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Comment: Re:Not seeing the issue here (Score 1) 205

by grcumb (#48649949) Attached to: Judge: It's OK For Cops To Create Fake Instagram Accounts

Bingo. You're absolutely correct.

"I've got three witnesses that put you there, DNA evidence, and some video with someone wearing jeans and a white hoodie, just like you wear, though the face isn't visable. You'll get the death penalty. If you give me a confession, we can get it down to manslaughter. First offense. You'll probably just get probation. Here's some paper."

You might like to look up the difference between coercion and deception. One of them is almost always a crime; the other, not so much.

Comment: Re:been there, done that (Score 2) 280

by grcumb (#48614815) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

You're not a liberal arts major, by any chance, are you? 'Cuz one thing STEM tries to do is kill the belief that an anecdote counters data.

Why yes, I am a liberal arts major, who studied classical logic, among other things. I was responding to the assertion that 'most' liberal arts majors ended up as lowly restaurant workers. I countered that by asserting a) that restaurant workers are not so lowly as characterised; b) that drawing general conclusions about people's prospects based on their education does not bear out, particularly where some of the more respected and influential jobs are concerned; and c) that in a number of cases, a liberal arts education is a precursor to the kind of work that most people can only dream about.

You see, I was actually not making a positive argument so much as rebutting (and refuting) someone else's crass, inaccurate and unsubstantiated assertion that a liberal arts degree is valueless. Shocking, isn't it, to see a STEM major failing so badly at applying basic logic?

But yeah, the plural of anecdote is not always data.

P.S. For the humour-impaired: I'm a keyboard monkey, too. A liberal arts educated keyboard monkey.

Comment: Re:been there, done that (Score 3, Funny) 280

by grcumb (#48612745) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

I second this comment. besides teaching college which will probably involve a graduate degree, most of thejobs with a liberal arts degree involve asking "Do you want fries with that?"

Two things:

First - I supported myself for a decade working in bars and restaurants. There are more interesting people living interesting lives employed in that sector than just about any other.

Second - Ridley Scott went to art college. Peter Jackson was self-taught. James Cameron was a truck driver. The people who have done more to shape your vision than you're likely able to realise followed no discernible pattern of behaviour. I'd advise you to save your derision until someone's earned it.

Case in point: One 'liberal arts' friend of mine plays the king of the White Walkers on GoT. Another works on The Daily Show. How's your job look now, keyboard monkey?

Comment: Re:been there, done that (Score 1) 280

by grcumb (#48612645) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

Have an English degree, found it useless. went back got my BSEE, been employed as such ever since. short version, go back and get your degree.

Did a double major in Theatre and English Literature. After 20 years of gainful employment in systems software development and consulting, I'm now CTO at an international think tank. I also know the value of capitalisation and punctuation.

Short version: It's horses for courses; reflect carefully, then do what you feel is best. If you're smart, the real determining factor is how hard you're willing to work, and how well you continue to learn.

Comment: Re:please keep closed! (Score 0) 50

by grcumb (#48597329) Attached to: Microsoft To Open Source Cloud Framework Behind Halo 4 Services

I disagree. Encapsulation and abstraction of complexity is natural and humans are great at breaking complexity apart and making the common-man able to accomplish what was one impossible.

No dispute there. The problem, though, is not that we make easy things simple and hard things possible (pace, Larry Wall). It's that we have of late developed a tendency to simplify too far. Microsoft is famous for making systems administration and certain types of programming 'click-and-drool' easy. And hyperbole aside, the cost to society of the half-competent people who found gainful employment due to this charade can be measured in the many billions.

You're absolutely right in that commercial flying is safer than ever, notwithstanding the tendency in airlines to pressure senior pilots out in favour of cheaper, younger staff. And those working in HFT would likely be wreaking havoc by other means if they didn't have software and fibre-optics to enable them. I guess my tongue hadn't entirely left my cheek when I wrote that last para.

BUT... Microsoft has contributed significantly to a general downward trend in the quality of software and systems integrity. And they've done so by marketing the idea that with the right tools, tool users can be commoditised. And that really, really sucks.

Comment: Re:please keep closed! (Score 1) 50

by grcumb (#48597007) Attached to: Microsoft To Open Source Cloud Framework Behind Halo 4 Services

Whatever it is that made Halo 4 (cloud-based or otherwise) should remain closed. Or better yet, incinerate it.

Agreed. 'Software that makes it easy for non-experts to do expert tasks' will one day be recognised for its role in causing the downfall of civilisation as we know it. By then, of course, it will be too late.

Some among you may think that's overstating things. Some among you are also .NET developers, so what do you know?

Seriously, though: From the Airbus crash to high frequency trading to the Sony hack, examples abound of how enabling and empowering mediocrity is the first ingredient of every modern tragedy.

Comment: Re:Wha?!?!!! (Score 1) 172

by grcumb (#48561381) Attached to: Just-Announced X.Org Security Flaws Affect Code Dating Back To 1987

The point the OP was trying to make was that Linus's Law [wikipedia.org], specifically Eric S. Raymond's "given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow" argument, is ridiculously idealistic as it operates under the pretence that everyone has as much insight and knowledge into the software as the author(s) have, focusing solely on the quantity of eyes.

I disagree that it is a ridiculously idealistic statement. It is more of a misunderstood rhetorical tautology than anything else.

A discovered bug obviously had enough eyeballs on it, and an as yet undiscovered bug hasn't had enough eyeballs on it.

Actually, I wish he had limited the statement to the persistence of known bugs in FOSS code bases. ESR said the bugs are easier to find as the number of beta testers and developers increases. This doesn't appear to be true. One thing that is true is that code quality is viewed differently in FOSS than in commercial, proprietary software. All too often, software businesses treat QA, debugging and code maintenance as overhead, so there's a perverse incentive to leave known bugs - even the most egregious ones - lying around indefinitely - or at least until someone publicly raises a stink. FOSS culture values code quality more highly and is less tolerant toward bugs, so generally speaking we see somewhat better code quality, and somewhat shorter known bug life than in similar proprietary projects.

Emphasis on 'generally speaking' in the above. Exceptions abound, but I think the trend is clear.

Comment: Re:Article doesn't address they "why" (Score 3, Interesting) 205

by grcumb (#48552121) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

If we want to address this issue, we need a complete overhaul of our IP laws.

Er, no.

The 'why' has little to do with IP law and a lot to do with group dynamics, especially herd behaviour. Take this statement, for example:

One of my personal pet causes is developing a better alternative to HTML/CSS. This is a case where the metaphorical snowdrift is R&D on new platforms (which could at least initially compile to HTML/CSS).

The problem with the 'snowdrift' here, to abuse the metaphor, has nothing to do with IP law, and nothing to do with lack of innovation. It has everything to do with the size of the drift. You don't have any choice but to wait for someone else to come along to help shovel. But the author is trying to say, If everyone doesn't shovel, nobody gets out. And that's not always true.

A quick reminder: When HTML first came out, the very first thing virtually every proprietary software vendor of note did was publish their own website design tool. And each of those tools used proprietary extensions and/or unique behaviour in an attempt to corner the market on web development, and therefore on the web itself.

But the 'snowdrift' in this case was all the other companies. Because no single one of them was capable of establishing and holding overwhelming dominance, the 'drift' was doomed to remain more manageable by groups than by any single entity. (Microsoft came closest to achieving dominance, but ultimately their failure was such that they have in fact been weakened by the effort.)

Say what you like about the W3C, and draw what conclusions you will from the recent schism-and-reunification with WHATWG. The plain fact is that stodgy, not-too-volatile standards actually work in everybody's favour. To be clear: they provide the greatest benefit to the group, not to the enfant terrible programmer who thinks he knows better than multiple generations of his predecessors.

Yes, FOSS projects face institutional weaknesses, including a lack of funding. Especially on funding for R&D. But funded projects face significant weaknesses as well. Just look at the Node.JS / io.js fork, all because Joyent went overboard in its egalitarian zeal. Consider also that recent widely publicised bugs, despite the alarm they've caused, haven't really done much to affect the relative level of quality in funded vs proprietary vs unfunded code bases. They all have gaping holes, but the extent of their suckage seems to be dependent on factors other than funding. If not, Microsoft would be the ne plus ultra of software.

Weighed in the balance, therefore, FOSS's existential problems are real, and significant, but they're not as significant as those faced by all the other methods we've tried. So to those who have a better idea about how to balance community benefits and obligations, I can only reply as the Empress famously did when revolutionaries carried her bodily from the palace: 'I wish them well.'

Comment: Re:I don't know if 'profiteer' is the right term (Score 1) 33

by grcumb (#48551817) Attached to: The Rise of the Global Surveillance Profiteers

Just because *some* or even *most* profit is reasonable, doesn't mean all profit is reasonable.

The term "profiteer" is used for people who put profit above a higher ethical claim; for example a citizen selling arms to an enemy during wartime.

I'm not sure that's really the canonical use of the term. I would think that selling said arms to one's own government at extortionate prices would be closer to the standard definition.

But niggling aside, the real problem with this article is that it equates the control of technology with control of behaviour, and assumes that it's even possible to usefully control the proliferation of technology.

Instead of advocating a software proscription list, why not seek to promote international legal standards concerning the right to privacy, and a respect for the rule of law among all nations?

Actually, don't answer that. I know why. Because building democracy is hard and even the purportedly enlightened, 'free' nations are busy backing away from individual human rights.

Comment: Re:Effort dilution (Score 1) 254

by grcumb (#48534521) Attached to: Node.js Forked By Top Contributors

I disagree over the degree of which this would be a problem - think of it more like the free market. Under ideal conditions, the best ideas with the broadest appeal tend to win, grow and evolve, while the worst ideas with little appeal tend to fade away relatively quickly.

That's fantasy. The best ideas often wither while mediocre - even bad ones - flourish. It also makes the foolish assumption that "best" conflates with "broadest appeal".

Well, you need to define 'best' under these circumstances. The Linux kernel became 'best' when it was found that it supported and sustained the involvement of the widest developer/manufacturer constituency at a reasonable level of quality. That's hardly a glowing endorsement of the quality of the code or the operation of the kernel in real-world scenarios.

Remember that the abiding challenge for technologists is not so much 'best' as 'good enough'.

So yes, GP is wrong to see the free market as one in which the best ideas win. They don't. But the most workable available solutions do tend to get the most support. In Commodore's case, their sin was failing to market it in a way that made it readily accessible (i.e. price, distribution and support) and usable (developer support and software market). So you can praise the quality of the device, but from the buyer's perspective, it wasn't the 'best' solution after all, was it?

Comment: Re:Commie Critter On The Lam? (Score 1) 130

by grcumb (#48512393) Attached to: Celebrated Russian Hacker Now In Exile

eggcorn |egg korn| noun In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease".

noun: humour
1. the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech. "his tales are full of humor"

Comment: Re:Taxpayer's Dilemma (Score 4, Insightful) 213

by grcumb (#48494133) Attached to: Game Theory Analysis Shows How Evolution Favors Cooperation's Collapse

You are assuming a perfect world where taxes are used efficiently, whereas most western government have rather low bang-for-the-buck. At the end of the day, what really happen is more of the realm of "Everyone pays taxes, but infrastructures still sucks".

No, actually. Unless by 'sucks' you mean, works imperfectly, but still better than those parts of the world that did not benefit from my tax dollars.

I say this with the benefit of experience. I've traveled to dozens of countries, rich and poor, and those with solid tax bases have dependably better public infrastructure than those without.

The cause of your crumbling infrastructure in the US is largely people not paying taxes.

Comment: Re:Not a good move (Score 1) 134

by grcumb (#48481037) Attached to: Wikipedia's "Complicated" Relationship With Net Neutrality

I can't speak to Facebook, et. al., but please don't lump Wikipedia Zero into your attack above, it's a very different animal. WP Zero is the brainchild of some very smart, idealistic people whose primary mission in life is to spread as much free information around the globe as possible, and that in turn is just a facet of a deeper ideal that information is empowering, and lack of information is oppressive.

Whose brainchild, specifically? I'm very interested in knowing. Because I think you'll find that the idea did not originate in Wikipedia, but that it was presented to them by others.

I know some of the individuals involved in the WP Zero movement from the get-go. These are the in-the-trenches activists. They physically went to these developing nations to examine the situation because they saw a disturbing trend in their own analytical data: the most oppressed people on the planet, who had the most to gain from free information, were not taking advantage of Wikipedia's free information as much as expected.

I hope you'll forgive my cynicism, but 'physically going' to the developing world teaches very little indeed about the broader truths of living in poverty. I say this having lived the last 11 years in a Least Developed Country, and having worked for half a generation with a parade of well-intended people who, to put it bluntly, haven't got a fucking clue, but who suck up all the oxygen in the room, making it impossible to get real, meaningful work done.

Do I sound bitter? Yes. I believe I've earned that right. Does that diminish my determination to work on real issues? Not one iota.

What they found on the ground was that in many of these developing nations, school-aged children and young adults had access to cell phones (but usually not tablets or home computers), and these cell phones had browsers and data capabilities, but the carriers are charging an arm and a leg for bytes of data over the cellular network, and that's why they're not surfing Wikipedia (or anything else much either).

Yes, and instead of helping to fight this phenomenon through better policy and changed attitudes among the global institutions, what we get instead is people perpetuating the problem by empowering the very telcos who prey on those children.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: asking telcos to make a special exception for one or two services is probably the worst possible response to the situation. It's short-sighted, it generates little real benefit, and worst of all, it creates the impression that people are actually doing something, when they're doing less than the minimum needed to move the development markers.

You can defend these people all you like. I still maintain that:

a) They were misguided and wrong; and
b) The basic idea was inspired and promoted by a number of very cynical individuals to a bunch of very naïve (if well-intentioned) people with little meaningful experience in actual development work.

Our OS who art in CPU, UNIX be thy name. Thy programs run, thy syscalls done, In kernel as it is in user!