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Comment The thing about repeating the past (Score 1) 479

I saw the Lady Gaga quip and Scott's fondness for effective ancient map-reducey techniques on unusual hardware platforms. It reminded me about things like discovering America. Did the Vikings discover it years before any other Europeans? Certainly. Did the Chinese discover it as well? There's some scholarly thought that maybe they did. But you know whose discovery actually effected change in the world? Lame old Christopher Columbus.

Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here from people who want to actually change the world with software and if we spent less time ranting about mmap-vs-scanf-in-Hive we could learn it.

Comment Re:Dear God (Score 1) 124

Skilling's Enron sentence was cut from 23 to 14 years recently. It'll probably be reduced further before he serves his remaing 8 years. I estimate he'll be out on parole in 10 years.

When you think of the sheer amounts of money he could have been skimming off during Enron's "golden years", I'd consider 10 years a pretty good deal.

Comment "Ratfucking" (Score 4, Insightful) 96

A similar dynamic of student-election "dirty tricks" graduating into general election bugging and sabotage of election opponents played out during the Watergate scandal. Donald Segretti cut his teeth in election fraud during his USC days, and later applied his skills in Nixon's reelection campaign, the resulting "Muskie letters" effectively knocking a democratic senator out of the campaign. Karl Rove came from the same school of campaigning.

These incidents are as perfect an example of "Broken Window Theory" in politics as you are likely to come across. "Shenanigans" in college, if left unchecked, lead inevitably to outright election fraud. If you permit criminals to train their skills, operate unpunished, and indeed enjoy the rewards of their misdeeds, they are unlikely to change their ways in a hurry.

On a related note, I regard most student politcs in universities as a wholly illegitimate process. The resulting bodies and persons do not represent the student body or its values. At best, they organise drunken festivals and serve as a training ground for the corrupt and incompetent cadre currently in charge of the western world.

Comment Re:What problem is this solving? (Score 5, Insightful) 266

The argument seems to hinge on the fact that quite young kids are accessing this, and growing up with a very distorted view of sexuality -- google for "Rainbow Parties" as an example.

"Rainbow Parties" are the invention of neurotic adults with awful sex lives, not the internet. They are the sex-obsessed housewife's version of a teenagers "cleveland steamer" -- a ludicrously absurd sexual practice which says more about the mind that considers it than it does about reality.

I don't buy the idea that children are growing up with a skewed idea of sexuality. You show me studies revealing higher incidences of sexual dysfunctions, neuroses, or crimes in present day youth compared to past decades, I might think differently. But if your arguments center around "Rainbow parties" and 11 year olds thinking "bukkake" is normal, then I think the problem is You.

Comment Re:Xmission? (Score 4, Interesting) 309

Or they could say they were monitoring Maddox, when in reality, they were snooping on someone else, or just mooching server space to use in a distributed network they were running. You have no idea, and neither do most people working at the NSA, or the FISA court, etc, etc.

For all anyone knows, this "monitoring equipment" could have been hosting (and let me just go for the Godwin Gold here) a child porn darknet for a ring of senior paedophiles operating inside the NSA. And if anything went wrong, or was discovered, the NSA could ahve just pinned it all on XMission, Mr. Ashdown, and his attorneys. After all, there's no official record, all are gagged from revealing what they know, and the NSA would just lie about it.

And in case this seems hyperbolic: If the NSAs programs continue for long enough, this will happen. History is the definitive proof.

Comment Re:The rest of the story (Score 0) 148

Ha! As if. I suppose you're blaming house Republicans, but if those guys were making budgetary threats, they'd be pretty hollow. Or have you been asleep for the past year and a half of gridlock? :P

And you're not doing much yourself to provide a counterexample to the notion that climate-change is a left-wing conspiracy. So I have an idea for you. How about we talk science for a bit instead of political smears?

Comment Re:Smart guns... (Score 4, Insightful) 814

For the manufacturer, it's also a political maneuver. They can say "we made smart guns!" and maybe get some politicians off their back for a little while.

And it's obvious why people don't actually buy them. Pay $$$ extra for finicky biometrics which are at least as likely to impede you as they are to assist you? I'll get right on that.

Comment Re:Yaaaawn (Score 1) 103

This solves the problem of getting to LEO cheaply enough by using a miniature, lightweight tank. That's why it's a big deal. (Or at least a medium deal.)

And forget the interstellar-space angle for a moment, too: anyone for a decent picture of Pluto?

Comment Re:Precedent (Score 1) 266

The main thing that the USA today piece gets at is this:

But his crime devastated the Vatican, shattering the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope.

Let's consider a similar privilege in the US: attorney-client privilege. It's really important that people can trust their communications with their lawyers are confidential, at least if there is any hope to maintain a semblance of justice in the justice system instead of federal prosecutors running roughshod over everyone. Likewise, it's really important for the Vatican that people trust their priests enough to actually go to confession for forgiveness of sins (important to Catholics, you may have heard) and to receive moral guidance - at least so long as people remain imperfect, which means more or less 'forever'.

There have been some big scandals recently which have compromised that sort of trust.

Comment Re:This is the slope before the cliff (Score 1) 385

What do most people need computers to begin with? They are not 3D modeling or doing highly computational mathematics. They needed a computer to surf the web, do email, and maybe now and then create documents.

They (the majority of people) are not 3D modelling or doing highly complex mathematics, or expiermenting with music, or simulations, or art, or anything beyond the box, because the software is not there. The software is not there because programmers themselves believe that computers are now for surfing the web, email, MS Office, and playing Angry Birds.

And this might be tolerable if things just stood still, but instead they're going backwards as the new generation of programmers decides that Personal Computers should be even less usable. File Manger in Windows 3.11 was a very usuable and understandable application. I bought an android tablet recently which dind't even have a file manager. Those which could be downloaded made operations like copy and paste into nigh dystopian process. Don't even get me started on inputing and editing text on this device.

Yet, we see tablet concepts actually bleeding back into the desktop, making it even less usable. It's as though programmers have collectively decided to dumb down device they once used to create entire universe in, and to make possible things which others had never even imagined. The potential of PCs is being put back into the box.

Comment Re:This is the slope before the cliff (Score 1) 385

The real issue here is that software is not being developed to exploit the new found power of modern PCs. An entire generation of programmers is wasting their time writing sophmoric beta "apps" for restricted tablet devices. People are buying these yes, but collectively our software and productivity levels are not advancing.

People used to upgrade their PCs to get a new OS with useful new applications. No such OS is being made anymore. Most of them, Windows, Mac and many Linux distros, are instead sliding ever backwards.

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