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NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional, federal judge rules theguardian.com
708 points by ferrellw  1 day ago   230 comments top 35
bradleyjg 1 day ago 2 replies      
To put it mildly this is the first step in a long, long path.

District courts have the final say in the vast bulk of routine matters that never get appealed, and they can play an influential role in setting the presumptive factual record in high profile cases destined for appeal. But in a high profile case destined for appeal that largely turns on interpreting the Constitution, this court was mostly a gatekeeper. In other words, if the district court had ruled the other way, maybe that would have been the end of the story. Given that it ruled as it did, this will certainly be heard by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (possibly by one of the judges appointed by Obama now that the filibuster has been weakened), and then if the petitioner wins there, either by the full DC Court of Appeals en banc, or the Supreme Court, or first one then the other. If Smith v. Maryland is to be overturned, it will be the Supreme Court that does it, not a district court.

Still, I wish the plaintiffs the best of luck.

For further analysis keep on eye on fourth amendment guru Orin Kerr. His first post describing the opinion is already up: http://www.volokh.com/2013/12/16/judge-leon-enjoins-nsa-tele... and he says another with analysis will be coming soon.

tokenadult 1 day ago 1 reply      
Larry Klayman is an interesting plaintiff in this case.[1] He was a career Justice Department prosecutor during the Reagan administration and worked on the successful antitrust case against the former ATT telephone monopoly. Another article[2] agrees with the article kindly submitted here in reporting that the United States district judge (appointed by President George W. Bush) has stayed his ruling, pending a very likely appeal by the federal government, but it is clear that he thinks the current surveillance program is too broad to be constitutional based on the testimony at trial. That's good legal work.

The link to the full opinion of the district court[3] loads very slowly just now, presumably because many readers are trying to access it.

AFTER EDIT: A legal blogger has put up a copy of the court opinion on a page that loads rapidly.[4]

[1] http://www.freedomwatchusa.org/klayman

[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/16/usa-security-rulin...

[3] https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2013cv0...

[4] http://www.lawfareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Klayma...

wpietri 1 day ago 2 replies      
From the article: "The judge, Richard Leon of U.S. District Court in Washington, said that the NSA relied on 'almost-Orwellian technology' that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, at the time of a landmark Supreme Court decision on phone records."

I disagree strongly! The NSA's technology would more properly be called super-Orwellian. Two-way TV, hidden microphones, and steaming open your mail is nothing compared with what the NSA can do.

saosebastiao 1 day ago 3 replies      
Cool. Now just let us know when the criminal trials begin.
rdl 1 day ago 3 replies      
It's really interesting reading about the main plaintiff, Larry Klayman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Klayman

I'm curious if he's more motivated by NSA-as-a-tool-to-attack-Obama or the merits of the case itself. Beggars can't be choosers, but still pretty strange to be in a position to back someone tactically on one issue while probably opposing most of the rest of his agenda.

ics 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't suppose they'll use the same definition of 'related' while destroying data as when they actually collected it.
mratzloff 1 day ago 4 replies      
> The judge, a conservative, ruled that the NSA must remove from its records data related to two Americans who filed suit to stop the program.

Since Groklaw was KIA, can someone with a better understanding of the law explain if this applies to all Americans, or only those two who brought the suit?

001sky 1 day ago 0 replies      
The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSAs bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.
a3n 1 day ago 0 replies      
No problem, the NSA and whatever administration happens to occupy the Whitehouse at the moment will just re-interpret the ruling as if it ruled that the program is constitutional.

We used to say that whoever wins the war writes the history. But the war on terror will never be won, by definition and design. The NSA probably cares fuckall who writes the history books anymore. They want the dictionary.

undoware 1 day ago 2 replies      
It will be interesting to see what happens to the judge. 'Parallel construction.'
Aloha 1 day ago 13 replies      
I have mixed feelings about this.

Some of the metadata in my opinion is obviously OK to collect - the stuff that would have been captured by a pen register decades ago - Who you called, who called you, how long you talked - this stuff, which is otherwise known as call detail records it available to nearly everyone who works for the telco and is not really what I would consider private.

Other stuff - like Geolocation data is in my opinion clearly not OK to collect - it constitutes an unreasonable encroachment on privacy, normally to track someone historically a warrant must be obtained first, and it required probable cause, I see no reason why a lesser standard should be applied here.

I don't consider blanket recording of calls to be acceptable, but I don't see that as something that has been happening, at least on domestic to domestic endpoints (it's not really technically feasible to do with the way the telephone network is structured), its a bit easier to record calls going to international endpoints because of the structure of the PSTN - VoIP is its own deal, and YMMV on weather you can actually capture those calls or not.

I don't want to see us throw the baby out with the bath water as it were, nor do I want the unreasonable encroachment on privacy to continue.

JeffL 1 day ago 0 replies      
I suppose there is always a small amount of hope that this could actually stick?
6cxs2hd6 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yikes, what is it with 60 Minutes lately?

Sunday night they carry water for Amazon or NSA. Right before Monday, the big day.

(My presumption: The NSA knew a ruling was coming today. Getting a puff piece on 60 Minutes is positive spin regardless of whether the ruling turns out good or bad for them.)

Edit: Link


BrandonY 1 day ago 1 reply      
Edward Snowden on this ruling: "Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."

Well said, sir.

SimonStahl 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice, but this only applies to americans. They are still allowed to gather the data for the whole rest of the world!
mbillie1 1 day ago 2 replies      
Glad to see this ruling, but this must be too-little-too-late by now, right?
w_t_payne 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a significant ruling; but only one small step in a long journey. The importance attached to our choice of destination is heightened by the ever-changing technological landscape over which we travel.

The increasingly pervasive and omnipresent nature of public and private sector surveillance, together with the intimate and revealing nature of the information collected, presages a new phase in the relationship between individual and the institutions and organisations to which our social and economic fealty is directed.

A relationship that is far closer and far more intimate; based on an extensive knowledge of the individual's drives, weaknesses, foibles, and personality traits. We can clearly see a worrying potential for forced intimacy and abusive exploitation of the relationship; just as we currently observe (thankfully infrequent) incidents of abusive physical violence and coercion. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this is the potential that modern technologies have for scalability; facilitating abuse on an industrial and global scale, in market contrast to the inherent limitations of abusive physical interventions.

The key factors here are the fact that the information is intimate; that the collection is involuntary and coercive; and that the means of collection and exploitation may be automated and deployed on a large scale.

The presence or absence of mens rea is besides the point.

tn13 1 day ago 0 replies      
That is it ? What about prosecuting the people responsible ? When are they going behind the bars ?
w_t_payne 1 day ago 0 replies      
The pervasive and omnipresent nature of the surveillance, together with the intimate and revealing nature of the information revealed, presages a new phase in the relationship between individual and state; one that is far closer and far more intimate; based on an extensive knowledge of the individual's drives, weaknesses, foibles, and personality traits. We can clearly see a worrying potential for forced intimacy and abusive exploitation of the relationship; just as we currently observe (thankfully infrequent) incidents of abusive physical violence and coercion. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this is the potential that modern technologies have for scalability; facilitating abuse on an industrial and global scale, in market contrast to the inherent limitations of abusive physical interventions.
qq66 1 day ago 0 replies      
Whether one supports the NSA program or not, it's fairly clear that it's not compatible with the 4th Amendment as understood today. The Constitution has been amended before, if this is important it needs to be taken under the umbrella of a Constitutional amendment.
Fando 1 day ago 1 reply      
What a sorry piece of news! A federal judge thinks that mass surveillance is LIKELY unconstitutional? The only thing the constitution is good for these days is wiping you ass. Even if these practices are officially ruled as illegal, what will change? How will the oversight be conducted to prevent such practices from continuing. In my opinion, the NSA will simply begin hiding their operations from oversight. The biggest question is whether it is possible at all to implement practical and systematic methods that correctly oversee such government organizations. Is there a solution that guarantees that it will be impossible for the NSA and the like to hide their actions considering the almost system-wide corruption of government bodies? The solution to this problem is difficult to imagine for this reason.
zmanian 1 day ago 0 replies      
We need to generate tangible evidence to the political system that the defenders of the NSA have no credibility. Restore the Fourth SF and others have created a mechanism for Californians to do so.https://shameonfeinstein.org/
jrockway 1 day ago 3 replies      
My next fantasy is to see Snowden come back to the US, be tried, and be acquitted.
mrobot 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is there any way to tackle this at the Terry level? It seems like we can protect ourselves more if we can explicitly eliminate the ability to systematically manufacture terry stops based on phone calls, other behavior, skin color, religion...
rayiner 1 day ago 3 replies      
I don't think this decision will hold up on appeal. From the article:

Basically, the judge found the on-point Supreme Court precedent to be inapplicable based on changes in technology in the intervening time:

"Leon wrote that the government was justifying its counterterrorism program based on a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent that has been eclipsed by 'technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable.'"

It's very worthwhile to read the case that is discussed (Smith v. Maryland):http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3033726127475530...

Pay specific attention to the discussion starting at the end of page 743 ("Second, even if petitioner..."). That reasoning doesn't seem any less valid to me today than it was 34 years ago. It's an easy, clear rule: "private" means private, not "private but shared with my hundred closest sysadmin friends at AT&T or Google."

leokun 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's weird how the URL for this link keeps changing.
bayesianhorse 23 hours ago 0 replies      
The government has a secret system, a machine ...
theandrewbailey 1 day ago 0 replies      
In a rare showing, common sense has triumphed this day.
socialist_coder 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does it even matter what the courts say? The NSA seems like it has no problems operating outside of the law and lying when asked what it's actually doing.
greyfox 1 day ago 0 replies      
"...likely unconstitutional" ya think?
nexttimer 1 day ago 0 replies      
No shit, sherlock.
kansface 1 day ago 0 replies      
Federal courts apparently as per the constitution.
amerika_blog 1 day ago 4 replies      
I support the NSA monitoring.

No, not a troll.

At this point, the USA has a ton of enemies. Filtering through emails, phone, etc. is a good way to catch these. We need to give law enforcement the tools it needs.

Seeing how this access was abused to hunt down Tea Party groups convinces me that the NSA needs to be de-politicized, not shut down.

I think we'll find that this monitoring is inevitable because the technology is there and also, since the technology is there, if it is not used and a terrorist incident occurs, people will be held responsible for NOT using it.

I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System theatlantic.com
706 points by ilamont  22 hours ago   426 comments top 27
blisterpeanuts 20 hours ago 41 replies      
I'm sorry to be a curmudgeon but I don't like this guy at all. He wasted valuable city resources on an experiment the outcome of which he should have predicted, being a criminal attorney in Roxbury.

Why were the police and the criminal justice officials apparently angry with him? Because while he was playing his little game, to "prove" that police profile people and to "prove" that getting arrested and jailed can be a violent and unfair experience, someone else was getting away with a purse snatching, or beating up an ex-girlfriend, or playing the knock-out game, or emptying a cash register.

It's not so much that he prevented one of these other cases from being pursued, but that he seems so oblivious of the effects of his actions. Thus, it seems perfectly natural and reasonable for them to say, "OK, you make twice the salary we make yet you wanna be a petty criminal? Poof, you're a petty criminal. Enjoy sleeping in the bed you made, and here's hoping you will be permanently cured of f##king with us in the future, a##hole."

The police are set upon from all sides. If they bend the rules, they are severely punished. If they don't bend the rules, and the rules don't always apply the way liberal suburban white folks might imagine they do on the street, then they get castigated for not "doing their job" i.e. catching the bad guys. At the end of the day, not catching the bad guys is the biggest sin in law enforcement, because it's the mission. If you fail the mission, you're facing demotion, punishment, deprivation of public support and sufficient budget, and the public will view you with contempt and disgust.

I'm not justifying that that diabetic guy who wanted his sugar pills should be denied his pills. I'm not justifying that the police handle the lower socio-economic cases more brutally, giving them bruises and cuts that the suburban white boy somehow was spared. I'm not justifying racial profiling.

Yet, to walk a mile in their shoes, both the police and the criminal justice system as a whole, is to see the world a little differently from the average Atlantic Monthly reader or Hacker News reader.

Just my 2 cents.

nate_meurer 21 hours ago 2 replies      
This is simultaneously the funniest and most tragic thing I've read in a long time. It's nearly unbelievable.

It reminds me a bit of Eddie Murphy's skit for SNL where he dresses up in white-face so he can experience society on the other side. This is almost as funny as that skit, no exaggeration. The tragedy is that this story is true.

blhack 20 hours ago 10 replies      
I don't "get" this article.

The beginning seems to be him talking about how difficult it was for him to get the police to think he was suspicious. The article was really interesting, and it seemed to be a point about racial/socio-economic profiling.

But once he got into the system, he was treated terribly. Probation, not being allowed to visit his family, for a misdemeanor.


Honestly, his conclusion sounds more like justice /is/ being applied evenly, it's just that it was harder for him to get the police's attention while he was wandering around in a suit and tie.

kaffeinecoma 20 hours ago 3 replies      

  The judge [...] ordered three years of probation, a $1000 fine, a $250 surcharge,  a $50 surcharge, 30 days of community service, and a special condition allowing police  and probation officers to enter and search my residence anytime without a warrant.
Wow. Perhaps I'm naive, but I was unware that a first-time, nonviolent misdemeanor could be grounds for removing your 4th amendment rights.

headgasket 55 minutes ago 0 replies      
I was driving home from a late board meeting one night. A lady jumped off an overpass on the highway almost in front of my car. I swerved, so did the many other cars (busy highway), anda few of us came to screeching stop a few meters away. I ran over, by an incredible miracle the lady had not been run over, and had not fallen on her head; she was alive and conscious. (her spirits were not high as one might expect after a failed suicide attempt). The other civic citizen that bended over her after having frantically (and dangerously) redirected the highway speed traffic was a black man.

It took a good 5-7 minutes to get the first responders on site, the police arrived first, then the ambulance. Once the paramedics had taken over, the police wanted to take a deposition. I sat in the back of the cruiser with the black man. IIRC he was a taxi driver, I'm a white caucasian. Well folks the interview of this black man quickly turned passive agressive suspicious, to a point where I wanted to open the cruiser door and leave; well there is no door handles inside the back of a cruiser. I politely said I was done with my deposition, can I get out now? The police officer ignored my request and kept on the insidious questioning of my fellow good samaritan. I was flabbergasted. I took my phone out and called my wife and starting telling her the suicide attempt story, acting up a bit and speaking very loud and emotional. Only then the tone came down. One of the officers then opened the door for me, from the outside. I did not budge as I was giving the "in shock" show, and I was getting to the present of being stuck in the back of a cruiser.

I finally got out of the car, and stood there, on the side of the highway next to the cruiser until they let the man go. I think the faked shock state might have broken their pace. The look on the black man face was one of thankfulness when he got back in his car.

He's the one that took serious risks with inbound traffic to save a desperate person's life, but he was feeling in a position of indebtedness to me because I stood around and "protected"?? him from potential police abuse?

Racism and social profiling is alive and well. But not were we folks look for it as a stick to whack each other (schools, universities work place etc) It's the sticky goo in the cogs of our system.

mdturnerphys 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Interesting aside about the author's accidental ability to elude two members of the NYPD counterterrorism division:

"Two Intelligence Unit detectives arrived and testily walked me outside to a waiting unmarked police car. Court papers show that theyd staked out my apartment to arrest me, and that I unwittingly kept eluding them. In one dramatic instance, two officers had tailed me as I walked down Eastern Parkway. Id entered the subway station at the Brooklyn Museum, unaware that I was being followed. One of the officers had followed me through the turnstiles while another guarded the exit. The report states that the officers then inexplicably lost contact with me."

vph 20 hours ago 8 replies      
The author hypothesis is that criminal profiling is based on race. A simpler hypothesis is that such profiling is based on looks. Now, instead of wearing suits, if he wears baggy jeans that almost fall off his butt, puts on a few tatoos, nose rings to match, and starts doing seemingly illegal things. And if the cops still don't stop him, then maybe being white has something to do with it.
tokenizer 21 hours ago 4 replies      
Do we really need to punish people with prison for non violent crimes?

We might as well call in the Criminal Punishment System, or the Government's Justice System, as it doesn't engender my views of justice, and nor should it for you.

scotty79 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I think there should be kind of mystery shoppers for justice system. They'd commit misdemeanors and get arrested so they can report how they were treated to improve operation of police and justice system and to weed out personnel that doesn't obey the law or neglect procedures.
maaaats 21 hours ago 6 replies      
> From Brownsville to downtown Manhattan, I would estimate that I passed more than 200 police officers, some from a distance, some close enough to touch.

Wow, is police that common in NY / the states? That's more police than I have seen in my entire life.

Eliezer 18 hours ago 3 replies      
Is there anywhere on the planet with a functioning criminal justice system? Where should I live if I don't want to live in fear?
mschuster91 22 hours ago 3 replies      
3 years of probation for a single graffiti tag? Talk about proportions here.
base698 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Works bombs, mixing Works Toilet Cleanser and Aluminum foil in a 2L plastic bottle were popular in my high school. I can't imagine the charges the children would get today if they were brown. Lucky for them they lived in rural NC.
dmourati 8 hours ago 0 replies      
To me the whole problem comes down to one of discretion. The police officers in the beginning of the story had too much discretion. By not arresting someone defacing city hall, they trivialized a property crime. The author intimates this was because of his race or at least his appearance. Maybe so.

Next the judge exercises his discretion to come up with a non-standard sentence for the crime. Any non-instigator first offender would have gotten the slap on the wrist. A minority, we are lead to believe, probably much worse. Same crime but the discretion is wide in the sentence.

Later, the issue swings the other way. He has some real cause to go the rally in honor of the fallen student. Here, the discretion is taken away from the parole officer.

Discretion is power. In some instances, society grants too much discretion. In others, too little. We know this is the case but it still shocks us and we like to second guess.

3am 16 hours ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the work I read about Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) doing around mental health and institutionalization in the late 19th century (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Bly#Asylum_expos.C3.A9). It's not a complimentary comparison for our criminal justice system.
tsaoutourpants 19 hours ago 1 reply      
The first officer had it right: "What are you, some kind of asshole?"
hawkharris 11 hours ago 0 replies      
The article's description of racial profiling brings to mind a statistic that the ACLU reported a few weeks ago (it was also featured on HN): in U.S. federal courts, blacks are about twenty times as likely as whites to be sentenced to life in prison for non-violent crimes.
enkephalin 20 hours ago 1 reply      
We avoided inner city streets because they were dangerous, and we relied on the police to keep people from those places out of our neighborhoods. Whatever they got, we figured they deserved.

i find the last statement just as disturbing as the rest of the article. carrying this sentiment around plays a big part in the apathy we see all around us, towards most of the atrocities being committed these days.

alexhutcheson 17 hours ago 0 replies      
In a similar vein, I would highly recommend the book Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing[1] by Ted Conover.

The author was a journalist who wanted to do a story on the prison system in New York State. The Department of Correctional Services froze him out and refused to give him any sort of access or interviews. To get the story, he actually took a job as a correctional officer officer in Sing Sing prison and worked there for a year. His account of the entire experience is fascinating. I think the whole discussion around these sorts of issues could really benefit from more accounts like this that introduce some transparency into the criminal justice system.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Newjack-Guarding-Sing-Ted-Conover/dp/0...

tn13 17 hours ago 0 replies      
"Simply carrying those items qualified as a class B misdemeanor pursuant to New York Penal Law 145.65."

Are you serious ? And I make fun of Indian laws.

rayiner 21 hours ago 8 replies      
This is a great article, and I really appreciate this paragraph:

> But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs.

However, I think he ignores a really salient distinction: a lot of these "crimes" like the laws against graffiti, exist not because the acts themselves are particularly heinous, but because they're proxies for things that are dangerous, namely gang activity.

In not going after the author, the police simply did the analysis they are required to do: is this guy a threat within the spirit of the law?

Now, obviously there are shortcomings in the heuristics the police are using here. It's not okay to conclude that someone is a threat because they're a black teenager in a hoodie and aren't a threat because they're a white professional in a suit. But I don't think we really want a mechanical justice system that follows the mere letter of the law instead of the spirit. We don't want police to ignore the distinction between someone tagging a public building to make a point, and gang members tagging a private building to "make a point."

dragontamer 20 hours ago 1 reply      

Alternative take on what has happened here.

>>> This reporter accompanied Constantino on one of those trips, watching as the lawyer handed a guard his passport and driver's license. After calling City Hall staffers from inside the guard booth, the officer told Constantino to come back the next day.

>>> Instead, Constantino dramatically turned himself in at Manhattan Criminal Court that Friday, after the stop-and-frisk protesters were convicted of disorderly conduct.

>>> "Your Honor, I refuse to leave this court," Constantino told the judge. "I am choosing in peace and love not to leave this court."


The purpose of getting arrested was to protest the Stop and Frisk laws in NYC. It seems like Bobby Constantino is milking the story for all its worth though, and turning it into something else.

Not that it is a bad perspective or anything, but I think it is important to remember his original purpose for getting arrested.

0xdeadbeefbabe 17 hours ago 0 replies      
He made eye contact; he didn't run; and he's surprised the policeman left him alone? Hasn't he seen any real criminal behavior or maybe a painting of it in a fine art gallery? I'm glad he got his wish though, but for a minute I was worried he wouldn't.
anuraj 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Criminal justice system as it exists has lots to answer 1) What is the purpose? 2) Is it getting achieved 3) What kind of people are administering the system 4) Why biases exist? 5) What should citizenry and political authority do? 6) Ultimately - what is the true conscience of the society?
thedrifting 16 hours ago 1 reply      
So, the author set out to prove how unfair the justice system is between races, and to some extent he did show that. But, didn't his experience also show that a white person was treated just as by the courts as any other person? Am I missing the point of this article?
LekkoscPiwa 16 hours ago 1 reply      
There is a lot of BS in the PC thing with profiling. I'm an Eastern European. Almost all Polish people I know work in construction or baby sitting, etc. However, none of them or us Polish immigrants blames the United States for that. Or the Government. They know they aren't educated very well, so they don't finger point to any type of discrimination for their fate. But somehow there are people there, like some Latinos I know who just don't even try. They just want to be illiterate all their life. One Lady I know who is from Mexico doesn't even teach her children English. Doesn't want them to speak English in the US. But blames US for her shitty job and standard of living.

This is a little bit too much even for me (an immigrant) to stomach, you know?

If they voted Obama into Presidency what racism? Bunch of racists and secret Ku-Klux-Klan lovers voted for a Black President? Like really, some people have way too much time on their hands. If I can be consulting for 60-100usd/hr after 6 years of living here, why some people need to steal and deal drugs instead is beyond me.

There is equality in Cuba and Canada. If these people are for real why don't they just immigrate there?

I will be honest. I see a Pole in the US I think he is doing construction or picking up garbage or baby sitting, taking care of elderly. I see a Mexican I suspect he doesn't speak English. I see a black person I check if my wallet is safe.

Everybody does that. Trying to change the way we think about Blacks without them changing their ways is never going to work. Not all Poles in the US are in the construction business. Not all Mexicans in the US are illiterate. Not all Blacks in the US are criminals. But big chunk of all these peoples are, so it's good to be opened minded and don't pretend that things like AIDS epidemic in DC being on levels with Sub-Saharian Africa aren't true. Because they are. And this isn't fault of anybody else but people who live there and make choices they do. I came to this country with 300usd in my pocket. I could have excuses to do nothing and portray myself as a victim too. But who does that in this country?

jebblue 17 hours ago 1 reply      

"Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon."

There's nothing new in the article. He proved nothing other than dressing decent makes a good impression, we all knew that. Nothing of race or the justice system in general was proved one way or the other in my opinion.

A Great Old-Timey Game-Programming Hack moertel.com
542 points by acqq  2 days ago   143 comments top 30
Morgawr 2 days ago 8 replies      
This reminded me of a game programming hack I did back in highschool. I had just started a school course on Pascal and decided to code a small game of snake, just for fun. I knew very little about actual programming, I was a real novice. The game was very simple, it was running in a windows console (cmd) without any graphics, the actual assets were ASCII art. The grid of the game was represented with asterisks and the snake was dots with a smiley face (one of those weird ASCII symbols nobody knows why it's there). Every game update I would redraw the whole grid, snake and the comma that was used to output the food.

The problem was that this was terribly slow, it flickered like crazy and it was unplayable. I was very sad because my game was working but unplayable for anybody so I tried to engineer a way to make it stop flickering. The solution came when I found out about a couple of functions in pascal that let you clear a specific character in the console at a specific X,Y coordinate and write another character that that coordinate. What I ended up doing was keep track of all the changes in the game for each frame (snake movements, food position) and just re-draw only the portions of screen that had changed.

This was great, no more flickering and the game was playable. (Nobody really played it because nobody cared but I was really proud of it).

Found out years later that this approach is pretty much what Carmack did in his old games: Adaptive Tile Refresh[1]


pflanze 1 day ago 1 reply      
I still remember a hack that I figured out on the Commodore 128 to speed up the 80 column display. I'm not aware of any program that actually made use of it (probably because the C128 and its 80 column display did not have a big enough user base to make it worthwhile to develop programs that needed speedy output).

The C128 had two separate video chips/ports, a C64 compatible chip showing a 40x25 character (320x200 pixel) display, and the "VDC"[1] showing 80x25 characters (640x200, or with interlacing, 640x400 or more), which was output on a separate connector. The VDC had a hideous way to change the display: it had its own video RAM, which the CPU couldn't access directly, instead the video chip had two internal registers (low and high byte) to store the address you wanted to access, and another register to read or write the value at that address. But that wasn't enough, the CPU couldn't access those VDC registers directly either, there was a second indirection on top: the CPU could only access two 2nd-level registers, one in which to store the number of the 'real' register you wanted to access, then you had to poll until the VDC would indicate that it's ready to receive the new value, and you would save the new value for the hidden register in the other 2nd level register. (There's assemply on [1] describing that 2nd level.) Those two registers were the only way of interaction between the CPU and the 80 column display.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS_Technology_VDC

This was extremely slow. Not only because of the amount of instructions, but the VDC would often be slow to issue the readyness flag, thus the CPU would be wasting cycles in a tight loop waiting for the OK.

Now my discovery was that the VDC didn't always react slowly, it had times when the readyness bit would be set on the next CPU cycle. Unsurprisingly, the quick reaction times were during the vertical blanking period (when the ray would travel to the top of the screen, and nothing was displayed). During that time, there wasn't even a need to poll for the VDC's readyness, you could simply feed values to the 2nd level interface as fast as the CPU would allow, without any verification. Thus if you would do your updates to the screen during the vertical screen blank, you would achieve a lot more (more than a magnitude faster, IIRC), and the "impossibly slow" video would actually come into a speed range that might have made it interesting for some kinds of video games. Still too slow to do any real-time hires graphics, and the VDC didn't have any sprites, but it had powerful character based features and quite much internal RAM, plus blitting capabilities, so with enough creativity you might have been able to get away by changing the bitmaps representing selected characters to imitate sprites. And you could run the CPU in its 2 Mhz mode all the time (unlike when using the 40 column video, where you would have to turn it down to 1 Mhz to not interfere with the video chip accessing RAM in parallel, at least during that chip's non-screenblank periods.) My code probably looked something like:

        lda #$12       ; VDC Address High Byte register        sta $d600      ; write to control registerlda #$10       ; address hi byte        sta $d601      ; store        ldx #$13       ; VDC Address Low Byte register        ldy #$00       ; address lo byte loop                                                            cycles        stx $d600      ; select address low byte register   4        sty $d601      ; update address low byte            4        lda #$1f       ; VDC Data Register                  3 ?        sta $d600                                           4        lda base,y     ; load value from CPU RAM            4 ?        sta $d601      ; store in VDC RAM                   4        iny                                                 2        bne loop       ; or do some loop unrolling          3 ?        ..
(28 cycles per byte, at 2 Mhz, => about 300-400 bytes per frame. Although the C128 could remap the zero page, too (to any page?), and definitely relocate the stack to any page, thus there are a couple ways to optimize this. (Hm, was there also a mode that had the VDC auto-increment the address pointer? Thus pushing data to $d601 repeatedly would be all that was needed? I can't remember.))

How would you time your screen updates to the vertical blanking period? There was no way for the VDC to deliver interrupts. It did however have a register that returned the vertical ray position. Also, the C128 had a separate IC holding timers. Thus IIRC I wrote code to reprogram the timer on every frame with updated timing calculations, so that I got an interrupt right when the VDC would enter the vertical blanking area.

As I said, I'm not aware of any production level program that used this; perhaps some did, but at least the behaviour was not documented in the manuals I had.

The VDC felt even more like a waste after I discovered this. The only use I had for it was using some text editor. I wasn't up to writing big programs at the time, either.

PS. sorry if that was a bit long.

tbirdz 2 days ago 6 replies      
>The challenge wasn't overwhelming complexity, as it is today. The challenge was cramming your ideas into machines so slow, so limited that most ideas didn't fit.

I like this line right here. It does seem like we've piled on abstraction after abstraction in these days. Sure this does make things easier, but I think things have gotten so complex that it's much harder to have a complete mental model of what your code is actually doing than in the simpler machines of the past.

justanother 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is not unlike how 'fast' screen updates are done on the Apple IIGS. The fastest memory operations on the 6502 and 65816 involve the stack, so one ends up mapping the stack to the top of framebuffer RAM and pushing a lot of values onto it in an unrolled loop. The unrolled loop is itself rewritten by other code to provide the data for the next update.

Apple developer support themselves described this idea in Technote #70, http://www.1000bit.it/support/manuali/apple/technotes/iigs/t...

Jare 2 days ago 0 replies      
We did this in our Sinclair Spectrum games to blit the backbuffer to the display memory. Interrupts were not a problem because if they occured during the PUSH (display memory), the corruption would be overwritten immediately when the blit continued, and if they occured during the POP, the backbuffer was going to be overwritten in its entirety the next frame.

However, we had to leave some space at the edge of backbuffer memory, because if there's an interrupt right at the beginning of the blit, the interrupt handler's stack frame could overflow outside of the backbuffer and corrupt other memory. That one was fun to find. [Edit]: I seem to have missed the second footnote where he already describes this issue.

caster_cp 2 days ago 1 reply      
Loved the story! Mostly because I lived this stuff, and I'm 25 years old :p. In my Electronic Engineering graduation we had three professors crazy about assembly and slow PCs (in fact, FPGAs and microcontrollers). I remember the nights I spent awake trying to make a Viterbi Encoder/Decoder fit into a tiny FPGA, cramming a complex temperature controller (while reading sensors, commanding motors, and handling the input/output) in an 8051, or programming a 128khz sound recorder in assembly on an (old as hell) ARM, while communicating to a PC, showing info on a LCD and doing all the filtering digitally (the only analog stuff we were allowed to use were an anti-aliasing filter and the input/output conforming circuits). Ah, the crazy filters we devised to use all the old ARM's juice.

I lost myself there, but my main point is: in electronics (embedded systems, mainly) all this beautiful joy of crazy optimizations is still alive :D

stusmith1977 2 days ago 3 replies      
Reminds me fondly of the time I was writing assembler for the ARM2/3... it had such a nice instruction set that made hand-writing assembler pleasant.

It had a "barrel shifter" that gave you free shifts of powers of two, so you could calculate screen byte offsets quickly:

  // offset = x + y * 320  ADD R0, R1, R2, LSL #8  ADD R0, R0, R2, LSL #5  // = 2 cycles
It also had bulk loads and stores that made reading/writing RAM cheaper. The trick there was to spill as many registers as you possibly could, so that you could transfer as many words as possible per bulk load/store.

  LDMIA R10!, {R0-R9}  STMIA R11!, {R0-R9}  // Transfers 40 bytes from memory pointed to by R10 to memory pointed to by R11,  // And updates both pointers to the new addresses,  // And only takes (3+10)*2 = 26 cycles to do the lot.
Happy days...

danielweber 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have been searching for at least 10 years for the term "involution": the set of functions where f(f(x)) = x. Now i have it. Thank you.
jebus989 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great story, thanks for this; it's a refreshing change from bitcoin and VC chatter.
couchand 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is a really neat article. One thing: the author falls victim to a common, unfortunate mistake in calculating the percentage gains: ...120 cycles. Thats a 30-percent speed-up. and then ...98 cycles. Compared to the original code, thats 60 percent faster.

The right way to calculate this figure is (t1 - t0)/t0, rather than the author's formula which seems to be (t1 - t0)/t1. For instance: (157 - 98)/98 = 60%, but the actual amount is (157 - 98)/157 = a 38% speed up. A heuristic: 60% of 157 will be much more than 60 (since 60% of 100 = 60), which means a 60% speed up would reduce the speed to below 97 cycles.

It gets even more misleading the more efficient it gets: Adding up the cycles, the total was just 1689. I had shaved almost 1200 cycles off of my friends code. Thats a 70 percent speed-up! The author has 1200/1689 = 71%, but the correct numbers yield 1200/(1689+1200) = 42%.

Not that I don't think these are significant gains, but it's just misleading to label them like this. If you've removed less than half the cycles, there's no way you've seen a 70% speed up.

snorkel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't recall which of the Atari cart game did this (might've been Combat) rather than using space for storing sound effects the game would refer to its own code in memory for a random noise sound effect.

So true that back in the day much of a game programmers mental effort was spent on how to make big ideas fit inside small memory, anemic color palettes, and slow processors.

codeulike 1 day ago 0 replies      
Used to do a similar thing with old Archimedes games (the first computer to use an ARM chip, in 1988). The original ARM had 16 x 32 bit registers, and a single assembler command could write some or all of them to memory in one go. In practice you could use about 12 of the registers for graphics data (the others being program counters and stack pointers etc). Each pixel was 2 bytes, so with 12 registers you could do 1 row of 24 pixels - all in one instruction. Fetch some new data into the registers and write them again 24 times and you had a 24x24 sprite drawn very fast. To really use this technique you had to draw at word boundaries, thus the movement had to be 4 pixels per frame. But you could do a good full-screen scroll with this at around 12-15 fps (Archimedes could also do double-buffered screen memory so you draw one while displaying the other) and still plenty of time to do all the other work for each frame.
forktheif 2 days ago 5 replies      
Another possible way to get around interrupts overwriting your screen, would be to turn them off and update the audio after every line or two.
royjacobs 2 days ago 1 reply      
Having just spent a good chunk of my weekend reliving my Commodore 64 assembly coding days, this was an excellent way to top it off!
taeric 1 day ago 0 replies      
I do love the lesson that is implicit here. At least for me. The game was basically playable and doing what it was supposed to do before these interesting hacks were done.

Another interesting tidbit that should be obvious, but I miss a lot. The format of the graphics was fixed and not necessarily on the table for things that can be changed to make the code work. All too often it seems I let what I'm wanting to accomplish affect how I plan on storing the data I'm operating on.

tfigueroa 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'll join the chorus reminiscing about hacking for game performance.

In my case, it was on a Mac on a PowerPC CPU. It's a far cry from the limited resources of early personal computers, but this was at a time when 3D was hitting big time - the Playstation had just come out - and I was trying to get performance and effects like a GPU could provide. A hobbyist could get decent rasterization effects from a home-grown 3D engine, but I was working as far forward as I could. All that unrolled code, careful memory access, fixed-point math... I spent a lot of time hand-tuning stuff. It wasn't until I dug into a book on PowerPC architecture that I found some instructions that could perform an approximation of the math quickly, and suddenly I was seeing these beautiful, real-time, true-color, texture-mapped, shaded, transparent triangles floating across the screen at 30fps.

It was about that time that the first 3DFX boards started coming out for Macs, though, and that was the end of that era.

Aardwolf 2 days ago 1 reply      
>> each tile was 28 by 28 pixels.

Why not a power of 2 like 16 or 32?

boulderdash 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for sharing this. This is what Eugene Jarvis did to make Defender fast. It was a common tool in the toolbox for any clever game programmer for the 6809. I think it is awesome that Tom & buddy to experience the pleasure of its rediscovery.
gaius 1 day ago 0 replies      
professorTuring 2 days ago 1 reply      
I love this post.

Today most of game programmers just ask for a bigger GPU.

anonymouscowar1 1 day ago 0 replies      
So, question: what sits in memory below the bottom of the framebuffer? It seems like if a sound interrupt occurs while drawing the lowest-address tile, you might corrupt something below there.

Edit: Oh! Just got to footnote 2. Thanks, author!

pjmlp 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great story! I grew up with this type of programming.

Brought back nice memories.

boyaka 1 day ago 1 reply      
Did you guys see the top comment? TempleOS:


Some features:

64-bit ring-0-only single-address-map (identity) multitasking kernel

HolyC programming lanaguage interpreter

Praise God for binds using timer based random number generators

Create comics, hymns, poems as offerings to the Oracle

onion2k 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds similar to the scrolling 'hack' John Carmack used on Commander Keen.
yoodenvranx 2 days ago 0 replies      
There should be a website where this kind of articles are collected!
teddyh 2 days ago 6 replies      
What computer and game could this be? Looking at Wikipedia reveals that the Motorola 6809 was not used for many computers, and not any that I recognize as being very popular.
vitd 1 day ago 4 replies      
I'm confused about something. After they've implemented their final solution that lets tiles become corrupted before they're overwritten, what happens to the sound? The sound is now being written to the screen, where it will be promptly overwritten by the copy tiles routine. Wouldn't that cause audio corruption? Or did playback of the sound complete before the interrupt returned?
normalocity 1 day ago 0 replies      
I love this kind of stuff. It's the kind of article that today makes me very interested in embedded linux and systems that supposedly don't have enough resources to do things that we've been doing for decades.

Brilliant blog post!

asselinpaul 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good read.
dragontamer 1 day ago 3 replies      
Arcade video game programmers of that age have told me warstories of themselves. BitBlits? That stuff is still handled by the BIOS / OS. The real arcade programmers would code at the level of scan-lines manually. (IIRC, Pacman was programmed at this level).

Every 30th of a second, the screen would have to be refreshed. Arcade programmers would perfectly tweak the loops of their assembly programs such that the screen refresh would happen at the right timing. As the CRT scanline would enter "blanks", they would use the borrowed time to process heavier elements of the game. (ie: AIs in Pacman). The heaviest processing would occur on a full-VSync, because you are given more time... as the CRT laser recalibrates from the bottom right corner to the top left corner.

Of course, other games would control the laser perfectly. Asteroids IIRC had extremely sharp graphics because the entire program was not written with "scanlines" as a concept, but instead manually drew every line on the screen by manipulating the CRT laser manually.

Good times... good times...

If a Drone Strike Hit an American Wedding We'd Ground Our Fleet theatlantic.com
452 points by gabriel34  2 days ago   353 comments top 40
sethbannon 2 days ago 9 replies      
The way America is conducting the war on terror is both self-defeating and morally repugnant.
forktheif 2 days ago 13 replies      
It continues to baffle me why the fact they're drones matter in the slightest.

They're not autonomous, they're flown by pilots who just happen to not be sitting in the aircraft they're flying.

Manned aircraft have killed huge groups of innocent civilians more than once, but apparently that's fine because the pilot was sitting in the aircraft.

k-mcgrady 2 days ago 4 replies      
Not all that surpising. As was made clear during the Snowden leaks the USG doesn't consider human beings who aren't US citizens to have the same rights as Americans.
belorn 2 days ago 3 replies      
> Five of those killed were suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda, but the remainder were unconnected with the militancy, Yemeni security officials said."

> The New York Times reported in 2013 that the Obama Administration embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties, which in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.

So 5 people were of military-age and male? Given a size of 22 people, it sound reasonable. I wonder how many were children.

ck2 2 days ago 5 replies      
I think it is time for a world-wide ban on armed drones, period.

Just like we have international treaties for other horrible things like mustard gas.

Do all the reconnaissance you can get away with. But I don't want a tired, overworked, morally disconnected 20-something sitting in a trailer somewhere in the US, pulling a trigger to kill unquantifiable targets anywhere in the world. Or any other country doing it to anyone else for that matter.

rikacomet 2 days ago 0 replies      
Terrorism is a idea, it cannot be killed with bullets or drones.

The Terrorist we know today are a pretty much related to those people who were supported by American Intelligence agencies in the mid70-80s, against the soviet. The "Barbarians" among those folk were given advanced weapons, that America possessed, those weapons might be outdated, and America may have a upper hand, but that is only a matter of time. Sadly, this has became a chicken and egg problem.

The circle of REVENGE is a continuous one, you kill more people innocent or not, you sprout a new rebellion. They will eventually hurt you back, today or tomorrow. and the process will continue.. presidents, prime ministers would come and go by.

The only way to stop this is to actually STOP. Stop interference in ways like espoinage, drone strikes, killing of "Suspected" militants.. never given any right to appear before court.. everything. The root problem is the so called intelligence that does more than just collect information about "suspected" enemies.

Someone has to rise up and stop it. for both sides, perhaps it escape us humans sometimes, the very fact "those who are hurt are the ones who can forgive or take revenge." Thats about there it is to this.

Really sad to hear about that nameless bride/groom & family. May they R.I.P.

belorn 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is articles like this that asks the reader to pierce media bias, and take a honest look at a conflict.

If an Qaeda militant had gone to US city and bombed a wedding where they suspected harbored US officer, how would that play out? 22 injured, 17 killed by Qaeda militants in boston. Terrorists mistakenly targeted a wedding, trying to go after 5 US officer.

If there were no propaganda in media, surely this would play out identical as this drone strike. No world leaders expressing their condemnation of the attacks, condolences, and solidarity. Military strikes kills huge groups of innocent civilians all the times in wars, so nothing to write about.

MattyRad 1 day ago 1 reply      
Would anybody be surprised, even sympathetic, if the families of the deceased joined Al Qaeda as a direct result of this? Americans killed their friends and family on a sacred day, and nothing would be more appropriate than seeing they pay for it. Such an atrocity is almost comical when you think that the reason it occurred was to stop Al Qaeda, ends up bolstering it. It's appalling on so many levels.
swamp40 1 day ago 2 replies      
The anti-American rants on here are disgusting.

Nobody's calling this a mistake except the media.

5 Al Qaeda dead, 5-10 people sitting next to an Al Qaeda member also dead.

Intelligence even pointed out which 4 cars out of the 11 car convoy contained the Al Qaeda members.

If you think there is no war going on over there, the 52 civilians slaughtered by Al Qaeda on Dec. 5 in a Sana'a hospital would disagree with you.

Check out how Al Qaeda operates here at the 56 second mark, where one of them casually lobs a grenade into a crowd of civilians during the Dec. 5 attack: http://www.guns.com/2013/12/14/graphic-cctv-footage-militant...

The US drone strike was a direct response to the Dec. 5 massacre by Al Qaeda.

holograham 1 day ago 1 reply      
A great book to read on the decline of violence in the world:The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Steven Pinker.

The Hacker News community should like it as it focuses on the stats and facts rather than anecdotal stories the media slings.

The main thesis: Violence (in nearly every form) has been on a precipitous decline in the modern era. War deaths (and civilian causalities) are at all time lows and still declining.


wil421 2 days ago 4 replies      
I dont know which is tarnishing the American image worse the use of drones strikes or the Snowden leaks. What happens when our allies start to even say enough is enough.
badman_ting 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's okay when we do it.
danbruc 2 days ago 1 reply      
Now go and explain the difference between this incident and a terror attack without using the fact the the former has been carried out by a state while the later has been carried out by civilians.
fit2rule 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Let us hit you with this stick, because if we start hitting you with the bigger stick, all the other ants will come teaming out of the woodwork and then there will be a real war going on".

This kind of argument just makes me want to violently throw up. There is absolutely no honor in using a remote drone to kill people from a distance. It is among the most despicable things a human being can do to another human being.

How about we make America take a really honorable position and say this to our American military friends: you are not allowed to kill anyone unless you've attempted, directly, to communicate with them - in their language - and discussed the reasons for their hostility directly, person to person. Only after this has occurred, and all other efforts to resolve the persons aggression, is the right to kill granted.

I'm sure we'd see all those fascist US military personnel take another look at their chosen career path if they did, indeed, have to use the mighty power of American technology, to communicate and make direct peace with the targetted individuals instead of decapitate them, fill them with lead, murder their children, injure and maim their relatives, disfigure the strangers who were simply in the area, at the wrong time ..

njharman 2 days ago 0 replies      
> A U.S. drone mistakenly targeted

Drones aren't autonomous. They don't target anything. Weapons officers do.

Besides being plain wrong and bad reporting, dehumanizing (attributing it on the drone) shifts responsibility and makes it seem like problem is solvable by "fixing" drone or by grounding them.

clarkmoody 2 days ago 1 reply      
I seem to recall that the Obama Administration was going to restore America's image with the rest of the world -- the image that was presumably destroyed by W.
locusm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder if the blow back from this in 10 years will be worse than the propping up of despots and dictators for the last 50.
altcognito 2 days ago 0 replies      
No, we'd insist that every wedding have a security drone to protect that wedding from other drones. When you ground drones, then only the terrorists have drones.
almost 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think it meant if an american drone strike hit an american wedding.
baddox 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't see why the author thinks we would ground our fleet. Police routinely and deliberately kill innocent people in the US, and we don't "ground our police force."
nraynaud 2 days ago 0 replies      
And just to make drive a little bit the point home: there are quite a few people suspected of terrorism in the US, like one French spy who blew the rainbow warrior, quite a few people from Via del Mar, US citizen who passed through ESMA in Bs As, probably a few assassins from the mossad etc. And if a pressure cooker is a weapon of mass destruction, I'm pretty sure a hellfire is, too.
rthomas6 2 days ago 1 reply      
I strongly agree with this article, but is this the kind of article that belongs on HN? Is this political article really part of some new trend or otherwise noteworthy, or is it just an editorial that most of us agree with?
pesenti 2 days ago 6 replies      
I don't understand why commenters don't actually discuss Obama's argument. He has the following options:

- Do nothing

- Use drones

- Use conventional weapons which, he argues, would have more collateral damage

- Put troops on the ground and be perceived as an invader.

So either you should argue that these are not the options or you should argue that he did not pick the right one.

thebiglebrewski 1 day ago 1 reply      
Ok, although I fundamentally tend to disagree with much of American military policy - if there were people on that bus who had ties to Al Qaeda and american intelligence knew this...and those people were to cause further destruction if they weren't killed...then I just don't know.

I kind of imagine this like all of those movies about drug cartels where these incredibly rich families are leading semi-normal lives and then during a normal family event like a wedding, are attacked by the rival drug cartel. It sucks and looks really bad, but if you got involved in something illegal like Al Qaeda or the drug trade on a massive scale...didn't you kind of bring it on yourself?

Either way, more evidence needs to be shown for these kinds of attacks and why they are necessary?

headgasket 2 days ago 0 replies      
we've always been at war with terror
ivanca 1 day ago 0 replies      
A weeding bus was destroyed in a terrorist attack and many innocent civilians were killed!

Wait... no, it was done by the USA military so it's not terrorism, totally cool, nothing to see, carry on.

jl6 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you are an American taxpayer, you can withdraw your support by giving away to charity all of your income above your personal tax allowance.
yodsanklai 1 day ago 1 reply      
Concretely, at our level, what could be done to prevent those things from happening? voting doesn't seem to be working (esp. for those of us who aren't american).

The problem is that our democracies are broken. Most people aren't well informed or unconcerned, and those who are don't have enough weight to make a difference.

Maybe we could find a way to make our democracies functioning better via public discussion on the internet.

We could imagine some kind of big political forum where logical reasoning would be enforced. Critical thinking would be encouraged. Rhetoric would be banned. Facts would be checked, politician would confront the public and each other on long and deep debates. Decisions would be taken collectively...

senthilnayagam 2 days ago 1 reply      
friends and family of the innocent killed won't be friendly with americans ever
jds375 2 days ago 0 replies      
So true. It's hard to justify the United States calling themselves the "police of the world" when their actions are so hypocritical sometimes.
kyleblarson 1 day ago 0 replies      
Can a Nobel peace prize be rescinded?
zacinbusiness 2 days ago 3 replies      
It's not about stopping terrorists, it's about sending a message.
Rogerh91 1 day ago 0 replies      
The day that we realize that all human beings are worthy of the same fundamental protections we take for granted, and act on this impulse, will be a great one indeed.
robobro 2 days ago 0 replies      
We might pull out of other countries, but we'd pull over our own for sure then. "Well, we can't keep other countries safe... so we'll have to keep our own."
rayiner 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Does anyone believe that, if not for our lethal drone program, the United States would've sent the Air Force or ground troops to fire on this wedding party?

The premise of the article is non-sensical. If we didn't have drones, would the airforce be bombing targets in Yemen? Undoubtedly.

squozzer 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't count on it. The US govt has enough media lapdogs who would shout down any calls to ground the fleet. I predict we won't have much longer to wait before the hypothesis is tested.
Codhisattva 1 day ago 0 replies      
peter303 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sure. I believe it was a wedding too. Thats what the other side always says to obtain sympathy.
josefresco 2 days ago 6 replies      
Weddings and funerals are actually targeted specifically because those events are two that even highly sought-after targets attend despite the dangers. Also, the subsequent funerals for those killed at the targeted wedding would then be targeted as well.

You can either agree or disagree, but if you feel the target is accurate based on your intelligence the venue doesn't really matter IMHO. Civilians will be killed no matter if it's a wedding, funeral or some other random day.

Would we have cared if bin Laden was attending a wedding?

walshemj 2 days ago 0 replies      
But America isn't a failed state with a UN task force in place and it is not common practice to take large amounts of weapons to a wedding.

This is a ASB (alien space bat) type of argument as used in many a sea-lion argument "obviously Hitler could have invaded the UK" (only if the ASB's destroyed the royal navy from orbit)

Geneva drive wikipedia.org
427 points by Arjuna  23 hours ago   69 comments top 22
Arjuna 21 hours ago 5 replies      
Original poster here. I thought you good people would find the Geneva drive interesting. It is so simple and elegant; similar in spirit to the elegance of a beautiful algorithm.

For further reading on the Geneva drive... don't miss the spherical Geneva drive design, illustrated in figure 9-3:


Although not Geneva drive related, if you want to combine your passion of horology with human spaceflight, you will truly enjoy "John Glenn's Heuer":


Also, thank you all for the great, related links!

fernly 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I met the Geneva drive when I was trained in servicing IBM 514 and 519 reproducing punches[1], in the mid-70s when these machines were on the way out. A 514 could reproduce a deck of punch cards[2] at 100 cards/minute. A punched card was fed from the "read hopper" and a blank one from the "punch hopper" and moved through the machine under steel feed rollers that were given intermittent rotation by a Geneva gear.

Driven by the Geneva, the feed rollers would move the cards the width of one of their 12 rows, then stop. On the read side, that row was under a gang of 80 little bronze wire brushes. On the punch side, the row was over a gang of 80 sharp little steel punches. When the cards stopped a pulse of current went through the brushes. If there was a hole in the card on the read side, current flowed on to one of 80 little solenoids. The solenoid would yank a bell-crank that pushed a punch through the blank card.

The punches withdrew, the Geneva swung its next lobe, and the cards advanced to the next row. Twelve rows per card, 100 c/m. It was quite noisy despite heavy sound insulation on the insides of the covers, a distinct brrruup, brrruup, brrruup overlaid with a general mechanical roar.


r4pha 22 hours ago 4 replies      
Such a nice hack. If you like this, you might be interested in "Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements", freely available on google books [0], which I found on HN a couple of months ago.

[0]: http://google.com/books?id=vOhIAAAAMAAJ

bri3d 21 hours ago 0 replies      
If you love both watch mechanisms and incredible feats of "traditional" machining, I highly recommend George Daniels' "Watchmaking." Not only is it a beautiful coffee table book but it takes the reader through modern (Swiss lever) mechanical watches all the way, from concepts to workshop design to machining to assembly. Even if you don't end up reading the whole thing the diagrams are wonderful to flip through over and over again.
Zikes 23 hours ago 3 replies      
While the article states that its name derives from an early use in mechanical watches, the modern mechanical watch is far more likely to use a deadbeat escapement for its intermittent motion. [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escapement

kops 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Thanks for the post. Watching that animation reminded what pleasure could be derived by just watching simple mechanism in action e.g. union joint, differential gear, rotary engine etc.
Nicholas_C 22 hours ago 6 replies      
Is there a drive that does the opposite? A drive that converts intermittent rotary motion to continuous rotation? I never studied this sort of thing in school, unfortunately.
xbryanx 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Stop by the Museum of Science in Boston to see a whole working wall of these sorts of mechanisms, or just check out the videos here:


The Geneva Movement is here:http://pie.exploratorium.edu/scrapbook/mechanisms/52.html

yread 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Friend of mine has used it in her creation


(bottom right)

makmanalp 22 hours ago 2 replies      
I have a question about these kinds of drives. Don't these depend on the fact that no one is moving and wiggling the whole mechanism? It seems to me like if the red gear with the slots were to move just a bit out of the way, it'd mess up the entire mechanism.
nationcrafting 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Thank you for posting this. You've just thrown me back 20 years in time, when I was a young film projectionist in a cinema. The projector we had used this mechanism to flash the images on the celluloid at 24fps instead of one continuous stream of light.

And, I just realised I'm not so young anymore...

franzb 21 hours ago 1 reply      
If you liked this, you should love this series about vintage (analog) fire control computers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8aH-M3PzM0 part 1; other parts in Youtube suggestions).
agumonkey 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm fascinated, borderline in love with gears, cams and engines, such as rotary http://web.mat.bham.ac.uk/C.J.Sangwin/howroundcom/roundness/... or others (I found fun ones on youtube but lost the urls).

If anyone knows reference or current research about their mathematical side I'd be glad to read it.

drpgq 6 hours ago 0 replies      
As a McMaster engineer, that was cool to see the Iron Ring clock on that page. I knew it existed, but forgot about it until I clicked.
joelanders 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Another cool piece of mechanics this reminded me of: the Master Lock Speed Dial (https://toool.nl/images/e/e5/The_New_Master_Lock_Combination...). I think there's an animation of the internals somewhere out there, too.
BrownBuffalo 22 hours ago 0 replies      
A link to other amazing Greek designs that often get overlooked - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_technology
kaolinite 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I would love to learn about clockwork - even if only using CAD (although actually getting to make something would be even better) - however have been unable to find any resources for learning about it. Does anyone know of any good guides for introducing horology/clockwork manufacturing to beginners and explaining how to get started?
FrankenPC 22 hours ago 0 replies      
On thing I really appreciate about the Geneva Drive is the built in acceleration ramp up/down of the pin engagement. Beautiful.
rcthompson 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Another interesting property is that unlike a regular pair of meshed gears, this can only transfer power in one direction. Swapping the input and output shafts won't work.
dhughes 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Check out "u.s navy vintage fire control computers (part 2)" on YouTube for similar devices.
kimonos 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice post! Thanks for sharing!
Robinhood: $0 commission stock brokerage robinhood.io
395 points by stevenj  3 days ago   152 comments top 50
euizxcowqasdf 3 days ago 1 reply      
Long time HN member, but as a courtesy to some of my clients, this needs to be on a throwaway account.

Free retail brokerage is something that needs to happen, and I applaud the effort. Brokerages provide a real value add for some services. Offering trading technology, market data, margin, dealing with block trades/portfolio trades, access to OTC, dealing with regulations/back office -- those are real services. Charging me to route an unleveraged, vanilla equity buy order to an exchange and pass the exchange's execution report back to me just because, by convention, exchanges don't want to deal with retail clients directly -- that's just introducing inefficiency and being a middle man.

That said, I don't like the fact that they have a "How We Make Money" section without more extensive disclosure. In my mind, either don't have one (I challenge you to find a single large brokerage that does), or have a more detailed explanation of how the modern brokerage business works. The truth, given the value proposition of free trading, is one that I'm happy to embrace.

I can't say with any certainty what they're actually doing; I can only speak to the industry on the whole, but most retail brokerages make money from:

1. Retail market making2. Netting across client order flow (probably not applicable here)3. Asymmetric exchange fees/rebates

The rules on all three are highly country/exchange dependent, but here's an abridged version.

1. Retail market making involves selling order flow to third parties who are able to execute it at a price better than anything that's currently showing on a lit exchange. I've included more details on this below the fold since a) it helps explain their estimated cost graphic, and b) it's one of the most hyped and misunderstood practices in finance, so people should at least decide how they feel about the practice based on correct information.

2. Netting comes about when you're dealing with lots of order flow at a bank/brokerage with multiple lines of business. Your clients might be, on average, and across some time horizon, buying and selling roughly the same amount of a security. You can fill your client at market price, taking the inventory down on your own book, or cross it immediately against an existing position. Most countries/exchanges still require you to 1) pay taxes and exchange fees and 2) print the trades on a market venue for disclosure/price discovery purposes, but there's still some benefit to be had as you can avoid market impact (moving the market when transacting a large order), crossing the spread (paying the differential between the buy price and the sell price), and "long sell" short restricted securities (many countries have regulations on short selling, some banning it all together, so having natural long inventory to sell against is valuable).

3. Asymmetric fees are the most straight forward. Many U.S equity exchanges charge a fee for taking liquidity (crossing the spread) and offer a rebate for posting it (submitting limit orders that don't cross the spread). By charging people this fee when their order does cross the spread and not giving them the rebate when it doesn't there's an easy differential to capture. Also, as noted in their fee structure, they're passing along all regulatory fees to the customer.

It's important to note that no matter what a brokerage does, the net effect is always a price that's better than or equal to what's showing on any public exchange, and what you as a client could get otherwise. In my mind at least, arguing that "I could have gotten a better price on my own if I had access to the same unfair advantages (read: technology/scale)" makes about as much sense as begrudging Google/AWS for buying hardware in bulk, spending billions on data centers that make more efficient use of power and bandwidth, and subsequently undercutting you in a web services platform pricing war. Anyone who wants to come along and usurp the throne is free to spend the money and hire the right people to do so. For me, I'm happy to let my broker engage in these activities if it gets me a better price than I could get for myself otherwise, after fees. I pay Google/AWS/Linode/Heroku to do things cheaper than I could practically speaking do them for myself.

Taking the above points into account, the feasibility of a free or nearly free brokerage (again, note the reg fees) is very real. I'm excited to see how this plays out.


Details on retail market making

U.S equities exchanges are highly fragmented compared to those in most other countries. It's common to have a single name trade on several lit venues, and when you count dark pools/other forms of liquidity, that number can easily approach twenty or thirty. As an investor you have a regulatory right to specify how your order gets routed. However, most people just want the best price (this sounds like a truism, but sometimes other considerations outweigh saving a millionth of a cent per share), and access to private dark pools isn't a god given right. There are thousands of pages of regulations regarding order routing, right down to what type of client account it is (is this pension fund money? is this an IRA account?) but the redux is -- you can never fill a client at a price worse than what's being offered on any public exchange.

Enter the retail market maker. For certain types of orders/accounts (back to the thousands of pages of regs...), if the client doesn't explicitly specify an exchange, the order can be routed to a retail market maker. Said market maker can fill the order at a price better than what the market has to offer, or immediately pass it along to the exchange. Surprisingly, they'll actually pay the brokerage for the privilege of doing so. Why would they do that? The name of your game as a market maker is netting. If you have a large, unbiased stream of order flow, statistically speaking you hope to see it balance out with market indices/other correlated equities (hedging) or itself (crossing) over a short time frame. Until it does so you have risk exposure, so from an economics/efficient market standpoint your job as a market maker is to provide liquidity and price risk premium.

These groups have access to good technology and are well integrated with all of the lit venues/dark pools. Their volumes are huge so they get exchange discounts and dark pool fees (as any individual trader who dealt in those volumes would). They also have good credit and large account balances, so their clearing/margin/and funding costs are lower. As such, the brokerage makes money (risk free), the retail market maker might or might not make money (depending on how good they are at their job, and the space is competitive enough that only the good ones are left), and the client gets a better fill price than they would have on the exchange. Ironically the only people hurt by this are the HFT guys who now have highly refined (read, directionally correct over a few second time span) orders hitting the exchange.

sheetjs 3 days ago 2 replies      
They appear to charge TAF and other regulatory fees (https://brokerage-static.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/robinhood/l...) -- and based on the fee numbers it looks like they don't have significant volume -- but the website shows "FEES $0" in the app screen. The fees may not seem to be a lot, but saying that fees are zero is a factually incorrect statement.

The fact that they don't list exchange fees seems to suggest that they may end up routing orders to a market maker and collect fees from that (the exchange fees are generally 30 cents per 100-share lots). If so, they should note on the website that they are making money by selling flow

JumpCrisscross 3 days ago 4 replies      
Ah, I think I figured it out. Un-informed retail flow is valuable. When I was an options market maker we paid a sweet premium for a particular retail brokerages flow and still made a killing on it. Robinhood.io would appeal to individuals who value smaller commissions over better execution, i.e. those with limited capital or investing experience. So that gives them one side of their revenues.

But thats not enough - the fixed and variable costs to providing even decent execution are staggering.

I think the second bit, margin lending and API access, might be them selling sheeps clothes to the wolves. As a sophisticated trader, it may be of value for me to mix my flow with that of unsophisticated retail traders. Its an interesting model and a careful balancing act. As a market maker I would keep a close eye on the information content of their trades and cut them off the moment they started looking too sensible. Compounding the problem would be that the informed traders will tend to dominate the un-informed, in terms of volume.

My alternate hypothesis is they're going to offer commission-free trading in a limited pool of symbols - you should be able to get sufficiently reliable retail flow for, say, AAPL to be able to internally cross most orders.

P.S. Not sure using FINRA affiliation to vouch for your security credentials is compliant

thatthatis 3 days ago 3 replies      
If you want a real brokerage that uses technology to keep costs down, check out Interactive Brokers. (http://interactivebrokers.com)

With IAB, a small player (5k+ in IRA or 10k+ in normal account) can trade on terms comparable to what a mid-sized fund can get.

When it comes to financial assets, I'd rather pay an established player $1 per trade than a fly-by-night operation $0.

murbard2 3 days ago 1 reply      
tl,dr; brokers don't charge commissions because it costs them anything to execute your trade, the fair price for a retail trade is actually less than $0. When you're paying e-trade $10, you're paying for their marketing.

For those wondering why they can offer $0 commission, it's because retail brokers actually make money on every trade you make. When you send your $10 through etrade or some other brokers, they don't actually send your order to the market, they sell it to getco or some other market maker.

The reasons are complex and linked to NMS regulation. In short, there are two types of traders, informed and uninformed. Market makers do not want to trade with informed traders, because they tend to lose money on those trades. However, reg NMS mandates that every one gets the same best bid and offer. So the spreads you'll see on the market reflect conditions where adverse selection is anticipated, which is why it's very profitable to trade at those prices against uninformed flow.

Now why don't brokers offer to pay rebates (less than $0) to customers? Well they're not legally allowed to do that. The SEC regulates the maximum rebate and it's not that big.

So why does Ameritrade for instance will charge you for trades? They don't execute anything after all... Well, they're just the middle men. What you're paying for is their advertising campaign that got you to open an account in the first place.

elmuchoprez 3 days ago 2 replies      
This looks really cool but I couldn't shake that feeling of, "If you're not paying for it, you're the product."

I didn't feel any better about that when I saw that Google was one of their major investors.

Still hoping for the best though.

jimbokun 3 days ago 0 replies      
This made me think about this old Saturday Night Live skit.


"All the time our customers ask us, how do we make money doing this? The answer is simple. Volume."

winstonx 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Robin Hood" seems to be a misnomer for this service.

The character Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. In contrast robinhood.io encourages every-day folks to compete against the elites in the stock market. Which explains why elite capitalists are funding the robinhood.io venture.

If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.

dpweb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Your fees is commission + the spread. Will be good if the executions are good, but one cent in spread on 1000 shares is $10 anyway.. Also $50 to close the acct.. what other unusual fees in there?
gfodor 3 days ago 0 replies      
What about options? People who do enough trades where costs start to matter are usually trading options. If you are just adding ETFs to your portfolio every month Schwab already has commission-free ETFs, etc.
PhantomGremlin 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think anybody has pointed out this fine print yet:

   $0 trade Commissions are currently only available   for Robinhood Financial self-directed brokerage   accounts via mobile devices
Note: only available for ... MOBILE DEVICES

More fine print: only available in CALIFORNIA

fsckin 3 days ago 2 replies      
Some context is appreciated... signup page is pretty sparse on the details. Sounds like they'll charge for API access and margin trading.


JimmyL 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you're Canadian and looking for an online discount brokerage, I've had good luck with VirtualBrokers (https://www.virtualbrokers.com/).

Their website is ugly and old-school, and their online interface - at least the basic one - feels like it's from ten years ago, but it's cheap (and has different pricing plans depending on how you want to trade).

rl3 3 days ago 0 replies      
As far as I can tell, this is amazing.

One could take trading systems previously designed to operate on large minimum balances of $50,000+ (so as to render the impact of transaction fees negligible) and run that same system on comparatively small account balances, perhaps even as low as $500.

In theory, the percentage returns in both cases should be the nearly same. Obviously a 25% annual return on $500 is a lot less exciting than a 25% return on $50,000. However, the fact it's now possible to even do this (again, as far as I can tell) is exciting.

As other comments have pointed out, trade execution quality may end up being merely average on this platform. But, if your trading system is operating on a sufficiently long time frame, then executions become far less important.

Concerning other comments regarding classification as a Pattern Day Trader and being required to maintain a minimum $25k balance, I believe it only applies to margin accounts. Obviously this means no short selling, but small loss, considering.

sytelus 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is another area rip for disruption. Does anyone knows why all these firms such as Fidelity get away with charging dollars on every trade? Is it because exchanges charge these feeds? But then I guess HFT people must be enjoying per trade fees of almost zero. Why they don't have to worry about per trade fees?

To me it looked like each trade is an electronic entry in market and should cost near-zero dollars givens the volume of all trades.

foobarqux 3 days ago 4 replies      
This is a bad business. Competing on cost against large incumbents without a defensible low cost position in a competitive industry without most target users paying high costs currently (interactivebrokers).
Tarang 3 days ago 3 replies      
This looks really cool. The first question that comes to mind from the .io tld is does it have API access?

There was a company called Zecco (zecco.com) which also did something similar with zero commissions (hence the name). Not sure if they're still active.

Update: looks like they (zecco) were bought by tradeking.

So from the FAQ Page it looks like they will make money from margin accounts (presumably swap/interest) and also by charging for API access.

wheaties 3 days ago 2 replies      
Ok so...

1) How will they afford SIPC coverage? (That is the insurance for your money in case they fail.)

2) Will they do any securities lending with purchased stock?

3) How much will they charge for selling a stock short?

4) Taxable reporting? Do they handle that or is that up to you, the investor?

chucknelson 3 days ago 1 reply      
Seems OK - but is anyone going to trust this? One idea is a low-amount "test" fund to keep around a year or so? Anyone have ideas on how to feel better about actually using this for larger sums of money?
djhworld 3 days ago 5 replies      
I recently got into the world of Bitcoin and was really impressed with the ease of acquiring bitcoins and selling them on.

I wish trading stocks was as easy and cheap as this. This is one of the reasons why I'm too nervous to buy invest in the stock market or just put some money in it for fun, the barriers to entry are bafflingly complex.

wtvanhest 3 days ago 0 replies      
I dont have the finra guidelines in front of me, but the statement that they work with finra and imply that doing so means they have solid security seems like a violation.
mhb 3 days ago 1 reply      
The enthusiasm for this suggests that there are many people trading frequently enough and making low enough returns that existing discount brokerage fees are significant. Are they doing HFT from home?
z0a 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems that this project emerged out of the Robinhood iOS application they were previously developing. I spoke to the founder of Robinhood a few months ago, and they looked quite centered around the idea of crowdsourced finance. It's pretty interesting that they've decided to change their product completely, and it seems like a smart decision in the long run.
kanzure 3 days ago 2 replies      
URSpider94 3 days ago 0 replies      
As others have mentioned, other brokerages have tried offering zero-cost or ultra-low-cost trades, only to slowly restrict the number of free trades available and eventually move to charging for all trades. Zecco was the most prominent.

I'll be interested to see if they can find a sustainable business model. I'm on the fence about whether I'm going to open an account. Even if they go under, there's basically zero risk to customer funds, but it is a hassle to do paperwork on another account.

crystaln 3 days ago 2 replies      
Really? $10 is too much for a trade? And anyone with any reasonable amount of capital is going to choose them based on this? I don't think so. I certainly wouldn't.

And their going to make money on margin accounts and API access? Anyone sophisticated enough to be trading on margin or paying for API access has enough funds to not care about $10 trading fees. Seriously - on a $10,000 trade, that's a tenth of a percent. You've got to be a hedge fund with millisecond precision to care about that.

memossy 3 days ago 0 replies      
From the FAQ it would appear that they are backed by Andreesen Horowitz and Google (Ventures?) amongst others so cash burn may be ok for a while.

Its spot on that High Frequency traders pay nothing beyond regulatory fees (or get money back) to trade as they provide (theoretically) market liquidity. Not sure you can extend that argument to individual investors unless they scale massively, but the technology for trading isn't terribly complex.

One wrinkle is in less liquid names, where their algorithms will likely lag those of larger brokers for a while.

shawndumas 3 days ago 1 reply      
Pedantic rabbit trail -- Robin hood reclaimed excessive taxes by force from a tax drunk government and gave it back to it's over taxed citizens.

People seem to forget this often.

nickthemagicman 3 days ago 1 reply      
Uh is this as cool as it looks?

No minimum balance, $0 commissions. Trading for the normal person.

The name Robin Hood is perfect.

Mikeb85 3 days ago 0 replies      
This doesn't have enough features to be valuable to me. I'll gladly pay up to 50 dollars a trade if the features are worth it.

My current broker offers me great execution, trading on a number of international markets, allows me to settle trades and hold a number of different currencies, and good research tools.

At the moment this service seems to be worth exactly what they charge for commissions...

rajacombinator 3 days ago 1 reply      
Ain't no such thing as a free lunch folks...
tslathrow 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can guarantee that they will lose to Interactive Brokers on price. IB has structural cost advantages in internal matching and zero customer service (possible given the more advanced user base). It's also very very stupid for a retail investor to chose a broker based on fees.

A 10-25bp difference in execution on a $10k+ trade easily covers any commission.

znowi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Robin Hood, $0 fees, pompous venture names - there must be a catch somewhere :) I'm positive HN will find out.
asdfprou 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this landing page design is great. First glance shows:

- their tagline and what they do "$0 commission stock brokerage"

- why I should sign up "stop paying $10 for every trade"

- clear call to action "get early access"

- giant iPhone graphic gets cutoff and leads you to scroll down

franksmule 3 days ago 0 replies      
Looks nice. Glad my data is secured by fingerprints, round green thing and square green things.
rdl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd be more worried about quality of execution than $0-10 commission, for reasonably sized (non single share) trades.
dschiptsov 3 days ago 0 replies      
..that's how we will build our user base and data-sets for ML algorithms and perform beta/stress testing, and, of course, would never announce any fees, we promise.
barumrho 3 days ago 0 replies      
Would this be restricted to American investors only?
quant111 3 days ago 0 replies      
$0 commission sounds surely alluring, but what about exchange fees? For some securities, exchange fees are greater than broker commissions.
marincounty 3 days ago 0 replies      
I just signed up, and I hope it's not just a new way of getting Emails? It seems to good to be true?
fygwtclub 2 days ago 0 replies      
The names Awesome. I am LHW..(Laughing in a Healthy Way)

Wish you Super Duper Success :)

seiji 3 days ago 1 reply      
https://www.loyal3.com kinda does the same thing and it's live now. It works with the companies to provide fee-free stock for longish term buy-in. Plus, you don't have to be an institution to grab some IPO fluff. Plus, for non-recurring purchases you can fund with a credit card.

(You can't execute a trade at any given time during the day. You put in "Buy $100 worth of AAPL" and they execute it at the end of the day. Same with sell orders.)

tomasien 3 days ago 0 replies      
No fees baby - it's the future, and it's coming in 2014 to payments as well.
d0m 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very sweet homepage by the way.
salient 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this US only?
userbinator 3 days ago 0 replies      
I read the title as "$0 commision block storage"...
wudf 3 days ago 0 replies      
Well, they got my email address.
djrconcepts 3 days ago 0 replies      
hoping this is not too good to be true.
dharma1 2 days ago 0 replies      
love the design
jaksmit 3 days ago 0 replies      
looks awesome. an area ripe for disruption.
Tydlig Calculator Reimagined for iPad and iPhone tydligapp.com
391 points by Istof  3 days ago   146 comments top 35
smikhanov 3 days ago 4 replies      
Great to see more people attacking the underserved math app segment on the iOS.

I'm the author of Scalar (http://scalarapp.com), another calculator replacement for iPhone / iPad. Just tested both versions of Tydlig very heavily, looks like the author ran into lots of the similar math/UI problems as I did when I was working on my app. :) Some approaches he has chosen look similar, some are unique.

Great work, good luck!

jckt 3 days ago 7 replies      
Graphing functionality on a phone reminds me of an old TI calculator. I really don't know why recent OSes (be it on PC, smartphone, tablet) always came with such feeble calculators. It's not like TI calculators are difficult to use. Sure if all you want is add/min/mul/div functionality the TI is essentially a traditional calculator, and then behind that you've got all these nifty graphing utilities. It's not like a graphing calculator app is going to be that difficult to program, or going to be large in size. But no, in 2013, vanilla OS installations are stuck with a calculator app that has less features than that of a computer a few million times less powerful.

(Now I feel bad; bitching and complaining is against the Open Source Spirit).

Edit: I do recall that OSX comes with something similar, except that not many people actually know of it (as far as I can tell, from my friends with OSX).

csmuk 3 days ago 12 replies      
No RPN. Neckbeard status confirmed.

Calculators are still an unsolved problem for me on glass devices to the point I still religiously carry around an HP50G even though its 6x the size of my phone. Also from some bad experiences, it appears that some "app" calculators are also seriously badly implemented. Even basic trig ops can return stupid values at extremes which makes them untrustworthy. Plus none are reasonably programmable.

My use cases are base conversions, simple CAS stuff, basic engineering calculations, unit conversions, financial (TVM etc) and generic math. I also canned a lot of knowledge in RPL programs over the years from fuel calculations to diagnostic tools and dice rollers etc.

Please can someone solve all these problems (without doing half arsed HP calc emulation).

stormbrew 3 days ago 0 replies      
This really seems much more like a freeform spreadsheet than a calculator to me. Which is also a cool idea, obviously, but I find it interesting no one else has made the same observation.
zarify 3 days ago 2 replies      
I basically stopped using "calculators" when Soulver and more recently Calca came out. Much easier to use and a lot more flexible.

That said the graphing in this looks quite nice.

dirtyaura 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great work. A few thoughts from the initial experience:

I like the linked numbers design. As it reminded me of Bret Victor's work, I was expecting scrubbing to work directly with numbers, which caused occasionally a bit of havoc, but I think you did a right choice of putting linking as the main action - touch design is hard.

The free-form infinite layout gives a mindmap vibe: it's potentially great when you are trying to understand pieces of a problem that you need. The downside is that the canvas becomes a bit of mess quickly.

The other alternative could be a Mathematica style, free-form document, with more restricted flow of equations (and text).

Because the organization becomes a bit of problem, undo is a must and solves a bunch of other problems. I'd implement area selection of equations (initiate with long tap?) to quickly move things around.

Y-axis could auto adjust by default or quick slider scrubbing should work directly for axis max-min values.

You probably want a simple document model as this is something between calculator and full featured computation software. Maybe just save every canvas when user clears/starts new one

All in all, great work!

ricardobeat 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you're mainly interested in having all calculation steps visible and 'linked', there is also a great app called Digits (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/digits-calculator-for-ipad/i...) which is at $0.99 right now.
diziet 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is great, though there are 15,230 calculator apps on iPhone alone. Tydlig ranks as #443 in the US for 'calculator', quite a tough fight!
pfisch 3 days ago 1 reply      
This looks much worse than symcalc.

SymCalc has pretty much all the functionality of a TI-89 including solving calculus and algebraic equations.

Tydlig looks like it has a nice ui but it doesn't even seem to support variables....

lajospajtek 3 days ago 1 reply      
Good to see that Bret Victor's ideas outlined in "Inventing on Principle" start taking some foothold.
cormullion 3 days ago 1 reply      
I love this app, and it's interesting to see the innovation in this familiar space. Oovium for iPad is a great example of fresh thinking. And coming soon, apparently, is the Wolfram Calculator for iPad, featuring user-programmable functions:


wsr 3 days ago 0 replies      
As a Matlab enthusiast, this is probably the coolest thing I've seen in years.

Good job guys, I have high hope for this in the future!

edoloughlin 3 days ago 1 reply      
Tydlig supports external Bluetooth keyboards or numpads for really quick entry

It's been a while since i did any ios development and this was never a requirement for me. Can someone explain why an external keyboard is something that had to be explicitly supported at an individual app level? Surely this should be an OS-level thing?

mwc 3 days ago 0 replies      
The linked numbers are brilliant. Lacking the "in my head" math skills I should probably have, I regularly whip out Excel to solve the kind of use cases you can imagine from the linked numbers in the video.
airtonix 3 days ago 1 reply      
And now for the majority market share, the android version?
ra3 3 days ago 4 replies      
Looks great. Just needs a new name. Tydlig?
jweir 2 days ago 0 replies      
So I bought it

Here are my thoughts as I use it (I will add to this comment. Hopefully the kids won't wake up soon.)

Wish there was an UNDO. I just moved a number and didn't want too. Shake to UNDO?

Pinch to zoom in and out. I'm using this on an iPhone.

Can I save a canvas? It doesn't look like, but maybe I'm missing it.

protomyth 2 days ago 0 replies      
This looks very nice, and I'll probably buy it and Scalar this week, but it did get me to wondering. It would be interesting to see how an APL app would fair these days.
songgao 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice work! Would be nice to have more tips on graphing. I spent 10 minutes and still can't figure out how to do graphs. The video on website is pretty helpful though.
bukka 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was actually working on something really similar. (http://i.imgur.com/w4F8ms4.gif)

It really is true that at any moment there is probably 4 other teams working on a similar idea as you are.

Well I will not give up.Good luck to you too!

notpg 3 days ago 1 reply      
For the iphone and ipad? You mean for direct interface devices? (is there any reason this couldn't be applied to non idevices?)
daturkel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just a heads up, the inverse hyperbolic trig functions are arsinh, arcosh, and artanh. That's "ar" and not "arc" which stands for area.
karlshea 3 days ago 0 replies      
Seems sort of like a slicker Soulver, I'm going to give it a shot.
oliwary 3 days ago 1 reply      
I love it! Great design and should be very flexible to create simple functions through linked numbers.

Is it really a good idea to allow 96 + 15% though (at 0:45)? Might cause some problems for people learning maths, as it won't work on normal calculators and doesn't really make it obvious what percentages actually are.

acqq 2 days ago 0 replies      
Which number system does it use? 8-byte doubles or its own library? What are the ranges? On which libraries is it based? Does it have complex numbers?
cdcarter 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks great, for some uses, but I know myself (and a lot of my coworkers) would much prefer a beautiful iPhone calculator that behaves more like a 10-key/adding machine than an iPython notebook.
jimmytidey 3 days ago 0 replies      
Can we have something other than jingly guitar music for tech videos?
sifarat 2 days ago 0 replies      
Handsdown it has pretty good ui. But i regret buying it, because i can't calculate % seriously why isn't on the front. I have to press folder button to find it.

additionally, I am baffled why do i have to press = to find end result, it should automatically calculate as i enter figure just like my $3 citizen calculator does.

zschallz 3 days ago 1 reply      
Very cool. Unfortunately, I think the price point is a bit too high (at least for me).
userbinator 3 days ago 3 replies      
This looks closer to Mathematica/Maple/MATLAB than a basic calculator, although still nowhere near the power of those.

Of course 1/0 should be +Infinity, not ?...

(Disclaimer: I have a Mathematica console always open on my desktop, and regularly use it for all kinds of calculations.)

kangax 2 days ago 0 replies      
It would be fun to build this as a webapp in JS + canvas/SVG.
snambi 3 days ago 0 replies      
excellent new idea.
pranayairan 3 days ago 0 replies      
anilshanbhag 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would just a ipython console Gone is the age of calculator
We Need to Talk About TED bratton.info
380 points by TimSAstro  1 day ago   173 comments top 56
simonsarris 1 day ago 4 replies      
If you haven't seen The Onion's[1] Onion Talks and want a good satirical criticism of TED, I highly recommend them:


(There are more if you want to find them, I didn't want to pollute commentspace with too many links)

[1] The Onion is a satire newspaper, one of the first newspapers to heavily adopt an online format. They just killed their print edition for good last year.

andr 1 day ago 5 replies      
Hi, organizer of one of Europe's largest TEDx events here.

First of all, as others mentioned, TEDx events are independently organized. There are over 3000 of them in the world and obviously quality varies greatly. Getting a TEDx license is pretty trivial and there is no real oversight on quality. Yet, there are some great videos out there.

Second, nobody pretends TED is an academic conference. I see a TED talk as the blurb on the back cover of a book. The speaker's job is to pique your interest in a topic during that 18 minutes. Pique it enough that you'll go on and research the topic in greater detail. Nobody expects to be a master in anything after sitting in a chair for 18 minutes. But if you've never thought about a problem, 18 minutes may push you to do it. And it's true some talks are mostly inspirational, with little informative value - we usually put a couple in the lineup as a breather.

Third, TED is about cross-pollination of ideas. You hear an idea in neuroscience and it inspires you to do something in CS. Happens all the time. You will not act on 99% of the information you learn (be it in news, books, internet, HN) anyways, but it does expand your horizons.

Lastly, TED's biggest value is in developing countries. If you live in NYC or SF, there are dozens of conferences you can attend every week. So the marginal benefit of going to a TED event is little. However, TED as a brand is really well known in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe (like mine), inhabited by few, if any, world class innovators. In those countries, people do find TED really inspirational and often the local TEDx events are one of the very few decent conferences you can attend.

JonnieCache 1 day ago 3 replies      
There was a time when TED talks were mostly academics squeezing their usual hour long presentation into 20 minutes by simply talking really really fast. Those were fun.

After the first couple of ones that were public and on the internet, the usual self-promoting psychobabble-spouting androids moved in and now it's entirely worthless. Someone spins 30 seconds worth of insight out for half an hour, and you still somehow feel stupider when you've finished watching it.

In one of the recent Gladwell threads, someone on here coined the phrase "insight porn". TED is basically insight dogging.

EDIT: to be fair, if TED is insight dogging, this place is a sticky floored insight dungeon in some godforsaken soho basement...

freyr 19 hours ago 1 reply      
When I watch a TED talk, I feel good for a moment. If I watch a few more, I begin to feel a little uneasy, and eventually nauseous. It's like eating sugar.

There's a repetition, a shallowness, a formulaic manipulation to evoke an emotional response, a smugness to the presenters, a greater smugness to the privileged attendees sitting there in the audience, grinning vacantly.

They trot an African kid out on stage who built something out of recycled parts, and everybody instantly connects to him, understands the plights of his existence, and shares in the celebration of his achievement. Then they drive back in their expensive cars to their expensive houses in the privileged enclaves of Los Angeles or San Francisco or wherever. They did their part.

I'm glad somebody's discussing it, but this talk is in many ways yet another TED talk. Identify a complex problem that can't possibly be tackled within the confines of the TED format; say non-controversial things as if they were controversial; name drop big issues (the negative aspects of drone warfare, consumer capitalism, NSA spying); provide a rushed, hand-wavey solution without an implementation; but leave the audience feeling like the veil has finally been lifted on this issue, and now they're on the precipice of positive change.

Futurebot 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Excellent post which has a few points I'd like to add to:

1) "We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century. The future on offer is one in which everything changes, so long as everything stays the same. We'll have Google Glass, but still also business casual."

I recently wrote a post about this phenomenon, which I'll share here: http://www.opir-music.com/blog/culture/is-everyone-naked-in-..., but the basic idea is summed up by Fran Leibowitz: "I have a number of theories but one theory is that we live in the era of such innovation in technology, Lewbowitz said. Its almost like we cant do two things at once. If science or technology is going to be racing ahead, then the society is stuck. Also, I think its a way for people of my age to stay in the center of things." That itself, of course, is a just-so story. What's important here is the observation. I'd also argue that we've enabled something never before possible to happen, which keeps certain things "in the past" (like music): mass intergenerational cultural transfer. What keeps the Beatles on top of music lists of people of all ages? What causes old songs to suddenly pop up as hits, decades after their release because of a YouTube video? It's this effect which seems to cause a large chunk of popular culture firmly set in past eras. We move things at the margin, yes, and yes, we have always borrowed from the past. However, it has never before been so easy for so many to listen and look at the things past generations have created and at such scale. Since "known cultural entities" often serve mainly as a kind of touchpoint between different people, the utility of these well-known icons in the social sphere is very valuable. You can "connect" with others across generations very easily. This isn't good or bad, but I think aptly describes a very different cultural landscape than ones in the past.

2) "Its easy to get enthusiastic about design because, like talking about the future, it is more polite than referring to white elephants in the room.."

This is the sad realization that many (ex-)activists, technologists, and other ardent idealists often come to. It's easier to deal in the uncontroversial, the platitude-ridden, and the simplistic for a number of reasons. First, exclusion - if you add in the depth, the complexity, the nuance, the difficulty - you risk alienating those that are not knowledgeable enough to contribute. Sure, some are eager to learn, and others are eager to teach, but this means lots of time spent on getting people to a baseline rather than progressing. The second thing is plain conflict - often by nominal (and erstwhile) allies. The narcissism of small differences, loudmouths with a chip on their shoulder, and plain old confused angry people serve to stoke the fires of internecine warfare. I've seen it over and over in technology circles (where it can be ugly), and also in social justice "communities" (which are sometimes a nightmarescape of identity politics-based hatred) that I've been a part of. The experienced and the jaded look at this and either exit, or stick to the milquetoast. Neither helps progress anything.

3) "The most recent centuries have seen extraordinary accomplishments in improving quality of life. The paradox is that the system we have now --whatever you want to call it-- is in the short term what makes the amazing new technologies possible, but in the long run it is also what suppresses their full flowering. Another economic architecture is prerequisite."

Although usually applied to culture, I think the idea posited by Paul Treanor applies here as well:

"What already sells well, becomes more marketable. This is a general characteristic of all liberal social structures, not just the market. Repeated transactions and interactions, on the basis of the outcome of previous transactions and interactions, have a centering effect. Deviations from the norm are 'punished' by such regimes, and innovation is by definition a deviation from the existing norm."

That same "centering" effect on culture seems like it may also affect non-cultural entities. What drives things forward may also drive them back - a forced regression to the mean.

tfgg 1 day ago 1 reply      
I agreed with a lot of what the article said , but then the author seems to go full-TED-bullshit-buzzword towards the end with little evidence or citation and falls into the pseudo-intellectual knowledge-lite trap that he's criticising:

> Part of my work explores deep technocultural shifts, from post-humanism to the post-anthropocene, but TEDs version has too much faith in technology, and not nearly enough commitment to technology. It is placebo technoradicalism, toying with risk so as to re-affirm the comfortable.

> The most recent centuries have seen extraordinary accomplishments in improving quality of life. The paradox is that the system we have now --whatever you want to call it-- is in the short term what makes the amazing new technologies possible, but in the long run it is also what suppresses their full flowering. Another economic architecture is prerequisite.

> The potential for these technologies are both wonderful and horrifying at the same time, and to make them serve good futures, design as "innovation just isnt a strong enough idea by itself. We need to talk more about design as immunization, actively preventing certain potential innovations that we do not want from happening.

po 1 day ago 3 replies      
I submit that Astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilizational disaster.

In other news, Zuckerberg and others launch a new $3 million Breakthrough Prize stating, "The Breakthrough Prize is our effort to put the spotlight on these amazing heroes. Their work in physics and genetics, cosmology, neurology and mathematics will change lives for generations and we are excited to celebrate them"


So... yeah we're already there in some sense for better or worse.

stiff 1 day ago 0 replies      
If TED isn't successful, how then would success look like for a conference of this kind? I don't think any conference at all is by itself a serious engine of innovation, and the more academic ones are much worse than TED talks, in my experience during academic conferences everyone pretty much expects up front to not understand anything at all from 90% of the talks, at least a half of the people will actively do something else than listening to the speaker, playing with their laptops and stuff, and pretty much the core motivation for everyone is A) the points for getting published in the conference proceedings and B) the party in the evening where one can finally get drunk and have some fun. The only chance of really learning something is if you know some work a bit upfront, or you know the people involved, and then researching it afterwards, so at best you get a little spark and you have to put in a ton of work to make something out of it. If you aren't consistently interested in some small range of topics you get nothing at all from it.

In other words, it seems we don't really know how to make innovation happen at wish. It works better in the universities in the undergraduate studies, where over months people genuinely interested in same intellectual pursuits have a chance to meet and get to know each other thanks to the wide range of classes and activities and people involved. They also get to share a common background, so they can understand each others work and their potential relations, a lot of important scientific work happened in "schools" which started with some figure great either at science and/or at organizing science, and which spanned several generations. So it's a slow process, it happens over years and takes sustained dedication of a large group of people, how would someone expect to contribute to this significantly via a one day event? Conferences are mainly social events in my view, and there is nothing wrong with that.

And then there is the general question how much influence do so-called "intellectuals" have in the world, as compared to the Napoleons and Alexanders.

stdbrouw 1 day ago 3 replies      
There's some good points in the piece, but I can't help but think it's funny how everyone used to love TED... until "everyone" became a really big group and overnight TED became uncool and pass and insight porn. There's a fair bit of posturing and snobbishness going on here, too.
gilgoomesh 1 day ago 4 replies      
You should clarify that this is a TEDx conference (the 'x' is the important part). It's not really "TED" in the truest sense and is just a TED-like conference hosted by a third-party.


ignostic 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Okay, so basically TED should be another dry facts-only scientific conference? Guess what, we already have plenty of those. The speakers will present facts and be judged based on the facts rather than on their presentation skills or ability to inspire. We have a lot of them and they work well - but the general public isn't interested.

There's a place in our culture for real science that is easy to understand, presented by people who know how to present. We need something non-scholarly to keep people interested in science and technology.

That said, we've had a lot of TED talks (especially at TEDx) that are simply sales pitches, fantasy, or completely false. There's a problem here that needs to be fixed. Keep the accessibility and the inspiration, but lose the factual errors and lack of fact by mandating vetting by qualified actual experts.

sethbannon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've always consumed TED talks much in the same way I might a movie trailer. The talks are normally just enough to give me an idea of whether I want to dig in deeper, but never really satisfying in themselves. If you look at TED this way, I see nothing abhorrent about it.
cjoh 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's easy to look at this as a critique of TED, and it is, but what's interesting here is that this is a TED Talk. He was invited by TedxSD to talk about the problems of Ted. And he delivered those problems in the language and culture of TED. And whether you agree with him or not, I think it's commendable that he was invited by the TED organizers to give this talk, and that he gave it.
brown9-2 1 day ago 0 replies      
The New Yorker did a great profile on TED last year and it was hard to come away from the article without feeling like they were making a similar critique: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/07/09/120709fa_fact_...
my3681 1 day ago 3 replies      
We can say what we will about TED Talks, but it is a hell of a lot better for humanity than Jersey Shore or much of the useless crap on television. Like anything, given enough time, TED will have to fight off self promotion and the recycling of ideas to remain pure and relevant, but I am confident that the fight is worth fighting.

I have a friend who teaches middle school Biology, and his students (in his words) "light up" whenever they watch a great TED talk about the similarities between chickens and dinosaurs or the way a gecko can swim through the air while falling based on something way up it's evolutionary tree. I think science-driven TED talks fill a great purpose in inspiring people that may not (yet) be scientifically minded.

Perhaps it isn't as bad as Bratton believes it is, because I can still show a good TED talk to my non-techy mother or father and blow their minds. My father is a deep thinker, but just doesn't come across deep or novel ideas very often in daily life. He is a football coach, so he just doesn't get a lot of that between dealing with kid problems and trying to win. TED has been wonderful for delivering him a nice, distilled idea to think about.

If nothing else, TED gives the general populace a starting point for the state of high-level research and a chance to think about something other than their mortgage or drama on twitter. And it does so in a manner that can be highly entertaining. It is sadly surprising how many people live a whole day, a whole month or a whole year without being inspired by anything at all. Anything that can inspire the public positively should be protected, refined and celebrated.

melling 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is exactly how I feel about HN:

"So much potential and enthusiasm, and so little actual change. Are the ideas wrong? Or is the idea about what ideas can do all by themselves wrong?"

I believe that the world is better with both TED and HN, but they really could be so much better. How to take them to the next level?

michaelochurch 1 day ago 4 replies      
I'd go further than "middlebrow megachurch infotainment". I'd say, "high-IQ house-slaves".

I'm sure this isn't the intention of TED, but the purpose of this upper-middle-class boosterism seems to be deeply conservative in nature. It re-emerges every time there's enough wealth to let the 4.9% (as opposed to the 95% doomed to stagnation and the 0.1% taking everything) gain a little make-believe ground (that's chewed up by rising house prices, increasing income insecurity especially late in one's career, and education costs). "You should be proud; you get to clean the upstairs bathroom instead of working in the fields."

It's not TED's fault. The format of an 18-minute talk is a good one for a large number of purposes. The problem is that any time rich people and smart people get together, the smart people are always very willing (as a group; there are exceptions) to become the proud little house slaves just to enjoy that fleeting sense of having arrived due to the phony proximity to the true owners of this world who are running it into the ground. So most of them soften up and start spouting "status-quo-plus-plus" as soon as a few people in the true upper class start tossing them small favors. You see a lot of this in the "tech" world, especially in the VC-funded incarnation of the Valley. It's sad. We were supposed to be different.

Thanks to PG's rankban (I say things he dislikes, so my comments get a personal penalty in placement) this comment will probably be in the middle-bottom (if not absolute bottom) of the page no matter how much you upvote it.

Anyway, there it is.

kaiwen1 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think he (and others here) are being too hard on TED. TED is not a forum for research or a focused campaign for change. It's a forum for 15 min talks. It's an educated sort of entertainment where some interesting ideas get shared. The author claims to have something better in mind. I hope he builds it. I'll sign up. Until then, when I want to unwind, I'll watch a little TED instead of Breaking Bad.
DigitalJack 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't watch very many Ted talks because the topics usually don't interest me. But the ones I do watch are the show and tell kind. The "I did something cool, check it out."

So I have no idea what the author is talking about.

nl 1 day ago 0 replies      
80% of everything is crap.

And yet the original 2007 Gapminder talk[1] still surprised and educates people today

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w

mxfh 1 day ago 1 reply      
Reggie Watts pretty much said it all back in 2012.


Hard to imagine how anyone could follow up after this.

DanielBMarkham 1 day ago 2 replies      
TED is the OMNI magazine of the 2010s: light, fluffy, shiny, sexy. Smile and nod; there's nothing of major important entering your mind today, except perhaps groupthink.

It's a social event. Look at all the cool people! I want to be one too!

Nothing wrong with that. Just important to recognize it for what it is. I love watching some of those talks.

And yes, for a lot of folks that confuse tools and research with presentation skills, they're going to walk away with heads full of buzzword technobabble. But guess what? These folks weren't hitting on much to begin with. They've always just wanted to skim the surface and hang out with the smart kids. That's why these things have always been so popular.

EDIT: There is one thing that is very interesting that has developed: the elimination of the middle-man between science and populist bullshit. Used to be scientists were just concerned what what is, not what could be or what we should do about stuff. Not any more. Now scientists, as this author points out, are supposed to be entertainers. Everybody's their own little self-promotion machine. Extra points to figure out if this is good for science or not (it isn't).

binocarlos 1 day ago 1 reply      
TED is brilliant - I've sat there many times and said 'wow' after the talk. I've also worked for a lot of councils and education authorities in the UK and sat in on some evangelical 'how to improve kids education' meetings.

Both exhibit the same moment of 'insight' that people crave. It's like the 'idea' alone is the objective and now everyone can go home.

We lack a mobilizing 'do' component in this flow of peoples attention - what that is I dunno - a TedDone conference? In councils it was 'right - so, everyone back to work'.

sz4kerto 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't comment below the video, so I do it here: Thank you, Benjamin Bratton.
new299 1 day ago 0 replies      
2070 Paradigm shift sums up Ted pretty well:


knowuh 1 day ago 0 replies      
Complaining that a 5 minute TED talk isn't "meaningful" is like complaining that popcorn isn't nutritious. This isn't worth writing about; you just have the wrong expectations.

As for " middlebrow megachurch infotainment." just trolling for eyeballs.

waylandsmithers 1 day ago 1 reply      
A boss of mine used to talk about how organizations need both axe sharpeners (people to think about and refine ideas) and wood choppers (people to bring those ideas to life and "do the work"). Problem is, for things to get done, the wood choppers need to far exceed the axe sharpeners, and everyone wants to be an axe sharpener.

As we often discuss when it comes to (software and technology) patents, there are oceans separating conceiving an idea and turning that idea into something real.

chris_wot 1 day ago 0 replies      
So if he inspires people to abandon TED talks because TED talks don't work, all through a TED talk, then it appears that TED has worked.
xixi77 16 hours ago 0 replies      
This looks like a perfect example of what is wrong with TED these days (mostly TEDx, but it's really the original's fault for allowing TEDx's to dilute the brand pretty much to zero) -- that is, a vacuous rant with zero substance.

What do we see? We see lot of words, a lot of conclusions with no logical basis. Example: "The most recent centuries have seen extraordinary accomplishments in improving quality of life. The paradox is that the system we have now --whatever you want to call it-- is in the short term what makes the amazing new technologies possible, but in the long run it is also what suppresses their full flowering. Another economic architecture is prerequisite." -- what does he mean by "full flowering"? How does the current system suppress it? What does this have to do with economic architecture? -- of course there are no answers. Such speeches are never designed to produce anything of value, just to please people who already think in vaguely similar ways.

diydsp 1 day ago 0 replies      
This was online as of an hour ago, but I had to run an errand and it's now down the memory hole! If anyone has a mirror, please post.

TED talks should be taken at face value. They don't necessarily represent the greatest thing in the world. People attach that themselves and should be blamed themselves. We ought to be grateful for the forum. Yes, it's not perfect and 80% is crap, but it doesn't preclude anyone else from communicating in other forums, either!

memracom 22 hours ago 0 replies      
TED talks are marketing.There is no real link between most of these talks so the fact that it is a TED talk rather than just a presentation, is basically meaningless. TED is just a brand that people licence in order to attract an audience. Over time, with no quality control on the talks other than charisma, it is not surprising that TED attracts all manner of charlatans, liars and conmen.

It is a shame really, because some people who present at TED have really useful and important things to say. Perhaps we will see a startup enter the space to comp.ete with TED and as part of their business model they will checkout the speakers and the content of their talks, only approving the ones that are not charlatans. Seems to me that this is the key problem to be solved, not just creating another brand umbrella for public lectures.

peterwwillis 1 day ago 0 replies      
TED conferences are basically an organized unconference of incredibly long lightning talks. Of course they don't have any value, it's just a bunch of random schmucks ranting about something they're passionate about in a way that gets youtube views. But there's nothing wrong with that.
pulmo 1 day ago 0 replies      
TED sometimes seems to me like a collection of sales pitches for books that take four to ten scientific papers about a topic and go on and on ... and on about it. I liked this kind of book but now I give up on them after one or two chapters and read about the main ideas on Wikipedia.

But ... there is a lot of good stuff on TED too like Bruce Schneier's talks.

mgr86 1 day ago 1 reply      
Eddie Huang went on about his bad experience with TED on the Joe Rogan podcast earlier this year => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FNenJN4484
VLM 1 day ago 0 replies      
"I submit that Astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilizational disaster."

Well, OK then, there exists one solution in the problem space the author doesn't like. How bout listing one that might actually work? Go look at astrobites and figure out a way to turn that into AV speeches.

Some rich dude should host a con of astrobites level presentations.

grimaceindex 1 day ago 0 replies      
A TED talk that complains about TED talks and even uses the tidy acronym TED within the talk? Thou hypocrite! First cast out the beam from thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote from thy brother's eye.
deeteecee 19 hours ago 0 replies      
i can't say i understood what he was talking about after the "What is TED?" part but I understand that he thinks you can't take deep, complex analysis into these subjects and easily break it down into simple solutions and explain it to the world. But.. I don't see anything wrong with that. TED is just spreading more insightful ideas out there. If it's not helping the audience, then yeah, maybe there needs to be a better mechanism for organizing their talks or something, I don't know.

The only thing that scared me about TED is Eddie Huang's experience in this video about how enforcing they are in spreading their ideas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hwLMBdnbXk . Which does kind of make me see, oh obviously there's something manipulative about their schemes in some way.

But anyways, I haven't looked into TED that much other than watching a few of their videos and reading their about page.

legendben 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Hello people, for those who bash TED, what have YOU produced for the betterment of human understanding of ourselves and the world around us? At least TED inspires people to think about things in new ways no matter how popularist it has become. Maybe instead of bashing TED, talk about how you would make it better if you were to run it AND MAKE IT HAPPEN!
dm2 1 day ago 0 replies      
There are definitely still great talks being produced. There are a lot of not so great ones, but maybe the solution to that would be better website that sorts and allows for ratings of TED videos. Kind of like a porn website but with only TED videos.

One that inspired me recently: "How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries - Adam Savage" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UFGu2M2gM

Benferhat 1 day ago 0 replies      
> This Event Has Been Deleted

mirror, please?

pistle 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Thank goodness TED will now eat itself. They always struck me as the bad part of the west coast ethos. Self-fellating bullshit that will go nowhere. If we ever see the dystopian future of a detached gown-wearing overclass, it will come from SoCal.
mikkohypponen 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm a TED Speaker. I'd like to think many of you would get a chuckle out of my talk from 2011: http://on.ted.com/Hypponen
rwissmann 1 day ago 0 replies      
Now that is the kind of article I come to HN for.
misener 1 day ago 1 reply      
According to the Livestream embed, "This Event Has Been Deleted"
runewell 22 hours ago 0 replies      
People like TED. TED is sooooo OVER.- Hipster Professor


sandersaar 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Content has been removed"
api 22 hours ago 0 replies      
This guy hit the ball into orbit, and he's not just talking about TED. He's talking about the entire "scene."

-- From the article:

T and Technology

T - E - D. Ill go through them each quickly.

So first Technology...

We hear that not only is change accelerating but that the pace of change is accelerating as well.While this is true of computational carrying-capacity at a planetary level, at the same time --and in fact the two are connected-- we are also in a moment of cultural de-acceleration.

We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century. The future on offer is one in which everything changes, so long as everything stays the same. We'll have Google Glass, but still also business casual.

This timidity is our path to the future? No, this is incredibly conservative, and there is no reason to think that more Gigaflops will inoculate us.

Because, if a problem is in fact endemic to a system, then the exponential effects of Moores Law also serve to amplify whats broken. It is more computation along the wrong curve, and I don't it is necessarily a triumph of reason.

Part of my work explores deep technocultural shifts, from post-humanism to the post-anthropocene, but TEDs version has too much faith in technology, and not nearly enough commitment to technology. It is placebo technoradicalism, toying with risk so as to re-affirm the comfortable.

So our machines get smarter and we get stupider. But it doesnt have to be like that. Both can be much more intelligent. Another futurism is possible.

justncase80 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I love TED. Not all of the talks are perfect but in general they are inspiring and wonderful. Some people just like being negative, this author moves me not at all.
simonebrunozzi 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sergey Brin's TED talk on Google Glass is the worst TED talk I've ever seen. Wondering how much he paid to be there.http://www.ted.com/talks/sergey_brin_why_google_glass.html
EGreg 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I was kind of with him until he started detailing his own vision of T - E - D.

What an idiosynchratic point of view

rogerthis 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd rather watch christian tele-evangelism than most TED talks.
robertjwebb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thank you for making this talk.
soitsmutiny 1 day ago 0 replies      
Looks like someone's launched a TED Offensive.
jimmytidey 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nothing as popular as TED could be any good.
ChristianMarks 22 hours ago 0 replies      
The inspirational message of TURD Talks is that if you could only crack your skull in just the right way, at the bottom of a pool after slipping at the edge, or in an almost fatal car accident, or by falling out of your shower and hitting your head on the sink before landing in the kitty litter underneath, then you too could release your inner savant.
NSA Coworker Remembers Edward Snowden: "A Genius Among Geniuses" forbes.com
349 points by mzarate06  2 days ago   168 comments top 15
Theodores 2 days ago 9 replies      
Snowden differs from many of the whistleblower ilk in that there is nothing to dislike about his character (yet). The media have not dished any dirt, none of his friends/family/ex-lovers have came forward with anything untoward about him and he hasn't shown any signs of being deluded.

Even if you try your hardest to 'believe', a lot of whistleblowers have been deluded one way or another. They can be overly indoctrinated in their 'mission', so, whilst bringing to light useful information they have also been a bit keen to believe the propaganda that goes with The War Against Terror, e.g. Coleen Rowley. They can also be deluded in their importance, to be less than convincing, e.g. Sibel Edmonds. They can also fully jump the shark, e.g. David Shayler. Then there is Assange, 'deluded' in my opinion for thinking leaks could be monetized.

Unless I am missing something, Edward Snowden has taken a stand for truth and not allowed his character to be compromised in any way whatsoever. He has not made any mistakes, there is nothing where you could think he could have done better. Am I being deluded in thinking this?!?

tootie 2 days ago 3 replies      
The fact that the NSA needed help to setup Sharepoint fills me with confidence that they have no idea what they're doing. I'm guessing the password to the call log metadata is on a post-it note somewhere.
herbig 1 day ago 2 replies      
I like how they say he "cheated" on the entrance exam to the NSA by stealing the questions and answers from their servers, as if that doesn't just make him more qualified for the job..
fit2rule 2 days ago 1 reply      
If there is one thing that we should all be taking away from the Snowden episode, it is the fact that all human activities are utterly arbitrary. We decide to live in a free society, and then we do the things necessary to live in that society as we have defined it should be.

The definition keeps changing. One minute, its just not a free society unless you can keep slaves, the next minute its not a free society unless women vote, the next .. well, you get the point. Society is only as good as it declares its intentions and then carries them out; nowhere, alas, in the entire miasma of American law, is there the requirement that one has to always try their best to do well, and to operate on the principle of the greater good - in face of all opposition.

This too, is arbitrary, and the point where it becomes reality instead, is when an individual voice in the crowd stands up and says "this is how things should be!", gaining a little more volume than everyone else, and getting a bit more agreement, in the face of all the worlds cannibalism, that it might be good to cook things slightly differently.

Snowden, and others out there working in their own, utterly non-arbitrary ways, are always going to be necessary to remind us that just when you think you are safe, because status quo, the new safe realm is the as-yet completely unexplored ..

ww520 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's sad that keeping a copy of the constitution is seen as a sign of eccentricity.
Edmond 2 days ago 7 replies      
Nothing in that piece to suggest Snowden was a "A Genius Among Geniuses"...on what basis does his genius rest? AFAIK there is no record of Snowden doing any kind of work out there that'll suggest he knew anything about computing security.

It seems people have forgotten that there are a ton of freely available computer security tools out there that any body can take and do a lot of damage with.

kushti 2 days ago 1 reply      
The difference between Snowden and other NSA employees is that Snowden is the real U.S. patriot, not just government worker.
soulrain 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you can't put the veracity of the revelations of Snowden on trial I guess you attack his character and/or means.

The NSA is in a lose, lose situation. They are painting Snowden to be an idiot...an idiot they were dumb enough to hire and allow to revamp major system. Oh but he cheated on their test to get hired! If the NSA cannot secure a test what can they secure? Oh but a comp sci guy was quirky and eccentric! Ya well maybe tell ole' Keith not to recruit at DefCon what kind of people are you trying to hire?

The idea that there is mass data store somewhere and it will not be utilized for say insider trading or blackmail is naive to say the least. If Snowden had access so do many, many others and I am sure they tell themselves they are good people but human nature is what it is... What weapon, and mass info is indeed a weapon, has ever been created and never used especially a stealthy tool which can always be denied being used hidden behind secrecy and patriotism?

salient 2 days ago 0 replies      
With great power comes great responsibility. I'm glad Snowden saw it that way, too. Same goes for William Binney who was a higher-up in NSA, and also in charge of creating some of its most important/dangerous surveillance software, before he decided to become a whistleblower.
tamersalama 1 day ago 1 reply      
Something tells me that due to Snowden's leaks - nothing will ever get accomplished at the NSA. Not anymore. Imagine of all the additional security and authorization measures that they will add. Imagine how this would be a hurdle in both day-to-day and new projects.
nexttimer 1 day ago 1 reply      
> I wont call him a hero, but hes sure as hell no traitor.

No hero? What does it take for you then?

Actually, he's not a hero, he's more like Jesus of our times, giving away his (perfect) life for us (who - of course - don't even appreciate his sacrifice, let alone act).

batgaijin 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I bet he knew more acronyms than anyone
lafar6502 1 day ago 0 replies      
I suppose they're trying to persuade us that Snowden is a superhuman, and only his superpowers allowed him to get access to all the information. It has nothing to do with incompetence of his coworkers and bosses, nobody could have prevented that and it's nobody's fault.
siliconc0w 1 day ago 0 replies      
The problem with this article is the author has no idea what is actually a genius security/cryto/computery act. Lazy reporting.
kriro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like the source for this article was male.
The NSA: An Inside View lorensr.me
341 points by lorendsr  2 days ago   306 comments top 99
jonknee 2 days ago 8 replies      
Interesting to get a look at what it's like to be inside the bubble. It's compartmentalized enough that the individual actors can justify their actions by the assumed competence and benevolence of the others.

> I didn't test it, but I'm sure there was automated analysis that prevented or flagged use of US selectors.

The mental leap here is subtle, but substantial. Since I have been told I can't use US selectors , I assume the system enforces this. As such, US citizens have nothing to worry about. However, in the immediately previous paragraph, he noted:

> one employee spied on a spouse

So much for automated analysis, besides not being able to filter out US citizens' data it can't even filter out an employee's direct family. But there's no need to worry citizen, the NSA has a very high-quality workforce.

In the NY Times this morning was a piece noting that the government has concluded they don't know what files Snowden took with him (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/us/officials-say-us-may-ne...). The most technologically advanced intelligence agency in the history of the world and they have no idea what files were electronically taken by one of their own. One of their own who passed the background check by the way--I don't know why the OP is so enamored with the polygraph.

sedev 2 days ago 3 replies      
This reads like it was penned by someone who's never heard of the Stanford Prison experiment or Milgram's research. When I read "I have a very high opinion of my former coworkers ... NSA employees are the law-abiding type ... You take a long automated psych test that flags troubling personality traits," I take away "the NSA is full of the kind of person who won't look at the big picture, who will follow orders without exercising critical thinking, and who can be counted upon to be a Good German."

The problems that the HN crowd (speaking broadly) has with the NSA and related entities, are systemic problems. They are not about, "is act X legal or not," they are not about "was this particular incident harmful or not." They are about root of the thing: about the high-level agenda, about the strategies, about the ideas. It does not in the least address these concerns to say "oh, my coworkers are fine folks, we work hard to obey the law, there are scary people out there!" This says nothing to the counterarguments of "we shouldn't have to trust you" (really, you could say that the field of cryptography is about replacing situations where you have to trust a human with situations where you only have to trust math), "the law itself is a problem," and "you haven't proven that you are doing more or better compared to other ways we could push back against scary people."

As with any government agency, the more they insist that they must not be held accountable, the more accountability we should jam down their collective throats. The first sign of someone who can't be trusted with power is that they ask for more of it.

kabdib 2 days ago 3 replies      
"Even if you are not a citizen of the Five Eyes, you shouldn't be worried about your data being viewed unless you're involved with a group of interest, such as a foreign government or violent organization."

Huh, so:

- My best friend's dad was a spy in the CIA

- During the 70s and 80s my dad worked with Russian scientists (also ones from Poland and other Communist Bloc countries). Ecology stuff, mostly.

- I've been in "interesting" circles in the crypto arena, and know people who are almost certainly under surveillance.

So, how likely is it that my email is read, that my phone records are looked at, and so on? What are the chances that I'll have trouble the next time I cross a border or try to board a plane? One percent? Fifty percent?

Am I going to get my Name on a List because I've said that we need to stop allowing the NSA to build more data centers? That I think that Dianne Feinstein needs to be removed from office?

I don't do anything that interesting and my life is quite frankly pretty boring; my personal concern about any damage from someone looking at my emails to Mom is small. But I'd still like the government to get a lot smaller in this area because I'm afraid of what things will look like ten years from now, when data mining the innocuous stuff you did fifteen years earlier gets you Special Treatment at those DUI stops.

The "developed capacity equals intent" bullshit works both ways.

Zigurd 2 days ago 5 replies      
Is this the best defense of the actions of NSA employees publicly available?

He spends a lot of time denying pervasive surveillance puts us in a panopticon where the FBI and other LEAs can observe everything we do. And never mentions parallel construction once.

He tries to justify a Cold War sized, and then some, security state by invoking North Korea.

This is a big bowl of very weak sauce.

The director's standard of candor is "least untruthful."

I really don't care what a mid ranking employee says about what the NSA will and won't do. EVERY revelation where people in this forum have given the NSA benefit of a doubt in the form of "they could, but they wouldn't" has max'ed out at "would do, did do, and trying hard to do it more" once more revelations have emerged.

The NSA can't be trusted with what it has.

mercurial 2 days ago 0 replies      
First off, congratulations for coming forward and giving what sounds like a honest account of your experience at the NSA. You haven't chosen the easiest forum to air your views, and that takes courage.

However, I can't disagree more with your views. You don't mind if [your] emails are copied to an Agency database and likely never read and because from a technical standpoint it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything. Really? You may be familiar with a certain Richard Nixon. How would you feel if a similar character came into power tomorrow? Imagine all the wealth of information at hand. All this... without independent oversight. The only thing you need is to make sure a second Snowden comes forward to explain how you're spying on your opponents. And I can't even begin to imagine how much this juicy information means in terms of economic intelligence. Of course, you cannot push this angle too much, because it would mean the end of the cooperation with your partners. This wonderful agreement you have to keep the free world safe. Thanks, but no thanks. I don't want security at this price.

History is littered with examples of power without accountability. And we don't need to go very far... just read any history book about the CIA. I'm sure their personnel is mostly composed of law-abiding patriots. This ends up the same way anyway: coups against democratically-elected governments. Drugs. Assassinations. Torture. And don't tell me that times have changed. The Guantanamo inmates are laughing at you. The Bagram inmates are laughing at you. Even John Yoo is laughing at you.

And that's only looking at it with the eyes of an American citizen, which I'm not. But in the end, what difference does it make? NSA, GHCQ, DGSE... Aren't you all cut in the same mold? You certainly sound like you believe in what you are doing. I'm sure STASI agents did as well, but they were never this successful.

dmfdmf 2 days ago 5 replies      
Translation: Trust us, we are the good guys.

This blog post does nothing to answer the fundamental questions that the Snowden leaks have raised. This man basically argues that, with few exceptions, everyone that works for the NSA is a true American and a patriot who only has your interests at heart and what is a little spying amongst friends anyway. Follow that with some scary hints about cyber war with nuclear responses to further raise the stakes (and the fear) to justify their dragnet surveillance police state. This man is a moron if he can't see that constitutional protections were not created to protect us from good people but bad people who can gain control of such a system in the future.

Moreover, if what he says is true that we are facing real dangers then the government has the obligation, in a free society, to reveal these threats and explain what they are doing about it. The method of using such secret threats as a basis for increase police powers and (implicit) suspension of constitutional rights is not proper for a free society.

If the result of the so called "war on terror" is a gutted and shredded constitution then I'd say the terrorists have won.

Edit: Apparently Loren is a man, Sorry.

notnsa 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I am an American patriot.

The author may believe he or shes a patriot. I disagree. I dont believe someone who acts to subvert the Bill of Rights which states

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

is even remotely close to being a patriot.

> Many are concerned about the NSA listening to their phone calls and reading their email messages. I believe that most should not be very concerned because most are not sending email to intelligence targets.

> Email that isnt related to intelligence is rarely viewed, and its even less often viewed if its from a US citizen.

Rarely is pretty meaningless. The NSA has repeatedly tried to compare the number looked at with the number of intercepts. Of course theyre only looking at a tiny percentage. But if I were to only steal one-in-a-billion dollars in the US or only kill one-in-a-million people, Id still be doing something immoral.

> Every Agency employee goes through orientation, in which we are taught about the federal laws that govern NSA/US Cyber Command: Title 10 and Title 50.

Yet evidence seems to show that they've willfully found ways to interpret the laws in ways that the authors of the laws think is illegal.

> We all know that it's illegal to look at a US citizen's data without a court order.

But the NSA has a special non-adversarial court that rubber-stamps whatever it wants. (And it still happened)

> I use the term "look" deliberately: the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it.

The problem is that the 4th Ammendment makes no such distinction. They were wrong in collecting it in the first place.

> I am okay with this distinction both because I don't mind if my emails are copied to an Agency database and likely never read and because from a technical standpoint it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything.*

He may not mind, but many other people do. I respectfully ask that he, Mr. Clapper, and Gen Alexander give us all their data in case we later do find what they were doing was illegal.

> The Agency is an intelligence organization, not a law enforcement agency.

> The NSA copy of my emails won't be viewed by police or FBI investigating me about marijuana use, for instance.

And yet, per Reuters


   A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.   Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
> The NSA copy of my emails will only be viewed if the Agency can convince a judge that I might be a foreign agent. And the judges aren't pushovers.


During the 25 years from 1979 to 2004, 18,742 warrants were granted, while just four were rejected. Fewer than 200 requests had to be modified before being accepted, almost all of them in 2003 and 2004. The four rejected requests were all from 2003, and all four were partially granted after being submitted for reconsideration by the government. Of the requests that had to be modified, few if any were before the year 2000. During the next eight years, from 2004 to 2012, there were over 15,100 additional warrants granted, with an additional seven being rejected. In all, over the entire 33-year period, the FISA court has granted 33,942 warrants, with only 11 denials a rejection rate of 0.03 percent of the total requests.

> They wont spent time on my private love letters.


> That security we had is gone. North Korea has nuclear weapons and is threatening to fire them at the US.

How does spying on Americans help?

> Reality should enter your cost-benefit analyses.

I totally agree.

> This essay was deemed UNCLASSIFIED and approved for public release by the NSA's office of Pre-Publication Review on 11/21/2013 (PP 14-0081).

Somehow, I have a feeling that opposing points of view wouldnt find much an easy clearance.

mtgentry 2 days ago 3 replies      
No offense to OP, but this reads like propaganda to me. It feels like someone at the Pentagon realized they weren't winning the war of the minds of hackers, so they encouraged some of their own to blog about their experiences.

I hate to sound like a tin hat wearing conspiracist. I really do. But I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of concerted effort by the NSA to encourage a dialogue with hackers on platforms like HN.

Sorry for the paranoia OP. Glad you enjoyed your time at the NSA.

leokun 2 days ago 2 replies      
These guys just don't get it. They're always saying the same thing "we don't want to look at it."

I want to scream "well maybe someday you will, and then you'll have it collected already."

What a dense mind, and I am not all inclined to insult people in fact I hate it, but in this case it is well deserved.

secthrowaway 2 days ago 3 replies      
I can confirm much of this article. (A couple years ago I provided some comments here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3296691)

There's lots of condemnation of the poster, and the NSA practices and some of the murkier parts of this article. I thought I'd tip in with some explanations as possible while staying outside of anything classified or naughty.

jonknee: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6910978

- "It's compartmentalized enough that the individual actors can justify their actions by the assumed competence and benevolence of the others."

It's compartmentalized a bit more than the OP lets on for mostly security/separation of concerns/need-to-know reasons. For example, a Air Force analyst who is cleared to view TS//SI material won't have access to the NSA systems directly. Some of the NSA systems have external (Intelligence Community (IC)) facing equivalents that omit quite a bit of the information that less scrutinized IC analysts shouldn't have access to. w/r to the information the NSA collects, NSA employees and contractors are held to stricter standards about how that material is used and treated. An analogy, a minor commits a crime and his record is sealed. The local court employees who handle the record, the judge etc. have really nothing that prevents them from leaking that information to an overzealous cop or lawyer or some such other than the standard to which their held for their job. It's more or less the same thing with the NSA.

> The mental leap here is subtle, but substantial. Since I have been told I can't use US selectors , I assume the system enforces this.

Actually, one of the higher standards the NSA employees are held to, and I believe they sign something to effect is that it's outright illegal for them to do so and even one misuse could result in loss of employment, clearance (a death sentence in IC heavy employment areas) and possibly time in prison as a felon. This is taken very seriously and I've never known an NSA employee to not treat this rule and US citizen data as radioactive to them.


> Definitely a bizarre mix, I thought it was a parody a couple of times. To combat the threat of nuclear war with the completely isolated totalitarian state of North Korea we must create and store copies of all global communication...

It's easy to generalize, and if the world worked as simply as the model you propose here, then things would be much better for everybody, but it simply doesn't. For example, to uphold various sanctions regimes, by law, the U.S. must know if a business has connections two hops out that are linked to any bad activity. For example, how did Kim Jong Il buy all his whiskey? It's outright illegal for a U.S. company to sell to the North Korean government. Okay, so they sell to an overseas distributor who then sells to the North Korean government. Turns out that's illegal as well and the government must take action to not allow the U.S. whiskey maker or the distributor to operate in the U.S. any longer. Okay, so the whiskey make checks out their distributors finds one who doesn't sell to NK, but one of their customers does. Same deal, it's illegal for anybody in that chain to operate in the U.S. After that, the chain becomes so long it's not worth looking into and Kim Jong Il was eventually able to get his whiskey.

Just talking whiskey and North Korea here, but you can guess it goes for all kinds of goods and countries under various sanction regimes. So how do you propose things should be collected? Collecting only on North Korea gets you nowhere, it's everybody else who may or may not be supplying whiskey to the Norks that makes things much harder and requires a much larger collection apparatus.


> It's helping diplomats illegally snoop on our allies.

Good! Our allies are most definitely snooping on us! Spying and espionage is sometimes called the second oldest profession for a reason. There's been no time in history that two countries aren't doing a bit of spying on each other, most especially at the diplomatic level.

rst: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6911150

> In fact, it's been known for months that the DEA receives intercepts from the NSA in such volume that they have an office devoted to handling them (the DEA's "Special Operations Division").

This is a problem. In general, the work the IC does in collection does not hold up to LE scrutiny. Having worked on both sides of the fence, LE is both more difficult in some cases and easier in others to work in. For example, you need a warrant to gather phone records in LE, but you can share those records more freely once you have them. In the IC the opposite is true, you can pretty much get whatever you need, but it's virtually useless if a criminal approach is taken. That's why it's often simpler to blow up the target then to arrest and try them. Parallel Construction is an investigative focusing approach that saves LE from getting collection warrants that go nowhere. The IC approach is to find the connections or whatever, then help LE figure out where to focus their warrant-based approach in doing the same collection from their side. Scrubbing U.S. Persons IC data and reusing it directly for LE is highly illegal for all of the participants involved.

revelation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6911022

> Well, following his explanations, you can fail the polygraph and just do it again. The cost of failure is zero, so really just keep trying.

Actually the penalty after enough tries is no clearance which means no job and a permanent record that you were denied a clearance...which pretty much deep sixes any attempt in the future to get one. In some parts of the country, like the Washington D.C. area, that's virtually a career death sentence.

kabdib: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6910969

> My best friend's dad was a spy in the CIA

> During the 70s and 80s my dad worked with Russian scientists

> So, how likely is it that my email is read, that my phone records are looked at, and so on? What are the chances that I'll have trouble the next time I cross a border or try to board a plane? One percent? Fifty percent?

Assume it is collected but probably not read, but not for the reasons you gave above. There's just simply not enough manpower to read everybody's email, and it's a useless thing to try to accomplish. Now suppose one of the guys you email also emails somebody who's "nefarious" in some way. Then yeah, maybe your email is read. And if all you talk about in your emails are things that don't involve an armed insurrection against the United States you'll probably be filed into the "don't give a shit" bucket and the analyst will move on.

A common thread here is that everybody who's worried about their email being read seems to assume that whatever they're doing is important enough for it to get read. Trust me, it isn't.

(continued next comment)

csandreasen 2 days ago 1 reply      
I see a lot of negativity in this thread, but I think a lot of folks should stop for just a moment and consider the opportunity that's presenting itself: a former employee of the NSA is posting online about his experience and is an active member of HN. He doesn't appear to be in a position where his continued employment with the government would be an issue (he's apparently got his own business), so he doesn't have to worry about talking frankly about his experience, positive or negative (although I'd image that he's still under obligation not to reveal anything classified).

Just about everything we've seen about the insides of the NSA have come from only one source. Snowden was only employed there for 3 months, and has publicly stated that his primary reason for seeking employment there was specifically to gather information on NSA surveillance systems[1] - in order words, his opinions on the NSA were solidified before he joined. To top it off, Snowden is not available for interview.

I'm not even saying you're required to believe him. I do, however, think an insider's perspective has been sadly lacking from most of the conversation that's been going on. I don't expect journalists to have a complete understanding of all of the details regarding these programs and systems that have been leaked - they've never worked with them.

So, lorendsr, thank you for your contribution. Don't let the flat out negative comments get to you. I hope your post encourages others with a background in the NSA to share what parts of their experience that they can. Everyone else, please take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions, gain any insight that you can and don't just dismiss him outright.

bazillion 2 days ago 3 replies      
I spent four years in (2 years longer than the OP), but worked on a substantially broader swath of intelligence areas and in much more policy-oriented positions, and I can tell you that the vitriol that's been displayed on HackerNews is incredibly tiresome to see, because you are all missing a very key point about how the NSA conducts business (which I've pointed out in previous posts).

The key point is this: the NSA does not create policy for its operations. Those are written into law through executive, legislative, and judicial processes, and the three should theoretically balance each other out, which the public currently deems as not doing a sufficient job of balancing. The NSA acts as an instrument -- the employees (to include the director) are directed through a system of reporting and feedback, and determine how best to act in order to obtain more positive feedback from customers of the reports.

This isn't some theoretical system I'm talking about -- it's a database of reporting with attached feedback. The feedback shows who consumed the report, whether or not the party found it useful, any enclosed comments about the report, and how high up the report went. If my report made it into the president's daily brief and more information about the reporting subject is desired, that will show up in the feedback, and thus I have my "direction".

How does this translate into real world operations? Here is a theoretical conversation between Mr. Policy and Mr. NSA:


Mr. NSA: Here is some information I found about country X, which might indicate that they're conducting operation Y.

Mr. Policy: I would like to learn more about operation Y, and country X's intentions to expand it.

Mr. NSA: I don't currently have the capability to expound upon operation Y, unless you grant me the authority to access datastore Z.

Mr. Policy: We took a vote, and you have access to datastore Z on a thirty day trial basis, but then must shut down operations if nothing of value is found.

Mr. NSA: Here is the information you requested about operation Y and country X's intentions.

Mr. Policy: This information was not useful in directing policy, therefore datastore Z is to no longer be accessed.


From this, I think you can extrapolate my point. Do you blame the scalpel for being too sharp, or the surgeon for handling it incorrectly?

blcknight 2 days ago 0 replies      
"We all know that it's illegal to look at a US citizen's data without a court order. I use the term "look" deliberately: the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it. I am okay with this..."

This is more perverse NSA interpretations of the law.

Collection is the crime.

It does bother me that the NSA asserts a right to hold copies of my GPG-encrypted messages indefinitely. It bothers me more that my web traffic, address book, or phone metadata ends up in a government database even if only temporarily.

I don't care if Google's computers were abroad or not, but they belonged to an American company.

The United States government penetrated the network and intercepted the communications of an American company. That's one of the most egregious violations of the 4th Amendment that the American government has ever committed. Don't pretend this is something that is right.

The NSA had no legal right to spy on me, and they did -- even if you say it's likely no one looked at the data. I don't care. Collection is the crime.

te_chris 2 days ago 6 replies      
Thank you so much, kind American intelligence guy, for having the grace to not look at USA citizens emails, all the while not even mentioning foreigners, who should apparently just lie down and take it.
undoware 2 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry lorensr.me. "Trust me, they're good guys" is not an argument, and in the current context, it can only be read as a small piece of damage-control astroturf.

Or rather, the NSA's perfidy has left us with no other safe default assumption, so we have to ignore on sight. The data is tainted. All of it.

alan_cx 2 days ago 2 replies      
"I am an American patriot."

If anything scares me, its that. I know what he has written straight afterwards, but it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Its all very well the author trying to define the word to suit their own purpose, but Im afraid its not that easy to get others to accept it. Try using your own definition of the word "Nigr", and see how that flies.

"Patriotism to me simply means that I care about the US and its future."

Yeah, and that is the problem. What is meant buy the "US"? The land on a map? The political system? The people who are also "patriots" and claim to care about this "US", and its future, yet do evil? Do you care about them? Every one uses the word patriot to justify their actions, good or bad.

That the author misses this, but still insists on still using the word suggest a dangerous and blinkered ignorance. TBH, it stinks of years of gentle brain washing. I'll never forget how Bush Jr used the notion of patriotism to garner support.

Im sure the author think he is well meaning, but this honestly reads like loyal, patriotic PR.

Stal3r 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am horrified by this essay. It's overwhelming how much disturbing information is in here. I am deeply saddened that someone so young has had their beliefs so strongly influenced.

Some of the most disturbing passages:

> it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything.

It is saddening to hear someone so young say this.

> I am an American patriot. Patriotism to me simply means that I care about the US and its future.

How often is the word "patriot" used internally in the NSA? Who is building up this false hero, blind to his own oppression? A synonym might be a "justifier" or "oppressor" or even more simply "someone who has not yet been oppressed."

The rest speak for themselves:

> The NSA copy of my emails will only be viewed if the Agency can convince a judge that I might be a foreign agent.

> The vast majority of unauthorized retrievals of US-person data are unintentional.

> ...the rare cases of unauthorized data retrieval were ... regular employees illicitly viewing communications for personal gain

> XKeyscore ... was an analyst tool that I had access to.

> NSA employees are the law-abiding type.

I am scared to respond to this article. How easily could I be labeled a "foreign agent"? Does criticizing the system mean I'm working for another country? Did the NSA try to demonize Snowden as working for the Russians? Everything you have written has only increased my fears. To hear the blind loyalty to the system that comes from the NSA's own employees means that nothing is safe.

I hope that later in your life, as you grow as a person and a citizen, you see the evil in the system you colluded with, and experience a deep regret about your actions. The same regret that lay citizens feel when we learn our tax dollars have built a criminal entity. The regret that we did not try harder to stop it, to read up on laws like the Patriot Act and protest more. The regret of our collective ignorance that has built the tool to intrude on everything we do.

DigitalSea 2 days ago 1 reply      
Stockholm syndrome?

This guy is essentially validating the actions of the NSA because he calls himself a patriot and even admits he doesn't care about other countries other than his own: The United States of America. As an Australian I find this kind of attitude disgusting and I think it highlights a massive problem within the agency itself.

While I am somewhat more lucky than others being in a country that is part of the Five Eyes agreement, what about those not in a country that has signed the agreement? It doesn't make me feel any safer because it seems the concept of borders and rules in the intelligence game do not exist.

There is a lot of downplaying, "but your data is in a big database and nobody will most likely ever look at it", "only the NSA can see this data" while this might be the case, if for whatever reason I found myself in a position of power, this kind of harvested information could be used to blackmail or destroy me. Just because it's not being used now doesn't mean it won't be used later.

While this is probably the only validation of the NSA's actions I can find that is somewhat backed by someone with experience working for the agency, it honestly sounds a little too safe and doesn't really address any of the concerns people have.

lispm 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hey, and I'm a German patriot.

If the US citizens like to be spied on by its own agencies, fine for me.

As a German citizen I'm not so happy that German citizens, politicians and companies are targets of spying of unprecedented scale and depth. As a consequence we (and others, too) will have to scale back the use of US hardware, software and services. Privacy, data security, confidentially etc. are not provided. A German company would be stupid to store data on servers reachable for US industrial espionage. It's really tough to avoid that - given that the US surveillance and spying is also done directly in Germany in a large scale.

Additionally we should also deny the US the capability to plan their targeted killings from Germany - for example from the US military central command for Africa - which is located in Germany. From there strikes with armed drones are planned and controlled. Unfortunately the German government does not seem to be willing and/or able to prevent that...

andrewcooke 2 days ago 1 reply      
The NSA is not a law enforcement agency.

I am not one either. But I still have to obey the law.

Maybe that's not what's implied by that statement? But if not, what on earth is meant (more exactly, what was the author's intent in saying something that seems obvious and irrelevant if taken at face value; what am I expected to infer?)?

princeverma 2 days ago 0 replies      
I seriously don't understand if OP has written this article in satirical sense, because to me there is no logic there.

I am a foreign national, I and my company uses services provided by a US company (email etc.), and this gives right to you guys to collect and ready my emails?

tldr; of your article is this:"Oh ! he is a foreigner, fuck him. What he can do? ? He can't vote to get us out of power. So, it's ok and about the persons who can vote to get us out, they can't do anything because we know every little dirty secret of them. Oh ! one more thing, we are so good we promise we don't look at these dirty secrets. Although cases where a employee uses this 'secure' system for personal use, ya that do happen. Trust Us."

mrobot 2 days ago 1 reply      
One thing that always bothers me is the assumption that we dislike the NSA because we're worried about them reading our personal emails and looking at our photos, and.. "you know.. our Instagramming". We should know it's not about anyone going through the process of reading our communications, it's about having automated systems hooked up to them, keeping them, and having the ability to use them. The human and electronic pieces of this system can act on you and change your life, even without you ever knowing about it.

Being hooked up to machines like this is losing a large part of our own power as a check and balance in our own government. We won't do it. If this program is "necessary" to fight terrorism, will i be considered a terrorist if i continue to disagree? What if i become very effective at disagreeing?

I believe that most should not be very concerned because most are not sending email to intelligence targets.

It's not just directly to intelligence targets. Can someone remind me what 3 hops from a base group of 117,000 targets is again? We're not talking about a home handwritten address book, this is linkedin, everyone i sold shit to on craigslist, everyone i've ever contacted. Heads per hop is like 100, at least. Anyway, should that group be concerned?

The Agency is an intelligence organization, not a law enforcement agency.

So what? Just because there's a boundary between the NSA and everyone else doesn't mean they aren't exploiting the same broken interpretation of Terry v Ohio to build systematic unreasonable-unarticulated-suspicion writ-of-assistance privacy violations. We disagree with the principle, not just the NSA. AT&T works directly with the CIA, the CIA works with the FBI, sharing on that side is just a cluster.




And I would prefer a world in which spying was unnecessary. But humanity is not there yet.

No one disagrees that intelligence is necessary. We disagree with being wired up to management and machines that can (and always will) easily make mistakes. Privacy is a right, violating it to feed the machine is already diminishing us.

I refuse to eat your mayo.

SwellJoe 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is why I don't believe the president's assertion about the employees of the NSA being innocent of wrongdoing or anyone's assertion of them being "good guys".

This is apologia for crimes against the world and the American people. This is saying, "If you don't have anything to hide, you have nothing to worry about." This is demonstrably filled with lies and misrepresentations, whether intentional or through ignorance of what the rest of the NSA beast has been up to (but, if he has followed the Snowden leaks with more than passing interest, he would know he's lying in blatant and obvious ways).

I'm sure this article is meant to quell fears about NSA spying practices, but it only makes me more angry and more fearful. It confirms something I suspected but didn't want to believe: The entire organization from low-level analysts on up to the leadership (who will repeatedly lie to Congress to serve their ends) is corrupt and will exhibit little or no remorse even when caught red-handed, and will spread astroturf and refuse to acknowledge that their behavior crosses lines that should have never been crossed by a US agency.

I'm getting close to believing that starting any online service in the United States is unethical, because of what it will do to its users.

a3n 2 days ago 0 replies      
<lie type='omission' subject='parallel construction'>

The NSA copy of my emails won't be viewed by police or FBI investigating me about marijuana use, for instance. Law enforcement might get a search warrant and retrieve a copy from Google, but not from the NSA.


droithomme 2 days ago 1 reply      
This article is transparent propaganda.

Author is not a patriot. Author is an enemy of the people.

malloreon 2 days ago 1 reply      
"But I digress the rare cases of unauthorized data retrieval were not polygraph-trained foreign spies trying to infiltrate the Agency, but rather regular employees illicitly viewing communications for personal gain."

There are articles suggesting this is happening many thousands of times per year - shouldn't each of these 'regular employees' be put on trial? They have committed serious crimes.

mcgwiz 2 days ago 0 replies      
TLDR: Don't worry. We have civil liberties orientation. You can trust us.

The author understands their is a misconception at play, but it's not that the public thinks NSA agents aren't upstanding or law-abiding, it's that NSA agents think their idea idea of patriotism is broad enough. It's telling that he dismissed an examination of patriotism, because that's the root of so much discord over civil liberties and national security.

There are two major currents of patriotism in this country. The first is that we take pride in our accomplishments, and we must defend our borders, protect our treasure and lives, and maintain the status quo. The second is more idealistic, that we take pride in having an open (vulnerable, ever-changing) society, and we must defend our democratic identity, promote participation, protect individual freedom, and be skeptical of concentrations of power. The first is practical, easy to quantify (and therefore appealing to a data-thirsty culture). The second is strategic, asks more from the average citizen, and rests on an understanding of alternative forms of society (what is lost when we prioritize security and order over those "inalienable" rights).

Ideally, the NSA would be staffed by patriots of the second type. They'd embrace 'public service' as having deep reverence for the public (not just their physical safety, but their liberties as well), that appreciates the philosophical underpinning of democracy (including it's necessitation of vulnerability and cultural evolution), and that prides itself in taking on their intelligence goals while ardently building checks and balances. They'd never just ask how they can get the information, but how it can be done in a way that proudly upholds American values. With bureaucracy you'll always have some amount of inefficiency and misalignment with top-level goals, but a pervasive culture can go along way.

rahoulb 2 days ago 0 replies      
The key thing that worries me about it is even if no-one reads all those emails that are stored, what if they are mined for data and used to make predictions?

Last.fm can guess the type of music I like about 25% of the time, Google can guess the type of information I'm interested in around 70% of the time (figure based upon potentially ambiguous web searches I do). Neither of those services have very much metadata from me about their respective subject areas.

If the NSA/GCHQ/5 eyes are hoovering up all this metadata about pretty much everything I do online, that's a ton of information to start mining for patterns - whilst legitimately say that no employees are reading it.

What sort of predictions can they make? What's the accuracy of it? When do they start acting on the predictions thrown up by the system? And who polices that?

drcube 2 days ago 0 replies      
>in 2007 the US suffered an "espionage Pearl Harbor" in which entities "broke into all of the high tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information."

Man, I would hate if an entity downloaded my information! Poor agencies. But it's probably fine, I mean, those "entities" couldn't look at terabytes of information. It's probably just sitting in a database somewhere. So, nothing to worry about.

muglug 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for sharing your POV. Do you think Snowdon's revelations had any beneficial impact, or is your view of them entirely negative?
doe88 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I use the term "look" deliberately: the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it. I am okay with this distinction both because I don't mind if my emails are copied to an Agency database and likely never read and because from a technical standpoint it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything.

I'm not mad at NSA they're just playing their role, they're grabbing everything they can. But, it should serve as a reminder of the goals we should all (civilians) strive for: encrypting everything. I think lot of individuals are working on these problems right now and I'm confident great tools and protocols will soon be created/improved.

edit: downvoted for proning mass encryption, great.

room271 2 days ago 1 reply      
While I do not agree with much of the sentiment, I enjoyed the article.

My question to the OP: even if you believe that at the moment abuses are rare and that your colleagues are trustworthy and law-abiding, does the capability and level of information concern you in terms of the potential for future abuse it enables?

Tarang 2 days ago 2 replies      
Well looking at the end it says that its declassified/published with the NSA's blessing.

If an employee had a contrarian opinion to the NSA would it be declassified like this one?

Its hard to read it and feel that it is balanced or even truthful.

tripzilch 1 day ago 0 replies      
... the cognitive dissonance is strong in this one.

> I am an American patriot.

> Patriotism to me simply means that I care about the US and its future.

> We all know that it's illegal to look at a US citizen's data without a court order. I use the term "look" deliberately: the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it. I am okay with this distinction both because I don't mind if my emails are copied to an Agency database

That very last bit, is that also a symptom of "patriotism", or more like a justification to tell himself "this was my job, I believe I do right, so my job was right, because it was my job, which is right".

(then again, his ad for "paleo mayo" does show that this person has a habit of buying into beliefs as long as they are backed by sufficiently authorative-sounding sources)

> NSA employees are the law-abiding type. Firstly, the lawbreaking type isn't likely to want to work for the government. Secondly, if they did apply, it is quite unlikely they would make it through the clearance process.

Yeah, actually, "law-abiding" is not really the word I'd describe for the sort of people this process attracts ... More something in between "gullible" and some of the less positive interpretations of "US Patriot".

> While the efficacy of polygraphs has been questioned, and while I'm sure given sufficient training and natural psychosomatic control one could beat them, I think they're fairly accurate. They may yield some false positives (I, for example, initially failed when I said, "No" in response to, "Have you ever given classified information to a foreign entity?" this is before I knew any classified information and had to fly back to DC for a second attempt a month later), but I believe false negatives are rare.

Aahahaha, yes, and so do horoscopes! Can you believe this guy?!

They could have had a psychic in a sufficiently impressive suit "evaluate" him, and he'd still have bought into it.

> Even if you are not a citizen of the Five Eyes, you shouldn't be worried about your data being viewed unless you're involved with a group of interest, such as a foreign government or violent organization.

Whut? So anyone involved with a foreign government, such as their politicians, should be worried.

By extension, all citizens relying on that government should be worried.

Doesn't make sense. But then, I can decide what not to worry about by myself.


> it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything.*

> * I am not permitted to say why this is the case, but it is true.

Fine. But the problem is not so much having to take his word for it, it could very well be true. The problem is, your current situation is wrong, very wrong. It obviously needs overhaul, and without talking about the "why", you can't have a discussion about fixing it, either. He himself admits he is unaware of the "big picture"--all the while stating that whatever it is, he's probably okay with the implications.

I'm pretty sure that even if I did know all the things he knows but isn't telling us, I'd very much disagree with that notion.

> The NSA is our best hope in this war. In my mind, the Agencys continued dominance of the Internet is absolutely worth [whatever]

Remember, patriotism doesn't mean he doesn't care about people outside the US, just as long as the NSA gets to dominate the entire Internet.

josephlord 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is interesting as a view into the naive and uninformed [1] view of those inside.

I suspect the screening selects for compliance and maybe against questioning authority plus the people applying May self select in that way.

Note that this was approved by the agency and therefore may have been through a filter process that removes other reports with more critical views before publication. (I am not suggesting that this author is anything other than genuine but if it was a critical view could it have been published).

I don't doubt that storing everything helps find threats but the price is far too high, whatever difference it makes.

[1] he hadn't heard of parallel construction - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6910972 he may have deep particular knowledge in some areas but his understanding of the overall agency appears poor.

joelgrus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hey, I backed that guy's Kickstarter! And now that I read his post I just cancelled my pledge.
andyl 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know if Loren is sincere, or if he's part of a disinformation campaign. Either way, I don't believe his reassurances. I think NSA surveillance is first and foremost a tool to control the American citizenry. The next Martin Luther King, Ralph Nader, or Daniel Ellsberg isn't gonna stand a chance.
CamperBob2 2 days ago 0 replies      
The Agency is an intelligence organization, not a law enforcement agency.

Monstrously disingenuous. The term "parallel construction" apparently means nothing to him.

In 1991 the USSR dissolved and the Cold War ended. The world let out a sigh of relief, safe in the the knowledge that humanity wasnt crazy enough to destroy itself. That security we had is gone. North Korea has nuclear weapons and is threatening to fire them at the US.

I'm missing the part where collecting my email and phone records will help with this problem.

gohrt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Note that this blog post has been vetted by the NSA PR office, and so should be taken with the same grain of salt that one takes with all NSA-approved communications, recalling that the NSA has admitted they will lie to Congress and the Supreme Court if it suits their mission.

"This essay was deemed UNCLASSIFIED and approved for public release by the NSA's office of Pre-Publication Review on 11/21/2013 (PP 14-0081)."

burke 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I do not believe that their information-gathering powers should be curtailed. Such restriction would not only hinder the Agencys ability to gather intelligence, but also impede its ability to wage cyberwarfare.

Yes. That is the point.

malandrew 1 day ago 0 replies      
One of the most concerning things about the selection process for who gets into the NSA, is that it all but guarantees a lack of diversity of thought within the NSA. There are probably very few people with opposing viewpoints so most projects that would be considered dubious by the diverse population in the US can go completely unchecked within the agency.

For example, the author mentions the following:

    They examine your 127-page Standard Form 86, in which you     include lists of your illegal activities, foreigners you     have worked with or befriended, and where you have lived     and traveled in your life and with whom.
The fact that someone is capable of truthfully filling out such a form is a huge flag that the person has had remarkably little exposure to the rest of the world. They are probably poorly traveled and grew up and lived in places with few if any immigrants. I don't know how someone who grew up in NYC, San Francisco, Washington DC or Los Angeles could possibly ever fill out such a form truthfully or completely. Anyone from such cities would have come in contact with and befriended so many people from other countries over the course of 18-22 years of living in such a diverse metropolis that any attempt to fill out such a form would be incomplete and could contribute to being rejected.

wissler 2 days ago 0 replies      
Copy our data without our consent. Lie about it to our representatives. But just trust us.

The ends do not justify the means; on the contrary, nefarious means imply nefarious ends.

aaaahhhhh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Even if we accept that the NSA is comprised solely of benevolent actors practicing perfect discretion, and will remain so for the indefinite future, the mere act of collecting "everything" is an enormous hazard. OP recognizes as much:

CBS reported that in 2007 the US suffered an "espionage Pearl Harbor" in which entities "broke into all of the high tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information."

What's to stop this from happening again to the NSA? They couldn't even implement audit trails internally -- there should be huge doubt as to the agency's competence in securing their data.

Also, OP, did you not hear about parallel construction? How do you rationalize your statement that the NSA "is not a law enforcement agency" in light of this?


bane 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm always surprised about how posts like this bring out the real nutjob part of HN that sort of sits there and lurks dormant waiting to pull out unprovable conspiracies any time something like this gets posted. I'm not talking about the folks who disagree with the OP, or what the NSA does... I'm specifically talking about the rather uncomfortable level of crazy that squirrels out in these "discussions".

There are some posts here so outright loony that I actually feel a bit uncomfortable having an account here.

lucb1e 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is interesting to read, but I have one very important question:

Why is a distinction made between US and non-US people? Why do some systems automatically ignore all US IP addresses?

What makes me a potential criminal, and Mr. Smith not? Why can he read my email without a court order, but not from someone from Nebraska? Why does my physical location, or proxy server for that matter, matter?

I think the only reason is because it's simply in the US law, so it doesn't really say much. It's just one of those things that are the way they are. But then...

why does he keep bringing it up as "you shouldn't be worried because we don't look at data from the US"... if I'm not from the US? Does this mean I should be worried that he is really reading my email if it has certain keywords? I could become an intelligence target because of keywords or activism in certain groups, merely because I'm not using a US-based proxy server?

rdl 2 days ago 1 reply      
"People who build security tools" are in the set of people under active monitoring and exploitation by governments. I'm personally far more concerned about China and Russia and others than I am about NSA, but if I were Nadim (who I believe is personally not a target of NSA, but by virtue of Cryptocat most definitely is), I'd be quite concerned.

I was actually waiting for the big reveal in this ... "x, y are good, but Z is not, and is why we have the problems we have now." I guess not having that is why it went through publication review.

r0s 2 days ago 0 replies      
The gist is that you should not value your privacy if you have nothing to hide.

This principle is absolutely forbidden to be reversed, the secret workings of government agencies are protected by the highest secrecy.

What do they have to hide?

viame 2 days ago 0 replies      
Enjoyed the read, edited by NSA.

On the other note. If you want good mayo: http://www.eff.ca/featured_products.html order from these guys. I am sure they can ship to your door, they do distribute in the USA as well, however, not sure to which cities.

glenra 2 days ago 0 replies      
I found the polygraph stuff disturbing. The fact that the NSA takes polygraphs seriously (despite presumably knowing there's little scientific evidence supporting their use and knowing that lots of spies have had no trouble passing them) makes me think the NSA must be full of gullible morons.

Does the NSA weed out polygraph non-believers during their hiring process? So far as I know, the main "valid" use of polygraphs is (a) to trick/intimidate people who believe in them into telling you a more thorough story, (b) to acquire a "scientific" seeming reason to do or believe what you already wanted to do or believe going in.

I don't feel very reassured.

w_t_payne 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is really nice to get a coherent, human view from inside the security and intelligence community. To the best of my knowledge, the article reads as an honest and true account of security service culture of integrity and professionalism. Kudos to him, and kudos to his colleagues as well for their restraint and their service.

I am pleased to see him hint at the exposure and vulnerability of the general public to surveillance by third parties, when he describes of the ongoing battle to dominate electronic systems, being waged by various nation-states and criminal gangs around the world. (I refuse to use that horribly juvenile construction "cyber-war").

However, we still have some way to go before we fully confront the magnitude of the problem, and are able to formulate a sensible and coherent response.

Our military forces and security services are rightly part of our response to this vulnerability, but they cannot be the only tool that we deploy. Societies that lean to heavily on their armed forces and security services quickly feel the negative effects of their reliance, no matter how well-intentioned, well-disciplined and professional the servicemen and servicewomen may be.

Civil society needs to step up to the plate also. The problem is difficult, and the response needs to be multifaceted and broad. As engineers, we need to make our systems more secure and more trustworthy - and we need to make tools for the creation of secure and trustworthy systems ubiquitous.

For example, I am writing software for advanced driver assistance systems & autonomous vehicles -- I need to think very very carefully about how I can make my software secure and robust from attack; I need to educate my colleagues about the risky environment that we will be operating in, and together, we need to come up with standards and processes to help us ensure that the software we create minimises the risk posed by malicious actors.

freyr 2 days ago 0 replies      
To summarize:

* He doesn't care if the NSA spies on everybody, because he doesn't care if they spy on him. He have nothing to hide.

* In his experience, the people accessing our data can be trusted. We can extrapolate this to the NSA as a whole. The bad apples are rare.

* Cybarwar is real and dangerous, and we should reevaluate our priorities with this in mind.

cinquemb 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interestingly enough, 60 minutes will have an "Inside View" of the NSA tonight. This just keeps getting better I'll be sure to absorb this message and the probable similar message that will be broadcasted to the masses tonight.

Yeah, buddy, I'll believe you just keep telling me over and over and it will sink in eventually. ;)

Pitarou 2 days ago 0 replies      

1. The NSA only hires earnest, ethical people

2. There are real threats we need to protect you from

3. So everything's OK


I believe the first two of those statements. And if the people at the top were also ethical and earnest, I'd believe all three. But, as Angela Merkel can attest, the people at the top do not respect boundaries.

aaron695 2 days ago 0 replies      
It reminds me of that sketch of the nazis where they realise they are on the baddies side, except op isn't there yet.


People need to realise it's more "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

And less terrorists and other cliches.

typon 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's quite interesting to me that someone who has worked for the NSA can write such an article and not have heard of William Binney and Thomas Drake's experience with the NSA. Ethical, upstanding people my ass.
alandarev 6 hours ago 0 replies      
> US citizens have nothing to worry about.

Oh, alright then, there is nothing except the trillions of spies queued up behind US borders.

There is a shocking news to be revealed: Not all non-US citizens are spies.

rookonaut 2 days ago 1 reply      
Some trendy buzzwords in the title, no relevant information in the post, just opinions,... Imho it's just a disguised advertisement for his kickstarter campaign.
gohrt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Note that this is either an imposter account, or the author themself is mostly unaware of the publicly-divulged NSA abuses -- let alone any non-divulged abuses.


wmt 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I had to make sure that my searches didn't use US selectors, such as a US phone number or IP address.

i.e. "we aggressively spy on all U.S. citizens, but we try really hard not to look at that data."

anoncowherd 2 days ago 0 replies      
The surveillance's purpose is not to catch criminals or terrorists, as evidenced by the recent confiscation of some NZ citizen's electronics at the airport. He had attended a meeting on mass surveillance, and is therefore considered a troublesome, unharmonious little peasant, and must be kept in check or made an example of. That is the point here. It's about power, and maintaining it through whatever means possible.

The US is showing clear and abundant signs of being a police state - there's simply no denying that anymore. So what does it matter what their rule books say about spying on people, when even the Constitution has been calmly disregarded for years?

"Here are the official guidelines for spying on people! Remember that spying on US citizens is restricted because that would be kind of naughty, but foreigners are fair game."

It's just ridiculous. But again, it's certainly not about catching terrorists. This level of surveillance would make Stalin just shit himself with joy.

MrQuincle 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nice that you are a patriot and that you are all law abiding types. We need more people that do not ask questions in those positions...
atmosx 2 days ago 1 reply      
I stopped reading after the patriot paragraph. I don't like concepts that divide people and patriotism is inherently bad for the world. It brings only war and pain.

I love my country but I never met a patriot that could think straight.

drharris 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Email that isnt related to intelligence is rarely viewed, and its even less often viewed if its from a US citizen

I stopped here. The words "rarely" and "less often" should both be "never". If the answer is not never, congratulations, you just helped ruin the world. Engineers and developers should be using our powers to help the world, not help corrupt governments spy on their own citizens. I only wish there were a way to strip credentials from technical people who aid an enemy so they can never work in this field again.

sifarat 2 days ago 0 replies      
Got your point son. I am a Pakistani and I know what it means to me. fuck you with love.
dimitar 2 days ago 0 replies      
Data is provided by ISPs and big companies like Google and Facebook.

Now, if you ask someone working for a ISP or Google if they hand over information to anyone, of course they'll say that they don't and haven't heard of someone doing it.

But of course they wouldn't have heard of it, one person with access is enough to rsync or sftp it to the NSA; no need for the others to know about it. They are needed to their jobs with clear conscience. I assume its the same in the NSA on the other side of the 'relationship'.

The same phych screening process the author took probably also selected the guy is doing the abuse.

junto 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is something that bothers me:

  Email that isnt related to intelligence is rarely viewed,   and its even less often viewed if its from a US citizen.   Every Agency employee goes through orientation, in which we   are taught about the federal laws that govern NSA/US Cyber   Command: Title 10 and Title 50. We all know that it's illegal   to look at a US citizen's data without a court order.
I can rewrite this to:

  We are indoctrinated to believe that we shouldn't really  invade the privacy of US citizens, and it is highly unlikely  that we might mistakenly or otherwise read your private emails,  however, if you aren't a US citizen then fuck you, you are our   enemy, you have no right to privacy because you weren't born   in the land of the free. Oh yeah, fuck you twice, cos we can.  Ha ha
You know what, fuck you too.

gesman 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, if I'll meet someone who wanted to work more on personal coding projects and start a company and is making a mayonnaise as his first product - I'll know the guy must be from NSA!


stefantalpalaru 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Halting use of USB drives is not enough to protect air gapped systems, as Ruiu's recent research on badBIOS demonstrates.

False. In the badBIOS case the 2 computers thought to communicate using audio were already infected.

joelrunyon 2 days ago 1 reply      
> The NSA is our best hope in this war

Is this an inconvenient time to point out that we're technically not in a congressionally approved "war" with anyone?

manish_gill 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Analysts dont care about whats going on in your life. Only until they do

> the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it."

"Cheer up, we're just collecting everything about your private life, we're not looking at it...mostly!"

So, besides a lot of fear mongering about Cold War and Nuclear Weapons (yes it is fear mongering, and mostly irrelevant to the debate, given your average citizen, whom you're spying on, is not about to go detonate one), what you have to offer is anecdotal evidence of your own time at NSA, who are all supposedly highly intelligent and trained individuals who can do no wrong. And what you're saying is that essentially, we're supposed to feel at ease because you don't care about our lives.

...and of course, your post is approved for publication by the NSA.

javajosh 2 days ago 0 replies      
What fascinates me is how the principle of warranted search and seizure can be so completely ignored in the presence of an easy, painless way to seize and search information. It's really that simple: you either believe it's right, or it's wrong, and the possibility of doing it at a large scale is truly orthogonal to the question of what is right.

What is not in doubt is that the data from a panopticon used by a benevolent organization would be a powerful protection. But that same argument could have been used to subvert the 4th Amendment. Indeed, that argument could be used to subvert every amendment in the Bill of Rights, since a benevolent actor, by construction, would only subvert those rights with good reason.

The lack of thoughtfulness about what the Constitution means, and how it applies in a world where government wishes to piggy back on ubiquitous corporate surveillance (and extend it), is fascinating. One can imagine the creation of a new police robot that knows when you are not in your home, and which lets itself in, reads all your documents and catalogues all of your belongings, disturbing nothing. Would that be okay?

jgg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Right, Loren, so:

* even though Congress was lied to/mislead about the scope of the NSA's programs, by none other than the Director of National Intelligence [1]

* despite the fact that the NSA hastily rushed to justify an invasion of Syria with misleading data [2]

* despite the fact that the NSA helped produce evidence to justify the false invasion of Iraq [3]

* despite the fact that the NSA helps to subvert crypto software and backdoor services, which makes people and businesses less safe against electronic warfare (despite the fact that al-Qaeda is at least aware of the need for building their own crypto, even if what we've seen so far is possibly crippled by stupidity) [4] [5]

* even though the NSA were unable to catch the Boston bombers (even though the warned the US multiple times about the brothers, they were tied to Chechnya, had jihadi content on their social media profiles and were already tied by association to a homicide) [6] [7] [8] [9]

* despite the testaments from former Intel folks that mass data collection doesn't work and that Gen. Keith Alexander is incompetent [10]

* despite Alexander being unable to come up with problems the NSA's mass surveillance has solved without lying [11]

* despite the fact that Alexander is a monumental douche who used taxpayer money to have a Hollywood set designer make his office into a re-creation of the Starship Enterprise [10]

...we should be "reassured to know how capable and thorough your cyber spy agency and military command are." We should rest assured that our electronic communications being scooped up and stored couldn't ever possibly be used for nefarious purposes against a citizen of the US, that it isn't a gross violation of a person's right to privacy and dignity and that even the majority of the NSA are kind-hearted people looking out for America's best interests in the big, scary world full of North Korea's and Muslim radicals and that my virgin, uninitiated mind just doesn't understand. This isn't all just a big, dumb, out-of-control bureaucratic freak-out or an attempt to instate a Stasi-esque intelligence regime.

Fuck you and your condescension, Loren. You are a coward and a liar, unless there is some grand plot the NSA has helped unravel, Clancy-style, that you just can't tell us about (I will apologize and retract my statements when it comes to light).


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/13/james-clapper_n_374...[2] http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin[3] http://www.thenation.com/blog/174744/remember-when-nsa-surve...[4] http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/05/nsa-subverts-most-encryptio...[5] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/02/mujahideen_se...[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/russian-off...[7] http://www.thenation.com/article/174026/there-chechen-connec...[8] http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/20/us/brother-religious-language/[9] http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/23/nation/la-na-nn-bost...[10] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/08/the_cowboy_...[11] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/15/1247400/-NSA-Direct...

crystaln 2 days ago 0 replies      
> everything the NSA collects is by default shared with your government

So... does that mean that even though the NSA supposedly doesn't analyze American communications, their colleagues in other countries can?

Also, while it may be reassuring for Americans to know that US IP addresses are not allowed in searches, how reassuring is it for Canadians, Mexicans, Germans, Australians, etc? Does this not harm both our reputation and business interests?

In general, this article assumes agents of the government are, and will continue to be, law abiding and respecting of citizens rights. Is that likely to remain the case in 20, 50, 100 years? How about after a major terrorist attack?

beachstartup 2 days ago 0 replies      
yeah, all that juicy data, just sitting there. trust us. we won't touch it. neither will the fbi. or the cops. they don't care that you smoke weed. really.

except they do care. and they want that data. and they will get that data. you can bet your fucking LIFE on it.

if it's there, it will be used, and very possibly by someone with less than good intentions. how the hell could anyone convince themselves that this isn't true? it's mind boggling.

look at mccarthy era politics. THAT CAN HAPPEN. IT DID HAPPEN. IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN.

film42 2 days ago 0 replies      
Did anyone else notice the countless screens running windows xp?

There were a few linux desktops, but really most of the screens were turned off, or on and showing windows xp.

I don't like the idea of the US Govt using an extremely deprecated operating system.

ad80 2 days ago 1 reply      
Important voice in the whole discussion around NSA, but forgive me being suspicious - it comes around the time his Kickstarter campaign is to end...
devy 2 days ago 0 replies      
If he's so "patriotic" and so proud of him being a cyber spy, why didn't he jump out earlier to defend NSA's position? Why did he only come out and write an blog a few months late and around the same time as CBS 60 minutes NSA interview? I say this is a NSA propaganda.
eli 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for posting what I'm sure you knew would be an unpopular opinion around these parts. Interesting read.
kika 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I would also notify the users that their data was accessed, if it was legal to do so.

And of course you'd also put up a warrant canary [0] on your website, am I correct?--[0]: http://www.rsync.net/resources/notices/canary.txt

sbierwagen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting that the HN algorithm that automatically flags NSA stories off the front page didn't penalize this one.
danbmil99 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I have a very high opinion of my former coworkers.

Well then, problem solved.

SchizoDuckie 2 days ago 0 replies      
What bothers me most about the NSA stories is that all the damage control seems to be revolving around not pissing the US citizens off because their data is collected.

What about the rest of the world? They just have a carte blanche to tap everything from everyone 'regular joe' from outside of the US can't do Jack Shit about it, other than help invent newer and stronger encryption methods, since all our governments have their arms up the US's ass.

are_you_serious 2 days ago 0 replies      
Did this line bother anyone else?

> If you are a citizen of the UK, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia, you may also be glad, because everything the NSA collects is by default shared with your government

He spends the whole post telling us its okay to trust the US and then completely throws that out the window by saying 4 other countries have all of our data too.

are_you_serious 2 days ago 0 replies      
What each section basically says:

1. We collect all of your data

2. That's okay because we're the good guys

3. Btw, there are bad guys hacking us and have in the past downloaded TBs of data from our systems

What happens when a bad guy gets access to our data? Whether from within or out?

hawleyal 1 day ago 0 replies      
> not a law enforcement agency

Naive to think that mass-collection of data is not a tool that will eventually used by law enforcement.

Marbux 1 day ago 1 reply      
@ "Every Agency employee goes through orientation, in which we are taught about the federal laws that govern NSA/US Cyber Command: Title 10 and Title 50. We all know that it's illegal to look at a US citizen's data without a court order. I use the term "look" deliberately: the Agency makes the distinction that looking at data is surveillance, while gathering it from locations outside the US is not. We gathered everything, and only looked at a tiny percentage of it. I am okay with this distinction both because I don't mind if my emails are copied to an Agency database and likely never read and because from a technical standpoint it would seriously impair our ability to spy if we couldn't gather everything."

lorendsr has far too much confidence that what he was taught about the governing law is correct. The governing law is far broader than the two titles of the U.S. Code he cites. The 4th Amendment, for example, protects against not only warrantless searches but also warrantless seizures. That line is first crossed at the gathering point, not at the point that the data is viewed. Put another way, the Amendment prohibits warrantless gathering of the haystack that includes private communications, not just the warrantless search of that haystack for a given needle. http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment And that is only one example of his legal naivete.

Paul E. Merrell, J.D.

agorabinary 2 days ago 0 replies      
I can't help but observe, with a sort of grim humor, that this fellow's resume now consists of international unwarranted espionage that threatens to upend the very foundations of our constitutional republic...and organic mayo entrepreneurship.
mpyne 2 days ago 1 reply      
Well this comment thread went about as I expected it to go...
javert 2 days ago 0 replies      
> Even if you are not a citizen of the Five Eyes, you shouldn't be worried about your data being viewed unless you're involved with a group of interest, such as a foreign government or violent organization.

Is the US Tea Party considered a "violent organization"? (It's not, but that's a separate issue.) If not, can you guarantee that it won't be labeled as such under some future administration? The IRS is already targeting the Tea Party, so we have reason to believe that certain US political actors are not interested in abiding by objective laws.

If not, why do you defend the NSA?

Though I'm a US citizen, I'm sure one of the other Five Eyes countries can be employed to spy on me.

ekianjo 2 days ago 0 replies      
reading it feels like reading a PR document, just made to shed a positive light on the NSA.
einrealist 2 days ago 0 replies      
He only describes his view from inside the system NSA. But it is the outside which really worries me. Governments and legal boundaries can change. DHS and TSA were such changes. And both agencies have a big impact on the lifes of citizens and visitors.

OP admitted, that NSA already gathers data of US citizens. But the current legal boundary prevents analysts to just add a "selector", except when it is allowed by a (secret) court. So the data is already there with the technology to query or filter it, which is a bad thing in itself. But it is a tiny change in the law, that would make it legally right to include US citizens' data into the query.

Looking back at DHS, TSA and the overall militarization of the security forces, it is not hard to imagine that NSA is an easy pick for a reactive government responding to the next terrorist threat.

BTW. When have government institutions ever been dissolved? Isn't that a lot harder than creating new ones or changing the rules in favor of more control?

nexttimer 2 days ago 3 replies      
Don't fight it. Just let it take over. Stop struggling. Once you'll have stopped struggling, it won't hurt anymore. You won't feel any difference anymore. And it will be like it was never different.
iribe 2 days ago 0 replies      
What do you think of the NSA tapping datacenter traffic, gaining access to company source code, passwords, and everything else companies incorrectly assumed wouldn't be sniffed? Was that justified? How do you know that data didn't get into the wrong hands, other than assuming every coworker was trustworthy.
bbakkd 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you are not a terrorist or a foreign government official or work for a large corporation or bank or travel or communicate with people in certain countries or use certain keywords in your communications you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
focher 2 days ago 0 replies      
The worst thing about such pro-spying articles is that they are policy arguments, when the real issue is one of Constitutional rights. I don't really care what policies individuals or groups support. That's the whole point of a Constitution. It protects liberties from even majority rule taking them away. What part of the Fourth Amendment is unclear? Don't like it? Then pass a new goddamn amendment.
bayesianhorse 2 days ago 0 replies      
We are the watchers on the (Facebook) wall...
LekkoscPiwa 2 days ago 0 replies      
First 60-minutes, now this. Are we in the middle of a PR campaign now?
jsac 2 days ago 0 replies      
this story smells like PR via the NSA....
jjguy 1 day ago 2 replies      
HN, I'm ashamed of you.

The comments in this thread (and every other Snowden-related revelation in the last six months) have made it clear you are incapable of appreciating the magnitude and complexity of this scope of issue. The comment threads have been dominated by narrow, small minded thinking, bereft of any considered thoughtfulness. I quit reading your comments on these posts long ago, because they were a worthless echo chamber of self-righteous arrogance. I thought maybe, perhaps, this post would elicit better discussion. I should have known better.

Even after six months, I don't yet have a well-formed opinion on the topic. It's incredibly complicated and encompasses considerations most of us can barely comprehend. In an essay on the topic, Mike Hayden (ex USAF General, ex NSA director, ex CIA director) said: [1]

    it takes a special kind of arrogance for this    young man to believe his moral judgment    on the dilemma suddenly trumps that of two    (incredibly different) presidents, both houses    of the U.S. Congress, both political parties,    the U.S. court system and more than 30,000 of    his co-workers.
The HN collective deserves the same chastisement.

I expect more of HN than I do a typical forum. I dismiss the "not like the old days" cynics. Please don't prove them right.

1 - http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/19/opinion/hayden-snowden-impact/

Show HN: Myth CSS the way it was imagined myth.io
316 points by ianstormtaylor  20 hours ago   144 comments top 28
pvnick 12 hours ago 5 replies      
Wow. I'm shocked at the disgusting responses I'm reading here. No wonder people get terrible anxiety about releasing their hard work for feedback. Hacker News seems to be a den of vipers, waiting to strike at the tiniest opportunity to nitpick. And then folks have the gall to bicker and argue over whether the project even has fundamental merit, on the very thread that the author tries to show the "community" what he/she has made. I've been working on a project myself, something I'm passionate about and looking forward to my own "Show HN" thread, but this trend of negativity really makes me hesitate.

I think this is a really cool project, and I commend ianstormtaylor for pushing the envelope and advancing the state of the web. Good job!

edit: I understand criticism has its place in Show HN. But for God's sake, I had to scroll _all the way to the bottom_ to find some kind words of encouragement. You folks should really read some Dale Carnegie

crazygringo 20 hours ago 7 replies      
> Myth lets you write pure CSS while still giving you the benefits of tools like LESS and Sass.

Having a "polyfill" is certainly a valid justification. But this doesn't come close to LESS/Sass -- I'd argue that the main feature of those is nested rules, and then mixins.

Variables and calculations are great, but most LESS code I've encountered uses nesting and mixins to a far greater extent. Advertising the project as "the benefits of tools like LESS and Sass" seems misleading, and seems to set up expectations that Myth doesn't fulfill.

JimDabell 17 hours ago 1 reply      
This only polyfills some of these features in the most superficial way. To polyfill some of these features according to spec., you need to do it in the browser.

For example:

    <!DOCTYPE html>    <title>CSS Variable Test</title>    <style>        head {            display: block;            var-mycolor: blue;        }        :root {            var-mycolor: red;        }        title {            display: block;            color: var(mycolor);        }    </style>
If I load that document in a browser that supports CSS variables, the title will be blue. But if I run it through Myth, it drops the blue rule and makes the title red. This is because CSS variables are inherited throughout the document and can be overridden at any time. The calculated value of the CSS property that uses the variable depends on the document structure.

Likewise with calc() - if you multiply values like in their example, it works, but if you try to add two values of different units (e.g. 2em + 30%), it silently falls back to requiring browser support for calc().

This might be useful in narrow circumstances, but it should have big warning signs because it doesn't come close to being a proper polyfill.

eknkc 20 hours ago 0 replies      
It's basically a rework (https://github.com/visionmedia/rework) distribution with a couple of plugins bult in.

I you need finer grained control, take a look at rework itself. We have been using it for a while and it's just great.

codegeek 20 hours ago 11 replies      
Oops. Landing page font is almost unreadable in Chrome Version 30.0.1599.101 (Windows XP
jackmoore 19 hours ago 1 reply      
You all should be aware that it is impossible for CSS preprocessors/postprocessor to fully replicate calc() and var(). For example, you won't be able to do something like calc(100% - 200px) or have scoped variables.
xauronx 20 hours ago 6 replies      
I've avoided the CSS preprocessors for some reason, something about learning a CSS pseudo-language just didn't feel right. The idea behind this however is awesome. You're writing simple, true CSS and it does the annoying work of making it crappy CSS that browsers want. I might actually be able to get behind this.
badman_ting 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Very cool, but once you start working in something like LESS or Sass, it totally changes how you write styling and becomes something more than "CSS with variables". The possibilities they offer are more than features, it changes your entire workflow. Personally, I won't go back.

But besides all that, it's pretty sweet to have something more like "CSS with variables". That can come in super-handy sometimes.

chc 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Despite its assertion to the contrary, that looks like a preprocessor to me.
coderzach 19 hours ago 0 replies      
This looks pretty cool. It should probably explain that it's a static subset of the spec, and not actually a polyfill for the spec itself. Since the spec allows for dynamic, cascading variables, as well as dynamic calculations.
Pxtl 19 hours ago 0 replies      
"Myth - CSS the way it was imagined "

I totally read that completely differently. Complete document/style separation is a myth.

prezjordan 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow what a great idea. Nicely executed, love the demo page.
djokkataja 14 hours ago 0 replies      
The site looks gorgeous and is perfectly readable in Firefox 25 on Ubuntu.

Also this looks pretty neat; I wasn't super interested in learning to use Sass/LESS or working it into my development cycle, but this looks like a good step towards not having to make much of a change while still reaping some nice benefits.

crystaln 10 hours ago 0 replies      
"post-processor"? What does that mean?

Looks a lot like a pre-processor to me, except that its functionality is limited to what can be defined by pure CSS. I'm not sure why you would choose this preprocessor over one with more functionality.

Somebody must have thought it was a good idea to have gone through so much effort, so perhaps I'm missing something.

ozh 20 hours ago 0 replies      
lots of readability issues on this page. Purple tiny text on black background != easy to read.
lstamour 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Long-term I'm not sure how well this will work.

After all, SCSS was based on "CSS3" so we wouldn't have to rewrite our CSS. It's still around ... so we don't have to rewrite our SCSS.

I'm happy to see innovation here, but I also wish IE would just auto-update already. :D

Kiro 20 hours ago 2 replies      
What's up with the font? It looks like a disaster on Chrome @ Windows.
transfire 18 hours ago 3 replies      
I wish there were a revolt against W3C. They have consistently made a mess of everything they touch (and take forever to do it). Why reinvent the wheel yet again with another fuglier syntax? We already have Sass and LESS which are widely used and quite beloved. Just adopt the best of those and save us from yet another "XSL-FO". Please! For God's sake, man!
iLoch 20 hours ago 3 replies      
Man I really hate when the creator of the site expects me to scroll down. I have a 1080p monitor, if I can't see any content at that height I have to assume there isn't any.
ultimatedelman 19 hours ago 0 replies      
this is cool, but the problem i have with the variables is that it's based on a suggestion of a spec that mozilla hasn't even finalized... if it changes in the future, this could break
abvdasker 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Definitely going to give this a try. I really appreciate the apparent simplicity and creativity of this tool. It avoids the need to learn the odd syntax of LESS/Sass for those of us who need reliable cross-browser support while providing many (though not all) of the benefits of precompilers.

Seriously great work.

nawitus 19 hours ago 2 replies      
Can Myth postprocess LESS output and guarantee that it'll "just work"? I like the vendor prefix feature (although there's a 'LESS Prefixer' project too).
habosa 17 hours ago 2 replies      
SIde note but I have never seen "Star on GitHub" before ... does that mean contributions are not welcome?
pc86 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Tiny text is unreadable on Windows Chrome.
philliphaydon 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Why do front-end developers not test their website cross-browser and platform?

The font chosen doesn't render properly on Windows with Opera or Chrome.

oneeyedpigeon 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting. Shouldn't the 2nd "a" in the right column under "Color Manipulation" be an "a:hover"?
kumarski 20 hours ago 0 replies      
A little tough to read the text.looks cool.
fiatjaf 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I imagine a CSS where the outer divs submit to the inners (but only when I want to).
Decline of 60 Minutes Continues With This Weeks NSA Whitewash thenation.com
312 points by pain_perdu  2 days ago   92 comments top 20
vinhboy 2 days ago 4 replies      
I am really glad people (or at least some) saw right through them.

I caught only like 10 minutes of it, but one of the NSA official was talking about how they discovered a state sponsored malware that could infect your BIOS and brick your computer. I was like, wait, what? So you spy on our phone and internet communication so you can protect us from computer viruses?

But if you were to view that as a lay person, what the NSA official said about cyber attacks must have sounded really damn scary. After hearing something like that, most people would accept that the NSA's actions are justifiable.

forgotAgain 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think its good to remember that these people are professionals in disinformation and psyops. If we don't understand what they are attempting then it's more likely due to our lack of experience in the area rather then their incompetence.

One plausible explanation is it is an effort to give cover to friendly politicians during political campaigns. They can't just leave these people without a story. They need to supply them with something to counter all the negative news. The story doesn't have to be airtight. It just needs to be good enough for the majority of the population to remain accepting of the status quo.

As an example of another bit in this campaign I would point to the recent instances of politicians claiming that Snowden must have had help from the Chinese or Russians. No proof was given but he just had to have help because how else could he have done it.

It would be good to remember that the first goal of any organization is survival. There is no reason to think that the offensive capabilities of the NSA and the rest of the defense establishment aren't being used to protect themselves.

IanDrake 1 day ago 2 replies      
CBS is really pumping up the PR for the NSA.

Recent episodes of NCIS have a NSA agent on loan to the NCIS staff. She's cute, smart, and quirky and does a great job protecting us all from the scary people.

Also, Hawaii 5.0, had a hack attack on an episode lately and they were all "Thank god we have the NSA to protect us". Ok, I forget the details on that one, but I remember rolling my eyes.

Now with 60 minutes jumping on board, it's plain to see there's a coordinated effort to spin the NSA in a good light. Not just a whitewash, the message is "The NSA spying on Americans is a good thing".

runjake 2 days ago 0 replies      
An easy bite for a real journalist would've been Alexander's statement in the opening segment that NSA does not collect data ("phone calls and emails") on Americans. He then goes on to detail all the safeguards (FISA courts, access controls) to prevent analysts from mis-using this actually-collected "uncollected" data.

A real journalist, which Miller isn't, would've been all over that. But if it hadn't been Miller, and it had a real journalist, there would've been no way NSA would've allowed CBS inside any part of the complex.

Later in the segment, it is mentioned we share all this data with our FIVE EYES partner countries, where presumably, they don't have safeguards regarding foreign nationals (eg. Americans). Another something a real journalist would've jumped all over.

Another little aside: Miller asked Ledgett (the Snwoden task force head and soon-to-be Deputy Director, NSA) how many times he's been interviewed by the media and he replied "One. Now.". He's been interviewed at least a few times before, most recently by the WSJ. A quick Google search pulled up this URL: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142405270230460710...

DigitalSea 2 days ago 3 replies      
I am one of the few who remember a time when 60 Minutes actually did investigative journalism and not biased propaganda pieces for the likes of the NSA. Now you'll be hard-pressed to find any investigation in a 60 Minutes story, let alone the journalism part. Sad.
rl3 2 days ago 0 replies      
Unsurprisingly, the words "targeting" and "collecting" were used interchangeably when convenient.

In similar fashion, "metadata" was again used as a red herring.

All domestic communications within the United States are currently intercepted and stored for at least 5 years, including content. Perhaps that wasn't a desirable talking point.

transfire 2 days ago 3 replies      
"The fact is, we're not collecting everybody's email, we're not collecting everybody's phone things, we're not listening to that."

Uh... http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

How easy it has become for them to lie.

gjenkin 2 days ago 3 replies      
FRONTLINE seems to be the only investigative journalism program of note left on television. Will be interesting to see their report on the NSA, assuming that they're working on one.
atmosx 2 days ago 4 replies      
I saw the show here[1]. It's beyond ridiculous. The saddest thing is how stupid they consider average Joe to be.

[1] http://www.thewire.com/national/2013/12/60-minutes-nsa-good-...

Another question that always puzzles me... Are operating system THAT vulnerable? Every Agency, Criminal, whatever-organization has a remote 0day windows/linux/macosx exploit????

grogenaut 2 days ago 0 replies      
Once Rooney died they were all free to stop complaining which does not make for good news. That grumpy old man was protecting our freedoms by protecting our lawn.
kpapke 2 days ago 1 reply      
EDIT Did anybody find that segment about the codebreakers and the Rubik's cube kind of silly? It seemed to send a message to me like, "These guys can solve a damn Rubik's cube okay. Their work is way over your head. Don't ask questions, just trust them."
doki_pen 2 days ago 1 reply      
And the first example they use is a "pirate"??!! That justifies a lack of privacy and an ungodly sum of tax money?!

:throws up in mouth:

paul9290 2 days ago 0 replies      
60 Minutes pawned by Jeff Bezos and now a paid stooge for the NSA who tried to further discredit Snowden.
siculars 1 day ago 0 replies      
NSA and there mass media partners are basically running psyops on Americans. The sad thing is that it will probably work on many of the sheeple and provide ample cover for morning talk shows and op-ed articles ad nauseam.
mrobot 2 days ago 2 replies      
Sigh, more about phone records.

Phone records! Just metadata collection! Data collection? Oh, right, we do that, too.

cafard 2 days ago 0 replies      
The notion that 60 Minutes had a position from which to decline is curious.
josefresco 2 days ago 1 reply      
Since when did anyone still consider 60 minutes serious journalism? They've long gone the way of "gee-whiz" reporting for the aging (and probably sleeping) baby-boomers. You want hard hitting journalism covering the worse situations around the world? Frontline has you covered.
rdl 2 days ago 2 replies      
Are they this bad in their other current reporting?
LekkoscPiwa 2 days ago 1 reply      
Who is the target? I mean, seriously. Nazism had Jews. Communism had bourgeois. Who is the enemy of the US Totalitarian Government. Because as we all (well, maybe not all) know from school, the totalitarian Government to exist needs two types of enemies: internal. And external. We know who the external enemies are: so called "terrorists". So this begs the question, who the internal enemy will be. They will probably also be called "terrorists". But will these be "islam fundamentalists" like in the case with external enemy. Or maybe so called "patriots"? Or OWS movements? I have no clue to be honest. Who is the enemy? Which group the propaganda machine will sacrifice to keep the wider populace in check, obedient and scared?

Seriously asking because from me this is the only point from understanding if we are in fact dealing with totalitarians already or not yet. I assume this is morphing slowly into a totalitarian state. But who will be sacrificed? Who will be the internal enemy. That puzzle is missing for me. Who will be used to keep us scared?

The scenario I think is possible: like with world trade centers, via/nsa/whatever will do some kind of horrible 'terrorist' attack on the US soil. Thousands will be killed. And the whole thing blamed on OWS -- or -- Patriots -- or -- both of these groups at the same time -- and prosecuted without courts in concentration camps a.k.a "Gauntanmo Bay". I know, I know, sounds like sci-fi. Anyone taking bets on that though?

Because that's the only part of the puzzle they are missing. And if you ask me, the reason why they selected 'terrorism' as the target is not an incident. That's the only tactics that can be employed successfully against strong, organized total government effectively. Both Polish and French underground soldiers were called terrorists by the Nazis.

If you take away democracy from people - at has already happened in the US where whoever we vote into the office will just do the same thing - the only option you leave them is violence. Terror. If you know and understand that - as they USG had known for a long time - your first step will be making them the public enemy #1 even before you start morphing the country into a totalitarian state.

Who can be accused of terrorism? Even 82-old nuns are. http://jezebel.com/5943373/82+year+old-nun-breaks-into-the-f...

Why not me for writing the above? The punishment? No right to lawyer, no right to due process, torture, indefinite imprisonment in de facto concentration camp. WAKE UP!

nexttimer 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the majority of the US public doesn't even need any of that propaganda to hang Snowden in public and continue to put up with corrupt DC.
CSS animated loading indicators tobiasahlin.com
306 points by hising  1 day ago   70 comments top 18
gizzlon 1 day ago 2 replies      
Are you telling me that CSS can now make nice animated wobbling circles but still can't center in a sane way?

(Nice work, btw, like the animations =)

moistgorilla 1 day ago 3 replies      
Nice job. Is it a problem with the state of webdev that the thing I was most impressed by was that your website didn't break my back button? Seriously, good work.
nkuttler 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's the browser compatibility info: http://caniuse.com/css-animation
petejansson 21 hours ago 2 replies      
These are really very nice, but they don't really convey any more information than a static picture of a puzzled kitten. Like "security theater," this is "progress theater" and I would prefer to give my users a more useful indication of progress. I do appreciate the work that went into these, and admire the skill.
CRowlands 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Here is a little editing on one of the ones I like this better then the three in a row. .spinner { margin: 100px auto 0; width: 70px; text-align: center;}

.spinner > div { width: 22px; height: 18px; background-color: #333;

  border-radius: 100%;  display: inline-block;  -webkit-animation: bouncedelay 1.4s infinite ease-in-out;  animation: bouncedelay 1.4s infinite ease-in-out;

.spinner .bounce1 { -webkit-animation-delay: -0.32s; animation-delay: -0.32s;}

.spinner .bounce2 { -webkit-animation-delay: -0.16s; animation-delay: -0.16s;}

@-webkit-keyframes bouncedelay { 0%, 80%, 100% { -webkit-transform: scale(0.0) } 40% { -webkit-transform: scale(1.0) }}

@keyframes bouncedelay { 0%, 80%, 100% { transform: scale(0.0) } 40% { transform: scale(1.0) }}

surjithctly 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've also created one

Windows 8 Loading with pure CSS3


eik3_de 1 day ago 1 reply      
Unfortunately very CPU intense, compared to SVG-based indicators
im3w1l 5 hours ago 0 replies      
The animation tears, and it needs antialiasing.
brokenparser 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice work, especially "Wave" and "Circle" because they're more likely to be recognised as such. (Similar animations are already seen in the wild.)
baby 1 day ago 8 replies      
It's nice and well done, but now who would use this novelty idea in a real work? There are animated GIF or fonts SVG for that.
Trufa 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is pretty neat, also I was incredibly surprised when going through the code to see in how little number of lines he achieved that!
Vektorweg 1 day ago 0 replies      
Now we have brand new CSS and we do a subset of the cool things, we could do in SVG since ten years. I'm a bit confused.

Oh and it doesn't work in Opera 12 .

odc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Very nice! Although I hope this won't be mainstream too soon as this uses 10% of my CPU (Firefox on Linux).
cupofjoakim 1 day ago 0 replies      
Feels a bit too flashy for me. That's just personal opinion though, it's still great work. Now work on cross browser support.
usrnam 1 day ago 1 reply      
And this is main in favicon:


Sorry no preview

onion2k 1 day ago 3 replies      
They don't seem to animate in Chrome 31.
wil421 1 day ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have a tutorial that shows how to implement a loading screen?
nvdk 1 day ago 3 replies      
I believe all of them actually use more bandwidth then a gif, so why use this exactly?
DNA seen through the eyes of a coder ds9a.nl
305 points by xuki  3 days ago   96 comments top 16
stiff 2 days ago 9 replies      
Biology is completely different from Computer Science and metaphors between the fields build no understanding and can only be misleading, every time I hear someone comparing DNA to a computer program I fall into pieces. I recommend "Molecular Biology for Computer Scientists" instead for those willing to learn some actual biology:


I think it's the first chapter of this book:


I once considered going into bioinformatics, and did an intense three weeks sprint trying to learn some molecular biology, ending in a seminar presentation to other people explaining the basics. I used this book back then which I also recommend strongly to those interested:


It covers all the basics of molecular biology very understandably and at the same time the scientific/computational content is interesting even for a computer scientist. Still, learning this stuff takes hard work, you have to rehash some relevant chemistry first or you get nowhere, than biologists use a lot of both chemical and biological lingo which you have to understand, and only then the actual biological content becomes clear. Once you do understand it, however, it's beautiful, beautiful stuff, one of the most beautiful things one can learn in general I think, of which you unfortunately won't get a sense from reading this article, or in general from trying to understand it by sloppy metaphors. Do yourself a favour and try to understand this for real.

Jun8 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is fantastic! It would be awesome if there were workshops, say, of 3 months duration, where people from totally unrelated disciplines are put together with no pre-knowledge and see if anything useful will come out of it. Most of the time, nothing may come out of this, but every now and then spectacular advances may come about, I'm sure (for an example, see Adleman's development of DNA Computing, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_computing#History).

The problem is that decades of work in a narrow field, although it makes you an expert, also dulls an outsider's novel look to the subject and leaves you with numerous explicit and, more dangerously, implicit dogmas/assumptions.

dekhn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ah, this reminds me of my childhood. No- seriously, when I was in high school almost 25 years ago I thought this way. My interest was more in the similarity between the C preprocessor and intron splicing, and even dabbled with the similarity between the ribosome and the compiler (except, the ribosome is simultaneously far simpler than a compiler, yet infinitely richer in complexity).

It's useful to have these analogies, and to some extent that really do represent true universals. In particular, in reading the history of Crick, I realized that he was a huge fan of information theory, and it helped guide his thinking about how DNA sequences are interpreted and converetd to protein sequences.

However, it can be dangerous to fall down this path. In particular, biology is hotter, wetter and messier than computing. It requires scientists to have extraordinarily flexible brains; I woudl say after many years, I think the people I met in MIT Biology are smarter than the people in MIT CS- their ability to reason over ambiguous data and come up with predictive conclusions is downright amazing.

If you're a computer person who wants to learn more about this, I have a couple suggestions:1) buy Molecular Biology of the Cell2) read the whole goddamn thing, slowing down to understand every concept rather than skimming.

cristianpascu 2 days ago 6 replies      
It's beyond my understanding, as a physicist and programmer, how can someone write a full comparison between DNA and a programming language or source code as written by intelligent beings, and at the end recommend a work on 'evidence that there is no designer' of life.

The very definition of intelligence is not 'being smart', but having the ability to select one option out of a set of possible options. That is what we, programmers, do. We don't just throw lines of code randomly. We select specific ones for a specific purpose. That's how we build software, mechanisms of information put in motion by the computer. We put our logic into a decisional mechanism which mimics our decisional ability.

However, life does more than that. Life is more than a mechanism driven by a source code. Consciousness goes beyond rules of decision found in programmable machines. But even if you're a physicalist, the abilities that simple beings have such as recognizing objects, paths, building nests, traveling long distances, using tools, are amazing in their own right.

And yet, these all are strong evidence there is no designer beyond it all. It's mere chance, bits on a string selected by nature.

atratus 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's important to be wary of the term 'junk DNA'...just because a segment of a chromosome is noncoding does not mean it has no role in the genome's function. Assembly of functional structure ie a Replisome requires formation of elaborate secondary and tertiary 3-D conformations that support the primary replication machinery. This is facilated by topoisomerases, binding proteins, a whole soup of RNAs, and spans of "junk" which allow the necessary conformations. In other cases, the 'junk' can serve to insulate highly conserved genes. "Junk" is a terrible characterization.

This is one of those instances where the press/pop media can be a bit behind. Some bchem textbooks from even a few years ago are obsolete. Research into DNA-DNA interaction really has become hotter in only the last few years as we've begun pinning down protein roles. There is a whole layer of interaction between epigenetics, differential RNA splicing, and DNA-DNA feedback that is just mind-boggling.

thethirdwheel 2 days ago 1 reply      
My background is in bioinformatics, so this naturally caught my eye. I came away disappointed. The mappings are no easier to understand than simplistic descriptions in biology textbooks. The only thing they add is the mistaken impression of intent in the genetic code, and the expectation the analogy will continue to hold outside the scope of the enumerated mappings. Kind of ironic to run into that issue with so many Dawkins references at the end...
kamakazizuru 2 days ago 2 replies      
this guy really needs to go speak to a bioinformatician. Having studied the same myself - I can safely say that he is at best drawing vague analogies - the goal of this exercise however is very unclear (especially ending with all the Dawking b.s.). I take it as him trying to say "oh look it may seem like a programming language - but it's not - so that means we were not designed by some intelligent being". But that's based on the flawed assumption of DNA being like a programming language. It's not - it's a mapping - there's no point comparing an orange to an apple - and saying - here's why it could be that an orange is an apple - but in reality it isn't. In fact - drawing such analogies is what limits our understanding of the DNA in the first place (and which is why increasing amounts of research is going into looking at it from more multi discplinary perspectives). As a simple example - researchers at Uwash recently discovered the 2nd meaning of some genetic sequences [1]. Essentially - this article is taking something man-made (programming languages & software engineering approaches) - which are often influenced by natural designs - and then comparing them to a natural design - that has a different purpose.

[1] http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/12/12/scientists-discove...

nabla9 2 days ago 1 reply      
Using coding examples like conditional compilation is not right abstraction for programmers to understand how genes compute.

GRN is.



GRN can be modeled using different levels of abstraction and accuracy as boolean network , recurrent neural network or as stochastic gene networks.

In other words, they are capable of complex computations, but computational model looks more like neural network or stochastic network.

Tycho 2 days ago 0 replies      
Now, DNA is not like a computer programming language. It really isn't. But there are some whopping analogies. We can view each cell as a CPU, running its own kernel. Each cell has a copy of the entire kernel, but choses to activate only the relevant parts. Which modules or drivers it loads, so to speak.

I wonder if we turned this back around, would it suggest some novel designs for computer systems?

grownseed 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is wonderful, I've always seen programming as the application of a given mindset (as opposed to the other way around) and for years since I was a kid, I thought biology, and in particular DNA, applied to the concept very well. It's not until watching the show Regenesis that I realized there was a field for it, Bioinformatics!

After years of being a senior dev and such in some web shop, I'm actually starting a job in bioinformatics in a few weeks, it's beyond exciting. It's articles like this that remind me why being a programmer can be interesting beyond the code. We live in very interesting times.

Aardwolf 2 days ago 6 replies      
What I always think would be a cool device (science fiction of course), would be one which you can give DNA code (be it copied from an existing creature, modified by someone, or computer generated), and then the machine produces the organism from that DNA code.
alcari 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a relevant, interesting talk [0] from 24C3 about engineering organisms.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gadBNBJRPr0

mikelemmon 1 day ago 0 replies      
Perhaps the programming analogy is more similar to a language such as Logo or G-code used in CNC machines, that is used more to provide instructions to build something rather than computation and logical operations.


rakesh111989 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are many people who think that DNA code should not be compared to a computer code. But I think it is actually a Holy Code. People argue that because DNA is more complex than Computer code. But this complexity can be explained in following way. When the first organisms came they only had amino acids for doing all the biological processes so the holy code was very simple. Than with evolution there was need of more complex code to execute more complex biological processes, so RNA came into existence. These new living thing had only RNA as genetic material like RNA virus. Than more evolution and We got new version of Holy Code the DNA. It has happened in billions of years so now I think you can now understand the reason for complexity. The another reason why its complex is because DNA is a code but we cannot understand computer code unless we know the language.
altras 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hey, you should check out https://github.com/VarnaLab/node-organic - organic development with NodeJS :D It has implementations on java & php too :)
coin 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Coder" - boy do I hate that term. It implies that all the person does is code - no design, no collaboration, no releasing, no testing. It's like calling a roofer an hammerer.

As a software engineer/developer/programmer, coding is just one aspect of what I do.

China lands Jade Rabbit robot rover on Moon bbc.co.uk
280 points by scrrr  4 days ago   105 comments top 13
ufmace 3 days ago 4 replies      
Anyone else a little surprised that we hadn't heard anything about this mission earlier? I didn't really know that China was even planning on landing probes on the Moon. Kind of a big contrast to SpaceX, say, who seems to publish a press release or at least a tweet about everything they have done and are planning to do. Not that I mind, it's cool to read about what they're working on. I suppose if the Chinese space program is publishing much about it's plans, it doesn't make it into English-language media most of the time.
danielrpa 4 days ago 4 replies      
Go China! As an american, I hope China keeps pushing the boundaries on their space program - maybe we'll then decide to invest in science and space exploration again.
milesf 3 days ago 6 replies      
My wife's comment: "That's because the Chinese are the only ones with any money to have a space program". Very true dear, very true.
vyrotek 4 days ago 4 replies      
It should be their top priority to drive over to the U.S. landing site and send back proof that we actually went to the moon. I atleast want to see what the flag and other things look like now. :)
zhemao 3 days ago 0 replies      
So Chang'e carries a Jade Rabbit to the moon. The consequence of thousands of years of cultural fascination with the moon is that there sure are a lot of things to name moon-bound spacecraft after.
be5invis 3 days ago 2 replies      

Our Conquest is the Ocean of Stars.

beachwood23 4 days ago 4 replies      
Am I the only one who thinks that picture of the yellow spacecraft on "the moon" looks incredibly fake?
robomartin 3 days ago 6 replies      
This is a massive accomplishment that might very well mark an inflection point for China. While countries like the US haven't really done anything in the last few decades to truly inspire the population --kids in particular-- here's China executing a feat of engineering that will surely serve as inspiration for their young. And, of course, this is probably the first of many.

Timing, of course, couldn't be better. The Chinese have managed their country admirably. No debt to speak of. Massive investment in infrastructure, technology and manufacturing capabilities. An environment where entrepreneurship is top dog and government seems to pretty much stay out of their way. And, of course, they are also ingesting massive amounts of intellectual and financial capital from the rest of the world.

Some have proposed this is going to inspire or push us to compete in this arena. I'll propose that will not happen at the same scale the Chinese are building-up to. Think of it this way: We have to actually borrow money from the Chinese to compete with them. I'll leave you with that thought.

easy_rider 3 days ago 1 reply      
Probably just an ASIC BTC miner, capitalizing on cooler operating temperatures and free super effective non-atmospheric blocked solar power.
return0 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just when i thought quadcopters were cool ... I can see how, with a little chinese-fu magic the chinese could make space travel commodity. Or at least moon-droning. Certainly looking forward to pay a (short) visit to the first moon colony.
xenophonf 3 days ago 0 replies      
That's freaking awesome!
kolev 3 days ago 0 replies      
While America is wasting billions on waging wars and funding failures like Obamacare, other nations are advancing their science! China's next destination is Mars! I'm sure they will get there well before Mars One, which keeps pushing their dates further in the future!
mingyuan 3 days ago 0 replies      
good news.
RethinkDB raises an $8M Series A rethinkdb.com
265 points by coffeemug  1 day ago   124 comments top 27
old-gregg 1 day ago 2 replies      
If you're an ambitious engineer thinking about joining a start-up, this is your chance to be smart about this.

RethinkDB team is the nicest possible group of people one can hope to work with in Bay Area. They have a great combination of often mutually exclusive things: hacker-friendly business model (no ads, tech for cash), aggressiveness and tech-savviness of founders, yet they're humble, honest and nice.

And the product works, well-liked, serving an exploding market, so the probability of failure is quite low by a typical start-up standards.

This is very rare. Make a move.

lincolnq 1 day ago 5 replies      
Rethinkdb is a really well-designed system. I've been using it (not in production currently) as a better-designed MongoDB with a proper query language. I would recommend checking it out for new projects where a document datastore is appropriate, and to migrate away from a troublesome Mongo.
benjaminwootton 1 day ago 4 replies      
It amazes me that there is so much money floating around to fund these niche open source NoSQL products.

(Not that I'm not a fan of RethinkDB. I've been playing with it since one of the earliest released builds and find it a really lightweight nice database to use.)

jops 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm looking forward to the LTS release so I can feel more comfortable using it in a production app.

A slight aside, but I spotted this (currently broken) integration of RethinkDB and Meteor the other day and wanted to share. It does away with the long poll Meteor is doing on Mongo. (I have no involvement in this project at all.)



mjhea0 1 day ago 4 replies      
RethinkDB is awesome. I have a stealth project which uses RethinkDB in the backend. I moved it over from Mongo over the weekend. It will be revealed soon. But I'm working with about 100 million records. Currently testing it with node, slamming it with thousand of concurrent requests.

Also, I just started a blog series on Rethink. http://www.realpython.com/blog/python/rethink-flask-a-simple...

Next up will be performance testing.

Congrats, RethinkDB.

octix 1 day ago 2 replies      
I like the idea of LTS release.

Btw, how do you know that "Thousands of developers are already building applications backed by RethinkDB;"?

PS: I hope we'll see soon more official drivers...

100k 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Slava and the RethinkDB team. I'm really looking forward to your continued progress.
gsibble 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Rethink! Really glad to see such a fascinating product get the funding it deserves!
leokun 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is so awesome. I have been excited about RethinkDB and a real mongodb alternative and was just hesitating based on RethinkDb's ability to last. But now I know you will last. Just awesome. I'm going to start using Rethinkdb on my next project.
petesoder 1 day ago 0 replies      
Very cool. Congrats, guys! This was a great talk - http://www.hakkalabs.co/articles/how-rethinkdb-works/
ricardobeat 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congratulations, can't wait for 2.0!
dpweb 1 day ago 2 replies      
Read this article, installed and started messing w/it.. Got any stats or insight how this holds up in a real prod environment?

A very crude measurement - I just threw it on a box that I'm 70ms away from, I'm getting insert responses back in 90ms, on Mongo which I HATED (the "old" query language I was trying to understand.. a while back it was thought for just a moment we could get by without the relational algebra) - I was about 200ms - so far so good, but how much can I hammer a particular node?

Looks to be using ~20MB ram on the svr process, works for me..

hardwaresofton 1 day ago 0 replies      
Super excited for the rethinkdb team. I absolutely love their database and am currently trying to stop using it for everything.

Super helpful on IRC (I've been in there multiple times for help with small problems), seems like an overall awesome team

zzzaim 1 day ago 1 reply      
Been trying RethinkDB on and off and really like the query language. Does anybody know if there are any RethinkDB hosting/DBaaS services out there? Sysadmin/devops is not my forte, and with LTS coming, I hope companies like MongoHQ/MongoLab/IrisCouch for RethinkDB start to prop up.
pdog 1 day ago 1 reply      
Any notable companies using RethinkDB in production?
ozgune 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats to the RethinkDB team! These guys rock, and I'm looking forward to their future releases.
embwbam 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats! Using RethinkDB on several projects. I love the web interface, I love the query language, I love the features. Keep it up!
alessioalex 1 day ago 0 replies      
There are two things that bother me about the Node.js driver. The first is that it doesn't have its own repository, you have to go to https://github.com/rethinkdb/rethinkdb/tree/next/drivers/jav...The second one is that it's written in CoffeeScript. That may have been a good idea at the beginning, but if you want to have more traction and more developers looking into the source code I think you should 'translate' it into raw JS.
sourc3 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Having met Slava a couple years ago (which seems like a long time ago) in our office, he is one of wicked smart folks around. Congratulations! Looking forward to the evolution of RethinkDB.
cheez 1 day ago 0 replies      
Coffeemug, I remember you on IRC in #weblocks. Good stuff, hope you took some off the table.
deepdiver16 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats guys! Well deserved.

I have been using RethinkDB over the last month in a new project. If you know that a document store is the right solution for you, take a look at RethinkDB. I evaluated it against some of its competitors, and I must say that I was really amazed at the deep engineering thinking that is going into RethinkDB. The ease and power of its programming model (use of AST/lamda functions and like abstractions are awesome), and attention to ease of deployment and manageability (great UI!) is unparalled in like products. RethinkDb is a young product for sure, but one with a very bright potential. In addition, being well funded should help alleviate fears and hopefully help it further gain traction.

Best of luck!

oblio 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good luck, and your first page is golden:

    joe@alchemist~$ rethinkdb    joe@clockwerk~$ rethinkdb -j alchemist:29015
Just guessing, but joe is probably a Dota fan :)

newtonocean 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Slava, Mike and the RethinkDB team.
AHconsidered 1 day ago 1 reply      
What are the pros or cons of using RethinkDB versus say Cassandra?
wissler 1 day ago 1 reply      
What is their revenue model?
shiloa 1 day ago 1 reply      
I tried to find the restrictions/performance costs of storing and accessing medium to large blobs of text in rethinkdb store (say, for a simple web crawler), but couldn't find docs related to that. Is there a size restriction or some other insights from you rethinkdb users or developers out there?
infocollector 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know at what percentage equity was this raised?
Water seems to flow freely on Mars nature.com
262 points by cryptoz  2 days ago   161 comments top 13
jboggan 1 day ago 19 replies      
Is anyone else tired of hearing about the dangers of interplanetary contamination, particularly from the Earth to Mars? I want to see the whole place terraformed and I can't imagine that we'd be so successful in our lifetimes that we'd wipe out whatever scientifically interesting traces of extant Martian flora there are. Whether or not there was life on Mars is a fascinating question, but I think the more important one is when will we expand life on Mars?
drcode 1 day ago 5 replies      
I know this is an unpopular opinion here but:

NASA needs to stop milking the "water on mars" thing. Every few months it seems their PR department lazily says to themselves "Hey! let's do another water on mars story!" (I know, NASA doesn't do PR and these are just completely objective releases of scientific papers... believe what you will.)

I hope within my lifetime we have some disruption in this space and NASA stops constantly taking blatant advantage of its near monopoly on space exploration.

feelthepain 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the key part of this research is that this adds significantly to the evidence that there's liquid water deep in the crust of Mars. We know that there is water in the form of ice in lots of places on Mars but the idea of subsurface liquid water is exciting because there might be life in there! If it's gushing up to the surface periodically, we might even be able to sample it and see if there's signs of life! There's been previous evidence of these streaks before - but researchers had generally thought that was due to ice melting during the planet's warm season. Now they've found "streaks near the equator, including in the gargantuan Valles Marineris canyon". Any subsurface ice here would likely have sublimated. So it's looking pretty likely that this is subsurface liquid water that is leaking out from time to time.An alternative explanation - dust avalanches - was offered when the same scientists unveiled their initial results back in 2011. With the observation of so many streaks at the equator now the simplest explanation appears to be groundwater welling up to the surface. Similar streaks on Antarctica are known to be caused by water.
Nicholas_C 2 days ago 2 replies      
Oh how I wish Mars had a thicker atmosphere.
cygwin98 1 day ago 4 replies      
Why not send a drone plane together with the Curiosity? It sounds more efficient doing exploration from sky than land. I get that the weather could be a problem. Anyway, just food for thought.
jusben1369 1 day ago 1 reply      
Let's suppose there is water there and we could somehow take advantage of it. Why would human's be inclined to spend any time on Mars?
rms 1 day ago 1 reply      
Mars really doesn't seem that bad; it's just too cold and you can't breathe the air.
jds375 1 day ago 1 reply      
So, how legitimate is this claim? I feel like we hear about this all of the time, only to be disappointed later after further analysis.
thret 1 day ago 1 reply      
"spacecraft will probably have to steer clear of them unless the craft are carefully sterilized"

Question: How could they still be carrying live earth bacteria after the trip? What kind of sterilization is going to be more effective than interplanetary travel?

alixaxel 1 day ago 1 reply      
So Curiosity and all the other rovers are not sterilized?!
ondross 1 day ago 1 reply      
If this water evaporates so quickly, there must be a ton of it. Or else wouldn't it have run out by now?
sidcool 1 day ago 0 replies      
If true, this is huge.
stefantalpalaru 1 day ago 0 replies      
This link (without the trailing '?') was submitted 5 days ago and it was ignored: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6884527
Telegram - secure, free messaging telegram.org
257 points by macalicious  2 days ago   207 comments top 42
moxie 1 day ago 2 replies      
The reason that cryptographers laugh at people who advertise "military grade cryptography" or "we use AES256" is because the choice of crypto primitives is often less important than how they're composed. Those phrases tend to reflect a critical misunderstanding of that, and often mean that a project is using secure primitives in a way that completely undermines their security.

At a glance, while this project is using secure (if aging) primitives, they've made some extremely unusual protocol choices that they need to publicly justify rather than simply describing in an API doc. Just at a glance, the use of modes like Infinite Garble Extension (a failed mode for Kerberos) is troubling, they made up their own KDF (with no proof), and they make what appear to be some amateur mistakes with how they use RSA.

I'm obviously biased, but if you want a mobile-oriented asynchronous messaging protocol, at this point I think the Axolotl ratchet should absolutely be its basis: https://www.whispersystems.org/blog/advanced-ratcheting/

If Telegram folks are on this thread, I'd encourage you to take a look at the TextSecure protocol. If you think it's interesting, you can federate into our network, get a provably secure asynchronous forward secrecy protocol, and also have access to an existing 10MM user base.

ge0rg 2 days ago 3 replies      
I have not run the app, but from the Android source code it looks like this "secure" app is uploading your contacts including full names and all their phone numbers into the "cloud":

MessagesController.readContacts() [0] is called on creation of the MessagesActivity. When invoked for the first time, it collects first names, last names and phone numbers from the Android Contacts interface, creates a table containing the data, and passes that to importContacts() [1], which performs an RPC call to "the cloud", passing the contact list upstream and obtaining a server-processed list as a reply.

For me this is a major trust breach, and makes all the fuzzy claims about the app's security absolutely worthless.

[0] https://github.com/DrKLO/Telegram/blob/master/TMessagesProj/...

[1] https://github.com/DrKLO/Telegram/blob/master/TMessagesProj/...

na85 2 days ago 11 replies      
From their FAQ:

>Q: How secure is Telegram?

>Very secure. We are based on a new protocol, MTProto, built by our own specialists from scratch, with security in mind. At this moment, the biggest security threat to your Telegram messages is your mother reading over your shoulder. We took care of the rest.

Oh good, a bunch of randoms have rolled their own crypto. I stopped reading at this point.

huhtenberg 2 days ago 2 replies      
Looking at [1], it has several red flags.

The replay protection is overly complicated and doesn't kick in after the message is decrypted. This makes it possible to DoS the server with forged messages.

Key derivation uses a custom scheme. Typically there's no reason NOT to piggy-back on existing schemes and there's plenty to choose from - from TLS to IKE.

Also, as already mentioned, there's again NO reason not to use TLS in Anonymous DH mode with an app-level authentication of the session handshake.

Designing your own crypto protocols is a very interesting challenge, but for practical purposes you just have to recycle existing designs. There's really no other way about it. A custom crypto doesn't make any difference for those who doesn't know/care about it, but it certainly will not make you any friends between those who does. Unless, of course, you can explain and prove why your design is better than those that exist already, and these guys don't do this.

[1] http://core.telegram.org/mtproto/description

conroy 2 days ago 3 replies      

    The important thing to remember is that all Telegram messages    are always securely encrypted. The difference between messages    in Secret Chats and ordinary Telegram messages is in the     encryption type: client-client in case of Secret Chats,     client-server/server-client for ordinary chats.
Where "securely encrypted" means that the Telegram server has full access to message contents for ordinary chats. All chats should be "Secret Chats", not the other way around.

joosters 2 days ago 1 reply      
So many dubious claims on just the front page:

* 'delivers messages faster than any other application' - any application? Hmmm. They must be using magic.

* 'messages are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct' - but like every system, the self-destruction is not assured since it's impossible to enforce.

* 'keeps your messages safe from hacker attacks' - a bold claim. Maybe they do some stuff to protect messages, but it's not the perfect safety that this statement implies.

yeukhon 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Telegram is decentralized!

Great. Then...

> Telegram servers are spread worldwide for security and speed.

So this is what they mean by decentralized....

> As a result, Telegram is the fastest and most secure messaging system in the world

And this has exist for how many years?

I can probably say everything except private message, google hangout or Facebook chat is already doing it. They have some of the top-notch security, network and distributed system developers and they have their own cable delivering more volume than your new service can combine together. and if I want true privateness? I'd one-time pad everything. in reality, I guess PGP is good enough.

utnick 2 days ago 3 replies      
A lot of haters in this thread. To be expected.

I've been following this space for a while and telegram is the best app out there right now. The usability is great and they are trying to do the right things when it comes to security.

The apps are open source and can be audited. I fully expect there to be bugs, that is part of the process! You would be insane to trust your life to a crypto app thats been around a few months. So yes, there will be bugs. But that doesn't mean they should just give up. In a few years this could turn into a really nice , secure app.

I think their big competition will be: Textsecure, also a great app and better for security due to OTR. But the iphone app is still in development as is their data channel. Once those are complete, they could take the #1 spot.

Also, hemlis is one to look out for. But they take about the same security approach as telegram but seem to be less open so far.

Ihmahr 2 days ago 3 replies      
People here are complaining a lot about this app, and rightfully so.However, this is definitely the best encrypted communications app there is for ios and therefore also the only app that is cross platform and able to reach a wide audience. I know they didn't do it completely right, but it definitely seems to be the best option that is currently available.
grandpoobah 2 days ago 3 replies      
Where's the desktop app? I guess I'm old fashioned, because I'm looking for the next msn/icq.
__alexs 2 days ago 3 replies      
Their HTTPS server isn't configured with the right certificate :(

Firefox gives me "The certificate is only valid for the following names: *.stel.com , stel.com" for https://telegram.org/

gprasanth 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is HTTPS not secure channel for communication between client-server? What is the reason behind using an entirely different protocol for client-server communication[0] over HTTP?

[0] - http://core.telegram.org/mtproto

eliteraspberrie 1 day ago 0 replies      
The authors' education credentials are impressive, and I admire their initiative. However, they do not seem to have employed a cryptographer to review their design and protocols, so I expect that serious security problems will be discovered.

Personally, my expertise is rather in application security, so I will review some of the source code over the holidays. At first glance the C client is not bad.

The real metric of this project's success will be how they react to criticism, harsh as it may be. I hope they learn from their inevitable mistakes and succeed in the long term.

herge 1 day ago 0 replies      
tptacek should write up a block like http://craphound.com/spamsolutions.txt for everytime somebody rolls up their own crypto solution.
niketas 1 day ago 1 reply      
To whom it may concern: Pavel Durov,one of the authors of Telegram, announced he will pay $200K (or 200 BTC) to decrypt his traffic http://tjournal.ru/paper/durov-decifer-telegram
jeswin 2 days ago 2 replies      
Looks like they kept the interface exactly the same as What's App to attract users. The smiley selection has the entire list of What's App smileys in exactly the same order. What's App is going to be upset, but it might help users.
ingenter 2 days ago 1 reply      
>Q: Who are the people behind Telegram?

>Telegram is supported by Pavel and Nikolai Durov.

I would not trust social network owner with my messages.

TeeWEE 2 days ago 1 reply      
Everybody is so negative here. Ok rolling your own security protocol might not be the best move. However, they want to be competetive with whatsapp.

Most people who try to make a whatsapp killer suck in uix. But this app is really good and fast. I think its better than whatsapp in a multitude of terms.

Okay, there are improvements. But I can submit a pull request to the android app and improve it myself! How Awesome!

betterunix 2 days ago 0 replies      

That such a policy even exists should suggest that "secure" is the wrong way to describe this. Reading through this, it looks like yet another attempt at what Lavabit and Hushmail were trying to do. In other words, snake oil.

zcam 2 days ago 1 reply      
And it's based/hosted in the US: will not use.
motters 2 days ago 1 reply      
If this is closed source (and the source seems to be only implementing API calls to a closed system) then it's fair to assume that this application is probably insecure or has backdoors.

Also if the private key is stored in the cloud then it's likely to be subject to requisitions.

asadlionpk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Devs of this app: Don't be disappointed by these harsh comments because most of them contain technical fixes you need to do asap!

These suggestions, if implemented/fixed will surely get you some really dedicated early adopters!

arianvanp 2 days ago 0 replies      
More info about their secure protocol is here: http://core.telegram.org/mtproto

technical description here : http://core.telegram.org/mtproto/description

artellectual 2 days ago 1 reply      
why does HN comments have to be so negative all the time? its very depressing to read through HN comments.
andor 2 days ago 1 reply      
Like Threema, they use the PGP model, instead of OTR...
agilebyte 2 days ago 2 replies      
Awesome Fallout-style icons.
adventured 2 days ago 0 replies      
"How is Telegram different from WhatsApp? Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based"

Yeah, ok. Decided not to use it right there.

subb 2 days ago 1 reply      
How can this be free? They're not Wikipedia. I'm not sure how they can pay for multiple servers...
kristopher 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure how uploading all of your contact information to their servers counts as "taking back our right to privacy."
yxhuvud 2 days ago 1 reply      
How about desktop clients? Being restricted to mobile devices is not very practical.
andyl 2 days ago 0 replies      
How does this compare with Wickr?
thomasfl 2 days ago 2 replies      
If this get popular and the people behind it can be trusted, this could replace sms and e-mail. The iOS, Android and CLI clients are open source, but I they need to open source the backend too. I also like the idea of giving the noun "telegram" a new meaning.
adnam 2 days ago 0 replies      
Snake oil
okso 2 days ago 0 replies      
I see source code for clients, but nothing for the server side.

Are they using something standard or do they want to lock-down users to their own proprietary servers ?

ssewell 1 day ago 0 replies      
Random observation. What's with the crossed out "h" in chats on the landing page?
xolve 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is not distributed at all. IRC is distributed.

Messages stored on cloud! Big privacy problem.

Just tall marketing claims.

talles 2 days ago 0 replies      
Where have I seem this logo before...
jokoon 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't understand, how is this thing on top of hacker news, while it's being deconstructed like it's a toy ?
aet 2 days ago 0 replies      
How does this operation make money?
seanhandley 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Cloud based" eh? Very secure.
bound008 2 days ago 1 reply      
Open != API
alonium 2 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, there are so many cryptography experts with world names in this thread!

And interesting why you think that it's not possible to read most of cryptography/cryptanalysis books and check common mistakes of implementation afterward? Do you really think that this is THAT hard?

Your scepsis would be understandable if they used OWN cryptoalgorithm. However their protocol is based on well known strong crypto.

Surveillance critic Bruce Schneier to leave post at BT arstechnica.com
253 points by indy  1 day ago   70 comments top 11
dchest 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Schneier told The Register this evening of his departure: "This has nothing to do with the NSA. No, they [BT] weren't happy with me, but they knew that I am an independent thinker and they didn't try to muzzle me in any way. It's just time. I spent seven years at BT, and seven years at Counterpane Internet Security, Inc before BT bought us. It's past time for something new."


windexh8er 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think Schneier is a great advocate as of recent and has become a more inspiring security leader (compared to many who are just talking heads who have no real experience, comparatively). That being said, I feel he was a different person when Counterpane got bought out by BT. I happened to work for BT North America Professional Services at the time, which was ultimately purchased headcount from International Network Services to expand quickly. We had no access to Counterpane resources for the most part - although we were told to try and work some of the Counterpane product into consulting recommendations. I tried a few times to get involved with what Counterpane used to be, with the intent of trying to get some facetime with Schneier to really find out who he was (was very deterministic about finding a good mentor at the time). Long story short - BT was so fragmented internally to tie the name BT to Counterpane, or even Schneier was a joke. It was obvious after the first few months that BT bought Counterpane for the talking head (IMHO) which I still feel was true up until now. Schneier's name was worth more than the IP they bought, most likely. Sad state of affairs. BT was, and still today, has no interest in improving security within their own telecom products, but wanted to be very good at the emerging pentesting market (back in 2007'ish). They're no better than the PWCs of the world today - overpriced scanning services with no real meat, but they have a few key folks to make it look like they 'can'.

TL;DRGlad to see Schneier leaving. I thought it was hypocritical of him working for BT given his recent improvement in position publicly around the Snowden releases. I have renewed respect for him.

znowi 1 day ago 2 replies      
Good for him, I say. Opens up interesting opportunities.

Feel sad for BT employees though. With a company culture like this I don't think it's much of an attraction for smart, innovative folk.

tehwalrus 1 day ago 6 replies      
So weird that Schneier was working for BT - As a Brit, this is the company that you have to buy a phone line from to get broadband, and that then spams you to buy their broadband with snail mail glossy leaflets once a month.
a3n 1 day ago 4 replies      
A new career in journalism? I think Glenn Greenwald and Pierre Omidyar are hiring.
pcrh 1 day ago 0 replies      
I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that BT has introduced an opt-out filtering process for internet access.


walshemj 1 day ago 0 replies      
As an Ex BT person I could see this coming a mile off with Bruces principled stand it could realistically only end this way.

And techcruch guys "ouster" are we channeling variety now!!!

lifeisstillgood 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's indicative of an interesting, less corporate future.

As knowledge workers become more important, then it's the personal capabilities (and integrity) that matter most - and that's not something that can be applied across a 100,000 person "enterprise" or mandated in policy procedures.

We shall see smaller companies, and more fragmentation of working relationships - so protect that reputation and that brand folks !

bqe 1 day ago 5 replies      
What sort of title is "security futurologist"?
k3n 1 day ago 1 reply      
> NSA surveillance critic

Out of all of the possible titles they could have chosen for him, they chose this? Just lump him in with the other millions of humans that are critical of surveillance?

017e075160b 1 day ago 0 replies      
Walking away is the greatest form of rejection. Kudos Bruce.
Judge Rules Against N.S.A. Bulk Collection of Phone Data nytimes.com
245 points by brnstz  1 day ago   3 comments top 3
tokenadult 1 day ago 0 replies      
The main discussion appears to be under another thread reporting this story from The Guardian.[1] For readers who like to read the full opinion, that is available on the website of a legal blogger,[2] who obtained a copy of the opinion before the district court website became overwhelmed with traffic.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6917194

[2] http://www.lawfareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Klayma...

Aardwolf 1 day ago 0 replies      
Phona data? Who uses phone calls these days... :)
nexttimer 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's really "funny" how all this is happening.

Approved by our "representatives" in DC.

Approved by us, the consumers (by our continued use of the concerned technologies, products and services).

We work a 4-day week and just raised $4.75m (2012) ryancarson.com
233 points by joeyespo  23 hours ago   125 comments top 37
ChuckMcM 20 hours ago 5 replies      
Congratulations! That is a great milestone to celebrate.

I was wondering about your numbers though, your post says :

    > $3,000,000+ yearly revenue run rate (and growing fast)    >    > Grown the Team to 34 full-time people and hiring     > at least 10 more as soon as possible
Profitable with $3M run rate and 34 people? That is $88K fully loaded per person. Can you share some techniques for keeping your burn rate so economical?

[1] As an example, with a nice (but not lawyer nice) office and a healthcare plan we're paying > $30K per employee annually for just office space and medical benefits.

tlogan 21 hours ago 4 replies      
Congratulation! This is how it should be done.

And I have a question....

All professors of management and organizations understand that work week should be defined differently for knowledge workers. And that most the important quality of knowledge workers is initiative.

So if you have 80 hours work week and all innovation or initiative is dismissed, that can mean two things:

1) you are not "knowledge worker" but just "coding monkey" (it is "above your pay")

2) the company sucks

Majority of tech companies require 7-day work week and they discourage any initiative.

Does this mean that majority of programers are not actually hired as "knowledge workers" but as "coding monkeys"? Or that majority of tech companies suck?

EDIT: This 7-work week is actually based on calculation: 5 days * 10 hours per day + 5 hours on weekend (just check email) which is 55 hours per week => 7 working days of 8 hours each.

ritchiea 21 hours ago 3 replies      
My experience working 80 hour weeks wasn't with startups, it was with political campaigns where I made far less money and there was obviously no equity. Similar situation though, get idealistic 20-somethings recently out of college without families to work endlessly.

I don't support 7 day weeks and 12 hour days, but frankly for politics it works. Why? Because for 95% of campaign employees it's not work quality that matters, it's talking to a ton of other people, repeating simple messages, engaging them and asking them to get involved with the campaign. I am extremely supportive of organizations that support reasonable work hours and not overextending yourself. I would never work 7 days a week again. But just as much as you should not needlessly overwork yourself and your employees, you need to understand (or at least try to understand) what is necessary to hit your goals.

I suspect the average engineer at most startups could use an extra day off. For some founders it may make sense to work long hours because some of that work is touching base with investors, forging connections and doing other things that may not be intellectually draining but just need to get done.

ryancarson 21 hours ago 1 reply      
60+ employees now and we're still doing the 4-day (32 hour) week. Probably saw this, but we have also since removed managers: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6886907
conorh 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I worked at StreetEasy for 3 years (helping lead the dev team and writing lots of code) when it was a fast growing startup and we didn't work a 4 day week, but we worked normal business hours (9-5,10-6'ish) and never ever worked weekends - unless you felt like working on some code. One of the co-founders there had the opinion that we were in it for the long haul, not for the sprint, so why burn out early. This seemed to work out well [1].


leoedin 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Over the summer I extended a lot of weekends with a days holiday and so ended up working a lot of 4 day weeks.

Surprisingly, I found that my productivity really didn't drop that much. I went into a week with a sense that I only had 4 days to get stuff done, and so often felt much more focused. It's only an extra day, but somehow in my head a 5 day week feels almost endless. The suddenly it's Friday and you wonder what happened...

tieTYT 19 hours ago 1 reply      
This sounds awesome. It reminds me of Henry Ford's Five Dollar Workday: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford#The_five-dollar_work...

> Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($120 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. A Cleveland, Ohio newspaper editorialized that the announcement "shot like a blinding rocket through the dark clouds of the present industrial depression." The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs. Ford announced his $5-per-day program on January 5, 1914, raising the minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers. It also set a new, reduced workweek, although the details vary in different accounts. Ford and Crowther in 1922 described it as six 8-hour days, giving a 48-hour week, while in 1926 they described it as five 8-hour days, giving a 40-hour week. (Apparently the program started with Saturday being a workday and sometime later it was changed to a day off.)

> Detroit was already a high-wage city, but competitors were forced to raise wages or lose their best workers. Ford's policy proved, however, that paying people more would enable Ford workers to afford the cars they were producing and be good for the economy. Ford explained the policy as profit-sharing rather than wages. It may have been Couzens who convinced Ford to adopt the $5 day.

wtvanhest 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm a finance guy, I don't know how to code. I signed up for teamtreehouse about 3 months ago and I've successfully been able to learn HTML, CSS, and I am starting to dive in to Javascript, MySQL, PHP and maybe AJAX.

The site has given me enough structure to learn the basics while other books and the internet has provided me with more in depth learning.

I wrote Nick at teamtreehouse yesterday and said that I was disappointed with the end of chapter quizzes because they were sometimes difficult to bypass due to confusion over what they were asking.

He responded immediately and said they knew it was an issue and were hiring to fix it very soon. While the round announcement is old, if they are in fact hiring, it is great news for those who use their service.

Other than that one interaction, I don't know the team, but I was impressed.

I can say, I used to work a few blocks from their office in downtown Orlando. Orlando usually sparks memories of Disney, but Disney is actually located in Kissimmee, FL about 45 min from downtown. Downtown Orlando is young, great nightlife, fairly small and EXTREMELY affordable.

Thanks for the customer service yesterday!

[Edited because the round was actually a few years ago]

joshdotsmith 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Serious question: why does Treehouse need 45 employees? What's the division of labor? Are most of them required for content creation, or engineering, or what?

I've been thinking a lot about company size lately, and was always impressed that not long before acquisition time Instagram had a team of just six (which quickly expanded to twelve prior to acquisition).

Is such a small team size really only achievable by user generated content companies?

Domenic_S 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Damn, I can barely click around the web without seeing a picture of that guy's skinny mug plastered on something.

I'm beginning to think the business is marketing, not technology.

ryana 22 hours ago 1 reply      
This post is 2 years old. Any reason to resurrect it? My first thought reading through was that treehouse had some recent layoffs or poor results and this was a "hah, look at you now" post. Thankfully I can't find news like that anywhere.
carbocation 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I actually subscribed to TeamTreehouse because I wanted someone to hold my hand to introduce me to iOS. It was a good experience.

For background, I've been programming for 20 years, first in Basic, then PHP, Javascript, R, (a very small amount of) Common Lisp, and Go. Given that I currently have little free time, it's quite nice to have someone show you a Good Way to write idiomatic code in a new language.

I found their (high, compared to blog posts) pricing to be a positive indicator of quality, and their videos and code seemed to match.

TeeWEE 22 hours ago 0 replies      
If I would work on my startup I just want to work on it... Thats what is giving me fun.

Also if you work with external people this will communicate with you every workday. Just ignoring them on a workday is not easy.

But I like the concept... Once profitable :-)

andrewfong 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Anyone have thoughts on how 4-day work week compares to a 5-day-but-shorter-days work week (discussed a bit yesterday at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6912645)?
cocoflunchy 13 hours ago 1 reply      
@ryancarson you should consider resizing that profile photo in the right-hand column, it is 1.8MB and 3280px wide... (http://static.tumblr.com/8759c003e3a97c8762c00ba9e1d5a164/m4...)

Thanks from those of us who are stuck with Time Warner Cable ;)

lux 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been working 4 days/week for the past 3 years, which does mean I make 20% less than I could be making, but at this point there's very little that could convince me to ever go back to 5 days/week. It's good to see little pockets where the idea is growing, because it's been tremendously positive for me.
cfontes 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I really like the opening statement

"heres what weve been fortunate to achieve:"

Even being really good you gotta have some luck too.

Being able to see that I think makes people being not assholes when talking about their achievements.

semerda 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Awesome work guys!

I'm curious how you guys decided on a 4-day week? Was it a group decision or founder laying down the new way of getting stuff done?

sb1752 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Step 1: Create a product people wantStep 2: Do whatever the fuck you want
pmcpinto 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Congratulations, I'm a big fan of Treehouse and I think that the world needs more companies and leaders with a culture similar with yours.

For example I'm tired of seeing the Marissas Mayer's of the world praising that they go back to work just two weeks after giving birth. What kind of mother is this?

neil_s 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Ryan, why did Treehouse choose fewer days over fewer hours per day as a way to reduce total hours worked? Anecdotal data says most information workers find it hard to actually get more than 6 hours of work a day, so that would suggest a 9-6 day not being optimal. Just wondering what made you choose one approach over another.
dblarons 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd be interested to compare the benefits of a 4 day week with those of a 5 day, reduced hour week. I'm inclined to believe that the reduced hour week would give you more productive days while still making lots of time to sleep in or spend the afternoon with family.

Has anyone worked in this kind of alternative environment?

imderek 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Does this include support staff? Does it not affect the quality of customer service having your business go dark for three days each week?
BadassFractal 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Would love to work less at our startup, but the past year has been a non-stop 60-70 hour week marathon. I just don't know how you can work less when you are worried that your company will die from not having tried hard enough.
aabalkan 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Please add 2011 to title. Folks are thinking this is new.
yeukhon 17 hours ago 0 replies      
What does 4-day week even have to do with the success of fund raise...? I personally think it has little. You can work 48 hours every week and manage to pull a couple millions if you are lucky.
yashodhan 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Supposedly an old post (but I can't find the date year on hte post). Are Treehouse still hiring?
Segmentation 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Very few companies will consider 4-days, but I wish they would consider 5-days at 7 hours.
elleferrer 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Congratulations on Treehouse's success! I totally believe in the 4-day work ethic.
nnoitra 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Are you hiring interns?
mnbvcxza 13 hours ago 0 replies      
> more time with my kids then almost all other dads


veto64 15 hours ago 0 replies      
syntheticlife 22 hours ago 2 replies      
Blog about it when you work a 4-day week and _earn_ $4.75m/yr.
veto64 15 hours ago 0 replies      
this is a troll,there is no prove or whatever what he is saying.just go to his website and pay how to do it as well
moheeb 21 hours ago 3 replies      
Working four 10s is not that uncommon. Lame title.
elag 22 hours ago 1 reply      
"We work a 4-day week and because we just raised $4.75m." I'd love to work a 0-day week on Other People's Money. Not sure I'd write an insufferably smug post bragging about it if I did.[edit] Just noticed that this is a two-year old blog post and the first comment on it refers to "smug HN trolling" so more fool me.
nilsimsa 21 hours ago 2 replies      
Looks like their website would need more work. The following link didn't work for me a few times... https://teamtreehouse.com/subscribe/plans

May want to make it a 5-day week a little longer...

Inverted totalitarianism wikipedia.org
229 points by pikachu_is_cool  4 days ago   158 comments top 20
marvin 4 days ago 3 replies      
There are plenty of interesting things to be said about the United States and its similarities (and differences) to totalitarian regimes of the past. I don't think we should point to Wikipedia as the authority on this matter, but it is perfectly okay to go to the primary sources for insight in this. These are recent historical developments, and the questions are covered in so much controversy that it is difficult to find unbiased commentary.

As I have said before, there are plenty of really worrying developments in the theory and execution of power in the United States. When I say worrying, I mean worrying in the sense that they remind closely of things that totalitarian regimes have done in the past. We shouldn't be distracted too much by history when analyzing contemporary events - "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

The list, which you can compile by simply reading the news, is quite long: Warrantless dragnet surveillance, world record incarceration rate, selective enforcement and prosecution of unclear and conflicting criminal law, lifetime incarceration for non-violent crimes, utilization of paramilitary forces (SWAT teams) against non-violent offenders, plea bargains as a tool for simplifying prosecution under the threat of lifetime sentencing, indefinite detainment and incarceration with no judicial oversight (Guantanamo), extrajudicial execution of citizens (drone strikes), limitations on free speech during peaceful protests, systematic prosecution of whistleblowers.

These are just some issues which are interesting to discuss. I am an outsider, and I believe the things I have quoted are facts which have very small political bias in the interpretation. The United States' deadlocked political system and prosecutors' role in the execution of power is also worthy of discussion, although it is harder to discuss this without taking a particular political view.

spindritf 4 days ago 3 replies      
In the same vein, there's also anarcho-tyranny[1] coined by Samuel Francis

What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions, such as the family and local schools; the imposition of thought control through "sensitivity training" and multiculturalist curricula, "hate crime" laws, gun-control laws that punish or disarm otherwise law-abiding citizens but have no impact on violent criminals who get guns illegally, and a vast labyrinth of other measures. In a word, anarcho-tyranny.

which is sort of inverted authoritarianism.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_T._Francis#Anarcho-tyra...

jeswin 4 days ago 4 replies      
I hate it when some people misuse Wikipedia like this. This reads like an opinion piece, and belongs to a blog.

edit: from the talk and history, the term was invented by Wolin, but has found little acceptance elsewhere. I am all for adding this to Wikipedia once it becomes generally accepted. But not as a means to get there.

tokenadult 4 days ago 0 replies      
"This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources."

We may as well find some better-quality writing about the one author's idea, rather than using an article from the Encyclopedia That Any Point-of-View-Pusher Can Edit as a coatrack to open up a discussion on Hacker News. Hacker News can be a community in which people use much better sources than most Wikipedia articles (I am a Wikipedian, so I have seen the sausage made) if we let it be.

znowi 4 days ago 3 replies      
The US is indeed a superpower. The only superpower left after the Soviets collapsed. It's not a big leap to predict how it's going to turn out in the long term without checks and balanced imposed. This is the first step:

the Bush Doctrine that the United States has the right to launch preemptive wars

Unless the American citizenry, along with the western allies, oppose this militant attitude, it's not going to end well - whatever new term you call it.

salient 4 days ago 4 replies      
> Whereas in Nazi Germany the state dominated economic actors, in inverted totalitarianism, corporations through political contributions and lobbying, dominate the United States, with the government acting as the servant of large corporations. This is considered "normal" rather than corrupt

Indeed. As a non-American, I find it quite absurd that corporations can "donate money" to change a Congressman's opinion on a law, and then support them in Congress when passing new bills. As far as I know that's what bribing is pretty much anywhere else. So US has in effect legalized bribing, and almost everyone in US seems to think that's "normal" and okay, and that there's "little corruption" in US, when in fact the whole government wreaks of "legalized" corruption.

Does that happen in other countries, too? Sure. Bribing is everywhere. But at least we see it for what it is, and even if we don't catch them in the act, there can be investigations later, and have them arrested. Good luck doing that in US - ever.

ama729 4 days ago 3 replies      
The US is also hardly a democracy, even if the politicians were perfect. The voting system of the US (and the UK too), is just horrendous.

The simple fact that in some cases less than 40 or 30% of the population can choose an election (if you don't believe me, look it up on youtube, CGP Grey made a video about it), show it's hard to take seriously the claim that the US is a democracy.

dylandrop 3 days ago 0 replies      
So if you compare the U.S. and Nazis they are therefore foils of each other? While I agree that the U.S. falls short of being a true democracy for all of those three bullet points, I'm a little confused about Wolin's reasoning. His argument seems to be:

* In Nazi Germany, the state dominated economic factors, in the U.S. corporations do

* Nazis advocated political action, U.S. does not and does not advocate voting

* Nazis mocked democracy, U.S. made it its ideology

* Therefore Nazis and the U.S. are very similar

Doesn't anyone see why this is problematic reasoning? He just made three points that showed how the U.S. and Nazi Germany have flawed political models, but the connections seem to be few and far between. I get that he's saying that they are both nondemocratic systems under the guise of democracy, but it seems a little farfetched using this argument.

mrobot 3 days ago 0 replies      
Point 2, apathy:

"Nothing to hide" is an apathetic "Yes, Sir" to losing self control, letting the results machine analyze and respond to your life actions with all power of an authority you've amplified for yourself.

Apathy toward drone "signature strikes" is a "Yes, Sir" to striking and killing exactly where the results machine wishes.

The results machine does not have human well-being programmed as a core, infallible rule. That means that mistakes like collateral human damage are not seen as mistakes at all, they are part of getting results.

Trusting any machine we've built to probe and manipulate the earth to meet any end other than human growth and good is very scary and selfish.

Apathy is the new allegiance toward our scary and selfish state.

jpttsn 4 days ago 4 replies      
Interesting. I'd question the "totalizing dynamics" part. In my view Wolin couples two arguments unnecessarily tightly:

* Today's govt. marketing makes it seem more legitimate than it is. Democracy is vulnerable to a panem-et-circenses strategy.

* If citizens' needs are not satisfied by a welfare state, they are rendered helpless enough to be managed by a veiled totalitarian regime.

The former is an interesting problem, expressed well. The latter is more concerning. Are opinions (votes) really worthless just because voters are exposed to economic realities?

I don't think democracy rests on voters being "secure" (in the welfare state sense) when they make their decision.

Classically the line is drawn at secret/anonymous voting. OP suggests voters also need to have their economy guaranteed, if their votes are to give the government any legitimacy. That's very different.

julie1 4 days ago 0 replies      
USA today is like Athena after the 2nd medic war: a Republic that claims to be a democracy. During Peloponese war, Athena the "democracy" had turned into a violent colonial power, and Sparta the totalitarian state turned oddly into the creation of an alliance for protecting the weakest.

Needless to say at the end, of these war neither Athena nor Sparta won, because they both lost.

Plato's Republic is a simple HOWTO turn a democracy ruled by citizens into a system claiming to be ruled in the best interest of the citizen by a minority of "Wise men" with an elite of watchmen that enforce the power.

Read Alan Moore's "Watchmen" for a criticize of the republic (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)

Pericles(or Solon (don't remember) before Athena became a Republic said the same thing as Eisenower: beware of the richs that want to get a grip on a state and extend their power through their influence and will use military power for expension.

Nothing new under the sun. The guy is reinventing the wheel


FrankenPC 3 days ago 0 replies      
On the surface this appears to be true. But, like all things in a constant flux, it's a lot more complicated than it seems. One observation though, I've always wondered if Orwell's novel would act as a warning to those who seek power. In other words, 1984 acted as a inventory of obvious psycho-social obstacles to avoid while attempting to control the masses.
ajslater 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's an insightful reddit comment from /r/changemyview

Q: The United States is moving towards facism CMV (sic)

A: Does the US exhibit some fascist traits? Sure. But I'd contend that we are moving farther, rather than closer.


Pitarou 3 days ago 1 reply      
Godwin's Law writ large.

Which is not to understate the scale of the problems alluded to, but the analogy isn't enlightening. It's just name-calling.

mrobot 3 days ago 0 replies      
Scored below these, bumped from the front page, does not even have NSA in the name for NSA penalty. Is it because the submitter is green, or some other valid reason?

27.DataStickies: USB drives as sticky notes (datastickies.com) 120 points by JeanSebTr 18 hours ago | 89 comments

28.Best Firefox Add-ons of 2013 (mozilla.org)106 points by yeukhon 21 hours ago | 50 comments

34.Inverted totalitarianism (wikipedia.org)211 points by pikachu_is_cool 10 hours ago | 124 comments

whyme 4 days ago 0 replies      
So things are much more sinister than I had originally believed, and this does explain why the US is not genuinely worried about the national debt!
ianmcgowan 4 days ago 0 replies      
What's scary about reading articles like this is that if they are true, those "in power" don't care enough what people think to try and suppress these thoughts.

If the frog is boiling, where are we at on the scale of "didn't make tenure" to "jack booted swat team renditions you"?

colinbartlett 4 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations, pikachu_is_cool, you are now a blip on the NSA radar.
rayiner 4 days ago 1 reply      
Wolin essentially mistakes hegemony for totalitarianism. The U.S. is a global hegemon in the same vein as the Great Britain used to be. An open society internally that maintains global superiority using military power. Sometimes global or regional hegemons, like the Soviet Union, are totalitarian, but it's not necessarily the case. Great Britain clearly wasn't a totalitarian state.

Also problematic is Wolin's implied assumption that hegemony can only exist if democracy is compromised. But that's utterly absurd. Why would anyone expect that voters, given the free choice, wouldn't want the benefits that accrue from their country having global supremacy? Does anyone think that, deep down, Americans really want to be like Europe, just another player on the world stage who must modulate their foreign policy based on the consideration that they can't impose it unilaterally? Even people who believe the U.S. should act multilaterally when possible don't necessarily believe the U.S. should concede the option to act unilaterally when necessary.

puppetmaster3 3 days ago 0 replies      
" in inverted totalitarianism, corporations through political contributions and lobbying, dominate the United States, with the government acting as the servant of large corporations. This is considered "normal" rather than corrupt.[6]"
The Log: Real-time data's unifying abstraction linkedin.com
227 points by boredandroid  1 day ago   17 comments top 10
pixelmonkey 1 day ago 1 reply      
Great article. A highly relevant quote:

    The log is similar to the list of all credits and debits     and bank processes; a table is all the current account    balances. If you have a log of changes, you can apply     these changes in order to create the table capturing the    current state. This table will record the latest state     for each key (as of a particular log time). There is a    sense in which the log is the more fundamental data    structure: in addition to creating the original     table you can also transform it to create all kinds    of derived tables.
Also, a good architecture diagram:


At Parse.ly, we just adopted Kafka widely in our backend to address just these use cases for data integration and real-time/historical analysis for the large-scale web analytics use case. Prior, we were using ZeroMQ, which is good, but Kafka is better for this use case.

We have always had a log-centric infrastructure, not born out of any understanding of theory, but simply of requirements. We knew that as a data analysis company, we needed to keep data as raw as possible in order to do derived analysis, and we knew that we needed to harden our data collection services and make it easy to prototype data aggregates atop them.

I also recently read Nathan Marz's book (creator of Apache Storm), which proposes a similar "log-centric" architecture, though Marz calls it a "master dataset" and uses the fanciful term, "Lambda Architecture". In his case, he describes that atop a "timestamped set of facts" (essentially, a log) you can build any historical / real-time aggregates of your data via dedicated "batch" and "speed" layers. There is a lot of overlap of thinking in that book and in this article. It's great to see all the various threads of large-scale data analytics / integration coming together into a unified whole of similar theory and practice. Interestingly, I also recently discovered that Kafka + Storm are widely deployed at Outbrain, Loggly, & Twitter. LinkedIn with Kafka + Samza and AWS deploying a developer preview of Kinesis suggests to me that real-time stream processing atop log architectures has gone mainstream.

justinsb 1 day ago 1 reply      
The idea of the log goes well beyond just real-time data (as the blog post describes, although the title does not). I think it might well turn out to be one of core building blocks of _all_ stateful systems. Amazon's Kinesis has for the first time exposed a reliable Log-aaS on the cloud; I think we'll start to see more systems built around it.

My personal "24 commits for December" project is to build a set of open-source cloud data-stores, all backed by a distributed log using Raft, "blogging all the way". I'm half-way through, and I've implemented a simple key-value store, put a Redis front-end on it, used that to implement a Git server, and am currently working on building a document store with SQL querying. All with the same architecture: the log provides fault-tolerance and consistency, we have a data structure specific to the particular service (e.g. message queue or key-value store), we periodically take state snapshots so that we don't have to reply the whole log after every failure.

Feel free to follow along / provide feedback: http://blog.justinsb.com/blog/categories/cloudata/

chaz 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Finally, we implemented another pipeline to load data into our key-value store for serving results. This mundane data copying ended up being one of the dominate items for the original development.

I'm always amazed by how difficult it is to simply get the data. Sounds so simple, but it's fraught with all kinds of issues in structure, timing, reliability, and scale -- and it's usually underestimated. Every BI project I've ever worked on was mostly spent simply getting the required data together into a single database. After that, it's a relative snap.

A bit off topic -- I'm guessing that healthcare.gov's biggest technical hurdles were similar. Simplistically put, it's a shopping comparison site and the UI/functionality is fairly trivial (which is why several HN comments suggested that a small team could built out the whole thing in days/weeks). But imagine if the data to support it was from 36 different legacy sources that were unreliable, poorly documented, and built/managed by completely different vendors. That's going to take up the majority of your time and frustration. Database-driven websites are easy if the data is already built for you.

Great article -- thanks for writing it.

strictfp 1 day ago 1 reply      

>Event Sourcing. As far as I can tell this is basically the enterprise software engineer's way of saying "state machine replication". It's interesting that the same idea would be invented again in such a different context. Event sourcing seems to focus on smaller, in-memory use cases.

Fowlers article doesn't read like that at all if you ask me. He is talking about the general concept of using an event log as a storage mechanism. Very similar to the OPs afticle. And if you look at the date, Martins article is from 2005. Credit where credit is due.

In the Java world, the idea of event sourcing was made publicly known by the project 'prevlayer'. These guys boldly suggested to store the current snapshot in RAM, yes, but had also built mechanisms for event logging, snapshotting and replay. The log was persisted on disk and replayed at startup.

The prevlayer guys were in fact not enterprise at all, quite the opposite. Their ideas caused quite a stir in the enterprise world.

irickt 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just a coincidence I guess that logs will be denied to Linkedin's customers. From an email this week:

"... We'll be retiring the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed on Dec. 19th. All of your LinkedIn updates and content can still be viewed on LinkedIn, or through the LinkedIn mobile app. ..."

akrymski 1 day ago 0 replies      
Logs should be studied in CS together with Turing Machines - they are a vital component of today's architecture. I applaud the effort of clearly describing the role of logs in today's distributed architectures in concise and easy to grasp way. Everyone studying database systems and distributed architectures should read this article. Thank's Jay!

We too have arrived at using logs at Post.fm, however with a slightly different application: syncing email clients that can go offline with remote servers (similar to Exchange). Instead of the traditional approach taken by most web apps - calling remote APIs directly (the new-age remote procedure calls in effect) I believe the new client-server architectures for web-apps will use logs to synchronise state. This is increasingly possible with the availability of local storage (web-sql, indexed-db, etc).

Another fascinating concept is Acid-State (http://acid-state.seize.it) which "keeps a history of all the functions (along with their arguments) that have modified the state. Thus, recreating the state after an unforeseen error is a simple as rerunning the functions in the history log." The idea of a log being transparently generated at application run-time is fascinating. Function calls elegantly map to 'transactions' when modifying multiple rows this way.

Another interesting outcome of thinking about database systems as logs, is that the tables are in effect read-only. You don't really "modify a row in a table", but add an entry to the log. At some point the database system updates the table to reflect the additions to the log (eventual consistency). If you make the database system wait for the log processing to complete before returning - you essentially get ACID.

Sometimes I wish there was a simpler, more transparent database system that made the log front and center, letting me specify if a SELECT requires the table to be updated with respect to the log or not. Current DBMSes seem to hide lots of functionality instead of providing a simple model that can be tweaked to a particular application.

chubot 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a fantastic and insightful article, and I'm sure the relatively few comments are a result of people's minds slowly bending to this new way of thinking :)

I particularly liked the list of related resources of the end. I have been looking through academic papers, open source, and also "enterprise integration" stuff, and it always strikes me how people re-invent the same things under different names.

One question though: What about access control and security? Everyone having the chance to subscribe to all data at a company is of course fantastic for product development and productivity. But as a company grows it will also become the case that not every system should potentially access all information.

adolgert 1 day ago 0 replies      
It makes me so happy to see such a clear picture of how service logs relate to the input and output token streams of finite state machines. We usually think of finite state machines as these little objects with a few states, but the category theory version of them is an essential definition of what it means for a system to be deterministic and depend only on current state and given inputs. It's a set of allowable input tokens (the input log), a set of allowable output tokens (the output log of actions taken by the system), an internal state Q, a dynamics delta that decides the next state from the previous one, and an output function lambda that decides what output token to return given the current input state.

By making the statement that logs are streams of tokens which have deterministic effect, this author is assuming that the services are finite state machines. This may not be the case if, for instance, they do not set random number generators to a known state. Any way a service doesn't just depend on its previous state violates this principle. If it meets this principle, then the logs are, by definition, taken from the strings of allowable input tokens X or the strings of allowable output tokens Y.

The debate in the article about at what level to log is a debate about which portion of the service to treat as an FSM. It boils down nicely.

Oh, a dense but beautiful article on this is Machines in a Category by Arbib and Manes.

timmclean 1 day ago 0 replies      
> I suspect we will end up focusing more on the log as a commoditized building block irrespective of its implementation in the same way we often talk about a hash table without bothering to get in the details of whether we mean the murmur hash with linear probing or some other variant. The log will become something of a commoditized interface, with many algorithms and implementations competing to provide the best guarantees and optimal performance.

Very insightful. Thanks for the in-depth write-up.

High Speed Trains are Killing the European Railway Network lowtechmagazine.com
220 points by gvb  1 day ago   207 comments top 25
furyg3 1 day ago 6 replies      
For European HNers (or travelers) I plea for you to use the night trains, keep them alive.

One example: Between Amsterdam & Bern - Skybus flies for 86 (1.5 hours) and the CityNightLine train is 80 for a bed (11.5 hours). Other routes are comparable, you can pay a bit more for your own (non-shared) compartment.

Economically it seems crazy to take these night trains, and I never even bothered until a recent business trip from Amsterdam to Munich.

It was great for many of the reasons mentioned in the article and other comments here: leave and arrive in the city center, no security, no gate closing time, no baggage restrictions/pick-up/lost luggage, have a beer or dinner on board at a real bar or table, use your laptop/phone/ereader whenever you like, lie down, take a shower, whatever. Basically it's like flying the night before with a free (albeit basic) hotel stay thrown in.

I'm worried that too many people dismiss the night trains too easily (like I did), and that these will be relegated to the history books. In my opinion that would really be a tragedy.

Plane travel has turned into a elementary school bus trip. The train is still a grown-up alternative.

lmm 1 day ago 3 replies      
Most European rail networks are not profitable. Night trains have approximately never been profitable for anyone, anywhere. They survived only due to government subsidy, and those same governments are not subsidizing the high-speed trains. The price difference has nothing to do with high-speed vs low-speed and everything to do with government subsidy.

Cheaper and easier transport will always increase demand; either you're for cheap transport or against it, and if you're for it you accept that it will be used by commuters living further away from the cities they work in. Making the rail networks cheaper, as the author seems to advocate, would only increase this effect. Or is the argument that leisure travellers care more about cost and commuters care more about journey time? Maybe, but the rail network would be completely unsustainable without commuter traffic.

And as someone who travelled by EuroCity, they weren't the land of milk and honey this author portrays; they were (and still are, in Eastern Europe) frequently several hours late, leading to missed connections. I do think there are cases for some international trains to be scheduled more sensibly (Italy's high-speed trains that then sit for 30 minutes in each station on the way up are ludicrous; Eurostar has sped up by several minutes over the last few years by eliminating less popular stops), but at some point you simply can't match the speed advantage of true high-speed rail.

The specific route complained about here is a dogleg for connectivity reasons; what you're not seeing on his map is the line from Calais (and thence from Britain) coming down to meet it at Lille. There are winners and losers in any routing decision (basically the high speed lines her are a tree centered on Lille, so rather than two distinct lines from Paris to Brussels and Calais there's one line that branches. Longer than a direct train, but it avoids building two distinct lines), but as a Brit I'm profoundly grateful for this one, which makes day trips to Paris or Brussels plausible in a way they simply weren't before.

antr 1 day ago 1 reply      
The title to me is link bait, and the post considerably biased towards pricing, which is an important factor, but not the main reason I use high-speed rail. Not to mention that the author fails to mention how important, in passenger volume terms, are some of the routes he mentions e.g. Barcelona-Paris, come one, +800km on a train it isn't going to be cheap nor fast. High-speed travel works for shorter distances under 500-600km, not this.

I travel on high-speed rail 2-3 of times a month, and this is my choice over air travel because:

> Pricing: On average the train price is c. 20% more expensive than the plane, but that is one side of the story.

> Travel time: the fact is that the time I require to go to the airport is a minimum 30min ride (if I'm lucky) from city centre to airport. Add to that the need to be there 45min before the plane departs, and any of the usual delays. That's at least 1h 15min of my day gone in commuting to travel. If I travel by train my commute is not that different than that of going to work by bike, needless to say that the train gate closes 2min before departure, not 45min.

> Location: the train station being located at the city centre is extremely convenient, forget about getting a taxi and bumping into traffic, paying arbitrary "airport" fares, etc.

> Comfort: the leg space, seat width, baggage allowance, etc knocks out air travel. I can open my laptop on a tray way bigger than those on planes and comfortably work all the journey with my 3G/4G connection and get real work done.

> Flexibility: train frequency is much higher than that of planes, so finding a time that fits my agenda is not a problem. Add to that the fact that you can catch an early train if, for example, you finish your meeting/work early, without paying additional fees.

jzwinck 1 day ago 3 replies      
In Italy, you can arrive at the station without a ticket, and go to a machine. The machine supports multiple languages. You can buy a ticket in multiple classes on multiple speeds of service (roughly "regular", "fast", "high-speed"). These trains are frequent, well-connected to regional buses, and clean. The high-speed ones are fairly expensive, but the regular ones are fairly cheap.

This is the way to do train service. And it's heavily used.

P.S.: if you really want a slow night train for cheap, visit Zimbabwe. A "first class" sleeper cabin is about $10 from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, and it's beautiful. But every part of the 1970's British train has long since been stolen--the lights, the faucets, the toilets, etc. Still, $10, and it goes to interesting places.

mschuster91 1 day ago 8 replies      
In Germany, even the low-speed trains have met a powerful competition in form of coach bus lines.

The coaches are brand new, offer free WiFi, and are vastly cheaper than even the lowest-price DB tickets.

edit: another quite popular travel solution is car sharing("Mitfahrgelegenheit"); this is especially useful if you must drive with your own car (e.g. because you carry stuff you can't transport in a train/airplane) and want to lower your own travel costs.

Theodores 1 day ago 2 replies      
If I owned a railway I would like to use shipping containers to provide a night train service.

The shipping containers would be self contained and appointed to budget hotel chain standards - clean, smart and to the point functional. Each would contain a small kitchen, toilet and shower. The beds would be bunks but with a bit more space as there would not be a shared walkway as happens on existing rolling stock. You would also be able to stow bicycles and other bulky luggage items without blocking up the train walkway if you were willing to go without much kitchen area.

During the day the mini-hotel shipping containers would sit at the docks, out of the way, whilst the train went about its business delivering normal shipping containers to wherever is needed. Then, early evening, the mini-hotel shipping containers would be loaded up and the train would head off to London/Glasgow/Plymouth to pick up customers. The train would trundle at a nice sedate pace through the night with minimal stops and starts to arrive at a sensible time at the other end (5.30 a.m. is too early, 7 is good). Thereafter, back to the docks, unload and regular freight service for the train.

To cope with seasonal demand and different passenger service levels (1st, 2nd class), the train could be loaded up with a mixed load of regular shipping containers and their mini-hotel variants.

Modern IT niceties such as wifi, 'swipe' door locks and mobile telephony would make sure that everyone had a nice and secure journey. With 'aerogel' style materials and double glazing the inside of the mini hotel would be insulated from the noise of the train and the weather.

Current night trains in the UK do not provide a good night's sleep, you also expect your belongings to be potentially stolen. With 'containerisation' problem solved.

Would there be any takers? It all depends on price, however, if you are expected to be in two places at once or work on a North Sea oil rig then a decent night train would be quite tempting. If the business did not work out then a buyer could be found for the deluxe shipping containers, they could be transported by road to somewhere where a temporary workforce was needed or even used as a hotel.

bane 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I've ridden through bits of Central and Northern Italy, Rome to Florence to Venice all on regular 'old trains. And little tiny bits of France as well. I've also ridden trains in the U.S. from D.C. to Miami.

Italy was an absolute pleasure. An easy walk to the stations, even with luggage. In Rome the rail network is an easy connection off of the subway system and in Florence lets you off and on so near the old parts of the city (which are fantastically walkable) that you don't even need a cab to get there. Seats were comfortable for the 2 or 3 hours the trip took, had a table to setup a laptop, read a book whatever. I sat in group of four seats that faced each other and had a lovely chat with an elderly couple from Scotland on holiday.

Florence to Venice was similar, except my destination was outside of Venice and took a little more to get to from the station. No big deal and it beat having to deal with a rental car for a few weeks.

Importantly, the ride was unbelievable smooth compared to other rail trips I've taken.

Amtrak was my first long distance rail trip and was very bleh, seats were okay, but nothing to do on the 20+ hour ride from D.C. to Miami. This was back before laptops were common, but even with a pack full of gadgets I would have run out battery long before I ran out of boredom. Impossible to sleep on the train as it's noisy and jostles all over the place since we were on old freight rails for the entire trip. People also get so bored they start pacing the length of the train and with numerous stops were cars are split of and rejoined to other trains, and waits of a couple hours each time this happens, you feel like you make no progress at all. Trains were old, but in decent shape and generally well maintained. I've heard sleeper cars provide for a moderately better experience, but there's still the hours of boredom. I also didn't see any scenery of note, either mile after mile of overgrown weeds or industrial sections or really bad parts of towns we passed through. The worst, stations are hard to get to/from at the end points without prearranged transport and they aren't really all that nice. I regret the trip as flying would have only been $100 more and much faster. Every once in a while I think about taking the train North towards the better run North-East corridor parts of the system, but that one experience kind of waived me off the whole thing and with the stations so hard to get to and flying to my destinations faster (even with security hassles included) and about the same cost it just isn't worth it to me.

My experience in France was on much shorter, hour or two trips, and they were "ok" if a bit run down. Graffiti on the trains, that sort of thing. Felt more like extended commuter trains (which they probably were) then proper passenger rail. It was somewhere between Italy and Amtrak in terms of comfort, but more towards the Amtrak side in terms of desirability.

paddy_m 1 day ago 1 reply      
He states that there was more air travel in Europe, and more trips taken in general because of HSR on routes that used to be serviced by air, thus there was no decrease in pollution, instead an increase. This is such a regressive attitude towards transit. Travel makes us all richer, more of it is a good thing (commuting is a different beast).

My understanding is that overnight trains and the other trains that were less expensive were heavily subsidized and unprofitable. My guess is that HSR in Europe is less subsidized and closer to profitable. Many forms of transportation are subsidized (highways for cars, TSA for planes, HSR projects). The subsidies distort choices and encourage inefficient waste by not letting consumers decide with true information as to the costs of their mode choice.

yread 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think a lot of the differences boil down to once-a-day point-to-point connection of classical or EuroCity trains versus corridors for frequent high-speed trains. Thalys goes every 2 hours, Etoile de Nord once a day.

That's why bullet trains work so well in Japan, you can basically have 2 corridors one on each coast and they will pass through most of the important cities removing the need for direct links.

I do agree with the article in most of the points. I have traveled Amsterdam-Perpignan (the last french city before Barcelona) with Thalys and low-cost night train (and TGV and Thalys on the way back) and I can attest that the night train is indeed quite uncomfortable. At least I could take a gas canister (for hiking) with me...

jff 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Low Tech Magazine: Drawing arbitrary boundary lines sells. 150 year old technology (trains) = ok, 100 year old technology (airplanes) = not ok.
lispm 1 day ago 1 reply      
German here. I have a Bahncard 100, which allows me unlimited train travel (plus unlimited local public transport in many cities) in Germany with most trains for one year. Fast or slow. I don't care. I usually pick the faster one.


Deutsche Bahn also advertizes that they use renewable energy for my Bahncard travel and they will expand this over the coming decades to 100%.

epaladin 1 day ago 2 replies      
I haven't been to Europe yet, but after living in Japan for a year and then returning to the US, there's nothing I miss more than trains that go fast and go everywhere. I could wake up, walk down the street, hop on the train, and be 350 miles away before getting bored of staring at the back of the seat. They've managed to get by without much cannibalization of other services (you can still get to anywhere on normal-speed trains) and it seems that revenue ends up being at least more than operating costs. They obviously make a great deal of sense in Japan, and perhaps less so in Europe and the US, at least for cross-country service. Regional services would be fantastic for key areas, and I don't see why we couldn't make it work. Unless we just skip right to Hyperloop?
PhantomGremlin 10 hours ago 3 replies      
So many comments but only one passing mention of "Eurail" in this discussion.


So, help an American (potential tourist) out. Does using Eurail for a European vacation make sense? For a family of 2 adults and 2 children?

E.g. getting the "15 days continuous" pass is $548 + $548 +$276 + $276 = $1648. That doesn't seem unreasonable for being able to go pretty much anywhere except UK.

Does that make sense?

Kequc 1 day ago 0 replies      
When you're looking at a 12+ hour train ride with two changes and 200 vs a 1.5hr flight for 30, as seem so often to be the options. To someone who hates visiting airports more high speed trains can't get here quickly enough.
rowyourboat 1 day ago 0 replies      
I never understood why HSTs are supposed to be in competition with planes.

For short trips (<500km), HSTs generally win against planes when comparing door-to-door times, but so do cars. For longer trips, planes win. Period.

To me, the HST is what makes the train able to compete with the car for medium-distance travel. Let's take an example from Germany: Hamburg to Frankfurt. It's about 500km, which takes 4-5 hours by car. The HST link takes 3:30h - if you take the time from station to station. But that's not a fair comparison, because generally you do not want to go from station to station but from some place in Hamburg to some place in Frankfurt. If we add an hour of traveling by local public transportation, we arrive at a local trip time of 4:30, in the same range as the car. The HST has made traveling by train a viable option - not insanely fast, but comparable to the car.

Mass transit is slow compared to cars. HST is fast. Combine those, and HSTs make public transport a viable alternative to going by car, time-wise.

stuaxo 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is sad. I wonder if the high speed trains need to be this expensive (through energy use etc). Also, if the lower speed ones are being shut merely to move people onto the higher speed lines.

Certainly in the UK, with high speed one, they introduced an extra delay into the old line to make it seem less competetive.

I'm guessing that nearly double the price for a 20%-25% decrease in journey time is more than a sane person would want to pay.

vmlinuz 1 day ago 0 replies      
In about 6 weeks, my girlfriend and I will be flying into Frankfurt - because that was an available cheap flight via China from Hong Kong, where we live.

We will be travelling from Frankfurt to Strasbourg (fast train, 1 change), from Strasbourg to Brussels (fast train, change in Paris), from Brussels to Amsterdam (fast train, direct), and from Amsterdam back to Frankfurt (fast train, direct). Total price for these train journeys, for two people, is 330 - because I booked the apparently hard-to-get cheap fares.

Compared with travelling by plane on low-cost carriers:We will mostly be going from city centre to city centre.We will have power at our seats in at least some cases.We will be free to get up and walk around for comfort.We will be able to bring our own food and drink onboard.We will get to see some of Europe passing by the window.And we will have to be on the platform a couple of minutes before departure time, not an hour or more...

Trains make more sense, in terms of service and cost, over short-to-medium distances. Barcelona to Amsterdam is probably over the line where flying makes more sense. Our Strasbourg to Brussels journey will take around 5 hours, but over 1 hour of that is time to change trains - and stations - in Paris, so I think that still falls before said line.

drill_sarge 1 day ago 0 replies      
The price model of the rail company doesn't make much sense here (germany). I can travel from Berlin to Paris cheaper, than I can from Frankfurt to Munich for example. But then they have special offers for certain regions sometimes, which you can combine with regular tickets for the rest of your route, which makes it cheaper again. Or in combination with a flight ticket. Or traveling in groups with special ticket, or traveling in a certain region with a specific train and so on. It is so complicated and confusing that even the staff at the train station can't always tell you whats the best ticket.
rdl 21 hours ago 0 replies      
It was pretty amazing pricing DB train tickets vs. Eurail passes (I'm going to 30c3 and will probably be in Europe 25 DEC to 12 JAN). A single 2nd FRA-HAM-BER trip costs more than a 5-travel-day pass, in first on ICE.
stcredzero 23 hours ago 0 replies      
What unintended effects would the Hyperloop have? My limited experience with the California train system is that it's no good unless you are in no hurry, or your travel just luckily happens to coincide with the right time and place.
danmaz74 1 day ago 2 replies      
It's a bit disingenuous to compare prices from the 90s to today's without accounting for inflation.
yoloswaggins 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Cars are killing Horse Drawn Trolleys.
squozzer 1 day ago 1 reply      
I like trains. Really! But maybe the proper question is not, "Why build high-speed rail?" but "Why travel at all?"

Especially the example given about those who live in Barcelona and commute to London by air. Probably not just because it's cheaper -- I'm sure the differences in weather had a minor influence too.

But you might have heard about this thing we have in Bonerland called the Internet. Al Gore invented it, so it has to be green. Maybe you Euro-peons should check it out.

delinka 1 day ago 2 replies      
i.e. competition changes markets.
auctiontheory 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Anecdote: In France, the system sold me a ticket for a non-existent day. I knew I was returning to Paris on a Saturday, so to buy my ticket I clicked on Saturday the 24th of May on one of those typical select-a-date web map UIs you've all seen. Except that the 24th of May was Sunday - I didn't double check my purchase against a calendar.

So on "Saturday," ticket in hand, I was evacuated from my seat and had to stand for a couple of hours - of course everyone pretended not to speak English - and I suppose I should be grateful I wasn't defenestrated into the French countryside.

Earlier, at the small station, I had let a woman who was obviously in a hurry pass ahead of me to buy a ticket. She said to me "obviously you are not a French man." :-)

Tech firms push back against White House efforts to divert NSA meeting theguardian.com
216 points by wrongc0ntinent  21 hours ago   84 comments top 12
Kapura 19 hours ago 7 replies      
I find it hilarious that the Obama White House doesn't seem to be taking the tech companies' position seriously. In fact, the White Houses's almost complete non-response to the NSA revelations has damaged their credibility in my mind much moreso than the Healthcare.gov debacle. Me and other tech-industry-type people I talk to understand why code projects fail and break, so, while we shake our heads at the poor management and deployment of this website, we "get it." It doesn't really concern us.

This Snowden thing is really getting out of hand, though. I initially was anti-Snowden when the first leaks came out; I was unconcerned that the government might be storing metadata. But I am certain that the NSA has been lying about the scope of their collection and it's legality. As more documents leak, I become increasingly concerned with the apparently blank cheque for surveillance that the NSA has been issued. It has personally shaken my trust not only in specific channels of communication, but the entire internet in general. It's troubling the steps one must now go through to have a semblance of secure communication: I have trouble trusting ANY software for security because I have no idea what the NSA is allowed to do (I suspect its almost anything if it's en masse). The one percent doctrine is the scariest thing to come out of the Bush White House, which wasn't exactly a beacon of freedom.

The wheels of law and government turn slowly, which is, generally, a good thing, but I believe that the gov'ts policies regarding information collection need to be addressed ASAP. They're hurting the United States' already shaky foreign credibility, and they're hurting American companies' interests as well. Somebody needs to light a fire under Congress's or the White House's seat to get the ball rolling. Judge Leon's ruling is a good step, but I'm disappointed and ashamed that the first president I cast a ballot towards is stonewalling on such an important issue.

jcrites 19 hours ago 8 replies      
Interesting to see the way that change is playing out:

1) Person blows whistle / leaks information about government surveillance

2) World trust in US firms is damaged, especially internationally. Foreign firms and governments hesitate to trust US firms with their data. US firms lose contracts and relationships sour.

3) US firms whose interests are hurt lobby for surveillance reform

Personally, I think the crux of the issue is the doctrine that, if a company is a party to handling my data, whether privately or as part of delivery to another person, that company may voluntarily share information with the government. I think it's a failing of our constitutional law against unreasonable search and seizure that this precedent was set. (I'm not a lawyer but that is my understanding - please correct me if I'm wrong.)

In the modern world, virtually all of our communication involves other companies, and so if those companies can voluntarily act as effectively agents of the government in providing the government data, then from my perspective this dodges the intent of the Fourth Amendment. Especially given modern adoption of cloud computing - my papers and personal effects are rarely present solely on my property. Technological progress in cloud computing should not erode fundamental constitutional protections. With that precedent, it has.

As all data increasingly goes digital, it is wrong for our society to present a conflict of interest: either keep my data myself, and lose out on modern technology; or use modern technology and be subject to omnipresent surveillance. The better option is to reform our laws so that constitutional protections extend to digital information, wherever it is kept, as well as "papers".

Would it be reasonable to change the laws of our society such that no person may share another person's digital information with the government [1], except as required by law, or unless they specifically believe that person guilty of wrongdoing? Perhaps such an approach could form the basis for much more effective protection against unreasonable search.

[1] I realize getting this right is going to be tough. Perhaps it's "no digital information created by the person, or metadata about that information". What I'd be looking for is a reasonable digital equivalent of "papers and effects".

Perhaps such a relationship could be negotiated through private contract today (e.g. terms of service). The asymmetrical relationship makes this difficult to achieve as a consumer. (This leads me to wonder: do the terms of service of major Internet firms permit them to share your information with the government?)

Maybe the first place to start is pushing Internet companies to adopt terms of service that prohibit sharing your information with government agencies (or with any other firm who does not have such a clause in its relationship with the first company), except as required by law.

If the tech companies who met with the President want to lead reform in this space, they could begin by changing their terms of service to explicitly prohibit voluntarily sharing your data with governments or firms who may voluntarily share that data with governments. Of course, that might strain their relationships with those governments, and harm their business in a different way, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I'm not saying that business reasons are the only reasons. I do believe that plenty of people and firms want to change the situation on its merits. It's just also interesting to me to look at this issue from the perspective of business impact.

spinchange 17 hours ago 2 replies      
I am reminded of something I once read the President of France had said to someone after meeting President Obama for the first time. "He's a show horse, not a workhorse."

That's exactly how I feel reading about a WH meeting with Tech CEOs who want to discuss this NSA ridiculousness while the White House handlers spin that it's about asking their advice on healthcare.gov or some nonsense. It's just unserious and totally not confidence inspiring.

chernevik 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Interesting that they were willing to be seen forcing the agenda here, contra the WH's preferred positioning. They think the downsides of complicity with the NSA program are worse than those of pissing of the White House. But there is a long way to go here.

Someone will eventually have to confront the NSA's rhetoric "we can't stop terrorism / people will be killed if we constrain surveillance". I wouldn't expect that from this White House, or many in Congress. You can push on and even piss off the President, but if he won't push the NSA you have to generate political pressure to force him to do just that.

I'm not sure that pressure is available under the argument that tech giant business models require transparency. That frames the issue as commerce vs security, I don't think that's a big vote getter. The truth is that real privacy will in fact get more people killed, in the short run, because yes it makes operations easier for the Bad Guys. I'm okay with that, because I'm more worried about a tyrannical government, and We are bigger than the Bad Guys. But I'm not sure the electorate sees it my way.

I suppose the likeliest solution is some tacit recognition that proper privacy does allow more terrorism / drug traffic / child porn. I worry that thus we won't get really proper privacy, or a real political commitment to it.

I'm glad these CEOs carried this to the President, but I don't think they're going to be the whole solution to this.

MichaelGG 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Mentioning Healthcare.gov seems bizarre. In what possible way does Yahoo, Netflix, or AT&T have anything useful to discuss about a large integration product with the head of state?
IanDrake 16 hours ago 0 replies      
>despite the White House declaring in advance that it would focus on ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website, healthcare.gov, among other matters.

I'm sure a bunch of tech CEOs and politicians are going to come up with a fantastic scaling solution for the beleaguered website. Let's see, how would that go?

Obama: "I was thinking about migrating to Mango and getting in on some of that sharting I keep hearing about".

Mayer: "No Mr. President, you need more nginx servers to do SSL termination, your Apache servers can't handle the load".

Then Biden: "That's what she said..."

At which point every one stops and looks at him.

alan_cx 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Interesting to me that US tech firms are more bothered about US international reputation that the government.

Anyway, I have said a few times these tech companies should step up to the plate and it looks like they are. Good.

People might criticize their motivation, suggesting that its all about money, but from at least my non US POV, the US is all about money, its as pure capitalist as it gets. There for the US its self is all about money. So, what else is going to motivate US people or bushiness? It was always going to be about money.

What I think is needed now is for these tech companies to use some of their immense wealth to put up some sort of political opposition, campaign, candidates or what ever. Talking and finger wagging is good, but they need to put their money where their mouths are.

But over all, positive. Lets see what happens.

Edit: Just to add, Im not making a moral judgement about the US being all about money. That is another conversation.

wpietri 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Given then the number of CEOs attending whose business model is surveillance [1], a cynical person would suggest that they're just upset about the competition.

[1] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/11/surveillance_...

vikas5678 16 hours ago 3 replies      
I appreciate the fact that the companies are focusing on this. However, its unclear to me why they didn't try any of this before Snowden leaked all this information? So if no one knew about it, these tech companies were OK sharing with the government?
znowi 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Those tech companies possess immense power and influence, both in lobbying and even more so on the internet with the people. If they really wanted to "push back", this story would be over in the summer. One Google could turn the tides completely if stood up for what it once believed. I see this sudden "reform" as no more than a show for the public.
j1z0 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I for one don't really care about the motivations of these companies. Im just glad they are doing something about it.

This NSA debacle is just one more nail In the coffin of American Emperialism. And America better wake up and change her ways if she wants to continue to enjoyed the privllaged global position she has had for so many years.

joering2 1 hour ago 0 replies      
What is Pincus doing there? [1]

Does anyone know if there are any backdoors built into Zynga games?? Their userbase is still impressive.


My run-in with unauthorised Litecoin mining on AWS vertis.io
206 points by vertis  2 days ago   120 comments top 22
acangiano 2 days ago 6 replies      
CPU mining of scrypt-based cryptocurrency is highly inefficient. Let's do some math.

A cc2.8xlarge is reported to mine at 85 kh/s, so 20 of them would give you 1700 kh/s. That's roughly equivalent to a couple of high-end AMD GPUs (say a couple of overclocked 290x). This hashing power gives you a little over 0.5 LTC per day. It mined for two days, so it gained a little over 1 LTC. Let's call it $40.

That's right, the idiot behind this cost the OP $3000+ for $40 profit. A smarter criminal would have spawn GPU instances on EC2.

davidjgraph 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is rough luck, but getting specific servers hacked is more commonplace. In the AWS billing console [0] there is an "alert" option. It walks you through setting up the various types of alarms.

If you're hacked the most likely problem you'll get is a spike in data transfer costs. You can up the alarms to, for example, email you if the bandwidth usage goes above x (cost) over y time period.

I had a perl DOS bot get into a server, took about 2 hours to trigger the alarm. Shame I was fast asleep at the time, but the idea was there...

[0] https://console.aws.amazon.com/billing/home

meritt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ugh, that sucks. Too late to help you now (but perhaps others) on your billing alerts points: check out http://cloudability.com -- alerts, analytics, prediction, suggestions, etc. Free for the most useful stuff.
debaserab2 2 days ago 4 replies      
I wonder if the author is going to be on the hook for the bill for this.

If he originally received this note from amazon, it makes me also wonder if amazon knew about the fraud while it was happening. I sense that they probably monitor the launch of many of the XXL servers more closely than others.

lambda 2 days ago 3 replies      
Another good habit to be in is never checking any kind of credentials into source control; even if it's some private personal project, just don't be tempted to check in your credentials to source control, because at some point you may find some portion of that that's useful that you import into a public project, accidentally preserving full history.

Sorry to the OP, hope that Amazon reverses those charges once you tell them what happened.

earless1 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think smarter usage of IAM roles would have also helped here. Keys created strictly for S3 access should not have the ability to launch new instances and so on. Limiting keys to their specific purpose is a good security practice even for dev environments.
sillysaurus2 2 days ago 5 replies      
Is this illegal? Could he somehow go to some authority?

EDIT: Why is it unlikely the FBI will successfully investigate?

sheetjs 2 days ago 1 reply      
> Audit code before open sourcing

It's important to remember that open-sourcing is generally one-way: once it's out there, it's impossible to completely eliminate all traces. Always audit code, and if there's even a remote possibility that you'll regret it you should check again

trapexit 2 days ago 2 replies      
You can (and should) set up an AWS CloudWatch alert on your account that will send you an email or SMS notification when your monthly bill exceeds a set threshold.
colbyaley 2 days ago 0 replies      
I suggest the OP check out Cloudability[1], which provides realtime cost management for AWS and other cloud providers. We help over 10,000 customers make sure this doesn't happen to them. (disclosure: I work there)

[1]: https://cloudability.com/

dhughes 2 days ago 3 replies      
Now I'm curious, how many litecoins would it have generated in two days?
judah 1 day ago 0 replies      
The author suggested enabling billing alerts. For those running on Azure, billing alerts are currently in preview mode, and can be enabled via https://account.windowsazure.com/PreviewFeatures
delinka 2 days ago 1 reply      
or "...with unauthorized account usage on AWS." I get that the unauthorized use was mining, but the mining operation itself isn't unauthorized by Amazon nor by the creator of the currency.
awhitty 2 days ago 0 replies      
Shoot, as someone who made the same mistake of leaving my AWS keys in an open source project, I think I narrowly dodged a bullet. I didn't realize this risk was so high. Thanks for this post!
tomphoolery 2 days ago 1 reply      
I know there are a few code-quality bots on Github, but is there any service that you can install as a webhook which automatically checks for things like Amazon key pairs (which, IIRC, always start with "AKIA", at least the API keys anyway)?
umairsiddique 2 days ago 1 reply      
Exactly same thing happened to me. 20 x xlarge instances raking up a total bill of $1800. I've opened a support case with them.
devonbleak 2 days ago 0 replies      
FYI all AWS keys start with AKIA - makes it easy to search for 'em.
omarchowdhury 2 days ago 0 replies      
So are you liable?
mnml_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
Amazon will refund you if you explain your situation.
billjive 2 days ago 2 replies      
How did Amazon detect your key in the wild? Or did they notice based on usage patterns/activity in your instances?
smiro2000 1 day ago 0 replies      
sorry dude :(
badmadrad 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Having a poke around confirmed what I had already guessed. The unauthorised user had been mining litecoin with the mining pool pool-x.eu."

Hmmm..you already guessed someone hacked your account to mine litecoin? Astroturfing much? That's the last thing I would have guessed. I would have thought someone was using it as some crazy web server or mail server to generate spam or phony websites for bogus ad clicks.

From carpool to deadpool: Ridejoys startup journey ridejoy.com
204 points by jcampbell1  1 day ago   77 comments top 26
hyperbovine 22 hours ago 5 replies      
I have used CL rideshare perhaps 40 times for travel between northern & southern California in the past few years, and I personally am glad to see Ridejoy and other attempts at commercializing it fail. The service works fine as it is: free, informal, fast. The last thing it needs is a bunch of annoying startups invading, all crowing about "untapped markets" and how "passionate" they are to enable social this-or-that--an act which invariably strikes me as mercenary and disingenuous. In short, I can see why CL would issue the C&D.

The "anonymous and sometimes sketchy rides posted every year" line is particularly irksome as it so perfectly conveys the annoying disdain techies have for things that don't sport a slick iPhone app and/or (attempt to) make money. The truth is (confirmed over many hours of conversation with fellow riders and drivers) sketchy rides are both obvious and exceedingly rare. A few simple rules (like physically talking to the rider/driver ahead of time, meeting in a public place, etc.) are sufficient to ensure a smooth experience.

twic 21 hours ago 3 replies      
We're talking about this like it was a failure. This doesn't look like a failure to me. Look at what they write:

> we believed by building a far superior product, and being creative about signing up users, we could turn long-distance carpooling from a niche activity to a modern mode of transportation.

> we did succeed at growing steadily (25-30%/mo), creating an Apple-featured iPhone app, building a userbase of 30k+

> were able to leave the Ridejoy website and iPhone app up and running for a while, until it starts declining in usage or requires too much maintenance

They set out to make carpooling great. They did it, and shipped the greatness to thirty thousand people. The service is still running.

They didn't make a fortune (or make their investors a fortune) doing it. So what? It is only in the utterly demented Silly Valley startup mindset that this is a failure.

jcampbell1 1 day ago 5 replies      
What is the west coast bus situation? The premium bus market on the east coast seems to be booming. The NJ turnpike outside of New York which connects NYC/DC/Philly/etc is full of passenger buses.

There are now even "Business Class" buses. http://www.vamoosebus.com/pages/gold.aspx

jmathai 1 day ago 0 replies      
Congrats on the success you did have. This was a really refreshing and honest deadpool email. This type of post-mortem is so helpful for entrepreneurs in general.

I hope we see more of this type of communication from startups. This and the writeup of Everpix were very insightful.

Thanks for sharing.

jaysonelliot 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Congratulations on a good run. I was fortunate to meet Kalvin, Randy, and Suelyn near the beginning of Ridejoy, just after they were funded, and I thought it was a great service.

It's a shame that the planets didn't align this time for them, but they're all wildly talented and creative individuals who are certain to go on to greater successes.

Thanks for providing the wrap-up at the end of the journey. These kind of stories are very inspirational as well.

rplnt 22 hours ago 2 replies      
Could someone elaborate on this?

> Craigslist C&Dd us (they didnt want our users linking to their Ridejoy ride offers or requests)

If I understand it correctly, CL sent C&D to ridejoy because someone was posting ridejoy urls on CL? That's absurd if that's the case.. so how was it?

curiouslurker 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Good read. I am curious, what were the reasons given by the co-founder of Zipcar on why you'd fail?
brandonb 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Kalvin, Randy, and Jason are some of the nicest and most capable founders around. Wishing them luck on their next journey!
edw519 23 hours ago 1 reply      
I like to think that there are no failures, just unexpected learning experiences on the way to something else. This sounds like one.

Thanks for the post. Looking forward to what's next.

nkrumm 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Nice, honest article. Thanks.

It's worth noting that Germany's 'Mitfahrgelegenheit' service [1] is highly successful, and includes many of the same features that Ridejoy built. I've used it a few times to travel between cities (large and small) in Germany... it's primary advantage is price-- approximately 50% of the price of a rail ticket (cheaper for the passenger) and takes the edge off the $8/gallon gasoline prices for the driver. While price may be a motivating factor, there are numerous systemic differences that come to mind when comparing ridesharing in the US and in Germany, such as the shorter distance between all major cities (though perhaps similar to NE USA), as well as Germany's love for the cars and the autobahn.

One other note: on one of the drives, I learned that the system nearly broke down due to "professional" drivers renting large vans and overselling tickets for each ride to ensure that the vans were full. Then, when enough passengers had arrived, the van left, leaving the remaining passengers hosed. Since you only pay at the end of the ride, passengers started overbooking themselves, hosing other drivers. In the end this was rectified by putting the cost of the trip into escrow from the time of booking to the end of the trip.

1. http://www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de/

ajju 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Ridesharing is a tough business, primarily due to supply side scarcity. Long distance carpools are even tougher. It takes a team with incredible dedication to accomplish what RideJoy has been able to. I noticed that they are STILL a featured app under travel on the app store.

RideJoy and Kalvin in particular were very helpful to us at InstantCab at various stages from advice and introductions on fundraising to hiring. I am looking forward to following what each of them does next.

Edmond 22 hours ago 1 reply      
By the way, did you guys consider package delivery, instead of just people? I did a b-school project on that concept, ie RideJoy but for package delivery. My test route was going to be I-95.

Old beta site:


isalmon 23 hours ago 4 replies      
I don't understand why deadpool is better than acquihire. You would return at least the same amount of money to your investors, but also you could put this as an exit on your resume and get a significant amount of money personally.
ProblemFactory 23 hours ago 0 replies      
> We never discovered demand in the way that VC-backed startups need to. (We now no longer believe the market exists in the US, but of course, perhaps we just couldnt find it.)

Could you please tell us more about your opinions on the ride-sharing market? Were there any surprise difficulties or discoveries? Or is the "half a million rides per year on Craigslist" * expected revenue per ride just too small to be worth pursuing as VC-funded startup?

Edmond 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Doesn't seem like you failed out right, it seems you had real traction so I am a bit baffled that you didn't try harder to make it work (at least it seems that way from your post).

I am thinking you could have worked something out with CL or found a way around that?

Could this just be a matter of not having enough passion for the idea/product/service itself?

LogicX 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I'll take this opportunity to throw out an alternative to ridejoy which is still going: https://www.ridepost.com

Based out of Greenville, SC

I'm not the founder, but have met him - would love to get his thoughts on what happened with ridejoy.

wehadfun 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Ride Joy - Social Bus Chartering.

People say where and when they ant to go. If enough people sign up charter the bus.

qwerta 22 hours ago 1 reply      
From title I thought they moved into funeral services.
flavor8 22 hours ago 0 replies      
What was your revenue model? If you were doing it again, would you try to do it lean / w/o VC money?
jonny_eh 22 hours ago 0 replies      
They should probably take down that job ad at the end of the blog post.
ipince 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you thought of selling the business to some other developer? I'm not talking a big acquihire to some random bug company, but putting it on one of those sites to sell other sites to folks like you and me.
mmayberry 18 hours ago 0 replies      
It would be interesting to hear from a YC partner about what they saw in Ridejoy, its founders, and what they thought when they made their investment. Its a rare opportunity when a startup publicly speaks about hitting the deadpool (something I admire ridejoy for doing) and hearing the flip-side perspective might be even rarer.
hosh 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I wonder how well Ridejoy would have done if it were launched after self-driving cars were more available?
bliti 19 hours ago 1 reply      
This adds to my opinion that Craigslist needs to have a good (paid) API.
praveenhm 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I have used a rideshare few times before.can you guys just opensource all your source code.So that the community can build something out of it.
sudheendrach 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks for sharing your story! What are your plans? starting something?
Just Delete Me A directory of direct links to delete your accounts justdelete.me
201 points by shawndumas  1 day ago   39 comments top 15
buro9 1 day ago 2 replies      
It's fairly understandable that delete from a retailer is hard. In many places retailers are under obligation to store records relating to transactions for things like tax compliance, agreements with credit providers, anti-fraud and accounting laws. i.e. Amazon

What does delete even mean in these circumstances? The best they're able to do is just remove your public profile (if such a thing exists) whilst leaving everything else intact.

It's also understandable that collaborative works have no real delete (as the end user perceives it). The very nature of a collaborative work means that removing some contribution from the past could alter the work as it stands today. i.e. Wikipedia

What's really surprising are the media outlets on the list with the high level of difficulty. The EU data protection laws only permit a company to retain that data which is necessary to provide a service, for as long as the service is provided or the company is obliged (by law) to keep the information. Those outlets (Gawker) seem to hide under the collaborative works stuff, but if you've an account but never made a comment then deletion shouldn't be objected to.

General rules:

If there was a monetary transaction they're going to keep your info but might delete your public profile.

If it's a collaborative work you might get your profile deleted but all of your contributions will remain as a public record.

If it's an interaction with the government you're never going to get it deleted.

leokun 1 day ago 2 replies      
Deleting an account from Quora, including deleting all your contributions, is not easy. It requires sending an email and waiting for them to run some script which can take a long time. So unless Quora changed this, which I doubt, that page needs to be updated.
shitlord 1 day ago 0 replies      
Also useful is namechk.com. I didn't even know I had an account on some of these sites. It turned out I had a 5 year old reddit account, a 6 year old account on ebay, and more. Of course, I deleted most of them.
anonova 1 day ago 1 reply      
Starbucks has an odd one.

    They will not delete your account but upon request they    can scramble all of your information so that you dont    receive emails and none of your information is available    to [them] for potential fraud.

kerkeslager 1 day ago 1 reply      
The way I'm going to use this list is to look up services before I sign up.

I'd also be interested to see if user satisfaction correlates with ease of quitting. It seems like companies which make it hard for users to quit do so because many users want to quit. Anecdotally this holds true for the handful of companies on that list I've used, but I'd like to see some actual stats.

yogo 1 day ago 0 replies      
healthcare.gov should be a good addition to this site, if it's possible.
Aldo_MX 1 day ago 1 reply      
Skype freaked me

  Contact customer services. Youll need to know 5 contacts from your contacts list,  the month you created your account, and your signup email address.

brokenparser 1 day ago 1 reply      
Why is it impossible to delete an HN account?
eYsYs 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Out of context though but the same story was submitted to HN 4 months ago. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6238053, yet today it clicked. Reminds me of http://blog.ploki.info/what-if-successful-posts-on-hackernew...
ToastyMallows 1 day ago 0 replies      
http://www.accountkiller.com/en/ is another great site.
daGrevis 1 day ago 0 replies      
Comments from previous discussion. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6265613
ISeemToBeAVerb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cool directory. Now if only I could remember all the sites I've set up accounts with in the past. :-/
yeukhon 1 day ago 0 replies      
It is... it is called Apple ID ....
halcyondaze 1 day ago 0 replies      
Absolutely love this.
404 - File not found uiuc.edu
199 points by Brajeshwar  3 days ago   51 comments top 27
biot 3 days ago 1 reply      
51 people (so far) found that this gratified their intellectual curiosity? Now that's depressing.
nhebb 3 days ago 2 replies      
> "You see, I'm just a web server..."

Liar. You're a script running on the client.

kissickas 3 days ago 2 replies      
Javascript required, if you're as confused as I was.
billpg 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder if the people at UIUC are wondering why there's a sudden spike in intrerest in the abandoned "sensornode" project.
anonova 3 days ago 1 reply      
This script has been around for a while.


Anyone know the origin?

eCa 3 days ago 1 reply      
This used to be on the default 404 for an old web server which name I can't remember. Maven, Raven or something similar. Late '90s.
alixaxel 3 days ago 2 replies      
I think I saw this like 10 years ago.

What makes it so special to be #1 on HN?!

ch4s3 3 days ago 1 reply      
I would be amused to read the full text, but I didn't have the patience. Cool idea though.
anoncow 3 days ago 0 replies      
Only if it could generate new (depressing) text every time (like cleverbot talking to herself) with a voice-over by an Alan-Rickman-like tts engine.
rbx 3 days ago 0 replies      
If it was just a block of text, I would probably skip over most of it, but this running line thing is a cool idea to try and make the reader read every sentence. Not knowing how long the actual text is also helps a lot.There should be some browser plugin which does this to texts!
booop 3 days ago 1 reply      
That was depressing, and the way the text comes up made it even worse.
kenrick95 3 days ago 0 replies      
A song like "Still Alive" from Portal should be used to accompany the depressed page.
tim333 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cool. Reading this inspired me to make and Eliza one while I was having my coffee: http://openlate.info/static/404.html . What d'ya think? I could put a share button on it?
enterx 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Maybe I could interest you in another page?There are a lot out there that are pretty neat, they say,although none of them were put on my server, of course."

Marvin lives!

TallboyOne 3 days ago 1 reply      
plug for my own 404 :] http://pineapple.io/404
Vektorweg 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've read this text some years ago. Still funny.
graetzer 3 days ago 0 replies      
That sounds pretty depressedhttps://gist.github.com/graetzer/7972341
lampe3 3 days ago 0 replies      
i never thought that a 404 site could be so depressing...


adambom 3 days ago 1 reply      
I. Watched. The. Whole. Thing.
user9b 3 days ago 0 replies      
frostnovazzz 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't get where the awesomeness is.
hellyeasa 3 days ago 0 replies      
This was beautiful.
tomphoolery 3 days ago 0 replies      
Fucking. Awesome.
Techasura 3 days ago 0 replies      
i'm depressed.
yuvals 3 days ago 0 replies      
LOL, Amazing!
notpg 3 days ago 0 replies      
       cached 18 December 2013 16:11:01 GMT