hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    16 Dec 2013 News
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Child Donated His Piggy Bank to NASA Got a Call From an Astronaut theatlantic.com
44 points by RichardCM  1 hour ago   4 comments top 4
jug6ernaut 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
For anyone interested here is a link to the petition, i couldn't find one in the article.


SEJeff 8 minutes ago 0 replies      
We need more of this. Challenging children to greatness is what keeps things interesting.
ccozan 15 minutes ago 0 replies      
I applaud this. This is the spirit we need to succeed in space.
subbz 12 minutes ago 0 replies      
Alternatively, teach this little man chinese.
A Great Old-Timey Game-Programming Hack moertel.com
169 points by acqq  5 hours ago   42 comments top 16
tbirdz 2 hours ago 5 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.

Jare 1 hour 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.

justanother 19 minutes ago 0 replies      
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...

caster_cp 2 hours ago 0 replies      
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

Morgawr 41 minutes ago 0 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]


stusmith1977 36 minutes ago 0 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...

jebus989 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Great story, thanks for this; it's a refreshing change from bitcoin and VC chatter.
danielweber 23 minutes 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.
forktheif 4 hours ago 4 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 4 hours 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!
pjmlp 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Great story! I grew up with this type of programming.

Brought back nice memories.

onion2k 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds similar to the scrolling 'hack' John Carmack used on Commander Keen.
Aardwolf 1 hour ago 1 reply      
>> each tile was 28 by 28 pixels.

Why not a power of 2 like 16 or 32?

professorTuring 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I love this post.

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

teddyh 3 hours ago 5 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.
asselinpaul 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Good read.
Google will not answer to British court over UK privacy claim theguardian.com
19 points by k-mcgrady  1 hour ago   2 comments top 2
arethuza 12 minutes ago 0 replies      
I think that headline is slightly misleading - Google is running an argument in court that as their service is supplied from the US then they can't be sued here in the UK.

If the courts decide otherwise then Google has quite a lot of assets here in the UK in the form of Google UK Limited - obviously tiny compared to the US parent but still a pretty substantial organization by any objective measure.

I tend to side with the claimants (I believe that is the correct term in England - it is pursuer here in Scotland) that as they have a .co.uk site and substantial operations here in the UK they should be directly subject to litigation in the UK. If they were a US only operation then fair enough - it would seem silly to sue them here in the UK, but they have long outgrown that status.

mf3i21 7 minutes ago 0 replies      
"Lawyers for the search firm are expected to tell the judge that a similar privacy claim was recently struck out in the US and that no European regulators are currently investigating this issue."

I think Google's lawyer's need to return to school. Those statements are completely irrelevant to this case.

EBay remote code execution secalert.net
41 points by knorc  2 hours ago   9 comments top 5
ledneb 27 minutes ago 1 reply      
I'm pretty sure the error is when they later take the input and eval it, and the author's managed to dodge their filtering rather than execute arbitrary code in the context of an array-to-string cast (which I was lead to believe when reading that post, at least). Otherwise it implies that some permutation of:

$a = '{${phpinfo()}}';$b = [$a];$c = "$b";

Will execute phpinfo()... which it won't.

girvo 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Neat attack, I'd not seen this type before.

I wonder if doing "$cast = (string) $input" prior to the rest will avoid it? I do things like that, as well as making sure all methods use type hinting, which would hopefully make this harder?

ck2 38 minutes ago 1 reply      
I'm curious if corporations like ebay respond with a grateful "thank you" or rather threaten to throw you in prison?
ericcholis 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I'm impressed by eBay's quick turn-around for implementing a fix.
zippie 1 hour ago 0 replies      
A prime example of how to deal with and educate others a vulnerability.

Presumably the bounty was distributed without incident which is worth noting the recent threads of bounties being forfeited.

Telegram - secure, free messaging telegram.org
132 points by macalicious  5 hours ago   111 comments top 31
ge0rg 48 minutes ago 1 reply      
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/...

utnick 4 minutes ago 0 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.

na85 4 hours ago 9 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.

conroy 4 hours 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.

huhtenberg 4 hours 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

joosters 4 hours 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.

Ihmahr 2 hours ago 1 reply      
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.
yeukhon 3 hours 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.

TeeWEE 31 minutes ago 0 replies      
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!

grandpoobah 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Where's the desktop app? I guess I'm old fashioned, because I'm looking for the next msn/icq.
gprasanth 4 hours 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

__alexs 3 hours ago 2 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/

motters 1 hour 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.

betterunix 1 hour 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.

jeswin 4 hours 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 3 hours 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.

kristopher 49 minutes ago 0 replies      
Not sure how uploading all of your contact information to their servers counts as "taking back our right to privacy."
zcam 4 hours ago 1 reply      
And it's based/hosted in the US: will not use.
arianvanp 4 hours 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 hours ago 1 reply      
why does HN comments have to be so negative all the time? its very depressing to read through HN comments.
agilebyte 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Awesome Fallout-style icons.
yxhuvud 2 hours ago 0 replies      
How about desktop clients? Being restricted to mobile devices is not very practical.
adventured 3 hours ago 0 replies      
"How is Telegram different from WhatsApp? Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based"

Yeah, ok. Decided not to use it right there.

thomasfl 4 hours 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.
andor 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Like Threema, they use the PGP model, instead of OTR...
subb 3 hours ago 1 reply      
How can this be free? They're not Wikipedia. I'm not sure how they can pay for multiple servers...
adnam 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Snake oil
okso 3 hours 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 ?

seanhandley 3 hours ago 1 reply      
"Cloud based" eh? Very secure.
alonium 2 hours ago 1 reply      
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.

jokoon 3 hours 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 ?
How I Made $6,000 in 7 Days with my Ebook pedrokroger.net
13 points by kroger  1 hour ago   4 comments top 2
SanderMak 6 minutes ago 2 replies      
Nice to see the results of your previous post!

> I was so afraid that PayPal would freeze my account that I called to let them know that I was going to sell a book and that I might have a few sales.

You know something's wrong when your customers are fearing you. Seriously, how did PayPal end up like this?

geolisto 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
Well done.
Don't commit when you're drunk github.com
70 points by onatm  4 hours ago   42 comments top 19
minimax 4 minutes ago 0 replies      
Why is this stupid frat house bullshit on the front page of Hacker News? We can do better than this.
watt 2 hours ago 2 replies      
This is wrong, this goes against DVCS philosophy.

You should be able to commit all you want all night long, but should not be able to push.

scoot 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Obligatory xkcd ("Ballmer Peak"): http://xkcd.com/323/
csmuk 3 hours ago 4 replies      
I've written and committed my best bugs when drunk. Undoing them was a valuable learning exercie. The finest being, in C:

   if (nr = 0x56) ...
That took and entire day to find and made me religiously avoid lvalue assigments in expressions by doing:

   if (0x56 == nr) ...

josefresco 33 minutes ago 0 replies      
What about a check for prescription pain killers or amphetamines? Oh wait, those are culturally acceptable mind altering things. I'm half joking but this is a neat hack, although I know many functioning alcoholics that would laugh at the concept of this.
NicoJuicy 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Slightly drunk is fine, for me it helps for not overengineering things and i just write code that works.

When completely sober, i think to much and i overengineer (overthink) stuff... Programming is just slower...

(Think DDD-like programming)

1 beer is enough to get very concentrated... Just don't overdue it (and don't make a habbit of it).

I only do it when i need to get things done, when time is limited... Never had serious bugs (Windows ME like) though :-P

It happens once in the 2 months and mostly it's for 2-3 days in the weekend (non-stop), with some light kind of music (Enya or concentration like mp3's) and headphones.

Yeah, i'm a nerd then :P

Crito 3 hours ago 0 replies      
It might be neat to replace the arduino/breathalyzer part with some sort of typos/minute metric, collected from the number of miss-typed commands you have had recently.

Trying to run `git psuh` too many times in an hour could get you a cooldown period so you can either sober up or wake up.

timclark 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Also, don't edit your bash profile when drunk! In my youth I did this and it took 3 weeks to return to normality - I didn't know about source code control in those days.
np422 1 hour ago 0 replies      
One of my old colleagues had the bright idea to log onto one of our production systems to "re-index some of the database tables" after coming home one Easter eve.

And yes, he wasn't directly sober at the time.

I was moderately amused when I got woken up about 3 AM and got to spend a few hours trying to revert the "re-indexing" ...

I think integration with ssh-key management to prevent people logging onto production systems when drunk would be a good idea for this project, don't be surprised if there is a pull request from me in the future ...

msantos 2 hours ago 0 replies      

    > Don't commit when you're drunk 
That's a valid premise for whatever you do in life, not only Git.

lmm 3 hours ago 1 reply      
It should be fine to commit when drunk, that's what VCS is for. Make it tag the last sober commit and disable "git push -f" instead.
goldenkey 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Gotta love the names..Krunk mode and Balmer mode. Who woulda thunk of that..oh no one except a drunkard. :-)
dep_b 34 minutes ago 0 replies      
Don't get into any commitment when you are drunk.


T-zex 4 hours ago 0 replies      
If you do, you better call Saul.
belorn 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Is committing tired more dangerous than committing tipsy?
exit 1 hour ago 0 replies      
definitely shouldn't commit with a decreased libido
psutor 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I'd think the best use of this interface would be to only allow you to commit while in the Ballmer Peak.
professorTuring 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Kids and drunks always commit the truth.
motyar 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Should be used in cars.
Show HN: Helium - Simple web automation heliumhq.com
20 points by mherrmann  2 hours ago   19 comments top 7
devspade 3 minutes ago 0 replies      
Trying to figure out what this gives me that Selenium doesn't? If I already have a large code base using Selenium why should I switch?
mapleoin 1 hour ago 2 replies      
Closed source development tools with a EULA? What is this? 1995?
hipsters_unite 1 hour ago 1 reply      
A question (not meant facetiously) but what's the benefit of this over say, Capybara/webrat, which already has the click and fill_in human readable methods? The block of example code looks pretty much like an RSpec/Capybara spec, is all.
lfx 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Hey, looks nice. Wonder how lib is detecting inputs by "user-visible labels". Looks by html structure, or uses some "magic" methods?
briancray 44 minutes ago 1 reply      
I would suggest also allowing CSS selectors as a fallback. Text changes often whereas a selector will change less often, producing a more reliable point of interaction.

I would also suggest you put a screencast of a hello world. With many people new to testing using headless webkit, they may have the wrong perception of how selenium tests are run. Additionally what may not be obvious to people used to javascript-based headless webkit tests is that Selenium/Helium tests are written in python. Might want to clarify that as well.

Good luck!

fygwtclub 32 minutes ago 1 reply      
I overheard "Selenium" is the cure for "Mercury" poisoning. What's behind the name "Helium". Just curious.

I would love to use "Helium" soon. All the best for your work.

Taurenking 1 hour ago 1 reply      
this seems an iteresting project...how does the click() function work? Is it possible to automate other actions beside the ones in the example?
Norway Rejects Bitcoin As Currency; Taxes As Asset, Instead slashdot.org
31 points by rukshn  3 hours ago   34 comments top 9
Cthulhu_ 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't blame them; you can't buy much with bitcoins, everyone treats it as an asset whose value is entirely determined by the current exchange rate / buy/sell prices, and that exchange rate is so unstable, no sane bank would want to offer services for it.
Expez 32 minutes ago 1 reply      
The title is pretty misleading. Even if they wanted to the tax authorities in Norway don't have the authority to determine what is and what isn't a currency. The only thing they've determined, once and for all, is that you have to pay taxes when you profit from trading in bitcoins (like everything else!).
sergiosgc 2 hours ago 3 replies      
Are we linking to Slashdot now? Why not submit a link to the original article? (http://bitcoinsalot.com/?p=8)
hmottestad 1 hour ago 1 reply      
This is actually rather funny, a professor from the law department said to the media that bitcoins are treated as two different things. First as a physical product and given 25% VAT when bought, then as a financial instrument when you sell it because you have to pay taxes on anything you earn (you can also get a tax deduction if you loose money when you sell it).
sfrechtling 3 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm no economist, but isn't that congruent with how similar things like Gold are treated?
tim333 1 hour ago 0 replies      
In the UK you pay capital gains tax on buying and selling anything pretty much including regular currencies, bitcoin or stocks. I imaging most countries are similar.
dschiptsov 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Why, it is an asset. Virtual asset. It is possible to use the technology to make payments, but you see, everyone longs it, and the price drifts downward slowly on almost no volume.

Edit: if something looks like an asset, being traded like an asset and has a bubble like an asset..

gaius 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Government in tax maximizing shocker, film at 11.
GoldfishCRM 2 hours ago 1 reply      
As I understand it bitcoin will be treated like a stock. Which means that you can use the loses you made on bitcoin and balance then agains your wins=) Make sense since the bitcoin fluxiate so mush right now.
First, Let's Fire All The Managers harvardbusiness.org
25 points by vellum  3 hours ago   15 comments top 8
ryanbrunner 1 hour ago 2 replies      
It seems like this is becoming more and more of a trend, and is just starting to push into the realm of legitimacy, rather than "kooky company does something crazy".

There's plenty of examples in tech of companies without traditional management structures (and mostly no management at all) - GitHub, Valve, Treehouse, etc. Now a food processor of all places pulls this off.

I do think this is an approach that doesn't necessarily work well for large companies - building the sense of camaraderie necessary for this is impossible at 10,000 or even 1,000 employees IMO, but on the other hand - who says we need to have giant companies? Wouldn't things work a lot better with a whole lot of 150 person companies?

analog31 30 minutes ago 1 reply      
Disclaimer: I work for a Fortune 500 company. I suspect the inefficiency added by managers is overblown, because most of them do not spend 100% of their time on traditional management activities such as supervision and decision making. A lot of their work is on tasks that would fall in somebody's lap within any organization. Some of those tasks are ones that I find to be dreadful.
bane 20 minutes ago 1 reply      
I've seen lots of these "x-role free" companies: no managers, no sales department, etc. Inevitably the function that those roles take on end up on somebody. Companies will sit in denial about it for a very long time, even making up weird titles to pretend like they still don't have managers, but ultimately they'll end up with them in the end because that's how they have to interface with the rest of the world and many of these roles exist because it's how work naturally breaks down and how people naturally specialize.
exodust 25 minutes ago 0 replies      
Mediation sounds good, and the 6 member panel idea also good.

In online tech, it pays to keep the mood relaxed and the office comfortable and spacious. Regardless of how much "serious business" is happening online, the internet is still a chilled out place.

The traditional hierarchy of managers is inherently unrelaxed. When you have multiple managers surrounding you, their presence might cause some to hold back on decisions, or pause that initiative. The managers will take care of all those nasty little details such as making decisions, you just keep doing the task you were delegated.

Remember what it felt like when the teacher left the room? If the manager leaves the office for the day and you feel that same rush of freedom feeling, you know things might be better without managers (or just a new manager).

static_typed 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Boss has a problem, so he hires an MBA, now he has 300 problems, and he got fired as well.
yxhuvud 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Somehow, I doubt this will be an easy sell to the management hierarchy.
Joeboy 1 hour ago 2 replies      
This really needs an NSFW tag...
michaelochurch 26 minutes ago 0 replies      
I've come to a realization that managers and programmers have something in common. The bad ones try to perpetuate job security by creating complexity (whether in code or interpersonal issues) that only they can navigate. The good ones want to do their jobs so well that they "program" (literally for engineers, figuratively for managers) themselves out of a job, so they can graduate to better things.

You see this most strongly with consultants. The good engineer does the best work he can, assuming it will lead to more challenging and interesting projects in the future. He's not worried about job security, or at least not enough to do things that are unethical; he assumes that doing a good job and becoming better at his work is job security. The bad consultant obfuscates code, documents poorly, and tries to make it impossible to ever fire him. He's not trying to bigger, badder (and more lucrative) projects in the future; he's just aiming to keep whatever income stream he has in perpetuity.

I think that managers exhibit the same dynamic, and I think that solving this problem requires recognizing it and watching for the warning signs early on.

I'm strongly in favor of open allocation, but that's not quite the same thing as "no management", which I think might take the idea too far. Why? Because management is a fact of life; some people will have more power than others, and I'd rather it be dealt with in a fair and reasonable way than in an ad-hoc and unstable way.

Having a permanent class of entitled (literally, not necessarily pejoratively) managers may not be the solution, and I support making people more self-managing-- actually, I'd use the term self-executive-- but acknowledging the basic fact of management, and encouraging the positive manifestations while avoiding the negative, is probably healthy as well.

Edward Snowden leaks: NSA amnesty 'considered' bbc.co.uk
22 points by nexttimer  1 hour ago   9 comments top 5
JanezStupar 43 minutes ago 0 replies      
Is NSA going through 5 stages of grief (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model#Stages)? Reading this article seems like this is making me feel like they are at stage 3.
midnitewarrior 36 minutes ago 1 reply      
If Snowden takes the deal, then he looks like the guy they are trying to paint him to be - a traitor that can't stomach permanent exile.

If he takes the deal unconditionally, he will have accomplished nothing other than isolate the United States from the rest of the world. Laws will not change, the people will not gain control of its government's activities.

Snowden can take the deal under one condition only - and that is that the NSA stops their improper practices under the supervision of Snowden. Of course, this will never happen.

Any interest Snowden expresses in a NSA deal will only be used to discredit him.

mtgx 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Is Alexander seriously comparing this to him taking 50 hostages and then killing 10 people?

And this is the same Alexander who helps CIA kill that many people per day with his mass surveillance and "signature drone strikes" - right? Just checking to see if he's the right guy to question Snowden's morals.

nexttimer 1 hour ago 0 replies      
In plain English, this NSA is saying:

"If we 'consider' this, it's because the most important information is still not out there, yet."

So it's basically counter-productive, unless your goal is to get the public behind the NSA in order to hang Snowden one way or the other.

venomsnake 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Snowden cannot possibly stop leaking the information. It is in journalists' hands already.
Turn O(n^2) reverse into O(n) github.com
133 points by ddinh  11 hours ago   69 comments top 9
drostie 6 hours ago 0 replies      

bufOps is a dictionary which holds a bunch of functions accessed with the getters on it. For the sake of this comment, we can concretize and use (buf_empty bufOps) as [] and (buf_append bufOps) as ++.

This code then essentially performs:

    foldr (flip (++)) [] xs
Which, if you look up the definition of foldr, is:

    ((([] ++ xN) ++ ... ) ++ x2) ++ x1
And a definition of ++ is of course:

    [] ++ ys = ys    (x:xs) ++ ys = x : (xs ++ ys)
This means that for lists of this sort a ++ b runs in time O(length a), because it has to descend down the leftmost list to find the empty list -- only once it finds [] can it "work its way backwards" to append elements from a onto b.

If each of the x1, x2, ... xN has m elements, then we do 0 + m + 2m + ... + N m = m * N * (N + 1) / 2 operations. Each ++ will do about N operations and we'll do about N of them; it's O(N^2).

The new algorithm, `concat (reverse xs)`, works because `xs` is just a list which can be reversed by traversing down it in O(N) time, then those can be merged together in O(N * m) time.

zvrba 5 hours ago 4 replies      
So the original line of code has apparently been present since the very first import by Sigbjrn Finne in https://github.com/nominolo/HTTP/blob/c4765e822eb92196fec955... check line 443).

If a Haskell expert (e.g., he authored hdirect -- an IDL compiler and interface with Win32 COM -- sadly defunct now) makes this kind of mistake, how are mere mortals supposed to reason about algorithmic efficiency?

tibbon 10 hours ago 2 replies      
My Haskell skills still are growing. Can someone explain?
thinkpad20 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd definitely like to see an explanation of what's going on, both at a high level and the specifics of the code. As a Haskell beginner-intermediate, I don't really know what most of those functions are doing (much less the context of what that function's purpose is), but I feel I could probably understand an explanation if it were given.
seliopou 10 hours ago 3 replies      
I for one prefer the more "algebraic" implementation. Why worry about performance when you get theorems for free?!


djulius 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I guess nobody ever got upvoted for using StringBuffer/StringBuilder instead of String concatenation in Java.
thomasahle 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Doesn't hlint catch stuff like this?
anonymouscowar1 10 hours ago 5 replies      
Do people try and optimize Haskell programs? This is a part of Haskell that terrifies me.
My run-in with unauthorised Litecoin mining on AWS vertis.io
176 points by vertis  13 hours ago   97 comments top 20
acangiano 12 hours 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 4 hours 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 12 hours 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 12 hours ago 3 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.

earless1 11 hours ago 1 reply      
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.
lambda 9 hours ago 2 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.

sillysaurus2 12 hours ago 5 replies      
Is this illegal? Could he somehow go to some authority?

EDIT: Why is it unlikely the FBI will successfully investigate?

sheetjs 12 hours 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

dhughes 12 hours ago 3 replies      
Now I'm curious, how many litecoins would it have generated in two days?
colbyaley 10 hours 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/

tomphoolery 7 hours 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)?
delinka 12 hours 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.
trapexit 12 hours 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.
awhitty 12 hours 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!
devonbleak 12 hours ago 0 replies      
FYI all AWS keys start with AKIA - makes it easy to search for 'em.
umairsiddique 12 hours 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.
mnml_ 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Amazon will refund you if you explain your situation.
omarchowdhury 9 hours ago 0 replies      
So are you liable?
billjive 12 hours ago 2 replies      
How did Amazon detect your key in the wild? Or did they notice based on usage patterns/activity in your instances?
badmadrad 9 hours 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.

Unofficial WhatsApp API github.com
47 points by amjd  6 hours ago   15 comments top 6
Nux 5 hours ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of the days Gaim (now Pidgin) was playing catch-up with the Yahoo messenger protocol changes. I used to have entire days/weeks offline from IM because of these changes.

Fast-fwd 7-8 years, the same story, just different players. What's funnier is that WhatsApp actually uses modified XMPP software/protocol which should be open and free..

We get what we deserve.

shubhamjain 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Lets say I have access to a smartphone and I can do everything on it. So if I am able to pull off all the parameters which are used for password, can I impersonate the cell owner? Whatever complex server side code Whatsapp will use, without password, I think it would only be security through obscurity.
amjd 5 hours ago 1 reply      
If php is your thing, then there's another alternative: https://github.com/venomous0x/WhatsAPI
nichochar 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Urgh, this was my little secret for developping a webapp :) I guess we should open source one then
kllr 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Someone should write a transport for XMPP servers with this, like what exist for MSN et all. (transports are services that interface XMPP networks with others, they run server side, see http://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0100.html You would have instantly access to the WA network from any Xmpp client (with concurrent sessions). maybe I should look into this myself :
gitaarik 5 hours ago 1 reply      
This is written in Python, so does that mean that your smartphone needs to run python in order to create a Whatspp compatible smartphone app?
Why the 9-to-5 Day Is So Tough on Creative Workers theatlantic.com
88 points by wellpast  10 hours ago   67 comments top 15
programminggeek 9 hours ago 5 replies      
It is completely unsurprising to me that this could be true. If you look at efficiency gains over the years relative to wages, people are working more and earning less. I think the statistic is something like we should be working like 15 hours a week to get the same productivity as was the norm in either 1950 or 1970.

I think a lot of people would love to work half the time to make something like 2/3 or 3/4 of what they are making now, especially considering what wages should be given productivity increases.

Let's face it, the reason the 40 hour workweek exists anymore is a habit, not because it's the correct amount of hours to work. Everyone expects a 40 hour work week because that's just what full time employment is supposed to be right?

greenyoda 8 hours ago 2 replies      
I think we may be overestimating how much of the average developer's job actually requires creativity.

Most programming jobs combine creativity with more mundane work. For example, tracking down bugs or answering e-mail questions from co-workers or customers generally doesn't require the amount of creativity that solving a previously unsolved problem does. Neither does figuring out how some open source API works (whoever designed it originally did the heavy lifting for us).

So if we reserve the hard stuff for our hours of peak creativity, we could optimize our creative output while still getting a lot of other useful stuff done in the remaining hours of an eight hour day. Even if my brain is completely fried, I can usually find something to do that pushes my work forward.

Evgeny 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Today, workers are putting in increasingly more hours(!)so much so that the 40-hour week has become a relic of the past.

(!) - in the US/UK, I guess, and some other countries ...

I moved to Denmark recently, there are goods and bads, but the 37-hour work week is almost a religion. And there are 6 weeks holidays per year. Creativity and innovation should be safe in this country.

mark_l_watson 23 minutes ago 0 replies      
I was surprised about the article content about the brain taking up to 4 hours to ramp up in the morning. I usually work (mostly) from home and I find the three hours when I first wake up from about 6 to 9am are my most productive. I usually then take 2 or 3 hours off for hiking or other exercise, then start working again. Sometimes I also work for an hour after dinner.

I am working as a contractor on-site at Google right now, and it is challenging working non-stop without long breaks. I get into work by 6:30am and the first three hours is great (quiet, almost no one there, and also that is my best time of day). I find that short 15 minute walking around the block breaks don't really reset me back into work mode like a long hike does.

jotm 13 minutes ago 0 replies      
"Kelloggs discovered, was that employees were happy to work less when they were paid 12.5% more per hour, meaning the company was able to offer more jobs"

I don't get it, how were they able to offer more jobs when they paid the same wage (6hrs/day with a 12.5% increase)?

kamaal 5 hours ago 5 replies      
Well, reading this article makes me wonder where I'm. If a 40 work week is tough, what about people like me who are having a routine 40 hour work week job and trying to bootstrap a company/work on side projects by the evening and night.

I am sleep deprived regularly, often I just come to home totally tired after work and travel. Only to find I have to pick myself up and throw in another 5-6 hours. Add to this stress when things don't workout,an occasional bad day and occasions when I have to face failure after days of work. Plus I have a family to which I have to tend to. Often they feel I'm just not spending time with them.

I completely agree that currently I'm in some sort of tiring march. I'm tired already. I see wins rarely, but continue to put in record efforts. On the other hand, I see the only reason I'm doing this is because.

    a. To some extent I enjoy what I'm doing.    b. I want the money.    c. I see I'm literally getting addicted to it.    d. If I don't put such efforts, I feel guilty       that I might just be getting lazy, or       under performing.    e. There are good deal of people whom I would like to        prove wrong.
I've discussed this with my mentor, who is a veteran of 3 successful start up's and has had a great career so far. He tells the modern internet techie's narrative of stress and tiredness is just plain whining, complaining and asking for sympathy. Though he agrees its a little stressful and tiring. Smart people eventually realize achieving something big demands hard sacrifices.

I also see many other smart successful people putting ridiculous efforts day in and out to win. And its in every profession. Whether its sports, medicine, software, hardware etc.

I feel at the end of the day, its just like a rubber band. You can stretch until it breaks. Some people just practice it stretching enough number of times to keep the breaking point a little high. After some time you just get numb, and absorb failures, stress, big sacrifices and just keep moving forward. And then what happens doesn't really matter.

JackMorgan 1 hour ago 0 replies      
The really funny thing, my wife works at a sort of creative job writing helicopter manuals, and all her coworkers call her crazy for only working 40 hours: they all actually get overtime pay!
teddyh 6 hours ago 2 replies      
I wish I had a 9-to-5. In Sweden, business hours are 8-5. They still call it an 8 hour workday, since they exclude the lunch hour.
thu 4 hours ago 0 replies      
And yet, the only way for me to bootstrap my own company is by working those 40 hours per week and working at home after the one-hour commute, and on weekend. Now it's no longer 40 hours as I have swapped job and work only 4 days per week instead of five.

And I would say that I even have to be more "creative" since bootstrapping a company involves a lot more different work than a regular day job.

But still I agree with the article; it's been a long time since I promised myself to offer a four-day flexible week to my future employees.

bonjourmr 7 hours ago 1 reply      
On a related note, I would even prefer working 4 days for 10 hours to make this quota if absolutely necessary, and though I am not particularly supportive of said work hours per week, I do obey the system. I understand that there may have some W/OHS related issues with this of course.

I wonder what sort of impacts these things would have on things of a grander scale, such as the economy, transport, employment rates, inflation etc. I refer to either lowering the hours & pay per employee per week (as discussed in other comments) or overlapping shifts such as half the employees work 38 hrs Mon>Thu and the other half working 38 hrs Tue>Fri (rough schedule of course).

Have there been any remotely similar studies on this?

superJoy 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I only work when I feel I can be productive, and am currently averaging 6.5 hours per day. As a graduate student I am somewhat disconnected from the whole "show up at x, leave at f(x)" concept. I also tend to work on the weekend. Basically if something has to be done, I make time for it.

The disadvantage to this approach is that whenever I want to meet people, I have to modify my schedule. There is value in the idea that everyone involved in a project is at the office for a mandated period of time. It may not be best for everyone, but it sure is nice to be able to interact with people without the ordeal of establishing a common meeting time.

bowlofpetunias 6 hours ago 4 replies      
Are there any non-self employed developers/engineers here that are still being "forced" to work 9-to-5 or similar?

Because in my experience, for most software centric companies it's just a paper obligation which is ignored with mutual agreement as long as the job gets done.

In fact, I don't know of anybody still forced to work 9-to-5 without a contextual reason (opening hours, shifts etc).

wskinner 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The original title, "Why the 9-to-5 Day Is So Tough on Creative Workers", might be more appropriate.
badelynge 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Proves? Hasn't this been common knowledge for a long time? Why else would jobs that need workers that are creative, but not __too creative__ demand a 9-to-5 day?
arxpoetica 8 hours ago 0 replies      
As a creative, I easily could have told you this. ;)
The NSA: An Inside View lorensr.me
307 points by lorendsr  17 hours ago   254 comments top 88
jonknee 16 hours 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 16 hours 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 16 hours 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 17 hours 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.

dmfdmf 16 hours 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.

bazillion 3 hours ago 1 reply      
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?

mercurial 16 hours 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.

mtgentry 16 hours 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.

secthrowaway 13 hours ago 2 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)

leokun 16 hours 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.

notnsa 16 hours 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.

csandreasen 14 hours 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.

te_chris 16 hours 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.
blcknight 17 hours 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.

Stal3r 15 hours 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.

lispm 15 hours 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 16 hours 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?)?

undoware 16 hours 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 15 hours 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.

DigitalSea 15 hours 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.

princeverma 16 hours 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."

rahoulb 2 hours 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?

mrobot 15 hours 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.

malloreon 15 hours 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.

SwellJoe 14 hours 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 16 hours 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.


mcgwiz 7 hours 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.

w_t_payne 3 hours 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.

droithomme 15 hours ago 1 reply      
This article is transparent propaganda.

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

drcube 13 hours 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.

andyl 8 hours ago 0 replies      
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.
junto 2 hours 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.

muglug 17 hours 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 16 hours 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.

Tarang 16 hours 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.

room271 17 hours 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?

gohrt 14 hours 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)."

wissler 15 hours 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.

joelgrus 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Hey, I backed that guy's Kickstarter! And now that I read his post I just cancelled my pledge.
freyr 10 hours 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.

lucb1e 15 hours 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?

bane 9 hours 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.

r0s 16 hours 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?

rdl 16 hours 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.

burke 9 hours 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.

aaaahhhhh 15 hours 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?


viame 16 hours 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.

cinquemb 14 hours 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. ;)

aaron695 16 hours 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.

CamperBob2 12 hours 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.

josephlord 14 hours 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.

dimitar 7 hours 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.

Pitarou 14 hours 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.

anoncowherd 5 hours 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.

glenra 8 hours 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.

gohrt 14 hours 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.


rookonaut 15 hours 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.
devy 5 hours 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.
film42 8 hours 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.

atmosx 15 hours 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.

joelrunyon 13 hours 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?

MrQuincle 16 hours 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...
sifarat 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Got your point son. I am a Pakistani and I know what it means to me. fuck you with love.
gesman 15 hours 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!


manish_gill 14 hours 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.

typon 14 hours 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.
crystaln 13 hours 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?

nexttimer 16 hours 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.
javajosh 15 hours 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 13 hours 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...

eli 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Thanks for posting what I'm sure you knew would be an unpopular opinion around these parts. Interesting read.
danbmil99 8 hours ago 0 replies      
> I have a very high opinion of my former coworkers.

Well then, problem solved.

beachstartup 16 hours 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.

ad80 16 hours 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...
mpyne 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Well this comment thread went about as I expected it to go...
kika 14 hours 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

SchizoDuckie 15 hours 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.

sbierwagen 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Interesting that the HN algorithm that automatically flags NSA stories off the front page didn't penalize this one.
bayesianhorse 3 hours ago 0 replies      
We are the watchers on the (Facebook) wall...
agorabinary 14 hours 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.
einrealist 4 hours 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?

are_you_serious 12 hours 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.

javert 16 hours 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 14 hours ago 0 replies      
reading it feels like reading a PR document, just made to shed a positive light on the NSA.
iribe 14 hours 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 14 hours 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.
are_you_serious 12 hours 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?

jsac 12 hours ago 0 replies      
this story smells like PR via the NSA....
Check out JetBrains' new R&D office in St. Petersburg jetbrains.com
57 points by rdemmer  5 hours ago   56 comments top 14
lemming 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Looks amazing. I'm really glad to see Jetbrains do well, they're one of my favourite companies. They deserve their success, their products are fantastic.
eps 1 hour ago 0 replies      

  - Vasili, come quickly. There are sunny photos from St.Petersburg!  - Pfft, Nikolai, you should know better. That's just another photoshop.
Great office, fellas. Really jealous :)

nraynaud 3 hours ago 3 replies      
it's so refreshing to see a company rising from somewhere else than the western world. Somehow it's almost too bad they chose the google style for their office it's not exotic enough for my westerner's eyes.

I'm a fanboy: since 2005, I have made all my employer buy some of their products, and when I have no employer, I buy some myself. (on a side note, I didn't know they where in Russia, I always assumed they were based in Central Europe)

fidotron 35 minutes ago 0 replies      
That music room is an inspired idea I've not seen in an office before. Just being able to play piano for twenty minutes can do wonders for the mind.
skrebbel 3 hours ago 5 replies      
Does anyone know why JetBrains, which seems to very much be a Russian company, has their head office in Prague?
csmuk 2 hours ago 1 reply      
So that's where our license fees are going...
mtrimpe 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Too bad you can't put a rainbow on it.
systems 1 hour ago 2 replies      
why do they need such a big office, i also didnt know they make this kind of money

but seriously , this must have cost several millions,why spend so much on office space!!

Roritharr 2 hours ago 1 reply      
I can't shake the feeling that this was paid for by Google basing their Android Studio on IDEA... ;
whoisthemachine 50 minutes ago 1 reply      
personally, i'm not a fan of the "open" work environments, but you had a cat in there so that changes everything.
guard-of-terra 2 hours ago 1 reply      

If I happened to live in SPb, I would be working for JetBrains for sure. (I am not)

dschiptsov 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Looks like Google office in Ireland, so what? Only lazy does not copying Google in Russia,)
camus2 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Nice, going to St Petersburg in January ,can i drop by?
GoldfishCRM 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Where are all the people?
Decline of 60 Minutes Continues With This Weeks NSA Whitewash thenation.com
208 points by pain_perdu  9 hours ago   57 comments top 14
vinhboy 8 hours 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.

DigitalSea 8 hours ago 2 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 4 hours 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 hours ago 1 reply      
"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.

josefresco 47 minutes ago 0 replies      
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.
gjenkin 7 hours ago 2 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 6 hours ago 3 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 7 hours 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 7 hours 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."
paul9290 6 hours ago 0 replies      
60 Minutes pawned by Jeff Bezos and now a paid stooge for the NSA who tried to further discredit Snowden.
mrobot 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Sigh, more about phone records.

Phone records! Just metadata collection! Data collection? Oh, right, we do that, too.

rdl 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Are they this bad in their other current reporting?
LekkoscPiwa 1 hour ago 0 replies      
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 5 hours 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.
Why Its a Good Idea to Be a JavaScript Developer, and What it Takes to Be One clientcide.com
58 points by seyz  5 hours ago   57 comments top 17
Swizec 3 hours ago 2 replies      
What if I am a JavaScript wizard who is also a backend wizard, and I know a lot about CSS/HTML and browser quirks, but I couldn't design my way out of a wet and ripped paper bag? Can I be awesome too? Or am I designated to the waste bin?

Because that would suck. I don't like the waste bin. It smells funny.

alkonaut 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Did I misunderstand something, or does this article just list all the reasons it's a bad idea to be a JavaScript developer? (apart from the 99 reasons that is JavaScript itself)

basically: you use a language that is the envy of noone, to work with things like web browsers, the DOM and CSS. Anyone would want good money to do that...

gexla 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I would tell anyone getting into web development right now that if you want to be in high demand, become a JS wizard. And of course, the front-end is part of the package unless you box yourself into Node.

To get to the level the author is talking about is quite daunting. I feel that JS is sort of a second class citizen to most back-end developers. Web projects which are touched by an HTML / CSS developer, a designer and a back-end developer are common (not always a team, maybe they are all contracted to do their bits as needed and don't work closely together.) Often the heavy lifting with the JS goes to the back-end dev because the HTML / CSS dev isn't really a programmer beyond Googling for Jquery snippets. The problem is, the back-end developer usually isn't a JS wizard either. A lot of developers I come across make a mess of copy and paste in the JS. And I don't spend enough time in JS for it to feel natural to me. If I could add one superpower to make my life way easier, it would be the things the author is talking about.

I see a lot of threads with people asking what to learn. If you are going to be a web developer, then JS is always a damn good answer (or if you already know JS, go back and level up.) I really love to spend time on the server side. I want to put my time into Linux, spend a lot of time in Go and learning other languages. But that doesn't make a lot of sense for a freelance web developer.

ETA: Actually, high in demand is probably the wrong way to put it. You don't have to be in high demand. Small markets can be as lucrative or better than much larger markets. And then there the fact that there is a lot more to being a successful web developer than being a code-monkey. But the things the author described is certainly a super power in web development.

10098 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Reading this reminded me of a post by Yossi Kreinin, the author of the C++ FQA (http://www.yosefk.com/blog/low-level-is-easy.html ). It's a good read and it will show you the whole thing from a different perspective.
tracker1 3 hours ago 0 replies      
While I think it's a great time to see JavaScript actually come to the forefront of software development. I've been a pretty big fan of the language for a long time. Well before Crockford's good parts book. And well before modern browsers. I remember the v4 browser days, and how painful DOM interaction was.

I've been pushing for node.js and MongoDB for over three years now, and finally seeing them gain a lot of traction. Right now I'm pulling for docker.io and CoreOS to gain the same kinds of traction (and learning go).

I don't think what the author is asking for is impossible.. but I would be more interested in either stronger core development skills or stronger design skills, you won't likely get both. I started off doing more design and that was over a decade and a half ago. Today, I reach for balsamiq if I want to mock something up, and tend to go very basic and neutral for UI to start with. You can add more later, especially if you have an artist at your disposal.. Beyond this, clean design is finally gaining ground anyhow, though I am getting tired of very bootstrap like sites.

I've seen the good and bad, to very bad.. you deal with the issues you have come across personally, and likely won't know how to fix a specific issue you haven't come across... today, I'd say a JavaScript developer should know at least one test framework, and one module framework. Should at least understand closures, and some of the ES5 extensions (especially to arrays), understand how currying techniques work... and experience with node.js and mongodb is really important.

Knowing another server-side framework is important, but dogma from a various server-side frameworks tend to cloud how development works in the JS mindset... There's a lot of changes happening in the past 2-3 years (a lot driven by node.js), and more to come... just being open minded and trying to understand some functional concepts is important a well.

Personally, I'm tired of some of the recruiter emails that I get.. generally a few a day, and mostly either distant locations I have little interest in and/or for salaries I wouldn't consider.

dsego 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Being a front-end web dev sucks. You need to know browser quirks, know about design, know UX, know JS in depth, jquery of course and even backbone and/or angular are now expected (with any other framework being a plus). And the back-end guys learn mostly one language and stack, e.g. .NET and maybe SQL (if there isn't already someone dedicated as a DB guy). Then they still wonder why you are bitching about vertical centring, "isn't that just stupid CSS, here I'll help you, type in vertical-align:middle." The worst part is when you are working with a graphical designer (who knows nothing about the web) and sends you impossible designs, and a client who bitches if any pixel on that magnificent masterpiece is missing in IE6/7/8, because that's the browser he is using on his old PC, when his iPad is charging.
skuunk1 3 hours ago 2 replies      
One thing I have learned in my years of experience...

Stay away from any job posting that asks for ninjas, rock stars or bad asses.

IsaacL 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Here's a question: for a decent frontend developer who's still far away from the "master" level he describes here, is it worth chasing mastery or might it be better to branch out to other skills, like management?

I think I'm a solid frontend developer, but I'm a few years professional experience away from the level he describes here. I know my way around HTML, CSS and the various browser quirks - though I'm still learning the idiosyncrasies he describes here. I've written a ~10000-line app in Angular.js, but my Javascript code is still sloppy, and is nowhere close to my knowledge of Ruby. I'm gradually picking up the basics of design and UI as I go, but that's a whole other mountain which I could climb for years.

"That guy I offered that car to (not really) took a job at a startup and hes the guy. Hes THE front end developer for their product which doesnt exist yet. He gets to point to that thing, a year or two from now when its worth a bazillion dollars (I do wish him luck, after all) and say, I did that. There are people out there, right now, who get to point at Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and Google Maps, at the Iphones UI, at Github, at the YouTube player stuff used by millions upon millions of people and say, I did that."

Thing is, few products are built by one superhero. I'm wondering if, rather than transform yourself into a magical-unicorn designer/hacker - it might be better to get solid at development, solid at design, but aim to only get good enough that you can manage people who are better at you in those areas?

ialex 16 minutes ago 0 replies      
The author is describing at least 3 positions on his post, it is insane to be responsible for the amount of work that it requires the proccess of building a web application.

It would be better to hire 3 different amazing people on their field (front-end dev, back-end dev and designer) and most of the times you will get a better result. two heads thinks better than one.

danbruc 30 minutes ago 0 replies      
A unicorn? That is the description of a average to good programmer and there are quite a few of them.
hipsters_unite 47 minutes ago 1 reply      
Is it just me, or is this whole article a description of a full-stack web developer rather than a JS engineer?
restlessmike 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I just realized the article was from 2010. Good thing much of it still applies.

I think what the recruiter meant when he said "those people don't exist" was really "those people aren't available to you." In a highly competitive job market, these "unicorns" can get any job they want, or even stay independent, and both make more money and have a higher quality of life than most startups could provide. Recruiters know this as they are the ones trying to locate these people, but hiring managers might not have this perspective.

lhnz 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Why Its a Good Idea to Be a Front-End Developer That Markets Themselves As a JavaScript Developer (clientcide.com)
robinduckett 4 hours ago 7 replies      
I think you're confusing Javascript Developer and Front End Web Developer. The two are mutually exclusive.
hackaflocka 4 hours ago 4 replies      
He mentions using (1) vi or emacs instead of (2) Textmate or notepad. I wasn't aware that one could use (2) in place of (1). How is that done? Does one need to SFTP a text file from the server to a client GUI OS, modify it, and then SFTP it back?
untothebreach 1 hour ago 0 replies      
quim05, you seem to be hellbanned, just FYI
wfunction 3 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised there was no mention of CoffeeScript.
A Practical Exercise in Web Scraping petekeen.net
3 points by zrail  42 minutes ago   discuss
Jonathan Franzen: what's wrong with the modern world theguardian.com
75 points by auggierose  11 hours ago   25 comments top 8
cageface 9 hours ago 3 replies      
The older I get the less inclined I am to find fault with the world around me and the more inclined I am to try to make the best of whatever hand I'm dealt.

It's easy to play the critic and sit back and declare that life does not measure up to your expectations. But personally I find building new things, however imperfect they may be, far more satisfying.

orangeduck 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This is a great article. I relate to Jonathan Franzen in his mission to get others to seek out the one-to-one relationship he had with Kraus. I believe this relationship is really what the whole piece is about.

In many of his points he is true. The conventional means of seeking this same fulfillment are sinking away.

But he overestimates how much people are nullified by technology. And he is blind to the other possible means of access to these feelings technology can provide. Technophobes can't see behind the veil of pixels. They believe that all experiences on a computer are fake, and that the internet is a superficial control panel onto a (boring) machine of cogs and wires. A computer is no more than a stone to throw in a river.

The problem is these people rarely look. And when they do their self fulfilling prophesy dirties their own great experiences (they believe the computer in its wisdom has tricked their emotions). Anyone who has spend years on a forum, or late nights on IRC talking to people they've known for decades, knows these experiences are real.

To engage with technology is the only way to re-find these experiences in the modern world. It isn't really anything to do with technology. It embodies all aspects of life. To anyone growing with hate about the world I give the same advice _engage_ and you will find what you're looking for.

alexeisadeski3 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm no Franzen fan, but I think the title's a bit harsh.
increment_i 6 hours ago 0 replies      
As I leave my 20's behind and enter my 30's, anytime I begin to pearl clutch about things that don't seem quite right to me, I always remember this Simpsons clip:


That's when I remember the world doesn't want to be saved by what I think is right and appropriate.

bsirkia 10 hours ago 1 reply      
orionblastar 9 hours ago 3 replies      
What is wrong with the world?

He makes some good points in that we tend to talk about things more often than do them. Social networking is all about talking or rather communication. The noise to signal ratio is too high on social networks, and it is dominated by web robots who spam links, and in-you-face adverting that makes the social network free for the users but subjects them to all kinds of advertising even selling their personal data to scammers and spammers and large megacorporations. Sure the social network is free as in beer, but not free as in speech. You don't have any privacy the social network records everything even the stuff you typed but didn't send, and had to stop yourself before you sent it because it would have been embarrassing. In fact one can reasonable say the social networks take away your privacy by forcing you to use your real name and show everything you do, it takes away your rights, your freedoms, your liberties, and of course also treats you as a product instead of a human being, that they can market advertising towards in order to become billionaires.

Apple vs. Microsoft, we once had that with Atari vs. Commodore, we once had that with DEC vs. Wang, we once had that with IBM vs. Amdal, we once had that with Fairchild/Intel vs. TI. Competition is good, because it forces innovation to stay ahead of your competition. But after the DMCA was passed, it gives too much control and power to megacorproations and robs the consumer of ownership rights, liberties, freedoms, and then forces Malware DRM on them in the name of "profits at any cost" and then the megacorproations contribute to both political parties in the USA to make sure that law is never repealed. Oh did I mention corporate corruption makes political corruption?

Religion itself has been hijacked by the megacorproations. For example Christianity was always about love, compassion, and empathy. Love everyone, love your enemies. Now it is about hate, money, power, fame, bragging rights. It is all about greed, envy, lust, sloth, wraith/anger, gluttony, and worse of all pride. Proud to be an American? Proud to be rich and privileged? Christ himself would not approve of it. Pride is one of the most dangerous of the seven deadly sins. No wonder people are leaving religion and becoming atheists, religious people aren't being true to their religious teachings and taking up corporate teachings instead. Corporation corruption makes religious corruption, as well as political corruption, as well as social corruption, as well as cultural corruption as well as environmental corruption as well as economic corruption, and then even science corruption and technological corruption that leads to poor quality products that last less than three years and are made with the cheapest labor in the worst of all conditions in a third world nation using child labor and slavery. But don't worry, once they replace human beings with robots, all of those factory workers will be out of jobs. Unemployed like the rest of us.

Climate change, global warming, global cooling. I don't know the whole thing because of the margin of error in the data collected and that climategate email thing. All I know is corporate corruption has used it as a bat to beat over the head of poor people by jacking around the price of fossil fuels and then trying to force carbon credits (Created by a system from Enron?) to pay for our 'sins' (Anyone remember this guy named Martin Luther?) so we can use carbon based fuels and still not contribute to global warming. It turns out our sun has something to do with it and it is not a 'human factor' http://m.space.com/23934-weak-solar-cycle-space-weather.html But hey, all of this snow is great, and maybe the wooly mammoths will come back as we enter an 'ice age' of global warming aka global cooling bka climate change? BTW more money is spent on studying climate change than actually finding alternatives to fossil fuels and greener technology and greener programming to save electricity? What's up with that? We cut NASA's space program for the war on terror and then cut it some more to study climate change. Now our space program is a joke as China puts a robot on the Moon, and our space shuttle is recycled 1980's tech and mothballed.

The number of mentally ill people keeps on rising. There is no empathy and compassion for the mentally ill anymore. Since a mental illness is 'invisible' most people think the mentally ill are faking it and are really 'pretentious douchebags' who should just 'snap out of it' and get back to work. All public programs to treat the mentally ill got cut after 9/11 in the USA in order to fund NSA spying and security with the TSA and other agencies. Leaving the mentally ill with little or no support options. Dropping out of college because that college could no support them due to lack of funding by the government. So one neuroscience student the system failed, shot up a Batman movie in Colorado as "The Joker" who was mentally ill. Another failed college student shot up a school in Newtown and was mentally ill. The Navy Base Shooter was also mentally ill talking about ELF radiation controlling him. In all three cases they begged for help, talked about killing people, but got no help and no support. They were just swept under the rug and ignored, until they got really violent and off their meds and got some guns and did some shootings. But the mentally ill are vilified now. The news media only focuses on the 10% of the mentally ill that do violent crimes, won't tell you that 90% are non-violent and in need of help, support, empathy, and compassion. http://blastar.in/crawfraud/?p=143

Still it is a human problem of hating those who are different than you in some way. This is a trait that evolution made to keep tribes of humans together for survival. But we don't need it anymore, because the only race that matters now is the human race. All of our lives are at stake now.

11thEarlOfMar 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The trick is that Kraus describes a clearly delineated set of social groups: Germans, Austrians, Italians and French. Perhaps he's saying that if 'the form is the function', ultimately, the group is susceptible to natural forces and the ambitions other groups that were founded on a sound functional basis. Moreover, modern groups do not have the barriers of geography to separate like-mindedness.
Preventing weak passwords by reading your mind microsoft.com
7 points by Ivyless  2 hours ago   3 comments top 2
vanni 10 minutes ago 0 replies      
=Previous discussion=

Telepathwords: A New Password Strength Estimator (schneier.com) - Dec 6, 2013 - 81 points - 64 comments


scotu 52 minutes ago 1 reply      
should I type my passwords in there? ._.,
Noam Chomsky "On Anarchism" [video] booktv.org
61 points by zw123456  10 hours ago   33 comments top 5
chj 9 hours ago 1 reply      
The book in discussion:

"On Anarchism provides the reasoning behind Noam Chomsky's fearless lifelong questioning of the legitimacy of entrenched power. In these essays, Chomsky redeems one of the most maligned ideologies, anarchism, and places it at the foundation of his political thinking. Chomsky's anarchism is distinctly optimistic and egalitarian. Moreover, it is a living, evolving tradition that is situated in a historical lineage; Chomsky's anarchism emphasizes the power of collective, rather than individualist, action.

The collection includes a revealing new introduction by journalist Nathan Schneider, who documented the Occupy movement for Harper's and The Nation, and who places Chomsky's ideas in the contemporary political moment. On Anarchism will be essential reading for a new generation of activists who are at the forefront of a resurgence of interest in anarchismand for anyone who struggles with what can be done to create a more just world."


ethana 3 hours ago 4 replies      
I find it completely ironic that anarchism itself cannot even escape the left-right paradigm. Going down lower Manhattan on a weekdays, you can find heated arguments between an anarcho-communist vs another anarcho-capitalist.

But I also find the term anarcho-communism to be an oxymoron.

boolean 3 hours ago 0 replies      
anoncowherd 4 hours ago 1 reply      
javert 6 hours ago 5 replies      
Anarchism is pure nonsense. There is literally no such thing as "no government."

In a "state of nature," every government is size 1---you. You are responsible for retaliatory and initiatory force, and every interaction is foreign diplomacy with a gun behind it.

From there, things can (and will) evolve so that there are larger governments, but you cannot get "no government."

Arcade Space Invaders computerarcheology.com
49 points by ptwobrussell  9 hours ago   2 comments top 2
bluedino 19 minutes ago 0 replies      
This is a pretty good article, and Space Invaders is a very simple game (as it should be it, it was one of the first!) so it's easy to follow without being over-complicated.

>> The more aliens there are on the screen the longer it takes to get back around to moving the reference alien. At the start of the round there are 55 aliens.

>> Thats 55 interrupts or almost 1 second to move the entire rack. At the end of the round there is only one alien left.

>> It moves 2 pixels left or right 60 times a second. Thats about two seconds from side to side.

This is a good effect and a lot of other Space Invaders clones don't get this right. If you made one in the last 15 years your hardware was likely fast enough to move 50 ships 30 times a second and you didn't have to move one ship per frame. So you didn't get that weird wavy effect to the ship movements like the original arcade version.

webdigi 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Love Space Invaders, here is an HTML5 implementation that you can control with your phone http://www.webdigi.co.uk/fun/space/
Ask HN: Help, I'm stuck on HN
52 points by arianvanp  5 hours ago   35 comments top 25
AndrewDucker 2 hours ago 0 replies      
You're almost there.

You've realised you have a problem, you know that most HN articles aren't helping. The next step is to practice acting the way you want to. (This is a really useful life skill in other areas too).

Consciouslly look down the list of HN stories and deliberately think about each one for five seconds. Ask yourself "Will this story add anything to my knowledge?"

If it will, then open it. If it won't then make a decision to not open it.

Note the ones that you opened which turned out to add nothing, so that you can make a better decision next time.

Practising this a few times will start to turn it into a habit, and then an instinct. If you need help to start with then write on a post-it note "Does it add anything new?" and stick it on your monitor, but once you've been doing it for a while it should come naturally.

Add a note to your calendar (or whatever you use for future tasks) for three days from now, a week from now, two weeks from now, and a month from now, reminding yourself to check that that this habit is working for you.

The _vital_ part here is embedding mindfulness - making a _conscious_ decision about what you do, rather than simply mindlessly clicking on things in search of a hit.

some1else 1 hour ago 1 reply      
When I notice 'procrastination by self-education', I take a step back to see if I'm exhibiting any other symptoms of depression. We're part of the new curiosity-junkie generation, that is getting all that they ever craved for and more from the internet. It's very easy to entertain yourself or keep yourself busy, in order to defer facing the issues that are causing the anxiety that drives us to this behavior.

Go out. Meet a friend. Do some physical exercise. You need to add more to the mix, until you get a healthy balance going. From there, getting into a 'flow state' should be much easier and you should start seeing useful applications of the knowledge you're gathering.

I found it very helpful to move in with two friends (an industrial and graphic designer). We'd notice when suspicious patterns started to emerge, and bail each other out from time to time. So far It's going great, we just don't let anyone get stuck. We've worked together on a number of projects since, even very successful ones.

skriticos2 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I have two advises for you:

1. Create a fixed daily schedule and stick to it. Put in 2-3 hour focused work blocks with 30 minute breaks in. Never open HN, Reddit, News, etc. in the focused work block. Do that in the breaks. Don't start your day with breaks.

2. Switch off your computer when designing your algorithms. I get stuck all too often bogged down by the complexity of my applications and look for escapes. I can remove a lot of these complexities by doing a dry programming on paper before actual code. Write up what you want to accomplish and draft your functions and modules with meta code (try to use human sentences). No risk of distraction in this mode and when you are done, you can switch on the computer and implement your code.

Also, watch the following link about creativity by John Cleese (draft - implementation phases):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU5x1Ea7NjQ

Edit: you might also want to start a journal to build self-motivation for keeping on track.

nashequilibrium 3 hours ago 1 reply      
You have a fear of missing out on information, on the new. Switch to only weekly reading of news, therefore look at hacker news on the weekends by using this link http://hackernewsoverload.appspot.com/week. It allows you to go through each day of the week, now select everything you want to read, push it to 'pocket' and when monday comes, that will be your reading for the week. Also, subscribe o weekly newsletters, which already do the curation for you and then select the links you want. This lets your brain know that you will not miss out on anything and will allow to reduce the anxiety of missing out on something cool.
noir_lord 36 minutes ago 0 replies      
I put

    #      www.reddit.com reddit.com i.reddit.com slashdot.org www.slashdot.org www.theguardian.com theguardian.com    #      www.facebook.com facebook.com    #      news.ycombinator.com
In /etc/hosts when I'm supposed to be working that way when I hit any of those it bounces me back to my current project and I think "oh yeah, supposed to be working".

Crude but effective.

screwt 2 hours ago 0 replies      
- Browser plugin : block 'useless' sites entirely (for me, that's reddit, boingboing and a few others). I can check these out on my tablet at home, but not on my work PC

- HN noprocrast. I have this set to 30 mins max, refreshing after 8 hours. Which allows me 1 visit per day, which I can make the most of - rather than my previous must-check-every-5-minutes.

As soon as I couldn't just flick to [random website] I found I was able to concentrate longer on the real tasks at hand.

krmmalik 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Hi Arian,

First of all, congrats for being open about your addiction :)

We all have this problem on one level or another. I find myself doing this plenty at night, but used to do this a lot during the day.

It took me over a year to realise that it was not in fact HN that I was addicted to but rather the need to escape the life that I had at the time. Things were difficult between me and my team with my last business and it was really hard to stay motivated. So I'd spend hours a day on HN trying to escape my then reality.

It might be possible that you're experiencing something similar.

Just a suggestion.

Hope you figure it out.


supermatt 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I installed the "Mindful Browsing" plugin for safari 3 months ago (it delays you accessing a 'blocked' site for 10 seconds). The only blocked site is reddit, as I would frequently find myself typing it in without thinking after opening a new tab. I haven't been to reddit in 3 months, and i don't miss it - HN usually curates what I'm interested in.

As for HN, I just check it twice a day, and refuse to go more than 2 pages in! If I find myself using it more frequently, then ill probably use the anti-procrastination functionality in my account settings.

t0 4 hours ago 2 replies      
I created a simple browser extension that said "Hey! Don't do this." if I went past the first page on Reddit. I could have circumvented it at any point, but that amount of effort is enough of a deterrent.

I recently disabled the extension, but I still never go past the first page of Reddit now!

Terretta 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Your brain knows you might gain something from HN, so let it off the hook with a link that finds the good stuff for you. Then you can check in once a week:


lloeki 2 hours ago 0 replies      
My profile:

    noprocrast: yes    maxvisit: 60    minaway: 1440
That is, one hour per day. This helped tremendously. I'm thinking of increasing it to one hour per week.

ars 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You need a project even more interesting than HN.

To help break the addiction use a proxy server that adds a 30 second delay on each HN page.

See: http://xkcd.com/862/ and http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/02/18/distraction-affliction-corre... a proxy server is easier - google for it there are plenty of them).

dkasper 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Try using the noprocrast feature built in to Hacker News http://ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html last paragraph
markdown 1 hour ago 0 replies      
ClerkMaxwell 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
AHHHH...I'm stuck on HN,wired and medium.
peshkira 3 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems that you don't have an interesting project in your daily work and you "procrastinate" by trying to find something interesting and useful on HN or similar. While this is at least not wasted time (as opposed to wasting the same amounts of time on social networks and or image/gif sites).

My advice would be to start or join a larger project that you are interested in (something open source may be).

Note that I assume, you don't have a day job and thus you have larger portions of spare time. If you do have one and you find yourself being stuck on HN or similar, then it seems you are bored of your job. Talk to the responsible and find something new you can work on.

Either way, this will give you new perspective and you will find yourself occupied with something you like working on, ultimately leading to spending more time on things you consider productive.

The many tools that are proposed here are definitely useful, but in the end if you have a lot of free time, you'll always find a way to "procrastinate".

cheers and hopefully you figure it out soon :)

nwh 3 hours ago 0 replies      
There's an option in your user settings called "noprocrast". Use it to great effect.
namenotrequired 1 hour ago 0 replies      
mercurial 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Use /etc/hosts.
JonnieCache 3 hours ago 0 replies      
The only thing which begets action, is action.
nomedeplume 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Build something!

Write a MySQL to mssqql translator.

Translate documentation of an OSS project to a foreign language.

Make a company's website mobile friendly and send them the CSS.

teebot 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Go buy a good novel. Here's some random picks for you:

The road by Cormack McCarthy (a real page turner), The New York trilogy by Paul Auster, Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, The stranger by Albert Camus.

DanielBMarkham 3 hours ago 0 replies      
(Everybody) Hello Arian.

The first step is admitting you have a problem. You will wallow for some time after you finally figure this out, but you have. Good for you. I used to call it "shiny new" syndrome -- the ability to spend all day chasing random pieces of information that seem shiny or new. Let's face it, if you're an autodidact you like learning, and places like HN will use that against you.

I'm turning my problem into an app. My goal is to strip all the branding and engagement material from the internet and just browse/consume plaintext content. So far I'm finding this 100x better than the old way. I make it a point to drop by HN every couple of days or so just to comment.

So my suggestion to you is to find some way to code yourself out of the spot you're in. You'll sharpen your coding skills, take a look at the material you're consuming from a fresh viewpoint, and think about how many others are in your shoes.

Good luck.

staticelf 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I still denies my addiction to HN and Reddit. I do not plan to change it.
DNA seen through the eyes of a coder ds9a.nl
270 points by xuki  22 hours ago   78 comments top 15
stiff 16 hours 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 20 hours 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 16 hours 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.

atratus 18 hours 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 18 hours 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...
cristianpascu 20 hours 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.

kamakazizuru 18 hours 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...

Tycho 15 hours 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?

rakesh111989 2 hours 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.
nabla9 19 hours 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.

grownseed 17 hours 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 21 hours 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 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's a relevant, interesting talk [0] from 24C3 about engineering organisms.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gadBNBJRPr0

altras 13 hours 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 16 hours ago 0 replies      
"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.

Debian 7.3 is out debian.org
139 points by duggieawesome  16 hours ago   62 comments top 6
jlgaddis 16 hours ago 2 replies      
Better link with more info: http://www.debian.org/News/2013/20131214
nkuttler 14 hours ago 0 replies      
It has already been said, but this is just a point release. If you keep your Debian system up to date (which you should) you'll only get a few new packages.

See also https://wiki.debian.org/DebianReleases/PointReleases

RexRollman 12 hours ago 3 replies      
I recently gave Debian a try and one thing that surprised me, coming from Arch, is that the tool to install software, apt-get, can't list what software has already been installed. You have to use dkpg to get that information.

Even funnier, I found the answer for that on the Arch Wiki page on Pacmac Rosetta:


arc_of_descent 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Since I do apt-get update && apt-get upgrade almost regularly, I found out that my system was already running 7.3 (cat /etc/debian_version). So yes, this is not a major upgrade release just that the Debian team thought that there were enough changes and bug fixes to label this as a new release.
plg 14 hours ago 3 replies      
Can anyone point me to a step by step for how to get debian running on a macbook air? I've googled it and tried at least 4 different approaches, to no avail. I'm talking about a macbookair3,1 (late 2010 11").
alecco 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Anybody knows if the kernel version was bumped?
Bitcoin and the Byzantine Generals Problem nonchalantrepreneur.com
100 points by rmason  13 hours ago   70 comments top 11
eof 13 hours ago 2 replies      
To the uninitiated, bitcoin solves the byzantine general's problem by having each "general" work on a mathematical problem that is known to take a certain average amount of time; and, when they solve the problem pass their solution onto the other generals who will then incorporate the answer to the previous problem into a new problem.

The "consensus" is intrinsically linked to the "math problem" so that the generals will always "trust" the chain-of-answers which is the longest; as it would be impractical / impossible for an attacker to counterfeit the long-chain-of-answers.

Bitcoin uses sha256(sha256( x )) < `target` as its "math problem" where X contains the a hash of the previous "consensus" and new transactions which should become part of the new "consensus". `target` is adjusted over time

001sky 9 hours ago 2 replies      
This section on the "costs" of mining bitcoin is well raised and relevant>Here is the passage:

<One thing I havent seen emphasized, however, is the extent to which the whole concept of having to mine Bitcoins by expending real resources amounts to a drastic retrogression a retrogression that Adam Smith would have scorned.>

This he calls out as completely misplaced:

How much does the existing banking/payment infrastructure cost? One reasonable measure are the fees charged. Standard online payment fees are 2.5%, not including the added costs fraud (chargebacks plus transactions blocked out of fear of fraud).

And he's right. but The real cost of running a market is not, however a bid-ask spread. And he gets at the point, but its not clear, here:

Bitcoin payment fees are close to zero and fraud is impossible since Bitcoin is a bearer instrument.

The [true costs] of running a market are thos that instill [trust] in the market system. That is, what is commonly called "transaction costs" in economics. But these are not literal costs, which tend to be rent-extraction wherein the transaction is merely instrumental to effect a scaling biz model.[1] The true transaction cost of "effective honesty" are to be found in "governance costs", that is...the cost of lawyers. And thus more generally, and indirectly, the primary purpose of government (eg schooling, police, courts, national defense). So, it is worth putting in context the "cost" of mining bitcoins here. The "innovation" that is provided is provided also at this seperate level of abstraction, far away from the "overhead" style transaction costs in a literal definition. And to the authors point, these are both measurable and large; such an innovation thus actualy saves wated resources that would otherwise be deployed (think of all the energy spent on anti-spam and anti fraud by CCs...that 2.X is ~mostly profits tho).

In any event, interesting topic and interesting post. And I think he intuits the right answer, but the exact words put forth sort of murky the point abit, IMHO.

[1] eg 7% of an IPO to a Bank, X% to your real estate broker, 1/8 of a point in a pre-decimalized stock market, 2.x% on a credit or paypal transaction.).

Rhapso 13 hours ago 1 reply      
We have noticed, and It lets you do a lot a previously impossible things in decentralized computing. Give folks a few more months to polish proof of concepts.
synchronise 8 hours ago 0 replies      
These are exactly the sorts of reasons why the more energy efficient Proof of Stake (PoS) was envisioned and implemented into several cryptocurrencies, like Peercoin and Novacoin.
reillyse 7 hours ago 0 replies      
"Before the Bitcoin protocol was invented, most computer scientists thought a system like Bitcoin was impossible because of a famous problem in computer science called the Byzantine Generals Problem." ... wait what?
Buge 13 hours ago 3 replies      
You can't measure the bitcoin infrastructure cost by the fees the miners charge. Miners are mostly paid with newly generated coins. Credit card companies do no have the luxury to create new money, so of course they will charge higher fees.
gnaritas 13 hours ago 4 replies      
Bitcoin mining is wasteful compared to some of the alternatives, solving useful hard problems as proof of work (Primecoin) or using a proof of stake system to remove the need for relying so heavily on energy wasting mining (Peercoin).
akandiah 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Is there a good explanation on how bitcoin addresses the problem out there? I haven't come across a simple explanation that validates the approach (in my mind at least).
buluzhai 12 hours ago 0 replies      
throwawayforhn 9 hours ago 3 replies      
I would like to warn those who don't know that the author of this post has vested interest in bitcoin. It doesn't mean anything per se, but you might want to take those articles with a grain of salt.

So this is how it goes. a16z invests in Coinbase, so cdixon posts supportive posts regarding bitcoin.

We can now safely expect more and more HN readers to buy bitcoins because of the fear of missing the bitcoin train, and bitcoin detractors will soon look like iPhone detractors in 2007. That means that no matter what the value of bitcoin is, you should buy some, because the whole SV is soon going to be on it.

For the fist time on HN, a significant part of what hits the front page are posts about an asset that you can buy simply, and will likely make you a millionaire in a couple of years without creating any value. This is as great as it is sad. Enjoy it.

Make us long time holders rich.

swswsw 8 hours ago 1 reply      
At first glance, mining appears to use a lot of energy. But it has a very important property:

  mining is "fair" in money generation.  
And being fair may be much more important than the energy consumed.

Before the Web, Hearts Grew Silent nytimes.com
96 points by jpren  15 hours ago   33 comments top 13
noonespecial 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Sometimes I think I was lucky to be one of the last people ever to experience "love in the time of snailmail" and one of the first to experience love at the dawn of IM.

I know exactly what its like to write those "long, heartfelt missives" and check a mailbox like a crack addict and I also know the thousand tiny thrills one got from that new "ICQ" client's happy little "uh-oh!".

Which is better? More "real and heartfelt"? I've got only selection bias to offer. I lost "heartfelt missive" and married "uh-oh!". Modern technology rocks like an old man on his porch.

kabdib 24 minutes ago 0 replies      
Ha. Same deal, except we were using usenet, in the 80s.

I got an email from a sysadmin saying, "Hey, you've got all this mail queued up for her and she left this job a couple of months ago, should I just delete it?"

Didn't marry her, that one didn't have a happy ending. :-/

nullymcnull 12 hours ago 1 reply      
"In my day, we lived and loved with so much more depth of feeling. Not like these kids today with their [x]'s and their [y]'s."
interstitial 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Road trips with multiple cars were down right dangerous. Cars weren't as reliable back then, and you could never tell if one car had disappeared from a flat or car trouble. Meeting points, pulling over, middle men for pay phone tag. The CB radio did change things -- watch movies from the CB era and you see the rise of information exchange.

Today you can still have a car chase on the I-70 in the middle of Utah and the cell phone won't matter to your plot, no reception, no gas either. Just need to change your setting.

joe_the_user 14 hours ago 2 replies      

Book plots, movie plots and real-life drama in many ways revolve around missed connections.

TV shows where everyone has a cell phone now have to use the device of turned-off, missing etc phones.

A world of perfect connections would theoretically have no drama but since connections are never perfect, we would never have that. On the other hand, in the technologically connected world, missed connections become tech failures. But someone, the richness of "a passionate glance in a crowded room" seems much greater than "a pic I saw just before hard drive crashed".

hipsters_unite 4 hours ago 0 replies      
> "The outside world fell away, and it became just us slowly unlocking each others secrets, dreams and opinions, which in those days were not posted on walls for anybody to casually scroll through. We felt we were the only two people in the world."

My partner and didn't put our relationship on fb for maybe six months or so... but even if we did, how would that have made it any less meaningful? I like the general 'what if' vibe of this, I'm (just) old enough to have some missed connections, but the superior tone is just a bit comical.

I think what they've forgotten is that the biggest reason things don't come together is the personalities of the people involved, or not even speaking out at all - which will happen regardless of the comms tech available.

bridger 13 hours ago 1 reply      
I'll bet life was more romantic before spoken language. People weren't busy talking or thinking in anything but emotion and memories of senses. Let's long for those days.
e12e 13 hours ago 0 replies      
"Consider the ending of Doctor Zhivago, when a chance sighting of Lara on a city street leads Yuris heart to rupture as she disappears before he can reach her. Had the Internet been around during the Bolshevik Revolution, Yuri and Lara never would have lost each other. They would have been Facebook comrades, boring each other to death with snapshots of food (Borscht!) and ironic observations of proletariat struggle."

I've sadly not watched "Doctor Zhivago" -- but I do know that tweeting your every move while being part of a revolution is a great way to be put against the wall and shot before it is over.

I'm also a bit puzzled about the premise of the article -- while distance relationships may have been made more bearable than before, trying to maintain contact across continents is still a dreary proposition. You might walk around historical sites, tweeting images of what you see -- it's still not anywhere near the same as being able to truly share that experience with someone you care deeply for.

Other than that, good on the author for not letting go of his wife-to-be.

Scramblejams 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes! I watched the movie "Bullitt" a few years ago and noticed that half the action wouldn't have happened if the participants had had cell phones.
drawkbox 11 hours ago 2 replies      
I was watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles the other day and much of the whole plot would not exist with modern tech.

Also, horror movies have a hard time now as well. For some reason they have to be so far away as to get no reception or in some sort of zone that won't allow it.

I think Under the Dome highlights this a bit as well.

But there are new plot lines and possibilities. At least flip phones have been removed from modern tv and movies, and computers/devices are at least more accurately represented.

rayiner 12 hours ago 0 replies      
As a counter to the author's own romantic example: my wife and I probably would never have gotten together without modern social networking. When my wife and I met, she was living in Oregon and I was living in Chicago. We met while she was in town to interview at the law school I was attending. She was in professional mode and I was a stressed out first year student, and we never would have pursued a relationship in the days before gchat. But instant messaging is a very unique medium. The lack of visual feedback tends to encourage frank conversations, and the "who else is up at this hour?" aspect tends to encourage reaching out to people you wouldn't necessarily call up on the phone. By the time of our "first date" months later, we had met each other exactly twice but already knew a tremendous amount about each other.
danso 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Whenever I watch a movie or TV show more than a decade old, I can't help but think: that would never happen now, they'd be too busy tweeting/facebooking/instagramming it

Like, "Hamsterdam" in "The Wire"...as if a drug free zone could last two minutes before someone uploaded footage to YouTube and Buzzfeed got a hold of it.

Tydlig Calculator Reimagined for iPad and iPhone tydligapp.com
384 points by Istof  1 day ago   146 comments top 35
smikhanov 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day 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 20 hours 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 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day ago 1 reply      
Good to see that Bret Victor's ideas outlined in "Inventing on Principle" start taking some foothold.
cormullion 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day 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 1 day 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.
jweir 17 hours 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.

airtonix 1 day ago 1 reply      
And now for the majority market share, the android version?
songgao 15 hours 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 16 hours 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!

ra3 1 day ago 4 replies      
Looks great. Just needs a new name. Tydlig?
protomyth 19 hours 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.
daturkel 1 day 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.
acqq 20 hours 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?
notpg 1 day 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?)
oliwary 1 day 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.

karlshea 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seems sort of like a slicker Soulver, I'm going to give it a shot.
sifarat 16 hours 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.

cdcarter 1 day 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 1 day ago 0 replies      
Can we have something other than jingly guitar music for tech videos?
zschallz 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Very cool. Unfortunately, I think the price point is a bit too high (at least for me).
userbinator 1 day 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 18 hours ago 0 replies      
It would be fun to build this as a webapp in JS + canvas/SVG.
snambi 21 hours ago 0 replies      
excellent new idea.
pranayairan 1 day ago 0 replies      
anilshanbhag 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would just a ipython console Gone is the age of calculator
       cached 16 December 2013 14:02:01 GMT