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Comment Re:Hovered over property for only 22 seconds .. (Score 2) 664

Although I'm not sure your argument is really meant to be the initiation of a debate, I'll jump in:

1. If my neighbor was hanging over my fence in a cherry picker watching what was going on in my back yard, I would probably take a picture, then call the cops and my lawyer.

2. If my neighbor was hanging a camera over my fence so that he could watch what was going on in my backyard, I might very well take a baseball bat and render his camera inoperable.

3. If my neighbor is hanging a camera over my fence but up too high for me to hit it with a baseball bat (say, suspended by a drone) I might very well find another way to render it inoperable.

I believe that most people's response to this kind of provocation will depend on whether human lives are at risk. I've read a lot of comments about how the individual who rendered the camera drone inoperable did or did not risk human lives with his action, but most of them seem to be from uninformed individuals. Even those that are from more informed individuals are probably from people who have no direct knowledge of the environment and context within with the action took place.

The fact that someone was arrested and charged can't be used as proof of guilt (at least not in the US - I've heard that it operates otherwise elsewhere). Many people commenting here seem to already believe that guns are inherently evil, and seem to think that this event is more proof. I think guns are a tool, and that people who are familiar with them can use them safely even in circumstances where those who are not familiar with them see too much risk. Whether this is such a case will hopefully be judged by people who are not overly fearful of guns and can objectively judge the evidence.

Comment Re:Already happens for large US companies (Score 2) 42

I know because of work that I've done as a government contractor that the IRS has semi-permanent staff located at certain large businesses to aid in resolving audit issues, and similar arrangements are in place between the OCC (banking supervisors) and certain large banks. However, I have never heard of government regulators in place at large web publishers in order to keep them from publishing "inappropriate content" (or to respond quickly if/when they do). You could paint me "very surprised" (practically incredulous) if anyone has evidence of this.

Comment Re:Interesting argument (Score 2) 124

Agreed. The original GENIE, AOL, COMPUSERVE etc. were "information services." The provider managed the content, or at least managed the forums within which the content was posted. Today's ISPs don't provide the information; they transport it from the provider to the consumer. They have dropped much of what was partially an information service - no more UseNet News, limited support for personal web sites, no FTP servers, often nothing more than electronic mail. So what if computers are involved - doesn't every communication medium more advanced than people shouting in the park use some kind of technology to encode/decode, store (on one end or the other or both) the actual transmission, etc.?

Comment Re:Does it matter? (Score 1) 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.