Adam Bell’s Techdirt Profile

bellac

About Adam Bell

Retired mechanical engineer and ex-Dean of Engineering living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.



Adam Bell’s Comments comment rss

  • Aug 9th, 2013 @ 7:33am

    (untitled comment)

    To me, the horror show is that not only is your privacy compromised by the NSA drag net, but that for any reason they deem sufficient, the FBI, CIA, IRS and probably several other agencies will get to share in the haul. In other words -- anything you say or send on line might well be perused by literally hundreds of feds of all different stripes.

    If you believe that all of those eyeballs are honorable, honest, folks with a need to know, you're very naive. There'll be all kinds of breeches. Cabals sharing "interesting" sexting images with each other, folks playing the stock market on the strength of insider information gleaned on the net, etc. Open season.

  • Jul 25th, 2013 @ 9:42am

    (untitled comment)

    The interesting wrinkle in this for me is that Spotify is available in Sweden and Norway but not in Canada. I guess they haven't caught on here that the best way to stymie unauthorized downloading is to offer a convenient alternative.

  • May 4th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    Jet Lag

    Having travelled fairly often to Europe and Asia before I retired, my "trick" for accommodating jet lag as quickly as possible was a walk in the sun. You should go out for a walk and let the sun reset your clock.

  • Mar 13th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    Face time is a vital component of teaching

    Having taught Mechanical Engineering for about 40 years, always with good student ratings, I believe that face time is an important aspect of the teacher-student classroom relationship. Good teachers gage the students' comprehension of the material being presented or discussed by the look on classroom faces. After you get to know a class, you know which students are good indicators of comprehension. Obviously, you then adjust your examples and explanations to surmount whatever conceptual barriers are slowing or even preventing wide understanding of a tricky bit.

    To give a trivial example of a conceptual leap, young kids, learning the concept of subtraction for the first time, will often answer "5" when presented with "5 - 3 = ?". Misunderstand the symbols, take away the "3" and you're left with "5". Logical to them. What they are missing is that the numbers are not entities themselves, but represent the count of something else. Drawings on the board make that clear.

    In the early 70s I taught two televised distance courses and even though the connection was two-way (I could see the class in a wide-angle view and hear them as well), both they and I found it very unsatisfying. I couldn't focus on any particular student, I couldn't chat with them after class individually, they couldn't reach me off-hours.

    In the 90s I tried running a forum on the web site for two courses I taught. They rarely used it -- they always came to my door to ask their questions. Why? Because they didn't want their peers to know that they were not getting it and they wanted a longer more detailed explanation than a forum would provide. Answering a student's question requires understanding why they don't already know the answer.

  • Dec 27th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    (untitled comment)

    Ditto. Further, I used to pay for an annual subscription to NYT Crossword Puzzles and I let that lapse because it really annoyed me that I was already paying NYT a substantial sum (~$60/yr) for that privilege and felt that I should have had free access to the rest.

  • Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 8:27am

    (untitled comment)

    More annoying to me are video ads that cannot be stopped. Clicking on the Microsoft ad at the top of this page starts a video that cannot be stopped except by leaving this site.

  • Sep 11th, 2012 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Don't pollute the history: Edison was a tweaker

    "Nearly all of Thomas Edison's inventions benefitted from prior art."

    You can leave Thomas Edison out of that sentence. Nearly all inventions are combinations and evolutions of prior art. In 40 years as a Mechanical Engineering consultant and professor, I've only seen two or three completely original, i.e., unprecedented, ideas.

  • Jul 27th, 2012 @ 5:55pm

    CTV Olympics

    In Canada, CTV has the franchise and even better, has an iPad app that showed the opening ceremony (actually about 15-20 seconds later than it was on TV). Having looked at the show on TV, I discovered that the iPad 3 image was actually better on the Internet. Unfortunately, CTV's desktop machine access is the pits for me -- it uses Silverlight and looks really bad; smearing images, etc.

    Mike could use his Toronto connection to have a squint.

  • Jun 27th, 2012 @ 8:15am

    DRM is really useless and this law doubly so.

    The thing about the prohibition of DRM circumvention that amazes me is that it is virtually unenforceable. If want a backup copy or a clone for my car to protect the original from the kids, I can make it in a few minutes and no one will ever know. I have done no harm. If I try to sell my copy at the local flea market, then I am doing harm.

    What this kind of law does do is to promote and educate a whole generation of scofflaws. I think a lot of folks make an internal distinction between the laws of the land and their own moral compass. When they perceive that these clash, i.e., when breaking the law is not even slightly immoral or harmful, but is rather convenient, they do. Draconian laws simply move the boundary in their calculation in the wrong direction. Further, outlawing the tools to defeat DRM will be as effective as the war on drugs has been or prohibition was; an underground supply quickly rises.

  • Mar 21st, 2012 @ 11:33am

    Alternate DNS Not Likely

    A dark net or alternate DNS system could be stymied pretty fast by simply enacting a law saying that every ISP filter out all but DNS requests made to their own servers.

  • Mar 13th, 2012 @ 1:26pm

    Re: "We, the people" is not something they can comprehend.

    This is the crux of the whole matter -- governments are only gradually coming to grips with the notion that the Internet has given ordinary people an instantaneous voice. The old school still believe that they were elected in place of the people who elected them, that their judgement replaces that of their electors and that they don't have to worry about the electorate until the next election. That was the way it had to be when it took weeks for goings on in a government to propagate to the electorate.

    The solons in our governments haven't yet understood that today it is only a matter seconds before we know what they're saying and doing and that a few minutes after that, we know what other people (often quite knowledgeable) are parsing and thinking about it. The 'net is full of chaff, but most people who care about an issue will encounter thoughtful takes on it in minutes; takes that change their thinking about it. It's really quite wonderful.

  • Apr 5th, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Life Lessons

    My father's version was "competent and ethical behavior requires that you do the thing right and that you do the right thing."

  • Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:37am

    (untitled comment)

    If Wikileaks was hosted in the USA, you can bet it would be seized too.

  • Mar 18th, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    Re: That's my library.

    Mine too. I'm really proud of them.

  • Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:53am

    (untitled comment)

    Years after I had taken an engineering exam (and passed it) the professor retired. Meeting him socially much later (I was by then a prof myself), I asked if he knew that most of the students in that course had known that the 50 questions on his final exam were from a set of 250 and that virtually every fraternity had compiled that list. His response was "Oh sure, but then if you know the answers to those 250 questions, you know the material I taught."

  • Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:42am

    Re: Don't take my money

    The other factor, it occurs to me is sales tax. Perhaps some of these restrictions arise because the vendor won't collect the tax and remit it to the foreign country.

  • Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:39am

    Can't have it both ways

    To DRM your project implies the belief that all Internet users are potential infringers. To regionalize your product is the opposite; clearly you believe that no one will infringe.

  • Nov 17th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    (untitled comment)

    Blurring of license plates is not done everywhere. In the street view of my home in Canada, the license plate number of my car is easily read.

  • Nov 13th, 2010 @ 7:01am

    (untitled comment)

    I find that increasingly, I hardly browse at all; I'm a confirmed RSS reader. That means that I don't spend much time on any one site which is fundamentally what iPad magazines expect you to do. I don't want to be nailed to a single source any more; I want to hop around.

  • Nov 5th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

    Re: dumping it altogether is better than reform

    That's precisely what I meant. When a law is ridiculous, it might just as well not exist, for that's how folks will treat it. If draconian penalties apply to scofflaws, solutions to evade will present themselves. The harm, of course, is that copyright does have legitimate purposes, so those whom it's designed to protect will lose that protection just as street crossers lose the protection of a broken traffic light that's ignored.

More comments from Adam Bell >>