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Submission + - Practical mathematics for programmers? 1

Dimwit writes: The best part about programming is that I can decide that I want a new text editor or a new video game or a new multiprotocol router, and I can write it, and when I'm done, I have a new text editor or video game or multiprotocol router. Mathematics has never been that way for me — I never sit and think "I sure would like to find the area under a curve!" and then come up with a way to do it. So what's a good path for the practical programmer to take towards mathematics? One with goals and problems to solve that aren't the same old boring word problems?

Submission + - High Food Prices Are Fueling Egypt's Riots ( 1

Daniel_Stuckey writes: Two years ago, the New England Complex Systems Institute published a famous paper that sussed out the mathematical correlation between food prices and unrest: Every time food prices breached a certain threshold, riots broke out worldwide. That all-important threshold is about 210 on the FAO Food Price Index... In May 2013, right before millions of angry Egyptians took to Tahrir Square, the index was at 213. For most of the spring, it had hovered well above 210, meaning that food was prohibitively expensive for Egypt's poor for a full three months before people took to the streets in dissent. And sure enough, food acces is a crippling problem in Egypt even today. UPI reports that "Bassem Ouda, the minister of supplies in the government of President Mohamed Morsi—who was ousted by the army July 3—admitted last week the state has less than two months' supply of imported wheat in stock, or about 500,000 metric tons."

Submission + - Datacenter Gives Internet to 70 Percent of Navajo Nation (

Nerval's Lobster writes: The Navajo Nation cut the ribbon August 13 on an $8 million data center that has been under debate and development since 2000, when then-President Bill Clinton expressed shock that a 13-year-old Navajo girl who just won a new laptop couldn’t connect to the Internet. At the time that girl won the laptop in a school contest, the Navajo Nation--a 27,425 square-mile region that covers portions of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico--had barely any IT infrastructure. The incident helped drive debate among leaders of the Navajo Nation, many of whom said they believed adding telecommunications and computing facilities were secondary to other concerns for the chronically poverty stricken region. The 50,000-square-foot facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico includes 25,000-sq.-ft. of datacenter and an equal space for computer training and business incubation, according to Nova Corp., an IT services company owned by Navajo Nation and formed in 2004 to execute an IT plan to create the “Digital Navajo Nation” (PDF). The drive to get it built also helped push development of a $46 million broadband project designed to cover about half of Navajo territory with 550 miles of fiber, 32 new cell towers and upgrades to another 27. It will eventually connect more than 30,000 households and 1,000 businesses.

Comment I agree now (Score 1) 381

I've changed my mind, now I see the value in these articles.

Various replies have been particularly insightful. For example:

[...] "nerds" who read Slashdot often provide more insightful commentary than any other group of private citizen commentators, and certainly more insight than what the majority of the 24 hour news-cycle organizations. Furthermore, because Slashdot has global readership we get commentary from people outside the United States. I love reading slashdot comments for the same reasons I like listening to the BBC on the radio on my local public radio station (KQED), because I hear fresh viewpoints that originate not in this country.

I'd like to see more articles on Syria or Nigeria. [...] The mainstream media distracts us from the "stuff that matters" unless the shit is really hitting the fan somewhere. It's becoming more and more clear they're a propaganda machine that occasionally reports on world events to maintain a shred of credibility, but never without some partisan bullshit like the administration's refusal to classify this coup as a coup.

In these comments I see all kinds of points about policies and actions going back decades that have contributed to this situation. I'd never find something like that in the mainstream media, Google News included. They're too busy trying to convince me of which lizard is the wrong lizard.

I've changed my opinion. It's probably good that Slashdot posts important news items, simply because you don't get insightful commentary anywhere else - it's a side-effect of the moderation system. Other news outlets allow commentary and have smart readers, we're the only one with insightful discussion. (Can anyone point to another site where the comments are worth reading?)

In particular, I found the comment "I'd like to see more articles on Syria or Nigeria" thought provoking. I don't know anything about either place, and maybe I should.

Slashdot is in a sense community driven. If there's not a lot of push-back, we will continue to see important articles.

...but that's a good thing.

Comment News for nerds? (Score 3, Insightful) 381

Usually news stories on this site have at least a faint aroma of tech relevance.

Certain select stories are of such a high importance that everyone wants to talk about them and they appear on this site despite having no relevance to the major purpose.

That's fine, really it is. But I have to ask, where is the dividing line? Will we be seeing articles on Syria? More than 100 people are killed there on a regular basis. Fourty-four were killed in a mosque in Nigeria the other day. Is that significant? A white-ish guy shot an innocent black kid who was definitely not bashing the white-guy's head into the pavement - is that relevant?

I found this very interesting Third Amendment lawsuit (yes, Third amendment) and didn't submit because it was offtopic.

I'm not saying that world events are not important, and this one is pretty high on the importance scale. It's just that I avoid regular news sites and frequent this one because it saves time. Yes, I can skip articles - but note that I can skip articles in Google News and Reddit as well.

I can't find the link, but I remember a chart of "Slashdot readership" that showed a general decline over the last several years.

This leade to a simple question: Is Slashdot better for reporting generic news items, or should it be more about "News for Nerds"?

Submission + - Is the time now right for Opportunistic Encryption?

LeadGeek writes: Several years ago the Free/SWAN project tried to get the concept of a network-layer "encrypt if you can" standard between hosts with a graceful non-encrypted fallback if one of the hosts does not support it. Sadly, it never really got off the ground. Today, widespread use of this or a similar technology would likely provide a huge load in terms of storage or perhaps even CPU for a nosy NSA. Is it time to start putting our postcards in envelopes? Would there likely be legislative pushback? Is Opportunistic Encryption even a good idea to help counter an out-of-control intrusive federal government?

Submission + - Helping Snowden Spill His Secrets (

mspohr writes: Great article in the NYTimes Magazine section by Peter Maass.

It goes into a lot of detail on how Snowden first attempted to contact Glenn Greenwald (who couldn't use secure communication at first) and then contacted Laura Poitras who was making a documentary about security. Lots of detail about their getting together, vetting each other, and personal threats to Greenwald and Poitras (as well as Snowden) as well as a good timeline of how events unfolded.
After reading this article I am more concerned than ever about the extent of US surveillance and the extent to which the USG will go to suppress information and intimidate whistle-blowers. Good to see that the NYTimes finally publish some real journalism on this subject.
Also... accompanying transcript of "Q&A — Edward Snowden"

Comment How does this happen? (Score 1) 59

... in order to sign the victim up for some premium-rate SMS services.

The fuck?

Why the hell doesn't the FTC shut these companies down? Why doesn't the FCC kick the carrier's behind into policing these companies better? Why doesn't the US attorney's office rain hellfire and brimstone down on these companies to the extent it did to Aaron Schwartz?

Premium SMS is billed through the carriers, so they have a relationship with the SMS company. There is a clear money trail. The recipient is most likely incorporated. This should be easy.

With all the US mistrust of government right now, this would be an easy way to gain some respectability.

Comment Privacy in 2 years (Score 5, Insightful) 158

This whole thing about privacy will be a non-issue in about 2 years.

There's currently a mass-exodus away from US-based cloud services, and (within the US) away from all cloud services.

Cloud services will have to provide privacy or go out of business. The only way to ensure privacy is client-based encryption keys and open-source software. Since it's impossible to control the distribution of open-source software, the client-side package will end up being free.

This is a good thing, IMHO. Cloud services will focus on the actual service, they won't be able to rummage around in our lives (both corporate and personal), they won't be able to "monetize" their customers as products to advertisers, and the NSA will be shut out of much illegal snooping.

People are already thinking about how to encrypt existing web-based mail services, and I'm even hearing rumors about replacing SMTP altogether with a more secure protocol.

Expect a lot of wailing and gnashing-of-teeth from the government, proposals to make this or that protocol "illegal" or to require government backdoor access, but in the end it will come down to simple economics.

There is an enormous market-driven push towards more privacy. Edward Snowden has had a measurable effect on the world, and probably deserves the Nobel peace prize he was nominated for.

Comment What if? (Score 5, Insightful) 243

What if... What if ... What if...

In an alternate universe where certain facts are known for certain, then sure there may be a problem. Over here, we can make up whatever stories we want about these alternate universes, but they don't affect us.

If the coworker takes off at a critical time without notice (did that actually happen?), then the job will be poorly done and you should raise the issue to management. Point out that the department was understaffed, and it's management's responsibility to have the right talent in-house at the right time.

Or, you take home extra pay pulling overtime picking up the slack, which costs management more than regular time, so they will eventually notice.

Or, you refuse unpaid overtime or have previous commitments that you cannot break and let your boss know this. If your boss can force you to come in to work even though you've got Laker's tickets, find another job.

You shouldn't particularly care if coworkers take time off or not - care about getting the job done on time, under budget, and at good quality. If you can't do this, care about whether it's your fault. Don't let your boss put unreasonable demands on you - that will only shift the blame to you when you can't pull off a miracle. Let them know about problems as they arise, and don't accept blame for things you can't control.

Holding yourself to a high standard of professionalism will work out better in the long run than putting "staying employed" ahead of everything else in your life. It may cost you in the immediate short-term, but the total returns over time far outweigh the immediate costs.

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