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Comment Apologies for banks? (Score 1) 72

Seriously? I'm a "sheep" for hating the banking system we've got in place?

Let's talk about that "interest collected on savings", shall we? It's so little these days, it's pretty much worthless. Meanwhile, you let the bank use your money while it sits there, to lend out to someone else at a FAR higher interest rate than you're being paid on it.

Or let's talk ATM machines.... Ostensibly deployed for customer convenience, they're ALSO quite popular with banks because it allowed them to stop hiring nearly so many tellers to help people in person with transactions. That means, a big cost savings for the banks. All fine and good, except why then do I get dinged for $2.00 or more each time I try to take my OWN money out of my account using a machine not owned by my particular bank? And why, in most cases, will the bank who owns that ATM *also* add on a $2.00 or more fee for withdrawing the money? If I only need $10, that's a good 40% of what I'm withdrawing they want as a cut for doing it! With almost all of these machines in the same "network", it should be a trivial process for banks to sort out who owes who for a "foreign transaction" and straighten that out on the back end. Maybe worth a 25 cent surcharge, at most.

In fact, pretty much ANY interaction with a bank involves surcharges tacked on. Want a new box of checks ordered? You can be sure they'll sell them to you for at least 2x the going rate from any of the custom check printing services that advertising in the local newspaper and elsewhere (and get less choice about how you want them to look). Accidental overdraft? Now we're really talking extra charges! I guess they figure since YOU made the mistake, they can soak you with impunity on those, right?

I have no problem with a lender verifying a person is reliable and statistically likely enough to repay them before agreeing to the loan. But loans are where banks really should be making all the money they need to survive and thrive! All of the savings or checking accounts should just be tools to gather up some of that money to lend back out, and not viewed as MORE ways to profit from people. Most of the people opening one of those accounts will eventually need an auto loan, a home loan, or some kind of personal loan anyway.

And lastly -- I never found a bank that would lend me money at an interest rate as low as a local credit union. They're simply not competitive with them!

Comment Re:The problem is user error. (Score 1) 331

I agree. The technical problem here was that the user managed to enter an incorrect destination. Common sense *should* come into play once you've driven a good bit further than what you expected to reach the place .... but that's kind of irrelevant to the point. A GPS is supposed to navigate you to the correct location.

My experience using many different GPS systems over the years is that all of them fail in various ways at handling user input well. For example, I have a RHR-730N GPS stereo in my 2014 Jeep Wrangler right now. This radio has been used in a number of Chrysler vehicles for the last few years including their mini-vans, and I believe in some Dodge vehicles too. Supposedly, it was their "high end" premium stereo option -- though now, they have a nicer, more modern one they're starting to include in Jeep Grand Cherokees and other new vehicles.

The 730N, even with the latest map upgrade for 2016 and the latest available firmware update still has problems with voice navigation commands. If I go through the voice command "tree" until I reach the point where it asks me to speak a location name, it often comes back telling me there are no matches, or decides to offer me 2,000 plus results, with the top result on the first screen being 800-900 miles away from me! It renders the feature completely worthless. If I key in a point of interest or an address directly, though, it works pretty much as expected.

I have a Clarion GPS stereo in my other car, and that one has its own set of issues. It doesn't even try to support voice commands, but when keying in an address, it sometimes takes a number of attempts to get it to find what you're searching for - just because it's so inflexible with matching input. (EG. Say you need to locate 150 E South Street? You might have to spell out 150 EAST SOUTH ST, or maybe it wants 150 E S ST, or it could be 150 E SOUTH ST. And don't forget to watch out if you're just trying to enter a partial address and let it auto fill the rest. If there's an 150 E SOUTH AVE or 150 E SOUTH SPUR or what-not, it'll probably grab the wrong one.) Then, to top it off? The voice synthesis is pretty bad too. It'll likely pronounce your destination as "One-Fifty Eeesss Street" if they had it in the database as "150 E S ST."

Comment re: perception and reality (Score 1) 72

People are generally upset with our banks because while they accept them as basically essential, they don't approve of much of what they do.

The banks can and do screw me, from time to time, yet yes - I leave my money with them. I might not have an "obligation" to do so, but it becomes very difficult to go around them. Most employers prefer to pay with direct deposit to a bank account, for example. If you opt out? They might cut you checks which you've got to go to check cashing places to cash, and incur fees for doing so right off the bat. Then you incur the risk of carrying that much cash around with you everywhere too.

Try to make a major purchase and the country flags you as a terrorist suspect the minute you make a large cash payment for it! Try to take cash on an airline flight and again, you're flagged and pulled out of the security line. If you ever do try to make monthly payments with a business on something, they typically run your credit and find that your credit score stinks too -- since there's no record of you having your name on a savings or checking account or any other real credit history.

I'm not suggesting all of us think bank robbers are "heroes". I know I don't. There's still a system in place that those people think they're "above everyone else", bypassing it, and costing everyone else in the long run. (Banks that lose money are covered by FDIC insurance, but eventually -- it's we the taxpaying public who gets to pay to keep that insurance program going.)

Comment IMO, valid complaints (Score 5, Insightful) 339

This is just getting blown up into a bigger deal than it should be because one crowd is eager to defend Tesla Motors against any negative press, while the other is eager to make Musk look like an arrogant jerk (a la the late Steve Jobs).

The way I see it though, Stewart Alsop didn't really bring up any complaints that weren't valid. He's right... Who starts a product launch event over an hour late and doesn't even acknowledge they ran behind? And really, it's poor planning at best to promise participants a test drive when you clearly have too many people signed up for one than you can accommodate. (He said he had number 1,344? Come on! You might not get through that many people in an entire day at an auto show -- much less an event at night that already started an hour late!)

If Tesla wants to cancel his pre-order, fine. Maybe that helps send a message that they won't be pushed around by people making a lot of demands, and that will help them eliminate some problem customers. But I think it also shows some of us that their leader isn't very good at taking criticism. That's unfortunate because the ability to do so helps make a better product and improve customer service.

Comment They know something's wrong, but .... (Score 1) 832

I think there are sensible solutions that preserve the basic concepts of a Democratic Republic. The *problem* is, most people running for office right now are too extreme to the "left" or "right", while others dropped out early because they just weren't cut out to do public speaking and debate.

I'm not at all convinced the "Nordic model" is the answer for the United States.

While he's not ideal, Rand Paul has been consistently talking common sense and at least by the judgement of many bloggers -- winning the debates. Problem is, he doesn't raise his voice or say anything "crazy" that creates a media frenzy of attention around him. Essentially, he doesn't make entertaining enough "political reality TV" for the networks like Trump does, so they just try to tune him out. IMO, he'd do far more for people, if elected, than Trump ever will.

And who are all these people who supposedly scoffed at millennials for complaining of 60 hour work weeks and no benefits? If anything, I'd say that much of this claimed "difference of opinion about jobs" between generations is manufactured B.S. Whenever you get the Gen X, the Gen Y and the millennial crowd together in an argument online about jobs/careers, you find a pretty even distribution of people who think alike across the entire age spectrum. The only thing I've ever been able to identify as different with millennials is that because they're young and typically single, their priorities naturally revolve around the things that matter to young, single people. No rocket science there .... (So, for example, they aren't faced with the time pressures of older people raising families. That means they might claim to prefer to "blend work and free time" together as a ball of multitasking. Doesn't mean Americans are doomed because "we've all been suckered into taking our work home with us and can't separate the two anymore", or any of that nonsense.)

What's wrong is pretty simple. We don't have enough businesses in America able to hire people at "middle class" wages, vs. the number of people who WANT that type of employment. If you look at the list of the top 10 employers in America today, you see that by a HUGE margin, #1 is WalMart. Nobody I know expects to make a good "middle class career" out of a WalMart job. And who is #2 after WalMart? Oh, it's Yum Foods, Inc. -- owners of chains like Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Same problem. We need to encourage small business growth, especially for people in rural America where the only employment nearby is the local gas station or WalMart, or maybe a local hardware store. (And it's absolutely possible. Remember Gateway computers? They started in rural Iowa, hence the Holstein cow patterned shipping boxes for all of their PCs.)

Comment They need different standards for cellular, IMO. (Score 1) 217

Net Neutrality is a complicated, sticky bunch of legislation that has some benefits, but also a lot of rough edges, IMO.

This "Binge On" fiasco with T-Mobile is a great example. Here you have a service which is beneficial to the consumer, really. (I have T-Mobile and it's a win for me. I'm not a huge user of video on mobile devices in the first place, but I may as well get the bonus of un-metered viewing of content from any providers on-board with their program, just like they did with unlimited music streaming with "partners".) I do understand how by "the letter of the law", they violate Net Neutrality as it stands currently.

BUT, why are we so worried about this for cellular data at this time? We all know cellular is a very different animal than something like FiOS or cable broadband or even AT&T U-Verse service. Cellular bandwidth is very limited, based on only having so many towers in a given area and only so much capacity each tower can handle. You generally pay for cellular data in a metered fashion, and it's generally understood you use data on it a a supplement to a land-based Internet broadband service. (Heck, that's what the cellular services are really doing in the first place .... picking up Internet connections from land based services and adding value for you by putting it out over the airwaves for your subscribed device to use wirelessly.)

When I'm on an unmetered cable or fiber based circuit, I expect to be able to pull data from any place I can connect to that serves it out, without interference from my ISP (or one upstream) artificially limiting some of it. On cellular? I expect a slow, somewhat unreliable connection that may drop out as I travel around (nature of the beast), and know that I'm probably getting billed by pre-paying for some small allotment of megabytes of data per month. At that point, it doesn't negatively impact me if some carrier is "playing favorites" by forming partnerships to let me stream some of the partner content without it counting against that cap. It just improves my total experience of how much I can do for a given monthly cost.

If there's *anything* T-Mobile might do to be more in line with the law? Perhaps they should make Binge On an "opt in" vs. "opt out" option? When you're not using it, everything works as per usual for all cellular carriers.....

Comment It's not even about sympathy .... (Score 1) 270

The lesson here is that when American businesses decide to increase their presence in other parts of the world (typically to try to save money because of such advantages as cheaper labor or lower taxes), the downside is a growing reliance on the state of the global economy, vs. the U.S. economy.

Comment Absolutely! (Score 1) 125

I've worked in I.T. for most of my adult life.... At this point, I really only still do it because I can't find anything else that interests me. (Well, I have other hobby interests like photography, but not interested in the uphill battle it takes to make such a thing a profitable career.)

I've never seen salaries like this claimed "average", although I make enough to get by. (I've always worked for smaller companies that just don't pay nearly as well for I.T. support as the big guys. And that does tend to box me in, because I don't have names of any big, well-known companies on my resume. The big guys like to see evidence you supported companies of a similar size in the past.) But with the smaller businesses, you get more control over things (less micro-management) and you're actually needed there -- not just a number in a payroll spreadsheet.

But it's amazing how similar a financial boat we're all in, if our earnings are anywhere from $35,000/yr. or so through $100K/yr. The more you make, the more you're taxed -- AND the more you wind up investing in things that sap more of your earnings to maintain them. So yeah ... busting your butt to get that "barely 6 figures" salary or close to it just means you buy a thousand more sq. feet for your home, or maybe you get to spend a little more on a more lavish vacation for 1-2 weeks out of a year. But all in all, you probably don't get THAT much further than someone earning a lot less.

It takes a LOT more money to really get "over the hump" to where your money makes enough money to "work for itself". That's what really helps a person get ahead....

Comment Common sense, perhaps, but not newsworthy .... (Score 3, Insightful) 106

I mean, sure ... it's good advice to stimulate the minds of your kids. Give them interesting things to do and figure out, and they might discover something they really like.

But the idea that you can "steer" a kid into a career field based on what you gave them to do for fun as a kid? Nah.... doesn't work like that.

When I was a kid, I realized I really liked working with those "50 in 1" electronics project kits like they sold at Radio Shack. (I think I actually discovered it first through a friend at school who had one.) My parents, both being teachers, were happy to spend their money on that kind of thing, so I occasionally got one of those kits for a birthday or Xmas present or what-not, for years after that. (For those unfamiliar, these were kits that came with a board full of springs and a box of components. You hooked up the components by slipping them into the springs, or occasionally inserting pieces of wire between certain springs, and made various things like an AM radio or a basic "alarm system".)

Up through senior year of high school, I held onto that interest in electronics enough that I took a couple of optional electronics courses in school. Despite all of that? I never became an electrician or anything.... I find it useful to have a basic understanding of electronics. But as I became an adult, I learned how much MORE you really needed to know to do anything valuable with it, and that was just more than I wanted to do in the field.

I think science is no different. I have a daughter now who likes science (her favorite class in school). But honestly, I also doubt she'll wind up in a scientific career because of other aspects of her personality and tendencies I see. It's one thing to find it "cool" to dissect something in a classroom, or to read about scientific discoveries and think "That's awesome!". But to actually get to the point where people want to hire you to work on those discoveries? That requires going through a LOT of stuff that's just not as fun or easy.

How many of us enjoyed pretending we were astronauts as kids, and/or had an interest in science fiction? How many of you who did wound up working for NASA? Probably not NEARLY as many, right?

I think all you can do as a parent is give your kids opportunities to think and learn. But don't expect you can direct them into a particular field or career path based on it.

Comment Taxpayers - I *order* you to cough up $4 billion! (Score 3, Insightful) 276

It's always easy to make yourself look good when you get to spend other people's money to do it.

Last I checked, we had this little problem of a "national debt" and weren't exactly making ANY progress on paying it down. Yet Obama thinks he can just snap his fingers and pull another $4 billion out of the air, because he'd like to see driverless cars get some help from Federal government? (And let's face it.... whenever Federal government decides they can't bear to stay "hands off" of something any more, it means they want to micro-manage it and control it. That's the only kind of "help" they know how to dole out.)

Last I checked, they already handed companies like Tesla Motors some pretty big subsidies to promote what they're working on. How about govt. just steps back and lets private industry continue working on that?

Comment IMO, this should be a minimum standard.... (Score 2) 47

I would think *all* companies selling products containing software that could create problems for users if hacked should have a MINIMUM of a "bug bounty" program that credits people for bugs found and ensures they won't get in any legal trouble for the discovery process or for revealing it.

Paying money for bugs found is good incentive to get more people involved in the process, but I'd leave that the the discretion of the company to do.

In a way though, they already pay for this anyway. Isn't that a fundamental task of QA staff? These programs just expand testing and reporting to include anyone interested, instead of just hired employees.

Comment Hmm..... (Score 3, Interesting) 145

I have my serious doubt that this will really wind up helping many kids.

I've watched our own kids grow up around computers, tablets, smartphones, Chromebooks issued in class, etc. etc. And even though they do enjoy learning and mastering the interactive games that let you "build worlds" (like Minecraft or the Little Big Planet series on the Playstation), none of this has motivated them to learn to code.

I feel like there's some pressure on them to develop programming skills because "If you play Minecraft, it teaches some of the basics already!" (and there's always SOME teacher out there trying to use it as a launching platform into some other subject he/she wants to teach). But really, I think they just like interactively creating things to show off to their friends they chat with in the game.

I remember back when I first discovered computers as a kid and was completely hooked on them. It was SO different back then. The computer you bought basically sat there and did nothing but produce a blinking cursor on your TV screen and expected you to start programming something into it. Sure, you could buy some pre-packaged programs (and we did), but the owner's manual was a complete guide to programming in BASIC on the system -- not just a quick reference on how to plug it in, hook up all of the connections, and a rundown of what each button or switch did on the case.

I had lots of fun as a kid just keying in programs out of books or magazines and trying to get them to run properly.

Today's computer experience is pretty vastly removed from that, yet I think some of us are puzzled as to why the kids don't take up coding more often, despite "growing up around computers" and using them since they're old enough to move a mouse.

It's great to offer kids the OPTION to learn this stuff if they take an interest in it. But adding programming to a basic school curriculum may be a mistake.

Comment Seems utterly pointless, given the use cases? (Score 2) 250

I mean, I understand how MS is doing this, where "the latest version of IE that can run on your supported OS is still supported" .... but here's the thing? People out there building new web sites for the masses are NOT going to waste time making sure they render perfectly on IE 8 or 9, in most cases. If they work, great... But the bulk of the QA testing is going to happen around the latest version of the browser (IE 11) -- and even that may die out with more emphasis placed on pages working well in "Edge" and Win 10.

So seems to me, in the "real world", the people sticking with using an older IE like 8 or 9 are doing so purposely, because they run older web-based applications or internal Intranet sites/portals that were coded specifically for those browser versions. We've already reached the point where you're stuck using an old version of a Microsoft OS just so you can keep doing that. So whether MS declares the old browsers "unsupported" or "supported" means little more than a technicality. (If I was MS, I would do this "dance" about supported versions too, just because I wouldn't want to deal with headaches from some idiot still on Vista who refuses to spend a buck to upgrade it, and now wants to argue over what "extended support for Vista" really means.) But are these people really all worried about missing a few security patches from MS for those old IE versions? Heck -- there's more inherent security weakness in using IE vs. an alternative browser!

Essentially, you should be using IE 11 or an alternative browser like Chrome or FireFox for everything at this point, *unless* you're in some weird "edge case" scenario where you still need outdated software to work with other outdated software you can't live without. Those situations will ALWAYS happen, and that's why you can still download a freeware CP/M emulator for Windows and other oddball apps like that. MS may as well realistically call all IE browsers before 11 "dead" and let people do as they wish with them.

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