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Comment Re:Asinine (Score 1) 126

Especially when they show so little regard for us.

it's well beyond the point where we should care about them.

That's entirely beside the point.

If the FBI, NSA, DHS, or any other government agency broke the law, that's a problem. It shouldn't be forgiven or forgotten. It should be the subject of debate, lawsuits, impeachment, and ultimately an election ending the career of those responsible. Those are all things that the law allows.

There's an awful lot of anger over the fact that law enforcement has taken the attitude of we'll do whatever we can get away with. So, are they entitled to expect anything different?

The law does not allow you (or any other hacktivist) to go break into the FBI just because you're angry. That's not a good reason, and it's what makes those hackers criminals. They crossed a legal line, and it really doesn't matter that you can understand why they did it. They still broke the law, and now they're putting people in harm's way unnecessarily.

Let's reframe the argument... People in prison are murderers, rapists, thieves, and drug dealers. They're well past the point where we should care about them, so it's fine when facilities aren't maintained and inmates are abused, right? Since they showed so little regard for their victims' well-being, are they entitled to expect anything different? The reasons these people want to be treated humanely are their own problem.

You're advocating a brutal world of vigilantism and rule of force, rather than rule of law. I don't think anybody has claimed that the government agencies are perfectly innocent, but today they are the victims, and should be regarded as such in this context.

Comment Re:So Let Me Get This Straight (Score 4, Insightful) 246

The same as it's always been... full integration with the entire line of business-oriented Microsoft products (including Exchange) and support for the vital third-party software that requires Windows.

For many years, Microsoft's business model has been to promote a Microsoft-centric universe. If you use Office, you'll get the best service with an Exchange server, which must run on Windows Server, and really needs Active Directory, which supports your Windows workstations, which integrate with Office. It's not just that Windows is a GUI-based OS. Microsoft products are a part of a whole tangled mess of dependencies, and for years we've been stuck dealing with the downside of that glorious integration.

Every IT admin has a story about the vital business process that involved a human robot. Every day a human logs in, and runs an Excel macro to generate a spreadsheet, that he saves as a CSV file and loads into a third-party program, which generates a RTF document, that needs to be renamed to .txt and moved to a different folder for another program to find and render into a PDF, which the human has to open and read the third line on the fifth page to determine which managers need the report emailed to them. This is a GUI-based process, because the software runs on a GUI-based OS. It can't be automated, because the software doesn't support it. For decades, automation has been a "nice to have" feature, because it never fit into the Microsoft business model, so there was never a good framework to support it built into Windows.

Sure, we had some old tricks... Batch files, DDE, COM, OLE, WSH, VBA... but they never really enjoyed full support from Microsoft. They were supported features, but not supported enough that third-party vendors would feel pressure to support any automation.

Now, with PowerShell and the Core offering of Windows Server, there's the notion that everything should be able to be automated. Sure, we've had that idea from the very first days of Unix, and *nix has embraced the concept to maturity, but *nix still doesn't run every piece of business-critical third-party software. For those of us who are already firmly entrenched in that Microsoft-centric world, this is a much-needed good omen.

Comment Re:Sad in a philosophical sense (Score 4, Insightful) 113

The utility of humans in space is the long list of minor things that didn't make it onto your list of headlines. Crystallography, metallurgy, chemistry, biology, physiology, and materials science, to name a few, are all fields that have benefited from research on the ISS.

For having so many small experiments and projects to maintain, a human presence is really not that much more effort compared to building robotic versions of each experiment. The human is also far more adaptable, able to repair and rebuild systems as needed.

Comment Re:The making of a Terrorist (Score 1) 40

Canada, or any other country that thinks email addresses aren't bait worth biting.

At that time, from that country's perspective, Eccleston may have been a US agent trying to get that country to engage in easily-traced espionage. If they made a deal and were provided a list of email addresses, they might also get a number of fake accounts that serve as honeypots. Any attack on those fake accounts is a clear connection to the country in question, and they can't effectively deny it.

When that accusation is presented as a particularly inopportune time, such as elections, political unrest, or during diplomatic negotiations, it may cost that country far more than the $19,000 Eccleston was seeking.

Comment Re:Expect a lot of people to be approached (Score 1) 40

So in other words, it's exactly the same as what happens when a foreign intelligence agency wants to get information from an American.

Changing jobs might mean you're unhappy with your previous employer, and want to embarrass them. A stranger, press, authors, peace activist, historians, random charming foreigner, fake diplomat with heavy accent or just a "new" "friend" in the area might just be able to convince you that your government is the embodiment of Absolute Evil.

Holidays or travel really make for great opportunities to meet new people and pass on information with less chance of being watched by American agents.

When in another nation, that good-looking lady at the bar might be easily impressed by your high rank in the American government, and the power you hold. A few different teams will have that on record, and use it to convince you that you're so far down the hole already, the only way out is to keep giving them more information.

The main thrust of such efforts is to get your information, and ensure that you've cooperated willingly enough to not report it. Claiming to be merely "academics, authors or press looking for comment, background or context," and raising such noble banners as "freedom of the press and freedom of association," the foreign agents can convince you that the American people are gravely threatened by every action of their government, and that you, the grand gatekeeper of the next revolution, hold the keys to the freedom.

All you have to do is give a little bit of information...

Comment Re:The making of a Terrorist (Score 1) 40

As has been discussed every other time it comes up, yes, the FBI can do exactly that.

Law enforcement officers can lie to you, bribe you, and they can even break certain laws (with appropriate approvals) to get you do do something illegal. There is a single defense against this kind of tactic, and it doesn't require a lawyer or court fees: just don't do it.

That's it. If someone asks you to do something illegal, decline. If they offer to assist, or even provide support, decline anyway. The FBI or police cannot arrest you for following the law. They can arrest you for breaking the law, or even for thinking you're breaking the law and going ahead with it.

In this case, the accused showed he might be interested in breaking the law. The FBI then gave him the materials and incentive to do so, but he'd still be walking free if he had followed the law and reported the apparent criminal activity to the FBI or other law enforcement. Of course, he instead followed through with the plan, completing his actions that would have "damaged protected government computers".

Comment Re:Open to Questions (Score 1) 1309

Where's the suggestion box?

I have a few items:

  • Have a feedback option that doesn't involve email. Have somebody actually read what's submitted.
  • Fix the justoposition between "brevity is the soul of wit" and accepting Bennett Haselton's long-form rants. Either pick one approach, or devise a way to keep the concepts separate, like having a separate topic for essays.
  • Resist the temptation to add to a story. The story is not the place to discuss where the editor was when he heard about the Challenger desaster or what specs are appropriate for a $50 computer. Those belong in the discussion. Perhaps give editors the ability to reserve the frosty piss, but keep stories objective.
  • Keep the stories objective. If you're running a piece about one company, discuss the company's industry. If the story is about one product, discuss that product's contributions to the state of the art. If the story is about a person, describe the person's actions, but do not judge them.
  • Understand what you have. This is Slashdot. We want Natalie Portman naked and petrified, covered in hot grits. We don't want attachments to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Reddit, unless we've specifically opted in to those. We want things that are well-designed, not things from a designer. Announce your changes with a poll (perhaps restricted to positive-karma users?) and see if they're accepted by the community.
  • Stay involved. You're posting pretty often now, but what about next month? What about next year? You might browse stories now and then, but will a post calling your name be noticed? Are you Kibo?
  • Perennially, fix HTML and Unicode in posts. Lists that look like quotes and Unicode that looks like a simian's attempt at Shakespeare have been long-standing problems, and fixing them would go a long way toward establishing some trust with the users. Good luck with learning Perl for that.

In short, take care of us, and we're happy to have you here. Our corporate overlords are dead. I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlords.

Comment Re:Ahh, but you don't own the tractor (Score 3, Insightful) 279

[citation needed]

It's a nice idea, but the law doesn't agree with your simple assumption. Rather, according to existing law, the tractor hardware and the licenses to use the software have been sold, but not the rights to copy, modify, or disassemble the software. The tractor store probably didn't own those in the first place, so how could they sell them?

Comment Re:The only thing to fear... addendum... (Score 3, Insightful) 112

That's silly. When I use a gun, I point it, pull the trigger, and boom, a paper target gets a hole in it. Why would I want something to die? That wouldn't be very nice.

Claiming that "the power of life or death" is a fetish is ridiculous. Every driver on the road has that power. Every plumber, electrician, and Boy Scout has that power. Every airplane pilot has a lot of that power. The simple truth is that humans are fragile creatures, and the simple safety measures we follow daily can easily be bypassed if one has the motivation to do so. The realization of how close one comes to death every day is terrifying.

That's what scares people, not a magic boom-stick.

What distinguishes firearms, though, is that they are themselves an easy target. Politicians, pundits, and concerned citizens can reassign their fear, allowing themselves to think of cars as "safe", because the really scary thing is a tube that makes loud noises. By concentrating all of the fear into one scapegoat, the rest of society seems perfectly livable.

Comment Re:System working as planned. (Score 3, Interesting) 232

Morally, justifying something by putting the good of mankind over an individual leads to all kinds of truly ugly nastiness.

Bullshit. As a society, we routinely engage in self-sacrificing activities for "the good of mankind". We donate our time to charities. We donate money. We even donate our very blood, which can have some serious (though rare) consequences.

It's a matter of risk perception. Donating time or money are perceived as being no risk, even though charities are very often the target of homocides and other violent attacks, and monetary donations have an obvious economic detriment for the donor. Blood drives make a big show of their safety procedures, and continuously promote the benefits that are enabled by such donations. There are no advertising campaigns for clinical trials, though.

Stories like this play on fear, promoting the idea that pharmaceutical companies are careless and cavalier about running harmful clinical trials, when the reality is that of the tens of thousands of drug trials run every year, this one is notable specifically because it had a bad outcome.

And medical testing in particular preys on those who are desperate, or financially in need already. They may not have a gun to your head, but in most cases its not like they'd be taking the drugs if they had better choices.

Also bullshit. Medical testing "preys" on mostly-healthy individuals who meet a particular set of criteria and, most importantly, can be found. That last part is often the most difficult. VERY few people go to their doctors and ask what they can do to help others, except for folks who are looking for unconventional ways to make money. Pharmaceutical researchers usually go to hospital networks and run queries against the hospital databases. Those databases are huge, and not tuned for such queries, so the queries take several months. Ultimately, there are very few qualified candidates returned, and they can be approached and asked to participate.

Unfortunately, most patients, unless they actually need a treatment, will not join a trial. They're under the impression that trials are unnecessarily risky, and usually won't try to understand the risk analysis before rejecting it. Out of a few hundred candidate subjects in the US, only a few dozen will actually participate. Those who are "desperate, or financially in need" are the ones who have enough incentive to overcome the prejudice and consider the actual risks.

Comment Re:It's not just open source projects (Score 2) 140

Is this the new troll line now? No more "you fail it" or "moo"? I've seen comments about "corporations are people" on a few recent articles, and it never quite seems to fit...

On another note, yes, this is part of why the notion of corporate personhood exists. Corporations are able to enter into contracts as legal entities separate from the individual people involved, so the individual's circumstances do not affect the contract's legality. That also means corporations need a measure of free expression, so they can choose to do business with whom they want. They also then must have an ability to contribute financially to politics, because to curb that would interfere with the aforementioned free expression.

The problem is that not all jurisdictions allow corporate personhood, and it is still legal to discriminate against corporate entities. If a registrar does not want to enter into a business agreement with a corporation simply because they're not a human person, the registrar has the right (per free expression as noted above) to reject the business. Per the registrar's contract with ICANN, they may actually be required to deal only with individuals.

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