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Comment Re:OSX/CoinThief ??? (Score 2) 108

Isn't that a bit of a giveaway, if you write a Trojan and call it OSX/CoinThief? I know there are people out there who think people buying Macs do so because they are too stupid to handle real computers, but nobody could possibly think they are stupid enough to install an app called OSX/CoinThief? Is that how the trojan was found? Someone thought the name is a bit suspicious and started looking?

OSX/CoinThief.A is the name the security reseachers gave the trojan. The actual application was called StealthBit.

Comment Doesn't seem reasonable at all to me (Score 4, Interesting) 216

Currently the business model of most porn websites is based on subscriptions and not on pay per view. A large part of their customers do most likely not even use their product but have just forgot/don't bother to cancel the subscription. Currently there is no way to set up such automatically recurring payments with bitcoin.

Why would a porn company willingly throw away all these paying users that don't actually use anything (i.e. don't cause them any costs)?

Comment Re:Well, of course. (Score 1) 293

I thought there was a story a while back about the games communication channels (sorry, I am not a gamer so please forgive my terminology) being used by some actual terrorist types? No telling if it is true, of course, since it seems to be no more than security through obscurity, which is no security really. Anybody else recall anything of the like?

I remember intelligence agencies being concerned about this but have never read of an actual case. If you look past the surface the whole idea sounds pretty silly to me - why would you use a communications channel that you know for sure logs are kept of?

The advantages - the chat traffic you produce looks innocently, is encrypted, is in a relatively obscure (game specific) format and flows via a middle man (the game server) - sound nowhere near unique enough to justify having all your conspiratorial conversations logged in cleartext by the game developer/host (which makes them easily accessible to law enforcement if they think to ask).

Comment Re:Used to (Score 2) 86

Or at least, they are not sending the signals they think they are sending.

The signalling theory was introduced by Spence in his 1973 paper Job Market Signaling.

His basic idea is to view the employer as buying a lottery ticket when he hires an employee. He knows extremely little about the attributes of the potential employee that he is really interested in and thus has to draw inferences from easily observable attributes such as "education, previous work, race, sex, criminal and service records, and a host of other data".

Many of these attributes cannot be modified (e.g. race and sex) but those that can be modified and especially those where the cost of improving the attribute is low compared to its impact on the employer can be manipulated by the prospective employee to signal the employer about his qualities.

Spence primarily views education as a signal for work potential but he readily admits that it might, e.g. be rather used as a signal for status instead. However, the important point is that "signaling costs are negatively correlated with productivity" (or with whatever other property you want to signal your potential employer about).

Someone who has a high work potential will be more willing to get an education because getting an education will be cheaper for him than for other people - not just in terms of money (although you could argue that scholarships, a lower chance of not successfully completing the degree, ... can make it cheaper in terms of money) but also in terms of "psychic and other costs", e.g. time. Someone who already has a high social status will find it easier (i.e. cheaper) to get an ivy league education to signal this status to his employer than someone who intends to get that education solely to mislead employers about his true social status.

Although different signals can be appropriate for different types of work, the signalling value of getting an education is not about the content about that education. You aren't primarily demonstrating that you learned any useful skills. In fact the signaling value of an otherwise completely useless education might be even higher than that of an education that has a very reliable return in terms of real-world applicable skills, e.g. most mathematicians are not hired because they need theoretical math skills for their job but because mathematics has a reputation for being insanely hard. For the vast majority of people it doesn't make sense to study mathematics because the cost would be far too high and the rl skills learned are low. The same goes for almost any PhD degree - the knowledge learned while earning the degree is way too specialized to be of any use to your employer - but the fact that the cost of getting a PhD was so low to you (because you are so awesome) that you felt it economically worthwhile to get one anyways is a strong signal to any prospective employer.

That's the way those who think that signals are important (there are other theories that explain the value of education in terms of accumulation of human capital) think that signals do work. And correspondingly these are the signals they think they are sending by getting an education. Now, how do you disagree?

Comment Re:Well, I'll tell you why I'm not interested.. (Score 1) 332

Guess I'll have to eat my words, "never" was too strong. While looking up words to demonstrate that the letter "z" is indeed used in Latin when transcribing Greek names (e.g. Zeno) and in Greek loanwords (e.g. zona) I also noticed that "sm-" can be transcribed as "zm-" in words like Smyrna (Smyrna or Zmyrna), smegma (smegma or zmegma), smaragdos (smaragdus orzmaragdos).

This doesn't change that Linos can absolutely not be transcribed into Latin as Linuz (and the modern name derives from the Latin transcription/adaption not from the Greek original).

Comment Re:Well, I'll tell you why I'm not interested.. (Score 1) 332

Linus already is the Latin transcription of the Greek name Linos (brother of Orpheus, teacher of Hercules). There is no good reason for treating Latin "s" any different than English "s" and the only way to transcribe Greek sigma into Latin (or English) are "s" (based on sound) or "c" (based on visual appearance of the letter) - never "z".

Comment Re:Hrrrm. (Score 1) 196

The Spanish Inquisition and the other Inquisitions of the Holy Roman Church were given a bad rap by 19th and 20th century researchers into medieval history.

The Spanish Inquisition operated under the sole control of the Spanish king, it was not a church institution and is not comparable with the Roman Inquisition.

Comment Re:"if it was my daughter..." (Score 1) 465

However the majority of polygraphs are institutional polygraphs from govt, military, CIA, law enforcement, etc...they are given regularly and just like anything employees easily adapt b/c **they are bullshit**

Maybe the solution is to use them only if a person is suspected of a crime?

IMO it's exactly the opposite:

Polygraphs are way too unreliable to be ever used in court.

But for checking out potential and current employees they are very useful as they will get many questioned persons to reveal information (as they think they will be found out anyways) that they would otherwise not divulge easily (whether the polygraph actually works as a lie detector or not doesn't matter at all as long as a large part of the population is under the impression that it does) and the cost of false positives is incredibly low (you have dozens of applicants for each job. who cares if you turn down the best qualified because he "failed" your meaningless polygraph test? just take the 2nd or 3rd best one, the practical difference will be nil). False negatives don't matter as you use the polygraph in addition to other checks and not to replace them.

This clip from The Wire demonstrates very well why polygraphs are a useful tool in the screening of recruits and why those who complain about them being unscientific (which they are) completely miss the point.

Comment Re:Money for the State (Score 1) 206

Seriously. No Scientist would agree to be ruled the way governments want to rule: Let's just roll out some country wide plan with zero evidence it'll be successful based on the speculations of ideologues?! Fuck That! Get me a government that incrementally rolls out changes and evaluates the effects at each stage, making adjustments or halting if detrimental. Get me some Scientists and Engineers in power. Then you'll have a legitimate government. Until then, the government is NOT BENEFICIAL. Any who posit otherwise: PROVE IT. Oh, that would require applying science? EXACTLY.

Beneficial to whom? to the largest number of citizens? to the median citizen? to those who are worst off (Rawls)? ...

Already you are talking ideology - unless you stick to strict Pareto improvements which will not allow you to take any actions in the real world.

Once you allow for trade-offs ("this guy is worse off, but those guys are better off and they clearly outweigh his loss of utility") you enter ideological hell as there is no sound basis for comparing utility between persons. Public economics likes to ignore this issue or pretend that all citizens share the same utility function but everybody is well aware that this is a completely unreasonable assumption (the problem is that the only alternative to sacrificing reason would be to shut up about matters of public economics almost entirely and answer "it is impossible to say" whenever the politicians come asking).
Even trying to employ crutches like Sen's capability sets won't help you as these (while a little less amorphous and more easily measured than utility), too, are way too limited to be of practical use - you can only compare two capability sets when one is a subset of the other (and they don't lend themselves well to mathematical treatment)

Where is the rational (as opposed to ideological) basis that would allow you to decide on matters of public policy that will leave some people better and other people worse off?

Comment Re:As a geek who went to business school ... (Score 3, Interesting) 167

How do you explain the hordes of McKinsey/Accenture/pwc/BCG/Bain "consultants" who walk into a business and proclaim to the execs that they have all the answers? Usually, these consultants are in their late 20s, got their MBA right after their undergrad years, never worked anything more complex than a retail job, and are immediately hired to dispense advice.

Strategic consultants aren't hired to provide answers, they are hired to provide "independent" "scientific" justification for those answers that your execs have already decided upon but don't want to be held responsible for.

I recommend you read the third part of this article series in which a young former consultant recounts his experience with BCG in Dubai:

Part I: The city of tomorrow

Part II: Welcome to your caste

Part III: The story BCG offered me $16,000 not to tell

Part IV: Dispatches from the collapse

Comment Re:No bitch. (Score 1) 461

I sincerely doubt people are going to make a serious effort to get rid of most of the infrastructure they use to spy on us, and implement draconian checks and balances on their powers.

I am no expert by any means but I am not sure if such checks and balances are possible - I suspect that the overlap between spying on legitimate targets and illegitimate targets is so big that you can't design infrastructure that only allows for one but not the other (e.g. the foreign soldier might log into his social network account after hours and write his girlfriend that his unit is preparing for some sort of action and that she might not hear of him for a while - that sort of information might be a valuable piece of intelligence but you won't know whether it is that or just some civilians chatting it up until after you have intercepted and analyzed it).

You can forbid your intelligence services to abuse their capabilities but I doubt that you can prevent them from doing so as they need to have the technical capabilities that allow them to overstep their bounds in order to do their legitimate job. So all you have is a piece of paper saying "you must not" and some oversight through courts and political committees (who, at the end of the day, have to rely on the agencies' own reporting) - and afaik this is pretty much the same status quo that so many Americans seem to be unhappy with.

What kind of oversight would meet both the demands of Americans who seem to have lost any trust in their political and judicial system and allow the intelligence agencies to do their actual job? How would your "serious effort" roughly look like?

Comment Re:No bitch. (Score 1) 461

The problem is that the spies cannot be controlled. Government thugs will do whatever they please, especially in situations where it is simply not possible for the public to provide oversight. We gave the government a chance to provide oversight for itself, and it predictably failed.

I am not from the US so I don't really have a stake in this discussion but for the sake of curiosity: Am I understanding you correctly that you want to stop all spying, including spying on military targets? Do you want to stop all methods of spying or just signal intelligence?

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Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell