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Comment: Re:pardon my french, but "duh" (Score 2) 91 91

Well that may be so. But as you get older you get less patient with people wasting your time.

Let's say you're 90 years old. You're using a webmail system which does everything you need it to do. Then some manager has a brainwave and suddenly all the functions are somewhere else. How much of the 3.99 years the actuarial tables say you've got left do you want to spend dealing with that?

It's not just 90 year-olds. Take a poll of working-age users and find out how many like the MS Office Ribbon; how many people are cool with the regular UI reshuffling that takes place in Windows just to prove you're paying your upgrade fee for software that's "new"?

Comment: Re:Therac 25 (Score 2) 91 91

I was working as a developer when the news of the Therac 25 problems broke, so I remember it well. You actually have it backwards; it wasn't bad UI design at all.

The thing is mere functional testing of the user interface would not have revealed the flaw in the system. What happened is that people who used the system very day, day in and day out, became so fast at entering the machine settings the rate of UI events exceeded the ability of the custom monitor software written for the machine to respond correctly to them.

If the UI was bad from a design standpoint the fundamental system engineering flaws of the system might never have been revealed.

Comment: Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 1) 273 273

Actually the exact opposite is true.

Which is necessarily true in any kind of fashion, even if it's anti-fashion. Hipsterism is a kind of contrarianism; the attraction is having things that most other people don't even know about. But strict contrarianism is morally indistinguishable from strict conformism.

Now outside of major metropolitan centers like Manhattan when people say "hipster" they mean something else; there's not enough of a critical mass of non-conformity to cater to an actual "hipster" class. What they're really talking about is "kids taking part in trends I'm not included in." In other words its the same-old, same-old grousing about kids these days, only now by people who've spent their lives as the focus of youth culture and can't deal with their new-found cultural marginalization.

As you get older the gracious thing to do is to age out of concern, one way or the other, with fashion.

Comment: Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 2) 273 273

I thought hipsters all owned iPhone and Macbooks, and shopped at The Gap. I.e. they are all about conformity, fads and Buzzfeed.

No, those things are actually anti-hip. As soon as something gets big enough for Buzzfeed it's for a different audience.

"Hip" implies arcane knowledge possessed by a select few. A great band with a small local following is "hip"; when they make it big they're no longer "hip", although they may still be "cool". The iPhone is pretty much the antithesis of hip, no matter how cool it may be. If I were to guess what hipster phone model might look like, it might be something low-cost Indian android phone manufactured for the local market and not intended for export -- very rare and hard to get outside of India. Or even better, hard to get outside of Gujarat. Or even better only a few hundred were ever manufactured then the company went bankrupt and the stock was sold on the street in Ahmedabad. Provided that the phone is cool. Cool plus obscure is the formula for "hip".

It follows there is no such thing as "hip" retail chain. It's a contradiction in terms. A chain may position itself in its marketing as "hip", but it's really after what the tech adoption cycle refers to as "Early Majority" adopters.

Hipsters reject being the leading edge of anything; as soon as something becomes big, it is no longer hip. This means they're not economically valuable on a large scale, which some people see as self-centered and anti-social. Compare this to cosplayers; the media always adopts a kind of well-the-circus-is-in-town attitude when there's a con, but while they're condescending toward cosplayers the media can't afford to be hostile because those people are the important early adopters for economically valuable media franchises.

Let me give you a more authentic hipster trend than the one you named. Last year there was a fad for hipster men to buy black fedora hats from Brooklyn shops that cater to Hasidic men. While as soon as something gets big enough to draw media attention it's dead to hipsters, this fad illustrates the elements of hipster aesthetic: (1) resurrecting obscure and obsolete fashions; (2) exoticism or syncretism; and (3) authenticity.

Now from an objective standpoint there's no good reason to favor or disfavor fedoras as opposed to, say baseball caps. It's just a different fashion. Likewise there's no practical reason to value a hat from a owner-operated store in Brooklyn over an identical one purchased from Amazon. But it does add rarity value, and that's the key. Something has to be rare and unusual to be hip. As soon as hipness is productized it appeals to a different audience.

Comment: Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 3, Insightful) 273 273

Is this just another term for hipsters? People who seek out things that everyone else has dismissed for (usually) good reasons.

No. Because the "good reason" usually is "most people aren't doing that anymore." The article is about things that *never* become cool, not things that were cool in grandpa's day.

The real problem with being a hipster is that the ideal of non-conformity is inconsistent with the idea of fashion.

Comment: Re:Drop the hammer on them. (Score 5, Insightful) 1206 1206

"Drop the hammer on them."

That's the easy part. The hard part is dealing with what happens after the hammer has been dropped.

Someone once said that the definition of a bad policy is one that leads to a place where you have nothing but bad options. I believe everyone (not just the Greeks) thought back in 2000 it woudl be good policy to bring Greece into the Eurozone. But now we've now reached the point where otherwise rational people are talking about "dropping the hammer", as if having an incipient failed state in Europe is a small price to pay for 600 euro in your pocket. The frustration is understandable, but the the satisfaction of dropping the hammer on Greece would be short-lived -- possibly on the order of weeks depending on the scale of financial disruption.

The unhappy truth is that bad policy choices fifteen years ago means all the options available today lead to long-lived, complicated, and expensive consequences.

Comment: Re:The author doesn't understand Herbert (Score 1) 232 232

Frank is a deeper fellow than all but a few really grasp.

His books were largely philosophical treatises and it's so often disappointing to talk with people who can't see past the superficial stories that he uses to explore an element of philosophy. I'm surprised that anyone can get through the entirety of Dune without that dawning on them, but it becomes much more clear when you start reading his other works (especially those not set in sci fi settings).

Comment: Re:EVs are a PITA (Score 2) 644 644

Because the population of people that own EVs is drastically smaller than the population of people that don't own EVs. Current EV owners represent the self-selected group of people for which owning an EV is a better choice (and can afford to purchase a new car). That the vast majority of people haven't walked away from ICE cars should be an indicator that they are not an appropriate choice for most people. (And I say this as a satisfied EV owner. It works for me, but not for everybody.)

Your statement makes just as much sense as saying that there are people in Venice who own a boat and walked away from cars, so boats obviously present much less hassle than cars. My neighbor who started a roofing company replaced his sedan with a pickup truck and hasn't looked back; pickup trucks must present far fewer hassles than sedans. Do you understand context?

Comment: Re:What baffles me is.... (Score 2) 97 97

If this scum has a history of making false claims then why are they still allowed to make claims at all? Better yet, why haven't they been banned from Youtube altogether?

Alice posts a video using music that Bob owns the copyright to. Carol posts a video that uses music Bob falsely claims to also hold the copyright for. Unfortunately Bob's false claim against Carol doesn't change the fact that he actually does have a legitimate legal claim against Alice's video. So kicking him off the system means he's going to issue a takedown against Alice. The whole point of bringing him into the system was to give him an incentive to leave Alice alone.

The problem here isn't Bob and Alice -- that part of the scenario is working fine. The problem is Bob and Carol. There's no incentive for Bob not to make false claims against Carol. That's the bit that has to be fixed.

Comment: Re:Fee Fees Hurt? (Score 4, Insightful) 265 265

Well, it may interest you to know that courts judging "emotional distress" is not some new Internet fad. In the year 1348 an innkeeper brought suit against a man who had been banging on his tavern door demanding wine. When the innkeeper stuck his head out the doorway to tell the man to stop, the man buried the hatchet he was carrying into the door by the innkeeper's head. The defendant argued that since there was no physical harm inflicted no assault had taken place, but the judged ruled against him [ de S et Ux. v. W de S (1348)]. Ever since then non-physical, non-financial harm has been considered both an essential element of a number of of crimes, a potential aggravating factor in others, and an element weighed in establishing civil damages.

This does *not*, however, mean that hurt feelings in themselves constitute a crime. It's a difficult and sometimes ambiguous area of the law, but the law doesn't have the luxury of addressing easy and clear-cut cases only.

As to why a new law is need now, when the infliction of emotional distress has been something the law has been working on for 667 years, I'd say that the power of technology to uncouple interactions from space and time has to be addressed. Hundreds of years ago if someone was obnoxious to you at your favorite coffeehouse, you could go at a different time or choose a different coffeehouse. Now someone intent on spoiling your interactions with other people doesn't have to coordinate physical location and schedule with you to be a persistent, practically inescapable nuisance.

Does this mean every interaction that hurts your feelings on the Internet is a crime? No, no more than everything that happens in your physical presence you take offense at is a crime.

Comment: Re:Responses (Score 1) 243 243

I just wondered if there was any good way to protect the "login ticket" (the mail containing the one-time-use code) from interception in the 24 hours between when it is sent and the expiration time that we store.

For account creation, you can do this by requiring that the user authenticate with their username and password to use the "login ticket". If they know all of the authentication details and have control of the email account, there's really no way to distinguish them from a legitimate user (from your limited perspective). That said, acquiring all of the account details (including the password) and gaining access to the user's email account in a short time window represents an attack that's only likely for an account on a very important system and you (I) wouldn't deploy such a system with email as the only means of verification.

Things are more difficult for password reset requests because the user doesn't know their login details, but that's a different scenario from the account generation one. You have to make security compromises in the name of convenience if you want a user to be able to reset their password from a link in an email alone.

Comment: Re:Responses (Score 3, Insightful) 243 243

My site, on account creation, generates a password and sends it to you in email in cleartext before putting it in the DB. In that email is a link to reset the password; you can't log into the rest of the site until you've done so. The updated password (and the original) are stored encrypted in the DB.

If anyone has a better suggestion, I'm all ears.

Seriously? Let the user enter their own password at account creation and send them an email with a link (containing a random hash that's indexed to that user in the DB) to verify the email address (if that's even a necessary step... it isn't always).

Why would you need to generate a password for them, especially if you're going to email it plaintext and make them change it anyway? What possible benefit does that serve?

Comment: Re:Environmentalists will cause the next nuclear a (Score 4, Interesting) 127 127

Every time nuclear power comes up someone blames environmentalists for the industry's problems -- in this case before the problems have manifested. It's an article of faith.

So far as I can see there's only ever been one plant in the US that's ever been cancelled for environmental concerns is the proposed plant at Bodega Harbor, which as you can see on the map would have been right on top of the San Andreas fault. In every other case projects have been shut down after serious miscalculations in the industry's economic forecasting (e.g. lower energy prices in the 80s than anticipated in the 70s), often exacerbated by poor project management performance. In those cases environmentalists were just a convenient scapegoat for management screw-ups.

You can see that because after the very largest anti-nuclear protests in history -- against Seabrook in NH and Diablo Canyon -- the plants were built and put into operation anyway. If a company had a plant under construction that it could make money operating, that plant would get built, even if thirty thousand people turned out to protest.

Comment: Re:This isn't as good as it sounds (Score 2) 107 107

Well, here's a good place to start. RC4 has a number of vulnerabilities and while each of them can be mitigated to a certain extent (changing keys, discarding the beginning of streams, etc), the confidence is low that implemented systems will successfully avoid all of them and not open up new vulnerabilities in the process.

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