You are free to choose how to use the internet

I’d like remind everyone that you are free to curate your internet experience however you please. When your internet experience starts to suck because people are trying to make your life miserable, you are free to deal with that as you see fit.

You are free to withdraw from a space. You are free to ban and block. You are free to call on friends for help. You are free to dig in and argue with every entitled douchebag who comes along trying to win a war of attrition in order to force you out of that space. You are free to be pseudonymous; you are free to use your real name. You are free to publicly disagree with them, even via a blog post if you so choose; or you can privately disagree with them amongst a small tight-knit circle of friends and allies. You can use any number of block-list services like Akismet, RBL, the A+ Block Bot, or even a whitelist-only setup like making your Twitter account Private. You can engage with everyone who thinks the internet is a debate club, or you can ignore those people, or you can block them.

And be damned anyone who says that this is “fascist”.
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The Ada Initiative recognizes the feminist fight in the skeptical and secular communities

Two days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on Twitter (a rarity, to be sure) when The Ada Initiative tweeted the following:

 

Until then, I had no idea The Ada Initiative knew this parallel fight was happening in the skeptical and secular movements, where I’ve only seen them talk about the problems in technology, the open source world and geek culture.
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Google offers travel grants for female computer developers

Google has done something decidedly not-evil (despite recent major missteps), and put together a travel grants program for several computer science conferences aimed at encouraging women entering fields under the T umbrella in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

As part of Google’s ongoing commitment to encourage women to excel in computing and technology, we are pleased to offer Women in Tech Conference and Travel Grants for female computer scientists.

To encourage attendance at technical conferences, we are offering the winners:

  • Free registration for the conference
  • Up to 1000 EUR towards travel and accommodation costs (to be paid after the conference)

To be eligible for a conference grant, the candidate must:

  • Be a female working in or studying Computer Science, Computer Engineering or a technical field related to the conference subject
  • Have a strong academic background with demonstrated leadership ability
  • Attend the core day(s) of the main conference

How To Apply

To apply, by the indicated deadline, please submit this form by the indicated deadline.
You may apply for multiple conferences.

Eligible Conferences 2013 (ongoing, more conferences will be added throughout the year)

Winners and claim process

All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by email, approximately 3-4 weeks prior to the event. If you are selected, you will receive additional information on how to register for the conference and how to receive your travel grant.

For any questions, please reach out to europe-events@google.com.

This is how you fix the gender disparity between men and women in technology: you help women who might otherwise not be able to travel or who might think these conferences are not for them because of a lack of women representation in the field, get to the conferences to begin with. This puts those women in a position to be seen, so other women know that it’s not a gender-specific job. And they get a chance to talk with people inside the industry, too — which encourages them to recognize women programmers when they see them.

Lower the barriers that have developed naturally that keep women from being seen at such conferences and drives the lack of women interested in the field — when you don’t see anyone shaped like you in a field, you come to believe it’s not for you. It’s why Surly Amy was, until the JREF president made it clear by his actions that feminists were unwelcome at TAM, offering travel grants to women to attend — to improve gender ratios and give these women a chance to discover that the movement was indeed for them. (A shame how that all turned out, by the by.)

CONvergence – Real World vs the Internet

It’s a false dichotomy. End of panel. Thank you all for coming!

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. You’ll want to listen to this one, especially where we draw significantly on our personal experiences and discuss how the lines are blurring, and how “meatspace” is not really all that distinguishable from the internet. In fact, the biggest and most important “internet-based” event in my life actually took me some time to recall, because I wasn’t mentally classifying it as internet-related, which is why you’ll hear me fumble for an experience at the start of the panel.

Panelists were Stephanie Zvan, Jason Thibeault, Lux Pickel, PZ Myers, and Jamie Bernstein.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

cvg2013-skepchickcon-realworldvsinternet.mp3

Sorry it’s taking so long to get these out. I basically came crashing back to reality hard after CONvergence, coming home to two gigantic work crises at once, creating a perfect storm that I’m still shovelling out. Fifteen hours yesterday, seven hours sleep, more work since I’ve been awake. Essentially, the only reason I’m posting this now is because I’m on an enforced break while my VPN access point is rebooting. Seriously, God must really hate me for being so dismissive of him over the weekend or something.

Warwick Davis explains the importance of computer backups

I’m in a seriously bad way after working a ridiculous marathon shift overnight when some server issues kinda turned into a perfect storm. I might need a few days to recover and catch up on sleep. So have something fun.

I loved Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood when I was a kid. Probably saw that movie a dozen times. Today I learned something new about him: he really loves Youtube videos of cats.

But who would remake the turtle videos, Warwick? WHO!?

Mock The Movie: .COM For Murder

This movie was easily one of the best worst movies we’ve seen and targeted for Mock The Movie, and not just because of our tech-savvy participants. This movie took itself so seriously, and tried so hard, and yet it failed so miserably at everything it did. Every character was inept, even the supposedly hyper-adept evil hacker. Every action taken was ludicrous, and there were dozens and dozens of ways to short-circuit the evil hacker’s plans. It was ripe for the picking, and boy did we pick.

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Evolving pseudo-creatures in computer simulation to run a short course

I love the idea of simulating evolution through computer models. The purpose of such an exercise is not so much to prove that evolution happened, or to prove that complexity can evolve from simple rulesets (though that’s certainly important), but to show that randomness and flexibility in solving tasks can create novel approaches that are more creative even than anything that intelligences like ourselves have worked out.

This particular example shows some behaviours from creatures built out of four types of blocks that emulate hopping, running and dragging themselves along a course, in a simulation where creatures that make it across a trial field quickest are rewarded by having more offspring in subsequent generations.


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Thou Shalt Pirate Pornography

A few people are pointing this out as an example of some of the religious hypocrisy endemic in organized Catholicism. While they’re making a good case about it — this is in fact hypocritical, if you consider piracy stealing — I’d rather point out that this makes these people every bit as human as anyone else. They are not special, they are not sacred, and they are not better than anyone else in any way.

What am I talking about this time? Another sex scandal, perhaps? Well, tangentially, maybe. But in this case, it’s priests admitting to downloading DVD screeners of yet-unreleased movies, and logs of holy men downloading some perfectly ordinary lesbian and BDSM pornography.

But not just any holy men… the IPs in question belong to people inside the Holy See.

Helped by Scaneye, TorrentFreak decided to take a look at the recent downloading habits of people living in the most religious city-state in the world – the Vatican.

The Vatican is a small place so downloading levels are very low. However, we did notice that one particular IP address came up a number of times, on each occasion linked to TV shows such as Chicago Fire, Lightfields, The Neighbours and Touch. Another IP address showed an interest in The Americans.
[…]
In the interests of science we researched each of the titles (including the curiously named RS77_Episode 01) and discovered that downloaders in the Vatican have one or two unusual ‘niche’ interests. We won’t link to our discoveries here, but feel free to do your own ‘research’ using the titles shown above. There isn’t a commandment that covers these films directly, but some might argue there should be.

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Spot the Sexual Language

If you were watching the SkepTech hash tag on Twitter during the conference last weekend, you probably would have seen the usual suspects making the usual whine-plaints about harassment policies, and how they’re ruining all the fun at conferences. Then you would have seen some of those same whiners lose their shit over the fact that there was a whole panel about sex (HEAVENS FOREFEND), populated by feminists (FETCH MY FAINTING COUCH).

An example tweet from a pro-harassment tweeter (I mean, seriously, what else can you make of this?), believes they’ve caught us feminists, and the founders of SkepTech who supported harassment policies, out on some sort of hypocrisy:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue/status/322614556880949249″]

@iamcuriousblue #SkepTech policy:”Sexual language & imagery not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.” In practice: [link to Youtube video]

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Linus Torvalds rages against Microsoft, with a side-order of splash damage

It’s no secret that I’m a Linux guy. I love open source software. I’m not the greatest coder in the world, but I get by. I’m not the greatest scripter in the world, but I get by. Computers are my bread and butter, and considering my livelihood and my freedom to choose what software to use is threatened by this, I’ll be damned if I stand idly by while Microsoft engages in their latest and possibly greatest power-play ever — controlling what operating systems are digitally signed and allowed to run on your computer in the UEFI boot standard they’ve created and are demanding hardware manufacturers support.

The move is ostensibly intended to prevent rootkits that aren’t signed by a signing authority from running on your computer, but its real effect is that every operating system that isn’t Microsoft-made will have to come grovelling before Microsoft to have their operating systems signed just so that your computer will run them. It is, in effect, leveraging a virtual monopoly into a true one — while their marketshare was slipping, suddenly if your computer will only run a Microsoft-approved OS, you’re at MS’ whims.

I’ve already butted up against this issue once, after buying my current laptop and failing miserably to install Ubuntu until I discovered that UEFI was the new spanner thrown into the works. I had to disable that — being told by my computer how vulnerable I was leaving myself to hackers, and being informed by various websites how fortunate I was that ASUS, my laptop’s manufacturer, deigned fit to ALLOW me to disable UEFI booting — before I could install the operating system of my choice.

Others may not be so lucky, it seems. So Red Hat has decided to try to have Microsoft sign their distribution of Linux. And Linus Torvalds, Linux’s creator and godfather, was hopping mad. On the Linux Kernel Mailing List, he scolded Michael Garrett of Red Hat:

On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:42 AM, Matthew Garrett wrote:
>
> There’s only one signing authority, and they only sign PE binaries.

Guys, this is not a dick-sucking contest.

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