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Comment Re:NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

So because there is always some risk, any attempt to minimize risk is pointless? What kind of logic is that?

Yes, I could install and uninstall, and if I didn't have access to my work laptop that would have been my next choice. However, that doesn't invalidate the complaint.

Government program should strive to be efficient, not just internally, but externally as well. Everyone hates the DMV, largely because they tend to be so inefficient with taxpayer time (waiting for hours to get documents processed). Periodically states I've lived in have attempted to address those issues and I have greatly appreciated it when those programs have succeeded. By your logic, no one should ever complain about long wait times or long processing times at the DMV because it is "whinging for whinging's sake".

I agree that electronic formats are preferable, but it is possible to have an electronic format that doesn't require the use of Adobe software. I filing my federal tax return online with no need for me to install any extra software, Adobe or otherwise, so it is certainly possible to do so securely. They've picked a solution that excludes a non-zero percentage of the population. My best guess is up to approximately 20% of tax payers not using a professional service like H&R Block (Who incidentally have been accused of trying to increase tax form complexity so as to scare a larger proportion of tax payers into using their services instead of filing on their own).

Identifying inefficiencies or unnecessary complexity in a system for which I, as a tax payer and voter, am responsible to a certain extent is not whinging, but participating in the process.

Comment Re:NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

You apparently didn't read my original posts since
1. I already have a computer, but the NJ tax office has erected artificial barriers to my using it
2. roughly 20% of the installed base in the US (and probably higher in the state of NJ) have a mac at home, which would be their first choice for E-filing their taxes.
3. Most computer users are idiots at least some of the time. I am trying NOT to be an idiot by NOT installing software known to increase security risks. In essence, part of my complaint is that the NJ tax office is trying to force me to act like an idiot for no apparently good reason.
4. Explain to me how putting a flat form online along side the wizbang filled version translates into "spending huge amounts of money" to cater to something on the order of 20% of potential tax filers. Their form has active code, meaning it is probably MORE EXPENSIVE to maintain than the form I would like them to post since there is no debugging necessary for a flat PDF.
5. I am not talking about Linux (although the ultimate OP was), I'm talking about a mac, but that is beside the point. The issue is security, not platform preferences. Adobe is an absolute requirement to even open the damn form. If adobe had a stellar security reputation, then I could see your point, but they DON'T. They have a reputation for opening computers up to all sorts of attacks that would not otherwise work. I wouldn't want to install it on any PC I might own either if it could be avoided.
6. And finally, you make my damn point for me. I don't have an option to not file my taxes unless I am owed a return. So they are erecting artificial barriers to tax filing for no discernible benefit to me or the state of NJ, UNLESS it dissuades me from requesting the money that they owe me, because if I owe them money they will get it plus interest in the long run anyway.

Finally, it is not whining to point out unnecessary complications in a system for which I am partially footing the bill, and which is supposed to exist to serve the needs of those like me. Government agencies are supposed to be responsive to the needs of the citizens. As a citizen of NJ, it is completely appropriate for me to complain about things I perceive as flaws in the system, not just because they inconvenience me, but because they are unnecessary inconveniences and could potentially affect up to 20% of the people expected to use those services. This is supposed to be how government services improve and evolve. It remains to be seen if they will respond to my complaint in any way. I was simply adding my anecdote to that of the author of the original article.

Not sure why any of that has apparnetly made you so butt hurt. Do you work for the NJ tax office or Adobe or something?

Comment Re:Mitochindria - just mitochondria (Score 1) 125

And are these understood well enough to be SURE of fixing things, on a permanent basis?

Yes

This is the cellular equivalent of an organ transplant, without the associated risks of organ rejections. Mitocondria have their own DNA separate from the Nuclear DNA. It is inherited only from the mother. In the case of a surrogate pregnancy the child is technically the offspring of all 3 parents (half of nuclear DNA from father, half of nuclear DNA from mother, and mitochondrial DNA from surrogate). All they are talking about is taking the mitochondria from someone who has no mitochondrial associated inherited disorders and substituting it for the mitochondria from a mother with a known mitochondrial associated inherited disorder. No genes are being modified (although even then the answer would still be "Yes"), they are simply moving one organelle from one cell to another cell and letting the normal cellular machinery do what it is supposed to.

Comment Re:NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

Yes, because all tax payers have access to a 3rd party corporate IT managed machine to make sure that insecure software doesn't introduce security risks. /sarcasm.

Many employers have guidelines restricting what information can be accessed via corporate machines. For all I know, using my work laptop to file my personal taxes could be violation of that approved use. The alternative is to enter my CONFIDENTIAL TAX INFORMATION into a computer about which I know very little with regard to security and have to trust that there isn't key logger software or something else that will enable someone to cull my information from the forms (library, friends, family, etc.).

Please explain to me why anyone would consider that to be an acceptable security trade off.

Governments have an obligation to not put in place unnecessary barriers to prevent the citizens from using those services. Particularly for something like tax filing which is obligatory (financial and criminal fines can result). Requiring Adobe software is a small friction, it is available for most platforms (Linux excluded as far as I know), but the friction ALSO introduces unnecessary risks as well. IF adobe forms are one option, then fine but by making them the only way to e-file without paying a tax preparer, they are doing a disservice to their citizens.

Comment Re:NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

I don't know if you are aware of this, but financial information is considered particularly attractive to data thieves. If you are getting a refund, for example, there is a spot on the form for your bank account and routing numbers so that funds can be direct deposited. That's the kind of information we like to consider Sensitive.

You may also be unaware that Adobe has a less than stellar reputation for software security. Combining sensitive information with software known to be rather insecure is a potentially dangerous combination for the one who's information is being transmitted.

Having a flat PDF that could be printed from any computer capable of meeting the open portions of the PDF specification would enable virtually all tax payers to be able to print and complete the forms at home without having to transmit any sensitive information via insecure software. However, the NJ Tax office only offers the forms online in a PDF that does not conform to the open portion of the PDF specification such that the forms are not accessible at all without Adobe brand PDF software. Therefore, the NJ Tax office is in fact requiring tax payers to reduce the security of their personal computers in order to access a form for no reason that I have been able to determine anyway, other than they've signed a contract with Adobe.

Hell I wouldn't even object to the use of a special PDF form as long as there is a vanilla PDF form for printing also available. Their current set up adds friction and potentially cost to a system where none is justified. Complexity for complexity sake.

Comment Re:Paper (Score 1) 256

That may be. I know it was the case in past years, and is probably true now.

If they are going to go through the hassle of hosting a website with the forms, why lock 20% of people out of them? Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd assume that a flat PDF version of the form is cheaper to host on their website for people to print out at home, than it is to send pre-printed copies of the tax forms to libraries. Just seems wasteful and needlessly inefficient.

Comment Re:NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

Seeing as about 20% of the installed base in the US is mac, (and I'd guess it is even higher for personal as opposed to work computers, especially in a wealthy state like NJ) I'm hardly a special snowflake.

Windows computers still don't come with PDF capabilities by default, but the Mac has for years. There is no justification for requiring the installation of a proprietary, and security flaw riddled piece of software to render a PDF, when the built in software can do that already. It is unnecessary. The Tax office has an obligation to make those forms accessible to everyone, to the extent possible. All they had to do was disable the stupid (Download Adobe or else) feature and I could have used the form without issue. It is the lock out that makes this so fucking stupid.

Remember, this isn't about something I have a real choice about. I have to file my taxes, and so does everyone else. Therefore, the government agency mandating tax filings should make every effort to at the very least not lock people out of being able to even open the damn file. The fact that we are discussing my most sensitive financial information, and they expect me to trust it to adobe with their horrific security track record is just special.

Comment Re:NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

I did have to. I get to decide security policy for my personal machine, not the NJ state tax office.

If they want to use software from a company with a horrible security record, that is their decision, but they should not be able to force that decision on others. I was fortunate enough (well fortunate isn't really the word but...) that my employer also has the same horrible taste in security policy, and was therefore able to access the forms on a computer I had handy without having to create a virtualization just to maintain security.

I have a perfectly good PDF reader on my computer, and if the tax office kept to the open parts of the PDF standard we wouldn't have a problem, but they didn't. They used a bunch of proprietary Adobe features to make the supposedly open PDF anything but.

Comment NJ tax office mandates Adobe as well (Score 1) 256

I filed my state tax return a few days ago and had to use my work laptop (a POS Dell) instead of my Mac because I refused to install Adobe software on it. They even prevented me from SEEING the form on my Mac so that I could print it out and fill it in by hand, it just showed an error page instructing me to install Adobe software. Even after completing and submitting the form I couldn't convert it to a flat file that was readable on my Mac, which is just fucking stupid.

Before that I couldn't even access parts of their website because those parts are only tested with Internet Explorer, and the security certificate clashes with Safari. So basically the state of NJ wants me to use the least secure browser, and software with a reputation for security holes to submit my CONFIDENTIAL TAX information!

Comment Re:Good luck ... (Score 2, Interesting) 75

You all seem to be missing that the 100,000 Genome project is based in the UK, not the US. US insurance policy won't affect her. Even if she emigrated to the US later in life, the "Pre-existing conditions" copout has been removed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obama care).

Being jaded and conspiratorial may make you feel cool, but at least make sure you've got your basic facts right first. Otherwise you just look like a stark raving fool.

Comment Re:Salmon's now on my "foods to avoid" list (Score 1) 514

But, even then, a lot of FDA mandated labeling is neutral. If I am told how many carbs or how much fiber my cereal has, it is neutral, because all other cereals have those ingredients.

Not true. There are plenty of products on the store shelves with labels like "Fat Free", "No Added Sugar", "12g of Fiber". These are being used to target a subset of customer that may not include you, but it is intended to communicate something about the value of the product to those customers motivated by these labels.

For example, the label "Natural" implies that their competitors products are somehow unnatural. That is how the "Organic" label started out. In order to bring clarity to the consumer space the USDA instituted the National Organic Program which defined what practices and ingredients could be used and remain eligible for the organic label. These kinds of certifications cost money, and they wouldn't spend the additional money if people weren't willing to pay a much larger premium for products bearing the label.

Whether harmful or not, as a consumer, I should know where my food comes from.

You have EVERY RIGHT to ask, but unless there is a valid health/safety reason the vendor has EVERY RIGHT not to tell you. I'd like to know the exact recipe for Coca-Cola Classic. Right down to the mg. Doesn't mean the Coca-Cola company has to tell me, or that I can use the FDA to force them to release that information without good cause. Same goes for GM foods. You can choose to only buy products where companies disclose on their labels the GM status of all ingredients, but that is as far as your rights go unless there is a valid health/safety reason for you to know.

Assuming the products are indeed safe (and I have no reason to suspect otherwise), shouldn't they be labeled like everything else and those companies wanting to produce them educate the population? After all, if they have nothing to hide with GMO, then why hide that it is GMO?

Lets unpack this a little. First you are correct that the products are safe. Otherwise the FDA wouldn't have approved them (that is their job after all).

Second, you are approaching the labeling discussion from the "Why Not", when in fact the FDA must approach it from the other side, as in "Why Should They". As I pointed out above, there is a cost associated with labelling (supply chain segregation, verification testing, certifications, inventory management and demand projections, etc.). These costs may seem trivial from the outside, but as someone who's been involved in this stuff at work I can assure you that they are anything but trivial. Under the law, if the FDA is going to institute a new policy they need to conduct an economic analysis to determine the cost of their new policy and the benefits. Mandatory labelling of GM status has NO MEANINGFUL UPSIDE, and as all cost. Voluntary labelling on the other hand requires does not require this economic analysis, and can be supported through user fees (those seeking to get the label pay for the federal expenses associated with overseeing the label).

Now from the consumer side, it is perfectly reasonable to request that AquAdvantage label all of its GM salmon, and based on the unprecedented levels of transparency the company has demonstrated thus far, it is entirely possible that they will. I, for one, would like to buy their salmon to support them and say a big "FUCK YOU" to the anti-science fear mongers out there (plus I like salmon!). However, that is a MARKETING decision, not a SAFETY or REGULATORY decision. As someone who has had direct dealing with the FDA, it is very important to make sure they don't put my products at a disadvantage by trying to make marketing decisions for me. That is my job not theirs, and in my experience they are not very qualified to make those types of decisions.

Comment Re:GM producers are shooting themselves in the foo (Score 1) 514

What is "proper" is defined in-part by the government. Since labeling is a form of compelled speech there are limits on the circumstances in which the government can mandate a label, as well as limitations on the information that they can require be put on the label. Public health and safety are the justifications for the ingredients list, nutrient composition labels, and allergneicity statements. However, since there is no public health and safety difference between GM and non-GM salmon (if there had been a difference, the salmon would not have been approved in the first place), they cannot force AquAdvantage or their customer to label the GM status of their salmon.

However, what they can do is *enable* voluntary labeling of GM status. That is why they released 2 draft guidance documents to address how companies can legally label their plant and salmon products as GM-free.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm469802.htm
http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm059098.htm

Comment Re:Salmon's now on my "foods to avoid" list (Score 1) 514

But GM meat creates a problem: A(n) (American) corporation owns the food supply. So it can reduce supply to keep profit margins high. The advantage will be a lot less if other corporations create other supplies of quick-grown meat. Or, they can all keep prices as high as the market will bear.

They still must compete against other farm raised salmon, much of which is located in the continental US, which is not the case for these fish. They have no ability to increase market prices, only to push them down due to their (presumably) lower cost of production. They were handed a patent for fish they already own, not all of the salmon in the US. In fact, the current approval only authorizes them to use 2 manufacturing sites. One in Canada for the breeding animals, and one in Latin America (Panama I think).

I wouldn't assume that but it is certainly suspicious: There's nothing wrong with the meat (at the moment) and they're already trying to avoid responsibility. What's the point? If, far in the future, GM foods do become defective, no corporation can undo the 50 years worth of disease already foisted onto its customers. When dealing with an unknown cost, the cost of honesty is low because the cost of the truth is fixed.

Complete mischaracterization. We are not looking at no risk (not approved) vs risk (approved), but at 2 scenarios that both pose their own risks. Someone could incubate Salmon eggs with radioactive isotopes today to try and create a new strain of salmon and the FDA would not need to be notified at all. That salmon could be marketed tomorrow. The risk of the current breeding programs are equivalent to the risks posed by this new GM salmon. And since the risks are the same, the relative increase in risk is unchanged.

In the "Rama" trilogy (AC Clarke), there are several sentences that I remember. One sentence mentions that a planet that embraced genetic engineering soon became extinct. In the 'Star trek' universe ('G' Roddenberry), WW 3 is fought over genetic engineering. Visionaries have assumed that genetic engineering will be bad. The reason may be the greed and deception built-in to the supply chain of most industries.

Are you seriously throwing up science fiction as an argument? In the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series there is a cautionary tale about a consumerist society collapsing because of their obsession with designer shoes, and they eventually evolved into birds so that they wouldn't have to set foot on the ground again. So. Fucking. What. does the HHGG book mean we should ban all designer shoes because we ,might get carried away and cause civilization to collapse based on the imaginings of a beloved fiction author?

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