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Comment "Technologically impossible?" (Score 0) 219

I distrust any blanket assertion that such things are "technologically impossible." I'd agree to "highly improbable", given the ridiculous frequency with which consumers' or citizens' private data is regularly leaked, by corporations and government agencies alike. And given the stupidly insecure and inaccurate electronic voting machines we've seen before, I'd say it's probably "impossible" for some companies to create a secure system.

But properly working, secure authentication and crypto is a thing. It's damned hard to get right, but it's not impossible. At some point, we'll probably figure out how create a system that uses authenticated electronic ledgers to prevent fraudulent tampering (blockchains, etc) while still preserving anonymity. Still, until we figure out how to put such a system in place and make sure it's reasonably secure, paper ballots are at least a bit harder to manipulate on a mass scale, although still not impossible.

Comment Re:How to advocate for desktop dev in a phone worl (Score 1) 508

Tablets and phones are consumption devices, not creation devices. They are a hideously bad match for trying to do any sort of serious development work, or even your bog standard PowerPoint deck. A Surface is about as tablet-y as you can get while still being able to do reasonable work, but a Surface is still a real computer under the hood. Anyone who works with touch-only systems could probably give you a long list of design decisions that slow them down when trying to do anything serious.

No one's talking about developers or other power users here, of course. They'll need a true computer with a more traditional desktop and powerful OS. But if all you need is web apps like Google Docs, or maybe even MS Office apps, and you attach a keyboard, what exactly prevents you from getting actual work done on a tablet? Or what if your work involves reading books or reports, research, communication, or other "consumption-friendly" tasks for large portions of the day?

I've noticed many tech people have a somewhat narrow view on what "work" can be done with a computer. It generally equates to "stuff I do with a computer." Note that I completely agree with you that tablets and phones ARE more suited for consumption than production, but as these devices and operating systems get more powerful, and as web-based work becomes more feasible by the day, the lines are beginning to blur a bit.

Comment Re:Not Just SEO... (Score 1) 105

It would be entirely unfair - and misleading - to draw connections between the outsourcing of customer support services to third-world locations and then the rise in boiler-room scams from those locations.

I'm not entirely sure about that, but there's blame to go around. There have been plenty of investigations that have shown that companies occasionally provide these call centers with a shocking amount of personal information about their customers. These sorts of scam operations are probably more likely to occur from places outside of US jurisdiction, where they'll be a bit safer from prosecution, since richer US citizens are obviously a prime target. There have been other cases, though, where fraudulent operations are actually outsourced to foreign call centers, in which case you can blame the one providing those call centers with false information and instructions.

I think perhaps the rise of call centers in foreign countries has simply given such foreign scammers more legitimately. No one blinks to hear heavily accented callers these days, whereas a few decades ago, you'd be suspicious of such a call that might not be coming from the US.

Comment Re:How to advocate for desktop dev in a phone worl (Score 2) 508

So give them a pencil and a pad of paper, right? Simpler is not always better. Even for someone who hunts and pecks, a keyboard with properly designed local software is a lot more productive for most people than laggy, underpowered touchscreen devices coupled with badly designed SaaS interfaces.

Not at all. "The simplest tool fit for the job." If that's a desktop, fine. But not all work is that complex, or requires what are literally the equivalent of yesteryear's supercomputers sitting on a desk. Maybe some people need a laptop, since they're on the go. Or maybe even just a tablet with detachable keyboard, if all they really need is a browser to run some lightweight web apps.

My point is that we as techies really shouldn't be so attached to a particular form factor that not everyone requires. Is KDE dying? Yeah, I guess, but only because the desktop itself is... if not dying, then shrinking a bit in significance. It's becoming just one of many viable form factors or computing paradigms. Sure, we developers will always need a desktop environment because of what we do, but the world at large is not like us.

Comment Re:How to advocate for desktop dev in a phone worl (Score 4, Insightful) 508

A lot of tech people tend to forget that for most people, a computer is not an end unto itself. It's just another tool for getting their real work done. Why "advocate" a desktop if people can get their work done on a tablet or phone? A desktop system has a lot of complexity that, for most people, probably tends to get in the way of actually getting their work done as much as it helps them. I say, just use the simplest tool fit for the job, nothing more.

People laugh at me for using Midnight Commander for file operations on my various computers...but it's way faster than navigating a GUI or the command line if you know what you're doing!

I'd argue that very few people's productivity is measured in how efficient their file operations are. It's sort of like believing you're going to be vastly more efficient as a programmer if you memorize a bunch of keyboard shortcuts or type 60wpm instead of 30. Unlike the movies, programming isn't about how fast you type.

If it works for you, fantastic. But don't kid yourself... you use it because it's what you know and you're comfortable with it. People hate change, because change forces cognitive dissonance, meaning you have to focus more on the task rather than the work you're trying to get done until the new system is committed to muscle memory. That means many people hate change even if it's change for the better, let alone if it's just change for change's sake.

Comment Re:Stealth (Score 1) 117

I didn't see anywhere in the article that these were "autonomous fighters", just that they were "drones", or "unmanned fighter jets". My assumption is that human controllers will still very much be in control of these things at some tactical level. You're still going to need to regularly train whoever controls, commands, and maintains these things.

I'd agree that they'd need to fly less frequently, but they'd probably still need to regularly perform in training missions, just like every other military asset currently in existence.

Comment Re:Reeks of desperation (Score 1) 256

Edge has extensions now.

It's still not a usable browser. Even Paul Thurrott can't endorse it yet. He talked recently about its many small frustrations, about how basic copy and paste features don't work, or how when you scale text up on a single page, ALL other tabs get scaled as well. Stupid, annoying stuff like that creates a terrible user experience.

Comment Re: 6 megawatts of energy (Score 4, Insightful) 219

This was another good one:

The potential for offshore wind energy in the US is massive. If we build in all of the available ocean space, the winds above coastal waters could provide more than 4,000 gigawatts a year. That's more than four times the nation’s current annual electricity production.

So, gosh, all we have to do is use all the available coastal ocean space, and we'll get four times the annual electrical output. That's a bit like saying "If we covered every square foot of the contiguous US in solar panels, we'd have about 1300x the current electrical output." Technically true, but somewhat misleading in its sheer improbability.

Yeah, a good thing to start diversifying our energy needs, but let's not get carried away with over-optimistic nonsense like that.

Comment Re:Surprised? (Score 1) 138

But everyone damn well knows they likely wouldn't have gotten 1.5 million downloads otherwise. This is exactly why intellectual property is actually valuable and is vigorously protected. I have a hard time thinking they'd be so stupid as to think they'd get away with this*. It's got to be about the publicity.

* I could be wrong. People always manage to surprise me on this point.

Comment Re:And publishers complain about ad blockers (Score 1) 120

To clarify, I haven't turned off my ad-blocker on the Slashdot site. Third-party ads are still blocked. I'm talking about the ads Slashdot serves itself, like the Slashdot deal ads. This is actually a method of serving ads I'd like to encourage, and so I don't take any special action to block those ads.

Basically, I agree with everything you said about the dangers of third-party Javascript, especially when used for nothing but serving ads and tracking us.

Comment Re:And publishers complain about ad blockers (Score 4, Insightful) 120

Safe is not a binary yes or no. It's more of a spectrum.

At one end, we have static HTML with no scripting, and a modern browser with robust content interpreters, hardened over the last two decades. We're not likely to get infected with a jpeg file or random HTML parsing flaws anymore (although it's not impossible more flaws will be found - look at Android's StageFright bugs). Besides, you notice that article was written in 2004, right? If you're using a circa 2004 browser or unpatched OS, it's your own damned fault for whatever happens.

On the other end of the web browsing safety spectrum, you have Flash and random ads that may or may not be served from an unvetted server in Bosnia, that have full access to a very powerful interpreted scripting engine, and with one tiny flaw, can infect your computer. Or, they'll bombard the user with scamware or phishing attacks to trick them into giving them access. It ends up the same either way.

Given that allowing ads or running Flash exposes us to significant risk for no gains, it's a pretty simple choice to make for informed folks. Oh, and I'm not vehemently anti-ad. For instance, I don't mind the ads on Slashdot, and have never turned them off. I figure they're safe enough and hopefully make the site a bit of money.

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"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman

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