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Comment ...or the difference may be totally insignificant. (Score 1) 416

The marginal increase in the probability of an someone being a terrorist given that you know he's an engineer may be startling in relative terms, but in absolute terms it's insignificant.

Estimates of total active membership in terror groups worldwide is under 200,000, but let's assume there's even million active terrorists just for the sake of having round numbers and not having to quibble over where to put the decimal point. There are seven billion people in the world, so the rate of terrorist participation in the general population is 14 thousandths of a percent; let's call that p(T), and call the probability that someone is a terrorist given that they're an engineer p(T|E). Let's look at the absolute marginal difference being an engineer makes, i.e.:P(T|E) - P(T)

i. p(T) = 0.0001428
i. p(T|E) = 9 * P(T) = 0.001286
iii. P(T|E) - P(T) = 0.001143

So being an engineer increases your chance of being a terrorist by at most about 1/10 of 1% under wildly pessimistic assumptions. In fact the marginal difference is really more like 1/50 of 1%. Now it's interesting that the rates of terrorism are so much larger among engineers than other people, but it has little practical significance and being an engineer myself that's what I'm most concerned with. If you were designing a surveillance program and were picking out groups that need keeping tabs on, 1/10 % is a grasping-at-straws number

Comment Re:I'd be wary of Musk, too (Score 5, Insightful) 97

He seems really good at using government subsidies to make money for himself.

Well, that's the point isn't it? To jumpstart private industry? You can't do that without the profit motive.

Tesla paid it's 450 million 2009 loan back with interest in four years and went from the brink of bankruptcy to a market cap of 29 billion dollars. Sounds like a success story to me.

Comment Re:Wait, they shipped the private key? (Score 1) 65

But what possible use is publishing your private key?

Perhaps, it is to be able to deny responsibility for bad software later, but that's a little too far-fetched...

Well, we're not talking about publishing THE private key to anything Dell cares about. We're talking about publishing A private key that Dell can use to do things on the client's machine that undermine the security model. Why? Well there's lots of potential ways to create revenue or cut costs that way. For example Lenovo did it so they could inject ads into web pages that were supposedly cryptographically protected from tampering.

Comment Re:Wait, they shipped the private key? (Score 1) 65

So, the happy owners of the affected laptops can now issue certificates and/or sign drivers, which will be accepted as genuine by other owners of Dell hardware?

Seriously? If so, that's just too dumb to be malicious...

It's not too dumb to be willful negligence -- defined in legal dictionaries as "Intentional performance of an unreasonable act in disregard of a known risk..."

Having the know-how to do such a thing necessarily entails knowledge of why its a bad idea. So either an engineer acted in breech of professional ethics, or managers rode roughshod over the engineers' objections.

Comment Re:High level? (Score 5, Insightful) 90

Speaking as someone who learned C in 1980, C was originally thought of as a low-level language -- a suitable replacement in most cases for assembly language that, while abstracting underlying details like the CPU instruction set and registers, remained relatively small and "close to the hardware". Then later 80s I was asked to take over a course on C, and when I looked at the course description I was surprised to see it described as a "high level language". I asked the person who wrote the description what he meant by "high level language", and he really had no idea. He said he meant it was "powerful", which of course is just as vague when comparing any two Turing equivalent languages.

Of course "high level" vs. "low level" is relative. C is "high level" in comparison to assembly, or "B", in which the only datatype was a computer word. On the other hand C "low level" in comparison to most other languages that hide away the details of the hardware like instruction set and registers and such. So it depends on what you're comparing to; but in general I think people who describe C as "low level" know more about what they're talking about than those who call it a "high level" language.

The important thing isn't whether C is "high" or "low" level; it is what makes C work, which is largely about what was left out. It didn't have all the bells and whistles of something like PL/1, which made the language easy to implement, even on a tiny 8 bit microcomputer, and easy to learn, in the form of a slim, almost pamphlet-like book (The C Programming Language, 1st edition was 228 paperback-sized pages long).

Even so, C has become very slightly more "higher level" over the years. The original K&R C was more weakly typed than the later ANSI C. Particularly when you were dealing with pointers, the declared type of a pointer in K&R C was more of a mnemonic aid to the programmer than anything else.

Comment Re:I have an idea (Score 2) 552

Ahh, sorry. I thought you might have been but considering the number of people on here who toss out the ridiculous, "It's free!" when obviously someone has to pay for it, I wasn't sure.

As you can see, those same people who claim everything is free don't like when it's pointed out forcing people to pay money does make something free.

I would hardly consider paying over $3K per year to see a doctor once every other year to be free.

Comment Re: Micropayments? (Score 2) 210

Well, part of it is that even a small payment can still incur a psychologically large cost. If each user post here on /. cost one cent to read, would you want to have them load automatically? Probably not, many of them are not worth that much, and you could quickly run up a bill of a few hundred dollars a year on that sort of thing from this site alone. So instead you'd have to take more time to think about what was worth spending even a little on, because it adds up and the price doesn't really match the value to you of the thing you'd be paying for.

Something similar happens when people have metered or capped Internet usage compared to at least nominally unlimited usage.

You really can't avoid this problem unless the micropayment is so small that it is likely not worth the cost to implement. I suppose if I knew that a year's worth of micro payments for me, for everything I use, was no more than about a dollar a year in total, it wouldn't be so much that it would feel like I was wasting money on the Internet. But because the average user doesn't want to spend a noticeable amount ever, and there really aren't that many users in comparison to sites, the resulting pie of money wouldn't be much to split up. (Especially once you reduce the amount to account for lower average incomes elsewhere in the world)

Comment Re:Everyone has to learn about it. (Score 2) 191

What would be nice is if they learned about it before they develop habitual patterns for using a language/platform.

The problem is that people who teach n00bs want to give them the success experience of updating a database early on, before they've learned about prepared statements and (the much broader topic) of checking user input. If they'd just stop that then over the course of years the problem would become much smaller.

Comment Re:Greed rules in Corporate America (Score 5, Insightful) 116

Of course Corporate America is supposed to rule America. What do you think the word "capital" in "Capitalism" means? Rule of those with capital., i.e. rule of the rich.

Funny, I thought capitalism was an economic system in which capital goods are owned by private individuals or corporations and in which decisions about pricing, production and distribution of the output of those capital goods is determined by the owners in a free market. Note that this does not preclude myriad forms of government regulation.

The only surprise is how "capitalism" has been marketed to Americans such that generations of them defend the rule of the rich as some utopia or ideal.

Well it's hardly surprising that private interests have rebranded regulation in the public interest by the boogey-man term "socialism", but I expect we are seeing early signs that this is starting to backfire. Americans in my generation associate "socialism" with the Soviet Union -- as a kind of "Communism lite". Millennials are increasingly apt to associate the word with the kind of "Nordic model" social democracy practiced in hellholes like Denmark and Sweden [note irony].

I have a theory that it's impossible to prove anything, but I can't prove it.