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Comment: Re:The problem's never been reputation (Score 1) 91

by steelfood (#49383855) Attached to: NSA Worried About Recruitment, Post-Snowden

There's a bit of that. If they paid well, I'm sure there'd be more candidates.

But working for the government has always been about patriotism and patriotic duty. Nerd types aren't really going to go establish a beachhead, but those among them who wish to protect their country will elect to do so in ways that they can. This is especially true for bright, starry-eyed college grads.

Now, the NSA has lost even that candidate pool.

Comment: Re:So worried about Microsoft (Score 1) 170

Sorry. Developers and engineers have a long memory, by trade. Microsoft doesn't get a free pass just because of a change in the top guy. They don't get their slate wiped clean just because they replaced one person at the very top. Yes, that's asking for a lot.

Microsoft is going to have to do a lot more goodwill gathering to even break even with the negatives from the shit they've pulled in the past. Hell, they just did it again, with Windows RT, though it's not as big of a deal because everybody learned their lessons from PlaysForSure and then again from Windows Phone 7.

Embrace Extend Extinguish may no longer be Microsoft modus operandii, but until they prove they're serious about playing nice with everyone else, everyone will still be guarded. And no, "open sourcing" .NET doesn't count as playing nice if there are strings attached, so this particular act nets them 0 goodwill points as it were.

It's like if Sun had opened up Java in anything other than a GPL- or MIT-derived license, or any other company that "open sources" something but actually has strings attached to the license (like TiVo). They wouldn't be scoring any points either. The difference is that TiVo started from a position of slightly positive (or neutral at worst). Microsoft is starting at the very extreme negative end.

Comment: Re:Also possibly fictious (Score 1) 234

by steelfood (#49358825) Attached to: Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected

Yes, dark matter and dark energy are convenient constructs to make our existing models fit.

When they find data that doesn't fit the constructs, then scientists have two choices:
1) Change the constructs
2) Change the model.

They're usually going to choose #1 because Occum's Razor prefers #1. They won't go with #2 until there's a sufficient body of evidence that the constructs are completely wrong. Until then, it's just going to be more tweaking and retweaking of the constructs.

Now, when I say "they", I don't mean scientists as a body. Usually, it's just one guy pushing a wild theory that gains traction over time with more evidence and more calculations.

But this is science. It's normally iterative, not revolutionary. Except when the data calls for it.

Comment: Re:I wouldn't mind the NSA so much if... (Score 1) 167

by steelfood (#49349831) Attached to: NJ School District Hit With Ransomware-For-Bitcoins Scheme

Even if they're not proactively attacking these malicious internet actors, the least the NSA could do is offer to restore the data from the latest copy in their vaults. Part of computer security is backups, and if they're going to be snooping on your data anyway, they might as well bill it as an automatic backup service.

But they can't even do that much.

Comment: Re:another kind of selection bias (Score 1) 69

by steelfood (#49333099) Attached to: Jupiter Destroyed 'Super-Earths' In Our Early Solar System

There's life and then there's intelligent life.

I'm sure life is out there somewhere. Might even be in other parts of our solar system, completely undetected.

Intelligent life, on the other hand, may not be so easy to come by. For starters, intelligent life requires a certain level of sophistication in the life form. I.e., you can't have intelligent life without a certain level of complexity. Even something as "dumb" as a roundworm is incredibly complex.

Complexity requires stability. Imagine being bombarded by quasars and blasted by supernova. Life is very possible in that environment, but it would be equally difficult for any life form to organize into something more complex than bits of matter capable of replication.

However, on the flip side, life itself requires energy, and energy density. That is, the larger the life form, the greater the energy is necessary to sustain it. Not to mention, energy density is needed for the life form to do complex things. In the most extreme of such cases (humans post-industrial revolution), several billion years of stored energy is necessary to get one sentient creature into a position where it can send information into space. But even in the simple cases, a certain energy density is needed just to maintain the complexity that was built up. Note the number of extinctions before post-industrial revolution humans walked the Earth. Without the necessary energy density, complex life would never recover from each extinction event, instead become less complex over time.

So intelligent life requires a balance of energy (chaos) and stability (order). Which means, based on entropy, that the density of life in the universe over time probably resembles a bell curve. We humans are chronologically located at a spot where the curve has risen above the complexity threshold.

I personally believe (well, calculated based on some estimations) the universe itself is entering the rising portion of the bell curve (entering in the geological timescale sense), where life on Earth is more or less among the first waves of complex life. Which is why we're finding little to nothing out there. As two billion years worth of stored energy is needed to just get us to the moon, and not very many other planets would have had two billion years worth of time to do both store energy and develop complex life, life as complex as us is probably very, very rare at the moment. But, as we're just entering the golden age, in some billions of years, we'll probably see more and more intelligent creatures out there. That will last until the bell curve starts curving downwards, likely in several hundreds of billions of years where energy density has gotten too low for complex life to grow intelligent, which will last for multiple billion years until the universe simply doesn't have enough energy to sustain life itself. But that's probably on a multi-trillion-year timescale.

And on a similar, more depressing vein, whatever life comes after humans on Earth, it will likely be hundreds of millions of years, if not billions of years before there's enough energy for that organism to go through a similar industrial revolution and arrive in space. So for Earth (which probably will no longer be hospitable by that time), we're probably as advanced an organism as the planet will ever see.

Comment: Re:simple to thwart., more difficult with detectio (Score 1) 296

by steelfood (#49293589) Attached to: To Avoid NSA Interception, Cisco Will Ship To Decoy Addresses

Considering the manufacturing is already in SE Asia and Eastern Europe, they could ship directly from those locations to their global markets. There's no reason to bring the product back to the U.S. and then send it out to Europe and Asia again.

Granted, the NSA would still be able to tamper with anything coming out of their North American warehouses, but this at least will satisfy the concerns of their foreign customer. And they may still be able to plant moles in those foreign locations, but that's no different than any location in NA so it's not exactly increasing attack surface.

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