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Comment Re:How to make it cheaper? (Score 1) 43

I see the carpooling part, but the summary also mentions charging fares, not splitting costs. Presumably the car owner is for hire and accepts them, Google just uses something along the lines of "Uber Pool" and "Lyft Line" which also matches riders going in the same direction. Which isn't a differentiator at all, as the article claims.

The difference is that no the much lower fares will be too low to motivate anyone to take driving on as a job. If the fare value is so low that it doesn't even cover the full value of vehicle fuel and wear and tear, much less the driver's time, then no one will try to make money at it. Instead, it will just be a way to defray part of the cost of a journey one was making anyway. In other words, ride sharing.

Comment Re:FBI Word games (Score 1) 139

I'm glad that we have people on our side that are smarter than him.

You realize you're implicitly siding with criminals here, right? They also want to keep the FBI out of their data.

Oh, I agree with your conclusions. Banning encryption, or requiring backdoors, is a simply unacceptable level of intrusion in a democratic society. Its potential for abuse is too extreme to risk.

BUT... law-abiding citizens do also have an interest in seeing that lawbreakers are caught. Assuming we vote in people who pass appropriate laws and criminalize things that seriously and negatively affect our lives, things like murder, kidnapping, robbery, identity theft, and pot smoking (kidding!), then we really do want cops to be able to get the information needed to identify the perpetrators of crimes and to prosecute them. So we do not want a situation in which evidence is not generally available, leading to either failing to lock up a lot of people who are actively dangerous to us, or to locking up a lot of innocent people because we've had to lower the standards of evidence required for prosecution.

I'm pretty certain that we're just going to have to accept a world in which prosecutions are a lot harder, because the alternative is even worse. I also don't think it will be as bad as all that, because most criminals are stupid. It doesn't matter if the conspirators' email is encrypted when one of them posts the deed on Facebook. But I think it's important to admit that there is a real subject of debate here.

Comment Re:The universe. (Score 1) 127

These are what the IAU came up with, in a vote that was very controversial among its membership. An association dominated by astronomers, not planetary scientists, who were by and large against the decision. And a set of terminology that you can often find flatly ignored in scientific papers. Example. In short, the only group that the IAU is able to bludgeon into using their term is the general public (using the "We're scientists, if you don't use our term you're wrong and ignorant" gambit), not the scientific community itself.

Comment Re:FBI Word games (Score 1) 139

> "With good reason, the people of the United States -- through judges and law enforcement -- can invade our private spaces," Comey said, adding that that "bargain" has been at the center of the country since its inception.

Yes, but for specific limited instances and after obtaining warrants for each case. What Comey/The FBI are actually demanding is our freedom to use encryption be completely removed so that they can perform warrantless mass monitoring on a national scale.

To be fair, encryption does change the situation a bit. It creates a world where warrants do not work, not unless you can also be compelled to provide decryption keys/passwords... and even then, if the penalty for the crime you're alleged to have committed is worse than the penalty for refusing to divulge your password, you'll keep your mouth shut. Also, penalizing refusal to provide information runs into another problem (besides 5th amendment constraints): what if you legitimately can't provide the information, but can't convince the judge that you can't? How many innocent but forgetful people will we jail?

So, this really is a new world for law enforcement. On the one hand, if encryption is banned or backdoored, it gives them unprecedentedly broad and deep surveillance, potentially routine global surveillance. On the other, if encryption is legal and routine, they find themselves simply unable to get information that in decades and centuries past they could have gotten with a warrant and a search of your home/office.

There is an imperfect historical analogue: Very high security safes. In the past, people might keep possibly-incriminating evidence in a safe. If the safe was really, really good this occasionally created a situation where police could not get in because they lacked the tools and skills. Courts ruled they could not demand the combination. But the situation with encryption is different for a few reasons.

First, it's different because high-quality safes are expensive and rare. making the problem correspondingly rare. Encryption is cheap and easy.

Second, it's different because it's a pain to remember to keep all of your potentially-incriminating documents in a safe. Encryption can be automated so it's applied to everything. No need to think about it. Indeed, security advocates (like me) encourage encryption of absolutely everything, all the time.

Third, it's different because while a safe can always be cracked given enough time and effort, proper encryption is effectively invulnerable. Barring bugs in implementation, or defects in key management processes (e.g. weak passwords), we have no reason to believe anyone can break current-generation cryptographic algorithms.

So there is a real question that needs to be debated openly, in public. We need to understand the consequences of ubiquitous strong encryption on law enforcement, and we need to weigh that against privacy.

And then we need to tell the cops "Sorry, privacy wins. And even if it didn't, the sort of police state we'd need to put in place to effectively restrict secure encryption is simply unacceptable". But we should have the data, and the open, honest public debate so that everyone can come to understand what is blindingly obvious to those who already understand encryption.

Comment Re:So, really seems to be "ride-sharing" (Score 1) 43

That's what Uber was supposed to be until they became an international taxicab company

Are you sure about that? The company was launched under the name UberCab, and as far as I can tell it was a car-hailing app from the beginning. I can find no evidence it was ever a carpooling app.

It seems to me that the challenge with an actual ridesharing app is getting to critical mass. You need enough cars participating that anyone looking for a ride is likely to find someone to pick them up most of the time. That's something of a problem for a car-hailing app like Uber, but not as much because it depends only on there being a driver in the vicinity... with actual ridesharing you need to find a driver that is close enough and is going to the same place (roughly). And is willing to add a little time to their journey to pick you up and drop you off.

I suppose if they can get a substantial percentage of the Waze userbase to participate, it should work. I might do it.

Comment Re:They want 600k (Score 1) 160

No, they're just afraid you're going to dox them and attack them online with your horde of PC lynch mobs, harass their boss at work until they're fired, then make the headlines in various news outlets about how you defended the world against oppression and bigotry of the cyginscist white males.

Wow, that's messed up. Do you really believe that? Has this ever happened to anyone on Slashdot or are you just doing drama queen theater?

Oh wait, I already know the answer to that.

Comment Re:Gut check (Score 3, Interesting) 54

As an IT person for over twenty years, I still pain at this cloud presence. Who owns your data? Google, Amazon, Microsoft?

What, specifically, are you afraid will happen?

I can see being worried about handing your business data to a service provider who may be a competitor, but are you actually competing with any of these? And would they really get enough value from looking at your data to justify the immense damage to their business if they were caught spying on customers in violation of contractual obligations? Not likely. I suppose I could see Wal-mart refusing to host their data on AWS because there's a clear competitive conflict, and Wal-mart is big enough that Amazon might want to spy on them, but those cases are pretty rare, I think.

If your concern is about data loss if the provider goes belly up or has severe problems (e.g. a data center burns to the ground) then (a) your fears are pretty misplaced with respect to AWS, Azure or GCE, and (b) you should be keeping backups regardless of whether you're running your own systems or using a provider. If your concern is about downtime, your fears are really misplaced. The big cloud providers are much better at that than you are.

I know a number of small and mid-size companies that have never operated their own data centers, or even had colos, and are extremely happy with the way that works. It makes them able to respond to changes in business much more quickly and keeps their overhead low, especially during the early phases. Sign up a huge new client and need to double your capacity? Log on and fire it up (assuming you've architected for scalability). No need to worry about floor space or purchase orders or installation schedules. Lose a huge client or find an optimization and need to cut capacity by 30%? Log on and shut it down. No need to figure out what to do about the idled equipment or floor space. These companies find it's much better to stay focused on what they do well, writing software and selling services, rather than staff up big organizations to manage data center operations.

One significant (~600-person) and quite profitable SaaS company I know doesn't own *any* computing hardware. Their computing equipment is completely BYOD, employees use their own laptops, tablets and phones (with reimbursement, so I suppose their accountants might argue they own some stuff, technically). When they had to move buildings recently (due to growth), they simply leased a new building and told everyone (those who don't telecommute) to show up at the new location the next week. The new building had cubicles and wired and wireless Internet in place (w/redundant providers), all part of the lease. They did contract some movers to haul boxes of personal items from the old building to the new one, including developers' large monitors. The CEO likes to joke that he could move the entire company to a beach-side resort in Belize and they could all continue working without the slightest interruption, as long as the resort had good Wifi.

That's a bit extreme, and there's no doubt that that level of flexibility isn't free, but it's not as expensive as you might think. Moreover, if your workload is very static, and your IT department is solid and smooth-functioning, and labor costs in your area are low, it will cost more to pay a cloud provider than to do it yourself. Or if you have particularly-sensitive data to manage (and actually know how to manage it... something that is *rarely* true in my 15 years' experience as an IT security consultant), you may need to have your own hardware. But for many, many companies, the cloud is cheaper, faster, more flexible and more secure.

Comment Re:EC will punish US Teachers (Score 1) 193

It will move the stock market. By a lot. In the long term, of course, because the ruling will have an impact to the accounting provisions which are not necessarily instantly are disclosed, or, for proprietary reasons, recognized in the financial statements.

So, you believe that Apple and other companies don't realize that they're attempting to evade taxation when they engage in these Dutch-Irish sandwiches?

And no, it won't move the market by a noticeable amount, any more than a tax increase or decrease moves the stock market by a noticeable amount, except maybe on the day it's announced.

Comment Re:This reminds me of my visit to the "Fish Man" (Score 1) 125

My client was an ex-special forces commando. He was working a modest-paying state job in the Department of Agriculture (he was an old time farm boy) for "vacation money" but after 9/11 he disappeared for a couple of years. Nobody knew where he was, but when he came back he had full-bird colonel's pension. Even though he now had plenty of "vacation money", he went back to his old Ag job, I think just to feel like he had something productive to do. His real passion, however, was painting wildlife. I wouldn't say his stuff was terribly original, but it was technically impressive. If I handed you one of his bird paintings and told you it was an original Audubon you'd probably believe me unless you were an art expert. This was a down-to-earth guy with a surprisingly sensitive side, and if he wanted to kill you with his bare hands you wouldn't have a prayer.

I know this sounds like BS, but there's really nothing like the Deep South for bizarre and colorful characters. And oddballs have a way of flocking together, which probably means I should worry about knowing so many of them.

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