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Comment: Perhaps the problem is with the concept. (Score 1) 138

by hey! (#49349767) Attached to: Many Password Strength Meters Are Downright Weak, Researchers Say

What does "password strength" really mean?

If people used a textual representation of number obtained from a reliable hardware random number generator then the meaning would be unambiguous. It's the number of digits in that number. But most people don't do that (perhaps more should).

So what does it mean to say that a password has so many bits of entropy? Well, I guess it means how many truly random bits it would take to index their password from the universe of passwords the user considered. This is more an exercise in psychology than it is in mathematics. You have to figure out how users generate passwords or discount passwords. For example requiring a mix of upper and lower case letters doesn't add as much entropy as you'd think, because most users are mediocre typists who'll avoid using the shift key too often. Requiring digits means that many people will just "0" for "o" and "1" for "L".

So it's really easy to concoct passwords which you know are bad, because you know the methods used to select which passwords you'd consider; if the developers of the strength meter don't take your particular generation algorithm into account the meter will show the password to be stronger than you know it to be.

Comment: Re:Top Gear: The BBC Whovian Reboot (Score 2) 518

by hey! (#49348357) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

A fourth car races by.

It opens, and the words Top Gear: Mark II appear.

It's a young British woman of mixed Asian descent.

The crowd goes wild.

Seriously, an exotic woman driving exotic cars too fast? Who'd watch that?

I would, because I'm a man and I'm not afraid to admit that on some level I'm a pig. Ideally she'd be smart and funny too, because I don't like to think of myself as being a total pig, but either way I'm in.

Comment: Re:The BBC doesn't have much latitude here. (Score 1) 518

by hey! (#49347911) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

Meanwhile, the BBC has a chance to reinvent Top Gear with younger presenters

Nailed it. It's like the old saw about the Chinese character for "crisis" being made up of characters for "danger" and "opportunity". No matter what happens now they're going to lose some of their long-term fans. But at some point young people aren't going to be so keen on watching some ancient codger behaving like an ass.

If they play this right it could become like Dr. Who, with a reboot every few years to bring in fresh blood.

Comment: Re:what will be more interesting (Score 2) 518

by hey! (#49347855) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

Sure. But the man verbally abused and bullied a subordinate. Then he physically assaulted him -- or perhaps by that point the physical altercation was mutual.

At some point you have to ask yourself whether you have your priorities straight. As a fan of the show I'm sorry to the big ape gone. As a fan of civilized behavior I'm happy to see at least a minimum standard of decency in behavior getting enforced.

Comment: Re:Most degrees from India... (Score 4, Interesting) 260

by hey! (#49337571) Attached to: Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives"

I'll see your anecdote and raise you some speculation.

I've worked with a number of young Indian engineers and found them to be roughly comparable to American engineers with the same level of experience; if anything they have a slightly higher level of textbook knowledge because (I speculate) their educational system puts a higher premium on memorization. That turns out to be awesome when you're lucky enough to be hiring someone with that certain spark of talent it takes to be great at the job. On the other hand it also means you can easily end up hiring a dud who interviews great because he happens to have a prodigious memory. When the VC my company worked with asked us to take on some surplus H1B engineers he'd sponsored I had a range of experiences from absolutely top-notch talent to total cement-heads with an encyclopedic recall of the GoF book.

But what I've never run into an Indian H1B who didn't know anything at all about his field, although I'm sure it happens. Given the size and level of economic development in India I'd be shocked if there were not at least a few diploma mills, but you'd be a fool to turn your nose up at a diploma from U of Mumbai or IIT/Delhi.

It can be tricky evaluate a candidate from a different country and culture than you, so you've got to expect that a conscientious company may end up hiring a few clunkers. But if your Indian colleagues were *all* ignoramuses, it suggests to me the companies you worked for were incompetent or bottom-feeders when it comes to recruiting engineering talent.

Comment: Re:It has an acronym , so it will fail. (Score 1) 149

by hey! (#49331705) Attached to: Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education

Not really. His point is that school systems are spending money badly already, so that giving them more money would necessarily amount to "throwing money at the problem" (his words). For my town's schools that point fails in that we don't spend money the way he claims all schools do; we aren't top-heavy with administrators. And we spend just a tad less than the national average per student.

I suppose what you're saying is that since we get better results than the national average for less-than-average outlay, we're doing just fine. That's true, if your standard for "good enough" is "beat the national average"; if you think schools in this country are by-in-large doing a good enough job.

Comment: I think it didn't offer enough marginal value (Score 1) 68

by hey! (#49331653) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Happened To Semantic Publishing?

for the cost of doing it right; and to whatever degree you backed off doing it right you'd end up missing the point.

The big win of text based matching is that nobody has to prepare to be indexed in a search engine, search engine optimization notwithstanding. The big loss is that you get false matches due to polysemy (words that have more than one meaning) and false misses due to synonymous words whose equivalence the search engine doesn't know about.

If you go to something like RDF in which concepts have unique identifiers (URIs), the marginal win is that you get precise and accurate matches where a concept used in two places. I can write an app which searches the Internet for articles on John Williams the classical guitarist and not accidentally lead him to articles on John Williams the movie composer. The big downside is that content providers have to think carefully about how to index your content.

So the problem with the semantic web is that what is realistically achievable with semantic technologies is only a marginal (though real) improvement over what we have now, but that improvement requires content providers to make some effort. I have no expectation that everybody will do this, so the semantic web isn't likely to revolutionize everyone's web experience anytime soon. But I think it can serve many useful niche purposes.

Comment: Re:Move more, eat less (Score 1) 485

by hey! (#49328341) Attached to: Hacking Weight Loss: What I Learned Losing 30 Pounds

Sage advice. What you need to hack is not your nutritional energy budget, but your automatic habitual behavior. If you can control that you can control your body's consumption and use of energy. If you can't hack your behavior you can't hack anything which depends on that behavior -- not for long anyway.

Comment: Re:It has an acronym , so it will fail. (Score 2) 149

by hey! (#49323671) Attached to: Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education

I'd be very interested to know which city and state you taught in, and whether you were regular faculty. But I think your approach to reasoning about this is misguided. Rather than taking your experiences in dysfunctional school and generalizing from that, you should be looking at how the top performing schools operate.

Special needs isn't just squirming kids. Despite having lackluster marks, our daughter was screened by the school system as gifted, which in my state is considered "special needs". The school brought in a cognitive psychologist to run an elaborate battery of tests, including a comprehensive neurological assessment. What they found was very specific, narrow deficit: slow processing speed. She was capable of solving complex math problems and generating sophisticated answers to open response questions, but even simple questions took her a long time to answer. So the action plan was to put her on a more challenging course load, but to give her longer time if necessary to complete tests. On top of that we paid for training with an educational psychologist who specializes in learning disabilities. Eighteen months later she no longer required any special accommodations and was near the top of her class.

In a nutshell, all that new-fangled bullshit worked. 30 years ago she'd have been tracked into an easy CP courseload based on her marks, but the school actually put the effort into finding out that what she really needed was to be tracked into honors and AP courses. And the school system manages to do this while spending about the national average per student -- $11,505.

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