Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Dolphins? (Score 2) 97

Insect brains are indeed miracles of scaling and situational reuse.

Primates have our own interesting mutation on that front: Normally cell size scales with body size - an elephant's cells are far larger than a mouse's, including it's neurons. So brain-to-body size ratio provides a reasonable first-order approximation of intelligence across species.

Primates though have evolved roughly constant-size neurons, so that large primates have far more neurons than small ones, even when the brain-to-body size ratio is the same. It's only the size of the brain itself that matters for determining potential intelligence. And humans are about as intelligent as one would expect a primate to be based on our brain size.

Of course that also means that brain-to-body size ratios are utterly useless for comparing intelligence between primates and other species.

Comment Re:However, by the time you get as social as insec (Score 2) 97

Not clones, but all siblings with the same mother. And little if any potential to reproduce - their gene-line is preserved only through their mother and the queens and drones she lays.

Not sure about ants, but I recall that honeybee workers are females capable of reproducing, but due to some rather complex genetics they're actually a lot more closely related to their siblings than their own offspring.

Comment Re:Human peer pressure shrinks brain (Score 5, Interesting) 97

Indeed, the problem for us nerds/geeks was not that we were intelligent, it was that we chose to apply that intelligence to "interesting things" rather than social maneuvering. I knew plenty of smart kids who were quite popular, I just found their hobbies utterly uninteresting.

Fortunately, that problem faded greatly upon entering adulthood - there's obviously still a lot of brainy social misfits, but there's far less social advantage to harassing them, and far more potential mates who have grown past their raging hormones to appreciate them.

I suspect a great deal of the problem is this recent concept of "teenager" artificially imposing an extended "child" status on individuals who are biologically entering the period where they should be establishing their position within the tribe by making genuine contributions. Instead we keep them locked up in day-care institutions with nothing productive to do all day, so that social maneuvering is basically the *only* skill that contributes to social status. Any time you put humans in that situation it tends to bring out the worst in them - be it prison or upper-middle class housewives lunching and back-biting to pass the time.

Comment Why is this even an issue? (Score 3, Insightful) 92

I know this is no Groklaw, but has anyone seen any layman accessible explanation for why the fact that the owner has sovereign immunity should make any difference in the challenge process of a US patent being enforced in the US? I mean you're not even *looking* at the owner at that point, it's all about the validity of the patent itself, right?

I would assume that if the Chinese, German, etc. government acquires a US patent, that patent is still subjected to US law, so what's the difference?

Comment Re:Crybaby snowflakes (Score 1) 363

I've had family with anorexia - hard enough for them to stop starving themselves without not-so-subtle encouragements to reduce/burn calories. It's not that it's an insult or anything - it just aggravates an already life-threatening psychological condition.

And the point is not "the mere existence of a calorie counter", it's the fact that it's unavoidably integrated into important core functionality of your smartphone.

Comment Re:Crybaby snowflakes (Score 1) 363

It's also not in Google's interest to make such core functionality unusable by people suffering from psychological diseases, as it both needlessly restricts their market/data-farm, and comes across as extremely insensitive

Of course the optimal solution would be to just let people easily turn the feature off if it bothers them. Heck, I'd probably do so just because I don't want to waste pixels on information I don't care about.

As for pink frosting - I'm inclined not to read too much into it, but there's nothing sexist about acknowledging the existence of sexism. The association of pink with women/girls is well established in our society, and thus the fact that something is pink becomes an (imperfect) indicator that it is targetting women. Imperfect of course because there are legitimate other reasons to use pink, but you should probably do so with the assumption that the existing association with women will be invoked in your audience.

Comment Re:Small details. (Score 1) 197

Agreed. The challenge is in keeping private keys private. How many people are going to read their email on an air-gapped machine? Few enough that those who do probably garner considerably closer scrutiny. Meanwhile, the rest have to assume that their computer is compromised. And the moment that key is compromised, every past message becomes readable. In today's world I think it's probably safe to assume that comparatively rare encrypted emails are probably suspicious enough to at least get recorded for future reference.

Having a well-designed active "dongle" that NEVER releases the key makes it dramatically more difficult to compromise, and at very low cost (in bulk). As one possibility, such a dongle could be your "almost air-gapped" encryption computer - encrypted content enters, plaintext content is returned, over a simple, hardened communication channel. Or vice-versa. Obviously reading a decrypted message on a compromised machine can be assumed to compromise the message, but the key remains secure and so pre-compromise messages remain secure, and identity spoofing remains impossible. And once the compromise is eliminated, the channel becomes secure again. The *only* way to compromise the channel is to get your hands on the physical dongle, as well as the passphrase known to the user. If you want to get extra paranoid, you could even have the passphrase only ever be entered into a keypad built into the dongle.

Hmm...of course that assumes that having samples of encrypted and plain-text messages side by side doesn't make it possible to "reverse engineer" your key, which I think is a weakness in may algorithms.

Comment Re:Key line (Score 1) 250

For job security, reliable and otherwise uninteresting middle-of-the-pack performance does seem to be the safe path. Alternately you might excel, but turn down raises, promotions, etc. that would push you out of the relatively secure "worth more than they're paying me" niche.

None of that will help your bottom line of course - but it seems to be an unfortunate reality that "climbing the ladder" is a risky game, especially within larger corporations where top executives are largely unaware of the individuals getting the work done on the ground. There was a time when hard work and loyalty would put you on an upward path - but that time is mostly past.

Comment Re:Key line (Score 4, Insightful) 250

Who says they did? They could easily have been hired at a lower salary and received raises in response to over-performing, until such time as they stopped delivering in line with their higher salary. Maybe they burned out, maybe they got complacent, maybe they started a family and stopped putting in 100-hour weeks, maybe they got promoted into a position outside their area of excellence. Lots of reasons someone might stop being as valuable as they used to be. And for better and worse pay cuts in excess of those automatically applied by inflation are generally considered to be ill-advised.

Comment Re:Identity vs. content and identity (Score 1) 197

Google is absolutely in the fray, but I reject your implied limitation.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, USA, Russia, China... they're all in the fray. Every concentration of power that can be threatened by or profit from public opinion has a vested interest in surveilling and manipulating people. And governments can bring a lot of leverage against both corporations and the individuals who work in them, in order to augment their own information gathering programs.

Comment Re:what if I phish your password? (Score 2) 197

Which is exactly why the "key" in proper two-factor authentication is something you physically have, and not a piece of information you can share. Whether it's a constantly changing "password" that can only be used once, or a bit of challenge-response encryption where the encryption key never leaves a secured dongle, the effect is the same - without having the device in-hand, social engineering and man-in-the-middle attacks can grant, at most, one-time access.

Comment Re:Identity vs. content and identity (Score 1) 197

You are quite right that the trumpeted security only covers account access, and not secrecy of transmission. Still quite valuable in that account access typically gives not only allows spoofing and surveillance, but also retroactive surveillance of all non-deleted communications, and the ability to revoke the legitimate user's access.

>Basically, the private key stored on bob's computer acts as a second factor

One major nitpick - "2 factor authentication" typically involves both "something you have" and "something you know", for the specific reason that stealing a "thing you have" is *far* different challenge than stealing a "thing you know". And Bob's private key, as a passive piece of information, is still firmly in the "things you know" territory. Easily stolen, especially in a time when it's pretty safe to assume that at least a couple major governments already have covert control of your computer, and quite possibly a few criminal organizations as well.

A dongle avoids that threat by being an active participant - typically it either provides an independent communication channel for validation, or stores a key internally. But *very* importantly the key never leaves the dongle - any encryption/decryption is done internally, and thus to use the key you must have physical possession of the dongle.

Comment Re:Identity vs. content and identity (Score 3, Interesting) 197

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear?

Knowledge is power, and the more the government knows about you, the more power they have over you, and the less resistance you can provide against fascism, corruption, and other abuses of power. It's not just KGB-style threats and "tactical removal" of people who may present an obstacle to those in power (though the legal basis for "disappearing" people was put in place by the PATRIOT Act), it's also the more subtle manipulation of opinions and directing of actions in ineffective directions, as recently demonstrated by the highly targeted Russian Facebook ads.

Watch the population closely enough, and you can derail credible resistance long before it becomes a threat.

Slashdot Top Deals

Those who can't write, write manuals.