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Comment: Isn't constant GUI changing bad design? (Score 3, Interesting) 432

by swb (#49135767) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

It seems to me that the constant "overhaul" of a GUI to change icons, menu structures, etc is bad design. Not because the final product is necessarily bad, but because whatever improvements the new design brings are dwarfed by the cost of throwing away of user knowledge about the old interface and the cost of re-learning a new interface and its symbols and structure.

There's probably even unconsidered effects. A lot of clients I've worked with have resisted upgrades (they own and have paid for) to Office because of the radical changes in look and feel. By running older versions with weaker security, they're now exposed to greater risk of compromise by malware. There may even be meaningful losses in productivity from missing new features or improved implementations of existing functionality. This can even be made even worse by resisting operating system updates.

I've always been puzzled that some of the best minds in user interface design get together and say "obviously, the best solution is to throw out everything the users have learned and give them something totally different."

Comment: Re:Where the economic system breaks down (Score 1) 225

by swb (#49135687) Attached to: 5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken

Automation can't replace all jobs, but from what I've read there are a couple of concerns.

A lot of the jobs that seem to be most easily automatable are "good" white collar jobs that previously had required some skill. There's a lot less manufacturing left (partly due to automation, but partly due to offshoring of manufacturing), so there's a lot less fallback jobs outside of very low wage service jobs.

Even if the job loss ends up being only 20%, 20% unemployment is a big deal. It can have higher-order economic impacts on significant markets, like real estate, it can have potentially destabilizing political effects which can feed back into the economic system through bad policy,

There is also an amplification of inequality from automation, as technology allows greater amounts of capital to be controlled by fewer people, usually with a feedback loop that allows them access to superior technology, enabling advantages in capital control.

Comment: Market-distorting incentives (Score 0) 336

by swb (#49131193) Attached to: The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt

Get rid of the incentives. All they do is complicate the situation and distort the market economics.

Solar should stand or fall on its own merits. Incentives and net metering just creates a a hocus-pocus accounting situation where the people who have the panels installed don't pay the true cost of owning them, they shift it to the taxpayer in the form of tax credits and rebates and to other utility customers in the form of overpriced electricity.

I'm sure there are many who will argue that solar is a social good and should be subsidized by the government and utilities, but you can't take altruism to the bank. I'd like to know how many residential solar installs would exist if people weren't shown spreadsheets showing their solar install paid for itself with net metering and rebates. I'll bet a significant number of people wouldn't have bothered if it only meant offsetting the power they actually used during the day AND they didn't get rebates.

I actually think eliminating the net metering requirement would actually be a better incentive for power storage technologies, as the excess generation capacity would be something valuable that panel owners would want to keep. Realistically, the panels themselves aren't where we need incentives for new technologies, its the storage.

Comment: Re:They don't want workers, they want robots (Score 1) 87

by swb (#49122991) Attached to: Can Tracking Employees Improve Business?

I agree with you in principal, but they don't want to just get the job done. They want to get the job done faster so they can get more jobs done overall in as little time as possible. Reducing labor costs is the name of the game.

The problem with positional tracking is it doesn't tell you why X was in some location. Because he needed to be there to do some job or because he was trying to chat up some woman?

Comment: Re:The Devil is in the Implementation. (Score 1) 399

by swb (#49121215) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data

In true Slashdot fashion, I didn't RTFA but is he suggesting:

1) Hard encryption should be illegal -- ie, you can't actually sell software that does encryption that either the NSA can't break or that doesn't provide key escrow?

2) Third party vendors (eg, Apple) can't sell devices which self-encrypt in a way that Apple doesn't have access to? Ie, if you buy an iPhone it will self-encrypt but with a key that Apple has access to?

My guess is he's aiming at the latter, he wants most products that do encryption that are sold commercially to be done in a way that preserves the ability for vendors to decrypt on demand.

Comment: Re:Who's watching pro porn? (Score 1) 283

by swb (#49121145) Attached to: Google Knocks Explicit Adult Content On Blogger From Public View

I guess part of what I was commenting on is that the trend seems to be away from all the trappings of "pro" porn -- perfect bodies, fake tits, and the fairly robotic sex routine of 3-4 positions ending with a facial.

It seems to me that there is a much greater interest (or at least availability) of porn with women that don't look like porn stars (varied bodies with imperfections), sex that seems a little less artificial and more real than the traditional all-pro porn. Sure, some of it is fake amateur but many of the women seem semi-pro at best if not actual non-porn-actresses doing it for a quick buck, not as a career, which seems to add to the verisimilitude of the amateur nature of it.

And actual amateur home-made porn is often bad from a technical perspective, you wouldn't know it from online reviews and view counts. I think the fact that it is real has an appeal that traditional pro porn can't match.

Comment: Who's watching pro porn? (Score 2) 283

by swb (#49120169) Attached to: Google Knocks Explicit Adult Content On Blogger From Public View

Who's watching pro porn anymore?

The trend in adult content seems to be amateur, whether that means actual amateurs in purloined home-made photos and videos or "prosumer" amateurs where some money changed hands but nobody other than the male/cameraman/site owner (the same guy) is actually trying to make a living at it -- certainly the female talent doesn't seem to be a prototypical porn star.

And even when the content is for sale, the same companies selling it often have all you need to see for free on their own YouPorn channels, whether its pro all the way or the sort of semi-pro stuff.

One of my questions would be why are they even bother producing pro porn. There seems to be so many people willing to get naked and have their picture taken out there that actually paying people to do it seems to be a waste of time.

Comment: Re:Is this the right way? (Score 3, Interesting) 114

by swb (#49114277) Attached to: Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware

Why not both? AFAIK there is no double-jeopardy protection between civil and criminal cases.

Sure, the lawyers could get rich on a class action settlement but you never know, the class could get something useful out of this. I don't know what's involved in removing this spyware, but you could potentially argue for something like 4 hours of skilled time per system just to clean it as a rough median (maybe much less for brand new systems, maybe much more for systems that would need to be wiped, re-setup and have apps and data put back on). And that doesn't include any claims for damages resulting from the infection itself, just remediation. Even if Lenovo bargained that down to half, in theory they could be on the hook for $200 per machine.

Comment: Re:About right (Score 4, Interesting) 240

by swb (#49110339) Attached to: In Florida, Secrecy Around Stingray Leads To Plea Bargain For a Robber

6 months probation for committing an armed robbery? That's nuts.

From the victim's perspective, he thought his life was in danger because it likely looked like a real gun. From the perpetrator's perspective it was a bluff, but the victim didn't know that. In most states the victim could have used deadly force to defend himself and easily gotten away with it. Even the best police department wouldn't have even blinked if an officer shot him with it. And it's not like it's impossible to seriously hurt someone with a BB gun.

Further, the perpetrator showed the willingness to use violence and the implied threat of death to accomplish a robbery. It's reasonable to assume this person is dangerous and a threat to society -- maybe next time he has a real gun, and the time after that he's willing to pull the trigger.

The fact that he stole pot doesn't matter. If this same guy had robbed your grandma's purse with a BB gun would it still seem like a 6 months of probation crime?

Comment: Re:Block off programmatic access to cert trust. (Score 1) 113

We buy certs for corporate resources.

Purchased certs are too expensive to buy for every possible thing you might want to encrypt without a certificate error. There's all manner of internally facing services that don't need public certificate verification and a perfectly useful method of distributing trust for those certificates.

I would grant you, though, that there should be some kind of security setting that makes adding a root CA much more difficult for non-domain members. But don't make it impossible, that could set an ugly precedent for taking away the ability to require only third party trust.

Comment: Re:Why hasn't it happened already? (Score 1) 239

by swb (#49108445) Attached to: Al-Shabaab Video Threat Means Heightened Security at Mall of America

Well, western voters haven't been sufficiently motivated to get behind the kind of violence the grandparent alluded to. If a significant population center was hit by a suitcase nuke, I have complete faith that the American populace would demand nothing short of total victory. It wouldn't be labeled genocide and even white middle aged professors who said otherwise would probably be risking a lynching.

The U.S. would just apply maximal, scorched earth total warfare which would probably be on Dresden scales of brutality. We've done it before and half of it targeted white people. Add in a difference in race and how sympathetic do you think the American public will be about a bunch of Arabs getting their village burned and shot in the street? And how hard do you think it will be to find legions of Appalachian crackers willing to do it?

The good news is that you wouldn't actually have to commit active genocide. Once you've destroyed a couple of cities and their populstions and bombarded the rest you really can break their will to fight and get the population to submit. This has been demonstrated since before the Classical period. This is EXACTLY how you defeat an enemy and conquer him.

Comment: Re:Why hasn't it happened already? (Score 1) 239

by swb (#49107465) Attached to: Al-Shabaab Video Threat Means Heightened Security at Mall of America

It sounds reasonable, but I don't find it compelling. One of the biggest trends anymore is the "home grown" terrorist, the one who who commits act of violence in his home country.

I'm still puzzled why so many apparently soft targets haven't been hit, at least once.

It could just be that the "threat" is greatly overstated.

Comment: Why hasn't it happened already? (Score 2) 239

by swb (#49105747) Attached to: Al-Shabaab Video Threat Means Heightened Security at Mall of America

I wonder why it hasn't happened already. Despite the panopticon and run of the mill police misbehavior, America still seems like a place where you can move around pretty freely without many obstacles.

Obtaining weapons isn't hard and I doubt there is a terror group out there worth their jihad who wouldn't also know how to convert a semi-automatic-only assault rifle into full auto capable fire, either via either illegal trigger group replacement or modification.

Crowd events are frequent and places like malls are often crowded, providing ample targets for assaults on civilians. Many significant industrial sites like oil refineries or power plants aren't well guarded (nuclear plants may be an exception) and even if a handful of key infrastructures like bridges and tunnels are well guarded, many aren't.

It just doesn't seem like there would be many barriers, require that much skill or planning to do what they have threatened. In terms of terror, the payoff seems immense.

So why hasn't it happened? Is the panopticon that good? Are they just burying all the stories of thwarted attempts?

There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be a coincidence. -- Jeremy S. Anderson