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The hardest refresh requires both a Mac keyboard and a Windows keyboard as a security measure, like how missile launch systems require two keys to be turned at once.
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luizirber
3 days ago
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Davis, CA
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tdarby
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lo
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Covarr
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Hard Reset - PC reset button - causes SEGA to fight SOPA.
Moses Lake, WA
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The hardest refresh requires both a Mac keyboard and a Windows keyboard as a security measure, like how missile launch systems require two keys to be turned at once.

The Quick vs. the Strong: Commentary on Cory Doctorow's Walkaway

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Technological advances change the world. That's partly because of what they are, but even more because of the social changes they enable. New technologies upend power balances. They give groups new capabilities, increased effectiveness, and new defenses. The Internet decades have been a never-ending series of these upendings. We've seen existing industries fall and new industries rise. We've seen governments become more powerful in some areas and less in others. We've seen the rise of a new form of governance: a multi-stakeholder model where skilled individuals can have more power than multinational corporations or major governments.

Among the many power struggles, there is one type I want to particularly highlight: the battles between the nimble individuals who start using a new technology first, and the slower organizations that come along later.

In general, the unempowered are the first to benefit from new technologies: hackers, dissidents, marginalized groups, criminals, and so on. When they first encountered the Internet, it was transformative. Suddenly, they had access to technologies for dissemination, coordination, organization, and action -- things that were impossibly hard before. This can be incredibly empowering. In the early decades of the Internet, we saw it in the rise of Usenet discussion forums and special-interest mailing lists, in how the Internet routed around censorship, and how Internet governance bypassed traditional government and corporate models. More recently, we saw it in the SOPA/PIPA debate of 2011-12, the Gezi protests in Turkey and the various "color" revolutions, and the rising use of crowdfunding. These technologies can invert power dynamics, even in the presence of government surveillance and censorship.

But that's just half the story. Technology magnifies power in general, but the rates of adoption are different. Criminals, dissidents, the unorganized -- all outliers -- are more agile. They can make use of new technologies faster, and can magnify their collective power because of it. But when the already-powerful big institutions finally figured out how to use the Internet, they had more raw power to magnify.

This is true for both governments and corporations. We now know that governments all over the world are militarizing the Internet, using it for surveillance, censorship, and propaganda. Large corporations are using it to control what we can do and see, and the rise of winner-take-all distribution systems only exacerbates this.

This is the fundamental tension at the heart of the Internet, and information-based technology in general. The unempowered are more efficient at leveraging new technology, while the powerful have more raw power to leverage. These two trends lead to a battle between the quick and the strong: the quick who can make use of new power faster, and the strong who can make use of that same power more effectively.

This battle is playing out today in many different areas of information technology. You can see it in the security vs. surveillance battles between criminals and the FBI, or dissidents and the Chinese government. You can see it in the battles between content pirates and various media organizations. You can see it where social-media giants and Internet-commerce giants battle against new upstarts. You can see it in politics, where the newer Internet-aware organizations fight with the older, more established, political organizations. You can even see it in warfare, where a small cadre of military can keep a country under perpetual bombardment -- using drones -- with no risk to the attackers.

This battle is fundamental to Cory Doctorow's new novel Walkaway. Our heroes represent the quick: those who have checked out of traditional society, and thrive because easy access to 3D printers enables them to eschew traditional notions of property. Their enemy is the strong: the traditional government institutions that exert their power mostly because they can. This battle rages through most of the book, as the quick embrace ever-new technologies and the strong struggle to catch up.

It's easy to root for the quick, both in Doctorow's book and in the real world. And while I'm not going to give away Doctorow's ending -- and I don't know enough to predict how it will play out in the real world -- right now, trends favor the strong.

Centralized infrastructure favors traditional power, and the Internet is becoming more centralized. This is true both at the endpoints, where companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon control much of how we interact with information. It's also true in the middle, where companies like Comcast increasingly control how information gets to us. It's true in countries like Russia and China that increasingly legislate their own national agenda onto their pieces of the Internet. And it's even true in countries like the US and the UK, that increasingly legislate more government surveillance capabilities.

At the 1996 World Economic Forum, cyber-libertarian John Perry Barlow issued his "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace," telling the assembled world leaders and titans of Industry: "You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement that we have true reason to fear." Many of us believed him a scant 20 years ago, but today those words ring hollow.

But if history is any guide, these things are cyclic. In another 20 years, even newer technologies -- both the ones Doctorow focuses on and the ones no one can predict -- could easily tip the balance back in favor of the quick. Whether that will result in more of a utopia or a dystopia depends partly on these technologies, but even more on the social changes resulting from these technologies. I'm short-term pessimistic but long-term optimistic.

This essay previously appeared on Crooked Timber.

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luizirber
23 days ago
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What Do Millennials Spend All Their Money On?

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A few days ago, Australian real-estate mogul Tim Gurner had some harsh words for millennials who are unhappy that they can't afford to buy a house:

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” he said. “We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.

“The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it,” he said, adding that they “saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.”

This prompted a snarky, avocado-centric Twitter meme for a while, and the next day the New York Times even tried to fact check Gurner's claim:

According to the Food Institute, which analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics expenditure data from 2015, people from 25 to 34 spent, on average, $3,097 on eating out. Data for this age group through the decades was not readily available....As for Mr. Gurner’s second suggestion — skipping the European vacation — there is indeed an opportunity for savings, but research suggests millennials are the generation spending the least on travel.

This is some strange stuff. In its current form, the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey goes back to the 80s, so this data is indeed available through the decades. Still, at least this is an attempt to take Gurner seriously: he's not literally complaining about avocados on toast, but about a cavalier attitude toward money in general. So let's take a look at that. First, here are total expenditures for 25-34-year-olds:

As you can see, millennials spend a smaller proportion of their income than 25-34-year-olds did a generation ago. In the Reagan era, this age group spent 91 percent of their income. Today's millennials spend only 81 percent of their income.1 Still, thanks to rising incomes their total expenditures clock in about $3,000 higher (adjusted for inflation) than young households in the 80s.

But do they spend a big part of that income on fripperies, like lavish vacations and expensive dinners out? Let's look:

Three decades ago, 18-34-year-olds spent 10.5 percent of their income on entertainment and eating out. Millennials spend 8.6 percent. In real dollars, that represents a small decline. In other words, millennials are more frugal about dining and entertainment than past generations.

So what do millennials spend their money on each year? They may have $3,000 more in disposable income than young families of the 80s and 90s, but they also spend:

  • About $1,000 more on health care.
  • About $1,500 more on pensions and Social Security.
  • About $2,000 more on overall housing (rent, maintenance, utilities, etc.).
  • About $700 more on education.

If they're not buying houses, this is why. It's not because houses are more expensive: the average house costs about a third more than it did in the 80s and early 90s, but thanks to low interest rates the average mortgage payment is about the same or even a bit lower. But it's tough to scrape together a down payment when you're already running a tight ship on dining and entertainment and paying more than previous generations for health care, education, retirement, and student loans.

That said, I'll add one more thing: our perceptions are probably a bit warped about this. Millennials who write about this stuff tend to live in media centers like New York or San Francisco or Washington DC, where housing is extremely expensive. Even with a decent income it's hard to afford anything more than a cramped apartment. In the rest of the country things are different, but we don't hear as much about that. Caveat emptor.

1The share of income not counted as expenditures includes taxes, student loans, credit card payments, savings, etc.

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vitormazzi
32 days ago
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Brasil
luizirber
32 days ago
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Davis, CA
acdha
37 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Dark Science #76 – The Epistemological Impasse

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luizirber
42 days ago
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"If I have to pay admission to see the truth, it ain't the truth"
Davis, CA
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SHIN GODZILLA

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Finally got to see SHIN GODZILLA, made last year by writer/director Hideaki Anno, whose name you may know from NEON GENESIS EVANGELION.  It is recognisably Anno from the top – the staring, dead animal eyes of the creature at the top of the movie could really only be his touch.  SHIN GODZILLA, known elsewhere as GODZILLA RESURGENCE, updates the original by adding the bureaucratic nightmare of the Fukushima reactor disaster to its core theme.  And it works brilliantly, imagining the response to the emergence of Godzilla as paralysed by procedure and politics, much as the response to Fukushima was.

It’s an extraordinary illustration of what you can make when you toss all the tired filmic conventions of saying it emotionally and learning and hugs and the hero’s journey and making sure everyone’s crying and just telling the story you want to tell without diluting or breaking it.  SHIN GODZILLA is a peculiarly pure experience.

 

READING: STAR SHIPS, Gordon White (UK) (US)

 

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luizirber
44 days ago
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Davis, CA
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What’s Needed for the Future of AOS Python? More Software Carpentry!

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By Damien Irving (Postdoctoral Fellow, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere)
@DrClimate

When thinking about education and training in scientific computing, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger success story than Software Carpentry. Over the past five years or so, this volunteer organisation has not only provided training for thousands of researchers around the globe, it has also revolutionised the way we produce training materials. Rather than have individual experts produce stand-alone, static textbooks that are almost immediately outdated, the global community of volunteer Software Carpentry instructors – who all undergo a short training course in educational psychology and instructional design – is collaboratively (via GitHub) and continuously updating and improving its lesson materials.

Over this period, a number of AOS societies and research institutions have run Software Carpentry workshops for their members and employees. Personally, I’ve hosted a workshop alongside the past four Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) annual conferences. At these workshops we teach the generic Software Carpentry Unix Shell, Python and Git lessons over the first day and a half, and then finish with an AOS capstone lesson on the final afternoon (i.e. looking at how those generic tools and skills can be applied in the AOS sciences). Since most AOS people are self taught programmers, the workshops are typically the first time participants have met basic science-related software engineering concepts like version control and the importance of writing modular, re-usable and testable code. As a bonus, they learn Python along the way.

First and foremost, I think the PyAOS community should look to increase the number of Software Carpentry workshops it runs over the next few years. At the moment a few people in the community run workshops on their own initiative, but there isn’t a coordinated community-wide focus or commitment to doing this. A likely bottleneck in achieving this aim will be getting enough interested instructors through the training/accreditation course. The course itself isn’t very long (two full days), but demand is high and preference is given to organisations who are members of the Software Carpentry Foundation. If a major AOS society or institution joined the Foundation (see related information here) and committed to hosting an instructor training course for the community, this would help considerably.

A secondary aim might be for the PyAOS community to get involved with Data Carpentry. As the name suggests, this organisation is a sibling of Software Carpentry that focuses on developing and delivering discipline (or research data) specific lessons, as opposed to the generic approach taken by Software Carpentry. This is obviously a big task (it’s much harder to maintain a set of high quality lessons for many different research disciplines at once), but the PyAOS community would be well placed to take the lead on developing lesson materials specific to netCDF data and the Python libraries (e.g. iris, xarray) used to analyse them.

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luizirber
44 days ago
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Davis, CA
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