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Comment: Big Data stupidity (Score 3, Interesting) 66

by alispguru (#49537397) Attached to: New Privacy Concerns About US Program That Can Track Snail Mail

A lot of our problems today are the result of people in power fundamentally misunderstanding what Big Data is good for.

We used to assume it was impractical for the Government to keep records of everything we do in the public sphere. Those things have gone from possible to practical to inevitable, mostly due to Moore's Law.

Just because you have everything recorded, doesn't mean it's useful, though. Technologists who should know better talk about searching these records to find the "needle in the haystack", selling the vision of complete records + powerful search tools = Total Awareness.

What they conveniently skip over is:

* All records have inaccuracies
* If the inaccuracy rate is higher than the occurrence rate of what you're searching for, the search is not useful

Consider medical screening tests. If you have a test with a false positive rate of 1 in 1000, it is useless to use such a test to search for a condition that happens to 1 in 1000000 - 999 times out of a thousand, the test will say you're sick when you're fine.

Now, consider:

* The error rate of address OCR


* The rate of secrets being exchanged via US Mail

Anyone in the Government who can't produce an estimate of those two numbers shouldn't be allowed anywhere near those records - it would be like giving a child a loaded gun, or a politician a Twitter account.

Comment: I'll worry when... (Score 2) 294

by alispguru (#49329427) Attached to: Steve Wozniak Now Afraid of AI Too, Just Like Elon Musk

The people who actually DO AI worry publicly about it.

People in the field are painfully aware of:

* The limitations of existing systems
* The difficulty of extrapolating from existing systems to general-purpose AI - things that look like easy extensions often aren't.

I did AI academically and industrially in the 1980's; at the time we were all painfully aware of the overpromising and underdelivery in the field.

Comment: Of COURSE you can have it both ways... (Score 3, Informative) 760

Just say that fine revenue above police administrative costs goes somewhere else, so the people issuing the tickets don't directly benefit.

Since these are local/state offenses, the obvious place would be the state general fund.

There's potential for abuse, of course - states might have to specify maximum admin costs.

I bet the enthusiasm for local speed traps would drop way off under such a system. Sounds win/win to me.

Comment: Oldest still held by same company is XEROX.COM (Score 5, Informative) 48

by alispguru (#49252655) Attached to: Oldest Dot-com Domain Turning 30

Number 7 on the list of oldest registered domain names.

BBN is apparently owned by Raytheon. is number 64, just under two years later. One of the benefits of getting in on the ground floor like that was big blocks of IPv4 addresses - still controls a /24 block, I think.

When did get created?

My personal intro to the internet was at the University of Maryland - I was there when the TAC to Ft. Meade was installed.

Comment: Smaller and targeted, please (Score 1) 239

by alispguru (#49030449) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Will It Take To End Mass Surveillance?

The fastest way to shut this stuff down would be a dump of the phone call logs for:

* All members of the House and Senate
* The President, Vice President, and all Cabinet Secretaries
* The Supreme Court Justices

It would take the media about one day to map phone numbers to names of lobbyists, and a little longer to show the patterns of calls followed by votes and other actions.

A few days after that, these programs would be defunded.

Comment: iCloud has NEVER worked for Pages (Score 2) 598

by alispguru (#48738385) Attached to: Tumblr Co-Founder: Apple's Software Is In a Nosedive

When a Pages document in iCloud storage is open across multiple iOS/OSX devices, Pages routinely declares it can see multiple versions and can't decide which one it should keep. One of the options it offers you is to keep both of them, leaving you to manually look at both and figure out which one is the best. This happens even without simultaneous access, and edits often get distributed randomly between versions, requiring manual cut-and-paste merging.

Apple should go to the Dropbox people, hat in hand, and say:

Yes, Steve was a dick when he talked with you years ago. We don't want to acquire you - we want to hire you to host iCloud file storage. We want a cloud back end that Just Works, and cross-platform sharing will be a plus.

I would pay for that service, in a heartbeat.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.