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Comment: new age germophobes (Score 2) 183

by epine (#49487179) Attached to: How Many Hoaxes Are On Wikipedia? No One Knows

This is the same old elitist bullshit being smuggled out through the back door.

Fundamentally, there are a lot of people out there who don't want Wikipedia to be part of the answer. Whatever standard Wikipedia achieves, the bar is raised at least a hook higher.

I was brought up with "Gerry Germ". This is how insanity was introduced into my grade three class back in the 1970s.

Some of my unfortunate classmates probably grew up to become the adults who try to spray the entire world with 99.9% germicidal carcinogens. Aside from the shocking innumeracy (readily vaccinated in just five inquisitive minutes wielding your dad's miraculous eight-digit calculator, during which one discovers the small difference between zero point zero repeating and 0.001 as multiplicands), there are about six other layers of illiteracy here. We have subsequently learned that our own bodies are outnumbered 10 to 1 (if you count cells) or 100 to 1 (if you count genes) by our personal Gerry Germ symbiotes.

Nevertheless, we continue to hold wacky beliefs about our standards of personal hygiene, and absolutely ludicrous beliefs about what we ingest or acquire from the external environment. Yet somehow we live.

The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of information we encounter in daily living has never been up to to the germ-free standards of my grade three Gerry Germ indoctrination.

Common sense is the human ability to walk past something yummy that's being lying on the sidewalk for an hour that you just stepping on, and not licking it off the bottom of your shoe.

Yet with information about the world, the idea is that the ignorant and uniformed are just going to stick any piece of information into their mouth that they pass by, so all information in the world needs to be currated by food-safety professionals (aka all the authors dripping with expertise and credentials who might have succeeded in authoring Nupedia before the heat-death of the local universe).

Fundamentally the reason that this cloaked nonsense in Wikipedia is lying there undetected is that it's almost entirely immaterial. If a person holds a transient belief in the Australian god Poopoocaca, how much does that affect this year's RRSP contribution level? About 0.00000001 times as much as the five minutes with dad's expensive 8-digit calculator they unfortunately bypassed as a young child.

And you know what? The lunacies these people believe make 99.9% of the content on Wikipedia look like an oasis of sanity by comparison.

Wikipedia needs to bump that up to 99.99% exactly as badly as the germicidal soap in my bathroom needs to bump itself up to a 99.99% bacterial kill rate. As if the human condition is nothing but 1000 lb sand-dampened power supplies with a -100 dB bullshit noise floor at 60 Hz.

Now if I can just find an industrial-strength soap (so far recognized as safe) to rid me tout sweet of all the preening assholes from which this elitist crap originates in the first place, I might start clicking the "buy" button.

Comment: bow tie and nice NIST endorsement (Score 1) 212

Key fragments? Can we have that with a bow tie and a nice NIST endorsement?

When you break your word, you break something that can not be mended.

Even if you wear the regal black cloak of the Central Malfeasance Agency, when you're found out, it can and will be held against you.

Ho hum. This is clipper chip redux.

In 1997, a group of leading cryptographers published a paper, "The Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow, and Trusted Third-Party Encryption," analyzing the architectural vulnerabilities of implementing key escrow systems in general, including but not limited to the Clipper Chip Skipjack protocol. The technical flaws described in this paper were instrumental in the demise of the Clipper chip as a public policy option.
The U.S. government continued to press for key escrow by offering incentives to manufacturers, allowing more relaxed export controls if key escrow were part of cryptographic software that was exported.

Cooperation requires either trust or truncheons. No worries for the NSA. It'll soon enough be classified as a state-secret crime against humanity to bleat when beaten, if it isn't already.

Comment: proto conlang bowling shoe (Score 1) 624

The layout of paths will seem right and comfortable only when it is compatible with the process of walking. And the process of walking is far more subtle than one might imagine.

More at 120 Paths and Goals.

This is basically the famous "make the buildings first, then add the paths later" meme, as told by the architect Christopher Alexander.

A human language must comfortably accommodate the natural cognitive arcs of the human thought process. Ideally, it should fit habits of thought as comfortably as a hand fits a well oiled leather baseball glove, one that your forefather gave to his son (or your foremother gave to her daughter), stretching in an unbroken chain all the way back to human prehistory.

What we need, then, is a good proto conlang that we can throw into a cultural stew pot to steep for a thousand years, accommodating to the human mind however it will. If by then it still seems rough, throw it back into the pot for another thousand years.

The figure of merit, therefore, for a proto conlang is that it accommodates its future evolution gracefully, blooming like a rose quite unexpectedly, making everyone blush (2000 years from now) over how we ever got along without it.

Instead, what most people busy themselves inventing is a proto conlang bowling shoe, a neat (but sweaty) communal object which fits anyone who happens to drop by to drop some pins, with no possibly confusion about which foot goes into which shoe, or how the lacing pattern goes if one the laces should happen to break—pouring over in their righteous zeal the following menu (among others) to divine the one true ineluctable escape from all things arbitrary:

43 Different Ways To Lace Shoes

What English already does: Riding Boot Lacing

This method is for riding boots (motorbike or equestrian) whose sides are joined at the top and loosen near the ankle. The laces zig-zag from both ends and are tied in the middle.

English knows from feet on the ground where the pressure goes.

What weedy conlingers tend to moot: Hidden Knot Lacing

By hiding the knot underneath, the result is an uninterrupted series of straight "bars" that looks particularly distinctive on dress shoes or sneakers alike.

Conglingers know from eyes in the face that irregular knots and loose ends of human cognition are better spoked than spoken.

Comment: $25 million for two characters (one broKen) (Score 1) 92

by epine (#49435207) Attached to: AT&T Call Centers Sold Mobile Customer Information To Criminals

Apple imposes a $50 million fine for leaks, GT Advanced reveals

Perhaps LG is now facing more of the same, for leaking two whole characters: "8K".

What I'm hoping is that LG pushes back, and when it goes to court LG successfully argues they didn't tip any technical parameters about a forthcoming Apple product, because "K" doesn't mean 1000, and "K" doesn't mean 1024, and in fact doesn't mean any number at all, contrary to what the Apple marketing people apparently think.

Comment: snowclone form letter (Score 1) 89

by epine (#49419585) Attached to: The Problem With Using End-to-End Web Crypto as a Cure-All

The main problem with x as a cure-all is that anyone believes in a cure-alls in the first place.

In general, prions are quite resistant to proteases, heat, radiation, and formalin treatments, although their infectivity can be reduced by such treatments. Effective prion decontamination relies upon protein hydrolysis or reduction or destruction of protein tertiary structure. Examples include bleach, caustic soda, and strongly acidic detergents such as LpH. 134 ÂC (274 ÂF) for 18 minutes in a pressurized steam autoclave has been found to be somewhat effective in deactivating the agent of disease.

This is considerably more stringent than your typical abattoir. From another source:

This route of infection demonstrates prion resistance to gastric juices during digestion. Prions can survive in pH 2 to pH 10. Uptake of prions causes no inflammatory response and produces no immune reaction. No antibodies are produced.

Penicillin, anyone?

Comment: Re:The Canadian middle class is dying out. (Score 3, Informative) 198

by epine (#49364223) Attached to: Best Buy Kills Off Future Shop

This is a huge change from what the country was once like, when it had a robust middle class.

First of all, this is the norm among industrialized economies. Perhaps Norway is different. I haven't checked since the fracking boom.

Second, the thriving middle class was a fairly short lived affair, centered around three decades from 1950–1980. Most affluent societies have now returned to pre-1930s levels of economic inequality. Historically, an affluent middle class is the exception and not the norm.

I had a college roommate whose brawny younger brother dropped out of high school with few skills and somehow got a job with the CAW at a starting wage north of $70,000 per year, back in the early 1980s. He soon had a wife and children, a driveway filled with expensive motor toys, and cash-flow problems.

He was almost certainly employed at a factory making automotive products that discerning consumers—those of us lacking misty-eyed Big Three loyalty—did not wish to purchase.

Meanwhile, high school drop-outs trying to scrape by on non-union wages weren't necessarily doing much better than those same people today, a major difference being that the majority of those fantasy union jobs have now gone away.

Someone needs to get in a time travel booth to go back to the early 1970s to inform the CAW management group that no matter what course of action they chose, their business model (high union wages for semi-skilled labour) could not survive selling shit product. Marketing the hell out shit product was a short-term solution at best (Future Shop—ultimately—not excepted).

As much as the Reagan and Thatcher plutocrats initiated a self-serving destruction of the middle class, the middle class itself was hardly blameless.

Now it's time for the plutocrats to determine whether they can recognize how they are painting themselves into a non-viable corner before they encounter a messy corrective force of their own seeding.

Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming

Comment: The Shearing Economy (Score 1) 120

by epine (#49334721) Attached to: Uber To Turn Into a Big Data Company By Selling Location Data

Ugh. All your base R belong to us.

Avec optional appositional phrase:

means that Uber can, and is, on its way to becoming a Big Data company

Sans optional appositional phrase:

means that Uber can on its way to becoming a Big Data company

With proper parallelism:

means that Uber can become, and is on its way to becoming, a Big Data company

With more visual help to pair the distal commas:

means that Uber can become—and is on its way to becoming—a Big Data company

As it happens, I listened to an EconTalk episode last night dating back to July 2014, which is mainly about Uber.

Michael Munger on the Sharing Economy

This happens to be the audience-favourite EconTalk episode from 2014.

I've never been as much of a Mike Munger fan as many listeners of the show, but I actually thought this episode was well done. It's about 59m30s longer than what fits in an SMS message, so that makes it fairly clear that this episode is not preaching to the Uber choir. It's for those of us north of 30, whose lives are so dismal we sit around and listen to other people converse about how old and dismal we've all become.

Comment: the Lumia mosaic (Score 1) 213

by epine (#49318483) Attached to: Finland's Education System Supersedes "Subjects" With "Topics"

Recently I was reading The Seven Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler on my day off. There's a chapter or so devoted to the Lumiar School he founded, which runs on a Mosaic curriculum—a curriculum which discards the traditional subject orientation for learning experiences. Here's an article written about it shortly after the school opened: Learn what you want.

What we need to change to go along with this (if we keep them) are the standardized tests (by subject). I think there need to be many questions offered, from which the student can choose, and the final score needs to be more like tower diving, where your score on what you attempt is presented alongside with the average difficulty rating. Brownose U. could prefer to admit students with a 100% score at the high-school senior difficulty level, while Speed College could prefer to admit students with an 80% score at the level of a third-year undergraduate (in their chosen major)—tailoring their environment appropriately. Survival of the fittest lacks vitality unless there's real diversity in the methods employed.

Once upon a time, the problem with taking this approach is that having some of your brightest students going deep into difficult sub-topics (such as a bright high school math student who takes a shine to number theory), was that too many students would get too far ahead of the teachers, because few high school math teachers (for example) would be able to ace the entire panoply of twenty offered questions.

With the technology of social networking, it's a solvable problem to hook bright students up with teachers with expertise in the subject area, no matter how deep and narrow. If there are ten high-school math prodigies in all of Brazil who take a shine to number theory, you just need one math teacher (available online) who is good at number theory to help shepherd their studies in a productive direction.

No matter what the child wants to learn, find the teacher who can teach it. In a system as large as Brazil (to continue with my Lumiar example) it can't be that hard to have a least one teacher who can keep up with a bright child no matter how unusual the learning passion (excepting all things Narnia, like astrology and phrenology and intelligent design).

We have far less excuse to funnel every child down the same subject-matter cattle chute than ever before.

Comment: Re:Absolutley (Score 3, Interesting) 573

by epine (#49311411) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

If that strike is destroying monuments thousands of years old and causing irreparable damage to a very fragile desert ecosystem - yes, absolutely I would be strongly against ANY entity that did that, but more importantly didn't even consider it to be a problem.

I take it then that you'll be pretty negative toward the American administration who oversaw the destruction or loss of a substantial slice of cultural artifacts held in trust on behalf of the entire Iraqi civilization.

"The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over. And it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase. And you see it 20 times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases?" Rumsfeld told reporters. "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"

This from the man who likely repeated the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" times beyond measure. My goodness, is it possible that there were any WMD in the whole country?

the true figure was around 15,000 items, including 5,000 extremely valuable cylinder seals

Perhaps Rumsfeld hates all museums with the same uniform, searing passion, but I suspect he might have summarized the matter differently if 15,000 items walked out of the Smithsonian, including personal artifacts brought over to American on the Mayflower that were already so venerable they predated Constantine.

Now to deal with the article at hand:

If this trend continued, the carbon dioxide level would have become too low to support life on Earth.

If he thinks this trend could have continued deep into the extirpation of the chlorophyllosphere, he's badly in need of that new ultrasound treatment used to cure Alzheimer's disease in the mice model.

Epic fail. Crank dismissed.

Comment: Re:I think computer scientists already knew this.. (Score 1) 274

by epine (#49286509) Attached to: Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World

I formally divorced TRS-80 Level II BASIC by writing something along the lines of the following code snippet:

for i = 1 to 5
    gosub basic_sucks
    if (i==4) return;


I'm not going to wrack my brains to make this into a working example of obfuscated code, but it definitely was possible to mis-nest the loop and call stacks in this way, without the code generating any run-time notifications.

BASIC did me no damage at all, because I consciously filed formal divorced papers, rather than letting my further education accomplish the same by slow attrition.

One can do the same with English without actually learning German or Chinese. One's native state of mind has a lot to do with it.

Comment: salt and freshly ground black people (Score 3, Funny) 667

by epine (#49264899) Attached to: Why There Is No Such Thing as 'Proper English'

As a coda to my post, consider this howler:

World's Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling

An Australian publisher is reprinting 7,000 cookbooks over a recipe for pasta with "salt and freshly ground black people." ... The reprint will cost Penguin 20,000 Australian dollars ($18,500) ...

This incident was mentioned in a book I read not long ago about the fine art of editing to a high standard.

It appears that tiny slip cost some poor sod real money. If the writer is sloppy or inconsistent in his/her usage standard, the proof-reading job becomes ten times harder. The writer probably accepted the wrong spell-checker suggestion when he/she was bleary with late-night fatigue.

Comment: Yet Another Vanity License (Score 1) 667

by epine (#49264863) Attached to: Why There Is No Such Thing as 'Proper English'

There are a number of elements of British English that would get an American student marked wrong on an English exam, and vice versa.

This is because half the point of higher education is to master pedantry. There's a huge overlap in the cognitive equipment required to perform careful scholarship and lint-picking misplaced letters and words.

Students aren't actually marked "wrong" on their tests, despite the convention to speak about it this way. Their answers are marked "acceptable" and "unacceptable".

In an undergraduate course in computer science on an assignment devoted to algorithmic efficiency, I had a program that ran two orders of magnitude faster than the class median marked 6/10 because I didn't write my program in the mandated coding style with the mandated level of inane comments (requirements which I rejected then, and have continued to reject ever since). The professor liked Pascal and hated C. My coding style was closer to K&R and P. J. Plauger than Wirth.

Jon Postel

Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.

In order to be maximally conservative, one must strive for some degree of consistency. There's no way to do this without adopting some kind of norm.

There's a reason why some editors strongly prefer the Oxford comma. If you don't use it (I tend not to), there are situations where you can end up with your sentence not saying what you intended it to say.

Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.

In the worst case, you can end up embroiled in a libel lawsuit. Many of the stylistic codifications accused of pedantry are similarly battle tested.

The additional social process that sometimes takes this too far is that you get a team of editors working on manuscripts from multiple authors. If every author has a different style guide, or the editors don't have a consistent reference, the group effort to achieve a consistent manuscript quickly degenerates.

Unfortunately, this often gets taken to the extreme limit, until you have obscure rulings on the picayune whose utility is obscured in the mists of time.

I learned to touch type on a manual typewriter, inserting two spaces after the sentence final punctuation mark. In the younger generation, this is portrayed as a fuddy-duddy convention. Do they even know that an advanced typesetting system sets the inter-sentence gap differently than the inter-word gap when they make this declaration?

I continue to use the double space convention when typing because it makes it easier to proof-read what I've written. My eyes are used to the double space to help me quickly navigate my sentence boundaries. And the extra space is pretty much effortless to type.

Going to the extreme of portraying the established conventions as nothing more than a bunch of "he said / she said" is complete bullshit. It's difficult to come up with a set of conventions that maximizes the conservatism (in the Postel sense) of a written text. What's the logic for coming up with your own? It's not so different than coming up with your own software license. There's a significant likelihood that what you come up with isn't legally solid, and there's a considerable burden imposed on everyone else to navigate Yet Another Vanity License. Why don't you also roll your own encryption method? It could work.

For me where it goes to far is when the standard authorities (e.g. Chicago Manual of Style) seem to forget that language standards are living standards. The underlying technology changes and the publishing demands also change. What was justifiable thirty years ago is perhaps irrelevant today.

I personally can't stand folding punctuation marks under an end-quotation mark. As far as I'm concerned, that's a matter for the layout engine, if it ends up being done at all. On the input side, it's just semantically wrong. All you get for it is a slight improvement of the visual tidiness on the printed page, at the cost (sometimes) of creating ambiguity in the reader's mind about whether the punctuation mark belongs to the quoted material, or not. Only a crazy person advocates at the same time for the Oxford comma (which averts ambiguity) and for end-quotation punctuation folding (which introduces ambiguity). Aesthetics or semantics? Make up your damn mind! (For myself, I use the Oxford comma as necessary and I make a point of being able to identify those cases.)

I'm sure most people sense that the argument in favour of standard usage as "just another style" mainly comes from people who wish to avoid effort and mastery rather than double down in the honourable spirit of Jon Postel.

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company." -- Mark Twain