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Comment Re:So he was done on a technicality? (Score 3, Insightful) 321

Why is it that the Westboro Baptist Church gets away with picketing real-life funerals again and again, while this schmuck gets four months for internet douchebaggery? By "picketing", I mean standing there with giant signs that say things like "god hates fags" at the funeral of a dead soldier:

The way I see it, free speech comes at a cost: you have to put up with other people saying things that are stupid, offensive, and downright wrong. If you want a right to free speech, you can't have a right not to be offended. Mr. Coss' behavior was certainly wrong, but nobody should serve jail time for posting to a Facebook page.

Comment Re:Let's just encrypt everything all the time (Score 1) 208

Yeah. They have load balancers with hardware support for this stuff.

There's a cheaper, lower-tech solution, though: the servers can just look at the IP addresses requests are coming from.

Gmail, for example, is excellent about this: if I'm logged in from two IPs simultaneously, it displays that info prominently. If I go from my dorm to a coffee shop (all in a couple minutes and without clearing my cookies), Gmail asks me to log in again, presumably because my IP has changed.

I think you wouldn't even need a fancy heuristic: simply tie a session to both the cookie _and_ the IP address+port. If someone else tries to steal the cookie, they can't do anything with it. People roaming around (eg on the campus WiFi) wouldn't pose a problem because that's all behind a NAT, so your external IP+port stays the same even if your local IP changes. This wouldn't solve the problem of eavesdropping--people could still see my Facebook session--but at least they couldn't jump in and start posting on my wall.

Facebook already has similar protections: for example, on a recent trip to Thailand, I got a screen that said I was logging in from an "unfamiliar location" and asked me to answer my security question. Tying sessions to IPs seems like a simple thing to add. Enlighten me, though--is there a common situation where this would fail? Are there people out there whose external IPs do change a lot?

Comment Re:Kennedy's folly and sad legacy (Score 1) 617

Anonymous political speech, yes. That's what the Federalist papers were. That's what WikiLeaks is, and I don't think it's hyperbole to say that WikiLeaks is one of the best things the internet has ever been used for.

Anonymous political donations are a different thing entirely. The former is an attempt to change government by having a more compelling argument than your opponents; the latter is an attempt to change government by having more money than they do.

Incidentally, that money goes to TV ads, newspaper ads, billboards, door-to-door canvassing, etc--the IRL equivalents of spam. So the difference between anonymous political speech and anonymous political donations is like the difference between writing a blog and hiring a botnet to send spam.

Comment Re:I abstain (Score 1) 794

I almost agree.

"None of the above" should be the default option, but not for people who didn't show up.

Casting a ballot with that option is the "vote of no confidence" you described. Not showing up to vote at all is mere apathy.

And @iluvcapra,

the problem with a no-confidence plebiscite is the resolution ... you'd end up in a situation where the body went months or years without a leader

...I don't see this as a problem in our system, since you only need a plurality (not an outright majority) to win.

Someone will always win. If the winner had 30% of the vote and the loser had 20%, and the other 50% of voters chose "None of the above", then that winner has a much weaker mandate than if everyone is forced to pick a candidate and he wins 60-40. He's in office either way, but there is definitely a difference.

Comment Cool, but old news. (Score 4, Interesting) 293

Yes, evolution is alive and well. A species of bacteria evolved in the early 70s that can digest nylon.

I think this news is a nice reality check on that annoying but vocal cadre of environmentalists that are always predicting some kind of terrible apocalypse within the next couple of decades. Global cooling, for example. Not to mention a nifty "myth busted" moment for that old Hollywood trope of a post-nuclear wasteland.

I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't take care of our environment, by the way, and I'm certainly not an AGW denialist. The specific way things are now matters a lot to us fickle and fragile humans. If the sea level rises by another yard, the crabs will just move. The Venetians are the ones that would be screwed.

I'm just saying that nature is more resilient than people usually imagine.

Comment Re:$200 should have bought full functionality then (Score 1) 832

Not quite. Hypothetically, what it only costs them $50 to manufacture, but it costs them $6 billion a year in R&D to develop?

Then, selling i5s for $200 and i7s for $300 might be a perfectly fair price, and doing that by selling $200 chips with a $100 optional software upgrade might be reasonable as well.

Comment Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (Score 1) 832

I can see where you're coming from, but what if the majority of the cost of a CPU is simply there to amortize R&D? From what I've read, this seems to be the case. Intel spends $6 billion a year in R&D.

Even if the unit production cost on their current, mature production lines is a small fraction of the sale price, that doesn't necessarily mean that the sale price is too high, or that Intel has a monopoly.

By the way, I'm not suggesting that they don't have monopoly. Intel has a $100b market cap at this point, which is more than 20 times that of their main competitor, AMD. That certainly leaves room for suspicion. All I'm saying is that the fact that the marginal cost of adding cores to chips is small doesn't, by itself, indicate that Intel is behaving like a monopoly.

Comment Interesting (Score 5, Insightful) 1066

It seems to me that many media companies are in denial about a simple fact--you can't share a secret with a million people and expect them to keep it.

Want to send your account password to your bank? One sender, one trusted recipient, and a world of potential eavesdroppers. That's a problem crypto can solve.

But if the final destination of your precious content is every Joe's TV, iPod, and computer screen, any "encryption" you have between here and there is fundamentally futile. It only takes one of those Joes to start seeding it on BitTorrent, and the more annoying you try make the DRM, the more likely people will be to simply use that as their source instead of paying you.

Besides, after all that work designing and implementing a complex DRM scheme, every single frame of that movie you just sold me is gonna be rendered to my computer's framebuffer. Which gets sent to the display driver. Which is... drumroll... whatever I felt like installing. In theory, I can make my own driver that writes an AVI. So even in theory, DRM is broken.

It's the same kind of denial that leads companies to think streaming video is meaningfully different from just giving me a file to download. If you're sending the bits to my computer, you cannot possibly control what I subsequently do with them.

IMO, the RIAA could make so much more money if they just accepted filesharing as fact and focused on monetizing it. They should look at the bright side--way more people are listening to way more music now than they did back in the day when songs came in plastic cartridges and brick-sized Walkmen roamed the earth. Organize some shows. Sell some merchandise. Sell me a DVD that has awesome-quality 24K soundfiles on it. Get your song on the next Rock Band.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Lollapalooza 2010. It was awesome, worth every penny of the $180 I paid. How did I decide to go? I found a bunch of the lesser-known artists on Youtube, and liked what I saw. They earned their cash. The record execs, trying to prop an obsolete business model with lawsuits, did not.


Submission + - YouTube Instant: Anatomy of a Viral App (

dcposch writes: Three days ago, a student at Stanford made "Youtube Instant", a riff on Google's new instant search. He posted it to his Facebook status. The next day, his creation hit VentureBeat and the front page of Hacker News. Since then, he's landed in all sorts of unlikely places, like the Washington Post and the New York Times. Chad Hurley, cofounder and CEO of Youtube, even sent him a job offer via Twitter. The two are meeting tomorrow to discuss.

It's nuts just how much people care about speed. Save them the second to hit "enter" and click the first result, and they sure love you for it. In the maker's words, "Users always want things to be faster and faster. There's nothing faster than instant."

Comment Re:Gates complains a situation he created (Score 2, Insightful) 286


I'm currently "training for a STEM job", as you would put it, by pursuing at degree in computer science. I don't think my choice was a mistake. I see the fact that our industry is a global one as an opportunity, not a threat.

The US is in the enviable position that a lot of other countries' best and brightest want to work here. By restricting the number of H1Bs that companies can hire, the goverment is squandering some of that opportunity. And it's doing so at the behest of people like you, who think of jobs like poker chips--little non-replaceable entities that you can gain, lose, give away, or have "taken" from you. That's not what jobs are. Consider, for example, what happens when Intel hires a rockstar Chinese chip fab engineer. That engineer creates a cadre of supporting positions--testers, integration engineers, PMs, EE interns from the local college, etc. Maybe he, a litho expert from India, and an industrial robotics expert from the US end up leading a project to build a new fab in America. Maybe that fab leads to a couple million processors every year that are being etched in America instead of China.

Collaboration like this is what put America on top of the innovation food chain in the first place. Google was started by a Russian guy and an American who were grad students at Stanford. Tesla Motors was co-founded by an American and Elon Musk.

The way I see it, every country starts with roughly the same bell curve of talent and ability. Some have great education systems and make the most of it. Others, not so much. Where America sits on that scale is for another post. But the crazy thing is: America can cheat. We can cherry-pick the smartest and most innovative people from places like India and China. We can skim off the top of a pool of 2.5 billion people, simply by letting them in.

That some of us think it's good for our government to prohibit us from hiring those people boggles my mind.


Submission + - SPAM: Canonical explains Ubuntu unfree video choice 2

tux writes: Ubuntu's commercial sponsor Canonical has tried to clarify how — if not why — it has licensed a closed-source and patented codec for video on PCs running its Linux.

Canonical is the first Linux shop to have agreed to license the codec in question, H.264 from MPEG LA. Even though Red Hat and Novell are also available for use on PCs, they have not licensed H.264.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Facebook fixes embarrassing security flaw (

feuerfalke writes: Facebook recently scrambled to fix a security issue with their privacy controls that allowed users to get a peek in to their friends' live chat conversations and pending friend requests. The issue existed with Facebook's privacy feature that allowed users to view their profiles as other users would see it. From the article:

"For a limited period of time, a bug permitted some users' chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible to their friends by manipulating the 'preview my profile' feature of Facebook privacy settings," Facebook said in a statement.


Submission + - MIT Unveils First Solar Cells Printed on Paper (

lucidkoan writes: MIT researchers recently unveiled the world's first thin-film solar cell printed on a sheet of paper. The panel was created using a process similar to that of an inkjet printer, producing semiconductor-coated paper imbued with carbon-based dyes that give the cells an efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent. That’s not incredibly efficient, but the convenience factor makes up for it. And in the future, researchers hope that the same process used in the paper solar cells could be used to print cells on metal foil or even plastic. If they’re able to gear efficiencies up to scale, the development could revolutionize the production and installation of solar panels.

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