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Comment Re:Does it matter? (Score 1) 668 668

If everyone knew they were just buying clean water to drink, it wouldn't matter. But the regulation of homeopathy matters because people buy homeopathic products in order to control or cure illnesses that these products cannot control or cure. The people who buy the homeopathic products may avoid buying products with proven medical efficacy, which may result in their condition going untreated and possibly worsening; at a minimum, they have been fleeced into spending money that they didn't have to spend even if they recover on their own. In extreme examples, parents are treating children with homeopathy; the children aren't making the decision, the parents are.

I think people should be free to buy whatever they want, as long as any claims made by the sellers as to medical efficacy are valid. The US Food and Drug Administration ensures that actual medicines/drugs with a science-based theory of operation are effective in the manner claimed by the vendor, why wouldn't the FDA do the same thing for any other products claimed to have a medical benefit? For purveyors of homeopathy to both claim that they can make you better yet fall outside of monitoring/regulation of medicines is absurd.

Comment Re: Say what you will about Big Cable... (Score 1) 229 229

Interesting. For my money, anyone injecting *anything* (ads, additional content, "super cookies" for tracking purposes) into a TCP connection between two endpoints who is not one of the endpoints is "interfering with a communication", and anyone "listening" (collecting data) to a TCP connection between two endpoints who is not one of the endpoints is "tapping" the line. The line may be virtual instead of physical, but the same laws should apply.

Comment Re:Do these companies really hate people so much.. (Score 1) 234 234

I don't disagree with your equations (above) but I don't think you went far enough, either.

Eventually, when most of the producers (of a class of product) have lowered their costs through automation, producers will have to lower their prices to maintain their market share, which will lower their revenue, returning their profit margin to a lower level. At this point, anyone who *didn't* automate will have too high a price (and will rapidly lose market share) or too low (perhaps negative) profit to stay a going concern.

If you aren't moving forwards, you are falling behind. Those who fail to innovate (including through automation) will eventually not be competitive.

The exercise for society is to figure out how to keep the loss of jobs due to increased automation from laying waste to the economy (due to unemployed workers).

Comment Re:We already have these (Score 1) 112 112

A signal with no change carries no information. A neuron receiving the same stimulus over time accommodates to the stimulus and stops producing its normal output.

I don't find it surprising that humans and human societies benefit from novel input. As far as the boring robots go, they are still novel.

Comment Re:How About (Score 1) 224 224

Actually, numerous studies have shown that teen drivers are no worse than inexperienced drivers of any age. That's what prompted the gov't here in Ontario to change the licensing rules some time ago so that after your probationary period (the first 2-5 years that you have your license) you have to take a second road test, where they basically test how experienced you are (based on how you handle the car, etc.) to get your full license.

That actually seems to make sense. Any data regarding accident trends following implementation?

Comment Re:If they aren't doing anything wrong (Score 1) 130 130

Agreed. The folks who sell the pipe should co-mingle their transport business with their "content services business."

But we also need some attention to other kinds of interference with the pipe. In the physical world, "tapping" a physical circuit is a known no-no. That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, but it either happens according to "the rules" or else it becomes a sticky wicket when it is uncovered. Interfering with a logical circuit should also be explicitly recognized as a known no-no. In other words, the practice of monitoring a logical circuit or (even worse) adding content to a logical circuit (such as tracking headers added to HTTP communications) by anyone other than the logical endpoints of the circuit should be just as much of a no-no as messing with a physical circuit. Firms providing transport should be on notice that its not ok to peek into or interfere with the transport, no matter that its digital data instead of voice communications.

Comment Re:I think we know exactly why. (Score 2) 70 70

The dynamic tensions (social in this case) that determine behavior have poles where extreme conditions exist. The prophecies regarding an "electronic Pearl Harbor" have been around since fear mongers discovered the Internet, maybe even before. These fears establish one pole, while the extremely complacent "it could never happen" folks have beliefs that form the other pole. Actual behavior lies in between. For example, at one point in time not too long ago (say early 1990s) many (most?) organizations that attached their networks to the Internet did so with no security devices involved. No firewalls, no NID, no IPS. It was conventional to dismiss the idea that anything *really bad* could happen due to this stance. Then bad things happened. The balance between the poles of belief shifted, and now virtually no organization would connect to the Internet without some kind of security barrier in place.

It is frightening to see the hyperbole that gets tossed around, but it seems that without the hyperbole, the actual practice might not be up to the threat. Perhaps social structures always have to have their doomsayers in order to avoid complacency that leaves them ripe for disaster. These scenarios play out on very local levels with things that have nothing to do with cyber attacks, such as disaster preparedness. How many people who read Slashdot do anything at all to be prepared for disasters other than maybe having some flashlights on-hand? How many have regular family meetings to discuss emergency exists from their home in the event of a fire?

Unfortunately, extreme rhetoric not only seems likely as the uninformed and misinformed but easily riled try to understand the world around them, but it also seems necessary in order to bring about enough force to drive the otherwise totally complacent cud-chewers to take even minimal efforts to mitigate very real risks. How many more idiots would we see attaching their critical infrastructure (plant process control systems, etc.) up to the Internet with little or no controls in order to save a few bucks in private network costs if we didn't have this massive rhetoric being slung around about cyber armageddon? I don't think cyber armageddon is looming around the corner, but I don't think its too wise to attach critical infrastructure to the Internet either.

We the people need to stay constantly vigilant, damping the wild swings that can lead to our social system overshooting reasonable boundaries, yet making sure that real risks are mitigated. There is no "cruise control" for our lives - the "government" we have in place will not maintain a steady speed down the highway while we turn our attention to other matters. This discussion is an important part of the evaluation of our societies actions and reactions that needs to take place in order to shape future responses. Oh - its fractal, too - The extreme opinions (there is a global conspiracy, its the evil military industrial complex) about the extreme opinions (beware the cyber armageddon) also have their place in establishing the dynamic equilibrium. All hail Eris!

Comment Re:Private Caller is the biggest issue (Score 1) 79 79

I do not feel compelled to answer a ringing phone, and often ignore it. If a strange number comes up on my Caller ID, I often let it go to voicemail. My voicemail messages tells people that are a) asking for money, b) claiming that my computer is signaling them, or c) saying they are from a government agency to bugger off. If the caller doesn't leave a message, then I know they didn't really want to get in touch with me.

There are still several reasons why I would rather fix the problem than ignore it.

1. I don't want the interruption of a phone ringing, as minute and inconsequential as that interruption might be. I can tell people who ring my doorbell to go away, or just not answer the door, too; but I would rather they not signal me in that fashion unless they have cause. Since these interruptions are coming from people who are already committing fraud (hiding their true identity, using Robocalls that are already illegal), I don't want them to be able to waste my time even in such a tiny fashion.

2. Older people, such as my mother, are more likely to answer the phone, and are more likely to fall for the scams of the people who are already trying to mask themselves. I want our society to have as few opportunities for people to be scammed as possible, especially since people's vulnerability to such scams varies. Fraudulent telemarketers need to be terminated.

3. The calls that I receive have CallerID information from all over the US. Occasionally the source is from an area in which I have someone with whom I want to keep in touch, from whom I may not have heard in a while. Since I avoid providing personal information in the outgoing message of my voicemail, someone I haven't heard from in a while may try to get in touch with me, but feel not inclined to leave their personal information in what may be a stranger's voicemail box. I would like to be able to answer these calls without having to deal with a telemarketer, especially since answering one telemarketer by human voice instead of voicemail seems to be a good way to get more telemarketing calls. My telephone is supposed to be there to benefit me and serve my needs, not those of fraudulent telemarketers.

4. I have a non-local aging parent who has recently been in very poor health. I have communications coming in from multiple sources (hospitals, insurance, care providers) that I do not want to have to go through a cycle of call/voicemail/listen to voicemail/call back because it makes an already frustrating situation that much more frustrating both for me and for the people who are trying to get in touch with me. Again, I want the phone service that I pay for to serve my needs, not those of fraudulent telemarketers/scammers.

Comment We already have robots that do our laundry (Score 1) 161 161

We already have robots that do our laundry. We call them "washing machines." They save us from having to carry our clothes down to the river, soaking them in the current, rubbing them in the rocks, then drying them in the sun.

My washing machine senses how much I have loaded into it, adds water, meters in the soap I have placed in the soap container, then goes through an elaborate ritual of swishing my clothes around in various ways with various combinations of hot and cold water until my clothes are clean, then it signals me to move them to the dryer. In the dryer a simpler program tumbles my clothes around, adding heat as necessary, and monitoring moisture content until the clothes have reached my preset level of "doneness."

Improving upon our current level of automation seems possible. Wanting to instantly reach the end state of a magic machine that does it all without going through the design evolutions to get there might where the problem lies. For example, many people have suggested that RFID tags in clothing could carry the same information as the tags that are on many articles of clothing now; these might even be an improvement for humans, let alone machines. Older eyes trying to read tiny writing on laundry tags don't do so well (I find this as I slowly grow older). If our clothing had such tags, its easy to see how a washing machine could set itself to the right program for the load of clothes it contains. It might need some logic to achieve the best cleaning at the lowest level of risk if the clothing is of mixed types, and it might need an alarm to signal if truly incompatible clothing has been loaded, but it can be done. From there we can imagine an improvement where in we put all of our clothes into some kind of container, and the container has the ability to sort the clothing into compatible sets, then load them into a washing compartment. Since we have manipulators in our machine now, we can use them to move the sorted/washed sets of compatible clothes from the washing compartment to the drying compartment (or design a compartment that can do both washing and drying). There - robotic laundry.

But wait one might say - we still have to put the clothes into a box - why doesn't the machine go around and pick up the clothes for us? My answer would be that isn't a robotic laundry, that is a robotic butler. Which we could also develop, especially since our clothes now already have RFID tags in them. The robotic butler can even keep track of what clothing ends up where/when, deducing whether we have actually worn it, then making assumptions about whether it needs to be washed or not. It might not be able to sense the amount of dirt or wrinkles at first, but those problems can be solved as well.

All designs go through evolution. To the extent that you can simulate evolutionary forces in a lab environment, you may be able to leapfrog your competitors and bring out a device that consumers "must have" that they haven't foreseen, but you run the risk of evolving faster than your consumers tastes or ability to understand the value of your product. Look at the evolution of portable music players from the Sony Walkman cassette player and the little Sony FM radios, now combined with portable telephones (remember bag phones?) and with Personal Digital Assistants. Now we have smart phones like the various Android phones and the iPhone. We didn't get there instantly. We got there through an evolutionary process of designs that were tested in the marketplace, where consumer consumption provided the natural selection.

Robotic laundry could go the same way, if the evolutionary pressures are present, and a little design mutation is introduced by the appliance manufacturers.

Comment Re:Private Caller is the biggest issue (Score 1) 79 79

The US federal "do not call" list was wildly successful - for telemarketers who wanted a list of guaranteed good phone numbers to call. I'm sure the decent ones use the list the way it was intended. The others use it as their calling rolodex.

I was stupid enough to list my home phone number on the "do not call" list. Before I did so, I almost never received unsolicited marketing calls. I put my number on the list "just to be sure" I never would. However, once I did so, the calls never stopped. All have spoofed caller ID, so reporting the call to the feds doesn't do too much good.

Its not that the feds don't want to enforce it. It's that they can't... I can file a complaint, but the only number I can provide is the spoofed one from caller ID. The telemarketers are too clever to provide anything like a company name or contact information unless you actually give them a credit card number to purchase whatever scam they are slinging, and even then I bet it's a throw-away corporate identity that won't get traced back to anyone that can be fined.

Comment Re:Fix Caller ID and monitor exchanges (Score 1) 79 79

Yes! Fix the caller ID information that is received on normal residential phone lines so that it shows the actual subscriber origin of the call, whether within the US or outside of the US. The phone companies in the US should no longer be allowed to let a company provide their own caller ID information just because they have a digital switch; some kind of certification regarding the business and its trustworthiness might be in order. As soon as the cloak of anonymity is removed, the existing penalties for robocalls and calling people on the "do not call" list will become meaningful and should work to substantially reduce such abuse. For those calls that originate from outside of the United States, they can just be ignored by most people when the Caller ID clearly shows the foreign origin of the call.

Substantial inroads against this problem can be made by placing the proper controls in the system.

Comment Simplify your analysis (Score 2) 734 734

You have already identified the cost of ending American citizenship - $2300 and "a lot of paperwork". If the possible benefits outweigh the current cost to you (filing tax returns now and a future expense of $2300 and paperwork to renounce if you/they choose to do so) then go ahead and make/let them become citizens. If the possible benefits don't outweigh those costs, then don't do it.

If you do it, you can change your mind later. If you don't do it, you can't change your mind later. My personal choice would be to do it, bearing in mind the future expense of $2300 and paperwork per child. It keeps your options open for what seems to be a fairly low cost compared to the potential benefit.

There certainly wouldn't be any shame in renouncing citizenship in the future on the part of your kids, given that they hadn't had any choice in becoming citizens now. If they decide, upon reaching the age of majority, that they would rather not have that tie they can dissolve it for the cost you already mentioned (probably plus a little inflation). If you really want to cover them, invest $2300 per child in a fund now that will pay for their dissolution of American citizenship later. At their majority, hand the fund (with its accumulated earnings) over to them and let them make their decision. You will have protected the future option for them but preserved their ability to decide at no cost to them.

Comment Re:Ah, come one, don't we trust the Feds? (Score 2) 90 90

The various US federal government agencies are all filled with *people*, all different kinds of people. You can't even expect the people in the agencies under the same department (such as Treasury's IRS versus Treasury's OCC) to act the same; those in different departments are even more divergent with different cultures. The FCC is under the Commerce Department, NSA is part of the Department of Defense - they don't have anything in common until you reach all the way up to the President. And if you think that the President has any direct control over the people in any given agency, you seriously misunderstand the bureaucracy that is the US federal government (and probably other country's governments as well).

Your law enforcement agencies are different than your national intelligence agencies. So FBI and NSA have different motives and agendas, and will act different in some ways because of this. However, they both also like to keep things secret, because, well, it makes it easier to do their job if they do. So the FBI seems to avoid posting details of their ADP systems of record in the federal register, because, well, it might give something away. They also don't always provide the ability to see records that they hold and to correct those records as required under the Privacy Act, because, well... it might give something away. And the NSA will act like them in this regard, for the same reasons.

I'm not surprised that the folks at a national law enforcement or intelligence agency might overuse the excuse of "law enforcement sensitive" when redacting or refusing to disclose information. Its a strong habit, it leaves as little information to be disclosed publicly as possible, and that just makes for less trouble down the road in general. (The old line about "nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM" might be re-stated here as "nobody ever gets fired for redacting too much information" when you are in a law enforcement/national security agency.)

On the other hand, the FCC is under the Commerce Department, which is far away from the NSA or the Marshall's service. The FCC in general has a different mandate and point of view about what they do. They aren't so much about keepings things secret as they are about keeping things orderly and under control. Violate radio licensing and the FCC is there to reign you in. Violate the public trust (as the FCC sees it) and the FCC is there to reign you in.

Whether or not you can "trust" any particular federal agency depends on what you are trusting them to do. I think you can generally trust a law enforcement agency to do whatever they think is necessary (and usually legal) to enforce the law as they think it should be enforced. You can't trust a law enforcement agency to be any more forthcoming about their methods, tools, and data than they absolutely have to be. I think you can generally trust the FCC to enforce communications standards as they think they should be enforced, which will include trusting them to hold broadband Internet access service providers to the applicable rules under Title II of the Communications Act.

I don't think having these expectations is in any way schizophrenic.

Comment Re:Simple response from me... (Score 4, Informative) 340 340

You should check with those organization's policies on the location/protection of information. You may find that you are not authorized by them to take that information out of the country, encrypted or not.

If you work for a company in the United States that does any kind of technical work, that company may have policies against your taking any of their IT equipment (and information) outside of the United States. Yes, even a cell phone, even to Canada. You might open them up to a violation of export control laws at a minimum.

Off the main topic but still of interest - even talking inside the borders of the US to a non-US person (a specific designation referring to a combination of non-citizenship, non-green card holder) about a technical subject can be a violation of export controls on technical information.

The wages of sin are unreported.