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Comment: Re:retrain as a lawyer (Score 1) 194

by MoralHazard (#36748434) Attached to: How Increasing Cloud Reliance Affects IT Jobs

Fuck law school, and feel sorry for the lawyers. You don't know how bad those kids have it, these days.

Nationwide, salaries for starting law school grads have been dropping steadily since 2008. The job market for JDs is utter shit, and will probably stay that way for a while. Much of the classes of 2008-09 are still looking for their first "real" jobs (i.e., requiring a laws degree, not a Starbucks' apron). Check out the numbers:

  * http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Attorney_%2F_Lawyer/Salary

That's right: $45K/year for a job that requires 3 extra years of school after your B.A., and costs you $150,00 in tuition. (And that's IF you land a job.) And while salaries do increase with experience, 95% won't break the $100K/year mark until they've been practicing for 8 or 10 years.

I have a couple of dozen friends who started law school (circa 2001-2009) instead of getting real jobs right away, most due to a combination of:

    1) they saw it as an easy ticket to big money and professional distinction, unlike their recently-earned liberal arts B.A. degrees
    2) they hadn't been thinking in specific terms about their post-graduation career plans, and so they basically had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives
    3) basically any bank would approve full student loans for anybody who got into an accredited law school, at the time.

The people I knew were just a small selection of the wave of under-motivated, unskilled, and barely employable Gen-Y folk who flooded into US law schools. And since the law schools have zero accountability for whether their students get jobs after graduating, there's no direct feedback to stop them from churning out J.D.s into an already over-saturated swamp of 20somethings drowning in unsubsidized student debts (at sky-high, pre-crash interest rates, too).

A few of my friends were the lucky winners who landed the really good "big firm" jobs, with super-high starting salaries--this is maybe 5% of all law school grads, nationwide, in any given class. People who got hired at Skadden, Proskauer, MoFo, etc. were making $150K-$200K, right out of law school. These jobs are reserved for the super-high achievers, the kids who've been busting their asses studying every night/weekend since high school, with straight 4.0 GPAs since before junior high. In their first 5 years, they're each required to bill at least 2,000 hours/year to clients, which really means spending 60-80 hours/week at work (not everything is billable). Standards rise as they advance, and if they want to make partner, they'll have to put in around 80 hours/week for the next 10 years or so--and keep that pace up if they want to stay partners in the firm. Salaries do rise, too: A 5th-year associate at Skadden can pull down $500K/year, in exchange for her 80-100 hours/week, and a partner will bring home multiple millions/year.

Comment: Re:Security Concerns? (Score 1) 114

by MoralHazard (#36734670) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: An Open Handheld Terminal For Retail Stores?

I'm guess I'm pretty close to being an expert, on this--like much of Slashdot, I get paid to do this stuff.

If your payment system runs over WiFi, and if that WiFi link and your payment server/client apps also do not implement any extra security measures, then your security is screwed. Anybody with a laptop and some free software can sniff your traffic, insert extra packets, etc. God help you.

Luckily, most modern WiFi equipment supports the WPA2 standard for link-layer encryption and authentication. If you just enable WPA2 on your router and set a halfway decent password, nobody will be able to bother you. WPA2 is very, very secure (from a cryptanalysis perspective), as good as the best stuff that protects bank transactions, military secrets, etc.

Or, you might be able to encrypt the app traffic via SSL or a VPN, using app-level passwords for authentication. Depends on what the PoS terminal and server platforms support.

Either way, make sure you physically lock down both the terminals and the server. If anybody (e.g., rogue employee) can view a cleartext password or modify a security configuration from the PoS terminal UI, or if they can open the case and pull a hard drive, you lose. But this isn't a WiFi weakness--you have the same potential problem with wired networks, too.

Comment: Re:Why it took so long (Score 1) 184

by MoralHazard (#36720108) Attached to: CentOS Linux 6.0 Released

Both have gotten to the same point within a few weeks of each other.

Ummm... No. SL6 was released waaay back at the beginning of March: https://www.scientificlinux.org/news/sl60, that's March 3 to July 10. CentOS is slightly more than THREE MONTHS behind.

And as for 6.1, here's a tip about the long shot: the SL6.1 is starting beta, this week.

Comment: Re:Time dilation (Score 2) 131

by MoralHazard (#36218236) Attached to: Dark Energy Confirmed By Australian WiggleZ Sky Scan

Couple of problems with that:

  * Gravitationally-induced time dilation is a local effect--the degree of dilation for an observer depends on the strength of the local gravitational field at that observer's location. And while the universe's expansion does contribute some ongoing changes to the local gravity field strengths at every point throughout the universe, the size of those changes is miniscule compared to the absolute strength of even the earth's gravity at the planet's surface. The observed effects of lambda (cosmological constant, dark energy, whatever) are a whole lot bigger.
  * Time dilation works opposite to your description, i.e., the GREATER the local mass density (and therefore the more intense the local gravitational field) the faster time will move relative to the rest of the universe.
  * Einstein's GR includes the relativity of time and space in the model, as specific terms OTHER than lambda. Lambda is the part of the model that *cannot* be explained by anything else we already know about.

I know, I know: IHPBT. I needed something to do while my coffee was cooling.

Comment: Re:Laser guidance? (Score 4, Informative) 265

by MoralHazard (#35983550) Attached to: Robo-Gunsight System Makes Sniper's Life Easier

small bullets could be made to be guided by laser

This is ambiguous, it could mean either of two completely different weapons systems:

First, we can consider an auto-aiming system with conventional "dumb", non-steered bullets. TFA discusses a tentative step in this direction, but it's easy to imagine a fully automated kind of system with a point-n-click interface. The rifle would be mounted on a computer-controlled, precision servo motor mount, with a a telescoped camera sighted along the barrel instead of a normal eyepiece. On a video monitor, the computer presents a crosshairs superimposed over a live camera image. The computer can incorporate various sources of ballistic data to correct the sight picture: sensors measuring (e.g.) barrel droop due to heat; a laser or microwave rangefinder for calculating elevation adjustments (b/c bullets drops as they travel); a wind gauge for calculating windage adjustments. If the computer performs real-time image analysis, it could also "mask" targets out from the background and analyze their motion, which would allow the operator's mouse aim to be pretty vague--kind of like a FPS game with an auto-aim cheat enabled.
        With quality mechanics, sensors, and code, this kind of weapon could allow a novice to out-shoot a good trained military shooter, as long as the target is stationary. Based on existing, real-life systems that I've seen and worked with, I think this kind of weapon could be built, today, for less than $5,000 using slightly modified off-the-shelf equipment and software. Would it beat a trained, experienced military shooter? Maybe not, but I don't see any reason why the implementation couldn't be refined to that point--there's no theoretical reason why the pure man-plus-gun system has to be better.

The second possibility, here, is to introduce "smart" steerable bullets into the mix. Like a guided air-to-air missile, each bullet would be able to adjust its course in midair in order to track a target that is moving, or simply to correct for the normal vagaries ballistics. This kind of system's one clear superiority over dumb bullets is that it can account for variables that crop up *after* the bullet leaves the barrel. For instance, a particularly small, fast, and continuously, erratically moving target (say, a hummingbird at 1 km) can easily foil the best shooter, human or computer. The hummingbird can trivially move out of a bullet's path during the flight interval, and the position changes are too chaotic for meaningful predictions (unlike, say, a man walking along a stretch of road). If each bullet carries its own target-tracking sensor (like an air-to-air missile) or obeys remote commands from the gun's targeting system (like a TOW missile), then the possibility of hitting that hummingbird grows larger.
        The mechanical implementation of steerable bullets is a bitch, though. The fundamental problem of non-powered, controlled flight is that course corrections increase drag and diminish your velocity. The more drastic of course changes you want, the more you hurt your aerodynamics, which proportionally hurts your kinetic energy, range, and damage potential. There may be a practical sweet spot, trading just a little power for just enough steering. Or, you might be forced to trade your unpowered bullets for powered rocket-like projectiles. Either way, you're talking about a hell of a lot of tough engineering R&D, like designing rocket engines or jet bodies, where you need an immense amount of experimental data and trial-and-error. To me, this sounds like big defense-contractor stuff--who else can afford time on a supersonic wind tunnel?
        And then there's the problem of cramming a steering mechanism and whatever targeting control equipment you need into the space of a bullet. Electronics and mechanical designs may be hard or easy, but a sure way to make them maddeningly frustrating is to mandate an especially tiny physical package. Oh, and your mass distribution will be a problem--bullets have to be absolutely perfectly radially symmetric, mass-wise, and their front-to-back profile is restricted, too. Plus you need a power source to run all this crap. Oh, and you're adding rocket motors to make up for lost velocity due to steering drag? Good luck with that.

My conclusion: In theory, steerable bullets would be a really neat idea, but I wouldn't advice holding your breath about seeing a working version, anytime soon. It's just such a huge engineering bitch, and for what gain? How often do we engage super-fast, super-erratic targets like hummingbirds, really? I think mostly our targets are going to have movement limitations that are somewhat predictable. On the other hand, the low-hanging fruit like auto-aiming and ballistic correction sensors is already available, at least in parts, and could be developed into a coherent, low-cost prototype in a matter of months. In short, why bother inventing a pen that can write upside down or in zero G, when you could just use a pencil, instead?

Comment: Re:Silly question: (Score 1) 169

by MoralHazard (#35770236) Attached to: Star Falls Into Black Hole

but if nothing ever appears to cross the Event Horizon from an outside perspective then everything that has ever fell in would still look as though it hadn't. All the fallen objects would appear to be continuing to circle the black hole just like everything else in the universe appears to be doing. This could quite possibly, if not probably, mean we have all already passed the Event Horizon of a black hole and are on the inside looking out, rather than the outside looking in.

Believe it, man, I shit you not--this is the real physics. Check out the description on WP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Event_horizon#Interacting_with_an_event_horizon

That you perceive it as weird doesn't mean it's not true. There is some mind-blowing shit out there, and it's sometimes hard to accept the truth of it without understanding any of the math involved.

Comment: Re:Silly question: (Score 2) 169

by MoralHazard (#35764636) Attached to: Star Falls Into Black Hole

Time dilation and length contraction are NOT optical illusions. They are very, very real *physical* effects, and there are a number of unarguable, concrete experimental results showing them at work.

You're probably getting confused by the concept of gravity lensing, which is black hole-related phenomenon described by General Relativity.

Comment: Re:Silly question: (Score 4, Informative) 169

by MoralHazard (#35764610) Attached to: Star Falls Into Black Hole

NO, absolutely not. An outside observer sees time "slow down" for objects that are approaching a black hole, so that each falling object approaches the event horizon asymptotically BUT NEVER ACTUALLY REACHES IT.

If you watched somebody falling into a black hole, and you kept a telescope trained on his wristwatch, you would see the second hand sweep slower and slower as he got closer to the EH distance. No matter how long your wait, you'll never actually see anything cross the EH from the outside.

(I am not kidding, this is what actually would happen. If this seems unpossible, don't worry too much--unless you've already studied special relativity and grasped at least that much, this is pretty counter-intuitive.)

Comment: Re:Silly question: (Score 2) 169

by MoralHazard (#35764590) Attached to: Star Falls Into Black Hole

You have this all backwards WRT how time dilation affects the two frames of reference:

  1) The observer falling into the black hole experiences the trip to the event horizon *normally*. In a finite amount of time, this moving observer will cross the event horizon and reach the singularity--or, at least, his constituent subatomic particles will (tidal force). Crossing the EH is a non-event, for this guy--if the black hole is massive enough, he won't even notice the tidal forces until well after he passes the EH.)

  2) The stationary, outside observer never actually sees the moving observer cross the event horizon. Instead, the outsider sees the moving guy get slower and slower, the closer he gets to that point. (I.e., the moving guy will appear to approach the EH asymptotically.)

For example, consider a hypothetical non-rotating black hole with an EH radius of ~1,000 km. Our two observers are sitting at a distance of ~1,000 km outside of the EH (that's 2,000 km away from the singularity). Suddenly, the more suicidal of the two observers backs off, takes a running start, and hurls himself directly toward the center (singularity) of the black hole with a velocity of 1,000 km/hour.

The suicidal (now moving) observer checks his watch about an hour later and measures his distance to his ship: ~1,000 km from his ship (also 1,000 km from the singularity, in the other direction). Around this time, he's crossing the EH, and probably not noticing anything funny. In his frame of reference, plunging into the black hole, time just moves along normally. Sometime during the next hour, the tidal forces will rip him to shreds. Presuming his consciousness continues the trip along with his shreds (staying in that same moving frame of reference), he'll reach the singularity at the end of the second hour. God only knows what happens, there.

The stationary observer, on the other hand, watches his moving buddy seem to slow down as falls. At the end of the first hour, the stationary observer checks his watch and measures the distance to his buddy: somewhat LESS than 1,000 km from the ship (and MORE than 1,000 km from the singularity. At the end of the second hour, his buddy will still not have reached the 1,000 km mark--the buddy's velocity drops in direct proportion to his distance from the event horizon. With a telescope, the stationary observer would actually see the second hand on his buddy's wristwatch sweep slower and slower as gets closer and closer to the black hole.

Capiche?

Security

Criminal Charges Filed Against AT&T iPad Attacker 122

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the someone-will-be-sad dept.
Batblue writes "The US Department of Justice will file criminal charges against the alleged attackers who copied personal information from the AT&T network of approximately 120,000 iPad users, the US Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey announced Monday. Daniel Spitler will be charged in US District Court in New Jersey with one count of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization and one count of fraud. Andrew Auernheimer will be charged with the same counts at the US Western District Court of Arkansas, which is in Fayetteville. Auernheimer made headlines last June when he discovered that AT&T's website was disclosing the e-mail addresses and the unique ICC-ID numbers of multiple iPad owners. Claiming that he wanted to help AT&T improve its security, he wrote a computer script to extract the data from AT&T and then went public with the information. AT&T said that nobody from Auernheimer's hacking group contacted them about the flaw."
Bug

IRS Servers Down During Crucial Week 93

Posted by timothy
from the get-in-line-citizen dept.
crimeandpunishment writes "A planned server outage turned into an unplanned glitch for the Internal Revenue Service, and it comes at a very bad time. The IRS planned the server outage for the holiday weekend ... but today they couldn't get the system back into operation. This week is the deadline for filing 2009 tax returns for taxpayers who got extensions. So far it's not having a huge impact since the shutdown only involves the updated version of the e-filing system, and most programs used by large tax companies like H&R Block will default to the older version. There's no estimate on when the system will be back up."

Comment: Re:You're kidding, right? (Score 1) 2058

by MoralHazard (#33862106) Attached to: Firefighters Let House Burn Because Owner Didn't Pay Fee

Did you even read the article? The burning house was in a rural area that had no regular fire department. A nearby city offered to protect individual property owners, IF they paid an annual $75 fee, but this was purely on a contract basis. The rural property owners were NOT residents of that city, and they did NOT pay any taxes to that city, and they had no claim on the city's services (firefighting, garbage pickup, street maintenance) unless they had a separate contract with the city.

So tell me how lawful it is to say "Give us $75 per year, and we'll make sure your house doesn't burn down."

You have an overly simplistic and ignorant perception of what American law is, and how it applies. Your everyday notions of right, wrong, fairness, justice, equality, etc. are not enough to understand these things. The law is a complex, highly nuances, and technical subject, and you have (apparantly) never studied it.

In the US, there's no general law saying that you have the right to fire-fighting services. Most cities, and many counties, do provide blanket fire protection to properties within their limits. And in those jurisdictions, a homeowner has some legal expectation that the local fire department will extinguish his burning house.

If an individual fire fighter or department refused to fight such a fire or demanded payment, then the homeowner would probably have a claim to sue that firefighter, the department, and/or the city or county. Most likely, the firefighter(s) who refused would lose his/their job(s), too. SOME jurisdictions MIGHT also have laws making a delinquent firefighter criminally responsible for letting the house burn down. But I know there are no such laws in at least one major American city (New York).

Comment: Re:You're kidding, right? (Score 1) 2058

by MoralHazard (#33861840) Attached to: Firefighters Let House Burn Because Owner Didn't Pay Fee

The Duress in this situation is the Stress of "the house is on fire and losing value per minute". Note the 911 call from the homeowners wife offering to pay "whatever you want".

THE WORD "DURESS" DOES NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS, IN A LEGAL CONTEXT. Kind of like how a "cookie" doesn't mean "a kind of baked edible snack", when we're talking about web browsers.

You are only familiar with the colloquial, everyday definition of duress, which includes being under any kind of pressure. Look back to my original post--the LEGAL definition of "duress" is pretty different from the everyday definition.

In a legal context, "duress" only covers threats and pressures that are INHERENTLY ILLEGAL by themselves. Ordinary pressure, by itself, isn't enough to overturn a contract, because LEGALLY it doesn't meet the definition of "duress".

Here's an example that might help illustrate the difference for you:

Pretend that you own a small ISP company, and your entire sysadmin staff suddenly quits, one day. You have nobody to run your technical operations, perform maintenance, handle tech support calls, etc. Every hour that goes by, your customers are getting more frustrated at the service problems, and more and more of them are switching to a different provider. You are losing money. Metaphorically speaking, your business is burning down around you.

Now, pretend that I call you and offer my services as an emergency sysadmin. I have good references (from people you respect) and experience with your kind of situation. But because I'm so good, I charge a HELL of a lot of money. Before I'll start working for you, I demand a signed contract, with my standard hourly rate of $500/hour. (That's about 3x what you used to pay your whole sysadmin department, before they all quit.)

Obviously, you don't like the idea of paying me $500/hour on a contract that will probably run for several weeks. But you don't have a lot of other options. It's hard to find someone good on short notice, and maybe you have a reputation as being a jerk to the people who work for you.

So let's say that you consider your options, investigate the alternatives, and you come down to a simple choice: Either you agree to my contract, or your business goes under.

Would you, the business owner, be signing that contract under duress? According to the everyday definition, absolutely it's duress. But not according to the legal definition. There's nothing inherently illegal about me not solving your technical problems. In fact, on a daily basis, I don't solve 99.99999999% of the world's technical problems, and you don't see them sending me to jail for that.

So what IS duress, legally? Here are some examples:

  * I threaten to DoS you with my botnet, unless you sign a contract with me. (This would also be criminal extortion, and possibly a few other things.)

  * I point a gun at your head and tell you that either your signature or your brains will be on my contract, by the time I leave the room. (Again, there would probably also be criminal charges, here, too.)

  * I show you some pictures of you, your mistress, and a boa constrictor performing deviant sexual acts together, and offer to keep your secrets from your wife/mother/church congregation/local newspaper, in you'd kindly sign my contract. (Yep, blackmail's a crime, too.)

See the differences, here? In these last three examples, I'm making an inherently illegal threat. THAT is what defines duress, in a legal context. It's not just about whether you're under pressure, or whether you're losing money, or your house/business/whatever. If it's legal to not help you fight your house fire, than the contract that I demand you to sign before helping you fight it is perfectly legal.

Comment: Re:You're kidding, right? (Score 4, Informative) 2058

by MoralHazard (#33811698) Attached to: Firefighters Let House Burn Because Owner Didn't Pay Fee

"Duress": I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Black's Law (quoted here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duress) defines duress as: "any unlawful threat or coercion used... to induce another to act [or not act] in a manner [they] otherwise would not [or would]".

In other words, I can induce you to sign a contract with any LEGAL threat that I so please, and the contract is still binding. But if my threats are inherently illegal (such as threatening to hurt you, hurt your family, destroy your property, blackmail you), then the concept of duress applies, and you have a defense against my breach of contract claims.

This definition makes a lot of practical sense, if you think about it. If duress were a broader concept that included me refusing to provide you with services if you don't sign a contract, then I wouldn't even legally be able to tell you the point of signing the contract, in the first place. Under that kind of twisted logic, if you asked "Why should I sign this contract agreeing to pay you $20 to mow my lawn", and I responded "Because I won't mow your lawn for free", then I'd be subjecting you to duress. Clearly, that's not conducive to basic business arrangements.

In this case, the firefighters would be threatening to withold a service (fighting the fire consuming the man's house), which doesn't seem to be an illegal threat, to me. Granted, the house represents a very serious economic and emotional loss to this man and his family. I don't want to belittle that. But it's not like the firefighters set the man's house on fire, in the first place.

Now, there are some situations where a society will legally or socially obligate an individual member to act on behalf of his fellow man in a time of need. Some jurisdictions even have laws requiring you to aid another human being in distress, as long as you're not putting yourself in harm's way (like in the Seinfeld finale). So everything I said, above, assumes that this little Tennessee burg isn't one of situations.

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