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Comment: Re:Disclosing Test Questions is a Problem (Score 2) 95

by Balthisar (#49264915) Attached to: Education Company Monitors Social Media For Test References

Oh, I get that the testing companies want to prevent discussion, and that perhaps teachers are subject to an NDA, but the children are not. Perhaps they're subject to discipline on school grounds, but off grounds there's certainly no legal basis that prevents the children from discussing the contents of a test, whether it be face to face or electronically. I would suspect that the teachers' NDA is probably really a matter of disciplinary action from the administration rather than a signed license agreement, else we'd hear about a leak now and then. Did you actually sign an NDA? Was there an alternative, or was it akin to "sign this and so your job, or you don't have a job."?

Comment: Re:Disclosing Test Questions is a Problem (Score 3, Insightful) 95

by Balthisar (#49264175) Attached to: Education Company Monitors Social Media For Test References

It's been a long time since I've taken a standardized test, but I don't remember ever signing a licence indicating my willingness not to divulge the contents. Given the quasi-mandatory nature of PARCC I can't imagine such a EULA having any real weight, if it exists.

Barring any mutual agreement via a license or other contract, we still have some amount of freedom of expression in the USA, and discussion of a fact, such as the contents of an exam, would fall within that right. Even verbatim copying of some of the questions would fall within the realm of fair use. One might argue that copying the entire exam is fair use, but that's probably not defined in the courts as it is for telephone books and recipes, so I won't make that argument (I will mention it for consideration, however).

Comment: Re:There is no engineering. (Score 3, Informative) 323

The difference is that electrical, mechanical, civil engineers, et al, all have governing bodies and licensing requirements.

Except that vast majority of the working engineers in the USA aren't PE's, and aren't subject to licensing or other regulatory requirements. Some fields -- especially various civil things -- only require engineers to be overseen by a PE, but makes no requirement for engineers who perform the tasks. In most consumer fields no PE requirement exists.

Comment: Re:But (Score 4, Interesting) 640

by Balthisar (#48802783) Attached to: Microsoft Ends Mainstream Support For Windows 7

I'm a Mac user primarily, and a Windows 7 user at work (rollout was completed late last year). Even I don't hate Windows 8.1 (Windows 8.0 did suck, though). It boots to my desktop, I set up my preferences, and I'm mostly all set.

My only gripes are minor: Hiding the Startup Items folder is bad. Not being able to manage files in a folder for a Start Menu is bad. I still can't find crap I've deleted from the Start Screen if it's not a real application (like, say, the Microsoft Store).

Although I don't plan to give up my Macs as primary workhorses (and HTPCs) any time soon, I'm a bit frustrated at all of the B*S* networking issues with Yosemite. Still not enough to make me switch, though.

Comment: Re:No African OT either...and NO rationalizations! (Score 3, Interesting) 327

by Balthisar (#48709485) Attached to: The Coming Decline of 'Made In China'

> "it's OK for a Chinese factory worker" to work in what we could consider to be inhumane conditions

I work for a multinational, and when I go into one of our JV plants, they're mostly indistinguishable from conditions in our Canadian, US, and Mexican plants. The only real differences are the prevailing wages and social security system which is not typically considered part of the wage, and in China, it's a huge additional cost because it's not just retirement social security but things like housing, etc.

They don't work much overtime, as our production and sales are predictable. Instead there are multiple shifts (more jobs for more people).

Google- and Apple-style transportation is free. Lunch is free (and quite good). Families are together at night and weekends.

While there are property bubbles in some of the famous big cities, one can still temporarily purchase a home in much of China are very low cost compared to say, middle America. Food is cheap. Consumers goods are cheap. Health care is cheap.

Life is good for these people.

Comment: Re:Old? (Score 1) 145

by Balthisar (#48690473) Attached to: Gmail Reportedly Has Been Blocked In China

I'm not sure SMTP is being blocked entirely. I can still send email between QQ and my Gmail and Google Apps hosted accounts. What's *new*, though, is that I can't access the IMAP servers without being on the VPN. Once the mail leaves Google, though, it's arriving at QQ, and once the mail leaves QQ, it ends up on Google's servers. I simply need a VPN to get to Google's servers.

Yes, Google services (which are primarily web-based or rely on ports 80 and 443) have been mostly blocked for about a year, now, but IMAP has always worked until this weekend.

As far as I can tell, Chinese email users and Gmail users can still communicate. But if you're in China, you need a VPN to send and receive Gmail and Google-hosted email. I'm not even sure if startpoint SMTP is affected, as Google may be checking for (blocked) POP or IMAP access before allowing SMTP access.

Comment: Re:Hope it is blocked. (Score 1) 145

by Balthisar (#48690365) Attached to: Gmail Reportedly Has Been Blocked In China

> In return Id challenge you to stand on a corner and preach the risen Christ, and see how long it is before thugs detain you and give you a 1-way ticket out of the country.

This seems to be pretty common outside of the Chinese faux Catholic churches I've been near. Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing. I say "faux" because the CPA controls the local flavor of Catholicism, and the government really has nothing to fear. Like many things, it's under control.

I'm certainly no China defender (nor a Catholic), but a lot of things are just overblown. They can't even enforce traffic laws, let alone random individuals in front of a church.

Comment: Re:Hope it is blocked. (Score 2) 145

by Balthisar (#48690295) Attached to: Gmail Reportedly Has Been Blocked In China

>For instance: Ask your average Chinese college student whether they have freedom of religion / speech, and they will say yes. What they often dont know is that you can be arrested for talking to a minor about religion, or talking about religion outside of a state-sanctioned church. Ask the Falun-Gong about their thoughts on Chinese free speech.

But practically speaking, the average Chinese college student is correct. They're completely free, that is until they have a high-enough profile to attract attention. No one is ever disappeared for talking to a minor about religion or talking about religion outside of a church. Fulan-Gong has the misfortune of being high-profile and regarded as a cult, but again, if you talk to someone on the street about Falun-Gong, no one is going to knock on your door in the middle of the night -- unless you have high profile.

Now obviously in our Western minds this isn't a correct situation. But if you're just an everyday college student (or an engineer at a multinational), for practical purposes, you have the freedom to say and do anything you want as long as you don't attract a large following. In a country of 1.3 billion people, your chances are quite good of not attracting such a following.

We have this same paranoia in the United States. Who would Snowden be if he'd not been able to contact the press and get his story known? Just a nobody that's not a threat to anyone. If I have proof the moon landing was fake I'm just a crackpot. But if I have proof and manage to convince 100 million fellow Americans I might suffer a tragic accident, too. (Or instead of moon landing, pick something more serious; you get my point I'm sure.)

Comment: Re:What... (Score 1) 145

by Balthisar (#48690207) Attached to: Gmail Reportedly Has Been Blocked In China

I don't know that that's true. I can still send email from gmail to my stupid @qq address. Of course I have to be on a VPN now in order to access my IMAP servers at Google, which is new these last few days. Google webmail has been down about 90% of the time for the last year, but sometimes used to work late at night.

This blocking of IMAP (and presumably ActiveSync if Google still uses that, or whatever other proprietary protocol they may use in their various apps) is new.

In my one, single, Chinese test account, though, I can receive mail from my gmail address and my legacy Google Apps addresses.

Comment: Re:You mean Tata (Score 3, Informative) 191

by Balthisar (#48606193) Attached to: Jaguar and Land Rover Just Created Transparent Pillars For Cars

Remember that Tata bought JLR from Ford, and Ford had made huge progress in improving JLR quality -- especially Jaguar (yes, ignorant people still say Ford sucks, but this isn't the late 20th century any more).

When Tata buys JLR (or Geely buys Volvo) this is a complicated trade and not as simple as "new owner starts with bad quality." Aside from the physical assets like the plants, there are large layers of technology transfer agreements (who owns Jaguar's aluminum self-pierce rivet technology?), purchasing agreements (Ford still supplies both Geely and Tata critical parts), and consulting agreements (product design engineering support, manufacturing support, etc.). Of course over time all of these will dissipate, but it takes one or more whole new generations of vehicle platforms for this to happen.

In the meantime the JLR and Volvo plants are still extant and operated by the same people who've always operated them. A new owner cannot simply walk in and change the entire manufacturing process and quality processes; that's too expensive and building cars is much, much, much more complex than the average person can fathom.

The trend these days is for the acquiring company to get better rather than to make the purchased company worse.

Comment: Re:Move to a gated community (Score 1) 611

by Balthisar (#48606115) Attached to: Waze Causing Anger Among LA Residents

In many jurisdictions local homeowners have to pay to maintain public roads, too. In my own neighborhood the asphalt street is falling apart. The township and county simply aren't responsible. The township, though, can repair it by assessing each of the homeowners. The township (at its expense) arranged the bids, calculated the per-home costs based on frontage, and called us to a meeting to discuss the proposal and have a hands-up, informal vote.

In the end we rejected the proposal due to other concerns.

Comment: Re:Why are taxi drivers all so horrible? (Score 2) 295

by Balthisar (#48597021) Attached to: French Cabbies Say They'll Block Paris Roads On Monday Over Uber

>I don't see them being able to cut into Singapore's, where I find them cheap.

How's the quality of taxis in Singapore? (I've only been through the airport.)

In China taxis are dirt cheap, too. Sometimes, though, they pick you up at the airport (where one might expect you to have luggage) in a taxi that has its trunk occupied by a CNG tank instead of empty space where one might place luggage. And in general taxis are old, noisy, bumpy, and of poor quality, and most importantly, difficult to hail (although DidiChe + pre-tipping is making this easier).

Uber is in a few select Chinese cities now. Just this weekend I used Uber (for the first time ever) to get from Chengdu airport to the train station. The price was similar to a taxi, but the car was a late model Audi, clean, no advertisements, and most importantly, comfortable. I can't wait for them to come to my city.

The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side. -- James Baldwin