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Comment: Re:Whats the point of FBI pretending to care? (Score 1) 241

by IamTheRealMike (#49647649) Attached to: James Comey: the Man Who Wants To Outlaw Encryption

Anything protected directly by user entry into a smart phone is bound to have no usable entropy by itself anyway.

Modern phones don't actually turn the PIN or pattern directly into an encryption key. Older phones do (and by "older" in the case of Android I mean, "actually quite recent but not latest gen"), but modern phones feed the PIN to a dedicated secure chip that only divulges the actual secret key when the PIN matches, along with keeping track of attempts etc. To break it you need to break the secure chip, which means either finding an exploit, or grabbing your local scanning electron microscope and beating the chips tamper resistance measures (wire mesh etc).

Comment: Re: Uber is the perfect example of free-market fai (Score 1) 132

They already got a large commercial insurance policy for their drivers. Insurance companies care about money and risk, they aren't denying insurance for the period when the driver is alone but with the app switched on because of some specific high minded ideal, it's a commercial decision.

Comment: Re: Uber is the perfect example of free-market fai (Score 2) 132

Yes, but that's a risk that the driver takes not the Uber customer. And coverage when the app is on but not being used is a relatively minor detail of insurance - it will get worked out in one way or another.

Uber isn't even cheaper than a regular taxi in many places. It can be more expensive. When I was last in SF there was never a time without surge pricing. Seems it doesn't hurt them though. Lots of people seem to prefer the Uber experience regardless of price.

Comment: Re:Hate for Uber (Score 3, Interesting) 132

Here we have an app that is putting the entire taxi industry out of work, while the apps creators become billionaires

As opposed to the owners of New York taxi medallions, who do no work at all whilst still getting rich?

Disruptive capitalism at its finest. Sure uber is cheaper for the consumer, but is it better for society? The money is feeding fewer people, and making a tiny number of silicon valley elite uber-rich.

Eh? Uber, at most, replaces the taxi cab dispatchers at the other end of the phone line. The cars still need drivers. If anything they're creating more jobs by making it easier to go everywhere by cab, so increasing the demand for the labour intensive service of driving.

Now when Uber start to phase out drivers entirely in favour of robots, then you'll have a point. But it'll be another round of the same debate that's been rolling for centuries.

As a Canadian, my taxi money isn't even staying in the country! Do taxis really need to be colonialist?

What, you only get driven by immigrants who cross the border each morning? I think you'll find plenty of the money goes to the driver and some gets kept by Uber. Well, why not use the Canadian competitor to Uber then? It's not like they have any kind of cutting edge technological advantage. It's just a mobile app and some databases.

Comment: Re:U.S. government is EXTREMELY CORRUPT. (Score 1) 102

by IamTheRealMike (#49637713) Attached to: FBI Releases Its Files On DEF CON: Not Amused By Spot-the-Fed

Uh... what other governments in supposedly non-corrupt jurisdictions respond to "Freedom Of Information Act" requests with ... actual information?

Eh? Perhaps I'm mis-reading your sentence, but FOIAs are quite commonplace throughout the developed world. And yes they often return useful information.

Try getting information on e.g. "Pussy Riot" out of the Putin government.

Try doing a FOIA for info on Anwar al-Awlaki, notorious freedom of speech abuser up until the point he got drone striked. See how far you get.

Comment: Re:Maybe C developers are more honest (Score 2) 264

by IamTheRealMike (#49637687) Attached to: C Code On GitHub Has the Most "Ugly Hacks"

Haha, neat .... but ....

Java developers seem to have the most trouble getting their code to work: https://github.com/search?utf8... [github.com]

..... that search is almost entirely results of the form:

try {
} finally {
    working = true;

So no, I don't think it shows anything about Java. If you want to get a similar string for Java I'd suggest variants on "TODO: Refactor this". Java has very powerful refactoring IDEs and the corporate world has more of an emphasis on constantly refactoring stuff (hey, it's less effort than debugging some stupid bug reported by marketing, right?).

Comment: Re:Hate for Uber (Score 5, Interesting) 132

I'll never understand the hate for Uber.

You may not agree with it, but surely you must understand it? For what it's worth I am ambivalent about Uber and I am a Bitcoin developer, so I'm hardly someone to have kneejerk reactions against libertarian positions. But I do fully understand why Uber makes people uncomfortable.

The basic issue here is we are all raised in a social environment where it is assumed that law and morality are the same thing. Children aren't exposed to the difference at all - if a child asks their parents "why can't I do this thing?" and get an answer like "because it's against the law honey" then they aren't likely to enquire any further, and if they did, it's unlikely their parents will launch into a deep discussion of the history and theory of state power. It's just something you don't do because it's against the law.

In parallel children observe something else - things that are illegal are very often bad, and things that are bad are very often illegal. If a kid doesn't like it when her older brother steals her toys, and then her parents tell her that (a) stealing is wrong and (b) stealing is against the law, the link between law and morality is reinforced. Keep doing this over and over and the two notions develop as one.

Eventually, when we're much much older, we may start reading in the newspapers about miscarriages of justice. We realise the system is flawed. We may encounter laws or regulations that don't make much sense. We may decide that laws in other countries are unjust. But the notion that breaking the law is inherently immoral is ingrained very deep and is very hard to discard. Does English even have a word for an act which is illegal yet moral? I can't think of one. The closest is the concept of civil disobedience, but somewhere along the line that notion got linked with the idea that you have to put yourself up for arbitrary punishment as part of the "protest". So all governments have to do is make the punishments incredibly severe and hey, now there's no civil disobedience anymore, thus all law must be moral, right?

Laws are especially important because they are intended to give people stability, certainty and the ability to make long term plans. Some philosophers argue that the entire purpose of the state is to give people the ability to make long term plans. Certainly, stability is how regimes like the PRC justify their existence. The ideal body of law is precise, easy to understand, minimal, just and yet robustly enforced - thus everyone knows where the line is drawn and everyone can stay on the right side of it. Of course, real law falls short of this ideal quite often.

Now throw technological change in the mix. Larry Page once observed that it seems every time someone invents something new it starts out by being illegal. I can't quite remember where he said this unfortunately, so I can't give a citation. It might even have been some internal Google event. But he's said very similar things in the past in public.

So, enter companies like Uber. Or Lyft, or AirBnB, or even PayPal (it had a world of legal pain in the early years). Does anyone seriously think it'd be possible to build a service like Uber in the legal way? Bear in mind that many of the taxi regulations that governments want to mindlessly enforce specify details of things like how CB Radio is to be used (irrelevant with smartphones), how to print license information in the vehicle (irrelevant with smartphones), that the vehicle should be bright yellow so it can be spotted from the street (irrelevant with smartphones) .... in India they even specify that you must have a minimum of 12 phone lines going to your New Delhi based HQ! And you can forget about just asking nicely for change. Taxi regulators appear to be pretty much the opposite of dynamism, and taxi regulations are so boring that no parliament or local council is going to radically overhaul them for a company that hasn't got any customers yet, against the interests of the incumbents.

In a few parts of the world, it might have been possible to launch something a bit like Uber without any serious changes and with a cooperative partnership with the local taxi regulators. But it seems from practical experience that this would exclude vast chunks of the worlds population. And without economies of scale, perhaps Uber wouldn't be anything like what it is. So we have a case where to make progress, technologically, the law must be broken on a massive scale. But of course if the law ceases to be respected ..... where do you draw the line? Suddenly, there is no certainty any more. That stability the law exists to create is gone.

Therefore whether you approve or disapprove of Uber specifically has little to do with taxis or the details of these regulations. It's more of a proxy debate for a much deeper issue: which do you value more? Technological progress, or stability?

I have seen no surveys. But I'd be willing to bet that support for or against Uber has some kind of slight age bias to it.

Comment: Re:What has been leaked is not encouraging either (Score 1) 169

by IamTheRealMike (#49636555) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

By the same argument, if the government changes the income tax to 95% from next year, I have no recourse other than paying it

Actually, no, you could leave. And people do leave, look at France's 75% top rate. So can businesses. When a business leaves it tends to have more impact than when a single person does though.

Changing any law at any time is the right of the government. If it adversely affects you, tough luck

Yes, it is, you are correct. But not doing so is a big part of the difference between, say, Europe and Africa. In one place businesses and people can make long term plans. In other parts of the world, not so much. How you dish out the "tough luck" is a big part of how you make a successful country.

So sure - go ahead and hate on ISDS and anything that levels the playing field a bit between governments and businesses. Just don't cry when your economy is left behind.

Comment: Re:Problem, Reaction, Solution... (Score 2) 195

by IamTheRealMike (#49630085) Attached to: French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law

You hardly need to be mentally ill to reach this conclusion. Sure, it's not like there's a grand master plan nailed to a wall somewhere. But to conclude governments helped create this situation all you need to do is read about the background of the attackers. Their radicalisation started due to the US invasion of Iraq. When the attackers tried to go to Iraq to fight against the occupation they were arrested and thrown in prison, where they met a radical Islamist.

No war? Probably the chain of events that led to the attack would never have happened. Our governments will continue to be in denial about this because politicians feel they should be able to engage in arbitrary foreign "policy" (i.e. invasions, occupations, picking winners in regional conflicts) without any kind of repercussions or blowback at all. When reality refuses to go along with this notion they claim it's an outrage and the solution is to record more telephone calls.

From the article:

The Buttes-Chaumont group’s jihadi aspirations were directly linked to the second Iraq war in 2003. They would sit in apartments watching footage of the US-led invasion. “Everything I saw on TV, the torture in Abu Ghraib prison, all that, that’s what motivated me,” one of Kouachi’s friends told their trial.

But under Jacques Chirac, France had refused to intervene in the Iraq war and the young cell’s stance wasn’t really a movement against the French state. It was more a rage directed against the US. Some of the group stated that jihad wasn’t done in France. The focal point was fighting a foreign invader in Iraq.

“They were the pioneers of French jihadiism,” said Jacques Follorou, a journalist at Le Monde and author of the book Democracy under Control, the Posthumous Victory of Bin Laden, about security issues

A bit later in the same article ....

Kouachi, who scraped a living delivering for El Primo Pizza on the other side of the ring-road that serves as a moat around Paris, was arrested in January 2005 on his way to catch a flight to Damascus, believed to be ultimately heading for Iraq ..... He got a relatively light prison sentence, three years with 18 months suspended, as there was little hard evidence against him except a plane ticket for Damascus.

After his arrest while trying to fly to Damascus in 2005, Kouachi was on remand in the notorious Fleury-Mérogis prison south of Paris, a super-size decaying concrete mega-jail, which is Europe’s largest prison ..... He added that when the young men were arrested and held on remand before their case in 2008, prison gave them access to a universe never known before. “If the Butte-Chaumonts was an informal school of jihad, prison was the superior diploma.”


One of the prisoners involved in publicising the terrible conditions [in the prison] was Amédy Coulibaly. He was an armed robber on his third sentence, this time for robbery, receiving stolen goods and using false number plates. Coulibaly met Kouachi inside the prison and they became close during seven months on the same wing – prisoners from similar backgrounds and affinity were kept together on the same blocks, which allowed them to convene. Less than a decade later, Coulibaly joined the Kouachis in last week’s terrorist attacks .... In prison together, Kouachi and Coulibaly found not only friendship but a mentor who radicalised them

Comment: Re:Not law yet (Score 1) 195

by IamTheRealMike (#49629929) Attached to: French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law

I also use Gandi but only for DNS. As far as I can tell there's not much useful that intelligence agencies could do with that, except get IPs of ISP resolvers that are looking up the names. So I will probably leave things be for now. But I wouldn't buy any other more critical services from them. Shame - seems like a good company.

Comment: Re:the rigamarole is political, not diplomatic (Score 5, Informative) 169

by IamTheRealMike (#49629885) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yep. These things don't seem to be as complex as you'd imagine.

When the Doha round failed at the WTO, lots of trade negotiators gave up. They thought it was hopeless. Eventually they narrowed the scope dramatically and produced a new deal (the Bali round) on reducing red tape imposed on importers/exporters. It was one of those "negotiators up until early hours of the morning, multi-day cramfest" kind of things. So I figured it'd be some horribly complex document I'd need years of legal training to understand.

Lol, nope. The agreement is here. The requirements are unbelievably trivial. Some of the things agreed to are, for instance, that import rules should be available on the internet, and if they change whilst a ship is sailing, the rules at the time of departure apply not the time of arrival. Other rules specify that when governments make decisions they should actually be issued in writing, and ports should do customs inspections on perishable goods before non-perishable.

The mind-numbing obviousness of what was agreed is sad. Reading it is quite depressing as it makes you realise how hopelessly inept and corrupt some countries must be.

Apparently one of the reasons the Doha round failed was an inability to agree on what units to use when weighing things. I mean seriously, wtf?

These things don't seem to justify the elaborate theatre that goes into them.

Comment: Re:What has been leaked is not encouraging either (Score 0) 169

by IamTheRealMike (#49629753) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yes. It has to be this way. Otherwise investor-state dispute settlement is meaningless.

ISDS gets a bad rap. Let's review why it's there. In the best case, governments are elected by local citizens. In the worst case they're just totalitarian dictatorships who stick around until they get overthrown in a revolution. In both cases, governments still care more about their local people than foreigners, who typically have no power at all.

In a world that gets ever more connected and in which peopl rely on "foreigners" ever more, this can cause big problems. Governments are strongly incentivised to be nice to foreigners until they're invested deeply enough in a country that they can't easily get out, and then start whacking them / exploiting them / taxing the bejeezus out of them / generally changing the rules of the game after it's started and screwing them over. For example, what stops a government just seizing a foreign companies factories and then selling it to a local competitor? Well, nothing. What incentivises them to do that? Money. Power. Lots of things, really. That company will slowly pull out of the country and other companies would be put off from investing in the first place, but that's a slow and largely invisible process that local citizens won't notice. On the other hand beating up foreigners and claiming they're yukky and inferior is always a good way to score political points.

There's a nice idea floating around that governments and regulators are never unfair and only ever act against companies that deserve it. Only people who have never watched the regulatory process in action would really believe this, but even if you do, consider that many countries are not as saintly as your own. Arbitrary confiscation of assets is a real problem in large parts of the world. There's always some nice sounding excuse, of course - the dirty foreigners weren't up to our exacting local standards, or they were playing the system, or whatever. Sometimes the complaint may be legitimate, but sometimes it's just opportunism.

Regardless, the end result is the same: less foreign investment, which is another way of saying, less international collaboration on complex projects. We like international collaboration, don't we? Integrated economies are less likely to declare war on each other. We like the advanced technology it enables, like smartphones with components from dozens of countries around the world. We like the wealth it generates.

So .... ISDS. The idea is simple. Governments are free to change the rules of the game after it's started in any arbitrary or unfair way they like. They can continue to treat foreign companies as disposable assets. But .... they have to pay for it. If a company starts on a 4-year factory construction project with a 10 year payoff horizon, and after two years the local government decides that a new 95% tax should be applied to that precise industry whereas before there was none, then this is confiscation of assets and under the treaty, the state has to compensate the investor. This should (in theory) radically reduce the risk of foreign investment by smoothing out unpredictable business environments, and thus lead to more investment/collaboration.

If ISDS didn't at least try to include potential future earnings then it'd be much less effective, because the risk would still be very large. If the factory was nationalised and the business was relying on it as part of its business plan, then it'd potentially get a chunk of money for the physical assets but now it's got to start all over again and is four years behind its competitors, potentially fatally wounding it.

ISDS has plenty of downsides as well. Notably, that local citizens rather like being able to tax and seize stuff from foreigners - it looks a lot like free money which is a short term pleasure hit, whereas the long term rot of becoming an unattractive place to do business is much harder to reason about. So ISDS is always a rather hard sell in democracies, for similar reasons as political fixes to climate change are ...

Comment: Re:nonsense (Score 5, Interesting) 532

by IamTheRealMike (#49629603) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

Health care is socialism, even in the USA, so pussyfooting around and pretending it's not just gets you the worst of all worlds.

It's inherently the case that medical care is socialist because in any civilised society, the idea that someone dies of a preventable illness just because they're poor is unacceptable. Wealth comes and goes, illness is random. Even rich people would not accept stepping over bodies of people who just dropped dead in the street because they couldn't get basic medical care. Even rich people would not accept their child being infected with TB because they happened to wander into a ghetto of poor people where disease was rampant, and even rich people do not accept the idea that if in a couple of decades when their awesome corporation has been outcompeted in the market, bought by a competitor and they were then fired, that they might be left to rot at home, being eaten by a treatable cancer.

The moment a society accepts that someone who turns up at ER with an injury gets treated even if they can't afford it, that country has accepted a socialist idea. America has accepted that idea, which is why hospitals have to provide emergency care to even uninsured people and they pay for it by effectively taxing people who need other kinds of work. At that point you don't have a free market any more - free markets are not defined by customers who cannot negotiate and governments that step in to pay whatever price is demanded at the last second. So you might as well go all-in and just get it over with.

People often argue that this would result in no accountability and the like, but the example of the UK seems to show otherwise. The NHS (national health service) is always a huge factor in elections. Politicians fight over who is best for the NHS constantly. In America politicians try and motivate voters by painting their opposition as weak on the war on terror. In the UK they motivate voters by claiming the opposition is engaged in a war on the NHS. Yes, the accountability is very top down and hardly local - it's a flawed system in many ways. But at least the UK calls a spade a spade.

The usual arguments as to why

Comment: Re:Sort of dumb. (Score 2) 553

by IamTheRealMike (#49615521) Attached to: Recruiters Use 'Digital Native' As Code For 'No Old Folks'

The hardware knowledge argument has become virtually irrelevant in the EC2-world where you can spawn VM pretty much transparently

Right, we forgot, Amazon VMs are magical devices powered by hopes and dreams, rather than CPU cycles like old fashioned "computers" are.

Back here in reality cloud virtual machines are just a shitty containment mechanism that's sort of like an operating system process, only dramatically less efficient. Did you know that Google, not a company exactly famous for lacking clue, doesn't use VMs internally at all? Every internal program runs as a regular operating system process on top of a patched Linux kernel. The system is called Borg and they published a paper on it recently.

Why don't they use VMs, Amazon style? Because VMs suck. Running an entire OS inside another OS just to provide isolation is a great way to waste vast amounts of money and resources. It means sysadmins get to reuse their existing skillset instead of learning some new way of managing software, but that's about it as far as advantages are concerned.

Certainly your Amazon VM will suffer from cache line interference, limited resources, and other things that plague physical devices.

How come financial advisors never seem to be as wealthy as they claim they'll make you?