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Comment Could it be the government agency's fault? (Score 4, Insightful) 185

Could it be that the way the government contracts are structured and micromanaged by government agencies is the problem and not the contractor or their programmers? I work for a company that provides government services under contract to the State of California and the government agency that oversees us micromanages us so much that it is often impossible to to develop systems properly. The 4 biggest problems I see are 1)constantly changing requirements that are written by government employees with little or no IT/web knowledge 2) contracts secured by being the lowest bidder which do not allow us to have the resources to properly design or test the system we are building 3) forcing us to work with other contractors including non-profit ones that are "donating" their services (very strange to me really) and that provide inferior IT systems we must use or integrate. 4) Requirements, features and design being dictated by government agencies or advocacy groups with little knoweldge of system design & development. For example, we are currently forced to support an application written by one of these "non-profits" that uses ASP classic and violates every current IT standard. My company has the IT staff & talent to completely rewrite the application but we are not allowed to and must instead support and integrate the badly written one that was donated to the state. It is unclear why this non-profit is allowed to force the agency & us to use their product, but it seems they have political connections that make it so. I believe also that government contracts almost always go to the lowest bidder and not the company with the most expertise. Often a contractor is the lowest bidder because they plan to cut corners and not follow good IT practices, or have not estimated costs correctly. Also as a web developer for a company that works under government contracts, I cannot count the number of times we have received requirements for a website from people that have little or no computer skills, let alone web skills or experience. You would think in this day and age that the government employees providing requirements for government IT systems would have at least basic IT knowledge, but this is often not the case. I am not exaggerating that I have received requirements from people that have no Excel, Word or even email skills and have obviously barely even used the Internet. Many people in the top levels of government management are older (baby boomers) or were promoted for reasons other than great IT skills. They often have no professional experience with developing IT Systems, ADA or other required standards and yet they are the one writing the criteria for the contracts and the system requirements. State agencies also often demand that large amounts of money be spent on "usability studies" or other commitees where a lot of people discuss and dictate what the IT contractor should do in building the new system. The people running these studies often have very poor IT skills themselves and have little experience designing IT systems, but they often have an enormous say in how the system is designed. By the time the IT contractor's development staff is involved in the project, everything is already specified by non-IT government people and between that and the contractor management trying to save every dime (therefore not providing resource for testing), it is not really possible to build a quality system. I say all of this inspite of the fact that the State of California actually has a good Department of Technology Services that provides great ADA compliant web templates. The California State government is so large that even with a good DTS department, the management and staff at specific agencies providing the requirements for a new system may have no knoweldge or interaction with that department and never involve them in creating the contract or project requirements. I think the solution to this is the state should be involving its DTS department in creating all contracts and requirements for new systems projects and individual staff without IT experience should not be allowed to do this. They need a Project Manager in Chief to make sure designs & requirements are valid technically. I would also recommend doing all projects in smaller chunks - 10 $100,000 projects, not 1 $1,000,000 project, and awarding projects based on expertise and track record not the lowest cost.

Comment Re:Feel good law for political gain (Score 1) 246

It happens everyday to many other people. I know many people forced to take plea bargains for DUIs or traffic accidents to avoid excessive jail time. Why is no one making a big deal about them? The US Justice system is not perfect. It has flaws and people should challenge those flaws to improve it. However, hacking and breaching computer system security is still wrong. The US Government has a real obligation to ensure the security of the nation's computer systems. Swartz could have easily promoted his political opinions another way. Breaking the law was his choice.

Comment Re:Depends on... (Score 1) 246

If you went back to the restaurant repeatedly and refused to leave, you would be arrested. If you broke in later or stole something, you would go to jail. Swartz was offered only 6 mos jail time in a plea bargain. That is not much different than what you would get if you broke into a restarant and stole from them.

Comment Re:Depends on... (Score 1) 246

Here's the thing...people cannot be allowed to just do whatever they want simply because they want to do it or think the law or TOS is unfair. We have laws and rules that govern society for a reason and if they are broken eggregiously enough the person should go to jail. It is often a tough call in these situations and that is why we have due process of law and jury trials. If a company or government entity is going to all the expense of providing a public website, they should absolutely be able to set their own TOS as long as it does not conflict with existing laws. Repeated or planned effort to purposely break the TOS should be a crimnal offense. It does not matter how you justify what you did it. To think that it is OK to break a law just because you disagree with it is absurd. There are people who truly believe some other person does not deserve to live - does that give them the right to commit murder without prosecution? The US is a Democracy and there are channels for changing laws one disagrees with and ways of rebelling that are more effective than violating a website's TOS or breaching a computer system's security. There is no excuse for purposely by violating a computer system's security or stealing its data for any reason. I am not sure why there is so much fuss over enforcing website TOS. I seriously doubt minor, accidental violations are being prosecuted at all. From what I read, Adam Swartz purposely violated the TOS for JSTOR to make a political point and when one chooses to do that, one must accept the consequences of ones actions. It does not matter that his cause was valid - he had other means to promote that cause legally and even make meaningful change. If he was a Stanford grad who had joined the Harvard Center for Ethics, he had the access to promote change legally. He was by no means a disenfranchised individual and could have made his point another way. Instead, he arrogantly felt that he was entitled to do as he pleased and then apparently was shocked when the US Government said laws applied to him too. If the evidence showed he was innocent, he would have been acquitted at the jury trial or he could have taken the 6 mos plea bargain and got on with his life. Jail is no fun, but if you choose to promote your political opinion through criminal actions, that's where you land. There are many, many activist for causes much more valid than the right to free academic papers (a dubious right actually) that have received lengthy prison sentences. Legalizing marijuana activists immediately come to mind. If you are going to take on the government with unlawful actions, you need to expect to have problems and do jail time. If you don't want that to happen, find a legal and less confrontational approach. A Democracy does not mean that any one person gets their way all the time, instead it means that decisions are made by the majority with all view points considered. Without laws, anarchy would reign and since the only way for laws to be fair is to apply them uniformly, the US Government must prosecute individuals that violate laws regardless of their reasons. Certainly, there should be a difference between accidentally violating a TOS and purposely doing it and the TOS should not conflict with State & US Law, but there is really no excuse in my mind to ever purposely violate a TOS. It's not your website or your data. If you can't follow the TOS, don't use the site! You can always create an altenative site or write a grilling op ed article and promote your opinion, but if you choose to take matters into your own hands and break the law, you should accept the consequences without blaming others.

Comment Re:Looking outside oneself (Score 1) 430

I agree. Aaron Swartz's death is a loss, but it was his choice and no one elses. Plus he was highly educated and should have been aware his actions were illegal and would have serious consequences. He was a member of the Harvard University Center for Ethics after all! If he knew his actions were illegal, but still chose to do them, that is also no ones fault but his own and he should have accepted the consequences. It doesn't matter how great a person you are, if you choose to jeapordize the security of a MIT computer system, you should be prosecuted. Hacking to me is not a joke and can have serious consequences for the entire nation and world. If you do not agree with an existing US law, you do not just do what you want and then claim persecution when you are prosecuted for violating the law. Instead, like everyone else even the US President, you must go through the proper political channels to make the change happen in a legal way. Yes it may take a lifetime, but that's life. A member of the Harvard University Center for Ethics should have known that.

Comment Suicide is a personal choice... (Score 1) 430

I read about this earlier today and after all the sensational accusations against the prosecutors, I looked deeper into the facts. As sad as this death is, it is completely unreasonable to blame the prosecutors for Aaron Swartz’s suicide. I suspect he suffered deeper mental health issues that were the actual cause of his suicide, not the prosecutor’s actions. I do not deny that there is unfairness in the US Justice System and that sometimes innocent people are prosecuted and even wrongly convicted, and there is good reason to try to correct that in general. However, that is not what happened here as the charges had not even been brought to trial. It is impossible for me to say whether the charges against Swartz were valid or not, but regardless, the US Government has an absolute obligation to prevent and prosecute all forms of computer hacking and IT security breaches and his choice to commit suicide was his alone. Aaron Swartz was a Stanford graduate and a member of the Harvard Center for Ethics, and reportedly one of the top computer minds of his age. He was well educated and by no means an innocent, naive youth. He absolutely had to have known that his actions at MIT were a violation of the law. In fact, it is pretty obvious he downloaded the JSTOR to purposely provoke the US Government and make a political point. It was entirely Aaron Swartz’s choice to choose the rebellious path he took. He could have just as easily applied his talents in another direction. To me there is nothing wrong with picking the more rebellious path (I have done it myself at times), but one has to accept the consequences of doing so. You cannot take on the US Government in the area of computer hacking and expect them to look the other way. Computer security is a major problem and a very valid one for the US Government to be concerned about. The entire country could become non-functional with a bad enough computer virus or security breach. In addition, if Swartz chose to be a hacker rebel, then he should have had the courage to fight it out and convince the jury he was innocent or accept that he was not innocent and gone with the plea deal. If you are really an anti-establishment rebel, 6 month of jail time should not be that big a deal and you should be proud to serve it. There are people imprisoned in the US for 30+ years for simply selling or possessing marijuana (which IMHO is a lot less of an actual problem to US security than computer hackers). You don’t take on the US Government and think they won’t make your life hell. Suicide is always the coward’s way out and is no one else’s fault. The prosecutors in this case were only doing their job and as they are also required by law. They are not responsible for Swartz’s actions in anyway. I am sure he has loved ones that are grieving him deeply and his death is a loss to society, but the only one who caused his life to end on January 11, 2013 is himself.

Comment Re:They're making the same flawed assumption as Ap (Score 1) 345

I don't know where you live, but where I live downloading\streaming is quite a viable solution. I imagine DVDs will remain available, but it is hard to see their advantage. Broadband is excellent in many areas and will expand over time. I am not sure if I agree with your comment that NetFlix does not have a fiancial incentive to provide service to many areas and the expansion of streaming hardly requires eliminating DVDs - unless there are a lot of customers like me who don't want them anymore.

Comment Do we need DVDs? (Score 1) 345

I stopped my NetFlix subscription many months ago because why bother with DVDs when there are so many movies already available on OnDemand? Plus DVDs are a pain and easily damaged. They are completely impractical for kids. I doubt DVDs will go completely, but I am more likely to sign up for NetFlix streaming than the DVD service again. I feel like there are way more media choices than I have time to watch and Comcast\OnDemand and the Internet provide that just fine for me. Actually a lot of movies including indie films are released to OnDemand before they are released on DVD or sometimes even the movie theater.

Comment I doubt Facebook is going any where (Score 1) 368

I think is is odd that this poster things Facebook will be going away some time soon. Forever is a long time and I am sure it will change over time, but Facebook is a great service that a lot of people love, including myself. Facebook seems to be getting more and more popular. I really doubt the core Facebook service will be discontinued. If anything there will be competing services, but FB definitely has an advantage because so many people use it and a lot of people only have time for one FB type site. Sometimes FB is overly hyped. I do think it is a little overkill the way every commercial website also has a FB page. However, I enjoy FB every day. I love the way I can easily keep up with my relatives and my friends from different parts of my life. My Facebook news feed is a much more satisfying read than the national news sites. Also I think most of the criticism of Zuckerburg is sour grapes. He is a 26 year old who invented and successfully brought to market a very successful product that a lot of people really use and enjoy. Not too many people can claim that. FB also generated many jobs and changed the way people communicate and connect. Pretty impressive stuff for kid under 30, and so what if it wasnt' 100% his invention or business savy that made FB successful. Business is a team effort. No one succeeds 100% solo. If FB is imperfect, oh well. Don't use it or work with it. FB is not the end all be all, but it is an great service that many people like and expect will continue to use. As for the photo issue, most people who upload photos to FB will have the photos on their local computer. 15 year olds are usually clueless about a lot of things, so it hardly shocking that this girl would not know that. I think is more shocking that her parents are so certain that FB will not last. Exactly what facts support that?

Comment Re:Download Your Profile (Score 1) 368

She's 15. Giver her a break. Just because you grow up in the digital era, doesn't mean you understand how the technology you use works. Plus a 15 year old is a freshmen or sophmore is highschool, not exactly the age of all knowing and understanding. Maybe if she was a CS major in college, we could expect her to know that she probably has copies on her local computer and to be up on the latest Facebook updates, but not a 15 year old. Every new child born is a blank slate and they only know what they experience, read or are taught. Younger people are more open to new technologies than older people, but there is no reason to expect a 15 year old youth to understand technology better that a 60 year old woman. In fact I find that young people today take technology for granted and although they are familiar with using it, usually have little understanding of the details of how it works. Computer education in the USA still is very mediocre before the college level. Also I am shocked by these rude comments towards a 15 year old. Arrogant IT people give IT a bad name. IT people are well paid because understanding technology is not easy for most people. A true IT professional knows this.

Comment Sounds like a step in the right direction (Score 2) 149

I am glad the DOJ and CA Attorney General are launching this anti-trust investigation, and I hope MPEG LA is prevented from any further action against the VP8 codec. Without open competition, capitalism does not work. No group should have the right to block alternative technology formats whether they are free & open source or not. We must be vigilant about this as citizens because otherwise monopolies will destroy our democracy and the ability of new companies to compete and innovate. After reading this article, I am going to look into the VP8 codec and see about using it.

Comment Re:Public service annoucement (Score 1) 273

Your warning is good advice to those that wish to live their lives in peace without persecution, but sometimes it takes courageous people that do speak out, despite the consequences, to bring freedom and liberty to their people. US citizens are many generations removed from our revolutionary days, but without the courage of our founding fathers and the many other people that have fought racism and oppression throughout US history, the US would be no better off than China. Freedom is not free. It takes courageous people willing to sacrifice their personal lives and fight for freedom and their rights. Certainly political activists should be strategic in their opposition, but to criticize them for speaking freely, which should be an unalienable right, is shortsighted.

Comment Re:Should apply to anyone using Twitter (Score 1) 273

This would be funny if this woman wasn't really sentence to a year of 're-education' in a labour camp. Considering it actually happened, it is quite horrific. All I can say is I am so glad I live in the US where we do have real freedom, even if it is not perfect. Certainly, the US does not need any really hostility with China, still we need to do everything we can to stop the Human Rights Abuses in China. The Chinese people have every right to have freedom of speech and real democracy.

Comment Re:Go for it (Score 1) 1065

I agree with you and I think this is a bad law. We do not need the government regulating every little thing that might be dangerous or harrassing citizens for potential crimes that have not been commited yet. People that actually DO cause accidents while using a cell phone should be held fully accountable and those that use a cell phone while driving and do NOT cause accidents should be left alone. There is plenty of precedence for this in US law, consider the justification against gun laws. The argument goes, guns don't kill people, criminals using guns kill people. Well a cell phone is a lot less dangerous than a gun. A lot more people have died accidentally from guns than accidentally from cell phone. I have no problem agreeing with the statement "cell phones in cars don't cause accidents, bad drivers not paying attention while using a cell phone cause accidents". Cell phones are a great invention. There is no need to demonize them or to make criminals out of people that use them. The US has a lot bigger security issues to solve than this one.

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