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Comment You're not helping, RMS (Score 2, Insightful) 1098

I'm starting to think that Richard Stallman is to free software what PETA and the NRA are to vegetarians and gun owners, respectively: Usually there's a kernel of a valid point buried in there somewhere, but the rhetoric is so shrill and overblown that nobody ends up listening for long. All the worse, people start associating all lovers of free software with his level of rhetoric, and zealotry is assumed where none exists.

Comment Oh, Stallman. You so crazy. (Score 2, Interesting) 1098

This is like the US saying "A cure for cancer would be a major setback to the US, as it would also enable our enemies to be cancer-free".

New, FOSS software which is awesome is a Good Thing, for the community as a whole. Sure, its license allows people who don't care for FOSS to use it, but surely a net improvement in the community's state of the art can't be a bad thing. If nothing else, this licensure allows people with bigger wallets to pay for improvements which they need, and to have those available to the community too, allowing copylefties more time to work on other things.


Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Secure Windows Laptop for your kid, when clueless about Windows? 1

madsdyd writes: I am a long time user of Linux (1997) and have not been using Windows since 1998. All PCs at home (mine, wife, kids) runs Linux. I work professionally as a software developer with Linux, but the Windows installs at my workplace are quite limited, so my current/working knowledge of Windows is almost nil.

At home we have all been happy with this arrangements, and the kids have been using their nintendos, ps2/3's and mobile phones up until now. However, my oldest kid (12) now wants to play World of Warcraft and League of Legends with his friends.

I have spent more hours than I like to admit getting this to work with Wine, with limited success — seems to always fail at the last moment. I considered an Apple machine, but they seem to be quite expensive.

So, I am going to bite the bullet, and install Windows 7 on a spare Lenove T400 laptop, which I estimate will be able to run both Windows 7 and the games in question.

Getting Windows 7 from a shop is surprisingly expensive, but I have found a place where they sell used software (legally) and can live with that one-time cost. However, I understand that I need to protect the Windows installation against viruses and malware and whatnot. The problem is, I have no clue how. One shop wants to sell me a subscription based solution from Norton, but this cost will take a huge dip into my kids monthly allowance — he is required to cover the costs of playing himself, so given that playing WoW is not exactly free, this is a non-trivial expense for him. On the other hand, he has plenty of time, so I guess he could use that time to learn something, and protecting his system at the same time.

So, my questions are sometihng like this: how do other Slashdotters provide Windows installations for their kids? What kind of protection is needed? Are there any open source/free protection systems that can be used? Should the security issues be ignored, and instead dump the Windows install to an external disk, and restore every two weeks? Is there a "Windows for Linux users" guide somewhere? What should we do, given that we need to keep the cost low and preferably the steps simple enough for a 12 year old kid to perform?

Submission + - Personal information of 13 million Chileans leaked on Tor hidden service 'Doxbin (

An anonymous reader writes: From the site: 'The Chilean Electoral Service dropped the ball and made the results of an audit (Roughly 13 million voter registration records) available on the Internet, and Google indexed most of it. Comically enough, the Chileans played shell games with the PDFs. First, they tossed up CAPTCHAs, and then they took down the page linking to all the PDFs.' This led to the PDFs being downloaded and converted, then released on the Tor darknet.

Submission + - First three-strikes copyright court case in NZ falls over (

Bismillah writes: The "Skynet" anti-filesharing aw introduced last year in New Zealand is starting to bite, with people being hauled in front of the Copyright Tribunal by the music industry after receiving three notices.

Of the three Copyright Tribunal cases to be heard currently, the first one's just been dropped. Why? Nobody knows. RIANZ isn't saying.

Interesting things: the accused was the ISP account holder, a student sharing a place with others who also used the Internet connection.

The cost of the five songs downloaded is NZ$11.95 but RIANZ wanted NZ$1,075.50 because it estimated the music was shared/downloaded 90 times in total.

A high deterrent penalty of NZ$1,250 was also asked for.

Comment "On Somebody Else's Computer". (Score 5, Insightful) 261

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Every instance of "In the Cloud", facing a naive end user, should be replaced with "On somebody else's computer". This study shows that people have absolutely no idea what The Cloud is, and that might, just maybe, be affecting their choice of what to upload to it. "I keep our business records in the cloud" sounds sane, but “Oh, don’t worry, all of our business information is backed up on somebody else’s computer” doesn't.

Comment No, it translates fingerspelling into speech (Score 5, Insightful) 78

After watching the video, it seems that what they've done is create gloves which recognize the various fingerspelling signs. If somebody wants to sign "I need to withdraw money" (like, at a bank), what this allows them to do is to make the sign for "I", then "N, E, E, D", then "T,O", and so forth. Then the gloves feed that output into a TTS system. This works (because ASL users and English speakers share a writing system), but is horribly inefficient, and would be equivalent to a translation module that makes you speak every letter of the written words individually before putting the words into Spanish.

This is fundamentally different from "translating sign language", where the gloves would recognize the (much more complex and spatially oriented) sign for "I", for "need", for "withdraw" and for "money", and then translate that into "I need to withdraw money" and speak it aloud. Adding in the fact that ASL syntax is fundamentally different than in English, it's quite a tall order. Interpreters need not fear.

This is cool, nobody's denying that, and for some jobs, this might be great, but at the moment, I don't see it working much faster than taking out the requisite smartphone and writing down what you're trying to get across.

Comment Re:Hm... (Score 4, Informative) 194

As a linguist myself (working with a few different revitalization projects), you can think about linguistic diversity as being like biodiversity: Examining the differences across many different, unrelated (or nearly so) languages gives better insight into Language (with a capital L) on the whole. Sure, losing an individual language doesn't destroy everything, but each language that's lost is one less (incredibly rich) datapoint which can be used to better understand how people do language, and what other ways things can be done.

For instance, in Wichita, a language which may or may not be dead based on the health of its last few speakers, one could express "the buffalo ran up and down the village several times while scaring people" using a single, very long, very complex word. There are other languages which act like this ("polysynthetic languages"), but Wichita is really, frighteningly good at it. Don't you think that it'd be fascinating to do some MRI studies to see how Wichita people are parsing words, compared to speakers of, say, Mandarin Chinese, which isolate nearly every concept, grammatical or otherwise, into single words?

In addition, as other people have pointed out, when you lose the language, you lose the culture very easily (and vice versa). Even if you're not interested in the specifics of how language works in the mind (or just in general), understanding different cultural approaches to the world provides more information on the human condition. If your culture doesn't permit or believe in the idea of "selling land", that's interesting data, and food for thought for most other cultures.

In short, practically, in terms of trade or war or politics, there's little reason to have a group of 50,000 people speaking three languages rather than one. But if you're interested in how human language, culture, and cognition works, that diversity and those comparisons offer data that a homogenous group would not.

Comment Re:Actually Surprised... (Score 3, Insightful) 714

...guess I thought Tor probably already had an FBI/CIA back door.

... and this article disproves that how? If the FBI had a back door to Tor, the first thing they'd be doing is running articles like this one. That way everybody who wants to do something outside of FBI purview starts logging in, and Tor becomes one big honeypot for them to skim.

I want Tor to exist and succeed for privacy and free speech, especially for people in less free countries than the US. I also know victims of childhood sexual abuse and the lasting effects it has. The FBI breaking or backdooring Tor means that kiddie porn producers get rounded up, but it also means that free speech loses one more haven. I have no idea who I'm cheering for here.

Comment Gun Control and Crypto-control (Score 5, Interesting) 714

Reading the comments on this thread, I'm realizing that likely within our lifetimes, we'll be having the same debate about strong cryptography that we're now having about guns, likely spurred on by stories like this about pedophiles, terrorists, "hackers" and all those other scary people on the internets.

Some of the same talking points are already in use ("We'll need them when the government comes for us", "Only criminals need them", "If they're banned, only criminals will have them and we'll be defenseless", etc), and strong cryptography, much like guns, are something that the governments and law enforcement fear as they can make it possible for people to break the law (just or otherwise) without the government being able to stop them.

I hope I'm wrong, and of course, you can't quite ban code so easily, but still, a scary future and an unpleasant debate may well be ahead.

Comment ... and college football now makes even less sense (Score 4, Insightful) 684

Hopefully this is a nail in the coffin for College Football. The fact that playing the sport is now seen to be damaging to the mind and brain at the basest levels should quell some of the "We're turning out well-balanced scholars, fit in body and mind" that advocates are spouting. Colleges need football teams like fish need bicycles, and universities of all sorts should be the last institutions encouraging this.

Comment Encouraging tourists who've tired of travel? (Score 2, Informative) 185

It's not unreasonable to say that at this point, most people who want smartphones and would be in their market have purchased one, and many are one or two years away from being able to by a Blackberry 10 device anyways.

Many people have already become involved in a non-RIM ecosystem (iOS, WM, or Android), and ecosystem inertia is a huge factor. The sunk cost in buying the compliment of apps one wants or needs is huge, and makes people very reluctant to "try something new" for a phone. At best, I think RIM is competing to keep the people who use Blackberries now, and haven't yet moved to another system. Which is good, but not ultimately sustainable, and is aiming for reduced shrinkage rather than actual growth.

They can lure developers, but all that that does it make it hurt less for users to switch to Blackberry (because they'll still never compete with Apple or Android in app variety). They could lure consumers with pricing, but for most people, any ecosystem switch has a $100+ app re-purchase penalty, not to mention the apps that simply can't be purchased at all and the time it would take to move over.

Simply put, the only thing (I think) that can save RIM would be something revolutionary. Some feature, certification, approach, or situation that makes people say "You know what, screw the apps, screw the extra time and money, I want THAT, and I'll do what it takes to get it."

I don't see that having happened here, sorry, RIM, but the writing's on the wall.

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