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The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 477

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

Comment Re:We already have mass surveilance (Score 1) 110

I respectfully disagree.

I want body cameras to fix the right-now-today-real-world-conjoined-twin problems of police brutality and illegitimate complaints against police. I'm willing to address the small risk of mass surveillance separately from this.

I understand fully:"Those who sacrifice freedom for security receive neither." I do not see widespread decentralized use of bodycams as a threat to the former. That can be controlled trivially with judicial oversight.

That leaves a question of extrajudicial acquisition of the footage. That might be a problem if we were considering a nationwide program where all of the recordings were dumping into the same datacenter, but we aren't. The implementations we see today have recordings stored separately by each department, most of them in offline storage. That's nearly ten thousand discrete systems that would have to be penetrated and harvested by the NSA. The risk of this appears quite low. .. I seem to have misplaced my tin-foil hat.


Google Brain Creates Technology That Can Zoom In, Enhance Pixelated Images (softpedia.com) 146

Google Brain has created new software that can create detailed images from tiny, pixelated images. If you've ever tried zooming in on an image, you know that it generally becomes more blurry. You'd just get larger pixels and not a clear image. Google's new software effectively extracts details from a few source pixels to enhance pixelated images. Softpedia reports: For instance, Google Brain presented some 8x8 pixel images which it then turned into some pretty clear photos where you can actually tell facial features apart. What is this sorcery, you ask? Well, it's Google combining two neural networks. The first one, the conditioning network, works to map the 8x8 pixel source image against other high-resolution images. Basically, it downsizes other high-res images to the same 8x8 size and tries to make a match on the features. Then, the second network comes into play, called the prior network. This one uses an implementation of PixelCNN to add realistic, high-res details to that 8x8 source image. If the networks know that one particular pixel could be an eye, when you zoom in, you'll see the shape of an eye there. Or an eyebrow, or a mouth, for instance. The technology was put to the test and it was quite successful against humans. Human observers were shown a high-resolution celebrity face vs. the upscaled image resulted from Google Brain. Ten percent of the time, they were fooled. When it comes to the bedroom images used by Google for the testing, 28 percent of humans were fooled by the computed image.

HTTPS Adoption Has Reached the Tipping Point (troyhunt.com) 85

Security expert Troy Hunt, who is perhaps best known for creating Have I Been Pwned data breach service, argues that adoption of HTTPS has reached the tipping point, citing "some really significant things" that have happened in the past few months. From a blog post: We've already passed the halfway mark for requests served over HTTPS -- This was one of the first signs that we'd finally hit that tipping point and it came a few months ago. This is really significant -- Mozilla is now seeing more secure traffic than it is non-secure traffic. Now that doesn't mean that most sites are now HTTPS because that figure above has a huge portion of traffic served from a small number of big sites. Twitter, Facebook, Gmail etc. all do all their things over HTTPS and that keeps that number quite high. Hunt also cited security aficionado Scott Helme's recent analysis which found that the number of websites listed in Alexa's top one million websites that have adopted to HTTPS has more than doubled year from August 2015 to August 2016. Troy adds: Browsers are holding non-secure sites more accountable. Chrome 56 is now holding sites using bad security practices to account (by flagging a "not secure" label in the address bar when you visit such websites). Many sites you wouldn't expect are now going HTTPS by default. (He cites websites such as ArsTechnica, NYTimes as examples). Making more cases for his argument, Hunt adds that HTTPS sites are not slow as they used to be, and that services such as Let's Encrypt and Cloudflare have made it free and east to bring this security feature.

Comment This fits the long term goal (Score 5, Interesting) 288

Consider this in light of Mr. Musk's long term goal: Permanent human colonization of Mars.

The high cosmic radiation on Mars means that Habitats are very likely to be underground. Today, no-one makes a tunnel boring machine that will fit on a rocket: Boring Inc.

The lack of fossil fuels means you need a big power source: SolarCity and the battery Gigafactory

Last but not least, you need a way to get there: SpaceX

He's building the infrastructure to make his goal a reality.

Comment Re:Wow. (Score 4, Informative) 94

This is different from a submarine in some important ways. On a Submarine, you have many dozens of people to interact with. You are physically confined, but you have some social variety. Your mission is dangerous, but you have the comfort of knowing that it's been done before. Tours are, IIRC, 6 months long.

A Mars expedition is different. You're going to train with these people continuously for at least 5 years. During that time you'll constantly be on your best going-to-church-with-grandma behavior and never speak up about grievances because your actions are being monitored ad nauseum by a legion of shrinks. Then you finally get the mission go and you spend (optimistically) 3 months in a space the size of a minivan. Remember your last trip in a minivan? Imagine being trapped in it for 3 months with 5 other people while NASA is scheduling your day down to 15 minute increments.

If a thousand things you can't control happen to go right then you land on Mars. EVA suits on, and you finally escape that (obscenity laden) capsule. You see a horizon for the first time in what feels like forever. Then you work your ass off for a month and have to climb back in that (expletive) minivan for a risk-laden trip back home that takes even longer than the trip to get there. ... and during the entire trip you don't have a single shower.

It's not "exactly" like life on a submarine, is it?

Comment Re:Ah yes (Score 1) 39

Security bulletins aren't a great way to track how secure or insecure software is. The best way to do that is with the CVE system. Microsoft (and most other vendors) log publicly and privately reported vulnerabilities as CVEs and link to the CVE when describing vulnerabilities.

My hope is that this change will eliminate some of the pain of running down security bulletin data. Right now if someone asks you if you are patched against MS16-040 you have to go look that up, look up each individual KB inside that, see which ones have been superseded by other updates and check that against your CMDB. Making that simpler would be a win-win.

Full disclosure, I work for Microsoft as a dedicated PFE. The above is my opinion and hope, not paid shilling.

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Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan