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Comment Re:Evens are evil (Score 0) 198 198

Of course it will alternate even and odd, the article is incomplete...

I don't think it will, at least not daily. That would result in a weird game of musical cars. You could drive somewhere one day and then have to wait a day to drive back. Annoying as it is if you have the wrong plate, it makes more sense not to alternate (at least not often, and hopefully the ban won't be around that long anyway.)

I wonder if they are banning electric cars with even numbered plates. I'd love to see the reactions to that.

Comment Re:They should go (Score 2) 198 198

Why not? You allow only half the vehicles on the street today and the other half tomorrow. You have halfed your traffic and brought your pollution levels down. It is quite simple to enforce by number plates. Petrol today and diesel tomorrow on the other hand is difficult to enforce, makes no sense.

I agree, but there's nothing in the article to suggest that it'll be half the vehicles today and the other half tomorrow. Instead it says "Only vehicles with numberplates ending in an odd number will be allowed to drive... for a few days" You'd think it'd be odd numbered plates on odd numbered days and even plates on even days, but that's not what it says.

But come to think of it, that'd be a little weird: you'd be able to drive your car into the city on one day, but wouldn't be able to drive it out the next. You wouldn't be able to go anywhere overnight, you'd have to wait a day for the return trip. They're using check points to stop cars from entering the city, but presumably they won't stop anyone leaving.

If you're already in the city, just plead ignorance; who watches the news anyway? :)

Comment Re:Type "bush hid the facts" into Notepad. (Score 1) 119 119

I agree overall with your comment, but I think UTF-8's backwards compatibility with ASCII was genius and is the reason we have as much Unicode support as we do today. I consider UTF-8 to be one of the best hacks of all time. Without it, the software that existed at the time would have had to be thrown out or re-written. The fact that software can (often) process UTF-8 without even being aware that it isn't ASCII was exactly what was needed to get Unicode off the ground. UTF-8 allowed Unicode to be adopted incrementally (especially by Unixes, which were much slower to adopt any (universal) international character set than Windows was).

Sadly, not everyone is as brilliant as Ken Thompson, so the UTF-8 encoding didn't exist when Unicode and ISO 10646 were first created. If someone had thought of it just a few years earlier we probably would have used that for nearly everything, and your second point would be irrelevant.

But by the time Unicode was even a thing, a lot of the software industry was already invested in ISO 10646, specifically UCS-2 (notably Microsoft and IBM, but plenty of others) so unless you think excluding IBM and Microsoft (in 1990!) would have been good for the widespread adoption of Unicode, the designers had no choice but to have multiple encodings.

Ironically, Linux and Apple were able to chose the (arguably much better) UTF-8 encoding only because they got serious about adopting an international character set several years later than Microsoft and IBM did (call it second mover advantage.)

So I couldn't call those mistakes. More like "historical accidents", just like most other bad designs we have to live with.

Your third point is just a face-palm, I agree.

Comment Re:How are HTML5, CSS and JS not proprietary? (Score 1) 95 95

The GP was right; for a right-wing nutjob he makes a lot of sense. I've been saying the same thing for years, nobody listens.

You're never really "locked in". All that is really meant by that is that there is a cost to moving away from some external dependency, and there is always a cost. Every external dependency a project takes on is "lock in." That includes the operating system, programming language, third party libraries, and everything else that isn't part of the project itself. You can try to minimize it with abstraction layers, but that has a cost too, and it is often paid unnecessarily when the dependency never needs to be removed or changed. Or you can also try to minimize it by using the good old advice to avoid nonstandard/non-portable extensions. But that has a cost too when the nonstandard extension does exactly what you need and it's expensive to do yourself. That's just wasted effort if you never actually end up needing to switch.

The only good advice is to choose your dependencies carefully and if necessary have an escape plan. (But don't spend too much effort on the escape plan unless there's a high likelihood you'll actually use it.)

Comment Re:How are HTML5, CSS and JS not proprietary? (Score 2) 95 95

That's only true if you want to run controls that were written for windows. If COM and OLE were supported on other platforms, then presumably people would write COM/OLE components for those platforms, and those would run fine on their platforms.

Back in the 90s, there were some other systems that supported COM/OLE (IBM and Sun Microsystems for example.)

CORBA is practically the same thing, and is available everywhere. The problem with CORBA is that is a typical design-by-committee mess. It ended up way too complicated, even compared to COM/OLE.

The problem that COM and CORBA both solved (or at least tried to solve) still exists, with no commonly accepted solution. The "standard" binary interface between components on every single platform is the C function. That's the only code that can be called directly from (almost) every language without creating "bindings". Not even C++ code from different compilers can be mixed in the same program, because C++ doesn't define the binary interface.

Something like COM or CORBA is still needed. If we had it, and it was universally available, you could expose more than just C functions at the binary level (without bindings or without recompiling everything).

Because of all the years of bad press, nobody is going to believe it, but COM was and is a good idea, and it's completely unencumbered by patents or licensing issues. Being able to combine components written in different languages (or even just different C++ compilers) is a good thing, and is too complicated without something like COM.

Comment Re:How are HTML5, CSS and JS not proprietary? (Score 2) 95 95

I've written many ActiveX controls, some for use in a browser, some not.

At no point was I required to sign or agree to a license to do so.

With requiring a license he was talking about creating the ActiveX runtime environment for a web browser.

No license is required for that either. All ActiveX is, at heart, is a hierarchy of C++ style interfaces (classes with nothing but pure virtual functions) rooted in a single interface (IUnknown), together with a handful of global C functions (e.g. CoCreateInstance). It can be supported on any platform as long as the C++ compiler implements virtual functions with a pointer to a vtable at the beginning of any object with virtual functions. That's every major compiler on every major platform. Actually you can do COM "manually" in plain old C too, so you can do COM anywhere with a C compiler. Put pointer to an array of pointers to functions (the vtable) at the beginning of a struct, if the functions have the proper signatures then the struct is a COM object.

I know this because I've also written many ActiveX and COM components, and ported COM/OLE/ActiveX code to Linux and OS/X. Generally the problem with implementing ActiveX on other platforms has nothing to do with ActiveX itself. The problem is that virtually all ActiveX components are written for Windows and make Win32 calls.

Comment Re:Schneier got it right a decade and a half ago (Score 2) 119 119

Unicode is sort of complicated, or at least it's more complicated than might be expected. But the problem with Schneier saying "Unicode is too complex to ever be secure" is that he might as well just say "programming is too complex to ever be secure." Sure, Unicode is a little complicated. But it's hardly the most complicated thing you'll ever have to deal with as a programmer. If we can't even get that right, we might as well just quit.

Comment Re:Man bites dog (Score 1) 119 119

Stop the presses a bug found in a large complex program.

No Browser is safe : Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari all hacked at Pwn2Own contest

It's not "a bug" in "a program". It's every major browser. And it's pretty much like this every time they do pwn2own. If a group of hackers are able to bring down every major browser with previously unknown* exploits every year just for a chance to win a laptop, what can better motivated (financed) groups do?

* unknown to the browser developers anyway... 17 seconds to pwn IE, yeah right... like they say on the cooking shows "here's one I prepared earlier"

Comment Re:Just 4? (Score 3, Interesting) 85 85

The last thing Jersey needs is more car dealerships and lots. So I can see the numerical limits as having some merit.

Have you ever been to a Tesla dealership? They are nothing like typical dealerships. They don't have sprawling lots full of cars. They are small, typically in pedestrian friendly areas nowhere near other dealerships, and have just enough cars that you can look at the models and options, with a few more cars for test drives. They're more like a retail store than a dealership lot. Here is a blog with pictures of dealerships around the world.

Each car is built to order, and you come pick it up at the dealership or they deliver it to you. I suspect the limit is a compromise with opponents of Tesla's model, not anything to do with too many dealerships.

Comment Re:Not only finances are an issue (Score 1) 287 287

Most companies would not keep any developers over 50 on staff.

It's their loss. Most companies are horrendously bad at making software. The ones that are very good at it know better and have lots of older developers on staff.

And the research shows they're right:
Older Is Wiser: Study Shows Software Developers’ Skills Improve Over Time

My experience tells me the same. Most of the really good software engineers I know are at least 40, many are much older.

Go ahead, throw 'em out and get some newly-minted CS grads. Someone with some sense is going to get a great hire.

Comment Re:LOL@ Use-case (Score 2) 45 45

Well, I still think the data can be deanonymized. I don't need to make any assumptions other than what you've told us.

the places that an individual goes to, and how they got there, how long it took, and how long and where they were stationary. key factors critical for shopping mall owners to be able to provide to their retailers: (1) how many unique shoppers went into *their* store (broken down by time and date is also helpful). (2) how long each unique shopper spent in their store. (3) also useful to know is where they went *before* going to another store.

Even if the time resolution is 5 minutes, and the spacial resolution is only enough to identify which stores I visit, that is enough to identify me. If I go to the mall, stop by and get a coffee, wander around for a while, then make another purchase in another store, using my credit card both times, I may very well be the only person who made purchases at those two stores within a 5 minute window at each store. Each purchase makes it more likely to be unique. Now if I put on dark glasses and a baseball cap and stop by Victoria's Secret to buy some lingerie for my mistress, with cash, it's possible to link that to me via your path data.

It isn't the path data per se that is identifying me -- it's a combination of that and other data. It doesn't have to be credit card data, like I said. It could be wifi, loyalty cards, security cameras, even witnesses... anything that can associate me uniquely with one of your paths. And it doesn't even have to be unique, just narrowing it down to a handful of people is useful to law enforcement.

Don't get me wrong: It sounds like you and the company you worked for care about privacy and did everything you could to protect it. That's commendable. And it sounds like you did a good job. (Plus I think it's cool you used GNU Radio.)

It's also commendable that you understand the conflict of interest. The retailers would like to have better spacial and temporal resolution: they'd like to know which aisles people walk down, what displays they stand in front of and for how long, etc. The retailers will ask for that and if you don't provide it someone else will. So there will always be pressure to make it more useful. But the more useful it is to retailers, the more useful it is to anyone else who might try to get access to it, whether it be through hacking or subpoena.

I am skeptical whenever I hear "don't worry, we've anonymized the data." I've seen too many ways that data can be deanonymized, and I'm not a professional data miner or forensic hacker, so I don't know what other devious methods there might be that I've never heard of and would never occur to me. The key point is that as long as you store the path itself then anything that can link me to part of it can link me to all of it. The only way to avoid that would be to obliterate the path data and only store aggregate information (averages, sums, etc.)

Comment Re:LOL@ Use-case (Score 3, Insightful) 45 45

instead they used GNURadio to do GSM passive decoding and signal-strength detection. and no, you *can't* track the person themselves, nor can you get their telephone number, nor can you decode their phone conversations, nor can you decode their SMS messages (not "and track 1000s of phones on affordable commodity off-the-shelf hardware at the same time"). they also track bluetooth and wifi, but again, the mac addresses are hashed (with salting) *before* being stored on disk.

I think it would still be possible to deanonymize that path data. If you make a credit card purchase, the information about time and place of the credit transaction can be associated with whatever id you use hashed or not. The path data has information that someone was standing at the cash register at that time and place. With the credit card information (or even just loyalty card information) you know who it was and can associate that with the entire path through the mall. Similarly, if they walk past a Starbucks and their smartphone associates with their WIFI, now if you have access to Starbuck's information you can deanonymize it from that. Or it could be deanonymized with the security cameras.

I don't see then how it could be subpoena-proof if you store the actual path, regardless of however you anonymize it. They can subpoena your data together with other data to get what they want.

Comment Re:Gut flora (Score 3, Informative) 152 152

TFA says "the microbiome can influence, and be influenced by, a range of characteristics such as weight, disease, diet, exercise, mood and much more." So they acknowledge the causation can go both ways.

But it gets even more interesting. According to a Ted talk I saw about this the other day, there are apparently two different ways that our gut microbes might cause obesity. One is related to what you said:

Which gets to part 2 of the problem: We shit stuff that is still quite nutritious. Ask your local fly population. Our "waste" is not just waste. There's quite a bit of stuff in there that could still be "digested".

From the Ted talk:

When we take the microbes from an obese mouse and transplant them into a genetically normal mouse that's been raised in a bubble with no microbes of its own, it becomes fatter than if it got them from a regular mouse. Why this happens is absolutely amazing, though. Sometimes what's going on is that the microbes are helping them digest food more efficiently from the same diet, so they're taking more energy from their food, but other times, the microbes are actually affecting their behavior. What they're doing is they're eating more than the normal mouse, so they only get fat if we let them eat as much as they want.

So apparently some microbes allow you to extract more energy from your food so you put on more weight for a given amount of calories. But other ones might affect your appetite somehow. There's more in the talk, and it's not just mice: there's research in humans as well.

A programming language is low level when its programs require attention to the irrelevant.