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Comment Re:Every goes to college to get ahead of everyone (Score 1) 302

College has changed from 'The halls of higher learning' to the thing that every American HS school does because that is what you do to get ahead in life.

The irony being that because every high school student does it, they cannot, by definition, get ahead, because "ahead" is inherently relative.

One major problem is that our public K-12 system has completely failed to keep up with the times. Instead of teaching useful skills, it continues to teach the same things it did before, and at approximately the same pace. We still spend roughly an entire year teaching multiplication even though computers have advanced civilization to the point that no human being has needed to do multiplication in their heads or on paper for decades. Why are we wasting all that time? Spend a single 6-week period on the basics, explain what it means, how it is useful, then move on.

And we delay all of the interesting stuff so that by the time the kids are exposed to it, their brains are too hard-wired to learn it effectively. We should start teaching at least the basic fundamentals of algebra by first or second grade. Those of us who grew up learning programming at a young age know that this is doable. I remember getting into algebra and saying, "Oh. This is easy. I've been doing this for more than half a decade." If everyone had been given the opportunity to learn those concepts earlier (as opposed to just the few of us who taught ourselves how to program in first grade), high school could have been closer to what college is, and college wouldn't be necessary for most people.

Instead, we squander the first 13 years of education, wasting most of them on archaic and antiquated learning that does not serve students well, while delaying all of the interesting and fun stuff until college. Is it any wonder, then, that everyone wants to go to college, or that many people spend years grazing from major to major, exploring all of the possibilities denied to them in their pre-college years?

Comment Re:Forget ratings, measure ROI. (Score 4, Insightful) 302

Why? I'll tell you why. Because they CAN.

As someone whose parents both retired recently from teaching at four-year universities, I don't buy that explanation. At all. It's pure and utter bulls**t. The fact is, most universities are barely holding on financially, having to cut entire programs to keep from going under. Professors' salaries barely keep up with inflation most of the time, if that, and staff salaries don't fare much better. They rely more and more on adjunct instructors to cover classes because they can't afford to hire additional professors to cover the classes.

Why are the costs going up? The main reason is that the cost of living is going up, while the states keep cutting the portion of the tuition that they pay so that they can spend that money on other programs. Most universities are getting smaller and smaller portions of their operating budget from the state, which inevitably means that they have to charge higher and higher tuition to make up the difference. There's no market magic involved here. There's no supply and demand at work. The demand is fixed; everyone wants an education. The supply is also fixed; every school can handle only a certain number of people. There's no profit margin—most schools are purely nonprofit and cannot make money except as temporary savings towards future costs—therefore, the cost is purely driven by the cost of operation. Any statements to the contrary, at least as far as public universities are concerned, are just plain wrong.

This is not to say that there isn't bloat in the system; if you dig in, you can find lots of small places where costs could easily be cut, and together they add up to big inefficiencies. The problem is that those inefficiencies are hard to rout out without a concerted effort by someone who understands how to motivate people. For example, policies along the lines of "Any money your department doesn't spend by the end of the year is returned to the general budget and may result in a reduction in your budget next year" are a big part of why we have this bloat creep problem. Fixing those sorts of policies at a systemwide level and giving bonuses for finding ways to improve efficiency are what is needed. Unfortunately, that sort of thinking seems to be very contrary to the university culture, at least in the United States. And this is another reason why the cost of education (and government in general) keeps going up.

Comment Re:Forget ratings, measure ROI. (Score 1) 302

The problem is that you're taking an average where an average is useless. There are too many variables. Many popular schools charge outrageous tuition not because it costs a lot of money, but rather to limit the number of applicants. You can recognize these schools because their sports teams are regularly mentioned on ESPN.

Also, not all students pay the same amount. If you choose to attend a school in another state, you get to pay a much higher out-of-state tuition rate because you have to pay the portion of your tuition that would otherwise be paid by the state. This artificially inflates averages, particularly with highly popular schools.

Exclude the largest schools, exclude private schools (that cost more because the state isn't footing part of the bill), and exclude out-of-state tuition, and the numbers become a lot more reasonable. My undergrad alma mater, for example, is one of the smaller schools in the University of Tennessee system. Assuming you are either from the same state or from a nearby county in Kentucky (and thus are eligible for in-state tuition), going there costs only $3,528 per semester, for a grand total of a little over 28 grand for a four-year degree, without any scholarships, grants, etc.

Now admittedly, this is not the full picture. If you have to pay for room and board, depending on whether you live in a dorm, an on-campus apartment, or an off-campus apartment, you could pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 a semester in housing. Depending on your major, you could pay anywhere from $250 to $1,000 a semester in books. And so on. The correct question to ask is how many people asked for the $1,400 per semester dorms and were forced to choose the $3,000 per month on-campus apartments (or vice-versa)—a piece of information that cannot really be reflected by any sort of average.

And this is why averages are pretty much useless as a metric. Either way, you really have to question the wisdom of anyone paying anywhere close to $28,000 per year unless they're in a state where the cost of living is equally obscene, such as California or much of the eastern seaboard... and really, even then. I mean, that's 2.5 times the tuition for even some of the smaller UC schools.

Comment Re:Expensive for a 2.5D scanner (Score 2) 89

It seems to be like it's only a 2.5D scanner. Trying to scan a bowl would result in a half-sphere model.

I think that might depend on how tall the bowl is. If it can see over the top, I would think that it could determine the shape of the inside, though if it only sees part of the inside, it might incorrectly make a bundt pan. :-)

That said, even assuming that it can scan the inside of such an object (and that's an absolute requirement for pretty much any of the things I'd do with something like this), I think I'll still wait for generation 2 (or 3, or 20). The things that I'd like to be able to scan all require more height than this is capable of handling—not because the object I want to produce has greater height, but because I need to replicate a portion of a real-world object, and there's no way to position that real-world object halfway through the rotating table.

They really should have put the camera on a set of vertical slides, with the ability to substitute posts of different lengths if desired (e.g. provide it with 6" posts, but offer 18" posts). It would not have increased the cost of the hardware significantly, and would have resulted in a much more useful piece of hardware. Of course, it would be even better if it had the ability to crawl vertically up those posts to reproduce the shape of more complex objects by adding vertical parallax.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 491

The complete leak was resulting from a chain of errors. WikiLeaks screwed up and published the entire blob where anyone could download it. Then the Guardian screwed up and published a book containing the password. Without WikiLeaks screwing up to begin with, the password disclosure by the Guardian would have been a non-incident.

Also, IMO, it really doesn't matter if he tried some mainstream outlets first, nor does it matter how WikiLeaks handled it. What matters is that the moment WikiLeaks became involved, any credibility went out the window, because they are the journalistic equivalent of a tabloid, at best. At that moment, everything became suspect—became tainted. He should have kept trying major news organizations until he found someone willing to break the story. Period.

Comment Re:Good (Score 2) 491

If he'd been smart enough to send the war crime data, and ONLY that, to the Hague etc then he'd likely have fared better than by doing a bulk data dump which included so much material he couldn't have checked it all.

You're correct. He would have been caught after sending only the first handful of reports, and he probably would have been tried for only one count of espionage instead of six. And any actual crimes that folks might have uncovered in the rest of the material would never have been uncovered.

That's the problem. At a fundamental level, whistleblower protection must cover public disclosure, because (with the exception of a single isolated incident here and there) if the organization against whom the whistle is being blown were capable of policing itself, the blowing would not have been necessary in the first place; blowing the whistle to an internal auditor is pretty much guaranteed to be useless. And once you release something to the public, chances are, the government knows who you are. Therefore, you get one shot at releasing everything that needs to be released. Anyone suggesting that there's another way is really kidding himself or herself.

This is not to say that he couldn't potentially have tried to be more selective about it, but there's also a time factor involved. The longer it takes from when a crime occurs to when the public knows about it, the more likely it is that the perpetrator will get off because of statutes of limitations. Therefore, if the goal actually is ensuring that those crimes get prosecuted, the best hope is distributing the information broadly to a large group of people who can then divide and conquer. The press is remarkably good at that. The only question is whether they can be trusted to be responsible about what they disclose.

Now disclosing it to a site like Wikileaks... is a different story. His mistake was not what he disclosed, nor was his mistake disclosing it to the press. His mistake was disclosing it through a dubious organization that operates on the fringes of the law rather than going directly to a reporter at a major news organization.

Comment Re:10 Years? (Score 1) 122

With my cynic hat on, I think this might actually be good if you're a criminal. IIRC, the statute of limitations for some crimes doesn't begin ticking until someone could reasonably have discovered the crime. I could see someone arguing that the police should have been able to determine based on this evidence that the person committed a crime, and therefore the clock began ticking earlier....

Comment Re:He's right, it IS 'evidence' (Score 4, Interesting) 122

Far worse than just that. The first time I read the headline (half asleep), I read it as "Florida Town Loses License Plate Camera Images For Ten Years". The data mining and privacy loss potential is enormous, so there could be an enormous reward for anyone willing to... how shall I put this... inadvertently misplace a hard drive containing that data.

Remember that the more valuable the data you store electronically, the more likely it is to be stolen and used by the bad guys. At some point the value is so great that more of the data is likely to be used by the bad guys than the good guys. This is true for pretty much any definition of good/bad guys. For example, if I were a crook who knew a crooked cop, this would be a goldmine of information. With this data, I could figure out with a reasonable degree of probability when any given family is unlikely to be home, and use that to my advantage when planning robberies to drastically reduce the amount of stake-out time needed while still minimizing my chances of getting caught. And by looking at the makes of cars, I could gain further insight into the likelihood of the house having valuables in it, allowing me to choose my next target more quickly. Heck, somebody really enterprising could turn it into a black-market data mining business for other robbers and make a small fortune in no time flat.

IMO, even if we completely ignore any risks posed by police abusing the data, the data theft risk alone from keeping this much personally identifiable tracking data on nearly every single person in the state of Florida for such a long period of time far outweighs any possible benefit it could have. Heck, the risk of keeping it for more than about a week far outweighs any practical benefit, statistically speaking. The risk of keeping it for ten years far exceeds the entire benefit of having a police force.

Comment Re:isn't music already open source? (Score 1) 183

Unless someone who receives the source is allowed to redistribute that source, it does not qualify as an Open Source license. Open Source requires that the redistribution rights flow downstream.

Copyrighted music, unless explicitly licensed in such a way to allow further redistribution by anyone who receives a copy, is more of a "shared source" or "licensed source access" model, in which certain distributors are explicitly authorized by the copyright holder to redistribute it under certain terms, but in which that right is not conferred downstream. While this provides some of the same benefits, it does not meet the minimum criteria for being an Open Source license.

The distinction between Open Source and Free is that the latter is not allowed to be redistributed in closed (binary) form without making the source available. A non-free music license would allow you to use it, modify it, and distribute recordings (binary form) without providing sheet music. A free license would require you to provide the altered sheet music upon request.

Comment Re:Where will this end? (Score 1) 986

I think the point is that encryption is useless against someone that can say, "give us the key or we'll dissappear you."

Not if you use encryption properly. Everyone who actually cares about privacy should have a CA cert. When someone asks for your public key, create a new PK pair for them on the spot and sign it with your CA cert. You now have a PK pair that you can use to communicate with them. Rotate this key frequently, and when you're done communicating with them, destroy the pair. Inform them ahead of time so that they don't send any communication with a no-longer-valid key.

With such a scheme, you should have no trouble proving that it is not possible for you to produce the key used to encrypt the communication.

Comment Re:Take it public (Score 1) 266

Until a few hundred celebs' walls get spammed and they declare en masse that they're all moving to Google+, followed shortly thereafter by a fan exodus. Facebook might not take security seriously enough at times, but even they aren't clueless enough to think that they can ignore it entirely.

Comment Re:Take it public (Score 2) 266

They simply do not have the time or manpower to respond to every last report of "I can haxxor" or "I was haxxored and they keep doing it".

The latter is almost invariably a problem with the user's computer, and even if it isn't, there's no possibility that the user has enough information to be helpful. However, Facebook should have the ability to flag what appears to be your own post when reporting a problem, and Facebook should at least take the time to determine whether the post occurred through password compromise, from a third-party FB app, or appears to have been actually posted by that user from a computer that had a valid cookie. Then, the system should send an automated message to the user indicating how he/she can protect him/herself from that attack in the future. This process could be entirely automated, giving the user the ability to follow up only in the case of a third-party FB app having made the post (which is likely a real security bug, or at best, an app developer violating the developer TOS).

Also, pay attention to the section which states that you are supposed to use a TEST ACCOUNT to reproduce the problem, not hack the Big Z's timeline.

Which he did, and they dismissed his bug report, so he took the only step that he thought could prove, in FB's eyes, that the flaw was legitimate.

What I find particularly interesting is how many ACs are defending Facebook in this. It almost makes me wonder if there's an astroturfing campaign going on, either officially or unofficially, by employees of either FB or a third-party firm hired to defend them. Just saying.

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