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Comment I don't get it... (Score 3, Insightful) 50

So he shut the project down ostensibly because the Syrian government was using it to spy on citizens or whatever. "Misuse of the tool" being his words. Okay yeah that sucks but what did he expect people to use it for? Monitoring their baby's computer to make sure it doesn't choke on the keys? Shutting it down now as opposed to before when it was never used for nefarious ends? Seems like a pile of BS to me. More likely he shut it down because of legal threats now that he's on the radar - as is not-so-subtly implied by the article.

You made a bomb "for educational purposes" and then gave it away. Don't pretend like you're on some moral high ground when it goes off in someone's face and your name shows up in the newspaper.

Comment So what? (Score 1) 174

It can also be bypassed by anyone with a computer, and so can those other "security methods." Actually, calling them "security" is a bit of a misnomer - it's more like a temporary privacy screen. Next you'll be telling me my laptop is insecure because someone could chop off my finger and use it to log in to Windows with my fingerprint scanner - yeah, or they could use any one of a thousand boot discs that bypass the Windows log-on process entirely. The face scanner, like the finger printer scanner (when set up for Windows log-in, not as part of a PKI or similar) is just an ease-of-use thing designed to keep your co-workers from picking up your phone or laptop and seeing all that Lego porn you've got on there.

Comment Maybe? (Score -1, Offtopic) 176

What do you mean "maybe it's time we start listening to experts?" To which hypothetical phantasm are you directing this question? Since when has any reasonable individual listened to a politician over a scientist, to ideology over reason? This person you imagine does not exist. Therefore I suppose you might be addressing someone who has done something like the aforementioned. First, I doubt they're reading Slashdot. Beyond that, if one is an adult and hasn't come to these conclusions on their own then a burial permit is the right thing for them, not a Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture. There's some downright optimistic individuals out there and you seem to be one of them - I'm afraid you're misguided. Let the cynicism flow. Maybe then we can get some real change happening.

Comment Re:It's their bandwidth ... (Score 2) 582

This would be true... if they owned the bandwidth. If it's a state college, they don't. If private, I would still argue that benefactors of the university have a right to do with the bandwidth as they please. Fundamentally, the administration should have every right (speaking morally, not necessarily legally here) to restrict the bandwidth however they feel... if it were a corporation where the employees work for the employer. In a university setting, the administration is supposed to work for the students. Of course that's not how it works in the real world. I would then argue that if they want to continue pointless censoring of benign content as the author claims, they should remove any reference to "university" or "college" from their name. That way everyone will know up front that this is just a degree mill, not a place of learning.

I can't help but think that you are likely in IT and say "get over it" as a reaction to perceived or real threats to your network by meddling students. Either that, or you're just an asshole with no scruples. By your same logic, Comcast should have the right to censor whatever they see fit because it's "their bandwidth." Some people actually argue this claim unironically - thankfully, that's not the world we live in yet. But if more idiots like you refuse to see reason and want to horde everything for themselves, give no thought to civil rights of others, and laugh at people who don't know as much about computers as you do, well... I can't say I'm optimistic about the future. You're certainly not doing any favors for the already-negative public image of our industry.

Comment Re:Quality Control (Score -1, Troll) 256

Yeah, so it costs Microsoft the equivalent of 1 year's pay for the average American worker to do some "testing" (?) which I'm sure is VERY thorough (>/sarcasm> it's probably not) then push these patches - which are usually quite small to begin with - to consoles where the HW requirements are KNOWN? If an Xbox can't fit the patch then it likely cannot fit the game. How hard is it to do a client-side space check and say "oops you don't have enough room." You know, like iOS and Android? And, oh no! I'm so sad that Microsoft will have to spend exactly $0.0001 to push a 5Mb patch over their massive pipes. There is simply no excuse for $40,000 patches. No argument in favor holds up to scrutiny. It's intentionally ripping off small devs - why would Microsoft want to help out their competition?

Comment Re:scare tactics (Score 1, Troll) 260

I cannot agree with this hard enough. The internet doesn't need advertisers or their money. Most web services I use don't even run on ads, they run on donations or private funding.

One need only look at Wikipedia to see this is true. It has continuously been in the top 5 or top 10 visited sites on the Internet almost since its inception. They run a vast media framework with hundreds of millions of viewers, tens (hundreds?) of thousands of contributors, and hundreds of editors - with pictures, videos, music, anything you can think of, all available for free. Not once have they shown a single ad, unless you count those hilarious donation pleas. If you look at their yearly budget reports they have exceeded donation requirements by a wide margin for many years, paving the way for enhanced services and fewer future donation pleas.

Or, if you want to see a complex service that does advertising right, look at DuckDuckGo the search engine. I would argue, and it is debatable, that their search responses are just as good if not sometimes better than Google's. They get more popular every day and remain committed to respecting user privacy. They do essentially the same thing Google did when they had their multi-billion IPO (I realize they have since expanded), only instead of building a huge greedy advert empire, they show one ad. One single, small, text-only ad per query and never anything else - and the only thing they track is the previous query, no search history bullshit like Google.

I'm guessing that the FOSS community could probably do one better than DuckDuckGo by running a *good* search engine on a distributed system (slow but free) or through donations like Wikipedia. It may already exist and either I'm unaware of it or it's still crappy. The point is, the internet doesn't need advertisers - they need us. Same with television and every other service they claim will "disappear" if it weren't for ads. It's a load of crap and they know it which is why they will kick and scream and cry if anything tries to undermine their opulent house of cards.

Comment Hmmmm (Score 2) 147

Well for one you could do away with gerrymandering that marginalizes poor people, or neo-Jim Crow Laws (see Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow" 2010), or bring back organizations like ACORN which helped to rally ethnic minorities and the economically disadvantaged (before being gutted by the GOP on verifiably baseless claims), or eliminate the electoral college, or pursue more direct-democracy solutions based on Switzerland's thousand-year-old system, or any number of other things. But no, let's waste our time rehashing buzzwords from 2006 so that rich white people can feel good about themselves. Thanks.

Comment Limited Resources (Score 2, Interesting) 63

Communications medium of every kind including radio spectrum should be directly provided by the government. Infrastructure for cell phones, internet, energy (arguably a kind of communications technology), terrestrial radio, and I would argue even cable and network television all should be provided using public funds by a neutral government organization. The technology for these various mediums would be developed largely by government research centers just as they are now, while the tech standards are decided upon by industry trade groups or NGOs such as the IEEE or ISO just as they are now. The infrastructure would remain agnostic to the data being carried on it. "Basic" cellular and internet services - the definition of basic being re-evaluated every few years based on technological advances - would be provided to all citizens free of charge in exchange for their tax money that built the network. Companies would be allowed to provide additional pay services on these networks by purchasing an operator's license, sort of like it is now. Non-public broadcast mediums would be largely eliminated in favor of pay-to-play multicast services which are already essentially how things are done in a roundabout way (DVR, on-demand). Essentially, everyone would be able to operate exactly as they do now. Even telecoms and ISPs would be able to stay in business offering the aforementioned "premium services," albeit at a lower profit margin. The only difference is, the entire system would be about one billion times more efficient and fair. No competing wireless standards, no net neutrality debate, no hidden cell fees or bogus contracts, no more censorship of airwaves since the given multicast mediums would be opt-in by their nature. The only people who lose their jobs are some now-redundant CEOs and VPs of useless telecom companies, and you're not going to see me shedding any tears over that. The whole system is kept in check by a constitutional amendment and some new bureaucracy where you have to have a degree in science or engineering to even be considered for appointment. Obviously this would not completely eliminate abuse and corruption but it would go a long way toward solving thousands of problems while inconveniencing very few people. The massive increase in information flow, education, and intellectual freedom that would likely follow, combined with massive cost savings by consolidation of infrastructure would more than make up for any negative points of this plan. Oh also the cow jumped over the moon, I want a pony, and I should probably be murdered for saying things about socialism.

Comment Smoke screen (Score 1) 208

Not only is this obviously hypocritical on the part of Facebook and friends, it's also a highly transparent attempt to discredit Google's social services. Now, do I agree with Google's Search+ Your World? No, it's stupid and indeed somewhat evil, but I don't see how it's any different than Facebook's attempts to rip off Foursquare or searching Twitter for just about anything - in fact those services are usually more revealing than a simple search assist from Google. Does anyone honestly believe that if Facebook had Google's search market share they would do the same? Zuckerberg may be a smart guy, but he got where he is by dicking people over and then pissing on their corpses. Sergey and Larry got where they are through ingenuity and hard work. (I'm sure there was some dicking over involved but nowhere near as much.) Google has lost its way, and I can't blame them for grasping at straws to gain market share in any arena they can. They have tried doing social networking the "nice" way to no avail, although Orkut is still popular in some Latin American countries I believe. Fact is, people want this crap because they're dumb. You and I may say "why would I want my grandpa's G+ posts to show up in search" while the average social networker says "durr neat grandpa's tweets are in my search for 'hi grandpa how are you.'" The web isn't built for us anymore. Unfortunately, Facebook apologists will lap this up as stone-set fact. I don't really care though - I switched to DuckDuckGo and dropped social networking ages ago.

Comment Re:Here is a hint people (Score 2) 675

Anyone who makes this argument must have been asleep in the 90s. It was only by a thin margin that general computing survived - we could easily have had only Microsoft as our PC vendor (for desktops and laptops, anyway) had they been a little more clever. Even today there are only a handful of small companies that will sell you a pre-built computer without a Windows license attached - Dell's [pathetic] Linux offerings aside. Any computer you bought, even custom, you would have had to get a Microsoft Windows license with. You can thank the Free Software movement for preventing that - for inspiring NeXTSTEP (Mac OS X), for making Linux a viable desktop choice in the professional and academic arenas, and for ensuring IIS didn't dominate servers. (There were other factors of course, but IMO the FOSS movement was most influential.) The Edmund Burke quote, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," fits here I think. It's essentially the same as saying "if you don't like the Democrat, vote for the Republican." They're all on the same side. Unfortunately no one has come up with a viable solution to that problem yet.

Comment Re:Old technology is often still superior technolo (Score 1) 241

I don't see how paper tech is any more secure than these voting machines. I've read the reports on failed machines such as Diebold's and they always assume someone has physical access to the machine, access to nearby computer equipment, access to specific knowledge regarding how the machines are engineered, and a lot of private time. How is this any less secure than storing all the votes on easily misplaced and manipulated paper ballots? Would banks keep buying ATMs from Diebold if they lost money from them frequently? When exactly will security be "good enough?" Where does the battle end? As any good security researcher knows, it doesn't. At some point you have to accept that there will be risk but it is small enough to be within the margin of error in a typical election. Remember the 2000 election? It wasn't just "stuck chads," tens of thousands of votes in key districts were "lost" entirely. This kind of thing happens all the time.

I'm not a security expert by any stretch of the imagination but I could probably make a "good enough" ballot machine with about $1500 and a couple hours time. Secure it physically as much as possible, set up two-factor authentication with a SmartCard and password (or even 3-factor with biometrics if you want to get silly), set syslogd to silently log things remotely, and have the machine dump the votes to a central machine now and then over a VPN. Set up an analytics system which monitors the transactions in real time and reports irregularities to a central authority which can freeze the voting machines if necessary. This is an extremely basic setup but I honestly do not see how it's any less secure than paper ballots.

I can only imagine that it's every company's wet dream to land a gigantic and permanent government contract for voting machines. When there's that much money involved, you can bet there are people working hard on the problem. I would suppose that banks and credit agencies would probably describe my humble setup above as "overkill" for most scenarios, and while they are certainly behind the times security-wise, I'm sure they've done risk analysis to determine that investment in more security measures would not result in a significant amount of money being regained from fraud.

That's what you have to do - calculate your risk and ask if it's worth it. Now obviously that's what the Irish government and various US state agencies claim to have done, but did they calculate that risk against risk associated with paper ballots? Do election officials and politicians want to admit or draw attention to the large amount of fraud that goes on in every election, every year? How much money does Nedap or Diebold donate to the politicians who reject their designs? Not enough, obviously.

Comment "ineffectual, if not self-defeating" (Score 1) 241

How is this self-defeating? Because they're willing to black-out the 114th most popular website, according to Alexa international rankings, probably losing plenty of advert revenue, and probably against the wishes of their parent company, they are "ineffectual." Seriously? Sorry if I don't find the words of some Slashdot goon armchair reporting on something he knows nothing about to be entirely credible. And there's a difference between Slashdot goons and Slashdot members - you all know who you are. I don't like to defend Reddit, and I understand a lot of the criticism they receive for various annoying qualities that any popular community seems to attract, but operations they put together seem to have a real effect on the real world. Take the moderately successful recent GoDaddy boycott for example, or $500,000 raised to for the anti-SOPA candidate Rob Zerban against the highest ranking incumbent congressman that can be defeated this year, or their assistance in organizing the Occupy movement, or many other examples. Just go to /r/politics and sort by top stories in the last year or month or whatever. Anyway, I would definitely not call them "ineffectual," nor would I say that a blackout measure is "self-defeating," nor would I personally use contrarian editorial language in what is supposed to be an article summary.

Comment Asinine. (Score 1) 398

I have a lot of respect for Vint but this is stupid. So by his logic, since "plumbing" is a technology, nobody should have the right to properly working indoor plumbing? Clothing is a technology - should people not have the right to wear clothes? Sure, "the right to wear clothes," is, semantically, talking about allowing folks to have the ability to put on clothes, NOT that they should have access to the technology - but this is a debate for a white-tower English professor. Practically speaking, the right to wear clothes is irrelevant if there are no clothes to wear, just as the right to free speech is irrelevant if you cannot access the means by which many if not most people in our globalized society communicate. I would argue that the internet is the most important means of communications between humans ever devised, including natural language. Assuming you can at least partially agree with this, should humans not have the right to language, the right to speak? I thought of all people Vint Cerf would be able to see this, but then again he is an old-guard technologist, a DARPA "good ole boy," whose primary interest is in technological innovation, not human rights. He should keep his mouth shut on issues he obviously has no grasp of.

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