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Comment: Re:We are fucked (Score 5, Insightful) 125

by maynard (#48016899) Attached to: FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

Remember when Gilmore said, 'the internet routes around damage'?

Remember when it was commonly accepted that censorship on an open network was virtually impossible?

Remember then?

All that idealism crushed with buyouts and consolidation, money thrown at the problem of uppity citizens using disruptive new technology to assert their pesky rights. And it worked. The Internet is nothing like what I remember twenty years ago. A free thought and open platform for exchange of ideas and technology. Now it's a marketing platform at best, global surveillance mechanism at worst.

My parents generation from the 60s had their idealism crushed too. What with the assassination of a president, a civil rights leader, and that president's brother murdered on the campaign trail while running for President. No wonder in the '70s people turned their backs on civics danced away their troubles.

And if you look back to the Wobblie generation - my great grandparents - at the beginning of the nineteenth century, so too did it happen then as well. Utterly crushed under the boot of money and violence. People danced during the roaring twenties too.

At least not too many 'net idealists have been killed this time 'round. Though it doesn't seem like it's time to dance either. The mood has gotten too ugly to party the bad news off.

+ - Could we abort a manned mission to Mars?

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The next great leap in human spaceflight is a manned mission to a world within our Solar System: most likely Mars. But if something went wrong along the journey — at launch, close to Earth, or en route — whether biological or mechanical, would there be any way to return to Earth? A fun (and sobering) look at what the limits of physics and technology allow at present."

Comment: Re: Utilities Fighting Back (Score 1) 491

by maynard (#48011853) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

Hi Ken,

If I understand your comment correctly, you argue that all renewable subsidies ought to end. And in particular, argue that Net Metering laws are an especially pernicious subsidy that forces utility companies to buy energy from homeowners at inflated rates. You use the common 'buggy whip' metaphor for disruptive economic shifts due to technological advancement to explain this rationale, presenting the hypothetical: what would happen if government had subsidized buggy whips?

So I'll counter, there are two kinds of renewable subsidies at play here.

The first are manufacturing subsidies. China subsidized manufacturing buildout of solar assembly lines with the hope they would take a dominant position in the world market. They're betting solar will be a high growth high-tech market and these subsidies will have long term benefit to the Chinese economy. This is no different from the US betting big by subsidizing pharmaceuticals through medical research grants. Or the initial funding of computer science and packet switched networking (ARPANET), what we now enjoy as the Internet. Those subsidies funneled wealth toward industries each nation expected would show long term economic benefit.

From that perspective, fossil fuels receive significant subsidies today, even as solar manufacturing subsidies decline. See this BBC article:

But there's a second kind of solar subsidy. The one you argue is especially pernicious. That of Net Metering, whereby utilities buy back electric generation by rooftop solar. This subsidizes not the manufacture of panels but their purchase, deployment, and use. As utility companies complain, Net Metering essentially is forcing those companies to diminish the value of their investments in gas and coal fired power plants. Since they've put billions - half a trillion wordlwide - into these investments, a general popular shift to rooftop solar means that as local solar ownership increases so too does the value of central production decrease.

Why should laws force them to buy the knife that's slitting their own throats?

I argue because increased energy production - in aggregate - is a net good across the board. The solution is not to limit deployment of renewables, particularly since they're already cost effective, but to find alternative use for those gas and coal burning plants during this transition period. You won't get buy-in from utility investors unless they see some kind of ROI on prior investment. Otherwise, they'll fight this to the bitter end, which would delay renewable deployment longer than planning to maximizing use of current fossil fuel infrastructure anyway.

But let's get to your buggy whip argument. Because I think this is particularly flawed. Here, you conflate a manufactured good - the buggy whip - with an energy resource. It takes net energy to make buggy whips. If they're useless, regardless of subsidy, that's a net loss to the economy and society in general. The whip will sit unused until it decays and is thrown away. Energy production is different. This can be stored for use another day. Whether that's direct use in smelting and manufacturing, as I proposed, or in storage - say mass hydro by pumping water uphill, hydrogen gas production and storage, whatever - energy production can be converted and saved in ways that a useless manufactured object cannot.

The analogy fails because the two (subsidized energy production vs subsidized manufacturing) are not comparable at fundamental levels.

At least, that's the perspective I take. I look forward to your counter-argument. Best. -M

Comment: Re:Utilities Fighting Back (Score 5, Informative) 491

by maynard (#48008555) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

For the most part, they already have.

US Solar subsidies in decline:

Australian subsidies in decline:

China cuts solar subsidies:

And yet it hasn't stopped solar deployments. Because even without subsidies, they're now cost competitive. Utility companies can't use the canard of government subsidized energy any longer. Yet they've invested - as the Economist notes - half a trillion in fossil fuel plants worldwide. I'm proposing a solution that at least prevents a utility meltdown during the transition period.

Comment: Utilities Fighting Back (Score 5, Interesting) 491

by maynard (#48008345) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

As the Economist notes, due to German and other European solar government incentives, European utilities face an existential threat to their investment future and business model. Utility giants the world over have seen this and decided to fight back against Net Metering and other means whereby homeowners can feed back into the electric grid excess energy production from rooftop solar. Barclays, the British multinational banking giant, agrees that rooftop solar and net metering represent a threat to centralized electric production utilities.

The problem utilities face is that solar tends to maximize output at mid-afternoon, exactly the same time spot prices have traditionally been at maximum. So their solution is to lobby government the world over to reverse net metering laws and end solar subsidies.

OK, time for me to get on a soapbox. I think this is shortsighted. The real problem here is that government and electric utilities have agreed on a price structure and investment plan to build out gas powered and coal powered plants that now appear to be unsustainable due to disruptive shifts in the market from technical innovation in the renewable field. As is noted in TFA, solar is - or will soon be - already cost competitive even without government subsidy.

Market fundamentalists would argue, 'let the utilities die. Their investors bought into a dying technology, the market will decide their fate.' Except that they have an endless stream of money to buy lobbyists and legislators to warp law in their favor. Further, they have a good argument that intermittent renewables will only meet partial demand. You still need baseline generation capacity from central utilities. So the problem - from their perspective - is excess production by renewables.

Except: when has excess energy production ever been a problem?

The real problem is twofold: We want to move off of fossil fuels due to global climate change and they want to maximize their vast infrastructure investments. A real policy solution would meet both needs.

Rooftop solar should be maximized. During periods of excess, gas powered plants should funnel their energy to local raw materials ore processing facilities and manufacturing. This has the benefit of distributing labor where it's needed near mining sites, rather than shipping raw materials where labor is cheapest for exploitation as well. And it keeps utilities running for the next thirty years to generate a viable expected ROI. And government policymakers could then plan a rational transition period away from fossil fuels without the economic dislocation of utility giants imploding worldwide.


+ - "Shellshock" may be partially patched, but it's still highly dangerous->

Submitted by operator_error
operator_error (1363139) writes "David A. Wheeler, a computer scientist who is an acknowledged expert in developing secure open-source code, posted a message to the Open Source Software Security (oss-sec) list this evening urging more changes to the bash code. And other developers have found that the current patch still has vulnerabilities similar to the original one, where an attacker could store malicious data in a variable named the same thing as frequently run commands. Norihiro Tanaka, a Japanese open-source developer, noted the problem in an e-mail to the bug-bash list today. By using an environmental variable called cat—the same name as a Unix utility that can concatenate files—he was able to bypass the fixes in the latest bash patch and pass through executable commands. Wheeler noted this vulnerability as well, in an email to both oss-sec and the bug bash list:

I appreciate the effort made in patch bash43-026, but this patch doesn't even BEGIN to solve the underlying shellshock problem. This patch just continues the "whack-a-mole" job of fixing parsing errors that began with the first patch. Bash's parser is certain have many many many other vulnerabilities; it was never designed to be security-relevant. John Haxby recently posted that "A friend of mine said this could be a vulnerability gift that keeps on giving.” Bash will be a continuous rich source of system vulnerabilities until it STOPS automatically parsing normal environment variables; all other shells just pass them through! I've turned off several websites I control because I have *no* confidence that the current official bash patches actually stop anyone, and I am deliberately *not* buying products online today for the same reason. I suspect others have done the same. I think it's important that bash change its semantics so that it "obviously has absolutely no problems of this kind".

In other words, “Shellshock” may be partially patched, but it’s still highly dangerous on systems that might use bash to pass information to the operating system or to launch other software. And it may take a significant change to fix the code."
Link to Original Source

+ - Fired NY Fed Regulator's Secret Audio Recordings Inside Goldman Sachs 2

Submitted by maynard
maynard (3337) writes "Carmen Segarra used to work as a regulator for the New York Federal Reserve Bank, one of twelve regional banks that make up the US central banking system. In her capacity as regulator, Ms. Segarra was assigned to a team overseeing investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. There, while investigating a case of Goldman having advisied a client about a buyout offer by another company in which the firm held significant investment holdings, she determined that Goldman didn't even have a conflict of interest policy. Her supervisor initially backed the investigation, until it became clear she meant to file a written report detailing her findings of fact. Then they abruptly fired her.

And all this would have been another unfortunate case of 'she-said / institution-said' ineffective whistleblowing were it not for the fact that Ms. Segarra saw what was coming and had bought a keychain audio recorder. With it, she collected 46 hours of internal discussion and meetings, including statements by Goldman Sachs principles admitting the firm didn't have a conflict of interest policy and that the deal under investigation had been "shady." Additionally, she collected reams of documents and testimony. She thought her case iron clad.

However, when it came time to reveal her findings in full to superiors, though initially supportive of the investigation, her boss quickly shifted gears and worked to squelch the report. This culminated in a recorded meeting where her boss made clear his supervisors at the Fed insisted she downplay those findings. Then, a week later, before she could formally file the report, they fired her.

While bits of the story have been out in print for about a year, the radio show This American Life just published actual excerpts from those audio recordings. They make for harrowing listening. As the producer says in the introduction, her recordings show: "Repeated examples of pervasive regulatory capture by the industry regulators are meant to oversee."

In other words, whereas before we could all surmise just how bad banking regulation must be, what with the Financial Crisis having nearly tanked the world economy and all, with this audio we can hear first hand and in minute detail what it's like for an honest regulator to try to do the job properly: You get fired. Quickly. Then your embarrassing work is buried and reputation smeared. And if she'd just kept her mouth shut, she coulda gotten rich! This, at the very heart of the global financial system.

Is it any wonder why the public has lost faith in our political and economic institutions?"

Comment: Re: Ohhh, Slashdot beta makes sense now (Score 1) 299

by maynard (#46214789) Attached to: Online, You're Being Watched At All Times; Act Accordingly.

You don't need to punish every infraction - in fact doing so is counterproductive. Humans (and most other animals) respond far more strongly to semi-random reinforcement (negative or positive) than to consistent responses.

It's not possible to punish every infraction. A point I made in the previous comment. But let's be clear on what you mean by 'semi-random reinforcement)'. Because to punish without regard to infraction confirmation does not lead to compliance. It leads to psychosis. But to punish confirmed infractions publicly - to make an example - that's a different matter. Which leads us back to surveillance, the Panopticon, and Foucault's essay on the subject.

Comment: Re:From someone who's tested it (Score 1) 140

by maynard (#46209003) Attached to: Wine On Android Starts Allowing Windows Binaries On Android/ARM

There is another fascinating benefit- if someone tries to sit in the middle of the photon stream and determine photon polarization, their eavesdropping will be evident- by checking the polarization of a photon in transit, they change the value of the polarization.

I think there's a problem with this. What you describe is similar to a BB84 quantum key distribution scheme. But I think you're missing a quantum no-cloning mechanism here.


In BB84 photon polarization is used to encode qubit data, much like what you propose. Here's Wiki:

According to quantum mechanics (particularly quantum indeterminacy), no possible measurement distinguishes between the 4 different polarization states, as they are not all orthogonal. The only possible measurement is between any two orthogonal states (an orthonormal basis). So, for example, measuring in the rectilinear basis gives a result of horizontal or vertical. If the photon was created as horizontal or vertical (as a rectilinear eigenstate) then this measures the correct state, but if it was created as 45 or 135 (diagonal eigenstates) then the rectilinear measurement instead returns either horizontal or vertical at random. Furthermore, after this measurement the photon is polarized in the state it was measured in (horizontal or vertical), with all information about its initial polarization lost.

But I think in your scheme the detector wouldn't know how many photons had been emitted or what polarization any arbitrary photon should be, therefore it couldn't determine if a photon had been emitted by your source of a man-in-the-middle device. And by transmitting that information from emitter to detector classically, you'd negate any security gained.

You'd need to establish a stream of entangled photon pairs:

By using quantum superpositions or quantum entanglement and transmitting information in quantum states, a communication system can be implemented which detects eavesdropping. If the level of eavesdropping is below a certain threshold, a key can be produced that is guaranteed to be secure (i.e. the eavesdropper has no information about it), otherwise no secure key is possible and communication is aborted.

Now: big caveat, this is not my field and I am no expert in qcomputing or qcryptography. Corrections are most welcome.

Comment: Re: Ohhh, Slashdot beta makes sense now (Score 1) 299

by maynard (#46208031) Attached to: Online, You're Being Watched At All Times; Act Accordingly.

The prisoners are afraid of what the guards will do when caught, not the surveillance itself.

I think Foucault would have argued that your point conflates surveillance with punishment. But punishment is only a meaningful deterrent when accurately administered. Therefore, surveillance crucial to determining what violations of policy have occurred. Furthermore, you ignores a crucial aspect about punishment - it doesn't scale. That is, one cannot punish every violation for there are not enough guards nor enough whips to strike at every instance. The panopticon resolves this by inculcating self-discipline through constant fear by constant surveillance. Therefore, surveillance crucial to determining what violations of policy have occurred.

Never mind the underlying question of who determines policy.

What freedoms you have and are allowed to exercise is the central thing here, not surveillance.
If you want to talk about freedoms then do that instead of surveillance.

What a fascinating response. One built upon the notions of "allowed freedoms" combined with the directive to focus on these allowed freedoms rather than the mechanisms inherent in imposing order. It seems self-contradictory at its face.

Comment: Re:Ohhh, Slashdot beta makes sense now (Score 3, Interesting) 299

by maynard (#46207841) Attached to: Online, You're Being Watched At All Times; Act Accordingly.

Even knowing this is happening will change how many people behave. Warnings like this are part of the problem, real security experts will be working to block the watching, not adding to the chilling effects.

I'd like to quote from Michel Foucault's essay "Panopticon" from his book _Discipline and Punish_. Here's a link to the a pdf of the text:

But first an explanation of the term is in order. In the late 18th century Bentham designed a prison where all the cells pointed to a central guard station. Thus, inmates were always being watched. The guard house design incorporated venetian blinds and obtuse corners so that inmates would know that at any time they could be under the watchful eye of guards, but never know exactly _when_. The intent of this was to impose self-restraint upon the inmate community by fear of potential surveillance. That is, self-censorship imposed by an architectural design. Here's what wikipedia has to say on the matter:

Foucault took this idea and extended it to surveillance by authorities as a kind of 'social panopticon'.

[...] The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.

It is an important mechanism, for it automatizes and disindividualizes power. Power has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up. The ceremonies, the rituals, the marks by which the sovereign's surplus power was manifested are useless. There is a machinery that assures dissymmetry, disequilibrium, difference. Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine: in the absence of the director, his family, his friends, his visitors, even his servants (Bentham, 45). Similarly, it does not matter what motive animates him: the curiosity of the indiscreet, the malice of a child, the thirst for knowledge of a philosopher who wishes to visit this museum of human nature, or the perversity of those who take pleasure in spying and punishing. The more numerous those anonymous and temporary observers are, the greater the risk for the inmate of being surprised and the greater his anxious awareness of being observed.


[Panopticism] is regarded as not much more than a bizarre little utopia, a perverse dream - rather as though Bentham had been the Fourier of a police society, and the Phalanstery had taken on the form of the Panopticon. And yet this represented the abstract formula of a very real technology, that of individuals. There were many reasons why it received little praise; the most obvious is that the discourses to which it gave rise rarely acquired, except in the academic classifications, the status of sciences; but the real reason is no doubt that the power that it operates and which it augments is a direct, physical power that men exercise upon one another. An inglorious culmination had an origin that could be only grudgingly acknowledged. But it would be unjust to compare the disciplinary techniques with such inventions as the steam engine or Amici's microscope. They are much less; and yet, in a way, they are much more. If a historical equivalent or at least a point of comparison had to be found for them, it would be rather in the inquisitorial' technique.

Foucault extended the idea of the social panopticon throughout all institutions of society, drawing parallels between hierarchical structures in church, state, and corporate spheres where a authority used the possibility of surveillance and the treat of punishment to impose social dominion. Taken from this perspective, one can view the NSA's achievement of Poindexter's old Total Information Awareness project as a Panopticon built into the fabric of the Internet and its computing nodes. The purpose is not just to collect data, but to engender enough fear that an imposition of self-censorship becomes the norm. Thus, it is in the interest of intelligence agencies that the existence of pervasive surveillance is widely known. For the purpose is not simply to surveil the population, but to impose social controls on the Internet implemented by the users' themselves.

Comment: Re:Seriously - GTFO (Score 1) 401

by maynard (#46202369) Attached to: Leonard Nimoy: Smoking Is Illogical

You're right about my error with the definition and I'm no physician so I'll defer. But it was certainly a death sentence in my family. Still, if survival is possible I wouldn't wish death on anyone who suffers from it to prove my point.

It was bad. He became dependent on prednisone and inhalers to breath. And, well, if you've ever seen bloating and weight gain from prednisone you'd know what he went through. And the prednisone caused secondary infections from impaired immune function. He was dependent on an oxygen concentrator, which required bottled oxygen to be available in the event of a power failure. And a trip to the ER if the bottle emptied.

He described COPD as like downing in slow motion.

Any doc whose seen this before would know the story.

Anyway, of course, none of this I'd wish on Nimoy or anyone else.

Comment: Re:abusing the 401k (Score 5, Interesting) 123

by maynard (#46202223) Attached to: AOL Reverses Course On 401K Match; CEO Apologizes

If you work for 50 years and receive the typical long-term return of 7 percent on your 401(k) plan and your fees are 2 percent, almost two-thirds of your account will go to Wall Street. This was the bombshell dropped by Frontline’s Martin Smith in this Tuesday evening’s PBS program, The Retirement Gamble.

This is not so much a gamble as a certainty: under a 2 percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that’s before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam.

Documentary here:

A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.