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Comment Re:Food Allergies (Score 1) 193

It can be.

That particular example is from an acquaintance of mine, who always just thought that apples had a strange texture. It wasn't until her teenage years that she happened to notice that her tongue turned bright red and slightly swollen (hence the funny feeling) afterward. A test confirmed the allergy.

By the time I met her in college, she avoided apples, but never worried about accidental exposure.

Comment Re:Food Allergies (Score 2) 193

There are two more factors in play here, that cannot be ignored:

3) Better testing, reporting and ultimately awareness of allergies. That funny feeling you get on your tongue from eating an apple isn't normal. It's a very mild allergy. If eating peanuts make you a little nauseous, that's probably also a mild allergy. Of course, knowing that it's an allergy, you truthfully answer "yes" when an airline asks about the allergy, because you'd rather have a different snack, and that leads to...

4) Utter overreaction, because it's "better safe than sorry". Somebody on a plane says they have "a peanut allergy", and rather than put effort into identifying where that passenger is sitting and how severe their allergy is, the entire plane must be treated differently because the allergy might be severe.

Unfortunately, thanks to those two factors, the impact of allergic reactions is greatly increased, as well. There's still only a small handful of kids at a school who are allergic to peanuts, and maybe one is severe enough that he needs to be careful what he touches, but now every parent knows that, thanks to allergies, they have to pack something else as the quick-and-easy lunch. Every informed citizen knows that schools are increasingly restricting lunch options due to allergies, and everybody has a friend or coworker who has some weird allergy. The obvious conclusion is that allergies are becoming more predominant.

After that realization, humans do what humans do best: we rationalize. We may think humans are evolving to be weaker, due to advancing technology reducing the pressure to have a strong immune system. We may blame modern medicine, finding tenuous links between medicines/vaccines and allergies. We may criticize overbearing parents for minimizing their child's exposure, beyond what links have been shown. We may simply gloat over our allergy-free life.

There are several factors and mechanisms at work, but the bottom line is that perceptual changes are outpacing biological ones. That's often a recipe for knee-jerk politics.

Comment Re:Might want to reconsider paying the fine... (Score 1) 508

The line is the same as it usually is with other areas of the legal system: mens rea

The first two examples are pretty straightforward. It's very unlikely that Google or Bing directly intend to spy on you. The police might be out for a joy ride, wildly abusing their authority and equipment, but that's very unlikely (outside the mind of anti-government Slashdotters). The 400-foot and 100-foot drone flights lose the expense and oversight a helicopter flight would need, so it's much more likely they would be intending any wrongdoing, but a court would have to be presented evidence and make a judgement call, as is one of the courts' primary functions.

That need for impartial judgement extends down to the window case, as well. The drone may be malfunctioning, and your window is rudely getting in the way of its flight to (NaN, -NaN). No criminal intent there (except for the operation of a drone without proper control, anyway). If we forget the FCC rules against commercial use, perhaps the drone is from the window installer checking the quality of his work. Maybe the drone is police equipment, using the plain view doctrine to look for criminal activity (though that could probably be contested before a judge).

What hasn't happened with drones is the exhaustive case history clarifying what each jurisdiction holds as the standard of proof. Util that history is established by more cases like this, the line will always be in question.

Comment Re:Meta data? (Score 1) 292

I'm rather disappointed to see that this comment is so far down the list, but it's exactly right, as far as I understand.

The law itself isn't being claimed, but the notes and analysis are. It's the same analysis one could get by going to a library and poring over case history for a few years, but presented in a concise and topical format. You don't really need that information to know the law. You might need that information to defend yourself optimally in a court case, in which case the normal and reasonable expectation is that you'll hire a lawyer (even a public defender) or go to a library and figure it out yourself.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 272

We should try this. For Science!

No offense or hard to you or your head intended... just curiosity regarding the terminal velocity and freefall aerodynamics of a quadcopter, especially when the object below it is rather delicate (like, say, a pool of ballistics gel).

Has such a situation been tested, since the introduction of tiny and lightweight devices?

Comment Re:Good (Score 4, Insightful) 272

I've often heard this repeated, but is it actually true?

As much as anything in law, yes. That is to say that it is the general case, but you still get the chance to argue about it in front of a judge* if following the general rule has somehow bothered someone enough to make a harmony-threatening societal problem. Let's break down your example by each fact.

Suppose I'm in a public space...

Then you have no general expectation of privacy, but let's go on.

If someone walks up we stop talking.

Ah, but now you've provided an indication that you want privacy. Now we have a conflict of general rules.

Does this mean that someone ... with a parabolic mic can eavesdrop on my conversations...

Sure, because you're in a public place.

...(from the government) ... without a warrant?

No, because you've shown that you do not consent to their search... ...maybe.

It really depends on local precedent and established case law. Pretty much, if this ever comes up in a court, it would be a good opportunity to argue at length in front of the judge. On the one hand, you were in public, and you should be aware that any kid with a $50 toy microphone or $5 radio bug could listen to your conversation. On the other hand, the government is held to stricter rules (namely the Fourth Amendment) than a kid with a large allowance. If you're stopping for everybody, then you can argue that you aren't intending to obstruct justice or hide evidence of a crime (which might be useful justifications to sway the judge). On the other hand, you didn't check the park bench for bugs before talking, so maybe you didn't really care about more organized eavesdropping.

The argument is that it's only what a policeman would hear if he walked up and listened, but in that case we would stop talking.

No, the argument is whether it is reasonable to expect that your conversation would remain private. That depends a lot on the extent to which you tried to hide your conversation, and the opinions of judges in the area. Different public places have different standards for privacy.

I have every expectation of privacy if I take steps to ensure that privacy

You can expect a pony, too, but the justice system doesn't need to recognize that expectation. Rather, the key word often omitted (including in my earlier post) is that you may have a reasonable expectation of privacy... and again, that depends heavily on the local definition of "reasonable".

Does this mean that the police can video-tape the sidewalk from the window of any office building without a warrant?

In many cases, yes, and they do.

I also note that there's no expectation of privacy *in your home* if you don't have the drapes closed. The implication is that we don't have an expectation of privacy *anywhere*, except in our homes and only if we're concealed.

That is correct. If you don't care enough about your privacy to close the drapes, then why should the court care enough to punish someone who looked in? Now, if your house was very far from the nearest public area, such that it would be unreasonable to worry about someone seeing clearly through that window, then there's room to argue that, as well.

Does that sound like a free country?

Yes. It sounds like a country where I am free to walk in a park without worrying about violating someone's privacy because I have good hearing, and where I am free to bring birdwatching equipment out to where birds are. I am free to look at my neighborhood houses, and I am free to leave my drapes in whatever state I wish. The price of that freedom is only that I must recognize others' freedoms as well, including their freedom to communicate privately.

In any event, we shouldn't be mindlessly repeating that meme as if it's the "law of the land".

It is usually the law of the land, though. Other laws (like the Fourth Amendment) may supersede it, but yet again that's an issue for the courts.

Instead, we should be mindlessly repeating things things that sway public perception in a better direction.

A very good idea. I tend to like "You do not have a moral or legal right to do absolutely anything you want."

It's fairly short, and sums up the entirety of the legal system and most moralities as well. In this context, having an absolutely private conversation in a public place counts as "absolutely anything", and you don't have a right to that. Always being able to eavesdrop on someone else's conversation also counts, and I don't have a right to that, either. With a bit less extremism, however, we can all get along.

* This whole post assumes a judicial process similar to what the United States has, and specific examples are also based on an American perspective.

Comment Tragic, but not catastrophic (Score 5, Interesting) 79

I once joined a project where one of the core developers had mysteriously disappeared. He had been one of the early designers, and was the only person who actually knew how his areas worked.

It took a small team about a year to fully understand all of his work, but the project survived. To this day, four years after his disappearance (three after his body was pulled from a river), we still find some code with his name on it, and it's a tradition to assign it to the newest team member to read, understand and deliver a report on how it works. It's a rough process, but we got through it eventually.

His legacy on the project is as an object lesson in the necessity of good commenting, and a reminder to management that they must be wary of one-man teams.

Comment Re:Don't be fooled... (Score 2) 339

This is precisely the problem with this sort of thinking.

A vast informational resource will reduce the frequency of things like lying on resumes. You can't just say "I did this" without others to corroborate your claim. However, that can easily lead to a tendency to simply assume the facts are out there. In turn, when someone does want to get away with lying, they can do so by making sure that their claims are either audacious enough that the victim assumes a lie would be impossible, or by fabricating enough support that their claim pass basic scrutiny.

The little lies can be more easily caught, but the biggest lies can be given legitimacy.

Comment Re:What happened to basic training standards? (Score 1) 86

I haven't served, but I have a decent amount of experience with the military.

I've met and worked with soldiers in all of the US military branches. They're really good at what they do, but they're not perfect, and they know it. As you so bluntly pointed out, there is exceptional discipline, but you can only beat people so hard before they just stop improving. Humans have limits, and despite what your commanders convinced you to believe, technology is the best way to surpass them, not more pushups.

The soldiers today are given just as much training, and they're just as good on their own as you were. Now, though, they also have better technology and better training equipment, so they're more effective than you could have been. If they need to move further, faster, they'll have a robot to carry gear so they can go the extra distance. If they need to shoot straighter, they'll have the rifle and stabilizing exoskeleton to hit their targets. If they need to watch a building for hours, they'll have a drone do it without putting a soldier in a vulnerable position.

It doesn't matter whether you trust your "good shooting mechanics" or your equipment. You are there to complete a mission, for which you are to use every means at your disposal. That desire you have to be "good with your firearm" should have been a desire to complete your mission properly. Giving up any advantage for fear of being "soft" is not honor or duty. It is stupidity.

Comment Re:If you're using GPL code, you have no choice (Score 1) 171

That is correct, and normal.

You do not have an inherent right of ownership over his code. His code is a derivative work of yours, and your merged codebase would be a derivative work of his.

By modifying your code, he has created a new work, which is permitted under the terms of the earlier-version GPL. He then releases his new complete work (which includes your parts). That's also permitted under the earlier-version GPL, as long as he releases the source code. When someone wants to use the new work, they're required to have a license to it. He offers the user a later version of the GPL for his new work. Your parts are now covered by the earlier version if the user gets them from you directly, or the later version if acquired from the modifier.

In your case of merging back changes, his changes are part of his new work, which is covered in its entirety by the later license, regardless of the fact that your code is included. It's no different from merging in a bit of MIT-licensed code or even a proprietary routine: you have to comply with the terms of the license. For a later-version GPL, that means your new combined derivative work would have to be compatible with the later-version GPL.

In short, the core idea is that your codebase is a new work every time you change and republish it. To "accept changes back into my codebase" is actually creating a new derivative work, and it must be properly licensed as any other derivative work must be, regardless of your involvement in the work's ancestry.

You cannot have a science without measurement. -- R. W. Hamming