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Comment Re:Why do we keep doing this? (Score 2) 81

Here's an idea - recipient's SMTP server refuses e-mails unless they get 0.01 cents with it.

Don't bother trying to patent that idea. It has been proposed and even tried many times.

One problem with it is simply that there is no reliable mechanism in place to identify the responsible sender of every piece of email. Internet email is not a single system, but rather a loosely confederated mob of independently operated systems that mostly use a common set of protocols. Most email these days is spam, sent mostly by hijacked machines, of which most is rejected easily by most receiving systems. The bulk of spam that makes it to user inboxes is either being sent in ways that are intentionally deceptive and often using stolen resources or is arguably not really spam because it is pursuant to some formally (if ignorantly) accepted agreement to be sent mail. Neither of those is easily addressed by making rules for people to follow. The first set are not going to follow any new rules and the latter are working within the letter of the existing rules.

Comment Skip the ITWorld article (Score 4, Informative) 81

I'm sure 'itwbennett' would rather everyone go to his employer's website to read that article, but it is clearly not written (or edited) by anyone who has any basic clues about spam-fighting. Just reading the subtitle makes me cringe for the unfortunate "journalists" lassoed into writing it, as it was clearly done by spam neophytes in a desperate scramble for click-scrounging content. The article is vaguely about a paper presented almost a year ago at LISA '11. There are links to an abstract and the original paper at the LISA '11 site:

The general space of sniffing out spam by looking at TCP characteristics has been mined for years usefully with Symantec and MailChannels both offering proprietary tools that use such techniques and some open DNSBL's using TCP sniffing to identify sources, but it would be incorrect to believe that any one methodology will ever be a magical silver bullet against spam.

Comment Re:The U.S. senate decides on overtime pay? (Score 1) 1167

Since I'm not from the U.S. I might have misunderstood something here, but does the U.S. senate really have the authority to change in employment contracts for the worse?

No, and the cited bill does not directly do that. What it does is redefine the scope of exemption from the wage and hour rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Typically, FLSA applies to people paid on an hourly basis with or without a formal employment contract, and requires employers to pay 1.5 times the regular hourly wage for all hours worked over 40 in a week. Some salaried workers are also covered by FLSA, and some hourly wage workers are not. The rules about what jobs are "FLSA exempt" are very complex and detailed, with a general theme that highly compensated jobs that require managerial, supervisory, creative, or self-directed work are generally exempt from FLSA rules. A very large fraction (maybe a majority) of IT jobs are and always have been FLSA exempt and hence employers can (and often do) require workers in those jobs to work more than 40 hours without following the FLSA rules. Exempt salaried workers can be required to work overtime with no extra pay at all. When hiring for an exempt position or reclassifying a job as exempt, employers must inform the employee of its exempt status.

Employers usually classify every job they legally can as exempt from FLSA. This bill is a change in the rules of what sorts of jobs can be classified as exempt. Because most workers in the US are "at will" with no formal employment contract, reclassifying a job is usually a unilateral act by an employer. So this act (if passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President) would not *force* a change in any contracts, but it would end a requirement for overtime pay for some types of employee. The last change in those rules was considered by many to have created some problem circumstances of forcing classification of jobs as non-exempt even though they logically fit the rationale for exemption. I am not familiar with all of the details of that, so I'm not sure if that argument has merit. The only non-exempt IT jobs I can think of are low-level jobs like helpdesk, 1st level desktop support, and data center ops techs.

Comment Re:civil disobedience (Score 1) 803

If the DHS and other federal agencies were helping to coordinate, that's a pretty big stain on Obama-the-organizer's record as an organizer.

That's a big if. Every story about federal involvement ends up referencing a story by a glorified blogger in Minneapolis publishing under the umbrella of a far-right Christianist billionaire, who claims that he got his information from one anonymous source at the Dept. of Justice.

Also, even if there ends up being a non-ridiculous corroboration of the story, people need to get some perspective on how government, and especially policing, actually works under normal circumstances. DoJ is supposed to be largely autonomous from political control, and even if you were to assume that Obama would like to have replicated the Bush model of trying to pack DoJ with loyalists, the objective fact is that GOP Senators have blocked appointments there to an unprecedented extent and as a result there is a serious leadership gap there which is largely surrounded by people hired under a regime that sought "Loyal Bushies" to fill all roles. The lead agencies for this sort of thing would be the FBI and DHS, both of which are still mostly run by people hired by Bush. The GOP project of obstructionism via political appointment blockage has resulted in a government that runs mostly on autopilot, and autopilot for police agencies tends towards paranoia and excessive force. Even if this is an entirely true story that is just suffering from crappy journalism, it isn't clear that this is the sort of thing that would even make it up to political appointee level even if there weren't so many of those seats sitting empty.

Comment Sourcing for this story is abysmal (Score 1) 803

Every echo of this story leads back to the same original source:

Rick Ellis, a Minneapolis-based journalist for, reports that these cities also had the help of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Calling Ellis a journalist is really talking about his past, as is not a journalistic operation. It is a glorified bloghost that hands out locality and topical concessions to whoever wants them. If you'd like to be the Fargo correspondent on the topic of alien abductions, head on over and sign up... Ellis' claimed source for federal involvement is a single anonymous DoJ employee. No serious journalistic operation would publish a story on such a thin thread, particularly given the on-the-record denials of federal involvement. Veterans of Usenet will recognize his claim as akin to the classic "the lurkers support me in email" assertion.

Beyond that weakness, it is helpful to understand the background of It is a property of Clarity Media, which also owns dead-tree newspapers using the Examiner name in SF, DC, and Baltimore and The Weekly Standard. A sibling company owns The Oklahoman. A watcher of media would note the common thread here: strident right-wing publications unconcerned with issues of fact or journalistic integrity. The whole bunch is owned by Philip Anschutz, who is something of a native-born Rupert Murdoch, except that he avoids media coverage himself and is more of a partisan theocrat than a pure devotee of money. Anschutz has bankrolled a menagerie of anti-gay, anti-porn, and anti-science entities such as Colorado for Family Values, Discovery Institute, Media Research Council, Institute for American Values, and so on. He also is the main backer of the Narnia films and has helped prop them up via his Regal Entertainment Group theater chain. In short, Anschutz is someone with a history of spending large amounts of money on evangelism, propaganda, and disinformation in support of a far-right Christian Dominionist agenda. is less purely bullshit than some other parts of Anschutz's media operations, but the rightward tilt is pretty clear behind the amateurism.

Even if Ellis isn't shilling for Anschutz and has a real source at DoJ, it is also important to recognize the failed status of the DoJ. Under Ashcroft and Gonzales, there was a project of political hiring for staff positions that mutated in 2008 into 'burrowing' of Bush appointees into civil service slots. Since 2009, GOP Senators have used their 'hold' privileges to prevent many appointments in DoJ (and elsewhere) so there are a lot of empty chairs at DoJ and some Bush holdovers to go along with the "Loyal Bushie" staff and the burrowing. In short: there is an ethically problematic population of anti-Obama partisans at DoJ, one of whom could be Ellis' anonymous source.

There is an interest on the Right in feeding the basic distrust of Obama in the Occupy movement. That distrust is not entirely baseless, but the legitimate issues (e.g. the courting of financial sector contributors, heavily compromised policies, etc.) aren't overwhelming. Convincing the Occupiers and their sympathizers that there is an active role being played by the Obama Administration in trying to collapse their movement serves the purposes of the GOP and of those to its right such as Anschutz. It should be expected by anyone watching politics that there will be a barrage of efforts to convince the Left that the Democrats who are actually electable to office are as unsalvageably corrupt and enslaved to Big Money as any Republicans. Some of that will be spinning of facts, some will be disinformation. This story smells strongly of disinformation.

Comment Re:Why the hell is this here? (Score 1) 244

It is here because tekgoblin wanted traffic and because /. has no actual editors. The original story which tekgoblin ripped off (with a link, so I guess it is OK...) was posted at The Smoking Gun 4 days ago. (Not Actually) News for Nerds: If you want to read sordid trivial examples of what substance abuse can lead to, TSG is the place to find it. Not tekgoblin. Stuff That Matters: 20 years into its free-market life, the Internet is so stuffed full of worthless junk and stupid money that incoherent aggregation sites like tekgoblin can survive on the revenue from robotic ad sales paying for traffic they get by posting summarized TSG stories to /. If 2000-2001 was the bursting of the "Internet Bubble," I guess that what we have now is more of a sclerotic "Internet Pustule."

Comment Not speaking for myself... (Score 1) 1880

I have never been a significant user of Windows personally and I try to avoid handling it professionally, but in 20 years of system administration I've seen essentially just two reasons that Windows survives: games and inertia. The game situation is special because it is impervious to erosive migration. I don't play games personally, but I don't need to in order to understand that Windows is a better game platform than any other general purpose OS. Games are the one software segment where users are constantly moving to new products and where it really matters to users whether a platform has the most titles. For a gamer, switching to any other platform means access to fewer games without paying the hassle and/or performance penalties of virtualization, emulation,or dual booting. Widespread use of those approaches just further cement the dominance of Windows. Most gamers probably shouldn't switch off of Windows. In the workplace and for non-gamers, the reason people stick with Windows is inertia. Even if the end result is better than sticking with Windows, the effort and disruption of change is often enough to make switching simply not worthwhile.

Comment Just don't do it. (Score 1) 244

The reasons this misfeature has become less common in MUA's over time are that it is fundamentally fraudulent and that it doesn't really work. Spammers who use their own working return path addresses are far more likely to have working unsubscribe mechanisms than they are to have working mechanisms for handling asynchronous bounce messages. That's because in many places (including the USA) unsub mechanisms are legally mandated, but bounce handling is not required and is an inherently hard problem. As a result, there are legally compliant spamming operations like Constant Contact that have fully functional unsub systems and that deal with standard 5xx responses to the RCPT command in SMTP properly, but which basically ignore asynchronous bounce messages and error responses at other points in SMTP.

Comment Re:HIV? (Score 1) 414

Any news on HIV / AIDS? Strange that that isn't the first virus threw into the petri dish with this stuff, to be honest.

Not strange at all. HIV is a slow and fragile retrovirus, which makes it very difficult to work with in a cell culture environment. Note that all of the viruses cited cause fast-moving broad epidemics because they can infect through air and dry surface contact, while the spread of HIV has been controlled largely by behavior because it is relatively hard to pass between living humans, much less between cell cultures in petri dishes. If HIV was as fast-acting and robust as influenza A viruses or even polio, we wouldn't think of it as a particularly scary STD, we'd think of it as the disease that largely depopulated the planet in the 1980's.

Comment Re:Oracle running on MAC hardware? (Score 1) 303

The article speculates that the change is because MySQL is now Oracle property

Can't Oracle fix this problem by offering Oracle on mac hardware?

1. What "problem" would that be?


It is a bit telling that Oracle hasn't kept current on MacOS. Apple has never made heavy-duty servers suitable for Oracle, and has been falling behind in that space since Oracle 10 was the new hotness. The XServe wasn't a bad little box, but it was a *little* box that was really designed for Apple's existing customer population, not for heavy database users. Whatever else Oracle may be, they are not stupid. They know that they have no real reason to care about MacOS as a platform for any of their products.

Comment Re:Dr. Roy Spencer... (Score 1) 954

So this is supposed to cast doubt on his credentials as a climate scientist... how, exactly?

It is proof that he is either irrational or dishonest. Add to that the fact that he is involved with the Cornwall Alliance, a religious organization whose war on climate science is explicitly faith-based and is grounded in making dogmatic counter-factual proclamations. The only conclusion I can come to from those facts is that e cannot be considered a scientist, whatever his formal credentials are. UMich and UWisc should be embarrassed by his degrees, and UAH should be embarrassed by his tenure.

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