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Comment: One (Score 1) 301

Just 1 would probably do it - occasionally I still have to copy some files to/from a USB stick or external hard drive, or download things off a camera. Don't think I'd ever need to do more than one of those at the same time. This is assuming that the same port ~isn't~ also used for other necessary things like ethernet and charging (ala the new Macbook).

Comment: Answered the metric option (Score 1) 172

by Cimexus (#49542709) Attached to: I spend most of my time ...

Picked the metric elevation option, but my actual elevation is ~700 metres.

Being in a fully metric country, I don't have even the slightest bit of innate feel for feet, especially for large numbers such as elevation unfortunately. It's around ~2300 ft apparently. I ~do~ have a somewhat decent feel for converting temperatures to F and distances in km to miles, but that's about it. Feet, inches, ounces (both as volume and weight), gallons etc I haven't got even the slightest knowledge of...

Comment: Re:Correctly incorrect units (Score 3, Insightful) 172

by Cimexus (#49542679) Attached to: I spend most of my time ...

But the in flight display is for the average passenger, not the pilot. Telling them that they are flying at 10,668 metres allows them to get a 'feel' for what that means, since they can compare it with things they know. Most people have a rough idea that Everest is almost 9 km in elevation (8848 metres), for instance. The Aussies on the flight would mentally compare it to Mt. Kosciusko which they are likely to know is a little over 2200 metres. Many would also know roughly what elevation their home city was at etc, or the height of famous tall buildings, in metres.

Quoting it in feet doesn't help anyone except pilots and Americans. But having said that, every in-flight map system I've ever seen (not that I've seen them all, but I do fly a lot, including between the US and Australia) alternates between metric and imperial measurements (it'll be metric for one cycle through the speed/altitude/time remaining/map cycle, then imperial for the next cycle).

Comment: Re:Precalculated (Score 5, Interesting) 109

by Cimexus (#49495797) Attached to: For the most recent tax year ...

Not sure where the GP lives but it's like that in Australia. The ATO makes software called e-tax that walks you through the tax return forms in a questionnaire-type way, pre-populating what it can, and at the end gives you an estimate of refund (or amount owing), and you click to submit it (after going through an identity-validation process that involves unique numbers printed on your previous years' tax returns).

The pre-population of data has got better and better over the years. A decade ago it only really populated your salary (PAYG certificate info, analogous to US W-2s) and even then it was hit and miss. But last year it was great. It accurately pre-populated virtually everything for me: all income, bank account interest and investment returns, medical expenses (through the universal healthcare system), etc. My contact details and bank account info to receive payment of the return hadn't changed since the previous year so I didn't even need to update those.

I'm a dual US-Australian citizen and by comparison, my US taxes took literally weeks of mundane record gathering and work, even using software :( Part of this is the fact that US states levy income tax and I had received income in several US states (so had 3 or 4 separate returns to do). In Australia there's only Federal tax thankfully.

However, even ignoring that, the US Federal return took far longer and lodgement is far less streamlined than the Australian system. The Australian process was literally 15 minutes of clicking "next", "next", "next", and all done.

Comment: Re:Hmm, Canada got this one right. (Score 1) 349

by Cimexus (#49373933) Attached to: Sign Up At irs.gov Before Crooks Do It For You

Similar in Australia. Validation for online lodgement of taxes with the ATO (Aust. Tax Office) requires:

- Tax File Number (analogous to ITIN in US or SIN in Canada)
- Reference ID number from previous year's Notice of Assessment
- An amount paid or owed, from a previous year's NoA or other bill

I am not aware of any identity theft or security breach that has occurred through this system, which has been running for over a decade.

Comment: Re:Dubious assertions (Score 1) 385

by Cimexus (#49355861) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

Yeah - I did say that it's a bit like Lisa's tiger rock :) It's an unprovable assertion because it relies on the non-occurrence of events which may or may not have occurred anyway.

Still, I don't think literally rolling back the changes to the doors made post-9/11 is a good idea. The two-people-in-cockpit rule and maybe some refinements of the way the timed lockouts work is probably a better way to reduce these kind of incidents than making the doors less secure. If you make the doors able to be completely locked, as in this incident, then it makes this kind of incident possible. But if the door locks CAN always be overridden by someone outside (with a code/other means of authorization), then the reverse situation becomes possible - a crazy/suicidal pilot who has been removed from the cockpit can get back IN. There was a recent incident in the US where this same situation occurred in reverse ... the pilot was acting irrationally, so the co-pilot locked him out and took the plane to a safe landing. If the pilot could have overridden the lock and got back in, who knows what would have happened.

There is no complete solution since there's always a human trust factor involved. There are upside and downsides to being able to lock, and not being able to lock, the door.

Comment: Re:Remote opening? (Score 1) 385

by Cimexus (#49355759) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

That may open up some other potential avenues of attack though. You'd have to think about the implementation details very carefully - how would people outside the cockpit communicate with the ground? How would they identify themselves and prove they have the authorisation to request a remote unlock? How do you know it's not just a flight attendant being forced to request it by another guy holding a knife to their throat, who wants to access the cockpit? Or for that matter, what about crazy/suicidal flight attendant who calls and says "pilot's gone crazy, let me in"? The ground would obviously try to confirm the situation by talking with whoever's in the cockpit and asking "what are you doing?", but the person in there might be lying. Or the person on the outside trying to gain access might try to convince the ground that the pilot is lying even if they aren't...who do you believe?

The ground would have mere minutes to evaluate what's going on with the information they have, and decide whether or not to do the unlock.

Not saying that there are no answers to the above, but it'd require a lot of thought to implement well.

As it stands, the system now is that the ability to lock the cockpit is timed. Someone inside can hit the lockout switch to prevent anyone else gaining access ... but the lock disengages after a pre-set period of time (by default 5 minutes on an A320). This is precisely so if the pilot is genuinely incapacitated (e.g. unconscious), others can gain access after this period has elapsed. The flaw in this is obviously that someone intending to crash can just keep resetting the lock every five minutes (which is exactly what happened here). But medical problems in the cockpit are more common than suicidal pilots, so I guess that's why it was designed the way it is.

Comment: Re:A Bit Fishy (Score 3, Informative) 385

by Cimexus (#49355589) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

As I understand it, these systems don't actually ~prevent~ the pilot doing something that they have explicitly commanded, provided it's not something that as you say will push it outside of its stable flight envelope (and even there, you can still do that by forcing the flight control systems to revert to alternate law). In this case there wasn't really any 'programming' involved ... he simply turned a dial to tell the autopilot to descend to an altitude that was lower than the terrain level (incidentally, at the point the descent was initiated, they were near the Mediterranean coast so the local terrain level was close to 0 ... however their path then took them into much higher terrain).

You are correct that the aircraft 'knows' about the terrain. It'll throw warnings at you if you tell it to descend below the safe altitude for the sector you're in, and when terrain is physically detected nearby you'll get GPWS alarms etc. But that's information for the pilot only - it won't physically stop you flying somewhere you've explicitly told it do go.

Comment: There's a limit to what can be done (Score 3, Insightful) 385

by Cimexus (#49355457) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

I agree that the 'two people in cockpit at all times' rule that already exists in the US is a good idea and I'm sure this will now be introduced in Europe. Some airlines in Europe, Canada and elsewhere are already introducing it, as we speak.

As for the argument that the tougher cockpit doors and lockout mechanisms are to blame for this incident ... that could be argued, but those changes have probably saved more lives over the last 14 years than were lost in this tragic incident, so rolling them back would be unwise. Admittedly this is somewhat like Lisa's tiger rock - we don't ~know~ how many potential hijackings or cockpit intrusions haven't occurred simply because would-be hijackers know that taking that approach is useless now. But looking at the number of hijackings per decade pre-9/11 and comparing to now, I think it's safe to say the strengthened doors and new cockpit access protocols were a net improvement.

But all the security protocols in the world can't completely prevent incidents like this. Two people in the cockpit may make it slightly more difficult, but it just means the suicidal pilot needs to incapacitate the other person in there first. That adds an additional mental barrier (it is psychologically 'easier' to simply turn a dial and set an altitude below the terrain level, than it is to kill someone or knock them out first), so will prevent at least some of these incidents that may have otherwise occurred. But there is no complete solution because at the end of the day, those in the cockpit are in control of the machine and can do what they want with it. We put our trust in them, and in the airlines' ability to ensure their medical and psychological health.

Comment: Re:someone explain for the ignorant (Score 1) 449

by Cimexus (#49089539) Attached to: Credit Card Fraud Could Peak In 2015 As the US Moves To EMV

Sigh. Why does the US always lag everywhere else when introducing new systems, and when they do finally do it, implement something that's different from the rest of the world. Seriously, it's the same way they do everything - slowly and half-assed.

I'm Australian but currently live in the US and banking here drives me up the wall. There's no universal bill payment system. There's no way I can instantly send money to another person's bank account (unless they're with the same bank) - I can set up a link between two accounts but that takes time, I can send a wire transfer but that has fees and is slow, or I could write a check/cheque, which is something no-one has had to do in Australia since ~1990! Argh. And yeah - no chip and PIN and virtually no penetration of contactless card readers (which I use for ~everything~ back home and love it). Oh and their paper money is, well, paper (linen actually, but its insecure and easily destroyed compared to our polymer bills).

Comment: Re:someone explain for the ignorant (Score 1) 449

by Cimexus (#49089441) Attached to: Credit Card Fraud Could Peak In 2015 As the US Moves To EMV

It's usually generically referred to as Paypass down here in Canberra too. Either way people know what you're talking about though. From my personal experience, I had contactless on my Mastercard (BankWest, Paypass) a long time before I had it on my Visa (CBA, Paywave), so maybe that's why.

Lack of skill dictates economy of style. - Joey Ramone