Mason Wheeler’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Nov 23rd, 2015 @ 12:06pm

    Re: A streaming service named "Stream"!

    Maybe they're planning a mega-merger with Microsoft, a company that's famous for creating a window-based graphical OS called Windows and a word processor called Word.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 12:30pm

    (untitled comment)

    First, if Google can detect which links in an email may be hazardous, why not just unlink or censor those particular links?

    Come on, you already know the answer to this: because they have no way of magically detecting "this link is harmful" with perfect accuracy. But if they find a link that does match a known-harmful site, it's very reasonable to assume as a heuristic, even if said heuristic is not always correct, that other links in the email may well point to sites that are harmful even if Google does not know that they are harmful.

    Having said that,
    And, in this case, the "link" in question didn't even exist. Google should be able to detect that and realize that no, we're not sending our readers to their doom.

    ...yeah, that's kind of silly.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 11:46am


    Precisely. If you have any thoughts at all about possibly voting for her, please read the book Clinton Cash first. If any of the stuff in there is true--not even all of it, but any of it--she and Bill belong in prison, quite possibly for treason, and not on the campaign trail.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 11:44am

    Re: does anyone else have much of a chance?

    It actually reminds me of the Republican contest last time around. Mitt Romney was the clear favorite, but the Republican establishment couldn't stand him, and they did everything they could to throw one candidate after another against him. But despite their best efforts, people kept voting for him, and he won the nomination. (And then proceeded to lose the Presidential vote.)

    This time around, it's similar but different on the Democratic side. The clear favorite of actual people is Bernie Sanders, but the party is doing everything they can to push Hillary instead. It appears that they've learned from the Republicans' mistakes, though: they've done everything they can to keep the playing field as un-cluttered as possible. (See also: Larry Lessig.) But despite all this, and despite Hillary's big-money backing, Sanders's poll numbers continue to grow. I guess we'll just have to see how it plays out.

    I do agree that there doesn't appear to be anyone particularly noteworthy on the Republican side this time around. The strongest candidate (still!) appears to be Donald Trump, and that's kind of worrisome, because as I've noted before, it's highly likely that the next President will be whoever the Republican candidate ends up being.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 11:02am


    Agreed. This really looks more like a token gesture to generate goodwill than an actual move to stem abuse. (The YouTube equivalent of Fiber To The Press Release, perhaps.)

    If they wanted to actually fix a real problem, they'd throw out ContentID.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 10:22am

    How to actually succeed at stopping terrorism

    There's actually a tried-and-true method of shutting down a major terrorist group. Unfortunately we'll never use it on Islamic terrorists because the politica implications are unpalatable to a lot of decision makers. (For the wrong reasons; it would actually be in our national interest to do this even if it had nothing to do with terror either way.)

    First, context. Who all remembers The Troubles? It was the name given, with stereotypical British understatement, to a decades-long terror campaign in Ireland and the, well, trouble that arose from it. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS, the Irish terrorists claimed religious motivation for their reprehensible acts.

    Unlike al-Qaeda and ISIS, the Irish terrorists are basically no longer a thing.

    It's not like British authorities didn't try really hard to wipe them out. They tried every trick in the book--the same book, by and large, that we're employing against Islamic terror--including police action, military action, and signing truces with the terrorists. (Which, terrorists being terrorists, generally ended up not being worth the paper they were printed on. But in the end, it was Amercans who put a stop to The Troubles, and not even by something they did, so much as something they stopped doing.

    The USA is home to a significant Irish immigrant population, many of whom live in New York or nearby states, and it was not uncommon for many of them to send support to Irish terrorists out of a misplaced sense of kinship. (It looks a lot less ugly when all the ugly stuff is going on literally half a world away.) But 9/11 changed everything: suddenly it was very unacceptable to support terrorism!

    That source of funding dried up almost overnight, and The Troubles came to an abrupt halt without the terrorists' principal source of funding.

    So, applying the lesson learned here, how do we shut down Islamic terror?

    It's a bit of an elephant in the room, an ugly truth that no one wants to acknowledge, that a significant amount of funding for them comes from legitimate oil revenues, and one of their patrons' largest customers, if not the largest, is the USA.

    If we were serious about fighting terror, we would divert some. serious money from the military budget to fund research and development of electric cars, Hyperloops, and renewable energy, and export the technology worldwide, doing everything we can to make petroleum fuel obsolete.

    But just try getting the turkeys in DC to sign off on that plan...

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 9:04am

    (untitled comment)

    When I lived in Washington, I went to a Chipotle once. I found it to be very, very similar to the less-famous Qdoba, but with one significant difference: Chipotle is a victim of "Mexican restaurant disease." If you haven't heard of it, this is a mental condition known to frequently affect people who run Mexican restaurants, which causes them to think everything should be extremely hot (as in spicy, not temperature) and to treat picante as an acceptable substitute for flavor. Qdoba did not have that problem.

    I didn't go back. With this E. Coli outbreak, I'm glad I didn't.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Re: The Japanese Don’t Have A Gun Culture

    I'm not trying to cherry-pick anything. His assertion was that prior to Perry's arrival with his gunboats, (in 1854,) the Japanese (implied: universally, throughout their history) despised guns and thought they were dishonorable. This is clearly not true, as Musashi lived approximately 200 years before Perry.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Important distinction

    Note that I'm not making any claims here about who the good guys and the bad guys are; only that that determination is completely irrelevant to the mathematics of encryption.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 7:11am

    Re: The Japanese Don’t Have A Gun Culture

    Bows, guns, spears and halberds are all tools of the warriors and each should be a way to master strategy.


    From inside fortifications, the gun has no equal among weapons. It is the supreme weapon on the field before the ranks clash, but once swords are crossed the gun becomes inadequate.
    -- The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi (one of the greatest samurai of all time) were saying?

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 7:01am


    Also worth considering: does anyone believe that they would have chosen that particular name, with that specific ungrammatical construction, were it not for Toys R Us being a household name that's been familiar to most Americans since childhood?

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 6:58am

    (untitled comment)

    I dunno; I can see a legitimate chance of consumer confusion here, especially if you heard about Hair Are Us verbally (a radio ad, for example) and didn't see that their name was spelled differently. Any reasonable person's first thought in that situation would be that the people behind Toys R Us were expanding into a new market.

  • Nov 20th, 2015 @ 6:54am

    Important distinction

    Encryption is based on one thing only: mathematics.

    The determination of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys is based on something very different: morality.

    Morality is not mathematics. The equations don't change depending on whether a good guy or a bad guy is calculating them. Therefore, there's no such thing as an encryption backdoor that only the good guys can use.

    It really is that simple.

  • Nov 19th, 2015 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, but if you need a name for that, it sounds like a highly specific application of the Bystander Effect to me. OpenSSL was an extreme outlier though, and hardly typical.

  • Nov 19th, 2015 @ 7:17am

    (untitled comment)

    If the court finds the FBI's actions lawful, it will serve notice that any public area is no place to hold a private conversation, even if the participants make every effort to ensure their relative privacy. This would be at odds with previous court decisions.

    ...but not with Techdirt's clearly-expressed opinion about "in public" being the very antithesis of "having a legitimate expectation of privacy". (See, for example, any article dealing with police officers asserting a right to privacy in an attempt to rid themselves of the scrutiny of citizens with cameras.)

  • Nov 19th, 2015 @ 7:04am

    Re: Detectability of software defects

    We're all now painfully aware that many eyeballs don't necessarily make deep bugs shallow

    I assume you're referring to Heartbleed? That could actually be written up as a textbook failure of the open-source development process: in the OpenSSL project, the many eyeballs simply weren't there. People who looked into it found that very few people besides the authors were actually doing anything to review the code before news of Heartbleed became public.

  • Nov 19th, 2015 @ 6:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Many (though not all!) of the most widely-used scientific and numerical computing libraries are open-source packages that anyone can look into. This is known as Linus's law: "with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow [ie. easy to detect]", and it explains the high quality of popular open-source software.

  • Nov 19th, 2015 @ 6:53am


    Yeah, I kind of wonder how long this will last. The whole point of cable used to be that unlike broadcast TV, which sent its signal out for free to its viewers and was supported by ads, cable was supported by the viewers and didn't need to degrade the audience's experience with commercial breaks.

    That lasted a while, but now... yeah. And so now people are turning to services like Netflix, because they're supported by the viewers and don't need to degrade the audience's experience with commercial breaks...

  • Nov 18th, 2015 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Show me the studies. The plural of "anecdote" is not "evidence," and neither is the plural of "I heard someone on the Internet say that it works."

  • Nov 18th, 2015 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re:

    No, those would be pharmaceutical drugs.

    Understanding that "doctors" practice "medicine" and how humans are NOT graded for purity, I type "define medicine" into a search engine and got:
    the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease

    Please tell me you're not really that dense. Medication (also known as "medicine" in colloquial speech, not to be confused with "the practice of medicine," which shouldn't need to be pointed out because no one actually confuses them) is pharmaceutical drugs in the modern age. It's stuff that's been properly studied and understood by scientists, rather than the traditional or "well I heard it works" folk remedies of the dark ages.
    Its a good thing then all the doctors who prescribed the drugs that adverse side effects resulting in lawsuits have had their doctoring licences pulled. Vioxx, Phen-Phen, et al must have just left only responsible doctors in the field.

    OK, you're just being intentionally disingenuous here. There's a huge difference between a doctor prescribing something that they believe is safe but actually isn't because the doctor was lied to and something that they know full well isn't proper medication. (Worth looking up: the concept of mens rea.
    Really? Taking in vapours of a set of chemicals to achieve a dosing is bad? It is too darn bad the makers of nebulizers, inhalers, or even vaporizers don't know about the liability minefield they are entering.

    No, and that's not what I said. I said smoking is bad for reasons that need not be explained, and if you seriously do need an explanation and you're not just trolling, then please go away and let the grown-ups talk.

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