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Comment Re:They've got money to burn (Score 4, Informative) 225

The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater [boston.com] than a household headed by someone under 35. This wealth gap is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the 10-to-1 disparity a quarter-century ago.

Isn't that as it should be, after working and saving all your life? Net worth includes possessions, house, savings for retirement, etc. Also, take the aging one-percenters (or the 0.1%) out of the numbers (or use median instead of mean) and I bet the disparity growth is a lot flatter. Fundamentally, there's a difference b/t being well off because you worked hard all your life and being well off because you (1) owned the means of productions, (2) bought off legislators, and (3) found a way to exploit others.

Comment Re:Marketing (Score 1) 168

It would imply that the NSA is decades ahead of academia in not only cryptography but almost every area of computer science. Considering how inefficient and incompetent the rest of the government is (even the DoD, i.e. unencrypted drones) I just cannot believe that is the case.

In 1995, NSA added a single bit-rotation to SHA that made it considerably stronger, but they didn't explain their reasoning at the time. It took several more years before academia found significance weaknesses, with 2004 being the year that SHA-0 (as the original, non-rotated version is now called) was really cracked wide open. That (arguably) puts them about a decade ahead (in a situation where they willingly tipped their hand). These folks employee the most math PhD's in the world and have their own chip fabs... it's not hard to imagine them being two decades ahead on some important cryptographic questions.

Comment Re:Wrong party (Score 1) 688

The canonical example is pollution.... individuals would have legal standing to sue in court.

Would this work? You decide.

I want to be support libertarians, but these just-so stories do nothing to advance their credibility. In your example, being big gives you resources that you can use to cover up the problem (for decades), bribe public officials, corrupt scientific debate, conduct media blitzes, create shell corporations, intimidate witnesses, and [in some cases] force consumers to contractually relinquish their right to legal redress. Good luck trying to fight that on lower-middle class wage. It happens, but with such rarity and friction that this game-theoretic scenario is not going to unfold in the way you describe.

Comment Re:What do lambdas provide that anon classes do no (Score 2) 189

I don't really get the point of adding such a major syntax-changing feature to the language for the sole purpose of syntactic convenience.

While there are definitely a lot of judgement calls and tradeoffs to consider when designing a language, syntactic convenience is a big part of why we use programming languages to begin with.

I mean.... wasn't that their whole main argument against operator overloading? (the other argument, that operator overloading makes for unreadable code can be shown to be a red herring).

As you indicate, the operator overloading argument was/is bogus. I suspect that everyone tried to misuse the feature when it was introduced with C++, in much the same way that everybody used a dozen different fonts the first time they ran a WYSIWYG word processor. The people who got bit by this bad code went on to write best practices and coding standards that breathlessly prohibited operator overloading and Java followed suit. So you have dumb things like == testing for reference equality of strings, Vec3D classes that you must .add() and .subtract() instead of + and -, and naturally-ordered things that you can't compare with < and >. Hopefully one day Java will reverse this bad decision too.

Comment Re:Al-Qaeda keeps losing recruits to Google (Score 1) 234

"Yeah, hey guys... I actually came here on the 'death to america' ticket, but it turns out I like jeans, scantily clad girls, beer, and decent-paying jobs and, you know, I'd be grateful if you could, I don't know, keep me?"

Yeah... I always thought we should be "bombing" them (the Islamic states) with girly mags and Britney Spears CD's.

Secularization is a solution.

Comment Re:Americans have limited Free Speech (Score 1) 151

Courts mistake an informed jury for a partial jury. By allowing courts to manage the information a jury hears, they in fact create partial juries. The correct solution to a jury that is swayed by speech is more speech that counters the first speech. Whoever runs out of valid arguments first is the loser.

Whoever gets tarred with the biggest stigma would be the loser. The justice system you imagine would decide cases based on gossip and innuendo, on ill-researched half-truths spouted by loud mouths and anonymous forum posters, on the popular passions of the current moment, on who voted for the wrong party or liked the wrong vices or joined the wrong religion (or the wrong sub-sub-denomination of a religion). Seriously, where did you get those rose-colored glasses of human nature? If we worked like that, we wouldn't need a justice system: mobs and vigilantes would dispassionately confront the accused, gather witness statements, and determine the appropriate judgement.

Can you imagine if we held scientists, who are also supposed to be impartial judges of evidence, to the standards of a jury? Instead of submitting papers for peer review by experts, we'd be submitting them to people who are prohibited from knowing anything about the field.

No, you'd be submitting them to people who mostly don't know anything about the field and are prohibited from researching outside the curated environment of a courtroom. And yeah, that would suck for science. But there's a difference: science produces extremely technical descriptions of the real world. Law, by contrast, should (in theory, and sometimes in fact) be executable by laypersons... you could replace juries with panels of lawyers or judges versed in the technical aspect of the law and probably get better "technical" outcomes. But too much technicality and the law becomes divorced from the day-to-day real world wisdom of the people who are subject to it. The operations of law require a balance b/t technical and human factors that's not required in the sciences.

Comment What Obama didn't say... (Score 5, Insightful) 537

  • Full investigation and prosecution of NSA officials.
  • Repeal of retroactive warrants, retroactive teleco immunity, secret NSL orders, and other extra-judicial bullshit.
  • Immediate legislation to broaden the definition of domestic surveillance and establish strict penalties for companies who cooperate with it.
  • Amnesty/whistleblower protection for Snowden. Oh, and his passport back.

Comment Re:Well maybe there will be some time to fix thing (Score 3, Insightful) 70

See here's the deal: Just because one person discovers something, it doesn't magically mean that everyone else can figure it out right away.

Um, no, that pretty much is the case with computers. Unlike stealth technology (your example), you don't have to have a multi-billion dollar military-industrial partnership to accomplish something clever with computers. You've just got to spend time learning and tinkering. And these security flaws aren't some fundamental-problem-of-physics stuff... it's often just a matter of sniffing out broken/shoddy code, which is pretty much the standard output of the industry. If you think differently, you're probably one of those people who refers to your nephew as a "computer genius" because he got your email working again that one time.

Here's the other deal: companies would rather shut you up than to acknowledge and fix the flaws in their own products. They'd also rather their customers live with the risk. For many companies, it is only the threat of disclosure that makes them invest the time and resources needed to secure their systems. (I'll grant that most software companies seem to have finally accepted this reality and tackle security more heavily, but it seems that the auto companies are still trying to play legal hardball.) And most security researchers (including this one, if other comments I've seen are correct) are willing to give manufactures some advance notice (though it resulted in court troubles in thanks, apparently). But ultimately the utmost professional obligation of a security researcher is to inform the public so they can either protect themselves or force the manufacturer's hand.

Comment Re:He should just go to America and face the music (Score 2) 205

Snowden stated that he tried to get that position for the specific purpose of digging up whatever he could to use against his country... That makes him a traitor in my book.

Pretty sure he dug it up for his country, and against the real traitors (his employers) who are usurping the autonomy of the people of the United States.

At any rate, he undoubtedly sought the Booz Allen gig because he suspected agency wrongdoing based on his prior experiences with the NSA/CIA. I don't think you could ask for a better whistleblower than this: someone willing to get the full story, obtain and screen evidence, and responsibly disclose the matter to public attention (while giving up a $200,000/year Hawaiian lifestyle).

Comment Re:It Still Doesn't Mean Much... (Score 4, Informative) 141

Why would a quantum computer would reduce the O notation?

Because it's running in multiple worlds simultaneously? It's not just using 1's and 0's but superpositions of the two that are effectively in both states at once. Heh... I'm really don't understand this stuff, but the big deal about quantum computing is that it will make some previously intractable (e.g., non-polynomial) problems accessible to us. All problems in complexity class BQP become, essentially, polynomial on a quantum computer. If you've got enough qbits, among other things.

Comment Re:Business as usual (Score 1) 98

To be truly effective, the encryption needs to be universal

unless people start using it, it will never reach the point of universal

And you won't make it universal until you bake into a popular protocol that's easy to use, that doesn't require extensive setup or pay-to-play, and that doesn't allow the user to trust a suspicious connection. OpenSSH and bitcoin have probably done it best so far, and I'm not sure that's anywhere close enough for the general public.

Even then, I think we underestimate the arrogance of law... if you successfully made encryption universal, then laws would be passed to force decryption (5th be damned) or monitor the endpoints.

Preserving liberty ultimately requires activism and civil disobedience.

Comment Re:Dynamically Typed? (Score 1) 153

even in some dynamic languages you still have to type var

And "var" is terser than the average class/type name.

most dynamic languages still have interfaces

...which are implicit/ducked-typed. In a statically-typed system, you explicitly define the interface for the sake of the type system. To help it help you, so to speak.

C++ doesn't require a mandatory class container for static methods, constants and globals, this is entirely a language specific thing

Granted, this is more language specific, but most dynamic langs have evolved from being able to run as straight-line scripts with no nesting/front-matter. I was trying to list all of the things that make dynamics langs briefer in general... beyond casts. :-)

Comment Re:Dynamically Typed? (Score 1) 153

The only increase in code from static typing is explicit conversion.

Don't forget (1) type declarations; (2) array initializers, (3) storage class identifiers; (4) interfaces; (5) generic types; (6) more verbose API's for reflection (and damn near everything else); and (7) mandatory class "container" for static methods, constants, and globals. And at the design level, there's even more opportunity for brevity since various cheats are available, such as defining classes and methods at runtime, etc.

Of course, that's talking in generalities. Static langs are doing more now to reduce verbage and copy some dynamic-language "feel". C# especially since it introduced local type inference, anonymous methods/closures, LINQ, and DLR...

Comment Re:Ours to lose (Score 1) 327

I sincerely hope that story is pure BS

It pretty much is BS... one tell-tale sign is the outer "wrapper" story explaining how he got the news. This is a common narrative crutch that lets an author "ease into" introducing his world. Instead of saying "I got a message and met my contact in the middle of the night", there is a slow, omnious build-up to the dramatic unveiling of the story's payload.

Then there the dialog... it's very tight, TV-like script with a lot of back-and-forth that reads punchy (“You don’t know jack") while chopping up the message into narrative-sized bites. There's even the obligatory recap that's followed by the journalist character saying "We know all this already." You see this type thing all the time in the movies: character A explains to character B some background info that the audience needs to know but that character B should already know; the author then papers over the narrative mismatch by having character B object to the unnecessary sharing.

The informant's pleading to "get the story out" is a very efficient mechanism: (1) it adds more drama, (2) it lends a sort of fake credibility to the unnamed informant, and (3) it simultaneously solicits the reader to take action/forward the story/whatever.

Hilariously, notice how the author promises more at the end... "My source provided additional information, but I am abiding by his wish to get this much out... Stay tuned." Four days later, he's forgotten about it and has move on to his next agit-prop piece.

Comment Re:Bottom head? (Score 5, Interesting) 123

Unit 3 means it is the third reactor in the power plant. Vogtle is the name of the power plant (probably the name of the place it is located in). Apparently there are already 2 units installed there with Generation II reactors and they are now in the process of construction another two units with Generation III reactors of the Westinghouse AP1000 design.

Vogtle was President/Chairman of Southern Company, Georgia Power's parent company. (Southern tends to name most of their plants after company bigwigs.) Apparently, he was a real POW who inspired the motorcycle dude in The Great Escape.

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