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Comment Unacceptable! (Score 4, Funny) 83

This sort of reckless openness in communications sends the message that so called 'disasters' are a free-for-all for pirates, child pornographers, and terrorists.

Any right-thinking citizen would agree that a few unimportant people staying buried in rubble is a small price to pay to secure the internet against intellectual property theft and anonymous communication by evildoers.

Comment That's honestly pretty surprising. (Score 1) 128

It's not a huge surprise that the reliability of Apple widgets isn't appreciably better than high end Android gizmos; Apple is hardly the only company in the world that knows how to shove a bunch of solid state hardware into a tight space; and to the degree they are atypically skilled at it they usually end up focusing on extra skinniness and similar aesthetic considerations that don't necessarily enhance reliability.

What is surprising is that 'Android devices' as a whole would perform so well. It is the blessing, and the curse, of Android that pretty much anyone can slap it into almost anything; and vendors take full advantage of that. I would have expected the floods of dire crap to drag down the average reliability rating considerably.

Comment Re:Standard protocol (Score 2) 94

Considering that the entire selling point behind Signal is that it's supposed to be resistant to "an adversary like the NSA," I would think their ability to trivially associate a key with a real person would kind of turn that on its head.

Any global passive adversary can do traffic analysis on any communication network. Signal's message encryption should stand up against the NSA unless there are any vulnerabilities in the implementation that the NSA has found and not told anyone about or unless they have some magical decryption power that we don't know about (unlikely). Protection of metadata is much harder. If you connect to the Signal server and they can watch your network traffic and that of other Signal users, then they can infer who you are talking to. If they can send men with lawyers, guns, or money around to OWS then they can coerce them into recording when your client connects and from what IP, even without this.

In contrast, Tox uses a DHT, which makes some kinds of interception easier and others harder. There's no central repository mapping between Tox IDs and other identifiable information, but when you push anything to the DHT that's signed with your public key then it identifies your endpoint so a global passive adversary can use this to track you (Tox over Tor, in theory, protects you against this, but in practice there are so few people doing this that it's probably trivial to track).

No system is completely secure, but my personal thread model doesn't include the NSA taking an active interest in me - if they did that then there are probably a few hundred bugs in the operating systems and other programs that I use that they could exploit to compromise the endpoint, without bothering to attack the protocol. I'd like to be relatively secure against bulk data collection though - I don't want any intelligence or law enforcement agency to be able intercept communications unless at least one participant is actively under suspicion, because if you allow that you end up with something like Hoover's FBI or the Stazi..

Comment Re:Luddites, beware! (Score 2) 50

Currently, lorry drivers have to take statutory breaks. In the EU, they can only drive for 4.5 hours before having to take a 45-minute break. They can also only drive 9 hours per day. If you have a self-driving lorry that's only good enough for motorways (predictable traffic, well-marked lanes) and the driver can be out of the driving seat resting (even sleeping) then the vehicle can drive itself for 20 hours a day and the driver can be a passenger except when it approaches built-up areas. That would dramatically reduce the number of drivers that you'd need for a haulage fleet.

Comment Re:Standard protocol (Score 2) 94

Signal is probably secure, but all communication goes via OpenWhisperSystems' servers, as does registration (which ties your identity to your account). They can't be forced to MITM your connections (probably - unless someone finds a vulnerability in the protocol), but they can unilaterally delete your account and they can be coerced into doing so. In contrast, Tox is completely decentralised (no central servers, it's a pure peer-to-peer network). Your identity is just a public key, so the only people who can identify you on the network are people that you have told your public key to through some out-of-band mechanism (or people who can view enough of the network that they can associate a public key with something else - i.e. an adversary like the NSA).

Comment Re: The anti-science sure is odd. (Score 2) 572

It's why we had a change in language from global warming to climate change

We had the change from global warming to climate change because idiots kept ignoring the 'global' part and saying things like 'this summer is rubbish, so much for global warming!'. The weather is a complex chaotic system. Global warming means that the total amount of energy in this system is increasing. This is very simple to understand - more energy is arriving from the Sun than is being radiated into space, by quite a large amount. This is trivially measurable by pointing an infrared camera at the night side of the Earth from space (which NASA does).

The effects of this are more difficult to communicate, because they're not the same everywhere. Adding more energy to the air and water in the middle of the Atlantic, for example, is likely to cause more hurricanes to form, but it may also disrupt the gulf stream and lead to significantly colder weather for a lot of places.

In the 1600s the Thames used to freeze over so that you could safely walk from one side to the other

You mean right at the height of the Little Ice Age?

If that were to happen now climate 'scientists' would be up in arms.

If it were to happen now, then it would not be part of a prolonged cooling trend that had been going on for around 200 years at that point and was just reaching its peak, before starting to warm again. The global temperature then passed the peak of the previous warm period (the Medieval Warm Period) in the last century and kept climbing. But you knew all of that, right?

Comment Re:Surprise? (Score 3, Interesting) 94

Yes, probably a lot of people. Before it was purchased, WhatsApp had a very strong privacy guarantee and made a marketing point of the fact that their protocol's end-to-end encryption meant that they couldn't spy on you even if they wanted to. When Facebook bought them, they announced that there would be no changes to this guarantee.

Comment Re:"Some" data? (Score 5, Insightful) 94

It was always a stupid-sounding idea to use Whatsapp (I mean that as a totally independent fact, relative to whether or not Whatsapp was actually any good or not). From the very beginning, it was just someone's proprietary app that used an undocumented protocol. Nobody who is trying to do things right, is going to use anything like that.

Of the proprietary messengers, WhatsApp was the least bad. It was founded by people who grew up in the Soviet Union and left with an abiding hatred of surveillance, had a very strong privacy policy, and did end-to-end encryption. Also, using Erlang on FreeBSD, it had a lot of geek cred. Unfortunately, when Facebook bought it there wasn't much chance of it keeping the philosophy of the founders. On the plus side, they did donate $1m from the sale price to the FreeBSD Foundation.

I used to be a big advocate of XMPP, but it's largely been mismanaged into the ground by a lack of leadership in the standards body and a lack of decent reference implementations for the client side. Tox seems like the best bet at the moment for producing something that is both secure and open, yet with implementations that you can give to normal humans and get them connected.

Comment Re:'No win no fee' is the problem (Score 1) 221

Someone is still paying. Either the law firm is footing the bill itself, or it has insurance to cover the cost of losing (which will become very expensive if they lose too often). An individual lawyer will still be paid if he loses, but he won't keep his job for long if he keeps taking no-win-no-free cases and losing them.

Comment Re:Crowd source the egress (Score 1) 143

If the address of your door is a "wildly different address", then why isn't that just your actual address?

To add to the other reply:

I used to live in a house in a row of terraced houses. My address was a the number of my house along that street and the street name. There's only one problem: there were two ways to get to my house and neither of them was from that street. The houses were all a bit above the street, with their front gardens raised above the street and the only way to the front door of the first 9 was to go around the corner at the end of the street then walk along the footpath that ran along the front, parallel with and above the street that gave us our address. My neighbour had a flat at the back of one of these houses and also had an address on that street, yet the only access to her flat was via the back door, which opened onto a street with no name. People would periodically ring my doorbell and ask where her flat was.

Comment Re:Crowd source the egress (Score 2) 143

A slow off-the-shelf chess computer from the '80s can beat well over 90% of the population at chess. In the chess club when I was at school, I think that there was only one person who could beat it on its hardest difficulty setting, and he was the under-13s UK chess champion. The fact that it took Deep Blue to beat the best human player in the world is irrelevant: self-driving cars don't have to be better than the best possible human driver, they just have to be better than most human drivers to be a big improvement.

Chess is also an irrelevant comparison, because the problem is very different. In chess, you have 16 pieces at the start. Once you've made a few moves and they're all free to move, each one has multiple possible moves. Let's simplify and assume that each one has only one possible move. At the end of my turn, there are 16 possible board positions. At the end of your turn there are 16 possible combinations for every one of mine, so that's only 256, but after another round we're up to 65,536 different positions. 16,777,216 after three rounds and so on. Almost all of the difficulty in chess is working out which part of this space is worth exploring. Your goal is to reach an end state dozens or hundreds of moves into the future that meets some conditions.

In contrast, when driving there the other cars have few options (speed up, slow down, turn) as do other obstacles. Your model only has to run tactically, not strategically. You don't have to worry about every step in the game, only that in the next round you become closer to your destination and you don't crash. You only have to model a few seconds into the future. As long as you are heading in the right direction and you can safely stop if one of the obstacles that you're tracking has a comes into your projected path then you win that round and you continue to the next.

Comment Re:Can you handle the truth? I didn't think so. (Score 1) 572

There are a lot of different kinds of pollution, but most of them have very local effects. Spill toxic chemicals into a river and that's local and observable. As nations get richer, there is a natural tendency to regulate this kind of thing, because you're damaging your own assets if you continue to pollute. In contrast, things like carbon dioxide and CFCs rapidly disburse in the atmosphere. There's little incentive to reduce your production of them if no one else is, because your contribution only increases the net amount of harm by a little bit and you only suffer a small proportion of the total. You need a global agreement to make any impact. In terms of tail-pipe emissions, compare carbon dioxide and lead: the former quickly spreads out and there's almost no local impact, the latter is inhaled, builds up in teeth and bones, and collects on the roads. If you live in the USA, lead in petrol in China has no impact on you, but carbon dioxide from burning petrol in China does.

Comment Re:Surprising --Not! (Score 1) 572

Volcanoes throw ash a lot higher than most fires (the Icelandic volcano a few years ago threw up enough ash that it was dangerous to planes even at their normal cruising altitude of a few km up). The ash reflects the sun, so has a cooling effect. They also produce carbon dioxide, which has a warming effect. Which of these will win out varies quite a bit between eruptions. In contrast, smallish fires only throw ash a few metres up (if that) and it quickly settles, whereas the carbon dioxide disburses into the atmosphere.

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