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Comment: Re:Why can't taxpayers decide for themselves? (Score 5, Informative) 100

by Frobnicator (#47786399) Attached to: How Big Telecom Smothers Municipal Broadband

So you don't think the government should step in if the big guys are abusing their monopoly? You don't think the voters in a municipality should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want the government to establish broadband services for their own use? I know it's a popular meme to presume that governments are nothing but incompetent but the reality is that sometimes the government is the best way to get something done. If the existing ISPs find it not worthwhile to serve a population I see no credible argument why the local government couldn't fill that role if the taxpayers want them to. Might not be economically ideal but sometimes perfect is the enemy of good enough.

My region (the 2M people metro area) is going through municipal broadband fights. They started the fights back in 2002.

The group got an initial rollout in a few of the smaller cities, roughly 11,000 people got hooked up. Then the entrenched monopolies kicked in. Some highlights:

* Lawsuits from both the incumbent megacorps on cable-based and phone-based Internet on the claim that it was unlawful and anti-competitive for a state agency to compete with an established business. The lawsuits took several years and cost millions. The judges and the appeals court found that government is allowed to provide services, similar to how they provide municipal trash services and still businesses compete; nothing prevents the cable and phone companies from competing if they want.

* Every year state legislators keep introducing new bills prohibiting government agencies from competing with existing businesses, or requiring that governments cannot provide information services to the public without high fees and those fees should go to education, or that any group providing Internet services have so many billions in assets to mitigate risk of disaster, and other variations. Invariably a little research shows the legislators get money from the phone and cable companies, and the company lobbyists vocally support them. The municipal fiber groups have needed to spend several million dollars to fight these as well.

* In a few cities installation was unexpectedly stopped again when some of the smaller cities discovered their own contracts with the megacorps demanded that they couldn't build their own systems until after a multi-year vetting process with the megacorps plus giving them another multi-year opportunity for megacorps to adjust prices and to improve their infrastructure. Basically the smaller city and town governments signed deals for their own cheap Internet that block municipal fiber within their limits for a decade or more. Since then the FCC and other groups have urged cities to be more careful in the contracts they sign.

* Incumbents even got the federal government to drop contracts. In one case they had a contract with the federal government for a $66M under the RUS. After the municipal system had invested and contracted based on that contract it was unexpectedly cancelled. Investigation showed the federal contract was cancelled because the federal RUS system was threatened by the megacorps. A chain of 'smoking gun' emails were discovered where Comcast and CenturyLink demanded the RUS cancel the contract or the two megacorps would act against it; a lawsuit on tortious interference is ongoing, but the cost will be several more million before any ruling will follow, in the mean time the municipal system is out the $66M plus all the interest they need to pay on the emergency loan they had to take out to avoid defaulting on the expenses.

* Because the megacorps have forced the municipal fiber system to spend hundreds of millions on lawsuits and illegally-broken contracts, and because the redirected money has resulted in higher interest rates and longer-term loans costing over $500M to date, they are leveraging it and constantly sponsoring print ads, billboards, and TV ads (on their own cable networks) making nonspecific claims about how the municipal fiber has collected so many millions but only invested a limited amount and how so few people are currently hooked up. The city is covered with signs paid for by the megacorps with things like "$500,000,000 Wasted!", "Municipal Fiber Failed!", "Demand (city) Stops Internet Tax!" They all say things like "sponsored by Citizens for Fair Taxation and Representation", which in turn are run by and sponsored by the megacorps. They fail to mention that they're the ones who induced the huge expenses.

* The few people who are hooked up try to convince everyone just how good it is. Just $20/month for a hundred megabit (both ways) Internet connection on a fiber-to-the-home connection. Business pay a just little more and are seeing into the gigabit speeds. They are immediately drowned out by people making claims that is only cheap because the entire region is subsidizing only a few thousand connections and that nobody will ever see that when everything is hooked up and that we should all by Comcast because it is only $45 for the first year plus taxes and fees and installation. They are also accompanied with ads are along the lines of "Right now you are paying the city $20 every month for high speed Internet that you can't use. Get high speed Internet from Comcast starting at just $45 per month for the first year."

So while it is nice to think the governments could do that kind of transformation, know that the incumbents see this as a death threat. The cable and phone monopolies are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting municipal broadband because they see it as a threat to their very existence. It is very much a case of adapt or die, but they fail to see the adapt part.

Comment: Re:The world we live in. (Score 3, Insightful) 584

by Frobnicator (#47749131) Attached to: New Nail Polish Alerts Wearers To Date Rape Drugs


Looking over the USDOJ stats, it seems Rohypnol is a regional problem with relatively low use count. In many places it is listed as "the least accessible date-rape drug", in other regions it is a suspected factor in hundreds of rape cases. The numbers show it going from about 1000 suspected cases nationally in 1997 to it's modern level of being suspected use in 1.5% of rape cases, a few thousand cases per year. Consider: how many hundreds of thousands of dates where a drink is consumed are there every year? Millions of drinks? Hundreds of millions of drinks? On a per-drink basis the number of uses is a very small percentage. Since it is small as a percentage that suggests going after bigger percentages for the bigger reductions.

While any number bigger than 0 is a problem, as a statistic these two drugs are not used in a high percentage of rapes, and date rapes themselves are relatively rare. I'm not trying to trivialize it. As the parent post suggests, a very rare problem does not lend itself to a TSA-like drug test where millions of drinks are tested for something detectable only a few thousand times annually at a maximum. My rough estimate is around 100M drinks across the nation over the course of a year, roughly 3000 testable contaminated drinks, so 0.0003% of date drinks, or one in every 30,000. That's a lot of useless fingernail-dips.

I suppose if you do go that route, of the new products this one that continuously monitors your drink by the cup and straw changing color seems much better than nail polish you need to dip frequently. It is both passive and continuous. Someone could slip the drug in after you dunk your fingernail, but the sensor on the container or the straw is 'always on'.

Comment: Re:No no (Score 4, Interesting) 243

by Frobnicator (#47740487) Attached to: It's Dumb To Tell Kids They're Smart

If you only ever praise effort instead of achievement you will wind up with a generation of morons that think they're great just for trying even when they never get anything done.

Let's try again...

rewarding the effort and the completion of tasks rather than rewarding the natural state.

Trying to reward "being smart" is ineffectual at best. Similarly it is ineffectual to reward basketball players just for being tall, or reward a junior player simply for being young, or reward a senior player simply for being senior.

Rewarding effort and completion are effective at teaching students that those (rather than the grades or being first place) are important. If being first place is the only thing that matters then means are unimportant: break the opponent's equipment, or even put your opponent in the hospital, to reach the goal of being first. If grades are more important than learning, cheat from your neighbor or hack the grade book so you can get the rewarded grade.

When the rewards focus only on the final scores you get children who value the wrong things. Once their life of cheating in school is done, it transitions to the real world into lying, cheating, and stealing to get other outcomes without putting in effort or completing work. Or, if they use those patterns in management to try to encourage others they will be confused about why those same patterns fail to produce positive results.

Real world example:

At one place I worked several years ago there was a team of 6 salespeople. Management wanted to get the most sales out of them, so they created a reward. They made a big poster and charted sales, the highest sales would get a paid trip to a fabulous resort plus some spending money. Most of the salesfolk instantly gave up. In the first week there was a clear leader: The senior salesperson was about quadruple everyone else. By the end of the first month the senior person polished off another deal; they were at over $200K three were between $50K and $20K, and the two intern-type grunts were around $5k each. The reason was obvious to several of us, the senior salesperson worked with management to build and sign the corporate contracts, the three medium-tier people had a collection of established regular customers, and the entry level noobs were stuck with cold calls. After three months the senior salesperson acted all thankful and grateful for the challenge, the attitude of 'better luck next time' to those who obviously never had a chance. When I talked with the mangers about it they were confused about why the interns were upset and why the more experienced workers weren't putting in an effort to win. They couldn't understand it because their own value system only valued the end goal and competition rather than effort, cooperation, and completion. Their challenge rewarded tenure rather than growth. Sales were down significantly over those months. The end result was less money for the business, reduced morale, and one of the salesfolk quitting over it.

A far better system would have been to set an ambitious combined sales goal, and all those who helped cross some boundaries get the reward. The tenured staff then has an incentive to help the beginners succeed, and everyone has an incentive to increase total sales. Instead of rewarding the natural and immutable situation of tenure, they could have rewarded effort and completion of sales. Everyone whose efforts contribute to the completion of the goal gets the rewards. These systems tend to work well as incentives. For example, "If we meet X we'll have a team party", or "everyone who meets goal X will get two days off." Those who have crossed the threshold typically then help their peers to also cross the threshold.

Rewarding "You sure are smart", or "You sure are tall", or "you sure have tenure" is just plain stupid. It might feel good to the person giving the reward and the person getting the reward, but to outsiders it is usually painfully obvious that the system is broken.

Comment: Re:No no (Score 3, Interesting) 243

by Frobnicator (#47738971) Attached to: It's Dumb To Tell Kids They're Smart

Praise the kid for good ideas, but also ask your kid - how do you think this or that could be better?

Those are part of it, but really the report is just that Khan discovered something well-known in education.

Really, it is well known for everybody involved in motivation.

You get more of whatever you recognize.

Any school teacher can explain how when you point out the bad behavior, "Johnny, sit back down", you have rewarded the child. It may not be what most people think of as recognition, but it serves to reinforce the behavior.

When you recognize a child "You are smart", or "You are so fast", or other attributes that they cannot control, it can have many negative effects. One negative effect is the child can become complacent. They may think to themselves, I'm already good enough, I don't need to do any more. When that happens the child will quickly stop succeeding. Another negative effect is the child can become fearful. They may think to themselves, I don't know what I did to become smart, what if I'm not smart enough tomorrow? What if I lose it? I've seen this happen to several children who quickly break down.

Instead, educators are taught to reward effort when they see it. Publicly praise how Johnny has worked hard on the project. Comment about how it looks like Jenny spent many hours researching the detail. When you are uncertain, praise anyway, "It must have taken some effort to prepare all of this, good job."

Those families that encourage learning tend to also reward and encourage effort. There may be a few of the "you're so smart" complements, but there will also be statements like "Good job figuring those details out", "That looks complicated, it must have taken effort to understand", "You studied a lot", etc. Generally the focus is (and should be) on rewarding the effort and the completion of tasks rather than rewarding the natural state.

Rounding it out, for kids in sports you complement "Good job working hard at practice today" to reward the effort rather than "Good job at being so tall" which is something they cannot control.

Comment: Re:Logged in to email? (Score 2) 117

by Frobnicator (#47713977) Attached to: 51% of Computer Users Share Passwords

It would really surprise me if your Android phone *doesn't* have this feature, because it *is* required by law. Mine certainly has it.

This is one of those funny cases were people accidentally out themselves as not securing their phone.

The phones legally must display it in most countries, but only if the phone is locked or password protected. If there is no password required to get in, just a "swipe to unlock" rather than a security system, the button does not appear.

Lack of emergency call button == unsecured smart phone.

(Or a fairly old phone, or a hacked phone that breaks the law in many nations.)

Comment: Re:precedent (Score 5, Informative) 231

by Frobnicator (#47708653) Attached to: $125,000 Settlement Given To Man Arrested for Photographing NYPD

Right, because trial can set precedent and the city *really* doesn't want that.

Precedent is only part of the story.

A settlement comes with the clause that they do not admit to any guilt. If the courts get involved, and a guilty verdict comes down, it also comes down with the "under color of law" modifier. That comes with a year in prison at the lowest tier. If there was bodily injury if weapons were used or threat of weapons was used, it jumps to a ten year prison term. The third tier, which triggers if the acts result in death, threat of death, or if they include kidnapping (which false arrests can qualify under), attempt to kidnap, sexual abuse or its attempt, the punishment can grow to life in prison.

It doesn't matter what their original violation was, those are additional bonus punishments of up to a year, a decade, or life in jail.

They will fight in the courts right up until the court decides they are no longer immune. The moment the immunity is broken they will do anything to take a non-guilt settlement.

LEOs (both as individuals and as departments) will do all they can to avoid an actual guilty verdict when their own acts are done under color of law. They will try to get any other deal or settlement they can rather then spend time in the prisons they helped create.

Comment: Re:No surprise here (Score 1) 170

Yes, countries spy on other countries. All of their hands are dirty to some extent.

The difference is the method and extent of targeting. As a wartime example, it is the difference between a sniper rifle vs Agent Orange.

There are various 'socially acceptable' levels of international espionage. Military groups are going to spy on other military groups, sure. Installing listening devices inside embassies, I understand that. Under international law it is well regarded that those INDIVIDUALS who engage in an activity against another party can be subject to similar activities by other nations. That is, government spying on government is okay. Government spying on citizenry is NOT okay.

The Geneva Convention implemented and now all nations are bound to treat non-combatant civilians as 'protected persons'. While they might be affected by actions, they are unlawful targets and violators are considered international war criminals. Those same protections should apply even during times of peace and apply to espionage, but unfortunately they don't.

"Ethical espionage" is not a contradiction in terms. Just as in traditional warfare the common citizenry are protected and are illegal targets, so to should they be off limits to espionage. The "Just War" doctrine, which currently includes details like only attacking war-related targets, ethical treatment of prisoners, post-war reconstruction and recovery for the citizens, should apply just as well to espionage.

Comment: Re:False dichotomy. (Score 1) 199

by Frobnicator (#47675585) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should You Invest In Documentation, Or UX?

On the projects I've worked on over the years, I had the pleasure of working with one that created a lot of little items. (My contribution was 48 unique creations over 21 months, as a team bringing in roughly $16M and bringing in nice bonuses to everyone.) Our designers had a wonderful philosophy:

1. Write the requirements as the final outcomes. These are along the idea of a sprint's acceptance criteria defining the what, not the how.

2. Write the end user documentation with complete screen mockups. For us, everything could be done in no more two mouse clicks. Take time to ensure everything is consistent and uniform and easy. These were reviewed by the ten people on the team, our QA group, and about fifteen people on completely unrelated projects who had no experience working with our systems.

These two items, the "what" of the requirements and the end user documentation, were typically fought over and revised many times over the course of one or two weeks.

Only after we had firmly established what precisely the tasks were and how exactly the user accomplished them did we start into main development. Once we knew the "what" and we knew the UI steps to trigger them, building the parts in the middle was a simple matter; The initial tests and acceptance criteria can be built directly from the design doc, and with a bit of TDD the new components could be created and tested easily while the next round was designed.

I miss that group. It was rather frustrating to have the entire profitable team get dismantled because a newly-hired CEO wanted to shake up some parts of business and make complicated what was once easy with mega-apps rather than pluggable pieces.

Comment: Re:"kilobots" (Score 1) 56

by Frobnicator (#47675499) Attached to: A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes

I also misread at first and needed a double take. If it was 1024 killbots I'd be rather worried.

If they're Futurama killbots we can just throw wave after wave of soliders and police into them until they exceed their kill limit safeties.

If they were more like Terminator killbots, the world would be screwed.

But since they're kilobots rather than killbots, having a kilo of kilobots sounds like fun.

Comment: Re:liability coverage is needed (Score 1) 341

by Frobnicator (#47675467) Attached to: Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Like most things in real life, there is nuance to that case.

The companies DO provide insurance. $1M in coverage, but it is only in effect from the time the ride is accepted to the time the passengers exit. That situation was an edge case, an auto/pedestrian collision right at the border of that time, immediately before the passenger was in the car. They denied coverage because the event happened immediately before coverage took effect. Much like having an insurance policy that takes effect October 1st and having damage reported September 29th, the collision happened immediately prior to the policy becoming active. Tragic, but unfortunately it happens sometimes. Rather importantly, they have since extended the time of coverage so if it happened today it would be covered. So when another tragedy like that inevitably happens the full $1M insurance will be in effect.

Both Uber and Lyft have added additional insurance which is in effect any time the driver marks themselves online as 'available'. The insurance rules can be summed up pretty easily:

* Logged out / unavailable: Your own insurance covers you, nothing from company as you aren't on the clock.
* Available but between jobs: Company provides $50K in supplemental insurance, after your insurance pays as the primary.
* From "ride accepted" to "ride finished and passengers is away from vehicle": Company provides $1M as primary insurance, personal insurance is secondary.

I assume it is similar for all their locations, but it may be different in Germany where they were banned.

The California proposal is to increase the insurance coverage for the "Available but between jobs" segment from $50K to $750K, which would cost quite a lot more for the company and is dramatically more than what traditional taxis must have for collision and liability. I would only agree with the bill if it affected all transportation companies, not just the newcomers.

Comment: Re:Great - If you already HAVE a social network (Score 1) 278

by Frobnicator (#47663957) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

Not to mention that, in software, I'd be in a bit of a quandary over recommendations. I am willing to testify that numerous of my friends are smart and honest and do stuff, but I've almost never seen any of their code, so I can't comment on their technical proficiency and programming ability.

That isn't how employee referrals work.

For the existing employee, you get a copy of their resume and contact information and give it to the boss with the opening. You tell them "I got this from a friend [or friend of a friend], I have no idea how good he is, but we are offering a $500 referral bonus. He looks good on paper and they are very interested in working at this company." The referring employee does not need to forswear their firstborn child against the referral being the perfect worker.

All it says is "this person is particularly interested in the job. I think they should pass or bypass the first two HR filters since it looks like they are qualified."

Comment: Re:Great - If you already HAVE a social network (Score 1) 278

by Frobnicator (#47663879) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

It seems you missed an important part of my post:

This means that while it is still important to apply through the web because they pull many workers through there, it is far more effective to get an employee referral.

I did not state nor imply that you should not apply through the web sites. Instead I recommended that you maximize your efforts on the most effective path.

Once that most effective path is exhausted, spend your time on the next-most effective path. Once that path is exhausted, work your way down through the various less-effective job hunting methods.

While 40% of workers coming from direct referrals, 35% come through web sites. That is still a large number, but your application is less than one-tenth as likely to get the job. That doesn't mean "don't apply", instead it means "apply through the most effective method". One of those two methods is an order of magnitude more successful, so take it.

As for not having a social network, that is a fairly rare thing. You probably have family members (unless you are perhaps an unadopted orphan with no siblings, and unmarried and childless). You probably have one or two friends or at least acquaintances. If nothing else you have a weak social network that includes several thousand active /. users.

While a direct friend is best they may not work at the target company. You probably have a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend at every corporation in the world. Find that chain and you instantly boost your odds by an order of magnitude.

Comment: Re:No relationship between online app & gettin (Score 4, Interesting) 278

by Frobnicator (#47656531) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

There is no relationship between an online job application and getting a job. Online job applications are neglected because no one needs 10,000 online forms filled out for 1 job.

It is well established (through most of history) that direct contacts and personal networks are the most likely way to get jobs. A few seconds on Google pulls up many research studies and sites that maintain real statistics (rather than just made-up numbers) on the topic. Like this one among many.

That one linked to is interesting because of the various charts. For those companies they track, direct referrals are only 6.9% of the applicants but represent 39.9% of those actually hired. Job boards and web sites account for 74.9% of the job applicants and 35.8% of the hires. This means that while it is still important to apply through the web because they pull many workers through there, it is far more effective to get an employee referral. In other words, one hour of working your social network looking for a referral is equivalent to roughly 12 hours of submitting web-based job applications.

The Internet is great for research and finding people in the organization, great for learning about openings. But when it comes to actually applying for a job, spend your time farming your social network to find someone who knows someone at the company rather than just applying through their site.

Input Devices

Enthusiast Opts For $2200 Laser Eye Surgery To Enhance Oculus Rift Experience 109

Posted by timothy
from the funny-I-might-want-it-for-regular-goggles dept.
An anonymous reader writes After 30 years of wearing glasses, one man says that the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has prompted him to get laser eye surgery. With farsightedness and astigmatism, he says, "Never thought much about the laser surgery until the Rift, that's for sure." He has an appointment to get the $2200 surgery on the 13th of this month. "For me it is clear, my eyeglasses are like an obstacle for optimal VR experience," he said. He hopes the surgery will remove his need for glasses, which can be uncomfortable inside of the Rift, if they fit at all, and cause several issues such as scratched lenses and lower field of view. Oculus plans to make the consumer version of the Oculus Rift (aka CV1) more friendly to glasses wearers, "...we have a lot of great ideas for supporting glasses in the consumer version [of the Rift] (especially since a huge portion of the Oculus team wears glasses everyday!)" they noted in their Kickstarter.

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.