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Comment Re:Great! (Score 4, Insightful) 182

Just don't subscribe to anything -- every page requires you to grant it permission.

No, it requires more than that. According to Mozilla themselves, "Firefox maintains an active connection to a push service in order to receive push messages as long as it is open." Supposedly the connection is encrypted and anonymized, but you'll have to take their word on it and anyway, it's another potentially-vulnerable service running in the background. So it's not just a matter of "don't subscribe and you'll be safe"; there needs to be a way to disable this service entirely.

Oh wait... there is.

Comment Add noise with TrackMeNot (Score 5, Informative) 192

TrackMeNot is a browser-extension for Firefox and Chrome that sends semi-random search requests to several search engines with the goal of disrupting this sort of tracking. Well, it's more aimed at preventing commercial entities from creating an accurate picture of your web-browsing habits, but it probably adds some noise to the intelligence gathering too. By default it pulls random keywords from newspaper headlines, but you can configure it to use (or avoid) certain keywords, as well as tweak the frequency of the requests. It runs automatically in the background whenever your browser is open.

TrackMeNot isn't really useful in hiding your behavior; it just throws in spurious data that makes legitimate data look less accurate. It's really aimed more at devaluing marketing databases with the (admittedly vain) hope that they'll give up on the whole thing ;-)

Note: it does use extra CPU cycles and bandwidth, so if you are constrained in either this tool may not be for you. Also, tweak the timing of those search requests carefully or the search engines might blacklist you as a bot. Having said that, I've been using this plug-in for several years now and it's rarely caused me any problems.

Comment Not coming to a sky near -me- (Score 2) 26

I live in the middle of the Sprawl; if I'm lucky, on a very clear night, I see 9 stars (I counted). If I drive 20 miles, I'll at least see more stars than I have fingers but I'd probably need twice that for a even a /chance/ to see the comet. And for "astronomy class", ohmigosh-the-universe-is-huge-I-need-to-go-home-and-reconsider-my-place-in-the-universe type of sky-gazing, we're talking at least a 200 mile drive to get clear of the light and pollution of the cities. And I /know/ that whatever day I set aside to make that drive, it's going to be cloudy that night.

It's a shame too. I personally think that the reason our society is becoming insular and risk-averse is that - with so many of us cloistered in cities - we no longer have the awe-inspiring panorama of the night-sky coming out every night to challenge us. Surrounded by our warrens, the universe looks conquered already, so why bother spending trillions just to poke the "rare" unexplored bit? Sometimes I half-believe our society would react like in Asimov's "Nightfall" were we all suddenly to be confronted with an unblemished night sky again.

Comment Re:Well, I did learn something (Score 4, Informative) 88

Ummm... I hate to break it to you, but the verb form of "gift", as in "bestow a gift", dates back to the 16th century. It's not a modern or American usage; it is a long-recognized usage of the word.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Comment Re:Disease (Score 5, Insightful) 735

Trump is still around because there is a large base of people who buy into the stuff he says.

Even more, he is still around because he sells papers (well, TV advertising). Even people who don't support him can't help but turn on the TV to see what wacky idea he has come up with today. The media knows this, so they throw him in our faces every chance they get. If he wasn't such an entertaining spectacle, the media would have dropped him months ago and he would have been stumping in half-filled halls to a dwindling number of supporters while the news focused on the other candidates (probably trying to dig up dirt on marital infidelities or contrast a candidates current policies with a statement he made in high-school).

Of course, Trump is well aware of this too, so he keeps saying ever more outrageous things just so he can keep making headlines. Not only does this feed his huge ego, it increases his visibility and makes him seem a viable candidate. Many people refuse to vote for somebody unless they think there's a chance that person can win, and with Trump in the news all the time, it makes him seem more popular than he really is (of course, eventually this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy).

Trump is one of the greatest political trolls ever, and his success is largely because the news is so addicted to advertising dollars they can't help but feed the troll.

What really terrifies me is that next election, other politicians are going to take note of Trump's success and are going to follow in his footsteps until eventually we'll end up with somebody like President Dwayne Elizondo 'Mountain Dew' Herbert Camacho.

Comment Re:Apple Music (Score 1) 462

Except voice controls don't always work.

It might not recognize your voice correctly (in my case, Siri only understands about 20% of my questions). Apple's voice recognition requires Internet access for many of its functions (limiting functionality for people with no or small data-plans, or using Wi-Fi devices where there is no open accesspoint). Some songs have difficult to pronounce names. Sometimes it may not be appropriate to talk (for instance, in a library). Or perhaps I just don't know the name (but I would recognize it if I saw it in a list).

Worst is that - even if the voice control does work - Siri is awful about actually FINDING the song. Too often I've asked iOS to find a song - giving it the exact name - and it tells me there's no such song on my device (although it helpfully suggests that I can buy it on iTunes) which means I have to manually find it in my playlist. Older versions of the app had no such issue.

Adding voice-recognition is a nice feature, but it's no replacement for a well-designed graphic interface, all the more so when the voice-recognition has such serious limitations.

Comment Re:Speaking of a different RPG (Score 1) 321

Your Shadowrun campaign sounds a lot like my D&D campaign. I think it has more to do with the DM and the players than the system.

Then again, we tend to avoid superhero-style characters so swording first, asking questions later in a dungeon is as likely to get you killed as storming the headquarters of a megacorp. Unfortunately, later editions of D&D make PCs so overpowered even at lower levels that it's hard for DMs to prevent PCs from becoming death incarnate. It's one of the reasons my group sticks to the older rules...

Comment Re:It's a business opportunity! (Score 1) 320

You're moving the goalposts.

Your initial argument was that other products (automobiles, in this case) don't need to be "patched". I gave evidence that they do. Now you've changed the argument that they do not need to be patched as often or as soon.

I could probably find recalls for brand new cars if I really cared to. And doubtlessly a lot of minor issues - largely cosmetic - don't warrant a recall, leaving the customer to deal with it on their own (I remember a car where the pleather started peeling off the seats because of shitty glue; no recall for that one). These would still count as defects, except they never get patched. Does this make the products somehow superior to software? In this, software has it easier since a quick patch for cosmetic issues costs no more to distribute than one for a kernel-level security hole.

We accept a lot of products with defects. Software is no different. Software's faults are perhaps more visible BECAUSE they can be - and sometimes are - fixed.

This isn't to excuse shoddy software but let's be honest about it: we get what we pay for, and generally we as a society don't care to pay enough for quality, be it a secure OS or a car that doesn't burst into flames if you tap it gently on the rear bumper ;-)

Comment Re:It's a business opportunity! (Score 1) 320

I do not have to "update" my car (made in 1982), tape deck or radio, unless some component wears out or just fails. Why does software come so unfinished and so full of defects?

Actually, you probably did did...

Ford E350
Product Recalls for Chevrolet S10 in 1982
Product Recalls for Ford Granada in 1982

(there were probably more, but those were three I found in just a quick Google search)

Oh sure, they're called "recalls" instead of updates but they are essentially the same thing: you get your product "patched" to fix a manufacturing flaw. Your tape-deck and radio probably had similar issues, except - unless they are life threatening - manufacturers aren't required to recall (replace or fix for free) the item; you just go out and buy a new one.

We've been accepting shoddy products into our lives for decades (centuries!). Price has beaten out quality, whether it is computer software, kitchen appliances or automobiles, and rarely do we hold the manufacturer responsible. Caveat emptor indeed!

Comment Re:Locked out of tenders (Score 2) 120

A tender is an offer to provide a requested service for a government. Governments put out a request for a service (say, "we need somebody to help us ensure our computer systems are secure") and companies and individuals can tender an offer saying, "these are my qualifications, this is my price range". Government will then select one of those tenders to get the job.

Presumably, people who speak out against governmental practices are having their offers tossed.

At least, that's how I read it.

Comment Never trust a survey (Score 4, Insightful) 223

Never trust a survey where they do not disclose the exact questions being asked of the participants, whether it supports your belief or discredits it. What is asked is often as important as who is being asked (the demographics of the questioner is important too). All of these factors can and have been manipulated by the survey-takers in order to reach a desired conclusion (and sometimes it is not even being done purposefully).

In this case, it sounds like the questions of the survey (there is no full list but a few hints scattered throughout the PDF) were intentionally difficult for people to understand unless they had a grounding in the topic - computers, encryption, networking and security - being discussed. People tend to turn off their brain when confronted with this level of complexity and assume that the authorities who do understand this sort of thing have our best interests at heart (it seems built into the human psyche). Likely had the questions been more grounded - e.g., "do you think the government should be able to read any and all of your private mails, be it electronic or paper?" the results would have been different.

Comment Changing sleep patterns (Score 1) 315

The article talks about the customary "8 hours of sleep at night" not being required based on paleolithic evidence, and I'll accept the results of their study on face value. However, that does not necessarily mean that we don't need 6-9 hours (varies by person) of sleep per day. Our current sleeping patterns are very much based upon the demands of the modern industrial world where you wake up, go to work, put in your 8-10 hours of labor, go home, and go to bed. Prior to that, sleeping patterns were much more flexible; medieval sleep, for instance, was broken up into two parts with people waking up ~2am and doing minor chores, meals and familial interactions before tucking in again until dawn. Cultures from equatorial regions were infamous for their mid-afternoon "siesta" periods when little work would get done and many would rest or even nap out the hottest parts of the day. Edison was reputed to sleep 8 hours a day, albeit broken up into numerous half-hour catnaps (his employees were expected to remain awake throughout their shift, of course). Great apes are known to be partially active through the night, but they also rest and nap throughout the day.

I'm sure people can get by quite well on 5 hours of sleep at night... if you change the rest of your life to make up for the lack. But if you are otherwise maintaining an modern, industrial lifestyle then you are going to have a hard time at it.

(Besides, what's wrong with 8 hours sleep at night? Is it because we are allowing our employers to push us so hard that our paid-for 8-hours labor is stretching out to 10 or 12 hours per day that we need to make up the deficit by cutting it out of our sleep period? Maybe instead of risking our health with a "paleo sleep schedule" we ought to be pushing back at over-zealous bosses who seem to have a problem letting go the leash at 5PM)

Comment Re:Turn key back on? (Score 3, Interesting) 350

Mind you, there's a significant difference between hitting a satellite orbiting at slightly more than 300 miles up, and hitting one that's 11,000 miles up.

A lot of the low-earth orbit satellites - which includes some reconnaissance satellites - are vulnerable to common fighter-launched ASATs, but hitting something in geosynchronous orbit is a bit more difficult. It would take large ground-based rockets to reach that altitude, and you would have to launch at least six to disrupt the GPS system over a particular area (and even then, the results would be only temporary as the network can compensate for some losses). Even ICBMs aren't powerful enough to reach them; you would need liquid-fueled rockets that need to be fueled up prior to launch (you don't just keep that stuff sitting around in the rocket's gas tank indefinitely) prior to launch, so your preparations would be very visible and very vulnerable. GPS satellites are also traveling at more than 10,000mph, which makes them a tricky target to hit, so you'll likely need to launch more than one rocket per satellite to ensure a successful interception.

It's not impossible but it is difficult and probably more costly in resources than it is worth.

Comment Re:Lol (Score 2) 85

While it isn't quite at the "800GB of random web page requests", there is a Firefox Add-On that can help with that sort of thing: TrackMeNot. At a user-configurable interval, it sends out semi-random search queries to a number of number of search engines (it pulls the search terms from a variety of RSS feeds of trending topics). It's aimed more at "poisoning the well" of search-engines databases than intelligence-agencies, but it helps ;-)

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