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Comment: Re:Since these people still don't get it.... (Score 1) 74

by firewrought (#48203845) Attached to: DHS Investigates 24 Potentially Lethal IoT Medical Devices

Anything computerized with a network connection can (and most likely WILL) be hacked...

Not if you take appropriate precautions, like using a safe programming language.

Don't be naive... security is a deep and subtle problem, full of nasty surprises. There is no magic bullet solution... your "safe programming language" has thousands of bugs in its standard API and run-time; it won't prevent devs from concatenating SQL with user input, misusing threading primitives, or bungling up an authentication protocol; it certainly won't patch up the numerous ways of subverting https or the modern web browser. To be secure (or have a reasonably good chance at being secure), you must at minimum use an approach where (1) security is a primary design concern thru the entire product lifecycle, (2) security solutions are deployed in a structured/layered approach using (3) actual expertise, and (4) security is an ongoing program with both proactive and reactive elements.

(Convincing your government to help software/hardware/network companies fix their security problems instead of purposely introducing them would be a good idea too, but it looks like society is determined to learn this the hard way.)

Comment: Sigh... (Score 1) 795

by firewrought (#47965947) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors' urges to look 'more scientific' by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals)...

How dare those academics use math, specialized jargon, and peer-review! Witchcraft, I tell thee, witchcraft!! (Quick hint for whatever PR firm submitted this: science is extremely complex and extremely specialized these days. Sorry if your marketing degree didn't prepare you for anything better than spreading FUD.)

This is how you get people asserting that 'science' commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be).

Yah, we only have one earth at the moment, so it's sort of hard to directly test the effects of (1) implementing or (2) NOT implementing a carbon excise tax on the next 100 years of climate change. Science can't do that. Of course, neither can lobbyists or SIG's or true believers or anyone else.

What science can do (for a sincere policymaker) is provide the firmest foundation of knowledge to work with. And science quite confidently tells us a lot of things we don't want to hear (like "all this carbon is going to make the environment go wack, do something about it" or "your ass is getting fat on all that sugar and processed foods", or "life arose thru such-and-such set of processes and not ex post nihlo, sorry if that challenges your theology LOL").

Comment: Re:Bad media coverage (Score 0) 1330

by firewrought (#47357519) Attached to: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

What happened was that the president of Chik-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, expressed an opinion on same-sex marriage

You forgot to mention the part where Chik-Fil-A's charitable organization was donating millions of dollars to anti-LGBT political organizations. The protests were largely effective at halting those donations.

But, he doesn't claim to be a "Democrat", which is an allegiance which absolves one from all responsibility and repercussions from their opinions.

Obama--for all of his many problems--has done more than any other president to support equal protection under law for people who are LGBT.

Comment: Re:Praise the Courts (Score 2) 532

by firewrought (#47330661) Attached to: NYC Loses Appeal To Ban Large Sugary Drinks

Maybe we could just work together on that and then most of these abortions need never happen.

Good idea, but you need to get conservatives on board with embracing contraceptives. For many of them, it isn't just about eliminating abortion, it's also about eliminating non-martial sex and boosting the pregnancy rate after marriage. To get there, they are willing to (1) withhold medically pertinent information, (2) cultivate sexual fears and stigmas, (3) encourage premature marriage, and (4) prescribe rigid/misogynistic gender roles. (Source: grew up in a christian school.) A lot of this just naturally flows from the fundamentalist/authoritarian worldview... other christian subcultures may be different.

The number of unplanned pregnancies in the US every year is Insane.

Actually, the rate of teen pregnancies has hit an historic low.

Comment: Re:Holy crap! (Score 4, Insightful) 88

by firewrought (#47208911) Attached to: Docker 1.0 Released

Download .deb Double click it Insert password, hit ok Seriously it is a hell of a lot easier than Windows

Oh, I'm sorry. You need libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.35.9), but I'm on libglib2.0-0 (2.34.8) and upgrading it will cause a conflict with libwtf5.0 (1:5.0.99) and also require installing libancientrelic0.8 (, which I can't seem to find anywhere. Let me suggest removing a bunch of packages (leaving some things broken). Accept this solution? (y/N) Alternately, I could suggest you blow your weekend learning to build a dummy package just to shut me up... there so many wonderful commands that start with deb and dpkg, you'll love digging thru layers and layers of accumulated shell scripts!

Comment: Re:There's no financial incentive to play fair (Score 4, Insightful) 123

by firewrought (#46921143) Attached to: Mozilla Offers FCC a Net Neutrality Plan With a Twist

Why? Nothing is blocked, it is just slower. This sucks for streaming, but streaming is not the only way to share information. Speeds that will not work at all for Netflix work fine on The Pirate Bay... It just requires people to think differently and not stream everything but download it instead.

Why? Because now if you want to start an internet business (streaming or not) that becomes even modestly successfully, every ISP on the planet will start looking for a way to demand a chunk of your profits. "Yeah, sorry that that little 100ms latency spike is affecting 1 million customers of yours, Blizzard, but we'll be happy to form a collaborative network-tuning relationship with you for $250,000/mo."

Cumulatively, it means that ISP's can rent-seek off of internet businesses, cutting down on the quantity and competitiveness of such businesses while simultaneously forcing them to raise prices.

Comment: Re:And the question of the day is... (Score 5, Insightful) 327

The benefit is ease of use for people who have no idea what a URL is. They just look up there and see, "yes, this is definitely my bank's website," instead of "holy shit what does long string of symbols that mean."

Maybe a basic part of web literacy is learning what a URL is and what it's useful for. "Whoa!" you say, "we need to do anything we can to make computers easier and more self-explanatory." Well, yes, I agree with that, but we're reaching a point where designers start to "overtrain" their design. Take this "origin chip", for example. You make it slightly easier to identify the site you're on and perhaps slightly less intimidating for a newbie [which is sort of ridiculous in this context because the web is do damn ubiquitous now], but you've also made a host of other tasks slightly harder (viz., copying/emailing a link, fixing a link, manually entering a link, inspecting a link, etc.). In addition, you're no longer subtly informing the intuitions of future authors, librarians, technicians, webmasters, programmers, and judges/juries as to the URL~=page association. That's ultimately making it harder for people to understand how their technology works.

Usability design is a noble endeavor, and I'm all on board with Norman, Tufte, etc. What I'm NOT on board is the current fad of software that drops functionality, removes technical visibility, and overhauls the interface with each release. That's just user-hostile.

[ranting because Google Camera dropped exposure control recently]

Comment: Re:NASA Proposes "Water World" Theory For Origin o (Score 5, Insightful) 115

by firewrought (#46784811) Attached to: NASA Proposes "Water World" Theory For Origin of Life

mind-boggling complexity of life that could never be duplicated but by a mind-boggling intelligence

Complexity can arise spontaneously out of simple interactions. We see this over and over and over again. Pretending it requires intelligence just reveals our collective cognitive bias towards personifying the world and ascribing agency to inanimate objects and processes.

This is our tax dollars being spent on a national religion.

No, it's merely a line of scientific questioning that threatens your worldview. A lot of things can threaten a worldview (science, humanities, foreign travel, self-reflection, getting older, etc.), but we should only call them a "religion" if they substantially function like a religion (e.g., providing things like community, life ceremonies, spirituality, moral codes, holy texts, etc.).

Duplicating all pagan religions. They start with water because Genesis starts with the Holy Spirit hovering over the water.

Civilization begins with agriculture, and agriculture begins with water. It was true in lower Mesopotamia (the world's first civilization) and on the banks of the Nile (Egypt, the second civilization). It seems appropriate, then, that many creation myths--including those much older than the Genesis 1:1 account--feature water as prominent (and often chaotic) element.

Comment: Re:Knowledge (Score 5, Insightful) 1037

by firewrought (#46676935) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

I know too many smart highly-educated Christians to think that religion is merely some lack of applied thought. It's a choice they made, knowingly and subjectively, to have religious faith.

Skeptics seem to have this assumption that humans are inherently rational, and it's only those who are intellectually weak that let bad/illogical ideas into the mind. I'd argue that this is a bad model because we are forced throughout life to rely on incomplete/inaccurate information from a wide variety of sources... our senses, our emotions, our peers and society at large, etc. Our brains are a very muddy place that was never tidy and logically "clean" to begin with, but we make do (more or less). A purely skeptical species would go extinct questioning the need to plant crops, etc.,

The way I see it, rationality (and the engineered pursuit of it, science) is a skill that must be developed and subsequently imposed on various facets of our worldview. How we select those facets (and how vigorously we investigate them) is a strategic question ("what is my biggest blindspot?") that we're not well equipped to answer (they're called "blindspots" for a reason). And we ALL have blindspots of various topic and magnitude.

In the case of religion, it's particularly hard to investigate these blindspots because adherents have been strongly conditioned to self-identify with the cause. Their parents, friends, community, and everyone they trusted as a child told them "this is what we believe, it is the only way to live a good life, and everything outside of it is corrupt and destructive". Like Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, "tradition tells us who we are and what G-d expects of us".

Analytically re-evaluating one's faith as an adult requires a tremendous amount of courage and vigour. To do so, they must overcome:

  1. Religious instructions to defer to authority.
  2. Implied instructions to not question faith.
  3. Perceptions that questioning is risky and/or evil.
  4. The nastiness of some skeptics (e.g., living examples of the "evil" of questioning)
  5. Accusations that the questioner's "real problem" is something spiritual and not intellectual.
  6. Desperate feelings that the faith "has to be true", precluding need for further analysis.
  7. Anecdotal proofs and feel-good stories ("testimonies") that offer emotional evidence for faith.
  8. Single-shot ad hoc arguments (emotional or intellectual) that preclude comprehensive analysis
  9. Apologetics literature or speakers that sound convincing initially, esp. when presented without opposing views.

This is not the only way people leave their faith, but it's relevant to skeptics because it's the "rational" route. I suspect that those who use "emotional evidence" as their primary waypoints for evaluating complex situation have it easier... they see the history of Christanity's/Islam's treatment towards women or they consider how wholly abhorrent the concept of hell is, and then they proceed to reject the system that generated those ideas.

Instead of offering mockery (a tempting practice), skeptics would do better to (1) humbly remember that we all have blindspots, (2) that every population has smart and dumb individuals, (3) that believers make many valuable contributions to rationality/science, (4) and that social and emotional arguments against a faith can compliment their existing intellectual arguments.

Comment: Re:What happened to C#? (Score 1) 100

by firewrought (#46664891) Attached to: Microsoft To Allow Code Contributions To F#

Let me elevate the question: why do we need yet another programming language?

Because we're nowhere near figuring out how to best express ourselves to computers for the wide variety of problems we wish to solve and the large diversity of skill-sets and backgrounds we wish to solve them with.

In this example, F# solves the problem of "how do we do statically-typed functional programming (a la OCaml and Haskell) in a way that integrates with the .NET ecosystem?". C# doesn't solve that problem because you can't do nearly enough type theory. OCaml doesn't solve that problem because it's not vendor-supported and it's not designed from the ground up with the .NET platform (and the existing base of C# programmers) in mind.

While I share your unstated assumption... that it seems like there are too many half-baked programming languages instead of a few really good ones, I also think Microsoft deserves credit (much as I hate to say it) for recognizing the need to focus on platforms (like .NET) instead of languages. Of course, then they go and do the whole WinRT thing... :-\

Comment: Re:People need to start with the scale (Score 1) 392

by firewrought (#46664627) Attached to: How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System?

Instead of turning around at the halfway point and using the same thrust to decelerate, would it be possible to, theoretically, initiate an explosion in front of the craft, equal in yield to the amount of thrust used to achieve whatever speed your craft is at when you need to start accelerating?

Yes, because the explosion you propose is simply a shorter duration, higher intensity version of retro-thrusting. (Incidentally, some sci-fi authors have proposed using explosions [such as nukes] for the initial thrust as well [Anathem comes to mind].)

However, the problem with your approach is that it's less efficient: first, it requires extra machinery because you're building a second propulsion system instead of reusing the one you already have; second, it requires extra structural support because you're going to subject the vehicle to higher delta-V's. Obviously, this adds a lot of weight, a lot of extra engineering, and several more points of failure.

The implicit engineering assumption you're running into here is that the most viable approach for interstellar voyages (if anything is viable, which is doubtful) will be a regime of nearly symmetrical acceleration/deceleration provided by a single propulsion system.

Comment: Why would efficency matter? (Score 2) 199

by firewrought (#46661917) Attached to: P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe
The distinction that P algorithms are "efficient" and NP algorithms are "inefficient" is merely a convention of complexity theorists. You could easily draw the dividing line further in or out depending on your purposes. That makes me wonder what constitutes their assumption that this particular P/NP type "efficency" is necessary for a macroscopic Schrodinger algorithm.

Make headway at work. Continue to let things deteriorate at home.