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Comment He would not get a fair trial (Score 1) 488 488

What you don't like is the law... Fine, just don't keep saying he won't get a fair trial because according to the LAW he will. Saying he won't get a fair trial is wrong. The courts are there to fairly apply the law and for the most part, that's what they do.

You cannot have a fair trial governed by unfair laws. Jim Crow laws were brutally unjust. Are you seriously going to claim that the rulings under Jim Crow laws were in any way fair or just? Just because something is the law does not mean trials will be fair. It is a trivial exercise to write laws that clearly prevent a fair trial under any reasonable definition of the term "fair". You seem to have a fairly mechanical definition of the word fair. Just because something follows the law does not mean it is fair. Under your logic anything a dictator does is fair because he is applying the law interpreted correctly. That's a ridiculous argument.

Although it seems obvious to me that the laws on treason are fairly clear and even handed

I guess it's fortunate you aren't a lawyer then because it's not at all clear that the actions of Mr. Snowden constitute treason. In fact it's rather easy to argue that they do not under the US Constitution which puts some rather strict limits on the definition of treason. He did not levy war against the US and it's debatable whether he gave aid and comfort to the enemies of the US. Convictions or even indictments for treason in the US are quite rare. The most recent was in 2006 and the last before that was in 1952. Mr. Snowden's actions would likely be considered a felony rather than treason. Daniel Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers wasn't charged with treason nor were numerous captured spys and others who released confidential documents.

I'm not sure how you think the law can be changed so Snowden get's what you think is a fair result, without letting other folks off who really *should* be convicted.

The law doesn't have to be changed at all. The justice department merely has to decline to prosecute or the President can grant a pardon. Happens all the time. The next guy can be prosecuted or not under the same set of rules without changing anything or causing any serious problems.

Comment Everyone should be able to build useful tools (Score 1) 274 274

But if I want to build storage sheds for other people, the rules change. I need to build them to at least a minimum standard of quality, people will expect the trim and paint and the like to not fall off or peel, the doors can't fall off the hinges if you push them wrong, that sort of thing. And if I don't build to those minimum standards I'm going to be held legally liable for the shortcomings.

So when are we going to start holding software developers "legally liable for the shortcomings" of the software they write? With some notable exceptions we definitely are not doing this now. When is Adobe going to be liable for the problems caused by Flash? When is Microsoft going to be liable for Windows?

The same thing applies to software development. Just because you can slap together a to-do list app that works for you, doesn't mean it's ready to market to others.

It also doesn't mean we shouldn't provide ways for people to slap together that simple app. I see too many people here thinking programming always has to be some deep art requiring years of training. When people use a spreadsheet they are doing a form of programming. And if that spreadsheet is useful to others (as they sometimes are) then there is nothing wrong with them giving or even selling it to others. The market will determine whether it has real value or not. It doesn't have to be developed in some high cathedral of programming in every case. There are no lack of times when yes you absolutely want well trained IT pros doing the coding but we shouldn't turn it into a clergy where only the IT pros are allowed to code. Swift clearly isn't the solution but in principle there is no reason we shouldn't have tools to allow anyone to program meaningful and useful tools.

I am an engineer (among other things) and I've done more than a trivial amount of coding but I do not code for a living and likely never will. My talents lie elsewhere. But I do develop a lot of small tools to automate business processes. Spreadsheets, small databases, scripts, macros, web pages, etc. I can think of lots of tasks where a sort of pre-fabricated programming systems where I could just organize a set of pre-defined tasks would be super useful and this is a form of programming. (Think lego mindstorms level complexity but more general purpose) I don't think there is any danger of professional programmers being displaced by such a tool. If anything it would free them up to concentrate on less trivial tasks.

Comment Everyone should be able to program some (Score 1) 274 274

"Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need?

To some degree yes. There absolutely is a need for tools to allow people who aren't professional software engineers to do some form of programming. It doesn't have to be the most sophisticated but the need is there. Haven't you ever wondered why spreadsheets get used for all sorts of tasks they aren't optimized for? It's because it is a way for non-professional programmers to program a computer to do useful tasks. People use spreadsheets as sort of ersatz databases all the time which should be a serious hint that there is a huge need for databases for modest tasks with a much easier to use interface. (yes even easier than Filemaker or Access) Programming doesn't have to be written in C or Swift or Java. Writing a spreadsheet is a form of programming. Creating a macro in a word processor is a form of programming. Sure it's like bowling with the bumpers on the lane gutters but what's wrong with that?

Everybody should have some means to program computers. Swift clearly isn't actually the answer but the notion that everybody should be able to program isn't a dumb idea at all. Expand your definition of what programming is.

People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not.

That is a ridiculous argument. There will always be a need for programmers to solve problems beyond the abilities of the unwashed masses. Nobody is pretending they are a doctor because they stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night except in advertisements. But that is not a credible argument against providing tools that allow those with less expertise to do useful work. Do we only allow Formula 1 drivers on the roads even though most drivers are far less skilled? Give people the tools to do work at the level they are capable of.

Comment What will kill me next? (Score 1) 61 61

But if I were learning to fly a spaceship, the first question out of my mouth would be "what all could kill me?"

Almost everything. The question I hear astronauts apparently ask is "what is going to kill me next?" It seems to be about 90%+ of their training. Trying to figure out all the ways they can die and how to mitigate the chances of it actually happening.

Comment No just laws = No fair trial (Score 5, Insightful) 488 488

Why do people think he's not going to get an open trial? OR a fair one?

It doesn't matter whether he gets an open trial or not. The trial quite simply will not be fair. That is more or less a foregone conclusion. The laws he is charged under basically allow for no context to be considered even if what he did was morally correct and justified. He quite simply cannot get a fair trial.

The outcome may be obvious, but that doesn't make the trial unfair....

A ludicrous argument because it presumes the laws are just. Laws frequently are wildly unfair and you cannot have a fair trial when you are being judged under unfair laws.

Comment Nobody is asking them to condone (Score 1) 488 488

no government is going to officially, publicly condone such a thing being done.

Nobody is asking them to. It would be fine if they would merely drop the issue instead of seeking retribution. That is an option available to them. The cat is out of the bag, the government has egg on its face (deservedly so) and the right thing happened. Time to let it go.

Comment Ministry of Truth... (Score 1) 488 488

What do you expect from a country that has a Department of Homeland Security? It sounds like something from Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. (Fatherland, motherland, homeland ...)

Glad to know I'm not the only one that thinks that. I always thought it sounded uncomfortably like something right out of a oppressive dictatorship or a George Orwell book.

Comment Nixon (Score 1) 488 488

He wasn't kicked out. He resigned before he could be impeached. He was then pardoned shortly afterwards.

Semantics really. He unquestionably would have been impeached and likely removed from office. And if he didn't do anything there would have been no reason to pardon him.

Comment Remember the Pentagon Papers (Score 4, Insightful) 488 488

You could have had a hundred million signatures on that petition, and it wouldn't matter, because pardoning him would set a dangerous precedent, essentially declaring open season on any and all State secrets that anyone with access thought should be revealed. You can't even blame Obama for any of this in this case; any head of any government would say 'no' for the same reasons.

I absolutely can blame Obama and Bush. The government was breaking the law and violating the constitutional rights of its citizens. I'm not surprised at the response but that doesn't mean it is acceptable. Remember this is the same government that has recently used torture, held people without charge or trial, invaded two countries, spied on its own citizens, put digital strip search machines in airports, and on and on.

And it wouldn't set a "dangerous precedent" because this isn't the first time something like this has happened. The only dangerous precedent is if we don't hold the government accountable.

Comment By that logic (Score 1) 488 488

He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.

By that logic George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld should go to Iraq and Afghanistan to be judged for war crimes and stop hiding behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Closed Guantanamo Bay yet? Yeah didn't think so. "Running away"? Sounds like the smart course of action when the chances of him getting a fair trial seem to be nil.

Comment Burden of proof (Score 1) 103 103

The burden of proof is on you to explain how it DOES work.

No it isn't. I'm not trying to prove or disprove them and never claimed otherwise. If you want to claim that they cannot work then you need to provide a testable theorem to back that up. If you want to claim that they can work same thing applies. If you are merely trying to refute claims that someone has developed a quantum computer when they haven't then you merely need to clarify your position.

Here is what I think we know right now. Some scientists apparently have created functional quantum computers with small numbers of qubits in labs. These lack sufficient qubits to be generally useful but do appear to indicate that useful quantum computers are likely to be possible. If there is a quantum computer with enough qubits to be generally useful I am not aware of it and there is no public indication of any breakthrough at this time. There appear to be substantial technical and theoretical problems to be worked out before quantum computers become a reality.

Is it possible that someone, somewhere has actually constructed a useful QC in defiance of all the skeptics

As far as I know they are all in the proof of concept stage in physics laboratories with very modest numbers of qubits. Never claimed otherwise. It does not follow however that quantum computers are an impossibility. Based on my understanding of the work accomplished thus far I suspect they probably can become a reality eventually but I make no claims regarding when that may be.

Comment Yes eBay still matters (Score 2) 29 29

People still use eBay?

EBay apparently had $17 billion in revenue last year so I'm guessing the answer is yes.

Is this the same eBay that became a scammer's paradise where no matter what you do, you're screwed?

It's not quite that bad but you do need to be careful.

As a buyer you can be screwed easily enough, but as a seller I wouldn't waste my time. The risks so far outweigh the benefits that it's more like legalized gambling with the loser being the highest bidder.

That is why I no longer own the auction company I held about 10 years ago. It was basically impossible to deal with eBay. They would raise fees every 6 months like clockwork. Any buyer could simply invoke the magic words "not as described" and get their money back. You couldn't defend yourself against unjustified bad feedback. Makers of luxury goods (like Louis Vuitton) could simply shut your auction down with a strike against you even if the merchandise was 100% legit. (and yes this happened to us regularly) The amount of labor in running an auction is ludicrous.

Buying on eBay has risks but generally manageable ones. Selling on eBay has risks that are not really manageable if you are doing more than selling some chotchkies.

Comment Selling a car on eBay is different (Score 1) 29 29

I've never understood why eBay felt the need to separate eBay Motors from the rest of the website, but it would follow that they would create a separate app for it as well.

Because selling a car is different than most other merchandise. I used to own an auction company and made much of my living selling through eBay, including cars. For merchandise eBay can enforce a contract to sell. For cars transfer of ownership comes with transfer of title and eBay cannot force you to sell the car for the auction price. In essence it is a glorified classified listing. If you decide not to sell the car you merely have to refuse to sign over the title and there isn't anything eBay can do about that.

Comment Give specific technical arguments or go away (Score 1) 103 103

If you're spouting such straw man platitudes, then you don't know enough about quantum computers to condemn someone else.

You might have a point if his argument was something more nuanced than "it's hard and I don't understand how it will ever work" with a few marketing = boogeyman slams thrown in for good measure. Maybe quantum computers will be a thing and maybe they won't but he sure as hell doesn't know. If you want to claim quantum computers will never work then present some compelling technical evidence to support that position. Otherwise shut up and let the researchers do their job.

In the defense of the previous poster, I'll note that there are a number of phenomena that permeate all of the Solar System (gravity, neutrinos, and thermal radiation) that may place an upper bound on the reliability of quantum computing no matter how magical your technology is.

"May place an upper bound"? Sounds like you don't really know much about quantum computers yourself there my friend. Come back when you have some specific physics to discuss beyond some vague hand waiving about gravity and neutrinos.

Comment Every new technology... (Score 4, Insightful) 103 103

Give something a fancy name and by-God it has to be a world-changing technology, right? I just don't see it.

So because you can't understand it, it must not be of any consequence? I think that says more about you than it does about the technology.

The hardware is difficult to build / maintain, doesn't scale, and so far nobody is quite sure what to even do with it.

That sounds like pretty much every new technology ever. The first computers were difficult to build and maintain, didn't scale well and people weren't entirely sure what to do with them outside of a few narrow use cases. The first airplanes were difficult to build and maintain, didn't scale well, and... etc. We figured it out eventually. Probably will with quantum computing too in due time.

Real programmers don't bring brown-bag lunches. If the vending machine doesn't sell it, they don't eat it. Vending machines don't sell quiche.