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Comment Not so sceptical (Score 1) 179

"apparently they wish to 'encourage the sort of creative innovation that occurs in America.' One can only assume that they've been missing the continual assault on the Fair Use doctrine here in the States."

The two aren't mutually exclusive and, in the UK, revisions to our laws would help address a pernicious problem. It goes without saying that the US has, partly as a result of such nebulous doctrines, the most creative legal industry on the planet; one which contributes significantly to the overall economy. In the UK, where the economy is so fragile that even lawyers with parliamentary incomes are feeling the squeeze, borrowing such innovations makes perfect and practical sense.

Comment Re:Not impossible, but very unlikely (Score 5, Informative) 311

...but the idea of armed police is an absolute no go...launching Tasers from the sky would be public relations disaster.

First, the UK's armed police is significantly on the rise (for the Met, deployments have risen over 50% in six years, despite firearm incidents falling), and they're almost part of the landscape in London. Most of them are still static patrols of high-profile locations, but the Met has been actively planning for routine armed patrols.

The UK Police also seem immune to legal boundaries - their retention of DNA and the use of 'stop-and-search' have both been ruled illegal, with no discernible effect to date. More worryingly, even in high-profile cases of physical abuse, manslaughter and credit-card fraud, officers have been quietly rewarded rather than disciplined.

Secondly, they're getting much better at PR. If the Guardian is right, they started using the spy drones to scour the coast for immigrants: "There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a 'good news' story to the public rather than more 'big brother'." And, since then, they've been practicing on the BNP (paradoxically an anti-immigration minority party with a poor reputation).

It would be utterly wrong to conclude that the UK police are power-hungry, trigger-happy thugs with mental deficiencies, lethal toys, immunity from sanction and slick PR skills. But it would be incautious not to consider the possibility.

Comment Re:First... (Score 1) 357

Either everyone answering is really young...or some people really stick with one job for years?!?!

I had five 'proper' jobs. None for more than five years. Around the age of forty I was made self-employed. And that's where I still am.

I don't think it's that everyone on Slashdot is young. It's just normal employment doesn't last very long any more, unless you're one of the handful that gets promoted to senior management. Once you're over a certain age, hopping from company to company becomes a lot less easy - what's thirty years' experience against a bright young poppet with a shiny new MBA?

This is partly sour grapes, but tax rules, pension deficits, redundancy liabilities and the cost of health insurance would all count against hiring older employees, even if simple ageism were extinct.

There are exceptions, of course. But, if you are still in your twenties or thirties, flitting from job to job, it's probably worth thinking about how you'd earn a living for yourself when the time comes.

Comment Re:detection speed (Score 2, Insightful) 206

Depending on the sort of molecule they're sniffing for, and the detection method, traces in the parts-per-billion range can be detected almost instantly. The limitation is often the speed at which you can get a billion bits of air through your nozzle - or the wind-speed your detection method can withstand. Honeybees, for example, make good detectors in some circumstances, but get miffed in moderate breezes and refuse to work at all if you blow their antennae off.

However, even if they have to parcel up the smells and post them to a lab in Wisconsin, it'll still be quicker and probably cheaper than six years in Cuba.

As for usefulness, I don't think that's the point. It's not meant to be useful, it's meant to give the government a justification for the presumption of guilt. Although the Bill of Rights and the Majesty of the Law are worthy of respect, they are historical throwbacks that aren't always appropriate for a fast-changing world. Any device that can improve the efficiency of justice, even indirectly, must be welcomed by hard-pressed taxpayers.

Comment How did this creature become a professor? (Score 1) 951

I've rarely such unexpurgated garbage in my life. It's a sterile semantic argument stirred with misapprehensions.

For a start, Newtonian mechanics is referred to, and often, sometimes by proper scientists, even though Newton didn't do all the work. It's just a shorthand for a model that works adequately in the everyday human-scale world.

In the same way, Darwinian evolution is shorthand for the simple rules of thumb that Darwin suggested, and we refer to Darwinism because Wallacism sounds silly.

And the hubristic assertion that science was 'primitive' in Darwin's day assumes that science today is 'advanced'. Give it another 150 years, and that claim might look a little premature.

Finally, creationism belongs in a different category. Creationists have one thing to say, and they've said it. What more do they want?Scientists, on the other hand, have lots of interesting and useful things to find out, and need support and encouragement to do so. Pitching the two against each other is like pitching bassoonists against bankers - there's no appropriate contest and thus no sensible outcome.

Comment The readers aren't important (Score 2, Insightful) 205

It's admittedly odd that taxpayers are forced to pay for the scheme, targeted minorities are forced to buy the cards, the but the authorities can decide whether or not it's a sensible use of money.

On the other hand, there isn't much point having the readers unless there's a reason to suspect the bearer's identity. As the scheme is voluntary, those with suspect identities won't be the first in the queue for the cards. As law-enforcement will only interested in those without cards, then there's not much point buying in them buying readers. That doesn't, on the other hand, invalidate the cards, which do still serve a purpose.

At present, the standard identification document is the gas bill which, naturally, discriminates against tenants, people without a gas supply and people who have pre-pay meters (usually the poor). The cards therefore improve the ability of poor people to pay for the privilege of 'interacting with government', and thus improve both 'social mobility' and 'engagement'. In addition, a card with a picture on it has to be arguably more reliable than a piece of paper that can be borrowed out of a dustbin by anyone with a mind to.


Submission + - The Rising Barcode Security Threat (

eldavojohn writes: "As more and more businesses become dependent on barcodes, people are pointing out common problems involving the security of one or two dimensional barcode software. You might scoff at this as a highly unlikely hacking platform but from the article, "FX tested the access system of an automatically operated DVD hire shop near his home. This actually demanded a biometric check as well, but he simply refused it. There remained a membership card with barcode, membership number and PIN. After studying the significance of the bar sequences and the linear digit combinations underneath, FX managed to obtain DVDs that other clients had already paid for, but had not yet taken away. Automated attacks on systems were also possible, he claimed. But you had to remember not to use your own membership number." The article also points out that boarding passes work on this basis — with something like GNU Barcode software and a template of printed out tickets, one might be able to take some nice vacations."

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The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is the most likely to be correct. -- William of Occam