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Comment I think it's worse than you describe (Score 3, Interesting) 111

[...] the very next thing that would happen is that China et al will ask for the same solution.

I think this is actually backwards compared to how it may actually play out. This month's *Harper's Magazine* has an interesting essay about American businesses operating in China. (*Harper's* is paywalled, but you get a few free views per month.) The essay can be found here:

"The New China Syndrome: American business meets its new master"

The gist of the essay is that China's authoritarian government strong-arms American businesses, using all of the tools at its command, including outright arrest of business executives, and that this is only going to get worse, to the point where China will be setting U.S. policy by proxy, via business lobbying. After reading that essay yesterday, my guess is that China may someday soon pressure businesses for a backdoor, be granted that backdoor, and that the U.S. government may then get its wish based on China's precedent.

Comment Re:Explain to me like I'm 5 (Score 1) 257

Thanks. This makes me think of Plato's Cave. In other words, we live here in the "big" part of the universe. That's what we observe, and in terms of concepts, that's our frame of reference. And Newtonian physics applies really well in describing what goes on here, and in a way that appeals to our everyday concepts. But, as we turn our attention to what goes on in the "smaller" corners of the universe, and try to understand what we observe using the concepts from the frame of reference we live in, our analogies break down. Is that sort of what you're saying?

Comment At the very least it's an unethical hack (Score 1) 138

A person could use this app to run a blog of sorts, and as popular as it became the blogger would be hosting it on the cheap. You host the app and tweet the shortened URL's. The content is hosted, but not by you. The URL shortener hosts the content. But unlike LiveJournal or, the URL shortener never agreed to hosting your content. You've essentially repurposed its functionality and subverted its intent.

I'm guessing the various URL shorteners will respond to this very quickly. The hack will end up being as short-lived as it is cool.

Comment Exactly when is "everyone" going to code? (Score 2) 255

This isn't an exact analogy, but calculus is more than 250 years old, and it's not like everyone is doing calculus. In fact, never mind calculus: there are plenty of people who, though they have sat in an algebra class, don't get even rudimentary algebra. So, why are we imagining that someday everyone is going to code?

Comment Sorry, but some of these "math guys" scare me (Score 3, Interesting) 616

Certainly, not every programmer with a strong background in math is like this. But I've worked with people who are proud of their math ability, and who would be the first to tell you how critical math is to programming, who write terrible code. And I think their math ability may be at the root of the problem. I've decided that the kindest thing I can assume about them is that they're, perhaps, math savants.

They pride themselves on their "uncommon" ability to keep lots and lots abstract details "in their heads," and in their "analytical" skills. Their ability, I imagine, encourages them to write their programs as one big ticker tape, and their programming suggests they have no idea of how to name variables, much less compartmentalize. Next, they "debug," which translates to running their coughed up hairball of code through the debugger, iteration after iteration, until they've finally straightened it out and "got something working." And, then, that's the end of it for them—program, done.

I would much rather work with someone of either more modest math ability, or someone who, in addition to their math ability, had some idea of how to communicate (which, I think, is a critically important skill to a good programmer). That person might actually have a chance of writing maintainable code, instead of producing a "class" that's 5,000 lines long with 30 instance variables, and a 7 or 8 methods all marked "static."

Comment "Mom and Pop" (Score 5, Interesting) 474

I work for a "mom and pop" shop, as you call it, and I can sympathize with what you're saying. But it goes both ways. We built an application for a company that I am sure you heard of. Let's call it "Acme Inc." One of the application's requirements was that it support SAML authentication. That's fine, we could handle that. All we asked for was some particulars about Acme Inc's environment.

Could we have a sample SAML token, to see what kind of assertions Acme would be requiring? Could we have the SAML version, 1 or 2, that Acme uses? The responsibility for providing us with any of this was "delegated" to people who already have too much on their plate, don't really know what is going on themselves, and who lack the mojo to get a quick response from the various systems administrators at Acme who could help. A couple of weeks later, the stakeholders at Acme are crying, "Come on, come on, come on! We want the product!" Of course, none of these preliminaries have been attended to.

Then, when the product is finally delivered, the guy at Acme charged with putting the product through its paces has no idea how SAML works, and is asking me to walk him through it. (Remember, this was their idea.) We come to find out that he has no test server to use as an "Identity Provider" (don't ask!), and he wants to know if can I help him there.

Granted, this is all ultimately a managerial screw-up. But, my point is that even if a mom-and-pop does code up an LDAP, who's to say the customer has it together on its end?

Comment Public Service Announcement (Score 5, Interesting) 112

Don't talk to cops.

Seriously, the scary thing here is that you could quite innocently find yourself the subject of an investigation, and have your whole life spiral out of control from there. The FBI has manufactured "terrorists" by leveraging their criminal informants, and innocent people have gotten caught up in the agency's overzealous and amoral crusade to "catch bad guys."

But, don't take my word for it:


What I would like to see is someone give it the old college try and write up a "compare and contrast" essay: The FBI vs. the Stasi, KGB, et cetera. I worry things are getting that bad in this country. Now we have to worry about what we might re-tweet!

The best way to avoid responsibility is to say, "I've got responsibilities."