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Comment Add it to their curriculum (Score 1) 197

Engineers already have to learn math, physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, operations research, statics, dynamics, and on and on. They learn whatever they have to in order to manipulate the world to a new shape. It could be anything. You think metallurgy is easier than Java? Hah.

Comment Become a licensed profession (Score 1) 318

The real cure for this is to make IT a licensed profession like teaching, accounting, medicine, law and engineering. Look back over that list of 5 professions - is there any serious doubt that quality, ethical IT that meets some kind of minimum standards is as needed for modern society as in those five?

But licensing has a second effect that has similarities to unionization. (In some ways, it's the opposite of unions - a state licensing body has to explain to new professionals every year that THEY do not get a THING for their dues, because the organization does not serve THEM...it serves the public trust, protecting the public from bad work) . But by doing that, it also keeps out crappy competition CALLING itself professional, while mainly getting the job by cutting the price in half.

Comment Re:Sold out (Score 1) 197

This very news should be telling you that personally supporting local or state governments building the fibre infrastructure, and supporting the GOP in the voting booth, are contradictory positions.
You may, on the balance, prefer the GOP despite their Internet Infrastructure positions, because of their other policies; but please be assured with certainty that the federal GOP will never, ever, EVER support public Internet infrastructure. They will always, always support it being built for a profit by private companies, quite without regard to the optimal solution for public costs and outcomes.

Comment Re:not why (Score 2) 277

Sorry? Calling from Canada, here, 35 million people scattered across a larger country than the USA, and we have had the highest immigration rate in the world (nearly 1% of the population, per year) for over 20 years; a quarter of Canada was not born here. Recently, our major donor nations are not European, but all over Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

And we rank pretty high on the index - just above Germany, which is over twice our size and now famous for taking in more refugees than anybody; they've had some cultural strains because of it.

But all that has had nothing to do with their transparency and democracy, or ours.

Comment Meanwhile in Canada... (Score 1) 734

We're sad for you as friends, gleeful as competitors.

This business of States (not people) electing the President has always struck us as dodgy. On top of your system basically a replacing the concept of "King" with "President", where the ENTIRE executive branch of government hinges on a single person, then that decision has rested, over and over again, on the vagaries of a half-dozen of your States representing 1/6th of your population.

What this election has absolutely done is clarify to everybody is that the American constitution that you so revere, is something no democratizing country writing one would touch with a 3-metre pole. (Only you use "feet", like only you think your Constitution is a good idea.)

The American constitution is like the Cathedral model: whomever gets into the papacy designs the cathedral. Parliamentary systems are more open-source, like Raymond's Bazaar model: you need a continuous sense of consensus to keep going forward. If Mr. Trudeau started ranting about Area 51 conspiracies tomorrow, his best friends would push him into resignation by the end of the week, after presenting him with the list of MPs who wanted him to know he's lost their support. It's just stabler system, as things have turned out.

Your Presidential "King" thing is a single-point-of-failure; affect that outcome, and you've hacked the country. And Palin showed nine years ago that utter incompetents with a string of applause lines can get past the outer filters. So it was a natural and obvious line of attack.

The US ship of state is very large, the bureaucracy gargantuan, the economy has enormous momentum; it'll "survive", obviously - but thriving is a whole other question. All Putin could hope for was to limit American advancement and growth to some extent. He's likely to get it, as good government rarely comes from radical voices, even popular ones.

Best of luck with it. Like all radical mutations, there's a chance it'll turn out really well; bold experiments sometimes do. But of course, most mutations turn out badly.

Comment This was not a hard question (Score 1) 588

I'm astonished at many of these comments. This was not some "random question" like "do you support puppy-kicking". It concerned a repeated-stated policy direction of a now-elected high official. The Intercept is not some unknown blogger; it's a billion-dollar news organization that's won major awards.

Calling it "hypothetical" is not just wrong, because of the stated-policy angle making it not remotely hypothetical, but pointless - if somebody calls and asks if you support puppy-kicking, the "hypothetical" aspect doesn't mean that puppy-kicking is not illegal, making the answer obvious. The "Muslim Registry" is unquestionably unconstitutional, the way collecting data on all phone calls was obviously unconstitutional when Clapper lied to Congress about it - the court decision later was routine, as NSA lawyers certainly could have told them when they were developing it - the whole thing depended on secrecy from court examination, which is why even the congressional committee members were surprised to hear about it.

Before the Snowden revelations (by The Intercept, partly) the NSA metadata programs would have been called "hypothetical", so there really is a need to ask about these proposed programs before they are just enacted in secret.

Comment When do we switch to OpenBSD? (Score 4, Informative) 141

...I don't mean running everything on OpenBSD literally, though it's an idea. I mean, "when do we get really serious about security?" Again and again, we find major hacks that are not the result of super-hackers defeating valiant protective efforts, it's script kiddies defeating idiots who kind of deserved it. The Sony hack came with many stories of multiple executives demanding the network be multiply-holed so that they could watch their favourite videos or whatever, hit their favourite sites.

I'm reading Andrew Ginter's book on SCADA security right now and reflecting on the insanity that there are SCADA systems, of all programming, being written on Windows, at all. There's one place the OpenBSD suggestion is quite serious. But even "OpenBSD" is just a buzzword unless you run your operations with security on your mind at all times. Schnier reduces this "mindfulness" argument to "read your logs", said it in three words.

Most of this stuff is not actually that *hard*...it requires *diligence* and *discipline*, but not nuclear science.

Comment Most of us just want to know when to jump in. (Score 1) 46

It's cool to read about this stuff, but as I lack the multiple PhDs to really follow the physics, I'm afraid my brute need is to know when to buy. Everybody wants to avoid buying the next Betamax or HD-DVD, obviously, but also you want to not buy in just as the price drops below $3000 ...and also shortly before it crashes to $999.

I managed to hold off buying a large flatscreen until 1080p was standard, at least (remember the nail-biter of choosing between 720p and 1080i ?) and feel very smart to have grabbed one of the last plasma sets before LCDs more-or-less pushed them off the market; everybody comments on the superior colour. That's not near to wearing out yet at 5 years, so I'm in no hurry to jump ship until I get even better colour, resolution, and anything else they're cooking up.

This may be the Next Big Thing, but it's become a hard call with things like 3D, 4K, high-frame-rate, and HDR zooming in and out of popularity on a yearly basis.

Comment They already are (Score 1) 278

"Automated" is a continuum, not a binary. You can't find any process that's fully automated to the standard of "runs without any intervention for longer than a human lives"...and arguably, if it needs maintenance every 125 years, then it's still not "fully" automated. Maybe the still-unbuilt 10,000 year clock would qualify.

But by more reasonable standards, we're already done. Single families (largish, busy ones) can now farm a 70,000-acre farm themselves, provided the farm machinery stays in service. There was no such thing as a 70,000-acre farm back when there were people on the moon.

Here's a really great example because it involves the plant that put 20 generations through lives of slavery: cotton. In "Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy" Pietra Rivoli backtracked all the globalized industry that gets a T-shirt to her drug store. After working backwards through China and Malaysia and India, it turns out the original cotton still comes from Texas, though labour prices are far higher than Africa or Asia, because it's been so well automated.

She interviews a 80-something farmer who used to pick it by hand, along with the hired Hispanic help, remembers how hot and hard and backbreaking it was, why only slaves or the desperately poor would do the work. And then she traces how many advances have taken place in the intervening years, one task after another automated, and finally centralized onto one giant piece of machinery that practically has a "HARVEST COTTON" button on the dash, and a place to put your book. She notes the 80-something now has time for a nap after lunch.

That may not be 100% automated, but replacing a barracks full of actual slaves with one part-time old guy in an air-conditioned cab is clearly 99% of the job, done.

Comment Another headline from FantasyLand (Score 1) 143

There needs to be some hashtag analogous to "RichPersonProblems" for military groups. Easy to look up that the $22.5B price tag is for THREE warships. That's like enough money to sort out all the lead water services in Flint and surrounding towns; then all the rest of them in the United States, probably 250,000 of them, delivering neurotoxins directly into the populace (if ISIS were doing it, the money would be there already)....and enough left over for a couple of hundred highway interchanges that would each save a couple of lives per year.

The waste level, if you calculate actual risks and returns, is jaw-dropping.

American's are soooo suspicious about every welfare dollar spent; if you apply for it, a guy comes to your house and snoops in your bathroom and underwear drawer, looking for proof that your boyfriend actually does live with you. But along comes a City Slicker with a laughable story about a superior killing machine, and Americans roll over and spread open their wallets.

Testing? Read "The Pentagon Wars" by Col. Jim Burton (or see the movie; the situation was so awful, they could only make a real-life story about Pentagon weapons system purchasing, into a *comedy* with Kelsey Grammar and Carey Elwes.) They HATE testing. Or any other requirement to prove their snake oil works in the real world.

Comment Re:What Hollande says (Score 1) 328

If France was actually subsidizing 75% of their power production for over 40 years, they'd be broke by now. But the cooking of the books would have been spotted long since; the money they snuck into the electric utility would have had to come from somewhere, by some accounting route.

But in fact, the books of Électricité_de_France, their utility, which gets 64% of its power from the nuclear plants it runs, show a steady 9% profit for some years.

Their money all appears to come from sending people electric power bills. France has a very healthy culture of protest and dissent about government malfeasance and it does have an anti-nuclear movement, (though it is very small and unpopular) and if there were a scandal lurking there in the accounts, I'm sure it would have turned up in the last 40 years.

It's that record of safety and profit that really undercut the main anti-nuclear arguments for me: I always ask those guys: "So what about France?"

Comment Not a dream, just the tech is only halfway (Score 4, Insightful) 260

Remember that shot in "Avatar" where a guy makes a vague gesture of waving a document from his desktop screen and towards a pad in his hand, and the document does exactly that? Those folks have finally replaced paper - not because of that one thing, but because it implies a document is always with you, effortlessly and seamlessly.

It goes much further than that. Paper documents you've printed off and carry with you can be *found* in a couple of seconds. During a meeting if you say, "I've got it right here"...and more than about four seconds elapse before you are showing that document or reading aloud from it, the conversation moves on past you. And it takes more than four seconds to find a document in a file system; less than four to shuffle through up to several pieces of paper (we can hold up to seven things in mental RAM, remember) and pull something out. So printing something serves as a proxy for making it more accessible.

At the moment, if you want to share that electronic document, you go through multiple steps, again breaking up a conversational flow - or it's impossible because your pad is Android and their's is iPad, or something. Or your meeting guest isn't on the corporate LAN. But if the guest brings six copies on paper, the sharing is accomplished in 15 seconds of passing-around-the-room.

Most printing I saw in the last few years related to meetings and passing out copies; or it was training materials. When you make a vague gesture waving the document on your pad to all the other pads in the room, and "it just works", a lot of modern printing needs will go away. When everything is searchable as quickly and quietly shuffling through some paper with half an eye while staying in a conversation, more will go away.

The problems will be solved one at a time. What people still haven't absorbed about computer use is the UI dictum that a four-second delay causes loss of focus and an eight-second delay starts the user off on different tasks - in a meeting, task #1 is to pay attention to the meeting, so the job of the pad simply doesn't get done and paper is brought next time. After we finally get sub-second, or at least less than 4-second solutions to all the things that paper is good at, use will finally decline. Sail had a long overlap with steam, too.

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