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Comment: Re:TSA = the USA's Gestapo (Score 2) 658

by King_TJ (#47399333) Attached to: TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

Truthfully though, the airlines themselves are also doing a good job of it.

The last couple of times my pre-teen daughter had to get on a plane to fly to visit relatives/family, I had her fly as an unaccompanied minor. What a friggin' hassle! First off, you're typically charged an extra $150 or so for the "service", but even more inconveniently? Airline web sites are poorly designed to handle this extra detail, so the process often screws you out of frequent flyer miles you should really have earned for purchasing your kid's flight (name on the boarding pass doesn't match name of the ticket purchaser), and you often have to re-enter some information twice on the web site to place the ticket order properly.

Then they have all of the hoops you have to jump through as part of the boarding process. You have to accompany your kid to the gate, so you've got to go through the security checkpoint yourself, even though you're not the one getting on the plane. You've got to wait behind after your kid is on the plane until the plane actually leaves the runway, too. And it seems like every time, people working at the ticket counter manage to screw up the whole check-in process. (Someone always fails to understand the procedure and neglects to issue you your pass saying you're accompanying someone else but not boarding the plane, or they don't have ANY of the information you provided in detail when buying your kid's ticket, such as names and numbers of who will be picking them up at their destination.)

Except for Southwest, it seems like pretty much all of the airlines are charging you at least $25 per bag for each piece of luggage you bring along, too. And at the same time? They just reduced the max. allowable dimensions of carry-on luggage by 1 lousy inch ... just enough to make a bunch of expensive luggage obsolete.

Comment: Oh, absolutely .... (Score 4, Interesting) 658

by King_TJ (#47399207) Attached to: TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

I know a couple of people who work for the TSA too, and sadly, they view all of this stuff as amusing ways to irritate the general public, who they regard as generally stupid and annoying in the first place.

If you corner them on any of the security policies, they'll readily admit they don't necessarily enhance security or serve a useful purpose. They just feel like all of that is unimportant, vs. the expectation that travelers just "follow the orders and instructions". If you don't cooperate, you're one of those "stupid and annoying people who can't follow directions" - so they ridicule you and enjoy your suffering as they put you through extra screening, detain you, or what-not.

It's funny how you can take practically anyone, dress them up in a uniform and a badge, and give them some sort of arbitrary control or power over others, and they suddenly feel superior.

Comment: re: infrastructure upgrades (Score 1) 348

by King_TJ (#47370959) Attached to: Bug In Fire TV Screensaver Tears Through 250 GB Data Cap

Yeah.... like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Comcast, to their credit, did boost speeds for most broadband customers, across the board, without raising prices for it. Last year in the DC area, one of our offices was given a speed boost from 80mbit to 100mbit service at no charge -- and I recently discovered I was able to order residential 100mbit Comcast service in Maryland at the price I was initially told was for 50mbits.

On the flip-side, there are SO many outstanding examples of these companies NOT doing obviously needed upgrades. In Frederick, MD, for example, the cellular network is still basically on a 2G/EDGE type network, due to a lack of upgrading the cell towers. AT&T works well with 4G data speeds there now, but they seem to be the only carrier who bothered to put newer infrastructure in place to cover the area. Sprint and T-Mobile are nearly useless, and Verizon is spotty at best.

As another example, look at Verizon FiOS. After they took big payments from the government to deploy broadband to more places, they wound up only cherry picking a relative few cities, with a "long term plan" of simply filling out gaps in service in those areas. There really aren't any future plans to expand FiOS to new cities or states that never had it. Didn't stop upper management from taking big pay increases though.

Comment: Re:Trust (Score 1) 273

There is no "trust issue" using a service like Uber, at least here in the U.S.

To be honest, I'm far less trusting of the established taxi services.

Let me give you just one example:

Here in the Washington D.C. area, you'll have a really difficult time if you live in Maryland or Virginia and you need to catch a cab back home from D.C. Why? Because cabbies realize they're not allowed to pick up new fares from those adjacent states. If they have to drive you back to MD or VA, then they're stuck driving back to D.C. again before they can make more money. The law says they're not allowed to refuse you once you're in the cab and the vehicle is in motion ... but it presents an awkward situation where those "in the know" are often forced to hail a cab, and then purposely stall when the driver asks "Where to?", until he/she begins moving. Then they spring the news that they need to go back to an address in VA or MD.

With the online competitors, everything is up-front and clear, before you ever have to interact at all with a driver. I know I'd feel much better with an online confirmation that my ride is one the service accepted and the driver won't have any hard feelings about the arrangement once I'm in the vehicle.

Furthermore, I don't see why there's any real reason to believe a cab driver working for the established taxi services will be a more honest, straight-forward guy than someone working for a service like Uber? Many of Uber's drivers come from the industry in the first place. (It's a popular way for limo drivers to earn some extra money in their downtime, for example. With limos, people often pay to be taken someplace where the driver then has to wait HOURS for them to come back out to go to the next place. Why not take an Uber fare or two, nearby, during that time instead?) Cab drivers, by contrast, often feel entitled in a sense.... working for a powerful unionized group. They regularly play games like claiming a credit card machine in the cab is broken, because they'd rather take the cash .....

Comment: Nobody for the taxis are for the people! (Score 2) 273

Each and every time I watch a city get into this "cabs vs. Uber" war, it plays out pretty much the same way. Every single potential user/customer of the services I hear voice an opinion is happy to see the competition and often has something positive to say about Uber, specifically.

Everyone who speaks out against it is some kind of government official or union member of the protected cab cartel.

Oh, you *might* get some talking head on the TV news who claims to take an interest in "public safety", telling you how unsafe it is to get in some stranger's vehicle when he/she isn't a licensed cab driver ... but at the end of the day, I think we all know they're just shills for the establishment.

I've tried Uber myself and frankly, I was amazed at how much more organized the experience was than hailing a cab. Among other benefits, I immediately received an email receipt documenting the trip's total mileage with start and end points, and even how much fuel was used. Regarding safety? Uber's app even showed me a photo of the person who would be picking us up as soon as the ride was ordered, making sure I wasn't getting in the wrong person's vehicle. No cab service I've seen can do that.

A better mousetrap has been built!

Comment: re: subsizied mass transit (Score 1) 170

Yes, you're correct .... but I'd maintain that in most (all?) cases, at least in the USA, they've been doing it wrong.

For example, do you know what the salary is for a DC metro subway driver? I had no clue until I saw a job posting on one of the govt. job boards. It's in the 6 figures. I'd sure like to know why a $100,000/yr. plus salary is necessary to get someone to operate a metrorail train!

When you look at what each individual spends to use a personal motor vehicle to commute to/from work each day, it simply doesn't make logical sense that a mass transit system can't beat those operating costs per-person, by sheer volume. And yet, it generally costs me almost the same price to drive from point A to B as to take the metro between those same places. And STILL they say it needs subsidizing with large tax collections?

No ... reality is, mass transit is a big cash cow for a lot of folks on the inside. Every time the system is expanded, contractors are making big bucks on the project.... Unionized maintenance staff probably costs more than is really necessary to keep it all running too. Who knows where else money is being spent inefficiently on the whole thing -- but there sure are plenty of opportunities for it.

Comment: RE: move? (Score 1) 710

by King_TJ (#47327791) Attached to: Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

Nope, you're right.... DC is really *not* that great an area to live in. However, I'm pretty happy with the small town in Maryland we wound up buying a house in. Only about 20 minutes outside Frederick, MD, which is a fairly nice city itself.

The only reason I moved up to the the DC area in the first place is a need to get out from a dead-end I.T. job I was in, in the midwest, working for a steel supplier and fabricator. In general, I.T. careers in the midwest doing server/network administration on hands-on PC support are mainly found in the manufacturing sector. (Exceptions would primarily be hospitals or education -- both of which handle I.T. fairly differently than the typical business.... sort of their own worlds.)

Not just one, but two of my friends who used to live near me and also worked in I.T. wound up moving away and taking jobs with the company that offered me the DC area position. The fact I'd get to work with two of my long-time personal friends (albeit each of us in different offices in different cities) was a major reason I accepted. This was also a company which was actually growing during the recession, while most were downsizing.

Truthfully? I think a lot of folks up here relocated for jobs that were far from "elite" - simply because they were promising-sounding career jobs in a bad economic climate. (I've met several people who moved here from other parts of the country for jobs with MedImmune in Gaithersburg, for example. Probably pays well, but not "defense contractor well" or anything like that.)

Comment: Re:How much reduced sleep is tied to long commutes (Score 1) 710

by King_TJ (#47312509) Attached to: Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

Bingo! This is definitely a HUGE factor for those of us living and working in the metro D.C. area! (I'm pretty sure Californians working in the Silicon Valley area have the same experience, but I can't speak about it with any direct knowledge.)

My commute is a little over an hour each direction. (Basically, I can take the train in to a station where I have to transfer to the metro and ride it for about 4 stops until I get to my workplace. Alternately, I can drive in but it takes about the exact same amount of time.)

Either way, it's "lose, lose", really. Everyone loves to point out that if you take public transportation, the time is really "your own time" since you don't have to drive. But due to the lack of reliable cellular data connections through much of the trip, it doesn't let me do a lot of productive things I'd like to do with that time (like check email or handle trouble tickets that came in). It's good for reading a book or magazine, but honestly? I'm not too enthused about spending 45 minutes to an hour reading that early in the morning, or right after a long day of work. I like to read on weekends or possibly at night just before bedtime. If I opt to drive, then I'm out the cost of the gas money and wear and tear on my vehicle. I also get stuck paying about $8 a day for parking. (The train and metro fare is over $275 a month though, too.)

But in this part of the country, you don't have any other realistic options to live closer to your job if you have a family with kids. Singles or child-free couples can usually find a reasonably affordable apartment that's nearby, but adding kids to the mix really makes that unworkable unless you're one of the "elite" (such as govt. contractors getting huge paychecks or politicians or their lawyers).

Out here, it used to be, you were directed to one of the "inner D.C. suburbs" like Rockville or Gaithersburg or Silver Spring if you needed to find a 3 or 4 bedroom house at a somewhat normal price. But so many people have relocated up here for the government and military jobs and contracts, those properties were quickly snapped up and priced escalated with the demand. So you have to look further and further out to find something at a sane price point.

Comment: re: Dotcom's history (Score 3, Insightful) 253

by King_TJ (#47195131) Attached to: Kim Dotcom Offers $5 Million Bounty To Defeat Extradition

Yeah, I'm aware of most of that. Still, I'm not sure how relevant some of that is?

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak used to defraud telephone companies with custom made electronic boxes that let people cheat the established system, making long distance calls for free. That was before their careers took off, building and selling computers. Please elaborate on how that activity done as teenagers for kicks invalidates Apple as a legitimate business today?

Comment: Re:Sprint and T-mobile should give up on LTE (Score 3, Insightful) 158

by King_TJ (#47171871) Attached to: Big Telecom: Terms Set For Sprint To Buy T-Mobile For $32B

I disagree. 1st. tier cellphone companies DO in fact have to be big .... The dollar amounts involved to roll out and maintain a cellular network across a whole country the size of the United States is steep enough that the little guys just can't accomplish it well.

What we do have room for are the 2nd. tier "regional carriers" -- and personally, I'm disappointed we haven't really seen more happening in that arena. If you're not big enough to compete with the likes of Verizon or AT&T in nationwide coverage, fine. How about focusing on providing top quality coverage and customer service, with good data performance, all within a few states?

For many years, I had an account with U.S. Cellular, in St. Louis, Missouri, and was very pleased with them. Their little marketing strategy of "all incoming calls are free" meant I didn't really need to buy a lot of cellular minutes on my plan. (It's relatively rare I place a call to someone vs. all the times I'm taking a call.) Signal strength and call quality were excellent too. Really, the only downside was a relative lack of choices in phones, because you had to select one designed to work on their network - and they didn't have as much pull as the top carriers to get the latest handsets first. Still, they'd typically manage to get at least 1 or 2 of the "hot" phones out there at any given time. (I had a Motorola Razr flip phone with them, when it was still the in thing.)

T-Mobile, IMO, has really gotten on a roll with upgrading its network to become something respectable. It has a lot of issues still, but as a current customer, I see evidence all the time that change is happening. (My phone has carrier updates pushed to it practically every week, as new towers come online.) Just last week, something changed where I live, too. For a couple days, all of us received "no service" or weak signals throughout the business day, but then suddenly, things came back up with a signal strength far superior to what we ever had before. (I used to use a signal booster in the house, but was able to turn it off after the upgrade.) Can't say if it was a new tower, or a modification or repair made to some existing one -- but it was a nice improvement.

Comment: re: the polder model...... (Score 1) 255

by King_TJ (#47150385) Attached to: A Measure of Your Team's Health: How You Treat Your "Idiot"

Interesting..... Honestly though, as great as it sounds, I have a feeling this may be another one of those practices I hear about (often from the Netherlands) that's excellent where it's used, but might not scale up very well for a larger nation (such as the USA).

From my observations in the U.S. -- we've got a lot of folks who accept jobs simply because they need the money, but really don't have much motivation to do the job they're hired for. Their motivation comes, initially, from the relief that they finally got a job and a desire to do whatever is needed to keep a steady paycheck coming.

2 or 3 years into it though? The best thing that can happen to them is to feel pressure to improve, or be terminated.

You could argue that this is a very broken system, and perhaps you'd be right in the "big picture" sense. Unfortunately, I don't think the big picture is fixable any time soon. (Core reasons for it include our nation making a decision, decades ago, to jettison most of our manufacturing and manual labor -- under the belief we were better off leaving those tasks to other countries.) Given the fact we have more people in need of good paying jobs than we have available good paying jobs? There's simply no real benefit to encouraging slackers to do better while a company keeps paying them to under-perform. There are too many other, unemployed candidates out there who'd LOVE to take that position and do much more work while they're in it. And as I say, the person you push out may actually need the "kick in the pants" to rethink his/her plans about the type of work to apply for next time.

Comment: re: problems with computerized drivers (Score 1) 583

by King_TJ (#47112383) Attached to: Google Unveils Self-Driving Car With No Steering Wheel

I think you raise a few valid concerns (unlike some of the people who replied to you already).

For starters, who cares about all the "military grade encryption!" and "practically unhackable!" propaganda? If there's anything we should have learned by now, it's that just about everything out there that's computerized has been or is subject to being hacked into. If Google or anyone else wants to pretend a network connecting driver-less cars together is at no risk of a hack, just because of the level of encryption used? Then I'd have to ask why just about every credit card out there has been downloaded by hackers at least once in the last couple years? Are you say nobody else ever though to use military grade encryption and all along, that's been the whole issue?!

There's going to be a lot of motivation to hack such a network, too. (Think of all the people who'd love to have a secret "mode" rigged up on their personal vehicle so if they press a button, their car suddenly takes priority over everyone else on the road and forces them to yield to it!)

I will say, though -- I'm far less swayed by your argument about "owning your mobility". I think anyone buying or leasing a vehicle is already doing that, regardless of how the driving is accomplished. You're expressing your freedom by telling your car where to go and when, just like you are when you get behind the wheel and drive it there. If you're referring more to wanting to drive off-road? Well, I think there's going to continue to be a demand for manually driven vehicles for off-road use (like Jeeps) -- where they'll probably operate in a driver-less mode OR manual control. But statistically., the majority of people who buy an off-road vehicle never even use it off of the public streets ..... so it's truthfully only a niche market who cares about that capability.

Comment: Re: Sennheiser (Score 1) 253

by King_TJ (#47084849) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Tech Customers Forced Into Supporting Each Other?

Yeah, no doubt the earbuds don't cost nearly as much to manufacture as the sale price on them. There's just not THAT much to a pair of them, no matter who sells them. But to be fair, the big difference in sound quality of the more expensive ones comes largely due to money invested up-front in R&Ding a specific pair. (You can bet companies like Skullcandy don't get sound engineers as deeply involved with the production process as Sennheiser does.) They have to roll the development costs into the product price too.

Comment: RE: No idea what support costs (Score 2) 253

by King_TJ (#47084829) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Tech Customers Forced Into Supporting Each Other?

I think part of the problem is, people simply have no idea how many other people are calling in with issues on the same product!

At one of my old jobs, I remember constantly getting called on by the boss to help with his HP printer issues -- both in the office and sometimes at home. He'd volunteer to drive me out to his place over lunch (and usually buy me lunch as compensation) to take a look at it for him.

Truthfully, most of his issues were bugs that MANY, MANY people using multiple HP wireless printers were running into, as evidenced by Google searches on it. He used to complain and complain about how long he had to wait on hold to talk to reps at HP, who would then spend HOURS remote-controlling in to his computer(s) to try to iron everything out. Yet he was sure these issues had to be fairly unique to his environment. He wouldn't accept the idea that lots of people experienced these issues, because in his mind, "HP wouldn't be able to afford to keep the products on store shelves if this was happening to too many people."

What I don't think he realized was that yes, that's exactly why he had to wait on hold for an hour or more each time, and struggle through tech support with language barriers. There were that many people calling in with issues! Apparently though, when you're the size of HP, it's still more cost-effective for the company to keep cranking out printers and all-in-one devices that have known software problems, and just take the calls as they come in. (I imagine the money is mostly made on the ink anyway, and HP is fine with people wasting ink and paper trying to get test or network config. pages to print, in an attempt to fix them when they quit talking on the network.)

Comment: re: Sennheiser (Score 1) 253

by King_TJ (#47084757) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Tech Customers Forced Into Supporting Each Other?

I don't think your example really proves much?

Sennheiser is a fairly large company that sells a lot of higher-end audio gear. It's quite possible they take a loss supporting the cheaper products in their line-up, but consider that an overall acceptable expense if it makes happy customers who eventually step up to their higher-end products.

The real problems with support come in with the companies who really only specialize in the cheaper items. Say you primarily sell 4-port USB hubs and generic 3-button mice for laptops? Or say you specialize in selling 3rd. party replacements for cellphone batteries? It's all a customer can really expect, IMO, to get a prompt exchange or refund for a clearly defective item within the stated warranty period. A toll-free number to get live support on these things isn't financially sensible.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments