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Comment: Grand Theft Aircraft? (Score 1) 382

Just because the transponder was manually turned off, that doesn't prove a terrorist forced the pilot to do it. Maybe it was an inside job.
Why would it make sense for a plane to disappear? A Boeing 777 costs at least $200 million. The parts alone are worth many millions of dollars. Even though many of the parts have serial numbers, there are struggling airlines and outsourced maintenance depots that might be receptive to creatively sourced parts. Even if the plane was shredded for scrap, it's a lot of money for one day of work.

Comment: BINGO (Score 1) 155

The privacy threat that people are MOST LIKELY TO FACE is the government investigating you as a "person of interest" for various reasons. Once they get your private messages, it's fairly easy to become a target for harassment. Sure, they could always get a search warrant and pressure you to decrypt the information. But hardly any of these "investigations" are backed by enough evidence to justify that tactic. The "invisible hand" prefers to work invisibly. Most email providers will quietly hand over your information to the government without so much as a whimper of protest.

Encryption that won't survive a subpoena of your ISP or email service provider is simply not worth doing. Client-based encryption is tough to set up because your contacts need to do the encryption and decryption on their machines. But it works.

Comment: For once the ISP has a point (Score 2, Interesting) 573

by dcavanaugh (#43813123) Attached to: FiOS User Finds Limit of 'Unlimited' Data Plan: 77 TB/Month

This case really IS excessive; it goes well beyond what an individual user would reasonably use on their own.

Most of the OTHER cases (esp. cable companies) involve mysterious limits that individuals can break by watching (or downloading) too much online video. Of course, if you buy the cable company's overpriced TV services, you can watch as many shows as you like, on however many set top boxes you have, drawing down an unlimited volume of video-over-IP traffic to do it. Just don't watch video that competes with the cable provider, and it's all good.

Comment: Bacteria and humans are NOT equally evolved (Score 1) 315

by dcavanaugh (#43812987) Attached to: Cockroaches Evolving To Avoid Roach Motels

The opportunity for genetic mutation is primarily in the process of reproduction. Humans take roughly 20 years to reproduce. Bacteria reproduce millions of times faster. This is why we it's an uphill battle to keep producing new antibiotics, but the police have nothing to fear from criminals who might evolve to be born with bullet-proof exoskeletons.

Medical science can keep people alive that would otherwise be killed by various weaknesses, thus negating the evolutionary process in humans. The concept of letting the weakest people die is socially unacceptable, so we don't do it. I'm not in favor of doing that, but the human evolutionary process is pretty much limited to physical characteristics that attract the opposite sex. Even then, ugly people can always get plastic surgery.

+ - Best practices (and products) for encrypted email & messaging?

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "With the US government routinely invading the privacy of reporters and anyone who might be a political opponent, it's only a matter of time before this scrutiny gets completely out of hand. Say what you like about politicians and who started it, the fact remains that intrusive government is a serious problem and it's getting worse.

What are the technical options? Sure, I can install GnuPG and set up my own public & private keys. But all it really means is that I can send encrypted email to myself and a tiny percentage of geeks. The real challenge is to make strong encryption ubiquitous and "idiot-proof", so intruders are limited to the SMTP headers. There is little doubt that the government can monitor the entire unencrypted Internet. But they have to pick and choose where to deploy limited decryption assets.

What are the most effective solutions that can be deployed by the low-tech people that we all communicate with?"

Comment: Re:Choosing the correct tactics (Score 1) 491

by dcavanaugh (#38221806) Attached to: Patent Expires On Best Selling Drug of All Time

The big pharma companies employ vast armies of sales reps. These people visit docs in person and try to persuade them (with free stuff and other perks) to write scripts for their products. Docs that play along by writing "no substitutions" on prescriptions get a lot more "rewards" than those who don't. The same concept applies to pharmacists, in an attempt to discourage them from making generic substitutions.

It took many years, but the insurance companies finally got smart. They require generic substitutions wherever possible, and stick the patient with big co-pays if a prescription is filled with a name brand when a generic choice existed -- if they cover it at all. The docs and pharmacists don't have as much latitude as they used to. I never had a problem with generic drugs, so have to say the insurance companies might be right on this.

Comment: Re:Reflections (Score 1) 960

by dcavanaugh (#38181872) Attached to: Why Everyone Hates the IT Department

"Actually I think this is a problem somewhat unique to IT. Everyone has a computer at home and therefore thinks they *know* what IT does."

Sometimes they really do.

"They think its just a matter of scale and that the issues they face on their PC are the same ones the IT department deals with."

And sometimes they are right. When the IT department provides LESS capability at a HIGHER price than the users could obtain on their own, this can be hard to justify. Certainly, there are audit compliance, security, and scalability issues. But sometimes the IT department doesn't handle those very well either.

If a key deliverable of the IT department is stability and security, why does the Exchange server go on holiday for days at a time? Why does this happen every few months and nobody gets fired? Why is spam being broadcast to our distribution lists? Whose bright idea was it to allow database usernames and passwords to be left in text files on the web server and exposed to the Internet? After the fourth time the website was hacked, why is the only management action limited to deleting the above mentioned text file and recoding the website not to need it? What are all of these audits really worth if critical failures are swept under the rug? If we nuked the IT department and left everyone to fend for themselves, would we REALLY be any worse off? Not every company has a great answer to these questions.

Comment: Re:Overvalued for 10 years (Score 1) 323

by dcavanaugh (#38151286) Attached to: Netflix Expects To Be Unprofitable In 2012

The service split and price increase was so incredibly harebrained, it's almost as if management (and their friends) was holding onto a short position that was about to expire.

The real uppity-ups are never short. They receive options and free stock to the point where they can never get rid of it all. Part of the justification for ridiculous CEO compensation is that the board never wants the CEO to profit from diminishing the business. Looking at Netflix, you would never know it, but senior management was not short.

That's not to say that people in middle management didn't know what was happening or how to profit from it. When a company defies common sense as much as Netlflix did, it's usually because senior management dragged middle management kicking and screaming into the quicksand. At the end of the day, scapegoats will be selected from middle management, the uppity-ups will have golden parachutes, and a new owner will try to reverse the stupidity.

Comment: Re:Overvalued for 10 years (Score 2) 323

by dcavanaugh (#38148768) Attached to: Netflix Expects To Be Unprofitable In 2012

Market imbalances is how money is made in stocks. An overpriced stock that pays no dividend has "short me" written all over it. I am never surprised when a stock falls in line with performance metrics, but I am often surprised at how long it takes before that happens.

NFLX has been a screaming short for a long time. The service split and price increase was so incredibly harebrained, it's almost as if management wanted to fail.

Comment: Re:Mercury (Score 1) 412

by dcavanaugh (#37980930) Attached to: One Tenth of China's Farmland Polluted With Heavy Metals

Do you know that the average Chinese farm contains more mercury than a rectal thermometer? Would you EAT a rectal thermometer? Well I would. Ah, mercury, sweetest of the transition metals.

Would you (could you possibly) eat and entire Chinese farm?

Not all at once, but mercury stays in the human body for a long time and humans eat three times a day.

Comment: Marketable life of skill != useful life of skill (Score 1) 289

by dcavanaugh (#37851324) Attached to: Your Tech Skills Have a Two Year Half-Life

Some people learn only the cookbook level of tech skills. They know just barely enough syntax, buzz words, and key words to hack their way through a project. For such people, even the 2 year half life is optimistic. I once met a guy who knew how to configure TCP/IP networks, but only using MS tools. He didn't know how routing or DHCP configurations worked, but he knew how to set it all up on Control Panel.

Others learn the true spirit of what technology is all about. They know not just syntax, they understand why it works the way it does and what can be built at the outer limits of creativity. These people can get a lot more than a 2 year half life, and they can even parlay a current skill into new tech skills, using the old skill as a base.

Comment: Re:What about languages? (Score 2) 289

by dcavanaugh (#37851250) Attached to: Your Tech Skills Have a Two Year Half-Life

How marketable is SQL? There are two ways to look at it. Will SQL help you distinguish yourself from others and leave them in the dust? No. But just try to get hired without it.

There are lots of legacy databases out there, and you won't be talking to them without a fair understanding of SQL. Even the niftiest of whiz-bang query tools will generate flawed SQL every so often, leaving you on your own to figure it out.

Comment: All about trend, forecast, and a history of errors (Score 1) 325

by dcavanaugh (#37846694) Attached to: Netflix Loses 800,000 Subscribers After Qwikster Gaffe

Several ways to play this, none of which encourage buying (or even holding ) NFLX stock.

1. Europe is going to be risky. Lots to go wrong, individual countries to add their own red tape. Unknown market acceptance. Sell NFLX on the risk.

2. Projected losses next year. Sell NFLX on the anticipated loss.

3. If and when NFLX proves they have a viable operation in Europe and they have somehow avoided the mistakes that led to unsustainable pricing in the US, buy the stock THEN. But what prevents the content industry from initiating another shakedown? Are they going to try again in Asia? South America? Africa?

But there isn't any scenario where it makes no sense to buy the stock NOW. How much confidence should investors have that the management team who made such a mess with Qwikster and the price increases will somehow be better in Europe? The reward for a successful European rollout is about the same as what they would have had in the US had they not screwed it up.

Comment: What we have here is a failure to negotiate (Score 1) 325

by dcavanaugh (#37846520) Attached to: Netflix Loses 800,000 Subscribers After Qwikster Gaffe

Netflix should have anticipated the loss of customers due to a price increase and factored that into their negotiations with the content industry. Although Netflix would be screwed without a sufficient variety of content for its DVD and streaming business, they are equally screwed with marketplace rejection of their pricing. Their management team needs to be swapped out.

The trick is to take a page from the RIAA playbook. They overstate the cost of piracy every chance they get. The Netflix strategy would be the doom-and-gloom projections of lost customers (thus reducing the value of the content to Netflix). If anything, Netflix underestimated the severity of the situation. What a bunch of idiots.

It's not easy to threaten to put yourself out of business if a key supplier is unwilling to play ball. But considering their eroding customer base, it's time to renegotiate those contracts and roll back the prices. Or fold up the tent and liquidate. The explanation to the content providers is simple: "We are in danger of going out of business. You can put us under by refusing to sell us product in a manner that is consistent with our pricing model. But it's going to cost you when we stop paying. After you finish off the other flat-rate services like Hulu, that leaves you with Amazon, Apple, and maybe Blockbuster. Lotsa luck negotiating with them after you kill off all of their competitors."

Steve Jobs had it easy with iTunes. Copying your old CDs and piracy were both "zero revenue" models for the music industry. Anything they didn't like about iTunes they quickly learned to tolerate when the alternative was no revenue at all. Netflix doesn't have that choice because video piracy is not that common.

It's obvious the video industry wants to abolish buffet-style pricing at the retail level. They missed out when brick and mortar video rental stores bought individual media and rented them repeatedly. Subscription pricing is perceived as less desirable because they are convinced that whatever the subscription price is, more money could be collected on a pay-as-you-go basis. What they fail to realize is that only about 20% of their content has enough of an audience to attract individual paying viewers. If they want to kill subscription services like Netflix, then 80% of their inventory might as well go in the dumpster.

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