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Comment: Re:Oblig. Xkcd (Score 1) 247

by robbo (#48526937) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Convincing My Company To Stop Using Passwords?

This got a lot of publicity but it doesn't really add all that much security. Supposing you choose 4 words from a dictionary of 200k (roughly the order of magnitude of the OED), you arrive at about 70 bits of entropy. Conversely, choosing a 10-character password from a 62 letter alphabet (a-zA-Z0-9) yields 59 bits of entropy- the difference is only a factor of 1024. Attackers aren't so dumb as to just try choosing random characters- they have very good priors on how common any particular character sequence is in the typical password and will mix and match entire words, with or without leetspeak substitutions, etc.

Of course no matter how rigorous your policy, it all goes out the window once your users type the same password into some other random site.

Comment: Complexity is a red herring (Score 2) 247

by robbo (#48526653) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Convincing My Company To Stop Using Passwords?

Complexity matters mainly if your attacker gains offline access to your hashes. Far and away the main source of password compromise is non-uniqueness (using the same password elsewhere). This is actually the main benefit of forcing a periodic password change. Graphical and gesture passwords are horribly insecure from shoulder surfers.
If you can, support as many factors as possible. Multiple factors gives your users flexibility- they may not always be able to receive an SMS or have a card reader handy. TPM-based virtual smart cards are super handy for remote auth from a domain-joined device- no cards or readers required.

Comment: You're applying for the wrong jobs. (Score 2) 479

by robbo (#47977097) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

Don't apply for a dev job. Assuming there was sufficient math in your PhD apply for a data science or data analyst role, which will include a fair share of programming but also mentally engaging work. Hiring managers for these roles look for people that have strong analytical skills and the ability to learn new things (proof: you have a PhD). What languages you know is secondary in these roles to how well you dig in to a problem and deliver insights.

Comment: assert side-effects and gcc fp optimizations (Score 1) 729

Gotchas more than quirks:
- the day you realize you put a side effect in an assert() call.
- the day you realize GCC, maybe it was V2, not sure this is still an issue, exploits extra bits of precision in the Intel FPU, *only if* optimizations are enabled, which causes certain iterative floating point algorithms (eg SVD) to fail to converge.

In both cases everything works great in debug builds but goes to hell in release builds and it's incredibly painful to get to root cause.

Comment: Re:Key is non-programming skills (Score 1) 466

by robbo (#46990663) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Minimum Programming Competence In Order To Get a Job?

+1000. The OP has embedded hardware skills which is a relatively rare skill-set- the barrier to entry is for sure a lot higher than basic software programming. My advice would be to leverage the hardware skillset into some new embedded programming domain (learn new hardware-specific tricks). There's little-to-no value in reinventing yourself as a generic programmer.

Comment: Outlook + Onenote (Score 1) 133

by robbo (#45831337) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Organization With Free Software?

If you're using Outlook I assume you've got Onenote too. Create a daily meeting in outlook titled diary or whatever, and when you want to take notes open the meeting for today and use the meeting notes feature to take notes. The only issue I see with this is that it might not organize the daily notes by date in Onenote, but there are decent features for moving pages around and reorganizing them. Plus everything is searchable and if you want you can save the whole notebook in skydrive and open them from your phone. Say what you will about MS, in my day-to-day work OneNote is the best thing since sliced bread.

Comment: Re:In Depth Fisking for the time crunched: (Score 1) 1255

by robbo (#44738643) Attached to: Why One Woman Says Sending Your Kid To Private School Is Evil

Actually, although I lean towards agreeing with the article, I think it sucks.
Here is a far better article about private schools and why maybe they are not good for society:
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

Comment: Re:Oh, really? (Score 1) 1255

by robbo (#44736537) Attached to: Why One Woman Says Sending Your Kid To Private School Is Evil

Mostly agree that geography/demographics matters a lot. The article is terrible but she has an important point to make, which is summed up much better here:
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

Public school in America has declined as an institution because the wealthy have abandoned it and everyone thinks that's ok. But it's not. This is in part because the people who set public school policy happen to be wealthy, and therefore have no skin in the game. It's also because egalitarianism is all but dead as an American ethos. Level playing fields are for suckers.

If you're wealthy you look at the public system and decide you can do better for your kids. So you make a locally optimal choice which is perfectly reasonable in isolation. It's sort of an inverted tragedy of the commons.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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