Monthly Archives: August 2022

F.D.A. Authorizes Updated Covid Booster Shots Targeting Omicron Subvariants

Source: NYT > Health

Article note: Ooh yeah. I've been holding on my next booster waiting for this, hopefully it'll get rolled out at scale soon.

The agency cleared two options aimed at subvariants that are now dominant, hoping to curtail a fall or winter surge.

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Covid “Fudge Factor” – A map of Covid data corruption and approach that worked

Source: Hacker News

Article note: This is a nifty analysis, it's pretty credible to my eye.
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How the Consumer Computer Is Consuming Computing

Source: Hacker News

Article note: The "Consumer Computer" nomenclature for the various commercially-controlled successors to the personal computer is a good turn of phrase.
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“Is there a heuristic we might use to identify and flag questionable papers?”

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Not useful for editors, but for readers, the heuristic is "How recently was it published." The more recent, the more likely it'll be horseshit. There is, of course, some legitimate work going on in academia, but an ever increasing fraction is min/maxing the research/research artifact ratio so effectively that there isn't actually any research in it. Because that is what matches the incentive structure, and the norms have been steadily shifting to permit that kind of fraud.
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Americans Will Soon Be Able to Renew Passports Online

Source: Hacker News

Article note: The old process is an enormous, unnecessary, frustrating pain in the ass. I had my last renewal get kicked back because the picture - that I took on a digital camera, printed, stapled to a form that was filled out on a computer (and even generated a computer-readable version of the data down the side of the page), snail-mailed it, then they scanned both back in to a different computer - was printed on the wrong grade of paper. None of that paper and snail-mail loops needed to be involved.
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Security and Cheap Complexity

Source: Schneier on Security

Article note: I'm not sure why it's doing the rounds this week, but it's a really good observation.

I’ve been saying that complexity is the worst enemy of security for a long time now. (Here’s me in 1999.) And it’s been true for a long time.

In 2018, Thomas Dullien of Google’s Project Zero talked about “cheap complexity.” Andrew Appel summarizes:

The anomaly of cheap complexity. For most of human history, a more complex device was more expensive to build than a simpler device. This is not the case in modern computing. It is often more cost-effective to take a very complicated device, and make it simulate simplicity, than to make a simpler device. This is because of economies of scale: complex general-purpose CPUs are cheap. On the other hand, custom-designed, simpler, application-specific devices, which could in principle be much more secure, are very expensive.

This is driven by two fundamental principles in computing: Universal computation, meaning that any computer can simulate any other; and Moore’s law, predicting that each year the number of transistors on a chip will grow exponentially. ARM Cortex-M0 CPUs cost pennies, though they are more powerful than some supercomputers of the 20th century.

The same is true in the software layers. A (huge and complex) general-purpose operating system is free, but a simpler, custom-designed, perhaps more secure OS would be very expensive to build. Or as Dullien asks, “How did this research code someone wrote in two weeks 20 years ago end up in a billion devices?”

This is correct. Today, it’s easier to build complex systems than it is to build simple ones. As recently as twenty years ago, if you wanted to build a refrigerator you would create custom refrigerator controller hardware and embedded software. Today, you just grab some standard microcontroller off the shelf and write a software application for it. And that microcontroller already comes with an IP stack, a microphone, a video port, Bluetooth, and a whole lot more. And since those features are there, engineers use them.

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US government to make all research it funds open access on publication

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Oohh. Both obligatory cutting out paywalls from parasitic publishers AND imposing more source and raw data publishing. This might actually improve things in academia.
Alondra Nelson, President Joe Biden's pick for OSTP deputy director for science and society, speaks during an announcement on January 16, 2021, at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.

Enlarge / Alondra Nelson, President Joe Biden's pick for OSTP deputy director for science and society, speaks during an announcement on January 16, 2021, at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. (credit: Getty Images)

Many federal policy changes are well known before they are announced. Hints in speeches, leaks, and early access to reporters at major publications all pave the way for the eventual confirmation. But on Thursday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) dropped a big one that seemed to take everyone by surprise. Starting in 2026, any scientific publication that receives federal funding will need to be openly accessible on the day it's published.

The move has the potential to further shake up the scientific publishing industry, which has already adopted preprint archives, similar mandates from other funding organizations, and greatly expanded access to publications during the pandemic.

The change was announced by Alondra Nelson, acting head of the OSTP (a permanent director is in the process of Senate confirmation). The formal policy is laid out in an accompanying memorandum.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Parent sues Fayette County Public Schools, takes issue with grading in virtual classes

Source: Latest News

Article note: I've been out of high school for decades, but apparently things are just the same: This is the most stereotypically MSTC thing I can imagine. Parent is suing the district because their kids' online honors classes (see: global pandemic) weren't treated as weighted in GPA calculation. A year after the fact because they realized it put them at a slight competitive disadvantage applying to elite colleges.

Fayette Co. Public School Administration building.

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Biden forgives $10,000 in student debt for most borrowers

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: I'm not a _huge_ fan of the one-time cancellation (mostly "without some kind of policy changes to do something to reign in ever-escalating education costs and/or shift education costs back onto the state without first passing through individuals" but also somewhat 'because it disproportionately benefits an already financially better off population"), but it's a thing they can do to immediately un-jam a huge swath of people and their spending power, and cutting income-driven repayment to 5% of discretionary (and raising the bar for what is considered discretionary) is excellent in all ways.

President Biden on Wednesday announced his plan to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers making under $125,000 a year, "honoring" one of his campaign promises and handing a win (albeit smaller than desired) to the progressive wing of his party.

"When this happens," Biden said Wednesday, "the whole economy is better off."

Pell Grant recipients who make less than $125,000 will be eligible for up to $20,000 in forgiveness. Broad-level debt cancellation will apply to students with "federal loans from undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as Parent Plus loans," The Wall Street Journal writes.

The president also extended the current student loan repayment moratorium, scheduled to expire on at the end of this month, until Dec. 31; borrowers should expect payments to resume in January 2023, the White House said

Additionally, the administration cut from 10 percent to 5 percent the amount that borrowers enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan must pay from their discretionary income each month.

Progressive Democrats have long urged President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower. But Republicans and other critics, meanwhile, fear widespread forgiveness will contribute to rampant inflation, and find it unfair to those who have already paid off their loans or didn't go to college. Superficially, writes The New York Times, "the move could cost taxpayers about $300 billion or more in money they effectively lent out that will never be repaid."

Again, I can see reasons to oppose this move, although you want to compare it not with what we should do ideally but with *what Biden can actually do*. But spare us the inflation scare talk 5/

— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) August 24, 2022

Borrowers can expect more details on how to apply for the debt relief program in the coming weeks, a senior administration official told CNN.

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University can’t scan students’ rooms during remote tests, judge rules

Source: The Verge - All Posts

Article note: Good! More of this, please.
Start of the new school year in Berlin
Photo by Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

An Ohio judge has ruled that a Cleveland State University’s virtual scan of a student’s room prior to an online test was unconstitutional. The ruling marks a victory for digital privacy advocates around the country, who have spoken loudly against the practices of online test proctoring for many years.

Chemistry student Aaron Ogletree sat for an online test in the spring 2021 semester. Ogletree was asked to show the virtual proctor his bedroom through his webcam prior to the beginning of the test. A recording of the room scan as well as the testing process that followed was retained by Honorlock, the university’s third-party vendor.

Ogletree sued the university on the grounds that the practice violated his rights under the Fourth...

Continue reading…

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