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Comment It's happened to me several times... (Score 1) 345

and with different banks, occasionally to the point where they forced me to get a new card (and change a zillion automated payments). I wouldn't mind so much if this actually worked, but none of these cases involved a specific fraudulent charge - it was just done because they thought there might be one later. The irony is that I keep seeing the occasional fraudulent charge that they miss. So as far as I can tell they're pretty close to 100% false positives, and probably not many legitimate blocks.

Comment More like inability to prioritize or be efficient (Score 3, Insightful) 203

Every time I've been exposed to the operational aspects of a government agency (and, unfortunately, most large non-profits and even some large corporations) I see things being done in a way that costs around five times as much as we would do it in small- to mid-scale private industry, and even at that expense level the quality of work is outright appalling. When you start working with the management of these organizations, they simply don't care about setting appropriate standards for what they can achieve on a certain budget and then squeezing things to make do with what they have. Quite the contrary, their incentives are structured around having as much budget as possible. So bloat is everywhere, and the response to any additional "needs" is to demand more money. This is an endless cycle - giving them more money will never achieve their goals, because that would harm management's careers.

Privatizing these functions is its own can of worms - it's often far cheaper (see: SpaceX vs. NASA), but still a long way away from excellent, and rife with corruption and politics (see: Military-Industrial Complex, Prison-Industrail Complex, etc).

If I really wanted to have the EPA catch these things the best method I can think of would be to offer bounties paid on caught cheaters. This creates incentives to check everything everywhere, and retains the incentives to maximize efficiency.

Comment Why is this even an issue? (Score 1) 57

There is a breathtaking amount of critical infrastructure that is very lightly protected on intranets if not outright exposed to the public Internet. There is simply no excuse for this. Even if things require, say, cellular monitoring it's very straightforward to use highly restricted VPNs or even MPLS over cellular (especially for an organization the size of most public utilities). The fact that this is even such a major issue is flat-out sad and stupid.

Comment "Austerity." You keep using that word. (Score 3, Informative) 85

I do no think it means what you think it means. In governmental terms, it means "give us unlimited money so that we don't have to prioritize among the thousands of special interests begging and scraping for more cash."

In any other context it means that you are seriously lacking resources and have cut things to the bone. For you or me, it means we get rid of cable TV, the gym membership, take cheaper vacations, don't buy a new car, live in a smaller place, don't eat and drink out as often, etc.

Governments have a much, much different approach: they begin by exacting revenge on the unwashed masses that dare not give them every dime their hearts desire. They find popular things (especially parks and libraries) and immediately begin the slashing there. This is, of course, utterly petulant - these items aren't even rounding errors in the budgets and no real savings are made. In the US, we call it "Washington Monument Syndrome" - popular tourist destinations like the Washington Monument are shut down during budget battles for basically no reason other than a giant political temper tantrum. There still is, of course, plenty of money (billions! trillions!) for new fighter planes that don't work and imprisoning people for owning certain plants and giving people and corporations lifetime welfare benefits, etc.,etc., etc.

There is no "governmental austerity." Anybody who brings it up is playing Orwellian word games with you, and should have filthy socks shoved in their mouths (and possibly other body orifices) until they stop.

Submission + - First Library to Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Stops After DHS Email (propublica.org)

An anonymous reader writes: First Library to Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort (Tor) Stops After DHS Email

"A library in a small New Hampshire town started to help Internet users around the world surf anonymously using Tor. Until the Department of Homeland Security raised a red flag."


Comment Congress is irrational!!! (Score 0) 62

Because they don't do what we want!!! Therefore.... Conspiracy!!!1!!!11!!!!1!!!!!eleven!!!!

Do these people pay attention to literally anything else? I have no idea whether they're right, wrong, or whatever, but if they are right then Occam's razor would suggest lobbyists and stupidity, in that order.

Comment I was ready to rip on this due to bad reporting... (Score 3, Insightful) 234

You have to love how they use gallons as a unit of measurement because it gives a really big number - 300,000,000. But in water terms, that's actually very little. That computes out to just under 921 acre-feet, which is the standard unit of measuring large quantities of water. Not so impressive-sounding now, so let's see what the actual costs are. Divide the $34,500,000 cost by the number of acre-feet and then again by the expected lifetime of the balls - say, 20 years. You wind up with $1,900 per acre-foot. This is a lot of money, but California residents and normal businesses normally pay around $1,000 per acre-foot. If you amortize the cost of these balls over the total water going through the system it's still a bit pricey but not insane when you consider the effects of droughts. For example, in Carlsbad, California they are building a desalinization plant with guaranteed annual sales at a cost of just over $2,000 per acre-foot.

Of course, real sanity would address the real causes of the "drought" - the fact that the two groups that use 85% of California's water pay nowhere near this much. Government pays $0 per acre-foot and wastes a breathtaking amount of water. Big agriculture pays around $10 per acre-foot (the small organic farms I buy my produce from still pay the two-orders-of-magnitude-higher residential rates). I'm all for agriculture - California is an amazing place to grow food and provides a huge percentage of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the US - but the artificially low prices have been abused by some farms and orchards. There is still a lot of flood irrigation being used (and some farmers were actually growing rice in the desert). A massive amount of alfalfa is being grown in the desert and then shipped to China, because at the subsidized water prices this is actually cheaper than China growing their own hay. Sit back and bask in that insanity. The government has dumped as much as a third of California's water supply for various environmental purposes - you could argue the costs and merits of this except for the fact that none of these projects are having their desired effect, so all of that water is just pure waste (around 33% of state water usage). And then they threaten to fine us if we water our lawns more than twice a week (> 5% of state water usage).

So anyway, for once, the black balls are the government doing something expensive but not completely stupid. But the fact that this is even necessary due to government stupidity and a breathtakingly colossal mismanagement of a valuable natural resource sort of makes it all moot in the end. There is no shortage due to drought - there's a shortage due to bad policies.

Comment They're beginning with a false premise (Score 3, Insightful) 519

"the vast majority of internet users who refuse to pay for news."

I don't think ad blockers exist because people don't want ads or "refuse to pay for news." Ad blockers exist because ads have become so ridiculously obnoxious and disruptive with animations or even sound that they make the web pages they're on pretty close to unusable. This is on top of the occasional but still-to-frequent usage of ad networks as malware distribution platforms. If the ad networks set some reasonable standards and actually enforced them, then ad blockers wouldn't be as much of an issue. As it is right now, using an ad block is a security requirement, not an option. From an aesthetic and usability standpoint it's just highly desirable.

Comment Depends on the corporate culture involved (Score 4, Interesting) 64

Speed of implementation in various organizations (or even departments, divisions, etc) runs a spectrum of "do stuff on more or less a whim" to "go through eight years of planning meetings to discuss the possibility of actually doing something." On the former end of the spectrum you buy extra capacity. At the latter end of the spectrum it doesn't matter, because you won't get the budget to buy extra capacity.

Comment Amazon Households is not ready for Prime time (Score 2) 79

Argh - I just set up my Household on Amazon... there are some issues with sharing Prime within a household, and nobody in Customer Service understands what's going on. After an hour wasted with an idiot and a supervisor I finally figured it out on my own (you have to enable Content sharing or Prime doesn't share). Most of the documentation appears to be wrong. Apparently Amazon has never heard of this whole UX testing thing... but at least I get a pun out of it.

Uncertain fortune is thoroughly mastered by the equity of the calculation. - Blaise Pascal