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Comment: Re: Typical Misdirection From White House (Score 1) 255

by Stolpskott (#49497611) Attached to: Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C.

My bad... I was thinking of the South Lawn... it's been a while since I was in D.C.
Still, this is like 1.5-2 miles from the White House, so for a typical gyrocopter this is less than 2 minutes' flying time from WH, and well within the P-56 Prohibited Flight zone covering Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

Comment: Re: Typical Misdirection From White House (Score 2) 255

by Stolpskott (#49496493) Attached to: Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C.

One hour warning is ridiculously short. Also - there was no way for the White House to know he was just delivering letters and not a bomb.

If White House security get credible intelligence warning of an impending attack on the White House 1 hour before it happens, and they do nothing to prevent the attack, then the security staff there are ragingly incompetent. There are entire sections of the Secret Service dedicated to the protection of the President, his (maybe "her" in future) family and the White House itself, so 60 minutes' warning is at least 55 minutes more than they would need to actually do something.
Hey, I know... let's ask the Russians and the Chinese to make their nukes slower, so that we can have more than 1 hour's warning of an attack, because 1 hour is just too little time and it's not fair. We need AT LEAST 2 hours to call the decision-makers out of their budget review meetings when important shit happens.

Comment: Re:Affirmative Action is not the same as sexism (Score 1) 497

Affirmative action for women is not the same as sexism; it is a corrective for sexism.

That is like saying that it is impossible to be racist if you are black.
Looking at a typical dictionary definition of sexism - "prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.", Affirmative Action (a.k.a. Positive Discrimination) is still as sexist/racist as any other kind of discrimination, because it is putting people into a position because of their gender/colour/membership of a minority.

For me, the tragedy of Affirmative Action is that many of the appointments of women or minorities made under that banner are of people whose skillset, abilities and experience justify the appointment in their own right. But because of Affirmative Action, those people are often dismissed or devalued in the eyes of their peers because "they only got that position because of Affirmative Action".

Comment: Re:How about mandatory felony sentences instead? (Score 1) 420

by Stolpskott (#48692649) Attached to: Drunk Drivers in California May Get Mandated Interlock Devices

Based on my experience in the UK, where there is a very heavy advertising and awareness campaign every year in the lead-up to Christmas, and where drunk-driving is far less socially acceptable than in the 'States, making DUI a felony will have an beneficial effect on the DUI rates, in a couple of ways - those who, when sober, know that they are going out for a few drinks and while drunk might be liable to drive home or offer friends a lift home, will possibly leave their keys at home; secondly, offenders who are caught and get jail time plus a driving ban (and probably losing their job as a result as well) will probably not make the same mistake again once they get their licence back.
Having said that, there is always a hard core of DUI drivers who will continue to drive no matter the punishment (although on-the-spot execution by Police would make them one-time offenders).
Most of the "enforcement" though, comes from the community and the driver's circle of friends - someone saying to that person "you have had a few, driving will not be cool for you if you get caught or for the mother and 2 kids that you kill in an avoidable accident while DUI, so we will all take a taxi home". Also, schemes like "Designated Driver", where when your group walks into a bar one person is nominated as the driver, and he gets free soft drinks all night, have been effective in the UK.

Fundamentally, very VERY few people have the necessary self-knowledge to be able to see how much their driving skill, decision-making and reaction times are affected by alcohol. Lots of people think they are fine to drive, and many DUI journeys pass without incident, but just because the driver made it home without killing someone does not mean they are ok to drive. As long as their decision-making skills are impaired, their ability when drunk to rationalize the decision whether to drive or walk/take a taxi will also be impaired, and with most people the reaction of the community around them will be the thing that stops them, rather than the prospect of jail time for being caught.

Comment: "Thought is the arrow of time" (Score 1) 312

by Stolpskott (#48545729) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Electronics-Induced Inattentiveness?

"Thought is the arrow of time" seems to me like an appropriate quote for this, although a discussion of WHY I feel it is appropriate would turn this into a wall of text that would challenge the attention span of anyone! Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" opus was so sprawling and rambling, with so many different threads and details, that it was (a) hard to keep all the threads of the story in mind between books, and (b) outlived Jordan himself - he died before finishing it.
To a degree, I think that OP's memory is a bit rose-tinted, and he is forgetting all of those "bah, I cannot concentrate" occasions from last year. At the same time, the mental discipline to focus on a particular thing and tune out distractions is a learned skill that is easily disrupted through lack of sleep, too much caffeine (usually drunk/eaten because of the lack of sleep), hormones, and of course, the bright, shiny, buzzy phone or web browser.
As a 40-something IT guy, I have noticed the same problems in others and myself - where I used to be able to sit on a bus for 30 minutes and enjoy the scenery or people-watching, now that is a chance to catch up on the news, email or the latest lolcat pictures my daughter has posted. Actually trying to sit there and do nothing is pretty hard.
So yes, technology is giving us the chance to turn ourselves into people with the attention span of a lobotomized goldfish, but we can train our brains to deal with it, and unless you are in the late stages of some degenerative neurological disorders, there are things you can do to stop the rot.

Now... what was I doing before starting this post...

Comment: Market-based way: Maximum profit, minimum cost (Score 1) 157

by Stolpskott (#48432013) Attached to: Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

A market-based approach cannot work for cyber-security any more than a Government-led approach can, when the Government feels it has a vested interest in being able to monitor its own or other countries' citizens.
The market-based approach fails because the market-based philosophy is to maximize profit while minimizing cost, so the end result is a risk analysis of:
1. The odds of being hacked.
2. The odds of that hack being detected by someone outside the company, and that being published.
3. The odds of that hack being detected by someone inside the company who cannot be kept from releasing that information to the press.
4. The financial damage associated with the occurrence of 1 and either 2 or 3.
5. The potential damage to the company's reputation from being hacked and found out - this is the most valuable resource most companies have, but in the modern world the average person in the street has the attention span of a lobotomized goldfish, and Marketing/PR firms have had a LOT of practice at managing scandals in the political and corporate world, so while the damage to a company's reputation should be massive, in reality it will be relatively minor and very short-lived.

If the odds of being hacked and found out are 10%, and the financial damage is rated at $100 million, then the typical baseline risk analysis suggests that spending on cybersecurity should be around $10 million. Bean-counters and professional buyers will then swoop in and hire a consulting company to implement something that costs $1 million with $9 million in consulting fees, which then balloons to $29 million in fees due to project over-runs... but fundamentally you still end up with a $1 million solution to a $100 million problem, and the computer users will spend a lot of effort getting around that solution so that they can see their Facebook and lolcat websites.

Comment: Re:Capitalism does not reward morality (Score 1) 197

by Stolpskott (#48425679) Attached to: Is a Moral Compass a Hindrance Or a Help For Startups?

Suppose I and my friends have all the money, all the property, and all the food, and you don't have any of it. What exactly are you free to do?

That is closer to communism than capitalism, with individual owners replacing the overall State as the owner of All Things.
However, if we assume that you are operating in a capitalist environment, then "you and your friends" would have to agree on policies about the control of, and access to, the resources you own.
If "you and your friends" happens to be you and a couple of friends, it is not too hard, because then you should be able to find sufficient common ground to reach unanimous agreement - specifically in a "yes/no" vote you at most need to persuade 1 person to change their vote in order to achieve unanimity. But how do 3 people get to own absolutely everything in the first place?
If "you and your friends" is, let's say, you and your Facebook friends, and for argument's sake let's assume you have 200 Facebook friends, then it is practically impossible for you to reach a unanimous agreement about anything unless you have a system where the majority form blocs and vote as proxies for a smaller number of individuals (in which case you simplify the model so that "you and your friends" becomes you plus those proxy representatives).

Plus, how does the "owner" of a given resource maintain ownership of said resource? A real-world example, albeit not within recent living memory, is France in the 1780's under King Louis XVI. The nobility and the clergy (less than 0.1% of the population) owned 99.9% of the land, resources and wealth. Certain elements in the 99.9% then decided that they had better ideas, and started using Madame Guillotine to separate the Nobility's heads from their necks. Co-incidentally, the quality of life for the vast majority in France improved very little if at all, and in many cases all that happened was that new despots arose from the bloody masses to fill the void left by the Nobility.

In general terms, if all of the resources are owned and controlled by a very small minority, then there will at some point be a forceful redistribution of resources led by elements of the downtrodden majority. In order to prevent that happening, the small minority need a force multiplier - namely either an army or justice system to keep the majority in line, or a way to keep the majority pacified and content. As the army is usually drawn from the majority, it would not be a wise idea to expect them to uniformly enforce order over a rebelling majority (some would, but some would join the rebellion, reducing or nullifying the effectiveness of the army for keeping order).
The end result is that the most useful tool for keeping the majority in line is to use the collective inertia of a large group and the inherent laziness of the vast majority of individuals in a large group against the majority, giving them just enough of whatever they need to keep them satisfied and passive. If you deny them access to everything and therefore threaten their individual and collective survival, you will find that the majority can come up with a surprisingly inventive list of things to do with the bloody corpses of those in power.

Comment: Re:Cool data but... (Score 1) 142

I generally use HD Tune (www.hdtune.com) which is free unless you want to buy the Pro version with a bunch of features that are irrelevant if all you want is SMART reporting.If I was going to spend actual money on a checker though, I would tend toward the LSoft Hard Disk Monitor (www.lsoft.net).

Comment: Re:Uncool (Score 1) 208

by Stolpskott (#48325347) Attached to: PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

I wonder how their IP will be sold once this is all finalized with the banks. I'm unclear of the process.

The books (the real ones) will be independently audited; profitable divisions will be sold off with some insanely clever financial jiggery-pokery making sure that they exit the current Zalman corporate structure with a minimum of debt; probably the IP will be sold off to the highest bidder separately to those successful divisions; the remainder - the unprofitable elements and as much of the debt as possible, will be wound up in a bankruptcy proceding.

In cases like this, the component parts of the company are far more valuable when broken up, so that is what will end up happening.

Comment: Re:Asperger syndrome (Score 1) 574

by Stolpskott (#48316495) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

Some of the more profoundly afflicted people on the ASD scale really have to work alone or in groups with similar diagnoses - as long as you keep their environment constant (even to plastic plants and unchanging canteen menus), they can be awesomely productive in monotonously repetitive tasks that require a higher degree of cognitive ability than a robot or AI can manage. Interfaces between those teams and the "outside world" (i.e. the rest of the company) is through 1 or 2 specifically trained "normals" who have been integrated into the team, usually over the course of several months. For those liaisons, sick time and vacations are almost impossible though. Change anything however, and those teams grind to a halt... I have seen productivity drop to zero and arguments break out simply because somebody ordered the wrong kind of biscuits for a break room, or because a blown light bulb was replaced with one that had a slightly warmer colour.
At the milder end of the spectrum, HFAs generally can be a useful compliment to any team - we are not the panacea that creates a perfect team... we can be jerks and idiots just as much as anyone else, and often HFAs have real problems dealing with people who do not conform to an "office norm". But typically, better communication and process documentation within the team, intended to help the HFAs find and visualize the structure in a situation, also help the other team members work together.

Comment: Re:Asperger syndrome (Score 3, Interesting) 574

by Stolpskott (#48308255) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

I wonder how many of these people have an autism spectrum disorder. An interviewer might get so put off by a candidate's lack of superficial social skills that he or she cannot adequately judge the candidate's competency for the job itself.

Aspberger/HFA "sufferer" here, who also happens to be the team leader of a consulting group.
Probably quite a few of the "brilliant" coders fall into the HFA category (High Functioning Autism, the "other name" for Aspergers now that it is a number on the ASD scale, or is it a different condition? Great question for starting a fight in a room full of cognitive psychologists...), and we can be a nightmare to integrate into a team - the lack of social skills hampers the ability to communicate and co-ordinate with other team members.
There are some things that are hard to teach effectively - team-working and critical thinking skills being the two most relevant in the environments I work in. If a candidate has those two and if I can see that from a CV and interview and a bonus of self-discipline and motivation, then I almost ignore what functional experience they have with systems, they have the job. It will take weeks or at most months to train them in the systems and applications, but getting the world's best coder in, who can write Tetris in a single line of Basic code or solve NP hard problems in their head is useless if they cannot work with the rest of their colleagues.

Comment: Has anyone actually asked the drop-out girls? (Score 2) 608

by Stolpskott (#48239245) Attached to: Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

I have seen quite a few hand-wringing and postulative articles about why there are not more women in programming or general IT disciplines, and why the ratios of men to women in CS courses widen so much as they progress.
One thing I have not seen in any of those articles is a report on any attempts to reach out to those girls/women and the boys/men who dropped out of CS courses to switch to other options, about why they chose to switch. It seems such an obvious choice that I am sure it must have been done at some point, except that nobody seems to want to mention the results.

Comment: Re:Tell me why I should care. (Score 3, Informative) 75

by Stolpskott (#48238905) Attached to: The Man With the Golden Blood

The question of the GP was probably not so outlandish. I, for one, was wondering the same. Ok, it's interesting that he's got some oddity in his blood. But ... what does that mean? Can it be used to find out something about our blood in general? Is he something like the "perfect donor"? Does it somehow express itself in his being or behaviour? Does it affect his life?

In a nutshell, his blood is the universal blood for people with rare Rh blood types (but not truly universal blood that can be given to absolutely anyone, as I understand it). It makes his blood a backup for quite a few rare blood types, but perversely his blood type is so much rarer than those others that supplies of his blood type are more tightly controlled than other rare types.
There is a hint in the article that people with his blood type are expected to be short-tempered (probably not just because of the constant requests to give blood), but there are no proven links between blood type and personality traits, afaik.

One interesting point is that this guy's blood is incredibly rare (and therefore also potentially valuable for both research and direct medical use), but it actually costs him money - when he is asked to donate blood, usually by going to the center that needs the blood instead of his local donation center (helps keep the blood fresh, but mainly to avoid the bureaucratic headaches of transporting blood across borders), he has to take time off work and arrange his own transport unless something unofficial is provided - the blood donors in most Eurpoean countries receive no financial compensation at all, even to out-of-pocket expenses.

Comment: Re:What happens with no ID? (Score 1) 124

by Stolpskott (#48139839) Attached to: Federal Government Removes 7 Americans From No-Fly List

It has been several years since I flew domestically within the US, but I personally have never been allowed to board any aircraft larger than a Cessna that I was piloting myself without the holy trinity of passport or acceptable photo ID, ticket, and boarding pass (only issued after presenting ticket plus passport/photoID).
A few weeks ago, I was at the gate in Frankfurt when a very Aryan-looking German gentleman was refused leave to board a flight to London Heathrow because he could only find his boarding pass, having lost/misplaced his passport at some point after passing through security.
(Co-incidentally, there was a spare German passport lying on the ground next to the chair he had been sitting in, and luckily it had his picture and name in it, so he was able to board the flight after stressing for 15 minutes... but the "No ID, no flight" thing is a pretty hard and fast rule in Europe, it seems)

Comment: Depends on the contract, but probably write it off (Score 1) 204

Most vendor contracts in my experience have long, obtuse and legally dense clauses in them that seek to prevent customers from discussing publicly issues with the product, and setting maximum compensatory relief for lost business and costs as the initial purchase cost of the solution.
However, many of those clauses are also not enforceable under the specific state/federal (or in the case of Europe, EU) laws. The only real way to know what you recourse is within the terms of the contract is to get advice from a contract lawyer first of all, about which legal jurisdiction would be available or need to be used when seeking redress, and second from a contract law expert in that specific jurisdiction about what your legal options are.

The only way the vendor is going to give a damn about you as a client is if they are facing some kind of legal action for not addressing the problems. Their EULA ? Vendor Supply Contract will include a clause that problems with the system are not grounds for legal action or compensation, but those are almost always worth less than the ink used to print the text. If the threat of legal action does not work, and the cost of pursuing actual action and compensation is worth more than the cost of the solution, then probably the only courses open to you will be to you are junking the system and paying up the remainder of the contract/early exit termination fees, or living with it for another 12 months.

Either way, more thorough and extensive pre-acceptance testing next time might be in order. Learn where your client went wrong with the evaluation of the existing solution, and correct those mistakes when evaluating the next.

Put your best foot forward. Or just call in and say you're sick.