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Comment Re:How does this matter? (Score 4, Informative) 191

We also know that this Parallel Construction process really does happen. Thomas Tamm,, one of the many pre-Snowden leakers, was a lawyer at the Justice Department whose job it was to prepare warrants for the FISA court. He had cases where the basis for the warrant, the "probable cause", was based on illegal warrentless surveillance by the NSA. He knew that this was illegal but it was up to the FISA court to deny the warrants. They didn't. Instead they granted many such warrants and the decisions were never open to public scrutiny. After seeing too much of this, Tamm leaked the story to the New York Times in 2005. The Bush administration was able to dismiss the story, more or less as just allegations. This and similar treatment of other leaked stories was the reason that Snowden released he had to leak hard evidence and lots of it. The PBS Frontline documentary, The United States of Secrets has a good summary of these events.

Comment Re:And this ... (Score 1) 92

I actually created a dedicated virutual machine for my Facebook presence (back when I had one.) Unfortunately, I triggered their bad behavior filters by using Tor. This is a known issue but I hadn't thought to research the use of Tor with Facebook before doing it. I could have gotten access to my account restored if I followed their rigamarole to prove my identtity (despite the fact that friends had tagged me in pictures) but I went of in a huff saying "I will not be treated like a criminial!"

Comment Re:So offer a cost effective replacement (Score 1) 185

I don't know how you would eliminate all transfer of private information to the merchant. Paypal's system takes care of anonymizing the details of the payment. I gather thaty by saying "halfway" you are referring to the fact that you still have to give the merchant a shipping address. Also, without HTTPS, not only the shipping address but the items you are buying and what they cost is open to evesdropping.

Comment Re:huh? (Score 1) 269

It's related to the expectation of privacy, probably similar to the situation in a privately owned building. They can definitely have surveillance cameras out in the hallways. They definitely can not have cameras in the restrooms. Cameras may or may not be alowable in other rooms, depending on their purposes. Most companies stick to hallways, lobbies and elevators for their surveillance cameras to be on the safe side.

Comment A closely related issue (Score 1) 660

The use of digital signatures in email is closely related to encryption because it requires the same PKI. That may end up being the driving force because of the increasing sophistication of phishing. The institution I work for is now frequently attacked with phishing emails. Our help desk is constantly answering questions about whether a particular email is phishing or not. What's even worse is the people who don't call (and don't know how to smell a phish). We are dealing with hundreds of compromised accounts per year because of phishing. I think this is not only a compelling reason to start authenticating email with digital signatures but also to integrate the recognition of digital signatures into our spam filtering.

Comment Re:Self-signed is no good. (Score 2, Interesting) 660

What about the argument that a policy of only encrypting sensitive information draws attention to encrypted information because it must be sensitive? If you encrypt everything, an attacker doesn't know which particular piece of information is worth trying to crack (or otherwise attack with key logging, social engineering attempts, etc.)

Comment Re:Why most scientists and engineers screw up (Score 1) 190

There are a number of human traits (and the genes which cause them) that statistically cluster into groups that correspond to what we consider race. You can test a person's DNA and determine their racial heritage, to a fairly accurate degree. Obviously race is real, if you can nearly automate measuring it. The fact that statistical clusters don't have firm boundaries doesn't mean those clusters don't exist.

While this is true, it still doesn't validate existing concepts of race. You can pick out a preexisting notion of race and, indeed, find genetic markers which will correlate with that concept. However, if you do it the other way around, throw out all such preconceived notions, look at the data and derive groupings of humans, you get totally different results. You don't get what people typically think of as the major races. ALFRED has some of this information although it takes a lot of work to go through all the data and the maintainers of the site try to stay out of discussions of race.

Comment Re:What are you really asking? (Score 1) 414

Is that ratio figuring that the sysadmin is only taking care of the servers at the OS level and not the application level? I administrate an application which has different functions spread out over eight servers. The OS level systems administration is handled by a staff of sysadmins who take care of many other systems in addition to my eight. Two of us (myself and an assistant) take care of the application. If the sysadmin staff had to administrate things like the custom server application for my department, there's no way they could maintain that ratio of servers to admins.

I have noticed, by the way, that the job of sysadmin varies with the size of the business. At a really small business, the sysadmin does desktop support as well as server support and will even teach users how to do things. At a larger business, the sysadmin will only take care of server level stuff but that includes applications and network management. At a really large business, all these jobs are much more finely divided and a sysadmin only manages the server OS.

Comment Technical need is one thing, business is another (Score 1) 453

Educators and technologists say...

Too bad the pointy haired bosses aren't on the same page. If there were actually job postings out there for people with hybrid careers then maybe people would try to develop skill sets in two separate fields. I have degrees in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics and work experience in both Biology (with publications) and IT but I have never been able to get a job which values both skill sets at the same time. Actual Bioinformatics jobs are very rare. Computer skills, including advanced database design and programming, are very useful in a bio lab but that doesn't mean you'll get paid anything more for having those skills. I don't know whether this is a bone headed insistence that people need to specialize (I hear that from management frequently) or just a failure to recognize that there are people out there with mixed skills you could hire. It's probably some of each. A lot of people see someone like me as "Jack of all Trades, Master of None."

Comment Asimov (Score 1) 1021

Like other people mentioned, I would like to see some Asimov in a course like this but I would actually put "The End of Eternity" at the top of the list. No other book explores the paradoxes of time travel as well as this one and time travel is an important branch of SF. Having said that, I Robot or one of the other Robot books would also be a good choice. It was, in fact, Isaac Asimov who first coined the term "robotics."

Comment Re:On the bright side (Score 1) 447

We didn't use to... The US Education system was on life support while I was growing up, but has really taken a turn for the worst in the last decade.

I think that depends on the state and locality you live it. Most administration and funding of US schools is local, although federal rules and funding does make a difference at the margin. That margin matters more in poor areas than rich ones. So, what you're saying is, no doubt, true in Mississippi but not so much in Connecticut, for example.

'No Child Left Behind' has actually lead to 'No Child Whose Needs Shall Be Met', partly due to that obsessiveness with STs.

What I have heard from friends who are school administrators is that it's more like educational triage. There is an upper fraction of students who will do well on STs without help and a lower fraction who won't do well even with extensive help. The best strategy to work with No Child Left Behind is to ignore the upper and lower fraction and concentrate on those students in the middle. An administrator told me that there was one particular school in his district where it came down to only four students who would likely make the difference for the whole school.

The other element of winning strategy is to encourage poor students to stay out sick or give them out-of-school suspensions when they misbehave. This works out well because many of the poorest students also have behavior problems. You can exclude a student from the figures for meeting NCLB if they have a certain number of absences. In some cases, that can make all the difference for a school.

The worst thing about the obsession with STs is that they ignore some very important aspects of education like creativity and the ability to work independently.

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