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Comment: Maskirovka (Score 1) 261

by jfengel (#49357937) Attached to: How Professional Russian Trolls Operate

So much so that they even have a name for it: Maskirovka. The term was originally used just for camouflage, and the uses of it seem entirely in keeping with ordinary warfare. The disinformation campaign around D-Day would have been a brilliant example of maskirovka.

But the Russians do it before a war, and even during active hostilities as a way to demand that they be treated as if they were non-combatants. It's going on right now, pretending that they aren't engaging in war against Ukraine. It's so traditional in the culture that it's not even really something we can blame them for, exactly. But it means that our actions and reactions have to be calibrated around the fact that this is part of the way they view the world.

Comment: Re:The real question in my mind... (Score 0) 341

by jfengel (#49295005) Attached to: Musk Says Drivers May Become Obsolete, Announces Juice-Saving Upgrades

there are on-road and off-road drives that are a lot of fun for the enthusiast and many such as I won't want to give up the option for that.

While I'm sorry about the loss of a fun activity, we don't spend tens of billions of dollars per year on roads for entertainment. If the best way to make the roads efficient and safe would be to get the human drivers off of them, I'd vote for that in a heartbeat. (I don't know if that is really required or not, but I suspect that roadways could be a lot more efficient if we eliminated the human factor: closer following distances, no need for yellow cycles on traffic lights, better planning for capacity, etc.)

People can use the roads for leisure driving now, because every other driver on the road is human and we have built everything to take that into account. But I just don't see giving up potentially billions of dollars in efficiency gains to preserve your ability to have fun on the roads.

There's probably some compromise that sets aside some roads for you, and maybe even sharing the roads at certain times when there are few other drivers. But I think a lot of people, including me, will consider that a lower priority.

Comment: Re:Becasue... the children! (Score 1) 190

by jfengel (#49251643) Attached to: Powdered Alcohol Approved By Feds, Banned By States

I've been thinking of doing some backpacking, and had been wondering it if was a good idea to carry some everclear with me. Pleasantly relaxing taken orally (with water), and useful externally (especially when the internals accidentally become external).

Question: can it also be used to make the water safer? If I were to mix it up as, say, a beer-grade solution (4%), would it be a more enjoyable alternative to filters and chlorine? (Googling has been less than useful; most of what I get is the fact that you can't drink while taking giardia medications.)

Comment: Re:How common is burglary in Britain? (Score 1) 282

by jfengel (#49226217) Attached to: Scotland Yard Chief: Put CCTV In Every Home To Help Solve Crimes

Ah, I hadn't realized that one of the sources was the Daily Fail. That, I dismiss out of hand.

The Telegraph isn't much better, but yeah, it does seem like this is election-year tough-on-crime sloganeering. (I haven't seen any polls, but I can't imagine it going all that well for the Tories. Not that Labor has dug themselves out of their hole yet, either, but I don't see the LibDems pairing with the Tories again. You guys could be in for a lot of post-election nastiness.)

They're both plenty likely to stir up terror of nasty brown people coming into your house to steal your stuff. It wouldn't half surprise me if people did want to rush out and have these things installed; at least, the kinds of people who read the Torygraph and the Fail. Whether they actually end up catching anybody, or deterring any more crime than they already have...

Comment: How common is burglary in Britain? (Score 1) 282

by jfengel (#49219751) Attached to: Scotland Yard Chief: Put CCTV In Every Home To Help Solve Crimes

Here in the US, violent crime has been falling for quite some time, and total crime as well. While every burglary is upsetting, and unfortunately few are prosecuted, is Britain so worried about it as to consider something that a lot of people would consider rather a damper on their daily lives? (A lot of people would be very self conscious doing ordinary dressing and sex with a camera in the room, even if they've taken measures to keep the data from getting out until a crime occurs.)

I know that Americans are quite paranoid about crime. A great many people would tell you that the crime rates are going up, even though they're going down. Is that what's going on in the UK? Or is there actually some rash of crime that's making them this worried? Or is this simply some top cop blue-skying about what he wishes he had, without regard to how that would affect people?

Comment: Re:DOA (Score 1) 550

And yet it does appear that the telcos are throwing money to make it happen. They certainly expect something for their money.

It does appear that it's unlikely that it would be legislation, but I imagine that they're laying the groundwork for something. Perhaps they're trying to shift the Overton window to bring it up again in the 115th Congress, when they may have a Republican President? It's unlikely that it would produce a filibuster-proof Republican Senate, but if the filibuster is the only thing preventing passage, there are often ways to convince individuals to break ranks. One tactic involves making this seem like a reasonable thing to do, and introducing legislation (especially when you give it a misleading name) can help.

Comment: Why cities? (Score 1) 112

by jfengel (#49198147) Attached to: Self-Driving Cars Will Be In 30 US Cities By the End of Next Year

Cities seem to me like the worst place for automated driving. They're not great for any driving, since things are constantly coming at you from all directions. And while computers are great at operating with many simultaneous distractions, these are cases where errors get people hurt or dead. Erring on the side of caution will block traffic, and city streets are often already at capacity.

I would think that the best use for automated cars would be interstates, which have limited access and more predictable situations. Problems turn into crises fast, but that's the kind of thing where a computer could react better than a human, since it's likely to involve less fine discrimination between "human" and "non-human".

Ultimately I'd love to see automation replace all human drivers in cities, since it can break the connection between driver, destination, and necessity to park. They could coordinate more effectively at intersections, which are currently very wasteful. So I'd like to see this work, but right now it feels like begging for trouble.

Comment: Re:Hmmm .... (Score 5, Informative) 127

by jfengel (#49176339) Attached to: Physicists Gear Up To Catch a Gravitational Wave

LIGO works by measuring the distance between two tracks set at right angles. A passing gravitational wave would momentarily change the length of one leg or the other, or both, in characteristic ways.

It measures the distance with a laser beam. It splits the beam, and sends them down the two tracks. They bounce off mirrors, and when they return, they interfere. Changes in the length will change the interference. That means that they can detect changes at distances on the order of a single wavelength of light.

That's an interferometer, the I in LIGO. At its core, it's the same thing that Michaelson and Morley used to look for aether, and failed to find it. The trick is that this has to be even more sensitive, because the expected changes are even smaller and the contraption itself is much bigger (4 km, versus a few meters). They have to exclude all kinds of potential interference, from passing trucks to earthquakes.

I suppose it may well go "ping" when it spots a gravitational wave, and they'll end up comparing it to other experiments. But they'll get more than a ping; they'll get a signal of the changing lengths that they can use to map the size of the wave, and even a hint of its direction.

Comment: Re:FEO (Score 1) 375

by jfengel (#49167265) Attached to: Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links

For some reason, he didn't head off to Newfoundland; he went at tropical latitudes. If he was trying to follow a line of latitude due west to Asia, he was going the VERY long way. If he hadn't bumped into something along the way, he'd have been deeply screwed.

The direct route from Portugal to Japan would have taken him northeast. He probably had suspicions that the northeast passage wouldn't work, but the further north he went, the better. He'd have been better off going to Newfoundland. He would have failed to find the northwest passage, but he couldn't know that, either.

The explanation that he thought it was smaller would account for that. If he was going based on his suspicion that there might be something that far south, he had little evidence to support it, and was really staking his life it. It certainly paid off in spades, but that could easily have been a lie he paid for with his life.

Comment: Re:I use GnuPG (Score 1) 309

by jfengel (#49130281) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

Ultimately, it comes down to the question "why do you care who Andy Canfield is?" Are they planning to exchange money for goods or services? Write you a mash note? Collect on a debt?

As you say, "Andy Canfield" is kind of a red herring there. It's really the operational/instrumental definition of "is there some connection between this key and some object or information I want?" I'm not sure there really is any meaningful way to do that in the general case. It needs to be reconsidered as an array of different questions about why we care about identity in the first place.

Right now a lot of the notions of identity are really badly defined. "Identity theft" happens because lending institutions are legally allowed to connect your physical body (which can be punished in a variety of ways) to various intangible measures of identity with extremely thin degrees of proof. That may be the worst possible case.

Committees have become so important nowadays that subcommittees have to be appointed to do the work.

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