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Comment: Promis (Score 4, Informative) 183 183

by handy_vandal (#49101035) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?


In the mid-1970s, Inslaw developed for the United States Department of Justice a highly efficient, people-tracking, computer program known as Prosecutor's Management Information System (Promis). Inslaw's principal owners, William Anthony Hamilton and his wife, Nancy Burke Hamilton, later sued the United States Government (acting as principal to the Department of Justice) for not complying with the terms of the Promis contract and for refusing to pay for an enhanced version of Promis once delivered. This allegation of software piracy led to three trials in separate federal courts and two congressional hearings.

During ensuing investigations, the Department of Justice was accused of deliberately attempting to drive Inslaw into Chapter 7 liquidation; and of distributing and selling stolen software for covert intelligence operations of foreign governments such as Canada, Israel, Singapore, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan; and of becoming directly involved in murder.

Later developments implied that derivative versions of Enhanced Promis sold on the black market may have become the high-tech tools of worldwide terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and international money launderers and thieves.

Comment: Re:"all but confirm" English lesson (Score 1) 65 65

by handy_vandal (#49081113) Attached to: 'Babar' Malware Attributed To France

"All but confirm" means "everything up to, but not actually, confirming".

So the "all but" includes "strongly suggests", "gives reason to believe", and similar suggestive (but non-confirming) phrases.

In other words: "We can't confirm (prove) the assertion, but we strongly believe in the assertion."

"Everything short of" is a similar phrase.

Comment: A Tale of Two Cities (Score 1) 779 779

by handy_vandal (#48962487) Attached to: WA Bill Takes Aim at Boys' Dominance In Computer Classes

Excellent quote; thank you.

I am reminded of a passage from A Tale of Two Cities, where Monsieur runs down and kills a young boy:

He took out his purse.

“It is extraordinary to me,” said he, “that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses. See! Give him that.”

He threw out a gold coin for the valet to pick up, and all the heads craned forward that all the eyes might look down at it as it fell. The tall man called out again with a most unearthly cry, “Dead!”

A Tale of Two Cities

Comment: Re:Thanks (Score 2) 779 779

by handy_vandal (#48961585) Attached to: WA Bill Takes Aim at Boys' Dominance In Computer Classes

Thanks, I do appreciate the heads-up.

I agree that the conservative statement is as much bullshit at the anti-liberal statement is bullshit.

I should have made clear that the conservative statement -- "sleeping on the sidewalk" -- is such patent bullshit that I took it for sardonic irony. Granted, the original poster might not have sardonic irony in mind. But if I use the phrase in conversation, I'll make the sardonic irony patently obvious.

I shouldn't have commented in the first place. Broke my own rule: don't comment on politics on Slashdot (or pretty much any place else, for that matter). I am primarily committed to sharing information, not opinion. Commenting on politics is rarely informative, always opinionated. One is reduced to sardonic irony, or worse.

Comment: Re:Thanks (Score 2) 779 779

by handy_vandal (#48960453) Attached to: WA Bill Takes Aim at Boys' Dominance In Computer Classes

Granted; I see your point.

On reflection, the part that speaks to me is: "Conservatives are for equal treatment. For instance, a law against sleeping on the sidewalk should be enforced equally on both millionaires and homeless vagrants." The part about liberals, I'm not impressed by that.

In any case, I have no use for either label -- "liberal" or "conservative" -- and prefer to avoid them altogether. To paraphrase John Brunner -- don't trust people who hate others based on generalities; only trust those who hate based on specifics. (Sorry, I don't have the actual quote at hand (from Stand on Zanzibar).)

Comment: Cryptonomicon: Shanghai Banks (Score 3, Interesting) 263 263

by handy_vandal (#48831175) Attached to: Google Releases More Windows Bugs

I'm reminded of Neal Stephenson's description of Shanghai banks on the eve of World War 2:

Here you've got the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank of course, City Bank, Chase Manhattan, the Bank of America, and BBME and the Agricultural Bank of China and any number of crappy little provincial banks, and several of those banks have contracts with what's left of the Chinese Government to print currency. It must be a cutthroat business because they slash costs by printing it on old newspapers, and if you know how to read Chinese, you can see last year's news stories and polo scores peeking through the colored numbers and pictures that transform these pieces of paper into legal tender.

As every chicken-peddler and rickshaw operator in Shanghai knows, the money-printing contracts stipulate that all of the bills these banks print have to be backed by such-and-such an amount of silver; i.e., anyone should be able to walk into one of those banks at the end of Kiukiang Road and slap down a pile of bills and (provided that those bills were printed by that same bank) receive actual metallic silver in exchange.

Now if China weren't right in the middle of getting systematically drawn and quartered by the Empire of Nippon, it would probably send official bean counters around to keep tabs on how much silver was actually present in these banks' vaults, and it would all be quiet and orderly. But as it stands, the only thing keeping these banks honest is the other banks.

Here's how they do it ...

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