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Comment: Forget healthcare. Canada's full of Realists (Score 1) 206

by mileshigh (#47786501) Attached to: Canada Tops List of Most Science-Literate Countries

Ask a Canadian and an American if tomorrow will be sunny. The American "believes" it will be. The Canadian doesn't know, because s/he's "being realistic." They'd go on to say that the American is just "being a typical American" thinking happy thoughts. What can I say? Canadians just don't believe in the power of positive thinking. Or much else for that matter.

Cynics? Oh yeah! Canadians and Americans fundamentally look at life differently, and that's been going on since way before healthcare. On New Year's eve, Americans look forward to the sure-to-be-wonderful new year while Canadians celebrate that they made it through the old one! Cynicism bordering on pessimism is in Canada's DNA, same as positive thinking is in the US' DNA. Yes, I'm painting with an overly broad brush here, but to make a point.

Science may require some belief, too, but it sure feels less like of a stretch than religion.

Oh, and most Canadians are well aware that as recently as the early 60's they were historically oppressed and kept in "the great darkness" by an unholy cabal of church and semi-totalitarian state. That's enough to make a hard-ass "realist" of anyone.

Comment: That depends what your definition of "is" is. (Score 1) 371

by mileshigh (#47306539) Attached to: Court Releases DOJ Memo Justifying Drone Strike On US Citizen

Hard to not think of Bill Clinton's infamous words while you actually read the memo.
A lawyer's opinion is just work for hire. If all you needed to legally kill somebody was a lawyer's opinion letter, we'd all have killed each other long ago for perfectly "justifiable" reasons.
By definition, it's the the job of any lawyer to be able to make a case that black is white, or anything else you like. The next day, they can make the case that black is red. Just depends on who the client is that day.

Comment: IF they can beat Shannon, there's still Nyquist... (Score 1) 120

by mileshigh (#46298495) Attached to: New 'pCell' Technology Could Bring Next Generation Speeds To 4G Networks

But doesn't recreating a waveform by summing several other waveforms require that those components be of significantly higher frequency? Basic Taylor series stuff? E.g. recreating a 1 GHz carrier at the receiver from 10 random-distance sources would require each of those sources to be in the order of 10 - 100 GHz, especially if those transmitted waveforms are further constrained to be simultaneously delivering signals to other receivers.

Comment: FIPS requires weakness, so exceed std key length (Score 1) 138

by mileshigh (#44838231) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can We Still Trust FIPS?

FIPS certification is only available for systems that implement modest key lengths. Many of the approved algorithms are designed to support much greater key length, but longer keys are not allowed by the specs. FIPS won't certify 'em. It's a pretty safe guess that the allowed key lengths are such that the NSA can break them if needed using custom hardware or whatever else quasi-unlimited money can buy. Remember 20+ years ago when the gov't regulated all crypto as a munition? They still allowed low-bit encryption because they knew they could break it. They're still playing that game, except now it's done with standards and certifications instead of laws.

You really don't want to start making up your own ad hoc crypto. Approved algorithms have been extensively vetted by honest experts; any possible weaknesses would be very, very subtle. Using approved algorithms with non-standard "ridiculous" key lengths is probably the safest workaround to suspected weaknesses until... on second thought, key lengths much greater than the gov't "recommends" will always be a good idea! Keep in mind that any weaknesses in crypto algorithms would merely make them easier to break, but breaking still requires huge resources and takes time. Longer keys kick up that effort exponentially to the point that very probably nobody can break them in a useful time frame, provided that implementations are reliable and trustworthy.

Comment: So G20 conferences are for real after all! (Score 1) 262

by mileshigh (#44032105) Attached to: Revealed: How the UK Spied On Its G20 Allies At London Summits

To think that for all these years I had assumed these types of conferences are just well-publicized cocktail parties. Maybe that's the most revealing part of this new round of disclosures. But then again, those upper-crust Brits have been known to take their parties (and their spying) pretty seriously...

Comment: Make like the Easter Bunny (Score 2) 480

Won't help your current situation, but in the future consider routinely dropping some standard personal easter eggs into your code. You need to invent your own obscure bag of tricks, but some silly examples would be that stringing together the 3rd letter of each of the first 10 variable names spells your name, or trivially encrypted words in numeric constants or variable names. It's been done in literature for years, for example

Yeah, I know you can supposedly hear "Paul is dead" if you play a certain Beatles track backwards. This isn't the kind of "proof" that would send someone to prison, but being able to demonstrate a few such little flourishes should be plenty enough to buy you the benefit of the doubt and likely constitute probable cause for an investigation.

Most importantly, SHUT UP and don't tell ANYBODY what your secrets are unless you're up against the wall. Even then, don't spill all of 'em. This is security by obscurity -- not an opportunity to show your friends how clever your little treasures are. People talk.

Comment: School purchasing is a deal killer (Score 1) 128

by mileshigh (#41807279) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Funding Models For a Free E-book?

From my experience as an ISV selling a low-price tool, it's very hard for teachers to get you paid unless it's out of their own pocket. This kills most school sales for us.

School boards tend to require *all* purchases to go through a rigid, old-fashioned admin maze where the teacher submits a purchase order, the administration maybe approves it & mails a PO, vendor receives PO and possibly rejects it due to oftentimes onerous terms & conditions, vendor ships the product, invoices the school, does some more chasing after the money when they don't pay, etc, etc. For e-goods, there is sometimes a hassle getting paid because there's no physical item that their receiving department can confirm they received. There are usually no shortcuts like you'd have with regular businesses, e.g. the teacher buying or contributing and then getting reimbursed. Definitely no corporate credit cards in this market, either.

Obviously this cuts out e-vendors who require up-front credit cards or e-checks (just about all of 'em), and no teacher's going through that maze just for $10 - 20 unless they're crazy desperate. I'd suggest you either set up a scheme where payments/contributions are low enough for teachers to pay out of their own pocket and where you make it clear that you recognize and appreciate their personal expense, or high enough to make it worth everybody's while to go with purchase orders.

Comment: Last Man Standing (Score 1) 269

by mileshigh (#37155300) Attached to: Sluggish Android Tablet Growth May Give Microsoft an Opening

Microsoft technically was at the starting line.

It's actually a 2-way matchup: Android vs. Windows. Apple doesn't want to be #1. They're married to their high-margin boutique business model and the really big market numbers are for low-cost items where Apple can't outgun the entire rest of the hardware industry. Android aspires to the mass market but faces several very real perils from different directions right now (e.g. fragmentation, no control over the total experience, the patent war isn't over yet, ridiculous process for pushing updates, problems with partners due to the Motorola deal, inconsistent Marketplace App quality, etc.), so odds are very good that Google will fumble one or more of those... at which point Windows will be waiting, with nowhere to go but up.

The question will then be whether Windows is ready to pursue the advantage. Um, make that "ready enough" since we're discussing a Microsoft product.

Remember that Microsoft's biggest cash cows (Windows NT family, Excel, Word) were once distant also-rans (vs. Novell, Lotus, Word Perfect) that ended up being the last man standing. Admittedly, Microsoft wasn't above pursuing their advantage whenever their competitors faltered, but mainly they just kept ratcheting up their products + marketing and watched the others screw up. XBox, Exchange Server & a bunch of others also come to mind. Oh, and Bing: it's solidly #2 now that Yahoo has fallen, though they're still way behind Google.

Of course Microsoft have also had many failures (hell, they completely blew Hotmail's #1 spot), especially recently, but the tablet OS business is no sideshow: they well know it's do or die for them. They will use their biggest guns (they still have plenty) to make their OS attractive by sheer effort and perseverence, even if it costs billions, takes 2 more versions of Windows, and they have to bribe every 3rd party developer + device maker on the planet. They wrote the book on how this is done and they won't run out of money in the meanwhile.

Comment: Re:It's Called "An Old Jesuit Mind Trick" (Score 1) 609

by mileshigh (#35339676) Attached to: IT Graduates Not "Well-Trained, Ready-To-Go"
The villains are the "think tank" that's asking the questions with a view to getting the desired answers to "prove" an extreme position. Those of you who studied classics under the Jesuits will recognize the survey's setup:

1 - Do you think college does a good job of preparing students for a sustainable CAREER in IT? (Let's say 75% Yes)
2 - Does college train graduates for the nitty-gritty specific requirements of your company? (8% Yes)
3 - Referring to question 2: fantasies aside, should college train graduates for those specific requrements (10% Yes)

#1 is the "honest" question, designed to make sure people answer #2 in contrast to it. #2 is the answer the questioner desires to "prove" and publish. #3 is used to target think tank fund-raising to the 10% who think college should be a trade school.

Honestly, folks, 8% is the tipoff. There are some clueless managers out there, but not 92% of them! Those folks were just answering the questions exactly as posed.

RECOGNIZE & RESIST these tactics. When you see non-peer reviewed (or anonymous) "research," THINK BEFORE YOU EMOTE and remember that most of the outfits who ask these questions have an agenda. When you are asked to answer loaded surveys like this, don't just toss them. See them for what they are and advisedly answer them incorrectly.

Comment: What if 10,000 engines needed immediate overhaul? (Score 2, Insightful) 673

by mileshigh (#31976160) Attached to: Was Flight Ban Over Ash an Overreaction?

My college (who deals with engine health monitoring and MRO's) reckons a medium sized airlines may be in the hole for US$2B should they're engines be exposed to ash.

It's much worse than that: I'm not sure that a medium-sized airline would even get a chance to spend their non-existent $2B. Let's suppose the carriers got lucky and there were no catastrophic accidents of failures from flying thru ash. There would probably be sub-catastrophic engine damage that would manifest itself over time. What's the probability of that? Nobody knows, we're talking a manly shoot-from-the-hip gamble.

What would happen if an extra 10,000+ engines from the entire European fleet prematurely came in for overhaul over the next 6-18 months? Engine overhaul capacity is a very finite thing, and so is turbine manufacturing. Overhaul facilities are already booked for scheduled maintenance well into the future. Overtime + existing parts stock definitely wouldn't cover this, and the necessary mechanics take forever to train and legally certify. Just replacing all those engines with new ones is a non-starter for many reasons.

The backlog would take years to clear. In the meanwhile, a big chunk of the entire fleet would be out of action for a long time. Could any airline survive that? Could the economy?

Branson's effectively suggesting that the entire industry should have taken a cowboy-style gamble on their entire future to save a week's losses, not to mention the broader economic and security consequences of such a disaster! Branson's never been a risk-adverse guy, but gambling the entire fleet...?!

Comment: Re:Because they'd have to become like their custom (Score 1) 510

by mileshigh (#31105856) Attached to: Why Apple Doesn't Market Squarely To Businesses
Steve Jobs has done a pretty good job of giving Apple his face and his persona. I don't have any kind of Apple hardware, but have to marvel that they still has a passionate culture after all these years. Contrast that with your typical enterprise customer, say some typical insurance company.

Comment: Because they'd have to become like their customers (Score 2, Insightful) 510

by mileshigh (#31105346) Attached to: Why Apple Doesn't Market Squarely To Businesses
To properly cater and market to faceless corporations, you have to become one. There are no shortcuts, it takes a machine to relate to a machine. Case in point, Microsoft started losing its juice when it got serious about enterprise. Those MS guys used to laugh at the "old" IBM; they howled derisively when the IBMers tried to become cooler by switching from blue suits to sport jackets. Now Microsoft have become them and the enterprise customers love 'em -- they're on the same wavelength. They made lots of money but lost their soul.

Comment: Re:The keyword is "authorship" (Score 1) 258

by mileshigh (#28898225) Attached to: How Wolfram Alpha's Copyright Claims Could Change Software

Again, "human input." That would be the end users making their queries in this case. They would seem to be the equivalent of photographers operating their cameras here, so I'd expect that the end users own the copyright on the output.

Reading, it's clear that there's a "creativity" requirement for copyright, and that only tangible instantiations of a work are copyrightable -- not general principles or algorithms. Wolfram's system is on full autopilot and would seem to be the analog of a camera in this discussion, and my understanding of the current state of technology and law is that only humans are capable of creativity.

Wolfram's software is surely copyrightable, as are certain human-created elements (e.g. their logo) which are copied into the final output. The human user's formulated query is probably copyrightable "authorship." However, Wolfram's system has no humans in the loop and a mere mechanical process cannot change authorship, so it would seem that the user and Wolfram both own copyrights on different parts of the output. The user probably owns the "meat" of the results, much as if I would own the copyright if I rented Wolfram's camera to take photos.

Anybody can claim copyright on anything, but making it stick is another matter.

Comment: The keyword is "authorship" (Score 1) 258

by mileshigh (#28888683) Attached to: How Wolfram Alpha's Copyright Claims Could Change Software

Machine-generated output per se isn't copyrightable, since machines aren't (yet) capable of original authorship. Of course, computer output is copyrightable if it also contains original, human-generated content, for example Wolfram's logo, etc. See, search for "authorship."

"How to make a million dollars: First, get a million dollars." -- Steve Martin