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Comment Another Twitter case study (Score 3, Insightful) 519

You know, sooner or later people might get it through their heads that using Twitter is a strategy for fools.

You have two choices with Twitter: either you tweet some meaningless groupthink post, guaranteed not to offend anyone, OR you post something that offends someone, somewhere. And if you offend enough people, suddenly your life and career are in tatters when the Internet mob turns on you.

You'd think that enough peoples' lives have been ruined by thoughtless tweets that the lesson would have been learned. But it seems there's always another fool just waiting to make an example of him/herself.

Comment Which continuity? (Score 4, Interesting) 438

From the article:

The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

So will this show be set in the original TOS / TNG / DS9 continuity, or in the Abrams continuity?

Lots of plusses and minuses either way.

Comment It's all a matter of perspective (Score 4, Insightful) 212

Asking the devices which connect to this vast complex network of networks to detect, and then transparently fix problems in the infrastructure without the permission of the administrators is, well, it's absolutely the pinnacle of buzzword driven product management. Real pointy-haired boss territory.

Except that what Apple is doing with WiFi Assist is hardly so cryptic. Transparently switching from one network to another (both of which the user has permission to access) in order to maintain a data connection is hardly "the pinnacle of buzzword driven product management". I would say that it is the sort of behavior that most people would expect in the modern mobile era.

Apple's mistake was not in creating the feature. Their mistake was in implementing the feature as being "on" by default without considering the ridiculously low data caps of many cellular contracts, and the ridiculously high overage fees of some of them. In the next iOS update WiFi Assist will be turned "off" by default, and this entire "controversy" will be filed on the shelf right next to Bendgate.

If Apple really wants to shake things up, they need to build their own cellular network with 100 GB or 200 GB data caps. Sprint looks like a good candidate to buy in the U.S. given its current financial situation. Do that, and people won't be bitching about WiFi Assist; they'll be praising it as the new normal.

Comment Re:Paging Governor Walker (Score 1) 312

Here's a nice windfall for the Job Creators of Wisconsin. This may be as much as another $800 million you can cut from University funding.

It will be a double whammy. Not only will the state legislature have an excellent excuse to make an enormous cut in the UWM budget, but the university itself will use a very large chunk of that money to hire a small army of new administrators while growing the university bureaucracy at a furious pace, resulting in even higher overhead costs for future UWM research contracts.

In the long run, UWM will wind up with a few shiny new buildings and a whole lot of highly-paid assistant vice provosts looking for more ways to justify their salaries by micromanaging the faculty and the student body.

Comment Been going on for some time (Score 2) 41

This has been going on for years. My colleagues and I get email inquiries from Iranian students quite frequently, seeking research positions. Their email messages will include embedded mail bugs to track who opens the email. The same students will then try to friend us through Linkedin.

It's a unique pattern of behavior, quite different than what we see with students from other countries. We have speculated that it is being coordinated by some agency within Iran, although we have no real proof of it.

Comment One of the last real news outlets remaining (Score 3, Insightful) 92

I'm an NY Times digital subscriber, for two reasons. First, subscription costs are dirt cheap for people in academia. Second, the NY Times is one of the few remaining news services in the USA that practices investigative journalism any more. I may not always agree with the NY Times' "slant" on a particular story, but at least there is some real content to what they publish.

Our local newspaper is your typical Gannett mess, with the only real "news" being the USA Today insert. The local news is little more than thinly-disguised opinion pieces, local crime reports with minimal information, and articles that rightfully belong on a Gawker site or in People magazine. My wife and I dropped our remaining weekend subscription to the local paper months ago, and we haven't missed it since.

Comment Re:Stupid FUD (Score 1) 303

If a malicious user gain physical access to your network, a high-voltage attack is the least of your worries. Network sniffers and other tools can quickly own your entire network doing far more monetary damage then some fried networking equipment.

Exactly. If attackers want to physically destroy your network, there are a million different ways to do it. They could just as easily set the building on fire, or shoot out a power transformer. But their goal is to exploit it.

Consider the evolution of malware. Many years ago, people got their kicks from distributing viruses that would arbitrarily corrupt or erase your files. But how many years has it been since anyone bothered with that? Far better to pwn your computer, preferably without your knowledge. And if you're going to threaten to destroy files, extract some Bitcoin ransom instead.

Comment Re:What's the point of "shaming"? (Score 3, Insightful) 70

What would be the point of this? "We're going to shame you to show that we're trying to extort you and you're not giving in." Is this suppose to cause peer pressure to force the financial institutions to settle? Or to garner sympathy for the attackers?

It's not logical because you're not dealing with mature people. Keep in mind that these guys are almost certainly a group of young, socially maladjusted individuals. To a professional criminal, 50 BTC is chump change, but to a group of kids who want BTC to buy drugs without Mom and Dad finding out, it's a lot of cash.

To a kid who grew up on social media, social shaming of your victim might seem an extremely potent weapon, just like school bullying. The rest of us will just scratch our heads and shrug our shoulders.

Comment The best strategy is to ignore them (Score 4, Insightful) 70

Publishing this story is doing no favors to anyone. As many others have pointed out in the past, if your company receives one of these emails, the best strategy is to ignore it.

These extortionists will send emails to hundreds or thousands of different companies, but they can't DDOS all of them at once. Furthermore, they have no idea if their emails even make it past the spam filters of their targets. So how do they decide who to DDOS? By seeing who responds to the blackmail message. Once you respond, and they know you are listening to them, you are now in their sights - not just this time, but the next time they decide to shake you down.

Ignore them. If they DDOS you, deal with it, but never acknowledge their demands. They can never be certain that you are receiving their emails, and if you never respond to them, eventually they'll move on to someone else.

Comment The Winklevoss Twins have missed the boat (Score -1) 93

I can't imagine the twins seriously think that Bitcoin is going to go mainstream at this point in time. If anything, Bitcoin is fading from public view. No one has yet to come up with a compelling reason for consumers in developed economies to use BTC (beyond criminal activities, which is what most members of the public associate it with). Apple and Google are having trouble even getting people to adopt Apple Pay and Google Wallet ... what use could those same people have for BTC?

If Gemini ever does go on line, it will serve pretty much the same purpose as gold and silver exchanges; a way to separate the foolish from their money.

Comment "Inspiring kids"? (Score 1) 162

The result is that teachers can spend their time doing what they're best at: inspiring kids.

It's yet another flipped classroom concept where the students are expected to learn the material on their own, with the teacher acting as de facto manager and cheerleader of the instructional process. It can work if the school devotes a lot of money to creating and maintaining the online content, and if the parents are actively involved in their childrens' education. Otherwise, it devolves into yet another failed attempt at online education.

It isn't surprising that a former Microsoft manager would think that turning teachers into middle-level managers would be a good idea. But from many years of my own teaching experience, I would argue that teachers "inspire" by actually being passionate and knowledgeable about a subject, not by micromanaging each student's progress with an online spreadsheet.

Comment Re:..and so? (Score 5, Insightful) 184

I'm just not sure why we should care. There are no known non-thermal effects of microwaves, and the thermal energy of a cell phone just isn't enough to pay attention to-- three watts, when it's transmitting at full power.

What makes it particularly ironic is that the same people who fear that their cell phones are harming them are probably deliberately exposing themselves to a source of ionizing radiation every time they walk outside in the daytime, i.e. the sun - a giant nuclear reactor that kills thousands of people each year from skin cancer.

Comment Re:Your post doesn't conform to their prejudice (Score 4, Insightful) 674

So you think it is far more appropriate for them to have to develop a nonstandard plug rather than trust in the honesty and decency of the citizens of the UK? I mean, don't get me wrong, I think this is a silly reason to prosecute anyone, but the cost of a nonstandard plug is far in excess of a few pence. They have to have them manufactured, shipped and installed in all of their locations and then there is the conundrum of plugging the equipment in, too. Do they order vacuums with special plugs? Replace the plugs on COTS vacuums? Have adapters manufactured? And then what is to stop some conniving Brit from stealing an adapter or making their own adapter? It's just silly.

The best engineering is the type of engineering that prevents people from doing the wrong thing with minimum expense. Using non-standard plugs and outlets is bad engineering; it requires costly ongoing retro-fitting as new cleaning equipment is purchased, and even then passengers might be tempted to tamper with a "live" electrical outlet in an attempt to make it work with their chargers.

But I would assume that the cleaners are not going to be cleaning the train while it is in service, correct? So, you have a master electrical switch in the train for "operational" and "maintenance" modes. When the train is being cleaned, it is placed in maintenance mode, and the power outlets are live. When the train is in operational mode, the outlets are disconnected. Very quickly the passengers learn that the outlets don't work. Problem solved.

"Survey says..." -- Richard Dawson, weenie, on "Family Feud"