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Comment: Re:Better than nothing? (Score 1) 118

by swb (#47542859) Attached to: When Spies and Crime-Fighters Squabble Over How They Spy On You

You'd like to think this means something good, like maybe the spy guys have some moral disdain for spying on citizens for law enforcement purposes but I think that's just wishful thinking.

My guess is that at best, this is about the spy guys not wanting to lose any advantage they have over high-value, careful adversaries who will walk away from a communication system if they think it could be compromised.

At worst, it's bureaucratic one-upmanship, with national security types wanting to keep their status over mere criminal law enforcement.

The downside is that it leads to parallel construction where law enforcement just uses the techniques anyway and then builds a legal case from evidence they wouldn't have been able to link together otherwise, burying the secret info along the way.

This may also encourage the spies to help law enforcement if they think their techniques may be used but otherwise obscured by the parallel case.

Comment: Did anyone ever try booklamp? (Score 1) 23

by swb (#47540905) Attached to: Apple Acquires "Pandora For Books" Booklamp For $15 Million

I'm dubious on the Pandora style genome concept at least as implemented by Pandora. That being said, I've listened to it and gotten some artists/songs out of it that I'd probably never hear of, so I think there's something to the idea.

My main complaint is that I wish they would give you some kind of control panel for each "station" so that you could fine-tune the recommendations by genome key words, years, etc and not just get their choices. It'd also be nice to be able to just browse the genome database without having to listen to a song.

Anyway, it'd be interesting to see what a book recommendation system like this would look like and how well it would work. I'm also curious if they do some kind of automated analysis of the texts or if its just human-derived stuff.

Comment: Don't get too happy (Score 1) 74

by cpt kangarooski (#47537873) Attached to: Compromise Struck On Cellphone Unlocking Bill

This bill actually does very little. The DMCA is written very broadly, and has been commonly interpreted as to prohibit cell phone unlocking. Because Congress, in the 90s, when they enacted the stupid thing, was aware that the DMCA could go too far, but didn't want to be cautious or have to keep reexamining the law itself, they gave authority to the Library of Congress to add exceptions to it in specific cases. The process for these exceptions is that every three years, anyone who wants an exception has to plead their case. If found worthy, they get an exception. But the exception only lasts until the next rule making session, three years hence. Then it has to be reargued from scratch or lost.

Two rule making sessions ago, the Library of Congress found that cellphone unlocking was worthy of an exception. But in the most recent rule making session, they did not find it worthy, and the exception was lost; it went back to its default state of being illegal.

This law could have amended the DMCA to permanently allow cellphone unlocking. Or it could've directed the Library of Congress to always find that cellphone unlocking is allowed. But it does neither of these.

Instead it only reinstates the rule from two sessions ago for the remainder of the current session. Next year it will have to be argued again, from scratch, to the Library of Congress, or lost, again. And even if argued, it can be rejected, again.

This is less than useless. It's only a temporary patch, it doesn't even have an iota of long term effect (the rules don't take precedent into account, and this doesn't change it), and we've wasted all this effort getting it instead of something worthwhile.

Comment: Re:FUD filled.... (Score 1) 210

by swb (#47534635) Attached to: How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth

Since this whole war on terrorism nonsense, they've gotten kind of funny about tours for the sake of curiosity.

The Union Electric plant didn't have a visitor center -- you just showed up outside an entrance and employee took you anywhere you wanted to go. I even got to go inside one of the generators.

Comment: Re:sure, works for France (Score 4, Interesting) 263

You can have all the vacation time you want anywhere you live

Which is why every American takes 6 weeks in the summer.

In my experience, most permanent job employers don't like to negotiate on vacation time. Sometimes they'll give on a day or two, but usually they're not crazy about vacation time that deviates from whatever the position qualifies for. The only explanation ever given to me was that because salary is "secret" it's easier to compensate employees differentially; vacation is visible to other employees at the same level and differential compensation creates tension.

In a contract employment situation you can negotiate anything, but I've found in shorter term contracts there's usually some kind of deadline that's non-negotiable, making free-lance vacationing a little bit challenging.

Comment: Re:raise money privately? (Score 1) 198

I think roads are the best (and in some ways the most literal) examples of what municipal broadband should be.

The government builds roads past my house but it only provides "dark asphalt" (aka dark fiber), it doesn't provide any of the services that could be provided by the highway.

The government then licenses "service providers" to provide services on the municipal roads -- taxes for trucks that deliver things to my house, taxis, or even access fees for me to drive a vehicle on those roads. I have to pay myself to utilize the services provided by the roads.

Municipal broadband should be the same way -- it should only be the transit network, anything else -- IP connectivity/Internet should require me to pay an internet provider who in turn has paid for whatever access they need to the municipal network the same way businesses pay fees (direct or indirect) to use the roads to deliver services.

Comcast could sell TV services or Internet services, although I would expect that some other ISP would offer an better product than Comcast and they would be a marginal player, which of course is their entire objection -- hey have a rent-seeking monopoly they want to maintain. If the pipe to your house was open to any service provider, it seems likely they would only get a minority of people who wanted traditional cable television.

Comment: Re:FCC does not make laws (Score 1) 198

But all the magic comes from the Commerce Clause.

You can't build a nuclear reactor without importing components for it across state lines. It starts there. I'd also imagine that NRC and EPA approval would also stem from (mostly) reasonable arguments that the natural environment (wind, water, etc) is inherently interstate and that any risk from a nuclear accident would have interstate impact. Probably some justification on national security grounds relative to radioactive materials as well.

The same thing would be used to justify federal anti-discrimination laws should I decide not serve some group in my local restaurant in which I only serve food obtained locally, cooked in a kitchen made entirely of locally-sourced, locally made cookware and served on locally-made dishware from locally-sourced materials in a building made from locally-sourced building materials by bearded, local bohemians wearing only locally sourced clothing who only drink locally brewed beer in locally made mugs.

Comment: Re:FUD filled.... (Score 3, Interesting) 210

by swb (#47531351) Attached to: How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth

When I toured the Union Electric hydropower plant in Keokuk, Iowa back in the 1990s when they still let you into places like that (with a camera, no less) the guy showed me a hand-crank the size of a bicycle wheel that was originally designed to dead start the plant when it was self-powered.

Apparently spinning that generated just enough power to get one of the turbines generating electricity and that was enough power to boot strap the entire plant.

Comment: Re:Avoiding Amazon Web Services? (Score 1) 168

by swb (#47531127) Attached to: Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

One question might be "What business is Amazon in?"

They almost feel like one of those somewhat out of fashion companies that owns a whole bunch of businesses that are only tangentially related. Are they a consumer electronics company? A hard goods company? A clothing company (Zappos, and Amazon's fashion wing)? A bookseller? An internet services company?

With regard to the last one, maybe AWS isn't a long-term business but a medium-term strategy to sell their own excess capacity to cover the cost of having excess capacity in the near term and gain specific expertise in managing large, distributed computing environments almost 100% under their control.

At some point in a more mature Amazon business, does AWS go away because they no longer need to cover their own excess capacity? I'm guessing that AWS will be big enough business not to, but Amazon's kind of amorphous business model seems to add some uncertainty.

Comment: Re:So Short-Sighted (Score 2) 59

by swb (#47522149) Attached to: How the Internet of Things Could Aid Disaster Response

How do you manage routing, especially across multiple identically numbered private networks?

Even if you make the assumption that the IoT has the bandwidth, range and routing capability for meshing, it seems ripe for many kinds of abuse. Greedy traffic handling (dumping incoming, flooding outgoing), MITM, etc.

Comment: Risk of mutation to something worse? (Score 1) 167

by swb (#47521559) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

I am not a virologist or an epidemiologist (nor do I play one on TV) but I always seem to remember the risk of a larger pandemic from Ebola or other similar severe hemorrhagic fevers was reduced due to the nature of these illnesses having a rapid onset and severity which limits the ability of infected people to be ambulatory and infect other people.

What I wonder and maybe worry about is a long-term low-grade outbreak leading to mutations which increase the amount of time the infected might be able to spread the illness. I don't know how likely this is, but it seems kind of a scary idea.

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