8. February, 2013
Aaron Swartz is dead. There is no arguing the fact, we can only disagree why he died.
His girlfriend says: “I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty.” (source)
I, too, get the feeling that the world is turning from an adult into a child again.
When does someone stop being a child? When they realize that actions have consequences and that they have to take responsibility for their every action. Some even realize that you have a responsibility for your inactions as well but that’s probably too much to ask for most people.
So as soon as you refuse to take responsibility for your actions and start denying the consequences, you must be turning into a child again.
What are the consequences of incarceration of almost one percent of the whole population? Is adding more rules to a broken system the adult or the childish way out?
A lot of people argue in favor of the death penalty when there is no indication that any of the arguments is supported by facts. Isn’t it typical childish behavior to refuse to listen something you don’t want to hear?
Let’s all grow up again.
8. February, 2013
“Things users don’t care about” is something every software developer needs to know about.
Kudos go to Thomas E. Deutsch for finding and telling me about it.
7. February, 2013
Finally! 100’000 points of reputation on stackoverflow.com!
7. February, 2013
The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures or CVE is a registry for security related flaws and computer systems.
The old counting system allowed only for 9’999 bugs per year.
That’s no longer enough.
Isn’t that scary?
3. February, 2013
TED (conference) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Barry schwartz held an excellent talk at TED: “Our loss of wisdom” (YouTube, full lesson on TED Ed). A few quotes (not all of them are literal):
- The job description of a hospital janitor includes many kinds of tasks but not a single one involves other human beings. Not one. Yet, when you look at what janitors tell you when you ask them about your job, it’s always about other people:
- Mark stopped mopping the floor because a patient had got up and did exercises in the corridor.
- One janitor refused to vacuum the visitors lounge because family members slept there despite orders of her superior.
- Luke washed the floor in a comatose patients room twice because a relative hadn’t noticed him doing it the first time.
- Not all janitors are like this but those who are think these are essential parts of the job.
- “These janitors have the moral will to do right by other people and beyond this the moral skill to figure out what doing right means.”
- “A Wise Person Knows: When and how to make ‘the exception to every rule.’”
- “A Wise Person Knows: When and how to improvise.”
- “A Wise Person Knows: How to use these moral skills in pursuit of the right aims.”
- “A Wise Person: Is made and not born.”
- It takes experience to become wise and not just any experience: You need the permission to be allowed to improvise, to try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures.
- “You don’t need to be brilliant to be wise. The bad news is that without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough.”
- @05:57, he tells a story how people with good intentions ruin the lives of a family for several weeks just by obediently following rules. All people involved said “we hate to do it but we have to follow procedure.”
- “Rules and procedures may be dumb but they spare you from thinking.” (- and they allow you to blame others)
- When things go wrong, we turn to two tools: Rules and incentives. When something happens, we want better ones and more of them. That happened after the financial crisis: Regulate, regulate, regulate, fix the incentives, fix the incentives, fix the incentives. @8:21 “The truth is: Neither rules nor incentives are enough to do the job.” How do you pay people a bonus for being emphatic?
- Rules and incentives help in the short run but they create a downwards spiral in the long run.
- By relying on rules, we engage in a war on wisdom. Rules help prevent disaster but they also ensure mediocrity (@10:30). We need enough rules but not too many.
- Incentives seem better. But sometimes, they compete with the original goal instead of complementing it. We suddenly stop asking “What is my responsibility?” and turn to “What serves me best?”
- Solution? Smarter incentives. Unfortunately, there will never be incentives which will be smart enough. We need incentives but excessive incentives demoralize: “It causes people who engage in that activity to lose morale and it causes the activity itself to lose morality.”
- “We must ask, not just is it profitable, but is it right.” – Barack Obama, 18th Dec 2008.
- What doesn’t work: Teach more ethics courses. “There is no better way to show people that you’re not serious than to tie everything you have to say about ethics in a ball and consign it to the margins as an ethics course.”
- What to do instead? See for yourself @14:25
25. January, 2013
On Wednesday, GitHub improved their code search. A few hours later, a couple of people had tried “begin rsa private key” and got more results than any sane person would anticipate. Just in case, this isn’t a problem of GitHub, the same problem can be found on pastebin or with Google.
There are several reasons for people to publish sensitive data:
- They don’t know what they’re doing (ignorance)
- They are sure “no one will ever find out” (security by obscurity)
- Distributing sensitive data anonymously (crackers)
- It’s easier that way (laziness)
It’s not a corner case, either. The SQL*Plus tool from Oracle has no easy way to set the password from a script except by passing it on the command line which effectively publishes the password to any user on the same computer. You can install a “client-side Oracle wallet” to fix this.
But the common issue behind all that is that it’s either too easy to do it wrong or too hard to do it right. Just to see how bad the situation is, I asked for a secure web login/example on stackoverflow.com. The answer was basically “it’s too complex to do.”
23. January, 2013
xkcd has posted a chart which puts money in relation. Here, you can see how much taxes the US raise, how much money the households make and how everything is split.
Click on the image to get a zoomable map like Google maps.