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Comment Re:Do Australians know who the incumbent is? (Score 1) 248

It's a fair point - In Aus, most people vote on party lines, and because we don't have a 'first past the post' system there are more parties (Left, Right, Green, Rural, Loonie). The Party system is much stronger, so people may not know the individuals, but generally have an idea of which party they think will best represent them or their views.

It's not perfect by any means, and we have the same problems about the political class floating off into a bubble disconnected from the rest of the country, but it just doesn't seem as extreme as elsewhere, and maybe the electorate, knowing that they have to vote (or at least show up) pays slightly more attention than they otherwise would.

The alternative, as far as I can see from a distance, is not just that the informed vote, but also the angriest and most motivated - so politicians spend their time trying to make their supporters angry and adopting extreme positions...

Comment Re:On the plus side nobody's allowing it (Score 4, Informative) 248

Australian here - compulsory voting works quite well - it's not really compulsory voting, more compulsory attendance; you have to show up but the ballot is secret, so you can just write swear words on it and draw rude pictures if you want - and some do.

But it has a huge effect on the political discourse - because parties don't need to 'get the vote out', politics becomes largely a squabble over the middle ground, and extremists on either side don't tend to do so well. Our politicians are usually pretty boring compared to overseas. Given all the other things we have to do as part of society, showing up every few years to vote seems a fairly small price to pay to keep democratic government ticking over.

Not sure how it would play elsewhere, but it works well for us... as does the whole preferential voting system; you can put your least disliked major party second last, and vote for other people first without 'wasting' your vote.

Anyway, back on topic: the selfie thing is a problem, as it breaks the whole secret ballot shtick. I can see the free speech argument, but there's a reason for secret ballots; without them you can get intimidation, coercion, people selling votes etc... sometimes I think we forget that these things were hard fought for a long time ago, and they shouldn't be given up without a lot of careful thought...

Comment American Law Firm? (Score 1) 133

Folks seem to be missing the point that this involved tapping an American law firm, apparently in order to gain an edge during trade negotiations? (And similar stuff happening during recent climate negotiations?)

That kinda muddies the water I think; people spying on other people for national security is one thing, but when it spills over into the commercial world and UN politics then it's no longer security, but obtaining an advantage by underhand means.

Also, I'm curious - doesn't US law say something about not spying on americans? And aren't even lawyers technically citizens?

I guess as an aussie if the US wants to outsource that sort of thing to us I don't have a huge problem with it, but I would have thought more US folks would be upset... :-)

Comment Re:Uh... okay (Score 2) 607

Schneier suggests elliptic key may be compromised and should be avoided... as with other public key systems it is based on a computationally hard one way problem, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that our TLA friends may have some special insight here.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-how-to-remain-secure-surveillance

As a side issue, I've been to vendor presentations where they've boasted about the ability of their advanced firewalls/edge devices to do real time MITM attacks using valid signing certs obtained from (at least one) top level CA, to enable companies to monitor gmail etc for 'IP protection'. Given the NSA's liking for compromising network devices I wouldn't be surprised if that method was also used.

Comment A Beacon through dark times (Score 1) 986

Groklaw was there when much we take for granted was under attack, and as a rallying point was hugely influential as vested interest after vested interest tried to enclose the commons and steal from the common wealth. It outlived SCO, it saw Linux grow and thrive, and we rejoiced as it called the odds and gathered forces against one carpet bagging IP troll after another.

It is truly heart breaking to see PJ shutting up shop, and I only hope it helps to focus us on a greater danger than SCO ever was.

Vale Groklaw.

Comment Encryption layer ontop of Drop Box? (Score 1) 274

There are a bunch of folks who add client side encryption to drop box.

This mob: http://lock-box.com/ do a bunch of fancy client side key management to allow strong PKI management including revocation and re-keying of group accessed data. They're pretty good if you need a strong crypto layer on top of drop box, but there's a bunch of folks who add security to drop box with some balance of security and convenience. ... but like many other posters have said, be very careful before sticking classified data on any of this stuff; it's unlikely to be suitable unless the solution's been given a rating.

Comment Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (Score 1) 452

Not true - numerous examples exist of civilisations large and small that have outgrown their resource base and crashed horribly. In fact, pretty much EVERY SINGLE CIVILISATION before ours has collapsed horribly. We would be different why?

(cf Jarad Diamond's book "Collapse" for a role call of civilisations and empires that have gone belly up - not all can be pinned on environmental collapse, but a lot can; just look at the sands of the middle east where the great empires of two thousand years ago were, possibly the Romans, the Maya, definitely the Norse settlements in Greenland and the polynesian settlement of Easter Island, etc. etc.)

Comment Re:Finally (Score 1) 509

I'd agree - except that the games I buy on Steam are not 'retail price'. DRM sucks, but if I can get Portal for $5, I'm prepared to do it as a throw away. There seem to be games on Steam for $20 or less that are sold (in Australia) at $US 50 or more.

I'm happy to pay a bit more to not have DRM (ta iTunes), but not multiples...

Comment Numbers don't seem to add up (Score 5, Informative) 516

Some facts as I understand them snarfed from the web - corrections welcomed...

rough cost of (wholesale) energy per kilowatt hour (kwh): ~5c
CO2 cost per kwh: ~1kg (coal power: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/pns/faq.html)
time for my (small) 1 litre (~ 1kw) kettle to boil when full is ~ 5 minutes which compares well with the theoretical energy for a 1litre at ~350kj, or 350 seconds time for 1kw . Hence power for a small boiled kettle is a killowatt for 1/10 of an hour, or 0.1 kwh

So I get...
Kettle boiling: costs ~.5c, and ~ 100g, ... the article says a kettle take 15g, which I don't get even close to; maybe clever people boil just enough to make single cups only?

If the article was true, Google doing "more than 200m" searches a day would spend ~ $20m a day on power, or ~ $7billion a year, consuming 100,000 megawatt hours, or a continuous drain of 4,000 megawatts (about the power output of a small US state). On the authors figures, total power consumption would be ~ 650 megawatts, which is still pretty huge, and would still be spending ~ $1billion a year.

Google use cheap, mass produced low power units in gigantic numbers - estimates are hard to come by, I will estimate 200,000 based on inflating some public estimates (e.g. http://arnab.org/blog/how-many-computers-does-google-have).

Energy cost of networking is significant, but I do not believe as great as machines; I'll add 50% for good luck. Utility server machines are dropping in power (~100-200w) but also require cooling, UPSs and network etc., so let's call it 500w all up (figures are difficult to get; everyone is selling something power center wise) - so I get 100 megawatts; or 1/6th of the author's estimate, or 1/40th of the true kettle figure.

I'd say that the author is overstating the case to make a political point - if I was cynical I'd point out the author has also just launched a business to 'green your web site' by installing monitoring software, estimating the energy cost of searches to it, and then buying carbon offsets on your behalf, so it is in his interests to overestimate such usage..

Comment Re:Already Exists (Score 1) 242

D&D 4th edition is a cute table top wargame.

It's probably more similar to 'squad leader' than it is to 3rd edition D&D though. Not sure why it got called D&D. Dungeons of DragonCraft might be more appropriate.

It's fun at the moment, but it feels a bit like fairy floss - there doesn't seem to be much depth.

Meanwhile I'm curious as to how wizards are going to go charging for 'virtual minitures' and stuff, and the jury's still out on their online subscription offering. Could be good, but I suspect the freeware stuff will be better - already we're seeing some pretty neat character generators out there.

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