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Comment LISP (Score 4, Interesting) 429

LISP is probably the most powerful language every discovered. I say "discovered" here and not "created" deliberately. There is a quality about it that makes it feel more like an extension of mathematics rather than a language.

It might have conquered the world if only Eich had been allowed to build Scheme in the browser, as he was hired to do.

Instead, it languishes for some reason I can't really understand. I still wish for a day it becomes a mainstream language but I think it'll just remain a wish.

Comment I doubt it (Score 2) 265

I'd be surprised if a random member of the public could even define what free software is. They'd probably think it's connected to the cost of the software rather than its freedom giving properties.

That said, I think that the view that with enough eyes all bugs are shallow is false. Given that bash is used in millions and millions of servers and the bug took decades to root out, we must think of a better way to get eyes on the code.

The whole stack needs a line by line review by security experts. That will cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars but my view is that it's probably worth it. Then we have to make sure all changes get reviewed in the same way.

The result of this process would be a super-hardened version of OpenBSD. It would come with a nice fat government certification and if you want to do business with the government, you have to use that distro.

That might rub people up the wrong way but I think that's what's ultimately going to happen eventually. A lot of this infrastructure is so critical to the modern economy that we can't just run any old code anymore.

Comment Microsoft is a spent force (Score 4, Interesting) 142

Microsoft doesn't have many fans on Slashdot but even the most die-hard of fans must now see that they're in a real bad position.

The used to be invincible in the consumer space but now the computing device of choice is either the tablet or the smart phone. Precious few of these are Windows based.

The used to be invincible in the business user space but the move to mobile computing means business people are using iPhone and iPads, not Windows Phones and Surface.

Then there's Bing, who's only claim to fame is being the world's greatest search engine. For. Porn.

Then there's Azure. We actually looked at Azure and discovered that the same hardware in EC2 was half the price. If you going to twice as much you might as well give up and go home.

Then there was the own goal of the latest generation XBox. They managed to piss everyone off for no discernible gain.

The only area their grip is still strong is PC gaming. For how long, who knows?

Microsoft is a spent force. They're out of ideas. In a few short years they've gone from being the 800lb gorilla to just struggling just to remain relevant.

It reminds me of Brazil versus Germany at this year's world cup. I'm not celebrating any more; it's just sad at this point.

Comment My sense (Score 1) 536

My sense is that the MEAN Stack (Mongo, Express, AngularJS, Node) is sort of winning. There's some packaging of it over at mean.io.

Personally, I'm really getting interested in Meteor (www.meteor.com). Watch the videos, and realize I saw a smart non-coder go from zero to *ridiculously* interactive site design in three months.

Comment Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (Score 4, Insightful) 583

Sorry. While I love technology, my not-so-humble opinion is that we're nowhere near the level of reliability needed for a car that's completely free of manual control.

The Google car has done something like 700,000 miles and crashed twice. Both times this occurred, it was under control of the human occupant.

I drive to work every morning and the number of times I see people not paying attention is extraordinary. Women doing their makeup, people texting, trying to argue with their children etc.

Honestly, in my view, removing the steering wheel is a safety feature.

Comment It's pretty standard... (Score 1) 232

You think Software Development is bad for this? At least the equipment is inexpensive and the material accessible.

In aviation, you'll pay > $60,0000 of your own money to get your ATPL all to start on a wage of $25,000.

What about medical school or law school? That's pretty expensive and comes out of your pocket.

Many serious professions require you to spend money on your training. It just comes with the territory.

Comment Re:need to get over the "cult of macho programming (Score 2) 231

I actually agree with both of you. The Open SSL guys gave out their work for free for anybody to use. Anybody should be free to do that without repercussions. Code is a kind of literature and thus should be protected by free speech laws.

However, if you pay peanuts (or nothing at all) then likewise you shouldn't expect anything other than monkeys. The real fault here is big business using unverified (in the sense of correctness!) source for security critical components of their system.

If regulation is needed anywhere, it is there. People who develop safety and security critical stuff should be certified and businesses with a turn over $x million dollars should be required to use software developed only by the approved organisations.

There is nothing in this definition that prevents an open source implementation. In fact, there's an argument to say that any such verified implementation must be open source precisely so it can be inspected. But it is quite a lot of work and people need to be paid to do that work. You can't expect to get this level of quality assurance for free.

Comment Still fewer cancers than fossil fuels (Score 2, Informative) 157

Fukushima is a serious nuclear disaster. It's a very situation that we should all be concerned about. But this should not lead to any pause in our appetite for nuclear energy.

What people often fail to appreciate is that even coal fired powerstations release quite large amounts of radioactive material in to atmosphere. Coal fired powerstations burn about a million times as much material as a nuclear powerstation per joule of energy produced. Some of that material is radioactive. That stuff isn't been sealed in a container in burrried in a mountain, it's being blown up chimney stacks along with the rest of the rather unpleasant stuff.

Don't believe me? Reflect on this passage taken from this (PDF) document:

The EPA found slightly higher average coal concentrations than used by McBride et al. of 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively. Gabbard (A. Gabbard, “Coal combustion: nuclear resource or danger?,” ORNL Review 26, http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview... 34/text/colmain.html.) finds that American releases from each typical 1 GWe coal plant in 1982 were 4.7 tonnes of uranium and 11.6 tonnes of thorium, for a total national release of 727 tonnes of uranium and 1788 tonnes of thorium. The total release of radioactivity from coal-fired fossil fuel was 97.3 TBq (9.73 x 1013 Bq) that year. This compares to the total release of 0.63 TBq (6.3 x 1011 Bq) from the notorious TMI accident, 155 times smaller.

So far, there has not been a single confirmed death due to Fukushima accident. In comparison, there were 20 deaths in the US just mining for coal in 2013. This is not to mention all the deaths being caused by cancers and other health problems being caused by breathing polluted air.

If we're ever going to get on top of this climate change challenge, nuclear must be leading the charge. Nuclear is a safe, non-polluting technology. Modern designs are fail-safe in every sense of the word. The newer designs can even cope with a loss of external power (like Fukushima experienced) yet still stay safe.

This is the 21st century. The technology is mature, sensible and safe. Really, we should be looking to retire every coal fired plant as a matter of urgency, if only to reduce the amount of radioactive contamination of the atmosphere!!

Comment A few problems... (Score 5, Insightful) 149

A few problems:

- What about circular reactions?
- Is SQL really that right language for encoding business logic?
- Triggers are kind of an anti-pattern.
- What about atomicity? What if I need the whole reaction chain to work or none of it.

I'm afraid there more questions than answers with this proposed pattern.

Comment It's because Python 3 is broken. (Score 2) 432

No really.

I took a pass at Python 3 a while back. The amount of hoops I needed to jump through, to deal with compilation errors around Unicode handling, was terrifying. It was simply a poor user experience.

Python 2.7 just works. Sure, it's a nightmare past a certain scale point. But until you get into the dregs of OO it really is executable pseudocode.

Python 3 is some other language that lost that property.

The big problem is that we don't ship languages with telemetry that reports when they fail to work. So things that are completely obvious to outsiders never make it to inner circles. Not that I can really see any way for Python 3 to mend its errors.

Comment Re:And they called me crazy (Score 3, Interesting) 221

256GB USB drives full of true randomly generated one-time pads

I know this is a piece of humour but since this is Slashdot why not?

What a lot of people don't understand is that is much harder than it first appears. For example, doing cat /dev/random to a file on disk will not give you bytes suitable for use in a OTP.

The issue is that the many TRNGs hash their entropy pool with a cryptographically secure hash. When you use such a hash there is no guarantee that the input space would be uniformly mapped to the output space.

To illustrate this, suppose we had an entropy pool 1024-bits deep. Suppose before producing the output the pool is hashed with SHA-1. This is an output that 160-bits wide. There is no proof whatsoever that if we cycled a counter from 0 to 2**1024 that the hash of these would distribute evenly of 2**160 possible has outputs. If this were the case, each output hash value would appear exactly 2**864 times. It is highly unlikely that this is the case.

What this means is the the output is distinguishable from a true random source, which completely breaks the security proof for the OTP. Granted, the attacker would likely to have to do an infeasible amount of work to use this distinguisher. However, the OTPs proof gives you security from computationally unbound adversaries. It's the whole point of using the OTP!

So in short, you can't use /dev/random, you can't use pretty much any commercial random number generator. You'd have to roll your own and show that your bias is small enough for no attack to be practical. Like I said, it's harder than it looks.

Comment We need spies but big databases are no use. (Score 4, Interesting) 461

The world is not a perfect place. The West does need spies and it does need an infrastructure to support them and gather intelligence.

However, we should remember who we actually need to be spying on. Nation states, failed states, and yes terrorist training camps and what not.

What we should not be engaging in is dragnet surveillance where everyone is entered in to some giant database. This is a really bad idea for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the databases are not really likely to be that useful. Prism didn't stop the Boston Marathon bombers. You might have every text, every phone call, every e-mail but if you can't spot the connections it doesn't help you.

Second, the massive database is a security risk in its own right. The NSA might think the Snowden leak is bad but it's child's play compared to what would happen if somebody leaks that database! You can bet your bottom dollar a shit-storm a 100% times the size would ensue. It might even threaten the agency's continued existence.

Third, the database could be hacked by a foreign governments. This in itself is a giant risk that dwarfs the one outlined in the second paragraph. China getting access to wiretaps on US businesses? Does no-one in the security community see what a giant hole they're making in the West's security?

This leads nicely to my fourth and final point. I do get the impression from the Snowden leaks that the competency of these organisations is being called in to question. It's clear they don't know what Snowden took; they don't know what he knows and what he doesn't. This is why he's catching them at so many lies. They make one statement, he leaks another document that shows them they're full of shit.

This final point is perhaps the most damning. They've built a giant system they can't audit! If they don't know what he took when he's just a fairly junior contractor, we have to assume other nation states have thoroughly penetrated the system and already stolen Western secrets!

They're clearly not competent enough to run such a system and it should be shut down on grounds of national security.

Comment Service Economies are the future (Score 5, Interesting) 754

On the Internet, people often moan about how Western countries "don't make anything any more." The idea being that our service economy is built on a house of cards and the only true economic generator is the making and selling of stuff.

My view is that manufacturing is a bad choice of focus for our economies. The direction of travel is clear: it is very clearly a race to an ever descending race to the bottom which will end with completely automated factories. This race started with the industrial revolution and it will accelerate during our life times. The jobs are slowly but surely being eliminated and it might even have happened sooner if China hadn't been able to provide so much cheap labour. Those jobs are simply not safe in the long term.

But even the Chinese are not safe. Eventually, they'll all be replaced by machines and when they are, it won't matter where those machines are located. The machines will re-locate closer to the consumers to shorten supply lines.

The message is stark: any job that is repetitive risks being replaced by a robot.

Perhaps the most interesting of these is automated driving. It promises to completely transform our world. It will transform logistics in much the same way as containerisation did to shipping. It will transform everything but just think of the number of jobs that will be eliminated!

Then there are threats like 3D printers which threaten to completely remake the world as we know it.

The only sensible way to weather the next 100 years is through developing products and service that can not be automated. These are things like law, software development, media etc. etc.

Producing stuff is quickly becoming unprofitable. Service economies are our only hope.

Comment Re:Faith and evolution ARE compatible (Score 1) 1293

Additionally, there are many passages in the Bible which indicate that anyone who heard the true voice or looked directly upon the face of God would perish because they could not withstand the awesome power. That's just the sort of indicator the faithful could logically use to support a metaphorical interpretation of scripture.

Yet there are other passages, such as Jesus appearing to hundreds of people, or God appearing to Abraham or Moses where this is not the case. To be honest with you, I always find this line of argument odd.

If God can't contact us because it was destroy our feeble minds, then how did his messiahs, prophets come to know about him? How did Paul receive his vision from the creator of the universe and not have his mind thoroughly destroyed. What about Noah or Moses? How did their minds take the strain?

It's another one of these absurd adhoc retreats from the fact there is basically no evidence of God talking to anyone, ever. If God really did exist and he cared about what we did, then we'd be able to discover what we wanted. Humans of all stripes, in all times, in all places would agree on what the message was. I'd be as discoverable as the value of PI, or the laws of Physics or Chemistry.

Yet, once again, this is not what we observe. What we observe is precisely what we'd expect if he didn't exist: complete and utter confusion.

Additionally, if the truth were apparent, then there would be no benefit to be had from the iterative and ongoing process of interpreting scripture or the fractious nature of the church, in any of its various schismatic forms.

I'm not sure how this confusion benefits anyone. It's like the old joke about standards from Tanenbaum; the nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from.

Likewise, the great thing about the "Words" of God is that there are so many different, mutually contradictory, "words" to choose from.

Why on earth would a God who cared about us allow this confusion to persist?

You have a massage (from the Swedish prime minister).