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Comment Re:How much is an AG these days? (Score 1) 246 246

yet most people somehow attribute to "whore" a worse meaning


Our market-value vigilance over who is zooming whom dates back a good six-million years.

Nowadays we get more upset when someone unworthy buys a home on our street, but the underlying sentiments were once the same.

This modern "whore" make-over as a small proprietor with high integrity is primarily a byproduct of dense urbanization, where there's an infinite number of fish in the sea to whitewash our old instincts—instincts pre-dating fire, language, cities, and agriculture.

"Somehow" you sound like you just fell off the turnip truck, five minutes ago.

Comment Re:Too big to fail (Score 1) 246 246

That is, the Australian government has $498 billion to spend on whatever, but Walmart gives most of its $468 billion on suppliers.

That's the least comprehension of "whatever" I've ever seen. But you're not first. It's a 100,000-way tie.

The vast majority of government expenditures are written into law, and the benefits go right back to the same people who provided the revenues. A government enjoys great discretion in how it expends, but not much discretion at all concerning what it expends upon.

Certainly in the circular flow, the government's "friends" skim a lot of cream. And why shouldn't they? They're all upstanding businessmen (and businesswomen) engaged in the profit motive, possessed of the oldest, most conservative, barnyard business model:

1) Pick winning horse.
2) Milk cow.

Comment Re:Can't be true (Score 5, Interesting) 173 173

No, you have Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail, so I think consider the source is alive and well.

She's the Alfred E. Neuman of why the bees collapsed in the first place. What, me worry?

In this very article, she's right up there with Ronald Reagan saying "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do."

Do trees pollute the atmosphere?

In hot weather, trees release volatile organic hydrocarbons including terpenes and isoprenes - two molecules linked to photochemical smog. In very hot weather, the production of these begins to accelerate.

True, but it's all part of a long-term biological equilibrium that didn't seem horrible until after industrial-scale human pollution was added to the mix as a driving factor. I don't recall Cicero damning the trees.

Here's Wente:

The biggest threats to bees appear to be natural pathogens and varroa mites.

Once again, natural pathogens which the bees have presumably been contending with for thousands of years. I also don't recall Cicero orating on missing bees, or Shelley's ode to a collapsed colony.

If there was a forcing factor, it was probably the dang pesticide, which after all was explicitly designed to kill insects, selectively if possible, but that might be easier said that done.

Her entire piece is written in distractor mode, touching on who is cranky with whom laced with speculation about nefarious or misguided agendas, while she can't even bother herself to distinguish (possible) industrial forcing terms from established biological baselines.

Yes, indeed, consider the source.

Comment Re:Why pro-this or pro-that? (Score 1) 250 250

The GPL style started having fights in the early 1980s as soon as it came into existence.

You think a license invented with the express agenda to become the one true license might spark controversy right at the outset? Who would have guessed?

I've always liked the GPL (v3 not as much). And I've always hated the notion that it was anything more just another license.

The reality is that others might choose to behave in thousands of different ways, the vast majority of which should be none of my business.

The art of regulation is to limit specific freedoms in order to grease other freedoms. In a free market economy, the principle purpose of (good) regulation is to ensure that ever venture has a graceful failure mode (i.e. that a bad aftermath of bad decision making doesn't effectively socialize risk). The secret of the free market is the graceful failure mode. Nice try, GreedCorp, sorry it didn't work out for you, please play again (uh, no, we're not dipping into the public purse to clean up your mess, but we will be pursuing your former stakeholders to accomplish the same.).

I swing towards a libertarian position on the issue of the GPL. I don't see any necessary reason to inflate the concept of "freedom" to include this additional public good.

Futhermore, the concept of "software" as distinct from other forms of property never worked for me. Information is a spectrum for all of us, from the most personal to the least personal. Software lives all across that spectrum.


90% of everything is crap. Regulation is no different, here. The problem is that bad regulation has the power of law, and is a harder class of crap to prudently ignore.

What needs to happen politically is that regulation needs to have a test suite. When regulation starts to fail items in the test suite, the courts should become leery about imposing sanctions. The constitution (in countries who pay any attention to the ones they have) already functions as a kind of last-resort test suite, but I think we can do better.

In fact, perhaps legislation should begin by writing the test suite before they write the legislation itself. Even better if there is a separation of electoral term.

Comment actually had this on my list today (Score 4, Interesting) 157 157

The unofficial official FreeBSD security posture: two layers, where the outer layer has a singular purpose in life.

Protecting sshd using spiped

Like many system administrators, I used to restrict access to port tcp/22 on most of my servers based on source IP address; this provided some protection from "zero-day" exploits against OpenSSH, as well as eliminating the annoying "log spam" caused by brute force attacks. This worked fine as long as I always connected from the same location, but heading off to conferences meant that I needed to either tunnel SSH connections over other SSH connections or make temporary changes to my firewall rules.

Comment bling unbound (Score 1) 318 318

I let my Linux Mint desktop slide way out of the support envelop while I waited for PC-BSD to become a viable replacement. I had a single FreeBSD machine running ZFS as my server, which had been rock solid, but I'd never run a BSD desktop before. Then in a single week it was "BSD everywhere" on my home network.

I embrace change on my own terms (which is not change caused by the Gnome developers becoming bored of their own architecture, or Canonical deciding that tablets are the new shit). PC-BSD features boot environments. This amounts to an "undo" key for your operating system. Batch patch? Nuke the fucker.

I can temporize for years, then jump in with both boots if the time seems right.

It's one of the worst things about computing culture that we still collectively tolerate: the notion that capability upgrades are welded at the hip to work flow "innovation". Install a new OS, you're guaranteed to get a mixture of both.

I'd vastly prefer the tick-tock model as practised by Intel (or the alternating new airframe / new engine model as practised by Boeing) where releases that muck with the established user interface change no underlying features / capabilities at all (so the only reason anyone installs the GUI refactor release is because you actually want to partake in the bling rebinding).

Hopefully BSD won't someday lose its mind like Linux did, in which your trusty tighty-whities suddenly becomes a full-body support corset (with no-one asked). Personally, I can handle the change from tighty-whities to rc.d boxer shorts just fine, thank you very much.

Comment Re:Absolutely (Score 2) 351 351

Do we really want the advertising revenue stream to disappear for content developers and for all internet content to be behind paywalls?

If we view advertising as a net negative burden on cognition and productivity (there's scientific literature to support this view), and explicit, informed choice as a net human asset (there's virulent ideology to support this view), I'd have to say "yes".

The wheel-house of our lizard brain appears to be managing our past and future sexual entanglements. I personally suspect it doesn't do much else well at all. It used to have other valuable functions, but these have all been subverted. Dracula, modern society's founding mythology of lizard brain vs alluring predator, has now brought us the Twilight franchise.

Paywall or tweewall, name your poison.

Comment Re:I am sure that rising rates of health insurance (Score 2) 132 132

from people being employed in the areas had nothing to do with more people going to hospitals

The proper experimental control is to take three regions that went from no fracking to fracking, and three other regions that went from no fracking-like revenue to a fracking-similar amount of fracking-like revenue so as to match the upticks in net employment.

Obviously for natural experiments, this is not always easy to pull off (and your detractors will necessarily claim you didn't succeed no matter how far you go).

So why don't you just cut to the chase and declare that all natural experiments are moist excrement? Is there any standard for a controlled natural experiment you'd actually accept? From the structure of your comment I suspect not, as you never once mention the caliber of controls actually used (which is, for maximal troll-seed efficiency, entirely beneath the notice of those who reject the entire category).

Done right, I view this as a form of agile econometrics. First you see what clears the fence under modest controls, before gold-plating round two.

On the other side, blanket cynicism is a crutch of the anti-progressive mindset.

Comment Re: No, it is the character pronounced as "no" (Score 1) 196 196

But I suspect that your browser set the character encoding as ISO-8859-1 in its headers.

Drawing an inference from the not-fact that the top of the batting order in every Wikipedia FAQ does not include how to set your user agent to send the right encoding header, I'd suggest that Slashdot's long-disabled Unicode support fell far short of the mark in the first place. (2005 just called. It wants to dissolve its de facto clue-stick monopoly.)

I authored a CJK word processor that ran under MS-DOS in the 1980s and early 1990s. Two of our linguists did our own in-house unification that ended up not so different than Unicode which came later.

At the time that Unicode came out, our largest customer groups were embassies, diplomats (Snowden-style), and other academic linguists (with a strong representation from the Brigham Young young-adult diaspora). Maybe 40% of our new customers in the early 1990s were still running turbo XTs, 286s, and 386 castrati (16 MHz SX of the 16-bit bus resurrected). It takes a long time for the wallet of a dusty academic sinologist to recover from dolling out $5000 in 1985 (true story, many times over). 20-year-old Mormon missionaries where not especially flush, either.

Imagine this as your early-adopter power-user-base for the newly ratified Unicode 1.0 Asian language support.

Many people at the time running Windows 3.11 were running in 4 MB. Multilingual software remained stuck in this grotesquely underpowered rut until the P54 was introduced in the mid-nineties.

It's not just the print and display fonts that were a burden to the software of the day, but the mere Unicode code point tables themselves. 256 KB of code-point mapping tables was the rough equivalent of Google grabbing another 256 MB to process-isolate another browser tab (4 MB then, 4 GB now).

Of course, one can code up a bespoke compression method and clever language subset overlays. I'm sure we invested more man-hours in bespoke compression methods and clever data overlays than Zuckerberg invested in coding up The Facebook, original edition.

It's probably a good thing that Unicode was rushed to fruition, however broken it now appears to be twenty-five years later, before the first release of NCSA Mosaic. Otherwise, Unicode might have been cobbled together Brendan Eich in a succession of 4 a.m. coding binges the week after he pounded out JavaScript.

It's funny that this bug involves typesetting mathematics. If any software was broken with respect to Asian character support, it was surely the original TeX—paragon of infinite breakage that we all now know it to be.

Back in the mid-to-late eighties, the very idea of sprinkling Asian fonts into math display mode would have been delegated to the savant sibling sequestered in Lamport's sound-proof attic.

Comment fist pumping the near miss (Score 1) 627 627

True, but ones that do come at the barrel of a gun almost always trump the ones that don't.

Not even close. Only seems true with availability bias dialed up to 10,000%

What ultimately trumps a bloody confrontation is not getting into a bloody confrontation in the first place.

Always has, and always will.

Except perhaps in the western genre where every episode features an overemployed undertaker, or in space opera where the red tunics are interwoven with a wearable dereplicator.

It's a lot like earthquakes where the barrel of the gun is the subduction zone. If you happen to wind up right on top of an active subduction zone, guns are a welcome tool. That said, we were equipped with the big brain so as to plan ahead, which involves a little bit more than merely obtaining the best possible result from the worst possible situation.

Comment the dysfunction junction (Score 1) 191 191

In my opinion, all professionals are obliged to have an opinion of the system within which they operate, and a sense of whether dysfunctions exist which could be better resolved than endured.

The excessive influence of money on the American Congress was well understood. What did the politicians do? They went ahead and made the whole problem worse.

All too often politicians fail to publicly criticize the dysfunctional nature of the political system, preferring instead to revel within the obvious dysfunction, because the game-theoretic Frank solution (as the system is presently constituted) is paved in rivers of green.

I'm impressed by a heroine addict doing a good job at keeping the worst of their heroine addition at bay. I'm fundamentally more impressed by a heroine addict making any kind of progress at not remaining a heroine addict in the first place.

Politicians style themselves as leaders (leaders of the free world if an aircraft carrier is visible in the backdrop), and as such they deserve to be judged in the largest available frame.

From what I've read, a great number of politicians in Lincoln's era regarded avoiding a civil war as the business-as-usual Frank solution. Does that make him the worst American president?

Comment interesting synchronicity (Score 2) 377 377

Just fifteen minutes ago I realized that my script to refactor the primary file server (newly converted to ZFS) into more sensible datasets had an irritating detail wrong (a path element was being duplicated in some paths).

I said to myself "oh, I'll just roll that whole thing back to the snapshot I made 30 minutes ago".

Then I go "zfs list -t snapshot" and discover that my snapshot was holding onto 0 GB because I forgot the -r switch to make the snapshot recursive.

Oh, well. By some impossible-to-separate mixture of good management and good fortune, it turns out I had a set of (different) snapshots from the last two days covering all datasets in questions. I lost very little work (only scripts were executed against these datasets and I still have all the scripts).

My real screw up?

Back in my second co-op workterm job, I managed not to notice that a system I was backing up changed the order of the listed drives between two very similar screen requests that I made almost immediately one after the other. Unfortunately, on the second pass I selected the active system drive as the recipient of the system backup, picking from the position in the menu where the desired destination drive had appeared moments before.

I had become accustomed to my home system being deterministic in the order it listed things. My bad.

This is back at the very beginnings of the 4.77 MHz era, so my PC was actually not yet what we now know as a "PC" (its father had an S-100, and its mother had a itty-bitty CRT).

Thirty years later I still can't type dd of=/dev/ada3 without making three trips to the metaphorical bathroom.

Whenever I type a disk-level dd command, I leave the sudo off, until after the third proof-read and several console consultations in which at least two different programs give me the same view of the drive name.

In dollar costs I couldn't say. In psychic cost, it's indelibly etched onto my permanent record.

I had a co-worker once (EEng) who claimed that as a junior intern during the late 1990s back when laser gear for fiber optics was all the rage, he routinely fried extremely delicate $2000 DUTs while the old hands just shrugged their shoulders. Dotcom dollars. Who really gave a fuck? It was considered barely worse than ruining a nice chair.

Comment Re:"No idea how... the brain works" (Score 1) 230 230

Pretty much my reaction, too.

Humans have no idea how the human, or any other brain, works, so we can hardly teach a machine how brains work. At best, Google is programming (not teaching) a computer to mimic the conversation of humans under highly constrained circumstances. And the methods used have nothing to do with true cognition.

We don't even know enough to make the assertions quoted above with any confidence. Where's the precise boundary between programming and learning anyway?

The prudent AI researcher takes a rain check to get back to you on that one, and meanwhile doesn't denigrate even the smallest achievements, humbly possessing far too little insight into what sequence of small achievements will ultimately end up advancing the main cause.

How much net work could a network work, if a network could net work?