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Comment Re:F. U. D. (Score 1) 243

I agree with you, however there are some things that bother me

"They're not "reading" your data in any real sense (no actual person ever sees your data without an appropriate reason)" --> the problem with this is that once its set up they CAN do it even if they dont want to do it, you just need someone like say... every government agency in the world to come and bully them into doing it (im suuuuure theyll refuse), even if its just automated and no human is looking at it

Great point. Though I think Google is more likely to refuse than you might think (or at least put up a fight), the reality is that there are governments in the world that Google likes to do business with (*cough* China *cough*) which have a reputation for feeling entitled to monitor their citizens. Google has very publicly butted heads with governments like these, but ultimately they don't have a lot of power over how those governments treat their citizens.

The United States is a little bit of a different story. We have the legislative structure and democratic process in place that's needed to formalize privacy laws that offer real protection against government intrusion. Unfortunately, our legislators', um, "methodical" approach to passing laws leaves us with some substantial loopholes through which the government can potentially inappropriately gather information (the PATRIOT Act, the CFAA, etc). I think it's important that citizens of democratic governments demand robust privacy laws to prevent unreasonable government intrusion.

But that's a larger issue, and one that relates to ANY company that gathers personal data on your habits (phone companies, ISPs, retail rewards programs, libraries, cable providers, etc, etc, etc, etc). You can't really single out Google for collecting data on you that could be subpoenaed by the government. But the point is still important: The "appropriateness" of a government's request for information on your personal activities is somewhat subjective.

Comment Re:F. U. D. (Score 1) 243


Good point. I should have been more clear on that one.

When I said that Google "sells your data," I meant your aggregate demographic data. And they do so in a hard-to-reverse manner. For instance, someone comes to Google and says, "I want to advertise to men ages 18-25 that are into video games and fantasy novels." Google doesn't respond with a list of people who fit that demographic. Instead, they take the advert from the client and they display it to people whose Google usage history suggests that they fit that demographic. Maybe those people searched for "Brandon Sanderson" or visited a World of Warcraft fan site. Maybe they have a Google+ profiles that identifies them as being 22 years old. Google doesn't share the specifics with third parties. Instead, they use your usage data to attach you to various demographic profiles and they sell the "eyes" (for lack of a better term) of those demographic profiles.

So yes, Google doesn't directly sell your information to third parties. The process is a bit more nuanced than that.

Comment F. U. D. (Score 5, Informative) 243

From the video, Microsoft wants you to think that Google is an evil oppressor that takes money out of your pocket by selling data on your behavior. They also want you to think that Google is "watching" you like some nosey neighbor who rather than blabbing your secrets all over town, will instead sell all your dirty secrets to the highest bidder.

And hey, if you think of it like that, it's pretty scary.

But seriously. Have you ever tried to actually sell your personal data to someone? Like, if you went to Starbucks and said, "Hey, I like coffee, I'm single, have a full time job, and disposable income. I'll let you tell me how great Starbucks is if you just pay me a dollar!" I'm sure that they'd probably look at you with some understandable confusion. Nothing is worth more than you can sell it for. That's simply the reality of economics. So your personal information generally has 0 monetary value to you and would probably cost you more to sell than it would cost you in time and energy to affect that sale.

Google is providing you a service. You're "paying" for that service by allowing Google to monetize your personal information ON YOUR BEHALF. It's a sort of barter agreement. Google will give you something at no monetary cost in exchange for the opportunity to sell your data to third parties. They're not selling your emails. They're not selling your text messages. They're not "reading" your data in any real sense (no actual person ever sees your data without an appropriate reason). They're effectively acting as your agent to monetize your demographic information. And rather than paying you in cash, they're paying you in services.

This is actually no different than how broadcast television works. They use companies like Nielsen to determine aggregate demographic information on the viewership for a given show. Then they sell that information to third parties (advertisers), who supply the necessary capital to run the TV channel and produce new content, which the network then gives to you for "free". Google's model is identical. Just because Google can fine-tune that demographic information does not alter the basic structure of the model.

All the FUD about "big data" relies on some over-zealous anthropomorphization of large scale data processing systems. Microsoft likes to use phrases like "Google reads your email" to scare you into thinking that there's some overworked engineers at Google that do nothing all day except sit around and chuckle about those emails you sent to your wife. But that just doesn't happen. It's scare tactics put out by people who have either never worked with large data sets or are purposefully obfuscating the truth with the intent to scare you.

In the end, you ultimately have a choice: You can simply stop using Google's services and thereby refuse to opt-in to their tracking. Humankind lasted millions of years without Google. You can avoid Google today if you don't want to pay for their services. But to freak out and say that Google is somehow operating nefariously by monetizing their services in a way that doesn't cost you cash out of pocket comes across as a bit obtuse.

Comment Re:What about Google driverless car? (Score 5, Interesting) 603

It's so interesting to see people's reaction to the whole driver-less car thing. It's incredible to see the kind of ethical thought-experiment that must necessarily go through everyone's mind when they come to this conclusion: How many lives must be saved before I will tolerate someone being brutally slain by a malfunctioning computer?

Every day, children are run down by drivers who are not paying attention, tired, drunk, or just plain don't have time to react. Since a driver-less car is incapable of being drunk, tired, or distracted, then it's a safe bet that they'll be much better at avoiding those accidents that can be avoided. But the reality is that the latter scenario (no time to react) would still lead to the deaths of many children (and others!).

At what point does it become "worth it"? When the driver-less car causes 1/10th as many fatalities? 1/100th? 1/1,000th? How many human deaths must be prevented by letting computers drive cars before we're willing to accept 1 single death by those same computers?

It's a real-life example of the "Trolley Problem"

Comment Re:Correlation is not causation (Score 1) 490

In related news, high school GPA has been shown to be a predictor of college success. Therefore, high school students will all be assigned a GPA of 4.0.

I imagine the success shown by students taking algebra 2 in schools that don't require it is reflected by students taking any elective mathematics courses as part of any curriculum.

Comment Re:It's Called 'Experience'! (Score 1) 609

You're both right.

Degrees are super important.

So is school.

Every CS undergrad should do at least one internship. More if possible. CS Students have it super-easy. For students in many fields, an internship is a huge expense. The internships are generally unpaid and often leave iterns doing "busy work." But with CS internships, they are generally paid, sometimes they pay quite well, and because of the money involved, you're rarely fetching coffee.

By the time I graduated with my CS degree, I had more than 2 years of real-world development experience with two different organizations. I had 3 job offers to pick from --- months before graduation.

The bottom line is that school isn't just about getting good grades. Work isn't just about showing up and getting your tasks done. Both school and work (while you're a college student) should have the same goal: Building knowledge and experience.

If you think that walking out of school with a 3.8 GPA and no experience can get you a job in today's market, you're just as naïve as someone who thinks that they can get a job with 3 years of experience and no degree. Today's market is incredibly competitive. You need to do everything you can while you're in college so that you can compete with all the qualified, experienced, laid-off folks that are out there looking for jobs with you when you graduate!


Australian Visitors Must Declare Illegal Porn To Customs Officers 361

Australian Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor has advised visitors to take a better safe than sorry policy when it comes to their porn stashes, and declare all porn that they think might be illegal with customs officers. From the article: "The government said it changed the wording on passenger arrival cards after becoming aware of confusion among travellers about what pornography to declare. 'People have a right to privacy and while some pornography is legal and does not need to be disclosed, all travellers should be aware that certain types of pornography are illegal and must be declared to customs,' Mr O'Connor said."

Comment Re:Um, no (Score 3, Insightful) 671

Interesting. I didn't know that...

I do appreciate the existentialism, though. I mean, in the end, doesn't every side of a battle see themselves as the patriots and their opponent as the "bad guys"*?

*Insert whatever the term of choice is for the conflict in question. Whether it's Fascists, Commies, Terrorists, or Borg, it's still "the bad guys."


Simpler "Hello World" Demonstrated In C 582

An anonymous reader writes "Wondering where all that bloat comes from, causing even the classic 'Hello world' to weigh in at 11 KB? An MIT programmer decided to make a Linux C program so simple, she could explain every byte of the assembly. She found that gcc was including libc even when you don't ask for it. The blog shows how to compile a much simpler 'Hello world,' using no libraries at all. This takes me back to the days of programming bare-metal on DOS!"

8-Year Fan-Made Game Project Shut Down By Activision 265

An anonymous reader writes "Activision, after acquiring Vivendi, became the new copyright holder of the classic King's Quest series of adventure game. They have now issued a cease and desist order to a team which has worked for eight years on a fan-made project initially dubbed a sequel to the last official installment, King's Quest 8. This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission. After the acquisition, key team members had indicated on the game's forums (now stripped of their original content by order of Activision) that Activision had given the indication that it intended to keep its current fan-game licenses, but was not interested in issuing new ones."

Visual Studio 2010 Forces Tab Indenting 390

An anonymous reader writes "For years, Microsoft has allowed Visual Studio users to define arbitrary tab widths, often to the dismay of those viewing the resultant code in other editors. With VS 2010, it appears that they have taken the next step of forcing tab width to be the same as the indent size in code. Two-space tabs anyone?"

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