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Comment: Re:So long as it is consential (Score 1) 362

by rbrander (#47841331) Attached to: Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Please don't apply that belief to ASTM standards for wiring. Poor states would have 50 house fires per day.

It's funny, nobody suggests applying "local standards" to other professions. Yes, each state may have their own certification for accountants and engineers and so on, but the *standards and practices* are much more widespread. Nobody shops around for the doctor that meets local standards for appendectomies.

I don't crap on people who believe this stuff, but MY private belief is that they want to ensure that money from wealthier school districts never leaks over into poorer ones.

Comment: Gwynne Dyer went over this in a column (Score 1) 254

by rbrander (#47667861) Attached to: The Benefits of Inequality

...about how the West is not really special about democracy:

Writing about your original, even pre-homo-sapiens hunter-gatherer groups, who had democracy since we had language:

They were all very little societies: rarely more than 50 adults (who had all known one another all their lives). On the rare occasions when they had to make a major decision, they would actually sit around and debate it until they reached a consensus. Direct democracy, if you like.

People have been running their affairs that way ever since we developed language, which was almost certainly before we were even anatomically modern human beings. So 99.9 percent of our history, say. That is who we are, and how we prefer to behave unless some enormous obstacle gets in our way.

The enormous obstacle was civilization. All hunting-and-gathering societies were essentially egalitarian. The mass societies that we call civilizations arose less than 10,000 years ago, thanks to the invention of agriculture. Until very recently all of them, without exception, were tyrannies, pyramids of power and privilege in which the few decided and the many obeyed. What happened?

A mass society, thousands, then millions strong, confers immense advantages on its members. Within a few thousand years the little hunting-and-gathering groups were pushed out of the good lands everywhere. By the time the first anthropologists appeared to study them, they were on their last legs, and none now survive in their original form. But we know why the societies that replaced them were all tyrannies.

The mass societies had many more decisions to make, and no way of making them in the old, egalitarian way. Their huge numbers made any attempt at discussing the question as equals impossible, so the only ones that survived and flourished were the ones that became brutal hierarchies. Tyranny was the solution to what was essentially a communications problem.

...and notes that tyrannies have been going downward ever since printing, much less twitter.

Comment: Re:Can't leave (Score 2) 254

by rbrander (#47667845) Attached to: The Benefits of Inequality

That's what I loved about Heinlein. One time he'd write that, the next time, 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', which is very libertarian. He just posited that the Moon exiles would all just get along and not form into bloods and crips. He really loved thought experiments even when he clearly knew they contained a big assumption; shame so many mistook things like "Starship Troopers" as his serious proposal for government. He wrote a whole essay once about all the other fun ways to restrict franchise: "Why not just \women? Men had their day. Or better yet, why not just mothers? The only humans with an inarguable stake in the future." (quote is approximate.)

Comment: Re:Uh (Score 3, Insightful) 278

by rbrander (#47433921) Attached to: William Binney: NSA Records and Stores 80% of All US Audio Calls

Keeping in mind they can't possibly have humans listening to all that, the only way to flag human-worthy content is voice recognition and transcription to plain text files. If you keep voice only on the 0.1% that are "likely" to be interesting, and simply voice-recognize the rest after a month and compress the plain text, the storage problem drops by orders of magnitude.

Comment: "Audit"? Try massive rewrite. (Score 5, Insightful) 132

by rbrander (#47120029) Attached to: OpenSSL To Undergo Security Audit, Gets Cash For 2 Developers

The comments from the folks who started LibreSSL at a meeting of the Calgary Unix Users Group the other night were beyond scathing. Bob Beck's first slide shows Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, up to her elbows in stegasaurus dung, as a metaphor for what the first skim of the code felt like. It's a hopelessly overpatched mess of spaghetti code and #IFNDEF mazes that nobody can really maintain. Their fork has already tossed out tens of thousands of lines of code and started again. (Another slide shows the line from Aliens: "Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure").

If not a from-scratch rewrite, think of a home reno where you have to strip it to the frame and put up new drywalls.
And this situation was allowed to grow by the current bunch that manage OpenSSL; they're only doing this at all because one of the hundreds of time-bombs in the code finally went off, and anybody who's looked it knows how many hundreds more there are. For shame.

There's a link to the slides from the site, which is very minimal, as they say "We're too busy deleting code to make web pages".

It was just a very sobering presentation. To think we let so much depend on a pile of cruft.

Comment: Accept no computer you don't control (Score 1) 221

I was glad to grab my LG TV - because it was the last one at Best Buy that wasn't a "smart" TV, no internet connectivity at all. Just a monitor.

I really hate my $129 media player that adds 20 new for-pay services every time it updates....also LG, but I am so getting rid of it when I pull the $ together for a little computer I'll build on FLOSS from scratch, and that'll be the only thing with any smarts in my media life. Not a privacy fanatic, but it all just makes me uncomfortable and suspicious.

Comment: Re:Does it make me a bad person... (Score 2) 293

That's not consistent with the statement (not one you made; your post is internally consistent) that "America is a center-right nation" - a statement that gets broad agreement from all news outlets, I think. Certainly Fox reminds its viewers of that fact (or claim) whenever the R party has a bad day at the polls, and you can find the sentiment in CNN and MSNBC reportage (and many papers) as well.

If America is a "centre-right nation" - certainly it has a Gini number (measure of inequality) out of step with the rest of the developed West, a military budget that stands out as way different, and tax structures on high incomes that are different -- then reportage that most American news outlets would describe as "left leaning" would be "dead centre" in (almost all) other Western developed nations....which have a total population comfortably in excess of America's.

I mention other nations because the original post praised the BBC; this also clarifies the one respondent's complaint that the BBC is hardly "left leaning" but takes pains to be neutral. (I *can* get BBC here in Canada, where I would also say that the CBC, CTV, and Global networks here would all be described as "left leaning coverage" by most Americans...but we don't see it that way. I saw Paul Krugman worked over politely but very critically by a panel of three commentators on the BBC, who were all pretty skeptical of his negative views on Austerity; he gave as good as he got, but nobody would call it a lefty spin session.)

And I have to add that the almost universally recognized as "right-leaning" channel, Fox News, describes itself, not as right-leaning, but as Fair and Balanced - with pretty explicit statements by many of their staff that ALL other outlets are left-leaning so they have to step in an provide a truly factual, neutral viewpoint to serve the public better...but in a few cases (Jon Stewart I think?) their staff have been gotcha'd in conversation stating that they really are quite a necessary counter-balance, of course, to all that leftism on every other channel.

Some other posters here seem to be attempting a discrimination between "leaning" as in editorial statements and as in their choice of WHAT topics to cover, purely factually. That is, you can be strictly factual about stories of "voter fraud" or "racist comments by old white men", while giving what many would call extreme amounts of airtime to a given topic, given its impact on the world.

I'm sure many would call me "left leaning" for stating my opinion that the "Democracy Now" program by Amy Goodman et all is pretty good at sticking to facts - it's their list of topic choices that differs from most other media. It's hard to call the Annenberg School for Communications a biased source, they're very highly respected (and the Annenberg's were the Reagan's best friends), and their dean remarked: "She's not an editorialist. She sticks to the facts... She provides points of view that make you think, and she comes at it by saying: 'Who are we not hearing from in the traditional media?"

I would say that BOTH editorial positions and choice of topics are both ways to lean; and indeed the news-topic way of leaning is more insidious than outright opinion, because people have their guard up more when opinion is clearly rather than implicitly the source of the content.

Comment: Re:Crossing a Line is Easy for Some (Score 1) 231

by rbrander (#46852691) Attached to: White House Worried About Discrimination Through Analytics

You mean like Afghans who sold out rivals (often relatives) to the USA, to become some of the longest-serving Guantanamo captives? Yeah, that happens. Has for centuries in any regime that takes people away upon suspicion. That's what's wrong, not the information-gathering system; why you don't circumvent the protections of due process. I'm not sure what's new about this particular complaint system.

Comment: Problem 1 is to get people to pay attention (Score 1) 217

by rbrander (#46849073) Attached to: How the FCC Plans To Save the Internet By Destroying It

The Globe and Mail did a story on it the other day. I took a few minutes to put in a longish comment, thinking this would be yet another right/left shoutfest.

I dropped back a few hours later to see who'd called me a commie, only to see it only got a few comments and was dropped off the main page already - presumably because the web server had noticed almost nobody was reading it.

If people don't pay attention to government, the bad guys generally win.

Comment: Need a list of "non-traditional" programming books (Score 2) 247

by rbrander (#46838285) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Books for a Comp Sci Graduate Student?

For me, it was "Thinking Forth" by Leo Brodie. Forth is a pretty unique language, barely above assembler level, but able to (quickly) build up code/data structures of Lisp-like complexity (and like Lisp, can self-modify). Brodie's Thinking Forth pulls apart how you'd solve problems with procedural language and completely re-factors them to take advantage of how Forth works.

Even if you don't ever use Forth (and most of us enthusiasts never did for anything but school and our own utilities), learning it changes your thinking. But I'd concede that Forth itself isn't the necessity - it's to learn languages and approaches that solve problems in whole different ways. There should be books on functional languages, APL, or Lisp.

I'm not sure what the classic list would be - but for me, Starting Forth I pull off the shelf decades later to peruse when I need to pull my head outside the box. (It's now available as a free PDF, by the way.)

You have a tendency to feel you are superior to most computers.