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Comment Beta violates ADA guidelines (Score 5, Insightful) 77

The unnecessarily complex and excessively indented layout interferes with text->speech tools, and actually reduces legibility for people who heavily expand their screens due to visual problems. The current clean, well ordered, linear layout is easy to use, intuitive, and doesn't insert painful, confusing, or unnecessary complexity. The slashdot readers, and contributors, are here for the stories, not for the exciting newness of the GUI.

Does anyone know who actually _wrote_, or demanded, the Slashddot Beta? I'd like their names so we can warn our clients and colleagues _against_ their work.

Comment Re:And this is why (Score 4, Insightful) 206

> Mandatory expiration dates for legislation fall into the large category of "ideas that cause more problems than they solve".

By raw numbers, perhaps. But the problems that they solve are so large and pervasive that they're worth considering. The sheer bulk of existing legal codes, dating back to the Constitution itself, makes sensible analysis of existing law infeasible for even a reasonable legal researcher.

Comment Re:Free for their definition of free, not yours (Score 1) 52

Even a "Public Domain" copyrighted work has rules embedded in copyright law, which apply whether you agree or not. Games played entierly without rules get very strange, very quickly, and inevitably wind up with rules evolved very quickly and not necessarily well.

Having the rules spelled out, in writing, is very helpful to let both sides know what _is_ allowed. This is often far better than the very confusing and potentially dangerous lawsuits involving what is _not_ allowed. Whether these agreements are reasonable is a different question: they do seem pretty aggressive, and restrict the document use far more than even "fair use" restricts it.

Comment Demystifying procedures (Score 1) 387

I'd welcome more general instruction in programming, to give a better understanding of _procedure_ and of ordered sets. The idea that complex sets of tasks can be broken down to practical modules, to relatively small sets of less complex decisions, is one that is often lost in modern math and science and even history or language lessons. With that kind of grounding, later lessons in interrupt handling, prioritization, resource management, and error handling all have a foundation that can explain and demystify very complex problems in household planning, economics, and even political debate.

It's very powerful material, and at the core of modern technology. It deserves early attention in education.

Comment Re:Admiral now in charge of the NSA: What effect? (Score 2) 138

"Uphold the constitution" is an ideal. What it means, every day, boils down to "obey the chain of command".

Moreover, the Constitution is not enough. The prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been ruled, by the previous commander in chief, not have the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions or the US Military Code of Justice apply to them. And so they are trapped, concealed, tortured, some of them tortured to death.

I'm not saying that civilians cannot commit abuses. I'm saying that the disciplined behavior of military personnel given such orders makes them far less likely to refuse the orders, or to expose abuses by their colleagues.

Comment Re:Admiral now in charge of the NSA: What effect? (Score 3, Insightful) 138

> Why do you think a military officer would be less inclined to follow the law than a civilian?

Why do you think a civilian would be more willing to follow illegal orders? The willingness of military to follow the chain of command is indoctrinated into them at every stage of their training and service. It is an _exceptional_ military leader who can see the larger political or moral picture. When those personnel's illegal orders or political abuses are walled behind national security claims, their indoctrinated willingness to follow orders without moral question encourages their actions, and political use of their willingness, to include abuse.

Comment Re:Iron curtain? (Score 1) 337

> You're right. What they're doing is far more oppressive and effective than anything the creators of the Iron Curtain ever dreamed of.

I strongly suspect you've not discussed this with anyone who actually lived behind the Iron Curtain, such as Estonians, East Germans, Poles, or Russians. I've known engineers and scientists from all those nations, before and after the Iron Curtain existed. It was worse than what we're seeing now, as a matter of degree and as a matter of neighbors and colleagues reporting on each other.

It's not that western nations haven't _tried_ for that level of censorship and monitoring: It just hasn't been as broad, nor as successful.

Comment Re:So a good match... (Score 1) 354

As does the USA and other armament selling states. We don't sell our best materials, and the degree to which we strip it of its best features depends profoundly on the depth of the bonds with our partners or satellite states. US clients, such as Israel, Iraq at various times, Pakistan at various times, Afghanistan at various times, all want the latest and most exciting technologies. Failure to maintain or train them with them has been more of a problem of the Soviet clients or partners, historically.

I do respect Soviet weaponry. It's not as effective per unit as the best American tools, but it tends to be more robust, cheaper, and easier for undertrained personnel to maintain.

The aircraft and weaponry in the Middle East former Soviet clients were clearly not just to "scare their own population". The Egyptian and Syrian arsenals of the six day war were there partly to protect them NATO, from each other, and from their despised political bogeyman, Israel. Sadam Hussein in Iraq accumulated an effective military by pointing to aggressive outside nations, such as Iran, the Soviets, and later the US. Arms trades with such leaders and nations are dangerous: the technologies sold for "national defense" do get turned against other partner nations, such as Iraq invading Kuwait, and against civilian populations, and against nations whom we'd like to de-escalate and reduce danger throughout the region. But internal security is hardly the only reason for buying advanced weaponry: National conquest is stiill an ongoing practice: Afghanistan, as an example, was conquered by _both_ the Soviets and the USA in the last 50 years, and their oldest leaders remember well how they survived the Soviet control.

Comment Re:So a good match... (Score 5, Informative) 354

And if you can afford it, it really pays off. Take a good look at what the highly trained, badly outnumbered Israeli air force did to to the Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi air force during the Six Day War. The Soviet trainers of those national air forces there were explicitly prevented from providing extensive training and from keeping the aircraft fully fueled and armed. The constant concern was that educated, trained local pilots would steal the planes and fly to NATO airbases, for both economic and political reasons. The list of successful pilot defections during the time is quite long:

It's an amazing list, and purchasers of Soviet aircraft of the era were constantly handicapped by the risk of the best trained and educated pilots defecting.

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