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Comment Re:LIAR (Score 1) 572

I'm not sure that this isn't true.

It's absolutely not true, and here's why:

1. All of this highly secretive, decades-to-rebuild information was exposed by ONE guy with a conscience. From everything we've heard, Snowden wasn't some hacker genius, this stuff was just extremely poorly protected once you got to a certain access level. It's possible, in fact I would say probable, that the exact same set of secrets and more have been removed without authorization in similar ways in the past, but by people with less conscience. From there they could sell them to Russia, China, Al Qaeda, or GIVE them to any number of causes to which they happen to be sympathetic. They may do this either out of greed, loyalty to something other than the US intelligence apparatus, or because they were planted by an external power in the first place.

Why do I think it's highly probably this information has leaked before? Simple: the information was clearly too easy for Snowden to reach, which indicates a fundamental flaw in the NSA security structure... inside any organization, you have to assume that some people aren't what they say. No matter how good your psych screening process, no human system can keep out people with ulterior motives with 100% accuracy -- you have to limit access to only those who truly "need to know" and that doesn't mean broad cross-cutting security clearance levels. It's obvious that foreign governments would be highly interested in information like this, yet Snowden was able to access a huge array of information that he had no legitimate need to access (from the NSA's point of view). Clearly they trust people "inside the circle" far more than they should, which combined with the high probability of at least a couple of successful infiltrations by foreign agents makes it all but a certainty that Snowden's isn't the first leak, only the first PUBLIC leak.

2. All of the public surprise and outrage is coming from people who never bothered to stop and think about the subject before the leak. If they had, it would be fairly obvious that a pretty wide set of things described in the Snowden leak were probably happening. Of course you could never tell for sure, but if you were a little paranoid there were a large number of safe bets you could make, most of which have now turned out to be true. Now, the general public had no specific reason to be paranoid, so they're surprised and upset by these revelations... but they don't matter. This official is claiming that the leak puts them in a worse position compared to the people they want to use these tools against, and (unless the NSA is actually in the business of spying on innocent civilians) anyone they need to legitimately use these tools against is by definition doing something fairly obviously illegal, and would have every reason to be paranoid.

In short, nobody evil enough for the NSA to legitimately want to target AND smart enough to warrant tools this sophisticated is surprised by any but a very small handful of these revelations. And even the ones that are surprising are likely made moot by precautions those people would take against the more obvious NSA tricks.

In short, either the NSA rep is lying, or they really think the people they're hunting are so dumb that they never questioned whether plaintext email over SSL to the GMail servers was enough security to hide them from the NSA, or whether phones registered in their name could be tracked. And frankly, neither answer is good. If they're lying, it's more of the same; and if they really believe the people they were hunting hadn't guessed the majority of this already, then they're criminally underestimating the very people they're supposed to be watching (or door 3, they wanted to watch people who hadn't done anything wrong, and so had no reason to think about this stuff... but they sure do now!)

As an aside, I like how he casually tosses it out like, "yeah, it'll take decades to get back to this level again" as if it were a foregone conclusion that they WILL do that. Of course it's not looking great right now from the public reaction standpoint, but the casual assumption that the nation is just going to sit around while they go install a new network of secret backdoors in all our technology is pretty fucking arrogant.

Comment Re:What about 'public transit stop' do you not und (Score 1) 653

I am strongly against these private corporations illegal use of public space for their own benefit.

Frankly, it's highly unlikely that they're getting the better end of the deal here. These companies operate private buses at their own expense, which both improves their employee's commute and reduces vehicle volume on public roadways. I'd be willing to bet that they also provide employees with passes for the local transit system, as that's pretty standard in the industry.

So the net effect is this:

  • Fewer cars on the road
  • Transit company gets paid for a pass, but doesn't have to carry an additional rider
  • Bus stop is temporarily used to load passengers who would otherwise be on the road or a public bus

I don't see any realistic scenario where the public is WORSE off for this arrangement. Sure, it might be nice if Google bought space for their own stops... but then you'd have 70 feet of street space taken up JUST for them, with no benefit to parking, street use, or public transit. Surely that would be a worse arrangement.

Comment Re:Little knowledge is dangerous. (Score 1) 287

I've learned from experience that a bad boss will second-guess programmers whether they think they know coding or not. If anything, learning some coding should help reduce the problem, because the ones who DON'T know any coding don't even have the training to picture any of the mechanics of what their employees are doing.

Either way, the "it's only doing x, why does it take 3 weeks?" syndrome is endemic to managers with poor delegation skills and problems with trust, regardless of coding skill.

Comment Re:Is it even possible anymore? (Score 1) 287

Yes. And there are several sites out there that will present you with several options for each layer, with pros and cons and instructions on how to configure them, and host them for free.

Check out Heroku. There's a learning curve, but it's amazing how easy it is for even a new user to get a full-stack web app up and running in a matter of hours compared to 5 years ago.

Comment Re:How is this worse? (Score 1) 176

Mentioned in some other stories is the fact that a lot of this program was tried first at the Waterstone's chain in the UK. In those stores, they sell Kindle devices, and customers can also bring in any Kindle (bought there or not) and read just about any book on Amazon for free for an hour while connected to the store's wi-fi.

The "selling Kindle devices" part made it to the US, so it seems reasonable that the other bit isn't far behind.

Comment Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (Score 1) 674

This is likely true, and it's inevitable. It's also necessary, and a Very Good Thing(tm).

Education is one of the last jobs where the productivity of an individual worker hasn't improved in the last 300 years. A class size of 20-25 was the optimal load in the 1800s, and it's still the optimal load today. It takes a fair bit of specialized training to do well, roughly equivalent to the training that would go into an engineering or design education, but workers in an engineering or design field have their output multiplied by a factor of hundreds (at least) due to mass production, digital distribution, etc.

In a nutshell, the economy has moved past the teaching profession. Teachers want to be compensated for the effort they put in to their training (and rightly so) but their personal output is shrinking every year in comparison to the output from other jobs with similar levels of training. The only way to reverse this is to build a system which will distribute their work to much larger numbers of students.

Once digital teaching systems and peer help tools like those being pioneered by Khan Academy become pervasive, teachers may be able to handle classrooms of closer to a hundred without dropping in quality. Instead of every teacher in every classroom spending hundreds of hours a week on their own customized curriculum, a small group of experts can provide the entire country with a curated curriculum that's been polished and refined, and A/B tested to prove that it works.

The alternative is that education keeps getting more expensive, dropping in quality, and consuming more and more resources as a total percent of the economy. It's not sustainable the way it's going right now.

Comment Re:Start your own provider? (Score 1) 353

That's insane.

One potentially mitigating factor, I've heard that often residential plan speeds are quoted as "up to" while business plans are "guaranteed average", so when the links get saturated during busy hours the business plan should be less affected. Although even if that was the case with your provider it sounds like it's probably not worth it.

Comment Re:Start your own provider? (Score 1) 353

The key is "for the prices that the average consumer is willing to pay". With ~$15/mo plans I understand why capping has become necessary. But most providers will also have a business plan which is completely uncapped, and usually has much better customer service levels as well. For example, I use Comcast Business, and pay $60/mo for 20/3. I regularly get faster speeds than I'm promised, have no cap, and I've had tech support out on Sunday afternoon with 2 hours notice to replace a busted router. It costs more, but as you pointed out it probably SHOULD.

Comment Re:More? (Score 1) 294

I was recently in the market for something very similar, so I can at least tell you why I didn't buy a Surface.

First, the specs were too inflexible. I wanted a machine that can handle some serious coding, and for me that means running Eclipse, on Linux, inside a VM. For that to work well, I need to be able to give the VM 4 gigs on its own, so the host needed 8. The Surface tops out at 4.

Similarly with hard drive space, I want to be able to keep a couple of VMs around, install several large games, and take music and movies on trips. Now, the Surface has an SD slot, but the internal drive tops out at 128GB, and Windows takes something insane like 50GB for itself. So while music and movies could go on a card, that increases the price and adds hassle.

Also the CPU and Graphics chip are both last-generation. Not only does this mean lower performance, but also worse battery life.

The second big point was the keyboard. The basic keyboard is goddamn unusable for touch typing, and even the pro keyboard is terrible. The travel and response of the keys is not good, the layout has several weird choices in it (just look at the arrow keys), and the touchpad is small. I was looking at this as a serious laptop replacement, and having a janky keyboard just wasn't going to fly.

At the same time, the keyboard is just loosely clipped onto the body. So you can't actually hold the thing on your lap AND use the keyboard well. You HAVE to put it on a table or something, and you can't adjust the angle of the screen so god help you if there's any glare, or your chair is the wrong height.

What I ended up getting was this and I'm very happy with it. 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, newer generation chips so better battery and performance. The keyboard is much nicer in every way, and since the screen has a real hinge it's a laptop that actually works on your lap. The only tradeoff is it's slightly thicker in tablet mode, but since at least half my time will be spent using the keyboard it's well worth it.

Honestly I was sad that the Surface wasn't better. It seems like Microsoft has an incentive to sell better hardware for cheap to grab some market share, but there were just too many compromises on specs and design for it to be attractive.

Comment Re:impossible (Score 3, Insightful) 297

which is why infrastructure projects should all be privately funded, then their economic viability, success or failure are on the backs of the owners and not tax payers.

Let's explore that thought a bit.

Say the local islanders dislike Mr. Ellison's policies. Say, for example, that someone wants to start a local airline which competes with the ones that already serve the island. Well, the ones that serve the island are owned by Ellison, and any competition is going to eat into profits. Fortunately (for him) he also owns the airport, so he can just refuse to allow the 3rd party airline to fly there.

Of course this competing airline could start their own airport, but that's likely prohibitively expensive. And even if they had they money, Larry owns all the land on the island, so he can just refuse to lease them land on which to run an airport.

The inhabitants of this island are, for all intents and purposes, indentured peasants to Larry Ellison. He has an effective monopoly on their food, housing, and transport off the island, and they have only as much say in how he runs things as he feels like letting them have. If you honestly think that's a good way to live, then I'll be happy to purchase your house and vehicle from you and let you pay me rent (at a rate that I choose, of course).

Of course Lanai is an extreme example, but similar problems occur when you try to run certain types of infrastructure projects with private companies on the mainland. For certain classes of things like roads, water/sewer lines, and probably electric, the amount of space and planning required makes it prohibitive to build multiple competing services. You can't have a city based on TWO separate street grids. And trying to run more than one water system or electric grid through the same town would get intrusive and immensely confusing in all but the most sparsely populated areas.

So what you end up with out of necessity is either a government monopoly or a private one. You no longer have the ability to "take your money elsewhere" so the private company has zero incentive to listen to you. With the government monopoly, though, you get two major benefits: one, you're guaranteed a vote, and in a local government that means a lot more than at the federal level; and two, the government's goal is to serve the needs of the citizens, NOT to make a profit off them.

In short, you've grossly oversimplified the problem. Of course private corporations COULD own and run infrastructure projects. Nobody's disputing that. But it's highly unlikely that they would run it WELL in cases where competition isn't feasible.

Comment Re:Rogue employees (Score 1) 457

No. Just no. SAYING that data protection trumps all concerns is common. So is wanting to hit your yearly goals by shipping your project, and agreeing with the objectives your VP sets. Sure, some people really want to do the right thing, and sometimes they even have enough time to figure out what that is, and enough backbone to stand up for it. But that combination exists in way less of middle management than you seem to think it does.

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Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982