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Comment: Re:Scientifically driven politics (Score 2) 346


It's ironic that Slashdot is objecting to these hearings yet at the same time seemingly against legislation that would mandate that public policy be based on publicly available Science.

I don't think so. Mandating public policy to be based on publicly available science would for example end all and any teachings of "creationism" in schools.

It would also end faith-based politics like "trickle-down tax exemptions", facilities that allow companies to use overseas subsidiaries as tax shelters, H-1B visa (there's no evidence that these jobs can't be adequately filled by natives), spurious copyright extensions (like the one enacted to save mickey mouse from entering the public domain), viewing corporations as "persons" in a number of ways, allowing employers to curtail medical expenses (like abortions) based on "faith-based considerations", and all attempts to loosen or reverse a complete separation between church and state, and it would prevent e.g. the US military from preparing for effects conflicts that (demonstrably and indisputably) have their roots in global climate change.

In other words ... it would run into widespread and ferocious opposition from corporations, religionists, and conservatives as soon as those good people realised what it actually entailed.

Of course I understand that. What those congregationists actually *meant* is that people going on about environmental damage due to conventional drilling, fracking, unrestricted logging, GMO's, bans on insane amounts of antibiotics being used in hog-farming and chicken farming, and other man-made catastrophes should be held to much much higher levels of proof than are needed for scientific consensus.

They should instead be held to the level of proof that you'd get from exhaustive 50-year contrast studies to deal with all industry-sponsored "studies" casting doubt on anything from basic statistics, data-collection, modeling, personal motivation of the personnel involved, representativity, and explanation of any number of far-fetched and shady counter-examples to the general conclusions being reached. By which time the issues have become moot anyway, and profits from irresponsible behaviour have been safely pocketed and are protected by they occurred before there was any law against whatever abuse they were derived from.

Since Slashdot is at least somewhat representative of the US population, consequences like this are going to find few takers. So there's your answer: it isn't ironic, it's a fact of life.

Comment: Magic ... (Score 1) 533

by golodh (#49514161) Attached to: Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power
The magic is called "public money", and it comes from something known as "policy".

For various reasons Germany decided they wanted to be less dependent on nuclear and not more dependent on fossil. So they massively subsidised solar panels.

People noticed that and bought them in numbers. Now it turns out that adapting the grid to massive amounts of PV-generated power is expensive too. So they have a special tax to generate the money, and they're currently spending lavish subsidies on ... improving batteries and other energy-storage schemes, smart meters, adapting the grid (more (230 KV + long-distance lines, more robust grids at the 10 KV end of the line, researching how to work around the need for heavier grids through storage at city-block level, putting sophisticated control mechanisms in place in solar farms and wind-farms, etc.

And of course organising all participants so that they can do something useful with weather forecasts, and building up robustness to deal with e.g. a solar eclipse.

It's concentrated effort rather than magic, and it doesn't come cheap. See e.g.

Certainly not a bad idea, but it's a choice. Meaning there are other possible choices.

Comment: Re:in my opinion this guy is like Jenny McCarthy (Score 2) 320

by golodh (#49500445) Attached to: Columbia University Doctors Ask For Dr. Mehmet Oz's Dismissal
Funny how many people creep out of the woodwork to condemn someone for being "populist" when he takes a stance that sits ill with commercial interests. Why is it so un-scientific to speak out for labeling GMO foods so that they are recognizable?

People on the other hand who pander to scientifically illiterate conservative underbelly feelings by insisting that evolution be treated as "just a theory" and be treated on par with wild flights of fancy like "intelligent design" on the other hand are known as "devoutly christian", "understandable in their quest for impartiality", and "very American".

Is it just me or do we see a clear division along partisan lines here?

Comment: So you want to abolish anti-trust laws? (Score 1) 247

by golodh (#49476459) Attached to: EU To Hit Google With Antitrust Charges

Your point of view essentially says: "All and any anti-trust laws should be abolished because 'It's their product and they can do with it whatever they want'".

That bit about "backdoor deals" is just an ad-hoc argument not to apply anti-trust law in this case. Right? Abuse is abuse, back-door or front-door.

I'm curious what other laws you'd want to see abolished for reasons like that. Sarbanes-Oxley? FDA regulation of new drugs? Wildlife preserves? A lot of legislation is there for a very good reason: society at large is worse off without it. Don't cherry-pick just because you like the company.

Comment: Roger. We have full FOC on all underbelly systems (Score 2) 84

by golodh (#49456443) Attached to: First Alpha of Public Sector Linux Deployment System
Thanks for that. This "mandatory" post shows FOC (Full Operational Capability) on all US intellectual underbelly feelings.

Apart from that, this seems the sort of project you didn't know you needed until you've seen it done.

How much time do admins, consultants, and contractors waste by re-inventing the wheel when planning, building, and rolling out the umpteeth networked computing infrastructure ?

What's there in the public domain is a jumble of howto's, forums, bits of disjunct knowledge and learning opportunities that one may (over the course of a few years) learn one's way in to become an admin who's able to design an roll out a decent piece of infrastructure.

This is one of the reasons why companies may decide to go with e.g. Microsoft. Less uncertainty in terms of price and ability to meet delivery deadlines. Simply because the people who design and implement the stuff have had time to learn from their wost mistakes, as opposed to the average Linux enthusiast (a definite no-go) or even contractors that set up Linux-based infrastructures (you can bet they use non-standard setups, non-standard tooling, and leave you with a system you probably need them for to maintain efficiently).

This project on the other hand seems to give admins a head-start in implementation and it can serve as a repository of practical know-how.

Comment: Perhaps a change in law is needed ... (Score 5, Insightful) 207

by golodh (#49100587) Attached to: Wired On 3-D Printers As Fraud Enablers
one that protects non-commercial printing of spare parts or widgets for home use as "fair use".

I mean ... I've experienced a few times when a $50 - $200 appliance didn't work anymore because a $0.005 piece of plastic broke.

If the appliance is still under warranty, you can take up the cudgels and have it repaired or replaced. If it's out of warranty, you *might* be able to have it repaired, only to find that repairs typically cost between 50% and 150% of the purchase price.

What could be more reasonable to suspend legal restrictions barring you from 3D-printing that widget (if at all possible)?

As far as I know, it's very very rare that such a widget is of such clever design that you freeload on someone's hard work. What I think is the case (on basis of a thoroughly non-scientific survey, sample-size 6, personal observation) is that any ingenuity in the design is spent in making sure the widget in question can't be second-sourced without infringing on some sort of patent. E.g. by adding a special notch, a special hole, or simply making the dimensions so that the widget is unlike any other on the planet (and any other widgets won't fit).

Comment: Watch for a huge increase in random surveillance (Score 1) 343

Just look at the gem of prose posted by New Ginrich (see [ ]) in which mr. Ginrich demonstrates great form in a piece of emotional hyperbole that simultaneously waves the flag, beats the war-drum, disses the current government, advocates piracy, and slyly suggests that national control over the internet is the way to go.

Mr. Gingrich obviously never read Schneier's informative and professional response. Doing things like that would only slow mr. Ginrich down.

No. Mr. Ginrich has made up his mind already and frames as war what is basically a combination of poor security (both protection and response were found to be sub-par), unprofessional conduct (mean-spirited, abusive, and racist comments), user stupidity (entrusting highly personal information to a company email system), and bad luck (being targeted by a persistent and capable attacker).

The only way Mr. Ginrich can achieve his national cyberspace defense "Defending America against foreign enemies is the duty of the United States government." is to monitor all traffic entering and leaving the US plus all internal traffic, and being able to selectively cut any of it off on basis of suspicion alone. To use mr. Ginrich's words: "No one should kid themselves.". This is the only possible outcome if his ideas are adopted.

It's like the NSA's dream come true. Not only will they be allowed to tap into everything, Mr. Ginrich's ideas (if adopted) mean that they will now actually be tasked to do that. Plus they get to design and implement some fine-grained kill-switch. Oh, can encrypted communications by private individuals be tolerated? Risky, that. Any non-government or non-whitelisted corporate entity that uses encryption could be a hostile nation in disguise, eh? best to put a stop to that right now. Or err risk "loosing the cyber war".

Comment: How about electronic drugs? (Score 1) 88

by golodh (#48613631) Attached to: Brain Stimulation For Entertainment?
What happens if it turns out to be possible to simulate the effect of drugs use through transcranial stimulation?

Or an experience akin to sexual stimulation?

I have no idea is this is possible, but if it is, will there be any realistic prospect of keeping people from indiscriminate use? And will we see significant groups of people become addicts to such stimulation? Students? Schoolchildren? The jobless?

We already have drug addicts and porn addicts. The former seem to have difficulties (depending on the drug) to keep themselves from overdosing on it if provided access to unlimited quantities of their drug. The latter don't seem to be much of a health risk to themselves though, even if people do get fired for watching porn on the job.

So there really do seem to be public health issues at stake here, and I'd like to know more about the whole thing before taking a position. But it looks potentially scary.

Comment: Re:PRIVATE encryption of everything just became... (Score 1) 379

a red herring and a dead end.


Because when everyone starts encrypting everything, law-enforcement officials may just get the authority to demand your encryption keys from you, or alternatively, to oblige you to decrypt the stuff for them. Otherwise they'd be stymied. Australia and the UK already have legislation in place to compel people to decrypt their stuff on demand.

And because it's not practical to encrypt everything on every gadget you own with backdoor-free encryption. It's just too bothersome for a normal person.

And because if you don't "cooperate", police may actively search for anything they might conceivably pin on you, so that you can later be offered a plea-bargain in which you reveal your keys in return for the DA dropping twenty-odd far-fetched charges you'd rather not risk having to defend against (even if you could afford a competent lawyer).

And because once you're registered as someone they have encrypted data on, what's easier than to monitor traffic from and to you for (a) patterns (b) weak encryption and (c) passwords.

And because it is probably only a matter of time (a decade or so) for special-purpose quantum computers to become available that can crack your encryption.

And because we're spending a few billion a year making sure that commercially available encryption has weaknesses or even backdoors that are known to the NSA.

So I don't think it's a good idea to tell yourself you're safe from surveillance behind simple technological measures. If anything, it will only mark you as suspicious thereby warranting more effort.

Your main protection was the law, and that just got moved out of the way.

Comment: Bad news, good news (Score 2) 528

by golodh (#48528875) Attached to: The Sony Pictures Hack Was Even Worse Than Everyone Thought
This computer burglary (I refuse to call it a hack) is unfortunate for Sony and its employees.

My condoleances.

On the other hand, it's very beneficial for our society that this sort of data now becomes a matter of public record simply because I'm pretty sure that the extent of data that is collected on employees hasn't been documented quite so clearly and unequivocally before.

Besides which, it's well-documented that law-makers and public opinion generally aren't pro-active on basis of insight, intelligence, or commonsense. No, it always requires one or two actual cases of things going totally wrong to get people's attention. And even then it takes a couple of repeats before the shoot-the-messenger reflex can be bypassed and the underlying issues addressed.

In addition, the release of business information gives a valuable historical reference on how the corporate world works in a way that transcends books and even court records (which are usually sealed anyway where commercial interests are concerned).

So, in this respect, society as a whole benefits from this example of computer-burglary. Now if we could only make the data available in its entirety, or at least in coherent chunks ...

Comment: Re:Already forgotten and ignored (Score 1) 165

by golodh (#48486175) Attached to: Security Experts Believe the Internet of Things Will Be Used To Kill Someone

So what you're saying is: you have no quarrel with the article as such, but you only think Slashdot's editors are at fault for putting it in here because it's too simple? Is that it?

If so perhaps it's good that it was placed on slashdot so as to show us an example of how a train of thought has to be shortened to be suitable for the mainstream media.

Just so that you know ... people who think at the level of this article are the voters who ultimately determine whether and to what extent measures will be taken to address the problem. Not us.

On the whole I'd say it's a good idea to drive that point home to Slashdotters once in a while.

Comment: Already forgotten and ignored (Score 1) 165

by golodh (#48484499) Attached to: Security Experts Believe the Internet of Things Will Be Used To Kill Someone

Nice snarky comment, but not helpful.

What you seem to forget is that the current trend in development (buzzworded 'Internet of Things") is about to make the infrastructure that is open to unauthorised access a million times more pervasive, and the real-world impact of such unauthorised access a thousand times more severe. As in people getting killed.

This article is one of the first (more or less mainstream) articles where the danger is recognised, named, and presented in a way even Joe Sixpack can wrap his grey matter round.

Please bear in mind that whether *you* realise something is dangerous doesn't matter one way or another because you have zero impact on the trend. You don't matter (and neither do I or any other geek for that matter).

It's only when mainstream media get hold of the idea, the public learns from them, and politicians start worrying because it's what their voters worry about that you'll see any potential for serious adjustment.

So, if you think about it for a few minutes, you ought to be glad that this article is written and you'll see how unhelpful your comment really is.

Comment: Have a look at Teradata (Score 1) 147

by golodh (#48339571) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Data Warehouse Server System?
I've recently had good experiences with running SQL queries on fairly large (# records: 200 mln. plus) databases on a Teradata machine in a corporate environment. I wasn't involved in any sysadmin work, just the statistical modeling / analysis side of things.

The company I consulted for uses SAS (on the mainframe, AIX boxes, and PC's) for almost all of its dataprocessing needs, including ETL work. Now they're looking at "Big Data" and discovered they need parallel processing to make it cost-effective (outperforms the mainframe, no per CPU-second charges, ability to let analysts work on AIX boxes or PC's etc.).

I was able to show significant cost and performance savings in SQL queries over the mainframe (and AIX boxes). Interestingly substantial (50%-100%) speedups were also possible by accessing the Teradata machine in its native SQL (bypassing the SAS "in-database" Teradata support).

The interesting thing about Teradata is that they offer genuine parallel processing (like Hadoop), but offer it as an end-user ready SQL interface to a database engine (you still need sysadmins though). Contrast this to Hadoop where the Hadoop layer is basically the start of the road and you usually have to worry about hardware issues and software architecture issues (such as which database engine to choose) as well. Sometimes you have to take the custom-made route (e.g. Wall-street firms doing automated trading) but sometimes it's an outright liability in a DIY-hostile environment (e.g. in large corporations).

The teradata machine I worked with supports SQL, SAS, and R (which competes with SAS of course, and usually out-competes it when it comes to advanced statistics if you know what you're doing but we had to use SAS exclusively, by order) and could easily handle terabytes of data.

So my suggestion is to take a look at it.

It's not Open Source (although it does support R), and it's less fun for tinkerers, and it's harder to custom-parallise your own algorithms on (I hear, I never tried). On the other hand it does provide a ready-to-run parallelised SQL database and lots of storage. It's not cheap though, but in a corporate environment that's usually not the first consideration.

If I set here and stare at nothing long enough, people might think I'm an engineer working on something. -- S.R. McElroy