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Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Need an open source petition server

Aging_Newbie writes: When you sign a petition you often reveal your political ideology / affiliation because petitions are hosted by organizations like MoveOn, etc. That devalues your petition if you submit it to your opposition because they know immediately you won't vote for them, so why bother. I want to set up a server without political affiliation. A Contact Your legislator / representative feature would be excellent too. Hoping not to reinvent the wheel.

Comment Re:Nothing new? (Score 0) 738

Amateurs wrote Linux and many open source applications... Amateurs are committed to excellence in their practice. DO NOT EVER equate amateur with incompetence. Amateurs are driven by a passion to excel...

Incompetence is best named as it is ... incompetence. And Professionals deserve credit for their accomplishments.

Comment Mostly true, but it depends ... (Score 1) 674

Within its limits (40 watts per channel) my 1972 Dynakit stereo sounds better than most common systems. Given sources such as CDs and DVDs, the audio is great. Of course, the speakers/equipment are huge and portability is kind of lacking. On the other hand, FM radio has definitely benefited from improvements in the past decades and old FM receivers are rather deficient compared to even portable units nowadays.

Now, all of THAT said, a pair of Koss PRO-4AA headphones and a fraction of a watt of clean audio from a good audio card, MP3 player, CD player, or laptop is hard to beat and I cannot tell the difference between a good amplifier and a good portable device driving the headphones......

Comment Re:data caps (Score 1) 722

Imagine if you, like I, have 18GB per month cap for satellite service. I had no use whatever for streaming but the DVDs are wonderful. The only complaint I have is that some new stuff is available streamed well before on DVDs, so that messes stuff up a bit. On the other hand, I have a local Family Video store so I can go there and rent a new movie once in a while for less than I had to pay for streaming I couldn't use. So, I am happy with the change. But I am so far from the Information Superhighway that sometimes the crickets cover up the road noise!

Comment How about extending Creative Commons licensing? (Score 1) 175

How about extending Creative Commons concepts to the invention realm? Instead of simply being able to demonstrate freedom of the idea by publication or otherwise provable prior use, you could free the idea by wantonly releasing it into humanity's commons. Along the way, you could specify similar categories of use, like attribution, not for profit use, etc. and still make money from some applications of the technology. Unless it infringed existing (prior) patents somehow, the publication of the description would invalidate future attempts to patent the idea, thus protecting the inventor and humanity at large from a wasteful fight. Patents mean nothing for a sufficiently valuable invention with sufficiently powerful opposition, so why not just open it up and get away from all the litigation? Just consider the intermittent windshield wiper as an example. Already there is little cause to patent an idea because defending it becomes a serious problem for most mortals. Raising the cost and barriers to what was intended to be a protection for the little guy removes the last vestige of fairness from the law anyway. If one claims an invention by some commons method, it assures safe use unless it already infringes, and companies the world round could share in the wonders of American Innovation. Mr. Lessig, are you listening?

Comment Re:Useless posturing (Score 1) 262

"None of them will want to be the one to send Joe Sixpack into orbit."

You forget the ship loaded with Telephone Sanitizers, Beauticians, Managers, etc. from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series...

Not only that ... but ... Since we have no use for people able to produce really nutritious wholesome food on this planet, maybe we send them to another where their work is appreciated

Comment Re:Your own Disk controller chipset? (Score 1) 578

IDE drives do not allow you access to the physical data format. It is written on the disk when it is created and not changed. In the old days, hardware wore out soon enough that the physical format could become unreadable and need to be replaced with a new one. Fun, huh?

Actually you have to go back to the early 80s when BIOS had the low level init utility for hard drives and the drives themselves were simply bit writing and reading devices. At that time you could establish an arbitrary physical format on the drive before you wrote the OS format. In fact, I remember how you could take a 20 MB drive and make it a 30 MB drive with a different RLL (Run Length Limited) encoder that stashed bytes more compactly. That process exceeded the capacity of the processors of the time so was in hardware. So, I guess, just go back and get a 10 or 20MB drive with interface card and have at it.

Comment Re:Not news (Score 1) 374

Communication by entanglement always reminds me of an "urban legend" during the last part of the cold war. The legend goes as follows. In their attempt to investigate psychic phenomena, the obviously evil and unspeakably nasty Russians took two rabbits, litter-mates, and separated them. One went for a one-way ride on a submarine while the other had electrodes attached to his head for EEG measurements. Then, at a randomly selected time known only to the submariners, the baby rabbit was brutally murdered to make a brief but very strong impression on its psyche. It turns out that the brainwaves of the other rabbit responded at exactly the time of the murder. Obviously entanglement in its almost purest form. Strangely enough, successful replications of the study were never reported.

This story served two purposes. By that time, people were beginning to suspect that Russians were just folks, maybe even like us. One purpose was to keep the people in line by showing just how nasty the adversary was. The second was to pollute their minds with pseudoscience to keep them from ever thinking in a rational, even skeptical manner. Otherwise, they would not be quite so easy to manipulate. Does that sound familiar? Things never change.

Comment Just a simple back door is all (Score 1) 252

They just discovered a back door for the convenience of the IT folks.

"The reason current FIPS standards don't defend against the vulnerability is because in a corporate environment, being able to unlock and manage hundreds of USB flash drives with a single administrative password is useful, Jevans noted, "which is effectively what this vulnerability is."

The device password, which is unlocked by a user password, is built into the software that resides on all of the USB drives."

One password to unlock them all. Better be sure to make it a real strong one :-)

Comment My favorite programmer metric (Score 1) 597

My favorite programmer metric is deceptively simple. Called "Delivered Testable Requirements" it simply counts the testable requirements delivered in the module, modification, etc. Of course, the "deceptively" part is that two things are typically missing from software development ... One is formal testing and the other is requirements so, Never Mind!

Comment Re:missing the point (Score 1) 388

Unfortunately the wall paper will provide little protection in tornado alley because:

1. Ballistic 2 by 4's will still fly through your windows -- depending on your luck yours or the neighbor's flying glass will make all outside rooms uninhabitable if the tornado hits just right.
2. The vacuum outside your house will still lift the roof off and then dump some of it into the house
3. If it is more violent, the vacuum will still tear walls off the structure

So ... when you look for a house be sure that you end up in one with:
1. a windowless bathroom because small rooms in the center of the house are structurally much sounder than big ones and safer -- a walk-in closet in the middle of the house is OK too but the extra framing in most bathrooms makes them very sturdy. A bathroom in a basement may be optimum.
2. a tub to provide even more protection for a child or two or a wife or other vulnerable human
3. a basement that will permit you to build a a simple but sturdy shelter to keep falling debris and flying objects out
4. a weather radio operating 24/7 in alarm mode to give you the extra seconds you need to take shelter
5. failing all but 4, above, the place you live has a public shelter within easy reach when your alarm says scramble.

Then, even though you want the fame of being a great videographer, don't pause on the way to the shelter to take pictures of the tornado you see advancing. That one is but a distraction to help the one that is dropping out of the sky just above you wipe you out.

Comment We are our own worst enemy (Score 1) 359

Power plants frequently have extensive networks connecting data collectors and Man Machine Interfaces (MMIs) in control rooms and elsewhere. The MMIs are often Windows based and have drivers for Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and other devices. Recognizing that the systems are vulnerable, enlightened engineers keep the plant systems off the Internet except for a few cases... One is the case in which control or supervision has to be remote and the second is when updating software. A third, which I hate to contemplate but it is probably happening somewhere, is that there is a hidden connection for convenience and nobody in authority knows about it.

The bad news is that people have a habit of bringing in their own laptops, connecting them to the Internet at home or even at work, and ultimately connecting them to the network. Immediately, trojans of all sorts can be transferred to the plant assets and, if they are connected to the Internet for remote supervision/operation, a cracker owns them a few hours later. Security is seldom taken seriously enough, and in the press to get work done, shortcuts are inevitable. As a result, our power grid can probably be taken by anybody who has the patience to target the assets with specific attacks. Phishing at power companies and contractors, finding techies on the Internet and attacking their home machines, penetrating the MMI software vendor sites, and various forms of social engineering can all be used.

Probably the only saving grace is that many sites are never connected to the Internet, many sites have well enforced security regulations, and focused attacks to crack into sites are a lot of work without a lot of revenue. It is probably much more profitable to spam some phishing attack than to try to penetrate power plants. When somebody with the skills dislikes us enough, the grid will go down. period.

Now, solar storms can also take down the grid and we have done nothing to protect our power distribution system from major magnetic storms. Protection is simple and fairly straightforward but it costs money and requires coordination. Basically we need the ability to take down the grid in an orderly fashion, place bypasses/shorting bars on the critical transformers and wait for the storm to arrive. After it passes, just bring the grid back up. With 24-96 hours of notice from our solar observation satellites, it is eminently practical to achieve this. While crackers can take down a plant or two, a magnetic storm can destroy major transformers for which there are no replacements. Power will be down for months and maybe a year or more. A major magnetic storm is a virtual certainty but we will cruise on the ragged edge of fate until it hits.

Comment It's like Christmas Morning (Score 3, Insightful) 545

When I hear about a new movie, I immediately (before I forget!!!) go to Netflix and add it to my queue. Then, I know, just like planting tulip bulbs in the fall, that some day in the future I will have a pleasant surprise when the movie shows up as available. Add a month, take away a month ... who cares ... only if the movie were really exceptional would I actually buy tickets and go see it in a theater. Not that it is impossible, I went to a movie in the past year ... but it better be really good and it better benefit from the big screen, big speakers, and big popcorn .... or I will wait patiently for Netflix.

Comment Re:Tinfoil House (Score 3, Informative) 161

Aluminum oxide is a dielectric with breakdown around 16kV/mm and dielectric constant of 9. That puts the material in a class similar to glass. As such it would be among the most ineffective Faraday cages since the walls of such a cage must be conductive, and to be truly effective, VERY Conductive. In fact, at high RF ranges light weight cages and shielding have to be made of silver, gold, etc. to keep the skin effect thickness of the material down to manageable values. What is interesting about the aluminum oxide dielectric is its apparent very lossy nature to some RF frequencies, while being "transparent" to others. That is sort of similar to the behavior of pure water, which, if absolutely pure, is a dielectric, but as a polar dielectric it absorbs high frequencies in your microwave oven or in the atmosphere between me and my geosynchronous internet satellite.

The usefulness of aluminum oxide as a dielectric has been known a long time and electrolytic capacitors used as power supply filters, among other things, use its characteristics to make large capacitances in small volumes.

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It is masked but always present. I don't know who built to it. It came before the first kernel.