, giving them a reasonable amount of time thereafter (30 days?) to correct their manufacturing; any devices produced after the grace period would be subject to penalties if patent protection continued to be falsely claimed.

It probably wouldn't be such a problem if we hadn't gone absolutely patent crazy in the past fifty years. I made a ludicrous discovery the other day while replenishing my toilet paper supply. The brand of TP I had purchased claims no fewer than 36 patents on the packaging, and I believe that's not even counting the additional design patents (or at least I presume that's what the series designated D########## represented.) C'mon, really -- 36 patentable innovations? It's toilet paper.

Comment: Teach Them That Computers Are Not Magical Boxes (Score 4, Insightful) 462

by McNally (#33410884) Attached to: What 'IT' Stuff Should We Teach Ninth-Graders?

Some of the responses so far seem to be based on the assumption that this is an information technology class for students who intend to specialize in the field. I'm assuming, rather, that this is intended to be a basic primer class offered to everyone and intended to give a general grounding in the subject.

My suggestion is that you start by talking to adults to find out what they do and don't understand about the technology they use. In my experience (20-some years' worth of dealing with end users in various capacities) many, probably most, adults have an extremely limited idea how the technology they are using really works in the physical world and deal only with it as an abstract unit. And some of the assumptions they make based on the mental model they have built up lead to really bad decisions because they don't understand very basic concepts that the rest of us take for granted.

To give an example: perhaps the single most misunderstood concept I encounter is the notion of storage. A great number of people seem to have no idea what actually happens on a computer when they save something. Generally they don't understand the difference between various types of memory (i.e. the difference between temporary short-term storage in RAM and long-term storage on a file system on some sort of disc or flash device. They have a very limited understanding, if any, of the filesystem and the concept of hierarchical organization. They are generally unable to distinguish between the various components of their system (e.g. display, CPU, input devices, file storage.) These are things that seem idiotically simple to most of us because we have completely internalized the knowledge, but deal with people who don't have the same underlying framework and you will soon see how it affects their reasoning about their computer.

People with this sort of limited understanding of the computer as one abstracted whole, a magic box that they interact with, generally get along adequately as long as everything is working the way they expect but as soon as they run into any sort of exceptional circumstance they have virtually no recourse because they have no real understanding from which to base hypotheses about a possible cause for the problem or method for proceeding. Their ability to use their systems is therefore fragile and subject to disruption from virtually any sort of unusual situation.

If you've worked in the field you've seen this over and over and over again and you can probably call to mind some of the unfortunate results of this kind of shallow understanding and "magical box" mindset.

I think the best thing you can do for kids just getting started (though I think 9th grade is pretty late to be getting started) is to help them understand that computers are not magical and that their behavior is not arbitrary, that with the proper basic understanding of what's happening most of what follows can be predicted by fairly straightforward logic.

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