* Posts by John Savard

1824 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

Open-source defenders turn on each other in 'bizarre' trademark fight sparked by GPL fall out

John Savard
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Standing

The GPL, unlike the MIT license, protects against people adding a small thing to an open-source program that might become necessary to use it - thus taking it out of being usable in its open-source form. So the GPL is a good thing.

However, to sue someone for violating the GPL, one has to have "standing"; that is, some basis on which to claim that one is the injured party. While potential users of software covered by the GPL could indeed have standing, a much stronger basis for legal action would be if one was either the authority responsible for the GPL - Richard Stallman and his organization - or the author of the GPL software in question.

A random law firm, even if acting in the public interest, but not actually representing someone specific who is affected directly by a GPL violation... would seem to lack standing. So this issue suggests itself based on the events described in this news item.

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The Independent 'live streamed' space vid recorded in 2015

John Savard
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Famous Quote

This sort of thing has happened before, and it has always been due to human error.

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Car tax evasion has soared since paper discs scrapped

John Savard
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One Measure

Tax doesn't carry over when ownership changes? If the tax system were changed to be less unfair, perhaps the law would be respected more. The tax on vehicles should be pro-rated to cover precisely the period during which someone owns a vehicle, rather than having two people both pay a full year's tax on the same vehicle.

EDIT: I see I misunderstood the system. People aren't charged twice - except up front. They can apply for the eventual return of the overpayment.

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Boffins on alert: Brace yourselves for huge gravitational wave coming within a decade

John Savard
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The Universe Is Doomed!

What other conclusion can I draw from the statement that it is virtually certain that we will detect an event, within the next ten years, that may take longer than the age of the Universe to actually happen?

Well, perhaps not; perhaps the approach of two supermassive black holes prior to their indefinitely-delayed collision will still be detectable by the means outlined, anomalies in the observed timings of pulsars. Still, this again illustrates the pitfalls of science reporting in the popular press.

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US trade watchdog puts down the phone to Qualcomm, reaches for probe, sticks it in Apple

John Savard
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Childish?

Qualcomm wants royalties based on the cost of the whole phone, not just on the cost of the chips in it that use their patented technology. I can quite understand why Apple - a seller of premium-priced phones - is digging in its heels and finding that unreasonable.

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Card shark Intel bets with discrete graphics chips, shuffles AMD's GPU boss into the deck

John Savard
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Re: Well then...

Why wouldn't they get the gaming segment? The multi-chip module recently announced offers graphics capabilities only slightly behind discrete graphics - unlike the new mobile Ryzens, which are much better than Intel's ordinary integrated graphics, but which are still significantly more limited than discrete.

So Intel, with what it has announced, would become the only company offering a chip that allows a good gaming laptop to be as thin and light as one with limited graphics - instead of having extra bulk to accommodate a discrete video card.

Given current trends in what laptops are offering, it certainly seems as though it is at least believed that there is a huge demand for thin and light, at least from those who can afford to pay for it. That presumably includes at least some of the gamers who use laptops instead of desktops. Only the likely premium pricing will stand in the way of Intel getting a lock on the games market, it would seem to me.

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John Savard
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Theft of trade secrets

How is Intel managing to get away with this hire?

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AMD, Intel hate Nvidia so much they're building a laptop chip to spite it

John Savard
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Not long for this world?

I would have thought that a Xeon Phi would be vastly simpler to program than a GPU from either NVIDIA or AMD/ATI if what one wants to do isn't graphics, but general number crunching. Although GPUs are less stereotyped in the kinds of calculations they can perform than they once were, they're still quite limited.

The advantage of the GPU is that despite being harder to program - and maybe not even being helpful at all, depending on your problem - it offers, for the same price, an awful lot more floating-point operations per second.

A possible sweet spot is a vector processor, like the upcoming Aurora from NEC. That has a limitation, in that it requires arrays rather than individual numbers to work on for full efficiency, but is otherwise as flexible as a regular CPU.

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Whois? No, Whowas: Incoming Euro privacy rules torpedo domain registration system

John Savard
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Problem?

I don't see where the problem is.

Either Europe can enact an amendment to their privacy laws that allows the whois system to continue as it is, or every web site in Europe can just tell people how to connect to it using its IP address, as ICANN would just stop accepting domain registrations from registrars that did not fulfill its requirements.

Presumably, it wouldn't take very long for the governments of Europe to realize they had no alternative... except, of course, to construct their own system of registering domain names, and so to access European web sites, one would have to go to a DNS server affiliated with that instead of ICANN.

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NSA bloke used backdoored MS Office key-gen, exposed secret exploits – Kaspersky

John Savard
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Deleting

Deleting NSA nation-state malware is appropriate, as the United States of America is a democracy. In the case of other countries, such as Russia or China, it would not be, as these countries (that is, their governments) are enemies of human freedom.

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Neglected Pure Connect speaker app silenced in iOS 11's war on 32-bit

John Savard
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Fault

While indeed I "can't fault Apple" for surprising developers with an unexpected change, I certainly can fault Apple for ever making this change at all, just as I can fault Intel and Microsoft for the fact that 16-bit Windows 3.1 programs don't work in 64-bit Windows, or I can fault Apple, Motorola, and IBM for the fact that 68000 and PowerPC Macintosh progrms don't run in today's Macintosh computers under the latest version of OS X.

As far as I'm concerned, computer makers should take upwards compatibility seriously, the same way that IBM does with its zSystem mainframes.

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Footie ballsup: Petition kicks off to fix 'geometrically impossible' street signs

John Savard
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Re: You know you have too much time on your hands when . . .

Clearly, it's appropriate that the sign should contain a stylized representation of a soccer ball, rather than a realistic drawing with curvature and shading to give an appearance of depth.

So a circular window into the flat tessellation of alternate-colored hexagons that is analogous to the surface of a spherical soccer ball is one simple way to achieve that.

Of course, usually curved lines would be used in a stylized representation of the pre-Eigil Nielsen style of soccer ball, just as they are in stylized representations of baseballs or basketballs.

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Hitting 3 nanometers to cost chipmaker TSMC at least US$20 billion

John Savard
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Desirable

Instead of TSMC trying to make concessions to the United States in order to be allowed to build a fab in the United States, I would think that a lot of countries would be willing to make concessions to them to get them to build a fab in their country. Including suitable countries with reliable electricity.

Or, at least, a lot of countries should be doing this if they had any sense. I can think of one that should be doing this right off the top of my head: Canada.

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Drunk canoeing no longer driving offence in Canada

John Savard
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Inconsistency

If someone canoeing while drunk does not pose enough of a danger to others while doing so to be stopped from canoeing, there is no sense in stopping him from driving if there is no evidence that he ever drives while impaired.

Either impaired canoeing is a danger, or it is harmless. It cannot be dangerous by association.

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Dot-Amazon spat latest: Brazil tells ICANN to go fsck itself, only 'govts control the internet'

John Savard
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Re: The whole thing's stupid

While the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, it should be noted that services on the Internet such as FTP and E-mail, which pre-date the Web, also use the domain name system, which is what is really at issue here.

Of course, it's not really as if U.S. companies grabbed up all the good domain names back when they would have had to use them for Gopher sites, so I can't be sure if this point is quite as relevant as it seemed to me it might be.

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NASA, Roscosmos: We're building a lunar space station!

John Savard
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Re: NASA must hope Trump gets a second term...

Yes, in the 1920s there was a phenomenon which was originally referred to as the "Red Scare".

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John Savard
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We'll Meet Again

Your headline reminded me of a song, but I had to remember the lyric before I could usefully employ Google to find it.

Well, so there will be a lunar space station... some sunny day.

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Shock! Hackers for medieval caliphate are terrible coders

John Savard
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Logo

After discovering that, presumably to avoid concern over promoting terrorism, your article was illustrated with the Mandarin's logo from the Iron Man comic - or a movie based on it - I was inspired to search online for something it reminded me of: the dial depicting the divisional chiefs of Hydra.

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Spanish govt slammed over bizarre Catalan .cat internet registry cop raid

John Savard
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No-brainer

It should be very simple. The Basques, the Catalans, the Bretagnes, the Occitans: all are distinct peoples with their own language, so of course they're entitled to their own nation-state. And for that matter, the Welsh and the Scots too.

Any attempt to obstruct and resist this, and you will be drummed out of the ranks of the world's civilized industrialized nations, and dumped in the bin of the Axis of Evil, along with places like China that still hangs on to Tibet and Uighuristan.

Of course, then comes the more difficult part, since there will be some practical difficulties in returning New Zealand, Australia, North, Central, and South America all to their indigenous peoples. It may take a few decades to phase in the needed relocations for that. But independence for peoples that are already the majority where they are located presumably won't involve massive relocations.

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UK Prime Minister calls on internet big beasts to 'auto-takedown' terror pages within 2 HOURS

John Savard
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Re: Why not fuck off and sort out Brexit instead

"This is effectively what China has done"

Well, yes, with one minor twist: China is a totalitarian dictatorship, so they use it to prevent people from debating the policies of their government, or even from practicing their religious faith in an authentic manner as opposed to within artificial imitation churches controlled by the government.

Of course, the United Kingdom once forced its Roman Catholics to worship at churches operated by the Church of England instead, on the theory that this was "good enough", and so perhaps the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association may seem less unnatural and offensive in Britain than it does to countries with a strong tradition of religious liberty.

It still hasn't returned all the church buildings and other properties seized by Henry VIII to their rightful owner, the Roman Catholic Church, which is still in business with its headquarters in Vatican City.

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John Savard
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Re: Why not fuck off and sort out Brexit instead

Arabic is a foreign language to those people in the UK who we could actually trust to think that terrorism is a bad thing which should be stopped. I mean, plenty of Muslims hate the terrorists just as much as everyone else, but if we could read people's minds, we wouldn't have a terrorism problem, would we?

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John Savard
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Understandable but Problematic

If a page looks to a computer program like it might be a terrorist page, it could be automatically taken down, and then flagged for review by a human being. If it wasn't really a terrorist page, then it could be unblocked. What could be wrong with that?

Well, for one thing, this could be a trick for terrorists to use to get their pages whitelisted. Wait for the false positive, then after being unblocked, put the real terrorist page in.

For another, it might be that affected companies, like Google or Facebook or Blogspot, might have plenty of humans who read English, but hardly any who can read Arabic, so that a suspected Arabic-language page might languish for ages.

Still, given the amounts of damage terrorists do, it does make sense to ask Internet companies to make an effort to prevent terrorists from recruiting with inadvertent help from them. A legal mandate, though, will lead to compliance efforts, not necessarily productive efforts.

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CCleaner targeted top tech companies in attempt to lift IP

John Savard
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I'm sorry, but this recommendation is simply not acceptable.

With the update to CCleaner, software should be included that totally removes all malware that could have been introduced by the infected versions in a transparent manner that does not risk losing data, or require the user to re-install any programs on the system. It should be possible to clean the affected systems in a 100% safe manner that also imposes no inconvenience or effort.

Of course, admittedly, that may not be technically possible. Eventually, when the regime in China falls, if indeed the people behind this crime are there, they should face a severe penalty so that no one ever again will think to tamper with computers belonging to innocent other people.

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Bill Gates says he'd do CTRL-ALT-DEL with one key if given the chance to go back through time

John Savard
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Bad Idea

I think that Ctrl-Alt-Del is just right; rebooting your PC is not something that you want to do by accident from your keyboard. Some desktop PCs did have a reset button on the front panel, in addition to the power button; that is the place for a single-key restart.

However, he is still partly right. The function of ctrl-C in some operating systems, performed by ctrl-Pause on a PC, which is still labelled "break", to interrupt the running program... is under-used.

Basically, ctrl-Break, as it's usually called, should be the way to tell the operating system to terminate a running program. It could instead do things like bring up the Task Manager in Windows.

Of course, currently, Windows traps Ctrl-Alt-Del, so that unlike with DOS, it doesn't restart the computer, it just gives you a secure way to reach a known place in the operating system. Thus, in Windows NT, it was used to bring up the password entry screen - and there's still an option for turning that back on in Windows 7.

If that had been its function from the beginning, then making it a single-key function would indeed make sense. But Windows NT didn't exist in 1981. So if the PC platform were designed with some hindsight, the best that could have been done would be to allow users to switch the interrupt from Ctrl-Alt-Del to, say, the Pause key - to match what was appropriate for the operating system they were using.

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VMworld schwag heist CCTV didn't work and casino wouldn't share it

John Savard
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Obvious

Report the theft to the police, and if the casino doesn't want to share CCTV footage with the police, they will presumably have a problem.

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Five ways Apple can fix the iPhone, but won't

John Savard
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Must-have Features

Um, if you want to have must-have features, shouldn't you be buying a smartphone of a type where you actually have a choice between multiple suppliers competing for your dollar? So if you want a headphone jack and a removable battery, there will be someone out there who offers them?

The Macintosh may have some advantages over Windows, and the iPhone may have some advantages over Android. But from my perspective, even if their customers have different priorities, and are thus satisfied with Apple, it looks as though Apple has a death wish. So I've basically given up on even considering their products.

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Oracle staff report big layoffs across Solaris, SPARC teams

John Savard
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Is it about SPARC

While Solaris is available for the x86 platform, its main importance is as the primary choice for SPARC users.

And while SPARC offed RAS features at a cost significantly below that of IBM mainframes or the Itanium, now you can get RAS on x86 Xeons from Intel. Probably on Opteron too, and if so, now that Epyc is competitive, that's a far more appealing alternative than a relatively little-used system that didn't give one a choice to switch to another database, should one feel like it.

Oracle bought Sun, I believe, to get SPARC, and compete with IBM on all fronts. Maybe it's now realizing that was a bad idea, and it's going back to its core database business. Would anyone be interested in buying Sun from Oracle?

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Memo to Microsoft: Keeping your promises is probably a good idea

John Savard
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Victim

If the NYPD got the phones for free, that just means they're not the victim of Microsoft failing to meet its promises. Presumably, there are other organizations and people that bought such phones.

At least this lets the billionaire who decided to go with the free phones off the hook.

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Oh, ambassador! You literally are spoiling us: Super-stealthy spyware hits Euro embassy PCs

John Savard
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For Sensitive Stuff

It's time for places like embassies not to use computers with Microsoft Windows. Everyone else uses it, so there are plenty of viruses. Instead, each country should under great secrecy design its own hardened secure variant of BSD to put on its machines.

Of course security by obscurity isn't real security, but it's better than nothing, and nothing seems to be what you will usually get.

I mean, it's not as if computers for issuing passports or sending encrypted messages home have to be able to run all the latest games.

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IT worker used access privs to steal £1m from Scottish city council

John Savard
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Re: Seizing his pension?

Yes, you can't charge people with handling stolen goods if it's money that was stolen. That's to ensure that people are willing to accept money when it's tendered in order to purchase something, so that money will "work" as money. I remember seeing a mention of the specific age-old law at the start of a book on economics.

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John Savard
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Sources

If he spent his money on legal gamblling, doesn't that yield profits for the government and for charities? Some of the money the government got from that should be used to fully refund every cent of the money that was stolen and is now not recoverable.

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Daily Stormer booted off internet again, this time by Namecheap

John Savard
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Oh, dear

While he raises a valid issue, that next time he might come under pressure to refuse service to a site that shouldn't be banned, by raising the issue that "public opinion is not always right" in connection with denying service to The Daily Stormer, I fear that there will be people who will cite that statement as "proof" he sympathizes with Nazis.

So he may not have entirely dodged the bullet of a hate campaign against his company.

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President Trump to his council of industry CEO buddies: You're fired!

John Savard
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Oh, dear

I do not disagree with the premise that Antifa and even Black Lives Matter are also groups that are less than perfect in their respect for the law and the rights of others.

But when someone peacefully protesting against racism is murdered, to claim that "both sides" are somehow to blame for what happened does seem objectionable.

It looks like the political battle that is going on is this:

One side believes that it's as inappropriate to have statues of Confederate generals still standing in this day and age in the South as it would be to have statues of German generals during World War II standing in Germany. Both fought to defend systems that caused immense suffering to members of a particular ethnic group which those systems disdained.

Another side - which includes a lot of Americans who aren't members of any neo-Nazi or white supremacist organizations - believes that the appropriate course of action after the end of the Civil War was the one that was largely taken in fact - one of reconciliation and not triumphalism. One that extended respect to the defeated South.

This is why, even in this day and age, removing statues of Confederate generals wherever they may still stand is not a completely non-controversial no-brainer in the United States.

And so Donald Trump's comments, clumsy as they were, are seen by some as resulting from a legitimate and appropriate goal: not to allow the government to be manipulated by the death of Heather Heyer into upsetting a balance that helped the nation heal the wounds of the Civil War, into denying the defeated South its self-respect.

My personal position on this is that such a position would make perfect sense, if black Americans did not exist (perhaps they could have all moved to Liberia?), but because they do exist, it doesn't, and there's nothing wrong with "manipulating" the government into doing what should have been done more than a hundred years ago. But blindness is not the same thing as hate.

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Cloudflare: We dumped Daily Stormer not because they're Nazis but because they said we love Nazis

John Savard
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Not as Unreasonable as It May Seem

However much I may detest stuff like the Daily Stormer, I think Cloudflare came close to striking the right balance here. DDoS attacks are criminal acts, and advocating ideas that others may find offensive is legal - at least in the United States.

However, the point of view outlined in the article's headline has a great deal of validity too. Spreading hatred isn't something anyone should want to facilitate. But when you start to draw that kind of line, there is always the temptation to do so a bit more strictly, until only those whose speech is bland and inoffensive can find protection against DDoS attacks. Is that what we want?

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WannaCry vanquisher Marcus Hutchins pleads not guilty to flogging banking trojan Kronos

John Savard
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Mystery

What still puzzles me is what evidence they have against him. Since he is only known as someone who helped protect people against malware, normally one wouldn't think him likely to be involved with creating it. Perhaps there has been an attempt by virus writers to plant evidence against him that deceived U.S. authorities; until we know what evidence there was, it certainly appears that they moved hastily to arrest someone likely to be completely innocent.

But we don't know, it is still only an appearance.

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Mid-flight jumbo font smartphone text shock sparks kid abuse arrests

John Savard
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Re: Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Of course, in Germany, that would be "The Coffee is Hot in San Jose", and if you don't believe me, ask Siw Malmkvist.

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John Savard
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Giant Letters

This story sounds like a story about the world's dumbest criminals. If someone is abusing children, one would expect they would take the greatest of care not to let anyone else find out about it, because nearly everyone considers such a thing a very reprehensible crime.

And, of course, even if the men arrested turn out to be innocent, the teacher who alerted the authorities is still a hero; it isn't her fault that she doesn't know everything, her actions were reasonable ones based on what she saw. It's the responsibility of the justice system, not her, to determine correctly what really happened and not to convict the innocent.

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John Savard
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Re: Freedom of speech dies a little each day

Well, the story said that the police had two young children in protective custody, so I would guess they have all the proof they need by now.

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Tech billionaire Khosla loses battle over public beach again – and still grants no access

John Savard
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Re: Boo Freakin' Hoo

The problem is that there is no access to the beach "around" his land. There should have been a right-of-way on his land, or more specifically, there was a historic right-of-way, but the state failed to inform him of the existence of that right-of-way in the documents he received when he purchased the land. And so the normal way in which this kind of matter is resolved is that he is monetarily compensated for the inadvertent fraud the state's bureau of land titles committed against him - and the right of way is opened.

A right of way doesn't disappear simply because the land's previous owners forgot to tell the current owner about it.

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Good Lord: Former UK spy boss backs crypto

John Savard
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Good News, But

While encryption is one element of protecting computer systems and their data from hackers, it is only a small element of the problem. As long as operating systems and their applications are rife with exploits, this threat will not be a very compelling reason for governments to forego encryption backdoors.

Obviously, therefore, the government will need to task the GCHQ with writing a secure version of BSD which will replace Windows on the nation's computers! And hopefully without an encryption backdoor...

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Your top five dreadful people the Google manifesto has pulled out of the woodwork

John Savard
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Averages

Google certainly doesn't pick random women off the street to interview for jobs. The reason the average is relevant is whether or not parity - representation of women to the same extent as they are present in the population in general - is likely to be achievable.

Of course, it still may be achievable if a large proportion of potentially qualified people are not employed in the field, either by Google, or by any other organization seeking a representative workforce.

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Core-blimey! Intel's Core i9 18-core monster – the numbers

John Savard
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Price Premium

Paying a higher price for a CPU to get the highest possible performance - particularly when the cost of the rest of the system reduces the percentage extra one is paying for higher performance - is not irrational. Which is part of why Intel can get away with its current pricing.

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Google diversity memo: Web giant repudiates staffer's screed for 'incorrect assumptions about gender'

John Savard
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Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

While I have sympathy for the memo writer, this significantly opposed response also has valid points.

However, it links to this article, which I think is very wrong. If tolerance were a peace treaty and not a moral precept, there would be nothing wrong with exploiting and discriminating against those who were so powerless they could not fight back.

That kind of negates the whole point of tolerance.

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John Savard
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Unwise

It was unwise for him to identify himself as a Google employee, and, indeed, to identify himself, on his comments.

Political correctness is a real problem. But since inequality is also a real problem, a certain amount of "reverse discrimination" is a legitimate response to that problem. It isn't as if we have all that many less blunt instruments available.

At one point, in response to a story about black engineers being underrepresented at Intel, I noted that it isn't surprising that black people don't have the right educational qualifications in the same proportion as whites: and that it's harder for a firm in the consumer sector to achieve balance when the qualified black candidates are being snapped up by defense contractors, who absolutely have to achieve racial balance to sell to the government.

Women face certain disadvantages too: not all women, but the stereotypes wouldn't get started if they didn't correspond to the situations of a large number of women. So the fact that there are exceptional women who are fully qualified for STEM jobs won't mean there will be enough of them for every company to achieve full equal representation for them.

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This surf-and-turf robot swims using ribbon-like fins. And it's floated for US Navy approval

John Savard
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Re: I wonder how it compares...

I was wondering if instead of using fancy technology to achieve undulating fins, simply rotating Archimedian screws couldn't achieve the same thing more simply. So it's been done.

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Linux kernel hardeners Grsecurity sue open source's Bruce Perens

John Savard
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Interesting

Obviously the next version of the GPL will have to be rewritten so that Linus Torvalds or perhaps even Richard Stallman could, at the stroke of a pen, take away Grsecurity's right to use, modify, or redistribute Linux in return for having the temerity to file such a lawsuit.

Of course, as long as the controversial clause in Grsecurity's agreement has not been tested in court, such a lawsuit is possible. Since the penalty for redistributing Grsecurity's code is simply termination of a relationship with Grsecurity, it could indeed be argued that they can get away with what they're doing, even if it's contrary to the spirit of the GPL. It might not contradict the letter of the GPL.

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Cancel your summer trip to nearby Proxima b. No chance of life, room service, say boffins

John Savard
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Changes

Well, on the frontiers of science, it's understandable that what was considered to be the most likely case will keep changing

When Proxima Centauri b was first discovered, we were told that because Proxima Centauri was a flare star, it was unlikely for it to have an atmosphere, although some hope remained.

But shortly afterwards, GJ 1132b, a planet around Gliese 1132, also a red dwarf star, was found to actually have an atmosphere. This was apparently a positive sign for Proxima Centauri, as it showed that red dwarf stars don't necessarily strip away the atmospheres of their planets. Of course, it might not have been similar enough to Proxima Centauri b for that to be relevant.

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Red Hat acquires Permabit to put the squeeze on RHEL

John Savard
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Beer

If ZFS is free as in beer, couldn't we all just switch to BSD instead?

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China crams spyware on phones in Muslim-majority province

John Savard
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Re: Spyware and Intelligence Gathering.....

How about a symbolic economic sanction, where we ban all imports of smartphones and feature phones, all mobile phones, from China? This would mean that they would be manufactured in Malaysia and/or Indonesia instead, giving the economies of those countries a lift.

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John Savard
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Obvious Comment

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. This, therefore, is a violation of that portion of the Eternal Law of God as embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America among other places in the laws of other civilized and democratic nations.

It's a pity China has nuclear weapons, as it is clearly overdue for regime change.

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