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Comment Re:Yes, totally (Score 2) 338

I disagree that it's "usually due more to corruption than anything else". I consider the problem one of accountability and politics (but not the corrupt type)... in the short term politicians are glad to have their names associated with grand projects -- building a new city-wide WiFi would be a boon, just as a new bridge, new bike paths, and other projects are. But long-term maintenance may get whittled away when the economy tanks, or due to other high priority budget concerns. As long as the politician can avoid disaster during their tenure there's no real incentive to provide adequate budget to these projects, and in fact there's a large disincentive as voters quite often push back against budget increases that aren't for their pet projects. The result is that politicians who can keep taxes low are re-elected but infrastructure budgets are stretched thin. None of that is necessarily corrupt, it's just short-sighted. Most cities "need" to replace their plumbing infrastructure, repair and replace roads and sidewalks, shore up levies, and at some point they'll need to upgrade internet infrastructure.

Here's some interesting reading on the topic that has specific examples across infrastructures (not a plug, I don't know these people):

Consider the Comcast/Netflix issue... Comcast argued that other entities weren't upgrading their high-bandwidth lanes quickly enough for capacity to justify charging content providers extra money. How would that argument look if the entities were governments? Could you convince a municipality to spend money on a high-speed backbone when everyone appears to have working internet but experts see bottlenecks in the future, but when that budget must be split between roads and sewers and buses and...? Now that could become a corruption issue if, for example, an outgoing politician sees that an opponent from another party is going to win the next term; could they stack the budget to ensure a problem during their opponents term? Absolutely. But that isn't required for there to be problems.

Comment Re:80% of people working in a field (Score 1) 170

I don't know if I'm naive... I admitted it happens, although I may underestimate how much (and you may overestimate how much; it's really difficult to know). But I asked for possible solutions; I even offered non-competes as a conversation starter. I suppose there's some value in just complaining about it, since it brings attention to a topic, but it's MORE constructive to actually discuss solutions as well as the problem. What do you propose? Force someone who retired from a government job to avoid any conflict of interest until death? Limit lobbying to make these post-retirement positions less attractive? We need to attract more qualified people into government jobs, so any solution that provides a disincentive to work for the government could backfire in that regard.

I ask in earnest. I'd like to see transparency and I agree that in general the power-sway between corporations and citizens seems imbalanced when it comes to lobbying, but I truly don't see any conversation about a workable solution in the article, and little in the ./ threads.

Comment Re:80% of people working in a field (Score 4, Insightful) 170

I see that there's the potential for abuse there, and I'm sure it is abused this way sometimes, but I don't see the job offers as proof that it's happening. It DOES make good sense for these companies to hire people with inside, high profile jobs from the governing organizations, whether or not the policies they enacted hurt the company (in some ways probably more so). These are very strong job candidates even without bribery being a consideration. Even if we were omnisciently certain that no quid-pro-quo existed, these are people who would get (and arguably deserve) great job offers.

The questions then become how do we identify actual abuse (vs normal labor market forces) and how do we stop it?

In non-government positions, if this were a concern (not to the public, but to the original employer), there would be a non-compete clause of some sort. I'm not aware of government jobs ever having non-compete clauses, but it would probably be prohibitively difficult to do (not that it shouldn't be done, but it's so difficult to fire most US government employees that I can't imagine it being easy to implement even more labor restrictions). We could perhaps lobby for that, but it's doubtful to happen. I'm open to suggestions, but without other options this just seems like unconstructive complaining.

Comment Re:Am I reading this right (yes and no) (Score 2) 172

No. The B612 people's math is demonstrably wrong, or at least very misleading.

26 explosions happened in the atmosphere in the last 13 years. Some of them broke windows but none had significant impact on cities, and would not have no matter their location. I don't know how they predicted once every hundred years, but they're wrong for two reasons. First, predictive analytics just doesn't work that way with any high confidence. If I flip a coin -- one that I know is cheating -- 26 times and it comes up heads every time, what are the odds that it will come up tails? You don't know... You can't know. You can make some educated guesses, but there is no real confidence. In the case of these explosions I'm sure they can model the size, altitude, and some other things, but still, they can't really know this, and they seem to fail to account for things like the impact of jupiter and the moon and sun on larger asteroids (which does actually affect the math). Second, you can compare the numbers to recorded history. The earth has certainly been hit by asteroids that would destroy a city. The last one probably happened off the coast of New Zealand around 1400 BC and caused a tsunami wiping out some local villages. There are only a few hundred noteworthy craters on earth over the past few hundred-million-years. That works out to "not one per century".

Make no mistake -- I think we should prepare for and defend against them, and I'm in favor of the satellite and conversation on the topic. But the numbers in this study are difficult to swallow and I accuse the hopefully well-intentioned people behind B612 of some under-founded alarmism.

Comment Second Guessing 13-year old market research (Score 2) 272

Thirteen years ago the network infrastructure wasn't in place to let people do with a tablet what they do now, so the market research at the time may have been spot on. You can't really second-guess it now. I mean, sure, it may have become wildly popular, but Nokia actually entered the tablet space around 2005 with the 770 and even that was rather premature by today's tablet standards. Four years LESS of infrastructure, apps, and internet-addiction wasn't going to help any tablet succeed. And while the article hints that the early designers would have made different choices with the 770, there's no guarantee they would have made a difference. There were no killer apps -- no facebook, twitter, or instagram that people just HAD to have access to all the time. No reliable data network. Definitely no YouTube or Netflix. PDAs were slowly becoming popular, but they were very personal -- glorified address books and note taking devices.

It would be nice if the team were rewarded and kept on to make use of the technology somewhere and grow the market, but it's not like they were the first -- the Newton, and devices from HP and DEC were all in development much earlier than this -- and no matter how much of a "pioneer" you think someone may be, they do need a market; either you have to build it or wait for it if it doesn't exist, but just because a device can be created doesn't mean that the entire experience was ready-to-go.

Comment Path of Light and Clarity (Score 1) 60

I remember reading somewhere (and I've spent nearly two minutes searching on Google, so you know it's somewhat obscure) that some people were concerned that our images of distant galaxies were TOO CLEAR. Their reasoning was that any given photon will take a (likely highly biased) random walk through quantum foam, or that the clarity actually helps disprove quantum foam theories (some information here:

I realize I'm light on details, and that's due to my memory and weak goggle-fu (I'm on a lot of [legal] drugs today) so go gently on ripping the science apart, but if anyone had actual references to the real theory, I'd be interested in its current efficacy, and how it relates to the /. article.

Comment Re:Terrible summary (Score 1) 190

Well, "why" I believe it is because I feel like it. :-) Not to be TOO snarky -- that's just the sort of line I draw between "belief" and scientific-fact. This is the strongest correlation I've seen, and to me it's convincing enough until something stronger comes along. I wouldn't call it a strong belief (I mean I just posted paragraphs on how it could be wrong, and it's not really a topic that I have any stake in whatsoever), but if some undead omniscient egyptian deity threatens to kill me unless I answer the question "why does a zebra have stripes" in a scientifically accurate manner, then at the moment this whole fly idea is probably a better guess than anything else I'd come up with.

Comment Re:Terrible summary (Score 2) 190

I half agree and half don't. Asking why the flies did not evolve to adjust is a good question; most animals do evolve to exploit readily available food sources, not to have seemingly random phobias of them, so there seems to be a large unanswered question. My problem with any evolutionary theory, though, that uses the word "why" is that it's implying causality from correlation, which is a science no-no.

It could be, for example, that flies have some other aversion to zebras -- for example they may have a more effective swatting tail -- and therefore the flies evolved an aversion to zebra stripes. Since we don't have any good tests of ancient fly behavior we can't truly know which came first. It could be that there was some third related causal element... for example if zebras stripes were an evolutionary advantage allowing them to hide from large predators in some particular foliage that appeared striped, and that foliage also housed animals that ate tsetse flies, the flies could have learned not to go near the striped surfaces for reasons unrelated to zebra. Or the two things (stripes and aversion to stripes) could have evolved as a coincidence.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good use of animal demographic data and a very interesting result. I also tend to believe that the result is correct: that the zebra evolved stripes because those with particularly dominant stripes were less prone to disease and problems brought on by fly bites, and this led to a positive selection for those striped traits. I'm just saying it's always going to be a leap to say there's a "why" that any particular evolutionary advance happened, because "why" is vulnerable to the "why not" counterargument, and it's unprovable because no experimentation can (reasonably) be done.

Comment Re: Futile gesture (Score 1) 145

There were too MANY warning signs... half the world was already at war, and it's very unlikely that the signal of any legitimate intel that Pearl Harbor was about to happen could have risen above the noise of everything else the intel community had to keep up with at that time. How many incorrect tips and hints do you think came through, and to whom, and from whom? It's easy to find that needle in a haystack with 70 years of hindsight, but at the time, with everyone gathering intel but without the technology we have today for ferreting out useful information, I doubt it was possible to give any real warning. Besides, any attack on our land would have brought us into the war... if a conspiracy truly wanted that, then they could have given just enough warning to still witness the attack, but be alert enough to not cripple our navy and waste a huge percent of our might going into the war.

Getting back on topic, though, this IS why modern spy agencies exist. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone we spy on is fairly cognizant of it without Snowden's revelations (which, I still point out, are going far beyond the "exposing domestic spying" that is the core of his defense). When Obama was quoted in his "All nations collect intelligence" comment about people knowing what he has for breakfast, I think he was conceding that other countries, even allies, keep abreast of our leadership's activities through all means necessary. Is that right? I don't know... some of it depends on the methods and some on how deeply we go even when that leadership is trying to be private, and how much we truly share about these activities with our allies. That is, while it may be easy to know what the president had for breakfast, and while we may not even mind that that information gets out, it should be difficult to know what he discusses in the situation room or the oval office with doors closed. Snowden provides no context, no background, and no well-balanced research that traditional journalism should provide, and he and his information are losing a lot of credibility, at least with me, in so doing. Of COURSE we collect information on foreign leadership. So does the entire media population. If a crisis breaks out you can bet that some reporters will know exactly how to get hold of any leader they want to almost immediately.

From the article, it's clear that whatever documentation Snowden provided is not sufficient to prove anything, and even if it were a red-handed case (which it's not), there's still the possibility that it was done with some level of consent or coordination with Germany. The US, Germany, and Britain do actually have pretty strong diplomatic ties... something also confirmed by Snowden ( A quid-pro-quo trading of this sort of information isn't out of the question, and could certainly make the legal aspect more difficult to unravel. This stuff is all far from black and white.

Comment Re:Consider... (Score 2) 490

Thank you... I can't believe how many posts it took before someone mentioned this. "Only" 70-80% of the country has some form of internet or broadband, depending on who you ask... I bet the remaining 20+% account for more than their fair share of DVD users (I can't be sure, but still). Alienating that group is potentially bad for business.

Your first three points were very good as well... Ultimately, though, it's also about what people are willing to pay for. I don't really care WHY people are renting DVDs, but as long as they still want to (any of the reasons you gave or more), providers will be willing to take their money. Given that streaming options are becoming more and more prevalent, it's less likely that people are being forced to and more that they prefer to, but either way people keep buying DVDs.

I, personally, buy them because they're cheap, I like having them, I can be more sure what my collection includes (my options aren't taken away by constantly changing catalogs), I can share them, they work on all sorts of old cheap hardware... all sorts of reasons.

Comment Re:I wonder (Score 1) 154

Of course, you could also imagine a group of highly intelligent and capable programmers that grew up on legends of the Enigma, Bletchley Park, and Alan Turing... who live for reverse engineering code and breaking ciphers. People who know that enemies of the state (in this case the US) had used secret communications since the US War of Independance ( and yes, there are non-nsa links to similar material, but I thought it proved the point that much better), up to the modern day -- new and old enemies, large governments and small factions, and all enemies in between.

They believe to their core that protection of the country to whom they actually are very loyal requires not only a strong military but a strong counter-intelligence program and, given the way modern information is exchanged, "things have worked out about as well as you'd imagine". Just like the military, these people have built what they hope is the world's most capable collection of people and tools. By "capable" of course I mean able to execute the core objective -- to collect intelligence. We have no background, no history on why any individual piece of code is put in place. The person building injection attacks to MySQL, as an example, may have had a specific MySQL using target in mind when it was created, just like the nuclear bomb was created largely in response to World War II, and no matter how controversial, we still have those weapons and we still keep them available should they need to be used. Invoking nuclear weapons isn't even necessary -- guns, missiles, missile defense, any military tech has moral implications. Whether we should use any weapon or not is fine for debate, but I do see parallels -- you can't write off the people developing or using these weapons as "amoral", when, in fact, the vast majority of them are explicitly doing so for the defense of their country.

These people need not be "amoral". They may be misguided, or have priorities not in line with the majority of the public (although even that is easily debated). I give these guys the benefit of the doubt most of the time, however; by and large they believe they are working for the right side.

Comment Re:Do not overreacht please (Score 5, Insightful) 187

I consider it an overreaction because the reaction is more against the change rather than to the impact of the change itself. I, for one, prefer the new mechanism. The main reason is that I found the grey boxes and light lines difficult to discern, particularly on poorly calibrated monitors (including some of my own -- I tend to prefer a high monitor temperature that mutes the contrast there).

The big yellow "Ad" symbol is much easier for me to identify. The yellow stands out. It's not garish; they could certainly make it MORE visible, but again, for me, personally, the yellow is easier to spot than the grey, and I consider it an improvement. Yes, I'd probably have preferred that they do both.

Anyway, I'm sure people will disagree, but people disagree on any change... it's not the end of the world. Ads are still labeled and people will get used to it then complain about the next change. That's why it's an overreaction.

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