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Comment: Speed Test Problems (Score 1) 294

by DERoss (#48107915) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: An Accurate Broadband Speed Test?

Most speed-test Web sites fail to tell the user where the the server at the other end is located or who owns it. For that reason, I generally use or DSLReports, both of which allow me to select a distant server. has a really large set of responding servers all over the world. DSLReports has a very limited set of servers for its Flash-based test but seems to match for its Java-based test.

I have a browser extension that obfuscates my browser's outgoing HTTP headers and thus confounds many geolocation algorithms. Both and DSLReports generally think I am someplace other than where I really am, in some cases on a different continent. I am not sure what is being tested in this situation, so I generally disable the extension.

Comment: Learn to Recognize Abusive Employers and Jump Away (Score 3, Insightful) 548

by DERoss (#47722783) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

I went to work for System Development Corporation (SDC) in 1969. SDC was actually the company that established computer programming as being distinct from building computers; before then, the only people programming were the engineers who built the computers. SDC was a good company with good pay and good benefits. Then, SDC sold itself to the Burroughs Corporation, which succeeded in a hostile takeover of Sperry Univac and became Unisys.

At Unisys, we found ourselves in an environment that treated highly experienced technicians and professionals as if we were assembly line workers. Unisys even imposed work rules on us salaried employees that are actually legal only for hourly wage-earners. I should have recognized the abuse sooner than I did and "jumped ship". I could have timed a change for when shortage of software experts made job jumping very profitable. Instead I stuck it out until mass layoffs were very near.

When Burroughs and Sperry Univac merged, the resulting Unisys had more than 120,000 employees. Today, Unisys has less than 25,000.

I must disagree with the replies that indicate programming is poorly paid. I earned sufficient pay that I was able to retire very comfortably before I was 62.

I would suggest that programmers learn how to test rigorously the software they create. This requires that they also write software specifications that are testable, after which they should learn to write formal test procedures. They can then advance into becoming requirements analysts and software test engineers (except in states where "engineer" is a career that requires a license). There are too few analysts and testers, who are often paid much more than programmers. Large computer-based projects are failing because of a lack of clear, objective, and testable specifications. Attempts to put those projects into actual use are disastrous because of a lack of testing.

For some details about my career, see

Comment: Re:I wish you'd know basic English... (Score 1) 548

by DERoss (#47722499) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

Given that snydeq wrote the opposite of what we think he meant, he might not understand your (Anonymous Coward's) correction. After all illiteracy often includes an inability to understand what is written and not merely an inability to express one's self in writing.

snydeq wrote: "I simply loved to code and could have cared less about my 'career' ..." That means snydeq cared more than he could have cared. If he instead wrote: "I simply loved to code and could not have cared less about my 'career' ...", that would mean he did not care at all.

Comment: Re:None (Score 1) 260

by DERoss (#47722341) Attached to: How many devices are connected to your home Wi-Fi?

I paid someone to go into my cramped upper attic (during a hot summer day) and run a cable from my wife's PC to our router, which is located in our lower attic on the other side of the wall from my own PC. He then ran a cable from the TV cable to our modem. This latter involved removing several cable splices in favor of just 1 or 2 in order to improve the quality of the signal.

Although I had subscribed to Time Warner Cable for Internet service, the system did not work. TWC had to come to my house and lay a new underground cable from their own junction box at the street to my junction box on my house. The existing TWC cable (more than 35 years old at that time) just did not have the capacity to handle a broadband Internet connection. During that, I noticed that the old cable had merely been laid in a trench in the ground without any conduit; a conduit would have made the task so much more easy. Unfortunately, the new cable was also placed without any conduit. I got credit on my TWC bill for the time between subscribing and getting the new cable.

Although the router has WiFi capability, I disabled that.

Comment: Re:I definitely share password with family (Score 1) 117

by DERoss (#47714639) Attached to: 51% of Computer Users Share Passwords

Problem #1 is NOT a problem in California. A safe deposit box at a bank is not sealed when one of the owners dies. Those who are on the signature card to open a safe deposit box retain full access after one of them dies.

In my case, the box is part of a bank account that is owned by a living trust that is part of my wife's and my estate plan. For continuity, our trust requires that there always be two trustees; and our heirs are excluded from being trustees to prevent conflict among them. Nevertheless, our son was on the signature card for the safe deposit box; the bank allows existing signers to add anyone to the card. When he died, the bank required a new signature card without his name on it. We then added our daughter to the card. If either my wife or I die, the trustee-in-waiting named in the trust document becomes the second trustee. She will then be added to the signature card. In the meantime, the bank does not block any access to the box by anyone on the current signature card when one of them dies.

For problem #2, I do not disclose at which bank -- let alone at which bank branch -- our safe deposit box is located. I definitely do not disclose the box number. If a court order was issued to access the box, it would have to be served on me for me to locate the box. At that point, I would have the opportunity to go back to court to challenge the order. Anyway, there is nothing on our box that represents criminal activity. A civil lawsuit that would require the other party to access my box might involve an improper "fishing expedition" since the other party would not have any prior knowledge of the box's contents.

Comment: Re:I definitely share password with family (Score 1) 117

by DERoss (#47712547) Attached to: 51% of Computer Users Share Passwords

I did the same. My Web user IDs and passwords are in an envelope in my bank's safe deposit box as well as in a strongly encrypted file on my PC. The encryption key exists only in my head and in that envelope.

But for some non-Internet files (e.g., complete PC backups, tax returns from prior years), the files are encrypted via PGP. Decrypting them requires a passphrase (longer than a password, with embedded blanks and punctuation); some require my PGP private key. The envelope in the safe deposit box contains the passphrase on paper and the private key on a floppy, on a CD, and on paper. Otherwise, the passphrase exists only in my head. (My PGP public key is indeed public and is found on a number of key servers around the world.)

When my wife's cousin died, his widow could not access anything on his PC. I hope my wife does not have that problem.

Comment: A Different Approach (Score 4, Interesting) 421

by DERoss (#47639731) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

I was an elected school board member in the 1980s. During that time, I would attend the annual California School Boards Association conferences.

One year, I heard an interesting presentation on a form of year-round schooling. The presenter described a calendar in which regular classes would meet for 9 weeks followed by a 3-week break, making a four-quarter school year. The 3-week break would not be a break for all students. He pointed out that 9 months of failure could not be corrected in only 6 weeks of summer school, a ratio of 6.5 to 1. Instead, students not meeting expected academic performance would have to attend remedial classes during the 3-week break, a ratio of 3 to 1.

It was already a noticeable problem in our schools that students would sometime miss classes because their parents took them on a skiing trip in the winter, to visit family in the spring, or to see fall color. As a member of the 2005-2006 County Grand Jury, I learned that this problem had grown worse county-wide in the 15 years after I left the school board. This radical calendar would provide 3 weeks off for those trips for students who were performing well in class.

This calendar would also provide an extra 2 weeks around Christmas and New Year, when even remedial students and their teachers would be off. It would provide for all the holidays the state Legislature mandates on public schools. Yet it would still involve the full 182 days of instruction annually that the Legislature also mandates. By shifting teacher in-service days to the 3-week breaks, students would actually be learning during all 182 days.

Of course, there would be increased costs for the remedial instruction and for the in-service days. That likely dooms this concept since too many members of the state Legislature think cutting taxes is the most important thing they can do, more important than educating our children, repairing our roads, assuring a supply of water, or anything else.

Comment: Debts of a Dead Person Sent to Collection (Score 1) 570

by DERoss (#47563135) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

My son died in early April 2013 without a will. Sufficient funds to pay his bills remained in his bank and credit union accounts, but no one could touch them. I sorted through all his bills and contacted all his creditors, informing them of the situation -- that they would indeed be paid if their bills were legitimate but that they might have to wait a few months for me to access his funds.

I finally got a court order to access his funds seven months later. In the meantime, three bills had already been sent to collection -- bills from creditors that I had previously contacted.

One bill in collection was for a major balance on a Discover credit card. By the time I got the collection notice, I had already sent a check to Discover. That problem was quickly resolved with no further problems.

Another bill in collection was for Time Warner Cable, for TV, phone, and Internet. I notified them shortly after my son died that they had to discontinue his service. They had billed him for the entire month of April, including the weeks following his death. I sent a check for a lesser amount to the collection agency with a cover letter detailing how I computed a pro-rata amount of the bill for the short part of the month before my son died. The collection agency returned the check with a letter informing me that they had returned the account back to Time Warner Cable. I never heard again from either the collection agency or Time Warner Cable.

The third bill sent to collection was for a medical group that supplies emergency room doctors to a local hospital. The explanation of benefits from my son's health insurance indicated that they had paid the medical group and that no further payment was due from my son. My further investigation revealed that, while the hospital and its emergency room were in-network for my son's health insurance, the hospital had out-sourced their emergency room doctor service to a medical group that was out-of-network for ALL insurance plans except Medicare. The medical group wanted payment for the difference between what the insurance allowed and what they billed. I wrote a letter to the collection agency (having already sent a similar letter to the medical group) informing them that the hospital chose my son's doctor and, since my son had no choice in the matter, they would have to deal with the hospital for any further payment. I also informed the the credit agency that my son's estate was not large enough to require probate and, if they insisted on payment, they would have to initiate probate at their own expense. I never heard again from either the collection agency or the medical group.

While all this was being resolved, we received several phone calls from the collection agencies. They insisted on knowing where my son was, so my wife gave them the address of his cemetery.

We also received insurance explanations of benefits indicating several medical providers were not being paid because they submitted their claims too late (more than 6 months after the dates of service). I have not heard directly from any of those providers. If they do send me a request for payment, I will reply that I am not responsible for their failure to submit timely claims. In any case, my son's estate is now "closed". All remaining funds were transferred into a blocked guardianship on behalf of my grandson. It will take a court order -- at the creditor's expense -- to unblock the accounts.

I am quite sure that my son is well beyond caring about black marks on his credit history. It seems, however, that no black marks have appeared. More than a year after his death, offers of new credit cards for large credit limits still keep arriving in the mail for him.

Comment: Yank's Legal Team Is Deficient (Score 1) 51

I notice from the Web site of the Superior Court in Ventura County that the legal team representing Yank was at least twice on the verge of being sanctioned for failing to provide legal filings in a timely manner. Ventura County's judges do not tolerate sloppiness. Most are former prosecutors. I have been on trial juries there three times and served two consecutive years on the Grand Jury.

Comment: Not a Problem with Mozilla-Based Applications (Score 4, Informative) 107

by DERoss (#47427739) Attached to: India's National Informatics Centre Forged Google SSL Certificates

This is not a problem with Firefox, SeaMonkey, or other Mozilla-based applications. They use a certificate database separate from Microsoft's, a database that does not contain the certificate used in the forgery.

The certification authority at fault (NIC) has an open request to have its root certificate added to Mozilla's database. However, NIC has failed to respond to requests for further information, requested over a year ago by the Mozilla person who is in charge of the process of approving certificates. Furthermore, Mozilla persons -- both staff and users -- are aware of NIC's problem; some have suggested that NIC's request be rejected and NIC be permanently banned from the database.

To see the discussion, see

Some certification authorities and some of their subscribers complain that Mozilla takes too long to approve root certificates and then to add those certificates to Mozilla's database. At least in this case, delay served to protect users. The delays are significantly caused by Mozilla's requirement for independent audit reports and for a period of public review and comment on each request. Hooray for Mozilla!!

Comment: Some Problems (Score 3, Insightful) 110

by DERoss (#47404187) Attached to: YouTube Issuing "Report Cards" On Carriers' Streaming Speeds

The vertical scale in the charts has no indices or any indication of what is measured. I see the statement to the right "Daily video activity is averaged
over 30 days.", but it does not say what is really averaged. Is this MB/sec, percentage of available bandwidth, or what?

In any case, the throughput of a broadband connection is not the only issue in moving large amounts of bytes. I am having a problem with software for an HP printer. Today, HP advised me to download the entire software package for that printer, approximately 1.4 GB. However, HP's server could not deliver event 300 KB/sec into my 15 MB/sec broadband connection. There are servers delivering video that cannot keep up with playback speeds.

When I cannot get downloads a MB/sec rates, I generally blame the server at the other end and not my broadband provider. After all, I can immediately try a different download from a different source, and get my full 15 MB/sec.

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.