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Comment: Re:Not seeing the issue here (Score 1) 206

by grcumb (#48649949) Attached to: Judge: It's OK For Cops To Create Fake Instagram Accounts

Bingo. You're absolutely correct.

"I've got three witnesses that put you there, DNA evidence, and some video with someone wearing jeans and a white hoodie, just like you wear, though the face isn't visable. You'll get the death penalty. If you give me a confession, we can get it down to manslaughter. First offense. You'll probably just get probation. Here's some paper."

You might like to look up the difference between coercion and deception. One of them is almost always a crime; the other, not so much.

Comment: Re:been there, done that (Score 2) 280

by grcumb (#48614815) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

You're not a liberal arts major, by any chance, are you? 'Cuz one thing STEM tries to do is kill the belief that an anecdote counters data.

Why yes, I am a liberal arts major, who studied classical logic, among other things. I was responding to the assertion that 'most' liberal arts majors ended up as lowly restaurant workers. I countered that by asserting a) that restaurant workers are not so lowly as characterised; b) that drawing general conclusions about people's prospects based on their education does not bear out, particularly where some of the more respected and influential jobs are concerned; and c) that in a number of cases, a liberal arts education is a precursor to the kind of work that most people can only dream about.

You see, I was actually not making a positive argument so much as rebutting (and refuting) someone else's crass, inaccurate and unsubstantiated assertion that a liberal arts degree is valueless. Shocking, isn't it, to see a STEM major failing so badly at applying basic logic?

But yeah, the plural of anecdote is not always data.

P.S. For the humour-impaired: I'm a keyboard monkey, too. A liberal arts educated keyboard monkey.

Comment: Re:been there, done that (Score 3, Funny) 280

by grcumb (#48612745) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

I second this comment. besides teaching college which will probably involve a graduate degree, most of thejobs with a liberal arts degree involve asking "Do you want fries with that?"

Two things:

First - I supported myself for a decade working in bars and restaurants. There are more interesting people living interesting lives employed in that sector than just about any other.

Second - Ridley Scott went to art college. Peter Jackson was self-taught. James Cameron was a truck driver. The people who have done more to shape your vision than you're likely able to realise followed no discernible pattern of behaviour. I'd advise you to save your derision until someone's earned it.

Case in point: One 'liberal arts' friend of mine plays the king of the White Walkers on GoT. Another works on The Daily Show. How's your job look now, keyboard monkey?

Comment: Re:been there, done that (Score 1) 280

by grcumb (#48612645) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

Have an English degree, found it useless. went back got my BSEE, been employed as such ever since. short version, go back and get your degree.

Did a double major in Theatre and English Literature. After 20 years of gainful employment in systems software development and consulting, I'm now CTO at an international think tank. I also know the value of capitalisation and punctuation.

Short version: It's horses for courses; reflect carefully, then do what you feel is best. If you're smart, the real determining factor is how hard you're willing to work, and how well you continue to learn.

Comment: Re:please keep closed! (Score 0) 50

by grcumb (#48597329) Attached to: Microsoft To Open Source Cloud Framework Behind Halo 4 Services

I disagree. Encapsulation and abstraction of complexity is natural and humans are great at breaking complexity apart and making the common-man able to accomplish what was one impossible.

No dispute there. The problem, though, is not that we make easy things simple and hard things possible (pace, Larry Wall). It's that we have of late developed a tendency to simplify too far. Microsoft is famous for making systems administration and certain types of programming 'click-and-drool' easy. And hyperbole aside, the cost to society of the half-competent people who found gainful employment due to this charade can be measured in the many billions.

You're absolutely right in that commercial flying is safer than ever, notwithstanding the tendency in airlines to pressure senior pilots out in favour of cheaper, younger staff. And those working in HFT would likely be wreaking havoc by other means if they didn't have software and fibre-optics to enable them. I guess my tongue hadn't entirely left my cheek when I wrote that last para.

BUT... Microsoft has contributed significantly to a general downward trend in the quality of software and systems integrity. And they've done so by marketing the idea that with the right tools, tool users can be commoditised. And that really, really sucks.

Comment: Re:please keep closed! (Score 1) 50

by grcumb (#48597007) Attached to: Microsoft To Open Source Cloud Framework Behind Halo 4 Services

Whatever it is that made Halo 4 (cloud-based or otherwise) should remain closed. Or better yet, incinerate it.

Agreed. 'Software that makes it easy for non-experts to do expert tasks' will one day be recognised for its role in causing the downfall of civilisation as we know it. By then, of course, it will be too late.

Some among you may think that's overstating things. Some among you are also .NET developers, so what do you know?

Seriously, though: From the Airbus crash to high frequency trading to the Sony hack, examples abound of how enabling and empowering mediocrity is the first ingredient of every modern tragedy.

Comment: Re:Not unexpected. (Score 1) 141

It's also common for people replying to posts to not read properly. I said manufacturers AND retailers lie, and in any case Apple is often the manufacturer and the retailer in this case via the Apple store. And you don't have to prove in the absolute sense that the defect was there, if you go to a County Court to make a claim against the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act in the UK, it's up to the magistrate to decide on the balance of probabilities. Generally, if you have used the item in the way it was intended and there is no evidence of physical damage, and it has not lasted a 'reasonable' period of time, they will find in favour of the purchaser.

Comment: Re:Wha?!?!!! (Score 1) 172

by grcumb (#48561381) Attached to: Just-Announced X.Org Security Flaws Affect Code Dating Back To 1987

The point the OP was trying to make was that Linus's Law [], specifically Eric S. Raymond's "given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow" argument, is ridiculously idealistic as it operates under the pretence that everyone has as much insight and knowledge into the software as the author(s) have, focusing solely on the quantity of eyes.

I disagree that it is a ridiculously idealistic statement. It is more of a misunderstood rhetorical tautology than anything else.

A discovered bug obviously had enough eyeballs on it, and an as yet undiscovered bug hasn't had enough eyeballs on it.

Actually, I wish he had limited the statement to the persistence of known bugs in FOSS code bases. ESR said the bugs are easier to find as the number of beta testers and developers increases. This doesn't appear to be true. One thing that is true is that code quality is viewed differently in FOSS than in commercial, proprietary software. All too often, software businesses treat QA, debugging and code maintenance as overhead, so there's a perverse incentive to leave known bugs - even the most egregious ones - lying around indefinitely - or at least until someone publicly raises a stink. FOSS culture values code quality more highly and is less tolerant toward bugs, so generally speaking we see somewhat better code quality, and somewhat shorter known bug life than in similar proprietary projects.

Emphasis on 'generally speaking' in the above. Exceptions abound, but I think the trend is clear.

Comment: Re:Article doesn't address they "why" (Score 3, Interesting) 205

by grcumb (#48552121) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

If we want to address this issue, we need a complete overhaul of our IP laws.

Er, no.

The 'why' has little to do with IP law and a lot to do with group dynamics, especially herd behaviour. Take this statement, for example:

One of my personal pet causes is developing a better alternative to HTML/CSS. This is a case where the metaphorical snowdrift is R&D on new platforms (which could at least initially compile to HTML/CSS).

The problem with the 'snowdrift' here, to abuse the metaphor, has nothing to do with IP law, and nothing to do with lack of innovation. It has everything to do with the size of the drift. You don't have any choice but to wait for someone else to come along to help shovel. But the author is trying to say, If everyone doesn't shovel, nobody gets out. And that's not always true.

A quick reminder: When HTML first came out, the very first thing virtually every proprietary software vendor of note did was publish their own website design tool. And each of those tools used proprietary extensions and/or unique behaviour in an attempt to corner the market on web development, and therefore on the web itself.

But the 'snowdrift' in this case was all the other companies. Because no single one of them was capable of establishing and holding overwhelming dominance, the 'drift' was doomed to remain more manageable by groups than by any single entity. (Microsoft came closest to achieving dominance, but ultimately their failure was such that they have in fact been weakened by the effort.)

Say what you like about the W3C, and draw what conclusions you will from the recent schism-and-reunification with WHATWG. The plain fact is that stodgy, not-too-volatile standards actually work in everybody's favour. To be clear: they provide the greatest benefit to the group, not to the enfant terrible programmer who thinks he knows better than multiple generations of his predecessors.

Yes, FOSS projects face institutional weaknesses, including a lack of funding. Especially on funding for R&D. But funded projects face significant weaknesses as well. Just look at the Node.JS / io.js fork, all because Joyent went overboard in its egalitarian zeal. Consider also that recent widely publicised bugs, despite the alarm they've caused, haven't really done much to affect the relative level of quality in funded vs proprietary vs unfunded code bases. They all have gaping holes, but the extent of their suckage seems to be dependent on factors other than funding. If not, Microsoft would be the ne plus ultra of software.

Weighed in the balance, therefore, FOSS's existential problems are real, and significant, but they're not as significant as those faced by all the other methods we've tried. So to those who have a better idea about how to balance community benefits and obligations, I can only reply as the Empress famously did when revolutionaries carried her bodily from the palace: 'I wish them well.'

Comment: Re:I don't know if 'profiteer' is the right term (Score 1) 33

by grcumb (#48551817) Attached to: The Rise of the Global Surveillance Profiteers

Just because *some* or even *most* profit is reasonable, doesn't mean all profit is reasonable.

The term "profiteer" is used for people who put profit above a higher ethical claim; for example a citizen selling arms to an enemy during wartime.

I'm not sure that's really the canonical use of the term. I would think that selling said arms to one's own government at extortionate prices would be closer to the standard definition.

But niggling aside, the real problem with this article is that it equates the control of technology with control of behaviour, and assumes that it's even possible to usefully control the proliferation of technology.

Instead of advocating a software proscription list, why not seek to promote international legal standards concerning the right to privacy, and a respect for the rule of law among all nations?

Actually, don't answer that. I know why. Because building democracy is hard and even the purportedly enlightened, 'free' nations are busy backing away from individual human rights.

Comment: Re:Fear the Asian carp (Score 3, Interesting) 118

by ClayDowling (#48547845) Attached to: How One Man Changed the Ecology of the Great Lakes With Salmon

If the Asian Carp shares the same fate as the rest of the invasive species that have infiltrated the lakes, expect walleye to start eating them sooner rather than later. Already walleye are eating zebra mussels and brown gobies. The downside is that the walleye fishery has changed a lot, because they're no longer interested in the bait that fishermen have to offer.

Modeling paged and segmented memories is tricky business. -- P.J. Denning