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Comment Re:Yet another rant on hollywood computers, huh? (Score 1) 874

The only real problem with this is that some people could be left thinking that computers do or can do some of these things. But that's more a case of those people not being able to tell fiction from reality, which has nothing to do with how Hollywood tells stories, it has to do with what sort of education and life experience a person has.

In real life these people are called "judge", "senator", "congressman", and they are creating laws based on their misunderstanding of how computers work. So the Internet is a "series of tubes" and if you "send an Internet" to your staff and they do not receive it until the next day, it is because it got caught behind somebody's movie download.

Comment Re:Same? (Score 1) 237

Words represent abstract ideas. "Red" represents an arbitrary volume in RGB space. "Three" represents an abstraction. "Chair" represents an abstraction.

In all human languages the number of ideas is roughly the same (except for English, which has 450K curse words in addition). Foreigners learning English (I am one) struggle to learn the correct sequence of letters that produces the word in English corresponding to a particular abstraction. You struggle to learn the particular sequence of chicken scratch that represents the same abstraction in Chinese. Thousands of words in English, thousands of characters in Chinese, I fail to recognize any meaningful difference.

When I was learning English we were required to write each word 60 times in a row. We were learning between 50 and 120 new words every day. We were learning by heart short (one-page) texts in English which contained most of the new words for the day. As a result, we had a mechanical connection (writing) to the meaning of the word (repeating its meaning while you are writing it), and we also had it committed to memory in context. On top of that, we did weekly and monthly reviews of old words to refresh them in our memory, as well as compositions and translations to force us to apply them to new contexts.

Then I came to the US and realized that I couldn't speak the language. Write, read: yes; but speaking takes a whole new level of understanding. To get to that level you need full immersion. It takes about 3 months or more, depending on your non-speaking knowledge. Some Chinese students never learn plurals in English even after years in the US. Us foreigners will almost always mispronounce the sound "th", as in "there". Such is life.

The Courts

Australian Police Given Covert Search and Hacking Powers 122

An anonymous reader writes "The NSW government of Australia has quietly introduced new police powers for covert home searches and covert hacking of computers. The suspect may not be notified of the covert activity for up to three years. These new powers are similar to those given to the UK police earlier this year. The new warrants can only be issued in the Supreme Court for suspected serious offences punishable by at least seven years jail — which includes computer crime offences."

Startup Threatened Into Settling Over Hyperlinking 333

An anonymous reader writes "A tiny startup that was threatened by a massive law firm over nothing more than a humble hyperlink has been forced to settle and change its linking policies, handing Goliath the win in this gratuitous trademark case. Under the agreement, real estate startup BlockShopper can no longer include hyperlinks anywhere on its website to Jones Day, a massive Chicago law firm, except explicitly on URL text. Essentially, is okay, but not blah blah blah." I wonder if the owners of feel the same way.

Comment Re:Oh, that's all right then (Score 1) 409

More than just backups. When you "delete" something your just setting a Is_Deleted flag on their database. As far as facebook is concerned, your information is just as easily available as if you were an active member.

What if you simply change it, say, to something bogus?

They might have some kind of version control system, but a version control system is really a kind of backup with a particular purpose.

This is exactly what you should do. Except that you should phase it in slowly, and the new data should be reasonable (read: believable). The only way you can fight with them having your data and refusing to delete it is to make their data useless by polluting it with noise.


Mars Rover Spirit Still Alive 185

Toren Altair writes with this excerpt from a story at The Space Fellowship: "NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit communicated via the Mars Odyssey orbiter today right at the time when ground controllers had told it to, prompting shouts of 'She's talking!' among the rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 'This means Spirit has not gone into a fault condition and is still being controlled by sequences we send from the ground,' said John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity."

(Useful) Stupid Unix Tricks? 2362

So the other day I messaged another admin from the console using the regular old 'write' command (as I've been doing for over 10 years). To my surprise he didn't know how to respond back to me (he had to call me on the phone) and had never even known you could do that. That got me thinking that there's probably lots of things like that, and likely things I've never heard of. What sorts of things do you take for granted as a natural part of Unix that other people are surprised at?

Censorship Banned In Turkey 262

petermp writes "A Turkish court has blocked access to the popular blog hosting service Blogger ( and, owned by Google), since Friday, October 24th, 2008. According to, a Dutch blogger based in Istanbul, who alerted readers about the issue: 'It is suspected that the reason for this has something to do with Adnan Oktar, by some considered the leading Muslim advocate for creationism, who has in the past managed to get Wordpress, Google Groups, as well as Richard Dawkins' website [banned].'"
The Internet

Belgian ISP Scores Victory In Landmark P2P Case 76

secmartin writes "Belgian ISP Scarlet scored an important victory in the first major European test of copyright law. The interim decision forcing them to block transfers of copyrighted materials via P2P has been reversed, because the judge agreed with Scarlet that the measures the Belgian RIAA proposed to implement proved to be ineffective. A final decision is expected next year."

Reliable, Free Anti-Virus Software? 586

oahazmatt writes "Some time ago my wife was having severe issues on her laptop. (A Dell Inspiron, if that helps.) I eventually found the cause to be McAfee, which took about an hour to remove fully. I installed AVG on her system to replace McAfee, but we have since found that AVG is causing problems with her laptop's connection to our wireless network. She's not thrilled about a wired connection as the router is on the other end of the house. We're looking for some good, open-source or free personal editions of anti-virus software. So, who on Slashdot trusts what?" When school required a Windows laptop, I used Clam AV, and the machine seemed to do as well as most classmates'. What have you found that works?

Russia Mandates Free Software For Public Schools 271

Glyn Moody writes "After running some successful pilots, the Russian government has decided to make open source the standard for all schools. If a school doesn't want to use the free software supplied by the government, it has to buy commercial licenses using its own funds. What's the betting Microsoft starts slashing its prices in Russia?"

Passport Required To Buy Mobile Phones In the UK 388

David Gerard points out a Times Online story that says: "Everyone [in the UK] who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance. Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society. A compulsory national register for the owners of all 72m mobile phones in Britain would be part of a much bigger database to combat terrorism and crime. Whitehall officials have raised the idea of a register containing the names and addresses of everyone who buys a phone in recent talks with Vodafone and other telephone companies, insiders say." We've recently discussed other methods the UK government is using to keep track of people within its borders, such as ID cards for foreigners and comprehensive email surveillance.

"Lead us in a few words of silent prayer." -- Bill Peterson, former Houston Oiler football coach