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Comment: Ability does not imply intent, nor should it (Score 3, Interesting) 488

by n5vb (#45203163) Attached to: Call Yourself a Hacker, Lose Your 4th Amendment Rights

Quoted by the OP from source material:

The Court has struggled over the issue of allowing the copying of the hard drive. This is a serious invasion of privacy and is certainly not a standard remedy, as the discussion of the case law above demonstrates. The tipping point for the Court comes from evidence that the defendants – in their own words – are hackers. By labeling themselves this way, they have essentially announced that they have the necessary computer skills and intent to simultaneously release the code publicly and conceal their role in that act. (underline added) And concealment likely involves the destruction of evidence on the hard drive of Thuen’s computer. For these reasons, the Court finds this is one of the very rare cases that justifies seizure and copying of the hard drive.

The thing I'm very uncomfortable with is the conflation of "capability" with "intent". There are many things I can do that I don't want to do, because I'm basically an ethical person and I respect other people's rights and property, and if there's one thing I'm touchy as hell about, it's the assumption that people who are able to do things outside what people of average intelligence consider "normal" skills are inherently dangerous and/or criminal if their knowledge, skills, or abilities aren't somehow sanctioned by an "authority" like a higher education institution. I'm very much a hacker in the sense of having fairly extensive self-education and hands-on experience with technology outside of the sanctioned channels. I'm not a "hacker" in the sense in which the court understands the term. (And there's a whole other rant there, in terms of how the word's meaning has been loaded with negative connotations it really shouldn't have.) In this case, the court has taken the word out of the context and applied a meaning to it that I'm sure the original author did not intend, as an excuse to sidestep 4th Amendment protections. That's troubling, to say the least.

Comment: Re:Oh good... (Score 3, Insightful) 341

by n5vb (#41095309) Attached to: Sources Say ITU Has Approved Ultra-High Definition TV Standard

We've already got something like that with ATSC standards, at least in the RF modulation schemes -- broadcast used 8-VSB (time domain), and the alternatives considered were OFDM (frequency domain) and 256-QAM (phase domain). Well, the cable industry is using 256-QAM and broadcast is using 8-VSB, last I heard, and I think what edged 8-VSB ahead for broadcast was that it's not sensitive to the phase jitter in antique GEO satellite transponders. So with modulation, at least, yeah, we're already there. (The fortunate thing is that, unlike when NTSC rolled out, TV manufacturers aren't forced to design around just one demodulation standard, and it's not all that difficult to incorporate both 8-VSB and 256-QAM demodulation in modern receivers, even within a single demod chipset, so for the most part you never notice it.)

I suspect as standards get more and more complex, we'll start seeing a lot more of this kind of thing, and it will help rather than hurt, as the TV manufacturers design more and more agile multi-standard receivers that can handle anything the standards folks throw at them. Note that most if not all of them will also still display analog NTSC-M VSB-modulated signals just fine .. because there are still a lot of cable providers offering analog basic cable tiers ..

(<- still thinks the way NTSC-M avoided obsoleting the first-gen monochrome TV's was a cool hack, even if the chroma performance sucked most of the time)

Comment: Re:Look at the bright side (Score 1) 224

by n5vb (#41080891) Attached to: Earth's Corner of the Galaxy Just Got a Little Lonelier

Everything is impossible until you figure out how to make it possible...

It's not impossible -- it's just really, really improbable given the current state of our energy and propulsion technology, and there's not much big propulsion tech on the horizon that would seem likely to change that anytime soon. VASIMR is pretty promising for small manned spacecraft (and even more so for large robotic spacecraft) but it's basically in the realm of ion engines -- high efficiency, long run times, but relatively small thrust even compared to fuel/oxidizer engines. Even Orion-style propulsion would be a stretch for the kind of delta-V each individual rock would need to get it to where you're assembling your planet, and that's just getting them there, not even including controlled impact. (Granted, you could use the kinetic energy to heat up the mass so it melts and forms a core/mantle structure kind of like Earth's, and you'd have a hard time maintaining an atmosphere without a magnetosphere to shield it from solar wind, but that means waiting for the crust to cool..)

So, not impossible. Just really really difficult and expensive on a scale humanity has never even approached, with engineering complexities several orders of magnitude beyond what we have any experience with. And we're not *that* good at getting subsurface oil out of the Gulf seabed and even worse at stopping it gushing out when the well blows out. Imagine how badly we could screw up a planet construction project. :p

Comment: Too bad, so sad.. (Score 3, Insightful) 377

by n5vb (#40858001) Attached to: Algorithmic Trading Glitch Costs Firm $440 Million

If they didn't sufficiently analyze the code they were going to turn loose in real time trading, and it did something they didn't expect it to do, then that's their screwup, and theirs alone, and they need to own it. Period.

I can see NYSE cancelling some trades because the volume of trading was getting people confused about what the pricing should be, but I can't see it as fair that they'd cancel trades as a favor to the company. If a day trader screws up and takes a bath on a stock due to poorly-thought-out trade orders, they don't get a do-over, those trades are placed and cleared and they're done, no going back. I don't see any reason wild program trades should be held to any lesser standard, and I see plenty of reasons why they shouldn't be. What the company needs to do is get some competent programmers in to code their algorithms properly, and get some competent analysts in to double check the coders' work and validate the algorithms, and be prepared to own their own s**t if the code does something like this. Sorry, no sympathy, these guys should d**n well know better.

Comment: Short answer: yes. (Score 4, Insightful) 1010

by n5vb (#40810869) Attached to: Political Science Prof Asks: Is Algebra Necessary?

Longer answer:

The fact that anyone felt the need to ask this question says to me that we're doing education wrong in the USA. Very wrong. Fundamentally wrong. Yes, algebra is necessary, possibly more necessary than any other branch of math, because there are so many other fundamentally useful concepts wrapped up in it -- formal logic, proof, and a whole bunch of other basic building blocks of epistemology, not just mathematics -- that IMHO it's crucial to teaching students to think and reason answers and not just churn them out by rote memorization the way they do with arithmetic .. the way we're currently teaching it.

But why are we approaching the subject as though it's something "hard" that we have to "work" to learn and then question whether the effort is necessary? The only reason we have that view of it is that by the time our kids hit algebra, they've had all the curiosity and fascination for new knowledge hammered out of them, by normalizing their curriculum to death assembly-line style. Arithmetic by addition and multiplication tables and memorization is boring, mind-numbingly so, and any kid who gets through that gauntlet and is still interested in algebra didn't learn his/her math in the classroom, they learned it by exploring and playing around with it and getting a feel for number theory and how arithmetic operators work .. you know, real math, the kind that gets the imagination flowing.

And if you haven't had curiosity crushed out of you by memorization drills, algebra is fascinating. If you're teaching it right and letting the math itself do the teaching, you'd be hard pressed to stop kids from learning it. Case in point: In my 6th grade math class, a "substitute" (who I'm fairly sure was actually an education researcher experimenting with math teaching methods, but "substitute" was what they called him) came into the class, which was starting on basic algebra, and taught us what turned out to be differentiation by the power rule. I ended up using that one method in every math class I had from then on -- much to the consternation of my teachers who weren't quite sure how to deal with me doing differential calculus on high school algebra tests -- but I also ended up exploring how polynomials went through simpler and simpler derivatives until they ended up as a constant, and then zero, and gained a whole new appreciation for how they worked, and later on, integration and the fundamental theorem of calculus just sort of fell into place. The power rule is still one of my old friends when it comes to math. But I have that "substitute" to thank for most of the algebra I learned on my own because I couldn't get enough of it -- that one little seed sparked a whole adventure that continued to teach me mathematics for decades afterward.

Granted, I'm a hardcore nerd in a lot of ways, but I'm not entirely sure that's an aspect of who I am and not just an artifact of a society raised on the "math is hard" meme. It's hard, yes, but it's irresistible to a curious mind, and we're all born curious .. it's how we bootstrap every bit of knowledge we gain firsthand about the world. If we stop killing it in the schools, give it a few generations and our PolySci professors wouldn't even think to ask this question..

Comment: Re:Now it makes sense (Score 1) 275

by n5vb (#40658883) Attached to: Is Pluto a Binary Planet?

Ugh. The entire idea of the 'death star' shows how little imagination Lucas has. Even moving the death star into a system would effect the planetary orbits. Why would you need a big laser gun when you can simply wobble a planet out of its habitable orbit using the gravity of your space station.

Wouldn't take much, if you pick the right resonant orbit and aren't in a hurry .. ;)

Comment: Not buying my tickets yet .. (Score 4, Informative) 625

by n5vb (#40620135) Attached to: Why Ultra-Efficient 4,000 mph Vacuum-Tube Trains Aren't Being Built

Wake me up when someone actually manages to build a tunnel anywhere near that size that's vacuum tight and has a realistic notion of what size and number of vacuum pumps would be required to keep a high enough vacuum in it. Oh, and handling the exterior pressure loading without risk of accidental implosion would be nice. ;)

The other problem which is less trivial than it might seem is how to get people and cargo (and possibly vehicles) onto and off of these trains without breaking the vacuum .. really big airlocks at the stations maybe? .. and how to evacuate one of these safely in case of an emergency on the main line ..

Comment: Start with what you can least afford to lose. (Score 3, Interesting) 331

by n5vb (#40354211) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Evacuate a Network

Whatever stores data first -- if it's a SAN, then your RAID chassis and metadata controllers, and if you have time, the SAN fabric switches and cabling, but you can replace the latter if you have to, and if it's ordinary SAS, the servers if they're all internal storage, or the RAID chassis or whatever's external. Definitely grab any non-offsite backup media with that. Rest of it in descending order of priority after you grab the most valuable stuff, mostly to avoid having to replace it.

Best strategy overall is to think "what if we had to abandon this evacuation mid-process and run?" Try to have what you most want already in the truck at any given moment, and concentrate on data before hardware -- the data is far more valuable in most cases.

If you haven't done an offsite backup, for god/dess' sake do one *now* and get the backup media to a safe location .. :/

Comment: Re:Article is wrong; no IE support on the ADMIN pa (Score 1) 273

by n5vb (#40141885) Attached to: Startup Skips IE Support, Claims $100,000 Savings
Depends on how much client-side functionality you're using for your web app UI. If all you send to the browser is flat HTML (whether it's from a file or dynamically generated, and I usually generate mine pretty dynamically), your page may not render pixel-perfect on every browser but it'll render consistently and look acceptable at least. If your client side scripting reloads with the page frequently, probably still ok. If you have persistent scripting that relies on Ajax-type RPC backend fetches, there are significant differences that will make the scripts behave noticeably differently (at least) if you try to use the same code for everything and you pretty much have to detect which browser you're in and select between different versions of functions. I often just dynamically generate flat HTML for this exact reason.

Comment: Re:Useless (Score 5, Insightful) 273

by n5vb (#40141679) Attached to: Startup Skips IE Support, Claims $100,000 Savings

And the original concept of the Web was specifically not intended to do pixel-perfect rendering of anything. HTML was specifically designed to mark up flexibly depending on the dimensions of the window space, and use local fonts on the client rather than supply fonts from server side, so getting pixel perfect rendering of a site is essentially fighting a whole pile of client-side unknowns that may vary widely even between instances of the same browser rendering engine that are doing exactly what they were designed to do based on the HTML spec (although because everyone wants their site to "pop" and grab viewers' attention and all that other marketing BS, the spec itself is now starting to drift toward pleasing high-end art departments .. ::eyeroll::)

And remember that JavaScript was originally part of MS' "embrace, extend, extinguish" strategy, and the open standard it evolved into differs subtly from the version MS still implements in IE. (And that aspect of IE integration can be a massive rectal pain loaded with horrendously screwy little gotchas.) So if you do anything major on client-side, including pretty much anything even vaguely resembling Ajax, you're stuck with two parallel development/testing cycles, one for IE, one for pretty much everything else. I actually abandoned IE support on one site I was building because I just didn't have the time to mess with it.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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