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Comment: Police should have no more powers than the public (Score 2) 190

by TomRC (#46818315) Attached to: Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied On a Whole City

If we decide not to allow the public to fly drones around peeping into back yards, the same should apply to the police (without a warrant). The limits on casual/easy police surveillance should be pretty much the same as the limits on the public. The police should be no more than citizens that we have authorized to act in our name.

That said, it may be time to be realistic, that technology is expanding our powers of easy observation beyond historical limits. Create new laws regulating personal and commercial drone camera use, including allowable flight altitudes, linger times, recording and viewing resolutions, etc under various circumstances - with the same standards governing police use without a warrant. Balance new benefits against the loss of a few old privacy benefits. Same goes for things like Google Glass.

The key is to avoid allowing politicians to carve out any special exceptions/powers exclusively for the police - insist that police powers be based on those of the general public.

IMO.

Comment: Re:Duff's Device (Score 1) 373

by TomRC (#46587541) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?

Um - maybe my eyes are just skipping something - but isn't that (Wikipedia) implementation completely 'bugged'?
I.e. it seems that it only increments the source "from" pointer, not the destination "to" pointer?

Not to mention that the idea that "tricky" code is "elegant" is pretty much completely backwards. Coding in odd ways just to be tricky, or to minimize lines of source code for the sake of 'compactness', or pretty much any other 'clever coding' goal - tends to create buggy code that is hard to debug and hard for anyone else to understand if they need to modify it. As evidenced by the many good programmers here who looked at that "clever" code and didn't notice that it continuously overwrites the same location in memory...

It was such 'cleverness' that led to the bad reputation of 'goto' from people writing spaghetti code. At least in the early days of programming, programmers had the excuse of slow processors and limited memory and poor compilers, to justify coming to equate 'tricky' with "clever and elegant". Unless you're coding for some ultra-tiny system, such thinking is simply obsolete, and anyone engaging in it ought to be embarrassed at their misguided priorities.

Elegant code is functionally correct, will create a fast/efficient/compact run-time (assuming a decent compiler / interpreter and depending on settings appropriate to the project), and above all must be READABLE and MAINTAINABLE.

Where old-time programmers abused GOTO, modern C++ programmers tend to abuse inheritance and templates, creating code that is often nearly impossible to follow even with the aid of a good development/debugging environment - let alone follow by reading the static source code. And the sad thing is, they think they're engaging in "good programming" even as they create incomprehensible, unmaintainable monstrosities.

Comment: Cheap Robots Soon? (Score 1) 111

by TomRC (#46304675) Attached to: Fishing Line As Artificial "Muscle"

One of my personal long standing predictions has been that when we finally get really cheap "good enough" robot muscles, personal robots will take off much like PCs did, even if the muscles have significant problems to be worked around.

I presume that with use these muscles will stretch and lose strength. But that's OK - just pair them with control software that adapts automatically. If the muscles get too weak, replace them. The main question will be how fast they degrade. If they could last in an intermittently active robot for a month, that's probably enough to get started.

Another question is how fast they can cycle without over heating and ruining them. Given the sorts of applications they describe, I suspect there are issues with speed. But one good thing about this development is that anyone can experiment with it in their garage, and many will, and solutions for fast cycling muscles will be found.

Comment: The most likely three way split (Score 1) 324

by TomRC (#46303879) Attached to: Schneier: Break Up the NSA

Most likely, the NSA would be split along the lines of their three core missions:

- Spy on and sabotage information systems of enemies of the United States to disrupt their operations.
- Spy on and sabotage information systems of friendly foreign nations to maintain and enhance US hegemony.
- Spy on and sabotage information systems of US citizens, to chill free speech that might threaten the NSA with budget cuts.

Then the first could be downsized as not an essential contributor to their primary goal of maintaining the power of the NSA.
Use the freed resources to step up the last, as obviously they've gotten too lax there and it is starting to threaten the primary goal.

Comment: We must burn this village to save it! (Score 1) 109

by TomRC (#46254869) Attached to: Internet Censorship Back On Australian Agenda

To insure that people have access to great entertainment, we insure that the creators of great entertainment are fairly compensated - so we must destroy the greatest means of distributing content ever invented.
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Or, we could design a system of tagging content that allows it's distribution to be monitored and recorded, making it easy for creators of edited content to incorporate a fair tagging of how much of others' content went into their work. Any new content for which the creator wishes to be paid would be submitted to a registration and review site, to be assigned a registered tag.

Any content for which the creator doesn't want to be paid could be uploaded, and the storage provider would be required to assign it an unregistered tag. If the unregistered content became popular enough, it would be reviewed to determine if it contained the untagged work of other creators - but only to insure fair distribution of fees. ALL content uploaded can be used by anyone. If you don't want everyone to get it, encrypt it.

Money would be collected as fees on internet users, at two levels: Full fee - no restrictions on content consumption, TBD whether paid in proportion to amount of content consumed or flat fee. No fee - all tagged content is stripped except tiny fragments considered "fair use" (such as quotes, links to content, maybe images shrunken to no more than 256x144 pixels, video represented as a single frame from the original, etc).

Comment: Why not fix real problems (Score 1) 2219

by TomRC (#46186227) Attached to: Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

Instead of focusing on a "new look", why not analyze where Slashdot fails, and see if you can't improve on that?

While it's fine for everyone to have a voice and toss off irreverent irrelevancies - that's kind of at the heart of Slashdot commenting - why not try to build something new that IN ADDITION tries to help commenters move past the classic "all heat, no light" mode of internet discussions?

E..g., for controversial issues, help different sides build their arguments into a few high-contrast positions explaining to the ignorant other sides why their position is correct? With branching and versioning to allow evolution of those positions. Similarly, for the various outrages that fearful governments and greedy corps frequently try to impose, and are reported here, how about creating a means of building consensus positions on useful actions to counter them?

Make Slashdot the vanguard in Open Source consensus building. Something along the lines of liquid democracy instead of simple polling and modding. Maybe throw in something along the lines of building up a topic-focused micro-wiki of useful information, links and ideas centered on the topic.

Comment: Federal Statute of Limitations (Score 1) 395

by TomRC (#37693600) Attached to: NASA Sues Apollo Astronaut To Return Moon Camera

Not sure this is most up-to-date, but see http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31253.pdf which seems to indicate a 5 year limitation for "theft".
"Ordinarily, the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as the crime has been completed." This appears to apply to alleged theft.
"The federal courts have long held that a statute of limitations may be enlarged retroactively as long as the previously applicable period of limitation has not expired." But this was not done in this case, so far as I have heard.

So I don't know what the judge is referring to in saying there is no applicable federal statute of limitations.

But someone in NASA should have looked at this proposed lawsuit and told the lawyer who wanted to bring charges that he's an ass to involve NASA's reputation in something so relatively trivial. If their goal is to get back at Mitchell for flouting their 'authoritae', they could have simply issued a press release stating that either the camera is not authentic, or Mitchell must have stolen it, as it was supposed to have been left on the LEM and they have no record of giving him permission to take it.

Comment: Put the patient in control (Score 1) 200

by TomRC (#35106368) Attached to: Japan's Elderly Nix Robot Helpers

Besides the obvious price and limited capabilities issues, I think where they fell down was in treating patients as objects to be "taken care of".

They needed to put the patient in control.

The robotic wheelchair/bed in the article will likely be much more popular, as it enables patients to do things for themselves. But reaching things with it might be difficult - perhaps it needs to be designed to bundle up the patient so it can hold them vertically, as if standing, so they can get closer to tables and counters and such. In effect, make a giant mobile hand and arm that can gently grab the person and move them around as they direct, instead of a mobile bed.

Comment: A few clues.... (Score 4, Interesting) 286

by TomRC (#34394908) Attached to: Curious NASA Pre-Announcement

If you look at the list of participants, it may provide a clue:

Participants are:
- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

If you follow up the connection of James Elser to NASA, it turns out to be a project called "Follow the Elements"

http://astrobiology.asu.edu/Astrobiology/Home/Home.html

So I'm guessing that they've found certain exo-planets in the Goldilocks zone that have the right balance of precursor elements/molecules for life.

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