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Comment: Not just cars ... (Score 5, Insightful) 129

This is true of your thermostat, your fridge, and pretty much anything else which is a part of this "internet of things".

Every aspect about what these devices does will be analyzed, used for marketing information, handed over to law enforcement, or your insurance company, or anybody who hacks into it.

For some of us, this whole IoT is a privacy nightmare waiting to happen, and we have no interest whatsoever in it.

Unfortunately, a lot of people like to see that as a sign that you're paranoid and getting alarmist about things which will never happen.

And then, like the widespread surveillance being misused (which they swore would never happen), parallel construction (which is perjury in my books), or the scope creep we see all around us ... almost inevitably this comes true and people act surprised.

Sorry, but I for one will not be enabling this crap. It just seems like technology for the sake of it, and by the time people realize that those among us who have been saying this will be a problem were right, it's too damned late.

Unless there are laws governing how a company can use the information, and some controls over law enforcement to prevent them from getting this and misusing it ... the internet of things is a terrible idea, and will not make your life better. The sheer amount of information about every aspect of your life which will be in someone else's hands is staggering.

In the end, I predict it will make our lives far worse, and usher in even more of this surveillance society we've been seeing.

We can't trust them with the information they have now, let alone from another bunch of sources in your life.

You really think the government won't insist on getting all this data without a warrant? And they won't claim you have no reasonable expectation of privacy and that they should be entitled to know where everybody is at all times? Or that corporations won't sell this for marketing purposes? Or to deny you service?

Hell no. Now, pass the tin foil please.

Comment: Re:It's about time (Score 1) 223

by gstoddart (#47939241) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

And, the corollary to the parent post is ... even if you will never come up with some breakthrough or advancement in the field ... do it anyway.

So, you may not get published, or find something which rocks the community. Who gives a damn?

Do it for yourself. Have fun with it. You're old enough to understand that the reward doesn't come from anything but you.

After a bunch of years, who knows where you'll end up?

Comment: Astronomy club? (Score 4, Informative) 223

by gstoddart (#47938213) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

I can't give you any specific advice, but maybe a local astronomy club?

I know one of the people who discovered Hale-Bopp is a gifted amateur, and I'm quite certain lots of stuff by amateurs happens which is pretty cool.

In fact, I get the impression lots of amateurs can give coverage which the "pros" can't really do just because of the sheer number of amateurs.

Good luck with it. Hopefully people can point you at more concrete stuff, but you'd hardly be the first amateur who contributed something to the field if you get there.

Comment: Really? (Score 1) 61

by gstoddart (#47933671) Attached to: Tinba Trojan Targets Major US Banks

the Trojan gets delivered to users via the Rig exploit kit, which uses Flash and Silverlight exploits. The victims get saddled with the malware when they unknowingly visit a website hosting the exploit kit

Say it isn't so! Flash and Silverlight got used as a security hole? Well, I'm truly shoc ... oh, fuck it ... this is exactly why I don't install this shit in my browsers, and why I don't let strange websites run scripts.

Flash has been a gaping security hole about as long as it has existed.

I can only assume Silverlight is little better, but the only browser I have it in is IE on a work machine because we need it to run some in-house software.

But I don't let that browser touch the real internet. Because I don't let IE access the internet unless every other browser has failed.

I'm afraid I no longer have any sympathy when I hear people got hacked via Flash. Because at this point, it's hardly surprising.

Comment: Mechanical stresses ... (Score 4, Informative) 190

by gstoddart (#47929697) Attached to: Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise

I seem to recall a news story from a few years ago where they'd tried to put wave power in the Bay of Fundy, where the highest tides in the world are.

OpenHydro -- the Irish company which installed the world's first 1-megawatt tidal turbine in the Bay of Fundy -- and its partner Nova Scotia Power deployed the 10-tonne turbine on the floor of the Minas Passage in November 2009.

Then just 20 days later, all 12 turbine rotor blades were destroyed by tidal flows that were two and a half times stronger than for what the turbine was designed.

Basically, the tides destroyed the machinery in three weeks or so.

So, yes, there's plenty of mechanical energy to harvest. The problem is that it might also be stronger than the stuff you've built.

Comment: Re:One day, someone will explain it to me. (Score 2) 115

by gstoddart (#47929289) Attached to: Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

But most of all, if the product and implementation have security flaws that have been exploited, don't buy them.

I rank that statement as about as intelligent as "if the food is contaminated, don't eat it". It's trite, ignores the problem, and acts like somehow consumers would actually know this.

The reality is, by the time it's known to have happened, and they actually tell people about it, it's too damned late.

Given the terrible approach most of these companies have to security, the fact that they hide the fact that they've been exploited, or are otherwise unaware that they've been exploited ... I sure as hell wouldn't trust them to know, or notify us if their security proves to be crap.

I just assume their security is crap from the beginning, because it usually is.

Comment: Re:One day, someone will explain it to me. (Score 1) 115

by gstoddart (#47927933) Attached to: Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

I think remote door lock/access control makes sense for some people.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

You really think having an external entity using a (possibly insecure) network connection to unlock your doors isn't something which will be very attractive?

Figure out who has this technology, and then exploit the hell out of it.

I'm imagining someone waiting for you to leave for work, driving up to your house, disabling your alarm, and unlocking your doors. And then tidying up after themselves, reset the alarm and lock the doors.

Sorry, but the track record of people who make devices when it comes to security tells me that I think this is a terrible idea.

But, hey, if you want to hang your home security outside of your firewall ... you should totally do that.

Comment: LOL ... no thanks ... (Score 1) 115

by gstoddart (#47927609) Attached to: Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

So, the intent here is that I'm going to install a bunch of devices with dubious security (and which likely provide my information for marketing/analytic purposes), to do tasks I can already do now, and have the whole thing controlled by a single source using protocols which themselves have dubious security, and which have the potential to either damage the stuff in my house or cost me money?

Have I got this right?

Because, really, nothing about this scenario sounds appealing to me. It just seems like technology for the sake of technology.

The privacy and security implications of this "smart" home make me want to grab another layer of tinfoil.

I'm sure there will be nerds salivating over being able to use their smart phone to flush the toilet. But I have no interest whatsoever in this stuff.

Why does the exciting new future always seem like rehashed ideas which nobody really actually has any need of and which are mostly toys for people with too much money?

Comment: Re:Ya, but... (Score 1) 391

by gstoddart (#47925951) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

LOL ... I'm past my coding years by now.

But my counter point would be that many operating systems have been built in C, and people who rely too much on "modern compilers" often don't know what's really happening. I cut my teeth doing OS-level programming in C at the interrupt-handler level. Good times.

I'm not saying people should start all new projects in C, but a good solid grounding in C really does give one a good perspective on what's really happening in the innards of your code. It's about as close to "bare metal" programming as you can get without assembly.

I've met a few coders who had only ever worked at very high level stuff, and a lot of what they did more or less relied heavily on libraries they didn't really understand, or have any sense of the performance impacts when used inefficiently.

That being said, hand rolling your own memory management isn't something I really miss.

But every now and then I still like to sing a few bars of:

Pointers to pointers to printf()-like functions;
Unary minus and nested conjunctions;
Integers, booleans, characters, strings;
These are a few of my favourite things.

Because, "Pointers to pointers to printf()-like functions" was a pretty nifty language feature sometimes.

You could do some pretty neat things in C.

Comment: Re:Baaah... (Score 2) 129

by gstoddart (#47925797) Attached to: FBI Completes New Face Recognition System

Except some might argue that using this technology in a public place is a violation of the 4th amendment.

This stuff is getting very creepy, and it's kind of appalling to see that the US is in a hurry to usher in Big Brother.

Papers please, comrade. Actually, we don't need your papers. We know exactly who you are.

How's that "land of the free" thing working out for you?

Comment: Hmmm .... (Score 3, Informative) 110

by gstoddart (#47925699) Attached to: A DC-10 Passenger Plane Is Perfect At Fighting Wildfires

The three-engine DC-10 entered service in 1970 as a passenger jet, and the last airplane working in that capacity, operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, made its final flight on February 24.

There's a reason why the DC-10 isn't used anymore.

Explosive Decompression sucks in an airplane:

The DC-10 was designed with cargo doors that opened outward instead of conventional inward-opening "plug-type" doors. Using outward-opening doors allowed the DC-10's cargo area to be completely filled since the door was not occupying usable space. To secure the door against the outward force from the pressurization of the fuselage at high altitudes, outward-opening doors must use heavy locking mechanisms. In the event of a door lock malfunction, there is great potential for explosive decompression.

Now, when you're using it as a water bomber, you're never going to pressurize the cabin, and you've likely made some other major changes.

I'm glad they've managed to take these old DC-10's and make them do something useful .. they're a pretty cool plane and a piece of aviation history, but that unfortunate defect in the cargo doors made them not really safe to fly in.

But it sounds like it's getting a new lease on life. I wonder just how many of them they'll be able to cobble together .. it's not like they make spare parts for them.

Comment: Re:Ya, but... (Score 1) 391

by gstoddart (#47920527) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

You can teach people how to write better code. You can't teach a stubborn old self taught programmer with 40 years experience why it is better to have maintainable code than to save a few CPU cycles if he doesn't want to hear it.

You know, I don't disagree with you.

But, conversely, I've been on the receiving end of a programmer who refused to do any optimization whatsoever because he said it was pointless (as a result his code frequently became a bottleneck because he had no idea of just how much stuff he was calling), and his (to his own mind) lovely and elegant code was actually brittle crap which was anything but maintainable. In fact, it was garbage which painted him into corners more times than I could count.

On several occasions when asked to make a code change, there was a realization that it was impossible without a complete re-write (because the change violated the aesthetics of his assumptions he'd built into it). In other words, his code was shit to begin with, His "theoretical" understanding of writing good code didn't translate into a "practical" ability to write good code.

Sometimes people trip over their own "elegance", and create garbage.

I'm not saying "all young punks are stupid", and I'm not saying "all old timers know everything", because I think categorical statements are usually garbage.

Programmers of all ages think they know everything and have bad attitudes.

On that point, we are completely in agreement.

But, in my personal experience .. sometimes having been there and done that means you have a bigger picture understanding of what you're really doing, and not some theoretical model you don't know how to apply.

Similarly, if you get to the point where nothing new is worth looking at, you have your own baggage and issues which gets in the way of you doing a good job.

In the middle of those two is where you find the good.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.