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Comment: Re:So let me get this straight (Score 1) 679

by TopherC (#49540507) Attached to: Except For Millennials, Most Americans Dislike Snowden

The claims that Snowden attempted to use the proper channels are disputed by the NSA. I think it's extremely likely that Snowden's version of the story is closer to the truth, but I have to keep in mind that there's some uncertainty there. The outcomes of the leaks are harder to dispute, and I think the net effect was a positive outcome.

And I still recall Obama's speeches that change had to come to Washington, not from it. Heh. But did he live up to his campaign promises any less or any more than other presidents have? I guess good presidents need to work with compromise and internal politics well while in office. I think Nixon was pretty good by that measure.

Comment: Re:Lift the gag order first... (Score 1) 550

I think Comcast and others like them argue that our thought-model of the internet is too simplistic. It's not the case that if Netflix just buys more bandwidth, all content consumers benefit. Comcast says that they want Netflix to pay for them to add additional infrastructure so that their bandwidth-intensive traffic is handled on new routes that are more direct for various residential areas.

But your arguments are also correct, that by Comcast charging Netflix an additional fee for this infrastructure (or worse, for the right not to be throttled), they are creating an unfair means of passing costs onto customers and perhaps also being anti-competetive with respect to other residential ISPs. In some ways Comcast wants to be free to use extortion (pay us to not throttle your traffic), but in other ways there is real potential for building out better internet service.

I think the trick is finding a fairer means of economically building out the kind of infrastructure that best delivers content to the consumers. I suppose it would be fair if Comcast added the extra infrastructure for those companies like Netflix that consumers are pulling heavy traffic from, and then being honest and public about this -- using it as a selling point to differentiate them from their competition. This should lead to a higher demand for their service, which should lead to them justifying the capital investment.

The "stifle innovation and restrict freedom" argument is very typical GOP BS. They feel like less regulation is a panacea and are blind to anti-competitive tactics and the kinds of regulations that would keep a free market both free and efficient.

Comment: Re:What is systemd exactly? (Score 1) 765

by TopherC (#49199201) Attached to: Ubuntu To Officially Switch To systemd Next Monday

The problem is that a lot of the behind-the-scenes tinkering and established-over-decades code in scripts is going out of the window and one huge set of binaries are trying to replace it WHILE also stepping in to replace an awful lot of other pseudo-related systems. Systemd is tying into everything from initial boot to how to configure your soundcard.

Those established-over-decades init scripts are fragile and difficult to maintain. My observation is that this is what drives system developers to push for systemd. Well, this and the order of startup, dependencies, etc.

Maybe we need a fork of systemd that takes some of the more common complaints seriously enough to do something about them. I see limitations of plain-text logging systems, but can't these be addressed with a text-based, human-readable log that uses some kind of mark-up for timestamps, PIDs, etc? While there may be some small efficiency gains by incorporating more services into systemd like networkd and such, we could set a higher bar for module inclusion -- there has to be an overwhelming argument for tight integration. And so on.

Comment: Re:Strange (Score 1) 80

by TopherC (#49175213) Attached to: Linux and Multiple Internet Uplinks: a New Tool

I wonder how this is different from channel bonding / link aggregation? I looked into this a few months ago and don't remember all the details but there's a "bonding" kernel module, which can run in some modes entirely in kernel space, or in a user-space-assisted mode. There is a round-robin mode but there are several others that include fault tolerance and load balancing. LACP can be used in cooperation with other network elements including switches if you want something that spans a local network.

I had limited success with this myself, so I wonder what new technology the Fault Tolerant Router brings?

Comment: Re:Parody (Score 1) 255

by TopherC (#49174343) Attached to: Gritty 'Power Rangers' Short Is Not Fair Use

I doesn't sound to me like it's specific enough in its references to be primarily a satire or parody. IMO If it isn't obviously and specifically satirical, then Kahn should have obtained permission before publishing. Failing that, leave the power rangers tie in an unwritten one that's strongly hinted at. A fair use(?) Austin Powers clip: "It looks like Godzilla, but due to international copyright laws - it's not."

Comment: Re:Parody (Score 2) 255

by TopherC (#49174233) Attached to: Gritty 'Power Rangers' Short Is Not Fair Use

So it's a parody of the response that it would evoke by being an arguably infringing work? That's prescient! If this were actually enough to prove that it's non-infringing (it's not IMO) then maybe the parody fails and then makes the short infringing again on the original grounds, which ...

Sorry I tried to make a temporal paradox out of it. Best I could do.

Comment: Re:c++? (Score 1) 407

But don't forget the context. It isn't "I want to write a program that splits a string on commas," but "I want to write a program that will grow in complexity." Like most programmers, I read a whole lot more code than I write. I like to read code that is expressive enough that the little things (like string splitting) are simple statements while the over-arching objectives and design issues are stated in comments. Also anything that's subtle should be commented, but not "// This splits a string. Check my work please!" Or "// Opening a TCP socket," etc.

C++ allows you to write very clever code, which is admittedly fun to do. But it's wearisome to read that stuff because you have to both figure out what it's doing and also prove to yourself that it's correct and handles malformed data properly. Unless you're optimizing some crucial piece of code (which C++ is potentially good for), it's much better to write expressive code.

I haven't done too much with QT, but I think it is well structured and helps you to learn to write good C++. Some will say that's an oxymoron. But I've seen what can only be judged bad C++, and know that QT could have been a whole lot worse than it is.

Library dependencies -- that's another subject. You're going to have them one way or another. Picking your libraries well is a matter of taste and what you're long-term plans are.

Comment: Re:who uses stock os? (Score 1) 144

by TopherC (#49091517) Attached to: Superfish Security Certificate Password Cracked, Creating New Attack Vector

I'm not sure what models you're referring to. My last three or four laptops have been Lenovos, and I never experienced any roadblocks installing Linux on them. I think the BIOS on at least one of these supported a whole-disk encryption but that doesn't even try to prevent you from reformatting and installing an OS.

My vague understanding is that Superfish is Windows software, not part of BIOS or the Windows bootloader, and certainly not grub. You can also apparently uninstall superfish:

My current model is a T440, which is fine except for the tragicomical touchpad. It's by far the worst touchpad I've ever, well, touched. I keep a wireless mouse with me at all times because that pad is nearly useless. Previous models were good.

Comment: How about a partial-representative democracy? (Score 1) 480

by TopherC (#48804701) Attached to: How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting

This got me to thinking: if we can invent a "good enough" electronic voting system, and in an age where communication is cheap and easy, why not go farther and consider a democratic system where every citizen is allowed to vote on any issue directly, if they choose, or a person could elect their own personal representative. So there would still be room for professional politicians. But some people would prefer to read blogs containing oppinions on issues, or decide on a per-issue basis to cast their vote independently from their chosen representative. Representatives would probably have a maximum limit of representees to avoid over-concentration of personal power. Political parties would either have no legal support or might even be legislated against. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud so to speak.

For me, the two biggest problems with US politics are (1) lobbying and campaign finances and (2) the effectiveness of propaganda. The power of lobbying would be weaker if citizens retained their right to vote directly and independently on any issue they choose to. That would also encourage legislators to blog about what they are supporting and why. This might help them gain representees as well as swinging independent votes. The effectiveness of propaganda is a much tougher issue to deal with, but I believe that disrupting a two-party system would help, as would the teaching of propaganda analysis as part of the standard curriculum at the high school level. Hopefully others have better ideas.

And before you say "That'll never happen!" let me agree on that point but then refuse to let that stop me from dreaming. In modern times, what would a more effective democracy look like? The foundation of democracy is that people are intelligent and capable of self-government. Is that even a valid principle? If so, how could we implement it better?

Comment: Re:obligatory /. car analogy (Score 2) 249

by TopherC (#48796147) Attached to: Education Debate: Which Is More Important - Grit, Or Intelligence?

This hits the issue on the nose. Thanks!

I was reading Kohn's article on this just a couple days ago, and thought he made a lot of good points. It might help to know that one perspective of Kohn's is realizing the limitations and over-utilization of testing, and standardized testing in particular. "Grit" may be, in proper moderation, a good thing. But the positive feedback cycle that relentless accountability and academic assessment provides can go haywire here, rewarding students for being persistent to a fault and rewarding teachers and schools for producing such students.

The main difficulty with testing in schools, AFAICT, is that the skills, character traits, and knowledge that are most worth teaching are generally not ones that are easy to assess. Combine this with the fact that all teachable test outcomes become their own measure of success, regardless of their inherent value to a person. This makes it easy for us, as a society, to lose sight of what's really important in education.

Comment: Re:Makes sense. (Score 2) 629

by TopherC (#48795905) Attached to: Google Throws Microsoft Under Bus, Then Won't Patch Android Flaw

I agree this article is mostly foolishness, but underneath this is a substantial issue with Android. It would be much easier for a provider to push a security patch if it were backported from the latest-greatest release to some of the still-active prior releases. Even then there would be a substantial time delay. The manufacturers do some initial porting of newer Android releases to their hardware, and then the providers take that software and customize it further. Most of what the providers add is best described as bloatware (and some spyware like carrierID), but some of this is network-specific support. Lots of testing happens at each stage, especially by the manufacturer.

Porting to a new Android platform actually requires a lot of additional work as often the hardware interfaces (HAL) are modified and expanded. In addition each manufacturer has a highly customized version of Android at various levels, and porting all of this takes significant effort.

Because of all this, there is no quick way for Google to "release" a patch to people's phones (except for the Nexus phones). Google could help to hurry some security patches by backporting them, but manufacturers could also do the same. It is not, technically, Google's job to do anything but support their Nexus line. They also keep most of the platform code open (publicly available anyway), allowing other manufacturers to follow along or do as they please. And because porting does require such effort, Google also needs to continue to find ways to provoke the major manufacturers into keeping up the work.

This model for Android platform software has been successful, but is obviously flawed when it comes to distributing prompt security patches to users' devices. It's easy to gripe about this but difficult to come up with practical solutions.

Comment: Re:Principles vs Practicality (Score 1) 220

by TopherC (#48768045) Attached to: EFF: Apple's Dev Agreement Means No EFF Mobile App For iOS

Well, I'm sorry for the EFF, then, but everyone knows what the terms are to get an app in the iOS App Store.

This sounds, to me, like the EFF allowing slavish adherence to their principles to prevent them from doing something that might actually help real people in the real world advance those principles in meaningful ways.

Their specific complaints about Apple's license agreement make it sound to me like a practical, real-world problem. I don't think the petition will garner any response from Apple directly, but it's useful for educating people who don't bother to read carefully the entire agreement before signing up. There are certainly a lot of things in that agreement that will cause me not to click Agree.

Their first objection alone makes it obvious why the EFF cannot provide the equivalent iphone app: "Ban on Public Statements" is a promise not to publicly discuss the license agreement itself. It's a recursive problem. It they intend to raise issues with any of the license agreement, they cannot agree to it in the first place, which is part of what makes it objectionable, which is why they are compelled to raise issues with it.

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.