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  • Sep 8th, 2018 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Time for the lawyerly solution

    That sounds like the kind of perfectly logical solution that lawyers -- and judges -- hate. When you go to court with that one, bring a toothbrush.

  • Aug 22nd, 2018 @ 3:57pm

    market forces

    These systems are designed to be sold to Law Enforcement.

    There isn't much point in spending development money guarding against threats the customer doesn't understand.

    And the fact that the records can be altered by the person in control of the hardware sounds like a major selling point.

  • Aug 7th, 2018 @ 10:10am

    Asch Conformity Screening

    _"With this proposal, those who have bypassed screening at smaller airports will receive the full TSA treatment when they arrive at a larger airport."_

    Oh, that makes... Wait, what?

    *"So, it's not like most passengers embarking from a small airport will bypass screening for their entire flight."*

    They will do exactly that, unless the TSA agents are going board the plane in mid-air, to demand everyone's ID. *(It doesn't matter who we are. What matters is our plan.)*

    *"If terrorists want to take down a plane, it will be a small one flying to another small airport."*

    Or -- and I'm just brainstorming here -- they could board a small plane bound for a large airport, and then take it down. You know, crash it or blow it up or something. Without actually landing. So, maybe plough it straight into the departure lounge or city hall or a hospital or something, and then the TSA agents who are waiting to screen the passengers won't actually...

    I'm really not sure how much I should spell this out. Am I the only one who fails to see any sense in post-flight screening?

  • Jul 26th, 2018 @ 4:15pm

    To a sufficiently ignorant observer, any technology is...

    Q: What steps did you take to determine whether it was possible to prevent bad people from using this tool, while still allowing good people to use it?

    A: That seems obviously impossible, and we don't remember taking any "steps" to verify that. Why? Do you know something we don't? Please, if you know a way to do it, tell us! If it works we'll admit you're better engineers than we are, and give you stock options and gold medals and your pictures will be on every front page. Seriously, why do you politicians keep asking this question, about every new tool we invent? The answer is that we don't see any way to do that, so will you please stop blaming us for all human evil, and telling us to look harder?

  • Jul 9th, 2018 @ 8:07am

    Re: I don't buy your "redundant job" argument.

    I beg to differ.

    Large, old companies tend to acquire parasitic managers, people whose only real skill is self-promotion and political intrigue, and who don't do any good to anyone but themselves (and perhaps each other). They accumulate in middle management because at the top they can't hide from the stockholders, and at the bottom they can't blame failures on subordinates. They are very hard to fire -- since being hard to fire is something they work hard at -- and maybe mergers and bankruptcy are the only ways to get rid of a lot of them at once.

    I don't know whether this is the case in Sprint and/or T-Mobile, and I don't expect customer service to *improve* after a merger, but I think it's a mistake to assume that these two giants are now shining examples of efficiency and sensible management.

  • Jun 18th, 2018 @ 5:39pm

    Sauce bonne pour l'oie...

    “This measure is completely false; we can easily assert a right of quotation [to illustrate why the material was well within the law to broadcast]”.
    -- Marine Le Pen

    "Marine Le Pen is a tech-illiterate simpleton who thinks that human law, not mathematics, underpins the universe (and is therefore what computers can do), and every year she celebrates Hitler's birthday by squeezing into a latex Eva Braun suit and dancing to the French version of 'You Can Leave Your Hat On'."
    -- anonymous source

  • Jun 11th, 2018 @ 8:05am

    the market... finds a way

    There's no market solution? Because the buyers don't care, and therefore the manufacturers don't care?

    Try as I may, I can't think of a way to suggest the possibility of ********** without making everyone think that I'm responsible when it appears.

  • May 10th, 2018 @ 7:55am

    Re: GDPR

    In order to make that argument work, you must show where the symmetry breaks. You must argue that the EU has more right to meddle with my newspaper than the US has to meddle with your bank, and that the US has less imperative to protect US citizens (and their money) than the EU has to protect its citizens (and their data).

  • Mar 16th, 2018 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: "Piracy"

    I wonder whether the US Navy screens its officer pool for names like Avery, Teach, Rackham, Blood and Hook.

  • Mar 2nd, 2018 @ 3:41pm

    informatino hygiene

    _"Lots of people take work home with them. Only a very small percentage of those do anything more nefarious with government documents than work off the clock."_

    I've had a Top Secret clearance. You do _not_ take classified documents home with you. If you get home and realize that you had some in your briefcase by mistake, you turn around and take them straight back. As for classified computer systems and memory media... it's hard for me to explain just how much you do _not_ just plug an unmarked thumb drive into a TS machine for expediency. Imagine you work in a lab with Ebola, and you see a colleague preparing to transport a culture down the corridor using a spare coffee cup; that's about the level of _WTF are you doing, NO!_

    It may not have been criminal intent, but it was not an ordinary mistake.

  • Dec 11th, 2017 @ 11:57am


    I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but you seem to have some serious misconceptions about how cryptography works.

  • Dec 11th, 2017 @ 6:54am

    fantasy conversation

    "In fiscal year 2017, the FBI was unable to access the content of approximately 7800 mobile devices using appropriate and available technical tools, even though there was legal authority to do so."

    "Can you tell us more about this legal authority?

    "Uh... no."

    "Were these devices in your custody?"

    "I'd... rather not say."

    "Was encrypted data on all of these devices?"

    "I cannot comment on that."

    "Did you, in fact, gain access to any of these devices?"

    "I cannot comment."

    "You do understand that strong encryption cannot be broken after the fact, right? It must be broken before it's installed."

    "I'm not sure that we-- I think we should not jump to--"

    "Let's say that some of these devices are in your possession and are encrypted in such a way that you cannot read them, can we suppose that?"

    "Yes, we can suppose that, that is a--"

    "Then why are you holding onto them?"

    "That's all the time we have."

  • Jul 14th, 2017 @ 5:58pm

    slow clap

    "The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

    I propose that we suspend the "Funniest Comment" competition for this week. We can't top this.

  • Dec 27th, 2015 @ 11:13am


    1. Yes, I know they must be shaped like themselves, but usually things are named descriptively, not shaped to fit their names. If you're saying they're shaped that way because of their name, you're raising more questions than you're answering.

    2. "By hook or by crook" refers to the law that the fruit on the tree belonged to the landowner, but the fruit on the ground (windfall) was free for the taking -- and sometimes the wind needed a little help from the not-entirely-honest. And come to think of it, that might actually answer my question.

  • Dec 23rd, 2015 @ 9:54pm


    I've also heard that candy canes are shaped liked shepherd's crooks. But I don't know why shepherd's crooks are shaped like shepherd's crooks. Do they have to break up sheep-fights from a safe distance or something? Pull sheep down from trees? Express bewilderment by visual cue?

  • Nov 16th, 2015 @ 10:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Traditionaly here...

    I find it weirdly fascinating. I have a hypothesis -- still very tentative -- that it has to do with a kind of emotional back-propagation.

    This isn't really the place for discussion of rationality and cognitive science, but I might just be able to get an essay out of this thread...

  • Nov 16th, 2015 @ 5:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Traditionaly here...

    All right, let's clear this up once and for all.

    Server Sue works a five-hour shift, ostensibly for $3/hr, and collects $85 in cash tips. The tax rate is 20%.

    She reports her tips (honestly) and goes home with $85 cash and a paycheck (or pay stub, or whatever) marked "$0".

    She fills out her tax return: gross income $15 + $85 = $100, rate 20%, tax $20, withheld $15, tax due $20 - $15 = $5. She takes $5 out of the jelly jar and mails it to the tax collector.

    Did I get that right? Does she pay the $5, or does the Fed "eat the difference"? Does she wind up with $80 for that shift? Or $85? Or some other amount? Note that I'm not asking about other things like the price of postage stamps, or MEANINGLESS distinctions like whether she paid $15 or was not paid $15, or was paid and then charged $15. Did I describe the sequence of events and states correctly?

  • Nov 16th, 2015 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Traditionaly here...

    That's what I thought. It's one reason I tip in cash, no matter how I pay the check.

    (Someday my credit card company will call up and ask me why I always tip "$0", and I'll give them my best Scrooge voice: "They think themselves ill-used, I'll be bound!...")

  • Nov 16th, 2015 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Traditionaly here...

    I'm not aware of any wordview/ethical position that says it's OK to not pay people for the work they do.

    This might not be the best place to say that.

    Anyway, I have a worldview/ethical position in which it is absolutely 100% OK to not pay people for the work they do in some cases. And before you reply, please reflect on the fact that I work hard at my job and you have never paid me. [Note for the logic-impaired: I know that it is not appropriate to expect ottermaton to pay me, I am simply demonstrating the worldview/ethical position in question, and showing that ottermaton's argument requires a great deal work before it can stand on its own, more than I feel like doing today.]

  • Nov 16th, 2015 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Traditionaly here...

    "Huh? Are you implying that this isn't a real situation, that I just made this up?"

    No, I was implying that your point was a kind of arithmetical wordplay, whether the situation was real or not.

    >But let's be serious again. The server's net income for the evening comes out to $91.32

    It doesn't work like that -- more evidence (as if any was needed) that you don't know what you're talking about.

    Oh? You said (in your scenario) that the server had "hourly pay" of $2.83 * 5 = $14.15, plus $100 in tips, and had to pay 20% in tax. By my calculation, $14.15 + $100 = $114.15, 20% of that is $22.83, leaving $91.32, but now you add:

    Taxes are only taken out of a paycheck. That's why it's called Income Withholding. Servers don't pay taxes into the system. The Fed just eats the difference.

    That's news to me, but if it's true then I must correct my figure: the server's net income for the evening is $0+$100 = $100, and once again the fact that none of this is in the form of a check means nothing.

    I guess the point was lost on you, so I'll give it another shot...

    Sure, you can take another shot, as long as you don't change the scenario.

    Let's go on the assumption that the net income would have been $100, [and you contributed $30 of it].

    You decide you don't wanna tip. Guess what? You have just removed $30 from that servers net income. Now it's only $70.

    No, you subtracted it when you changed the scenario. I added it in the first scenario; I didn't add it in the second, just as if I hadn't dined at the restaurant.

    [Personal attacks]... You are refusing to pay someone for work they did directly for you without a middleman... the bargain you made when you walked in the door...[personal attacks]...

    Ah, now you're no longer talking about numbers, but principle, which is a fair change to make. But look at how that "bargain" works. I have left tips more that 15% many times, but I've never had a server run after me to give me back the surplus. And oddly enough, the convention is a percentage of the price of the dishes, as if the service has anything to do with that. Still, as long as we are now talking about a matter of courtesy and not of accounting, I don't see much to argue about. (But if that's the point you're going for, you might ease up on the personal attacks.)

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