A two-year-old solves the trolley problem

From Wikipedia:

The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them.

You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track.

You have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
  3. Which is the most ethical choice?

Here is the solution:

Via Liberal England.

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Password Rules Are Bullshit

Jeff Atwood makes the obvious point that the worst, of many bad things, about passwords is password rules:

Password rules are bullshit

  • They don’t work.
  • They heavily penalize your ideal audience, people that use real random password generators. Hey guess what, that password randomly didn’t have a number or symbol in it. I just double checked my math textbook, and yep, it’s possible. I’m pretty sure.
  • They frustrate average users, who then become uncooperative and use “creative” workarounds that make their passwords less secure.
  • They are often wrong, in the sense that the rules chosen are grossly incomplete and/or insane, per the many shaming links I’ve shared above.
  • Seriously, for the love of God, stop with this arbitrary password rule nonsense already. If you won’t take my word for it, read this 2016 NIST password rules recommendation. It’s right there, “no composition rules”. However, I do see one error, it should have said “no bullshit composition rules”.

I would add that possibly the worst password rule is the one that demands you change your password on a regular basis. Either people will start writing down their passwords, or come up with a pattern that ensures their passwords are always easy to guess.

Password rules aren’t just bullshit, they are actively counter-productive.

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Quote of the Day: On Refugees

They gave us the opportunity to realise a central Western value: that you have to give shelter to people in need, people fleeing war and violence. This is one of the basic principles of our society, and if we abandon this, we aren’t protecting our Western society, but destroying it.

– Bart Somers, Mayor of Mechelen, on why housing refugees has helped to make his city stronger.

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Pyrrhic Victories

Peter Black makes an obvious point:

[D]espite the bravado by the UK Government that they will not pay a leaving fee they know that if they want to secure a trade deal with the single market then that is precisely what they will have to do.

I keep on seeing articles in which various groups of people try to make some legalistic argument or other about the UK not paying the balance of its debts, and this is the thought that keeps leaping out at me. You can’t go into negotiations having already poisoned the atmosphere — as the Tories are increasingly doing — and then expect a decent deal at the end of it.

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Learning Genie with Project Euler

I searched for Gnome Genie and was attacked by a Gnome Ninja.
I’ve recently started playing around with the Genie programming language. This is a variation of Vala but with a more Pythonesque syntax. And I do like Python.

Genie is a compiled language that uses the Vala compiler to produce C code which then compiles to an executable binary. This means that it has less overhead than programs written in Python and should run faster. This is not always a consideration but it can certainly be useful.

The inevitable Hello World program looks pretty simple:

[indent=4]
init
    print "Hello World"

The only problem I’ve found so far is that there appears to be a dearth of “Teach Yourself Genie” resources, either online or off. This is not helped by some of the results that come up when you search for “Genie” or even “Genie Gnome”.

So I’ve decided to have another crack at Project Euler. I have already solved a fair few of these problems in Python, if I can re-implement the same solutions in Genie I will count myself as having made some progress.

One down, 592 to go.

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President Snowflake to avoid White House Correspondents’ dinner unless comedians promise a ‘safe space’

From Newsthump:

President Trump will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ dinner this year due to fears that people will make jokes and be mean to him.

America’s premier snowflake said he will break a 35-year tradition by avoiding the dinner in April because his skin is as thin as the margin of his electoral victory.

‘President Snowflake’ is such an obvious moniker, I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve seen anyone use it.

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Forty years of thrill-power

The Guardian notes that 2000ad turned forty on Sunday.

It’s not, strictly, correct to say the world had seen nothing like 2000AD before. A few months earlier, in October 1976, a title put out by the same publishers, IPC, had died an ignominious death. Action was stuffed to the gills with anti-authoritarianism, ultraviolence and gore. Hugely popular with kids, especially boys, it proved too unpalatable for the nation’s moral guardians. Questions were asked in the House, tabloids fulminated against its bloody violence.

“I felt, in a way, that science fiction could escape the heavy flak we had got with Action,” says Mills, who now lives in Spain. “With Action, the message was loud and clear because most of it was set in what was the present time. With 2000AD, we could do the same sort of thing but if anyone complained we could say, ‘Look, it’s just some robots in the future.'”

That’s Pat Mills, the writer/editor who created Action, and the first editor of 2000ad.

Although I grew up with 2000ad — and continued reading it way too far into my 20s — I can’t claim to have been there at the beginning. For me, it all started in 1978 with Starlord, a sister title which merged with 2000ad by the end of the year. This merger brought both Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters (which later morphed into the ABC Warriors) into the merged title which went from strength to strength.

What made 2000ad so durable is that the stories tend to work on several levels. There is, of course, plenty of violence and plenty of action; but there is also a depth and a moral complexity to the stories and it is this that keeps them fresh and interesting long after the initial thrills have worn thin.

In 2002, [Matt] Smith was appointed the ninth editor and is currently the longest-serving incarnation of Tharg the Mighty, as well as the one to see the comic reach its milestone birthday.

“It’s a great achievement,” says Smith, “and one that is testament to the creative teams who have worked on the comic over the years.”

And long may it continue.

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Share the love

I love Free Software! Today is I love Free Software day, a day to acknowledge the effort of all the people that contribute to the software that we all rely on.

There is much that can be said about Free Software but it all comes down to one thing. When you use Free Software, you are in control of the applications that you use. This is something that I have increasingly come to value.

The more that we rely on software, the more important it is to know what our applications are doing and to be able to take control of those applications. Free Software empowers us to do this which makes it an increasingly important part of a free society.

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A song for Sunday: Smells like a lot of Teen Spirit

From Open Culture:

In July of 2015, 1,000 musicians gathered together in Cesena, Italy and performed in unison a rollicking version of the Foo Fighters’ song “Learn to Fly.”

Now, they’re back and playing the best-known song from Dave Grohl’s earlier band. We’re talking, of course, about Nirvana’s hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Here we are now. Entertain us. Ladies and gentlemen, the world’s largest rock band.

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