Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Linky? (Score 1) 53

Look, we warned you when you arrived...

Slashdotters are a bunch of cranky old farts who can't handle anything moving around on them, even if it looks exactly the same and only moved 15 pixels to the left. I expect there's at least one of us who reads the site on a VT100.

Now that I said that, I realize I have a brand-new VT220 in a box in my closet, and I have a Raspberry Pi that needs a new job... Slashdotters are a bunch of mad engineers...

Comment Re:1976 Copyright Act (Score 1) 173

Changing something that hasn't happened yet isn't prohibited.

If a work entered public domain, and someone published it as such, then a copyright extension put it back under protection, the public-domain publisher could not be sued for infringement during the time that the work was in the public domain. If they keep publishing it once it was protected again, that'd be a separate offense.

Comment Re:Promotion of the useful arts (Score 3, Interesting) 173

Chemistry, software engineering, and whatever led to these things.

Pretty much, every field has the ability to create multimillionaire success stories, given the right combination of luck, inspiration, and hard work. Of course, it's more difficult to copy the chemistry of dynamite than it is to copy a written work, which is why we still know of Alfred Nobel's work, but very few know about Arthur Brooke, whose most famous work (if it was even his) predates the first copyright law.

Comment Re:Asinine (Score 1) 128

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) 1310

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?

Slashdot Top Deals

One small step for man, one giant stumble for mankind.