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Comment: Re:Logjam (Score 1) 42

by bzipitidoo (#49740737) Attached to: How 1990s Encryption Backdoors Put Today's Internet In Jeopardy

Yeah, I thought "Internet in jeopardy" was over the top. It's some serious hindsight to complain that decisions made 20 years ago are screwing up software today. There are so many decisions from the early days we're stuck with now, why are these so special? Because it's security?

The PC has tons of cruft, such as the hard drive partitioning scheme, boot code, the layers and layers of hardware discovery, and memory organization. The platform has been updated repeatedly, with many hard limits raised repeatedly. Hard drive partitions were limited to 10M, then 16M, 33M, 134M, 528M, 2G, 3.2G, 4G, and more, and the source of these limitations were things maximum allowed sector counts, MS-DOS limits, BIOS limits. One of the trickier ones was a 8G limit on the location of the kernel. The boot partition could be larger, so long as the kernel ended up in the first 8G, as the boot code in the BIOS could not seek deeper into the hard drive than that.

For another stellar example of shortsighted programming, there was the Y2K problem. Many programs made in the 90s failed that test. One program I fixed went from 1999 to 1910. What did they do to make it roll over to 1910? I would have thought 1900 the obvious erroneous year to compute. What they did was convert (current year - 1900) to a string, then take the first two characters, and stick a "19" in front of them. So, 2000-1900 = 100, and the first 2 characters are "10". I didn't have the source code, but I was able to modify the binary to do mod 100 instead, then found the "19" and change that to a "20". It'll break again in 2100, rolling over to 2000, but I very much doubt that software will still be in use then.

Comment: ablation by laser (Score 3, Interesting) 147

by bzipitidoo (#49708017) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission?

Beam enough laser light at the object to heat its surface to the point that it ablates. That will push it onto a different course. We won't even have to leave Earth for that to work. Of course, it does need an awful lot of laser power, but if our very survival is at stake, maybe we could do it. Here's the relevant XKCD what if.

Comment: another way to wipe out life (Score 4, Interesting) 25

by bzipitidoo (#49695813) Attached to: Kepler's "Superflare" Stars Sport Huge, Angry Starspots

Somewhere between 4 and 5 billion years from now, the sun will turn into a red giant. Mercury and Venus are toast when that happens. Earth may be engulfed, or it may be pushed to a higher orbit, we're not sure.

We have a bash with the Andromeda Galaxy scheduled in about 4 billion years. Seems the date has been moved up, as both Andromeda and the Milky Way may be larger than thought. That may not do anything to the solar system, everything could miss us. Or, we'll have a close encounter with a massive star and most of the planets, including Earth, will be flung into interstellar space. Or perhaps our entire solar system will be sent out of the galaxy.

But none of that matters, because the sun is slowly getting hotter, and in about 1 billion years will be hot enough to boil away our oceans.

At any time, a nearby supergiant could go supernova, and if a pole is pointed at us, all life dies from the massive quantities of radiation it puts out.

In 15 billion years, the Earth becomes tidally locked to the Moon. Not fatal to all life, but will mess up a lot of species.

At some point, the radioactive material in the Earth finishes decaying and generating heat. Then plate tectonics shuts down, and eventually all our continents erode into the ocean floor. If there is still an ocean when that happens, it will cover the world.

But probably, we'll kill ourselves off long before any of that happens. Fun times.

Comment: Re:Take A Bow For Your Accomplishments (Score 1) 218

"Unknown" and "not proven" is the rat I smelled. Smells just like "doubt is our product".

Yes, bee colonies are dying, and it's a TOTAL MYSTERY! Well, I rather think research in certain areas is being blocked and buried, otherwise it would be a lot less of a mystery. There is ample reason to distrust industry. They have a long track record of turning to propaganda to improve their bottom line. Big Tobacco started it. Big Oil saw how effective it was and jumped in to confuse the public about Climate Change. Big Media is still trying to sell the idea that copying is stealing, but that one is so ludicrous that even propaganda can't quite bridge that yawning gulf in rational thinking. And there's lots more than that. It's pervasive. Industry leaders simply do not grasp the immorality of propaganda, they really believe it's just another weapon in the arsenal.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49688489) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

it is pretty hard to make money charging for access to information that everyone already has access to for free.

Restricting access to publicly available information is an impossible problem. DRM does not really work, and inconveniences and annoys customers who want to make legitimate use of what they bought. Outlawing communication does not work. Going on a moral crusade and demonizing everyone as pirates does not work. Therefore, the problem of making money from information must be solved differently. And there are solutions: crowdfunding, and other forms of patronage. There's also endorsements, advertising revenue, and performance. It's getting harder and harder to do it with restriction.

And, the moral angle: restriction is an immoral way to make money from information. That is exactly what RMS complained about all those years ago when he needed some working software and could not fix it himself because it was restricted. We should all sit still and be quiet like good little children until Uncle Bill can be bothered to get around to fixing the bugs, for a big enough fee of course. The attempt to force the impossible to work anyway has cost us all hugely, and not just money either. We've had too many ordinary citizens railroaded in a court of law, given completely over the top penalties, without the plaintiffs having to prove that the defendants actually did anything illegal, because, you know, everyone does it. College students have been forced to give up their dreams of a college education, a mother has been forced into bankruptcy. We ought to have our digital public library up and running by now, but we don't. We should have been doing what Google Books is doing and more, but we can't thanks to our own copyright laws. Libraries have a minuscule online presence.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49683513) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

No, people are more likely to produce something if they benefit from it. That's quite different than owning it. Anyone can create and/or own something of no use or value. Factory work is all about being compensated for producing things that others own.

Ownership is a means to aid people in gaining from their productivity. It is not the only means, and may not be the best means. It is a good way, but not so good that we should all clamor for the Ownership Society, asking that it be expanded into some kind of universal mechanism, applicable to all things. Intellectual property is one of many places ownership should not apply. We want to fairly compensate authors, artists, and other contributors. We don't need ownership to do it, it can be done with crowdfunding and other forms of patronage. Indeed, we have seen that ownership can be very bad at ensuring artists are fairly compensated, thanks to such cheats as Hollywood Accounting, and Work for Hire contracts. Big Media organizations have far more power than individual artists, and have often abused that power to bargain too hard. But most of all, that ownership model depends upon scarcity, and information is simply not scarce, nor can it be made to be scarce no matter how hard anyone tries, with technology such as DRM, or with legal means, anymore than gravity can be outlawed.

We most certainly should not give up our natural rights to communicate among ourselves! This is what Big Media has demanded, even going so far as to threaten, bully, and lie with their pervasive propaganda, and commit all kinds of crimes, to push us into acceptance. It is an unconscionable demand, and should be denied, with prejudice.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49682285) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

I wasn't talking about vegetarianism. Animals have to eat other life to survive. Plants are alive. Is it moral to eat, whether that's plants or animals? As to what it has to do with ownership, eating is a taking, a stealing of other lives. The most fundamental thing any being owns is their own body. We should have a care not to be unconscious of the hypocrisy of screaming "thief!" over the mere copying-- not taking but just copying-- of the immaterial, when all of us are takers of food of which nearly all was once alive.

Communism, you say? There are more choices than communism and capitalism. Ownership has many benefits. Ownership heads off a Tragedy of the Commons problem with useful goods. Most people are more careful with things that they own. And, as I said, ownership keeps our affairs more orderly, lessens reasons to get into a fight over who gets to use a scarce good. Greater ability to match owners of idle equipment with nearby people who need to rent them for a short time, with appropriate rules and compensations for handling issues of damage, loss, and wear and tear, would make our society more efficient. Even if honest, a communist central authority simply is not nimble enough to keep up with the millions of reallocations necessary to achieve greater efficiency than a capitalist system. Perhaps a business like Uber can improve matters. There's considerable overhead in just managing all the information necessary to track everything down to the smallest, cheapest items worth tracking.

But when the things in questions are not scarce, ownership in the same style as applied to scarce things is just stupid. Learning and knowledge are valuable, but not scarce. Should we charge children for their education, make them take out student loans? When they graduate from high school and turn 18 years old, should they have to repay society for what their education cost?

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49670741) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

Why is it moral to eat? Animals depend entirely on other life for food. Plants get energy from the sun and convert raw materials into living tissue, animals mostly can't, and must eat plants or other animals to survive.

Ownership is only a legal and social custom to keep order, stop people from fighting each other over who gets to use an item that can only be used by one group at a time, or who gets to consume a perishable item. The items themselves of course are completely indifferent to such niceties. The morality of it is that it promotes peace better than most other systems. It works quite well, but it could be more efficient to be more relaxed about ownership. I can't use all my possessions all the time, and have the constant problem of living with the clutter it causes. If I could borrow more things more readily, I wouldn't need to own as much. These new car rentals services like Uber are trying to fill an empty niche, allowing owners of goods that spend much time sitting idle to put them to greater use, in exchange for some compensation.

Comment: Re:Um.. Why? (Score 1) 141

by bzipitidoo (#49661149) Attached to: Prison Messaging System JPay Withdraws Copyright Claims

I am very disturbed. There's a lot of corruption, and sheer stupidity. I really think we need to spell out, in writing, a whole bunch of things that the powerful aren't allowed to do. No EULAs, copyrights, or other claims of legal rights that aren't actually true. For instance, the National Football League claims ownership of everything about every broadcast of every football game, including things that are clearly not theirs to claim. They assert so at the end of the game.

I have an anecdote to share. I got a letter from the city claiming that my grass was too high, and was therefore a Nuisance. It was a bullying, insulting, and insincere letter that they should be ashamed they ever composed. The letter informed me that they could fine me $2000 per day that the property was in violation. That's an absolutely absurd amount to fine someone over grass that was a few inches over their arbitrary height. I do not agree that high grass is a nuisance. Nor do I agree that my grass was high, not when the city's grass in the nearby median was even higher. That's the bullying part. I don't believe they have the power to collect such a huge fine, and they may know that, and are just trying to scare me. Then the letter lectured me on how clean neighborhoods reduce crime and increase property values, as if I had never heard that sort of thing before. Finally, the letter concluded with a helpful list of lawn care services I could employ, with a disclaimer that they don't endorse any of them. I thought that list highly improper. I wonder how many officials have shady connections with those lawn care services, maybe get a little kickback? They don't care about neat neighbors nearly as much as they care about revenue, and the letter seemed to me to be more about that, about abusing the law to wring money from compliant and fearful citizens. Outrageous. But this is everywhere. What is to be done?

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49654479) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

You ask if I think it is immoral to own physical property. Of course not! With some exceptions. For instance, it is immoral to own slaves, not because ownership is immoral, but because slavery is immoral. Also, owners have responsibilities. For example, owning a car does not give a person the right to dump used engine oil into storm sewers, or drive anywhere they want, tearing up vegetation on public lands. Landowners cannot divert all the water from streams and rivers that happen to cross their properties.

I've been saying that because the material and immaterial are very different, they should be handled differently, with different legal frameworks. Big Media has been trying to twist our laws and public perceptions. They use a seductive simplification that "property is property" which is completely wrong.

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 2) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49647871) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

No, I am saying DRM is unfair, period. It's not just the implementation, or the excesses. It is the goal. They are trying to make ideas and thinking no different than material property. They want people to have to buy and sell ideas as if they were no different than material goods such as clothes. They have resorted to propaganda, equating copying to stealing at every opportunity, calling people who do it by the loaded term "pirates" no matter how innocent the copying, calling ideas "property" with the terminology "intellectual properties", and even referring to all of us as "consumers", as if listening to a song is no different than eating a slice of bread. Further, they are trying to pull that one on the public only where it suits them. These are the guys who brought us the really unethical and cheating practices of Hollywood Accounting. They conveniently exempt themselves from the rules they say everyone else should follow.

Equating material and immaterial things, to try to turn our entire society into an ownership game at which they can easily win because they're so good at it, is a terrible vision. Civilization itself depends upon the sharing of ideas. We did not rise to the top of the animal kingdom because we are stronger or faster than all other animals. We obviously aren't. Of animals about our size, we are the slowest and weakest by far. We made it to the top because we work together to invent and build things other animal cannot. Now these tyrants of the mind want to control all commerce of thought. If they had their way, no one would be able to communicate anything at all without paying them a big toll. Through bribery and corruption of our public officials, they have had far too much success at lengthening copyright beyond all sense, despite the vast majority, of perhaps over 90%, in favor of scaling copyright back. They've expanded the scope of copyrights and patents to cover things they were never meant to cover originally. Should software be patentable? They've actually had the hubris to patent genes, and laws of nature, copyright mere lists of data and facts. They are allowed to try to fool people with EULAs and contractual terms that are in fact not enforceable, though they claim they are of course. When they whistle, our police forces, who we pay for and who serve us, come running to do their bidding. They've tried to make us pay to police every network packet, to check whether it contains copyrighted material. They would shut down and abolish the Internet, the used book store, the public library, the university, and the grade school. Our children would not be allowed to learn a thing without having to pay and pay again for the privilege, because knowledge is valuable.

Fortunately for all of us, imposition and enforcement of their vision is impractical. The universe does not work in accordance with their desires.

But the first step is to take that aura of respectability off these Big Media bandits. They are not fine upstanding business people, they commit worse thievery than anything they accuse us of. Bank reputations are much tarnished for their role in causing the Great Recession through blatant dishonesty, cheating, and fraud. Why do people like you accord the practitioners of Hollywood Accounting respect, and listen to their propaganda as if it was genuinely meant? Over and over, they have exposed themselves as bullies, cowards, liars, manipulators, and thieves. But they're rich, and that's all that matters to far too many people. Many of us realize that the mental shortcut of measuring the worth of a person by the worth of their material possessions is wrong, but we do it anyway.

What is the point of driving a single mother into bankruptcy and taking her home away, over a measly 24 songs? Her children certainly did nothing to deserve being kicked out of their home. They are notorious for picking people they think they can beat up, to make an example of, to terrorize the rest of us. A number of young people have been forced to give up their dreams of getting a college education, because these scumbags decided that making that financially impossible was suitable punishment for sharing a few songs. And those are the people you think still deserve a hearing?

Comment: Re:The best thing Keurig can do is die (Score 1) 369

by bzipitidoo (#49644121) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods

Give that some more thought. DRM is unfair, period. Big Media has been running a massive propaganda campaign to convince everyone that piracy is immoral, and no different than stealing. It sounds like they still have you halfway convinced. Neither of those claims is correct. If they stuck to just trying to prevent copying, that would bolster their position, but they don't. They've shown that they cannot be trusted. They get greedy, and do unethical things like unskippable commercials on Blu-Ray, and region encoding on DVD. There have even been a few infamous incidents where they callously put their good customers at risk on the thinking that protecting their intellectual property justified any intrusive and damaging measure, stuff like the Sony rootkit and Turbo Tax boot sector rewrite. Then there's the entire shakedown and terror campaign where they threaten to sue ordinary citizens into oblivion for not even copying, but only "making available" material that might or might not even be copyrighted. Even if guilty, a punishment of $222,000 or $1.92 million for "making available" 24 songs, is completely over the top. As many people have noted, the punishment for an actual theft, a shoplifting of one CD, which can easily hold those 24 songs, is comparatively light, maybe a few hundred dollars.

Copyright is only a means to promote art and science. It is neither a good way to do it, nor the only way. Big Media propagandists would have us all believe that artists will starve without copyright. That is simply not true. We have crowdfunding now. We ought to expand that, and abolish copyright.

Think about what copyright blocks. Our public libraries should be much more digital. It would save us huge amounts of money. No more having to travel to the library to pick up a physical copy, and then having to make a second trip to return the copy. No more unavailable items because all copies are currently checked out. You'd just download a copy, and delete it when you didn't want it any more. Libraries could have far, far more content, including current stuff which libraries are notoriously poor at stocking, losses from damaged media would be almost nothing, and most of all, it would be so much more searchable. The only reason the private bookstore succeeded is that they occupied a niche, current fiction and non-fiction, that the public library wasn't nimble enough to fill.

Comment: not just police, also local govt (Score 1) 249

I think the police must and can change. The bullying can be kept to a minimum, through screening and training. The training also needs to change.

One problem is higher up. It's not just the police, it's local governments. For example, a few weeks ago, I got a letter about my grass being too high. In a neighboring city, the bureaucrats actually escalated an unmown lawn into jail time! They had kept a dossier of lawn care violations dating back nearly 20 years! Wow, welcome to East Germany. I had mowed 2 weeks before, but it had rained a lot recently and the city's own medians were not in compliance. But none of that mattered. The tone of the letter is what I find most troubling. It was insulting, threatening, demeaning, and belittling all in one. There was no due process, the property was simply declared in violation. I had no idea what the height limit was until the letter informed me that it was 12 inches, and only a vague notion that there probably was a city ordinance about it. The letter informed me that the city could fine me up to $2000 per day that the property was in violation, If I don't pay, they can file a lien and may sue me. Also, it seems I'm on probation for a year, as the letter also said I would not receive another warning for 12 months, they'd just start the punishment the next time the property was found in violation. Pretty heavy handed for a little grass. I doubt whether they can really do all the terrible things they say, and it may be in part a scare tactic. They also stated in the letter that the purpose is "that the property be maintained in an attractive and pleasant manner free of all nuisances. Premises that become unattractive because of of high vegetation or other nuisance invite deterioration, vandalism and infestation and undermine the integrity of the neighborhoods and commercial areas where they exist." That's damned insulting, lecturing me about that. I have done much to clean the property up. It had a lot of trash scattered around before I moved in, and I have disposed of it all. Nor do I agree with their premise that high vegetation is a nuisance, or that over 12 inches is "high". So, according to that, my grandparents, who were farmers and good people, are public nuisances because they never mowed their yard? They had 4 foot high grass, and a vegetable garden. As a citizen with a clean record, I deserve better treatment than that.

Finally, the letter concluded with a list of lawn mowing services I could employ, with a disclaimer that they do not endorse any of them. Yeah, right! That list struck me as highly improper. So, the city is being run as a racket for lawn care profiteering? With a city being run like that, is it any wonder that their cops aren't totally fair either? What I would like to see is the people rise up against such petty racketeering. Citizens who want to keep our hard won rights should descend upon the city of Grand Prairie Texas for jailing a man for not mowing enough, and set them straight. No escalation of civil violations into criminal ones. No de facto debtor prisons. Sadly, I have not heard that anything further is being done in this case. Looks like the episode is going to be forgotten, and Mr. Yoes will not receive any apology or compensation. Maybe the media attention they got is enough to scare the bureaucrats from pulling that one again.

Comment: Re:Coding (Score 1) 532

by bzipitidoo (#49630981) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

Codes are not as simple as they may seem. The issue is complexity. Both insurance and medical use and abuse complexity to confuse people and hide the real costs. It may seem that doctors are as much victims as patients, both struggling with byzantine insurance rules, but actually doctors are to blame for much of it by charging outrageous fantasy prices. Time Magazine's "Bitter Pill" story fingered the "chargemaster" as the main culprit behind the crazy pricing.

For example, last year, I had a kidney stone, and went to emergency 3 times. The first visit, I was given a CT scan. The hospital would not trouble me with any confusing and boring details until I demanded that they send me a bill that included all the items, with codes. Instead, they at first presented me with an enormous bill with no details, and when I didn't pay up immediately, started getting nasty, threatening to turn me over to debt collectors, ruin my credit, etc. They were testing me, seeing if I'd let them walk all over me. They and the insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield in this case) could have done their jobs, but they find it easier to bully patients. I should sign a blank check? I think not!

With a more detailed bill in hand, I learned that the "CT scan - body" was code 74176, and the hospital charges $9107.20 for it. That's an absolutely ridiculous price of course. Insurance cut them down to $193.85. But that's not the whole story. I also got a bill from a lab on that same code 74176, for $660, reduced by insurance to $56.15. What's the deal? Was I being double billed? The explanation I was given, and which I don't know whether to believe, is that it was legit, and that labs which analyze CT scans use the same code as facilities which actually operate the CT machinery. If true, this practice of doubling up codes like that can only lead to confusion. To further confuse matters, the hospital has their own internal code for the CT scan: 162889. When I check the Medicare price for a particular code, how am I to know which of several possible items or procedures they're talking about? They should have different codes, maybe 74176a and 74176b.

I spotted a lot of discrepancies in the bill. Yeah, I can believe 90% of medical bills contain errors. The example that sticks out the most for my own case is the 1 liter of saline solution, code J7030. A bag of salt water, which ought to cost about the same as a 2 liter bottle of a soft drink. I received 3 of these, and the hospital charged $306.78 for each one. Why? Then, the real puzzler: insurance reduced these 3 identical items to 3 different prices, $151.74, $63.62, and $26.84 respectively. Why? I was given several excuses, like that these are sterile solutions, and that's costly. No, it's not. Boil it, and done. Or, irradiate it. Another excuse was that it wasn't a simple bag of salt water, it contained drugs. Well, no, that, if you'll pardon the pun, doesn't hold water, and the insurance company support person backtracked pretty quickly on that idea. There were no drugs added to the saline solutions Yet another excuse is that the price is not for the item alone, it includes having a medical tech jab the needle into my arm and hitting a vein, which requires some skill. Finally, they admitted I had a point and started investigating. They reduced my cost to the lowest of the 3 for all 3 saline solutions. $26.84 is still outrageous for an item that ought to cost $2, but it's a lot better than $306.

At this point the hospital tried to cut a deal. If I paid right away, they'd generously knock 20% off my original bill. I told them to hold that thought. Looked like I could do better by continuing to question the details of my bill. And yes, I could. The insurance has adjusted a lot of costs downward, more than the 20% I would have saved by agreeing to the hospital's deal.

But, I think insurance still doesn't have it correct. The cost to me for that CT scan was changed from $193.85 plus $56.15 to $56.15 x 2. They had 2 entries for code 74176, and simply forced both to the lower of the 2 prices, although they might actually be different items. That's the kind of confusion caused by reusing codes. I really do not know what is right. For the CT scan, should I pay $193.85 + 56.15 = $250 , or $56.15 x 2 = $112.30, or even just $56.15? The whole thing seems to be in limbo right now. I have still not heard from Blue Cross Blue Shield what my final bill should be.

Comment: don't call these offers. they aren't (Score 4, Insightful) 227

by bzipitidoo (#49598263) Attached to: Want 30 Job Offers a Month? It's Not As Great As You Think

This article is about spam, not real offers. If they were real offers, it would give the lowdown-- location, skills, duties, and pay. It would be an actual employment contract, and all the candidate would have to do is sign up, or not.

So often, these so-called jobs are fake. There isn't a real job, they're just harvesting resumes. Or maybe there is but they've already settled on a candidate, and everyone else has no real chance, the employer is only going through the motions to satisfy EEOC rules.

The world is no nursery. - Sigmund Freud