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Comment: Re:So to prevent tornados... (Score 2) 99

by tlambert (#48643887) Attached to: Birds Fled Area Before Tornadoes Appeared

Predict - maybe. I don't think the birds could have prevented the tornadoes if they had tried.

Get with the program: tornados come to places that birds aren't. Force the birds to stay, the tornados can't come to the area. African and European swallows would work equally well for this purpose. It's like magnets... :)

Comment: Re:Fun with Cult Missionaries (Score 1) 245

A friend and his wife once made super cookies in the form of "666' and served them up with cans of ice-cold Coke. The Mormon missionaries looked at each other and said "they sensed a spirit of confrontation" and left. They died laughing after they left. They never received additional visits.

A missionary friend of mine would have politely thanked them for the "999" cookies, and then spent as long as they'd tolerate talking about the LDS church. It's wrong to point at religious people, and claim that they have no sense of humor about themselves.

Comment: Why it's Microsoft's problem (Score 1) 245

I don't understand why this is Microsoft's problem. Why would you complain to Microsoft about this and not your attorney general? If someone is selling fake Rolexes on the street, you don't complain to Rolex..

Why it's Microsoft's problem

Because the people being scammed do not have standing before the court to make a claim of fraudulent use of trademark on behalf of Microsoft. Only Microsoft, as holder of the trademark, has the right to make such a claim.

Until Microsoft makes the claim, if it has received even one notification of the fraudulent use of its trademark, subsequent use of its trademark without a complaint by Microsoft can legally constitute tacit permission, and enough of that, and the trademark becomes a generic term (like "asprin", which was a trademark of AG Bayer, until they failed to defend it from being applied generically).

I imagine that Microsoft actually doesn't care if you get scammed (and would actually prefer it, so long as it mostly impacts Windows XP users, and not Windows 7/8 users), but they don't want to risk losing their trademark on the name "Microsoft" over it.

Comment: Game construction kits (Score 2) 120

by tlambert (#48638585) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Resources For Kids Who Want To Make Games?

Game construction kits:

Stuart Smith's Adventure Construction Set
Racing Destruction Set
Pinball Construction Set
Arcade Game Construction Kit
Shoot'Em-Up Construction Kit
Garry Kitchen's GameMaker

Run them on a real Commodore 64, or run them in an emulator. Images are available online for all these software titles.

See also: http://www.lemon64.com/?game_i...

Comment: Re:In related news... (Score 1) 201

by tlambert (#48632777) Attached to: Investigation: Apple Failing To Protect Chinese Factory Workers

It is commonplace for US manufacturers to require their contracted facilities overseas to meet standards for ethics. treatment of workers, and environmental impact. The fact that Apple has such low standards to begin with, and doesn't even enforce them, should be bothersome.

Short of stationing an observer in every room of a factory floor room currently being used to manufacture Apple products, there's no way to do this short of spot checks, with the hope that the translators and government assigned handlers are not in the pay of the factory operator, and don't "phone ahead" so that these audit come out clean. Frankly, given that changing configuration between "unclean" and "clean", and then back to "unclean", would likely be prohibitively expensive, so as long as the spot checks are ongoing, the conditions are going to be the best that you can hope for, and still be in China.

My company has walked away from China over these issues and moved production back to the US over the last three years, mainly over issues of labor treatment.

I think the straw that broke the camel's back was when one of our products failed incoming inspection, and when we opened it up, there was a finger inside. The worker literally lost a finger during the production of one of our products.

I think if they were finding fingers in products during servicing or inspection (which in the U.S., for Apple, is contracted out to Solectron), there would be hell to pay, so I'll take that particular story as anecdotal/apocryphal, unless you can cite a news story to that effect.

Walking away from China manufacturing is generally not an option, when the cost per unit quality of, say, U.S. workers, prices them very much out of the range of possibility. If Apple were to wholesale drop Chinese manufacturing as an option (as you say your company has done), obviously, the COGS would go up, and with it, the cost to the consumer for the product. The factories would be relocated elsewhere to either some other Southeast Asia country, or to Eastern Europe (which is where iPhones are put through final manufacture so that it takes place in the EU and therefore avoids the non-EU product import VAT that would otherwise be charged as a protectionist measure by the EU).

Either way, if you expect those jobs to come back to the U.S. without a change in MFN status for China, and a change in international tariff structures to enforce U.S. environmental and labor policy on trading partners facilities used to manufacture goods sold in the U.S., as Steve Jobs told Obama: "Those jobs are gone; they're not coming back".

Even were they to come back under those circumstances, they would be coming back to automated factories in non-union states, so those jobs are effectively gone forever, either way.

If we suddenly froze trade relations with China, it would have the same effect: the closes you could expect those jobs to come to a U.S. worker would be the Maquiladoras, which, economically speaking, pay about 25% of a Mexican living wage for supporting a family, which is significantly less, in terms of subsistence, than the Chinese workers in Shenzhen are getting, which is a significant surplus over 200% of what it takes to support a family on a workers wages.

Find all the fingers you want, those jobs will never be U.S. jobs again.

Comment: Why what police force get involved when... (Score 5, Informative) 555

by tlambert (#48632647) Attached to: FBI Confirms Open Investigation Into Gamergate

Well, that was mostly the cynic in me writing, but on the other hand, isn't a threat made against a single individual typically handled by the police? Why would FBI feel the need to get involved? Or is this on of the "because it happened on the Internet it's different" kind of situations?
Government agencies overstepping their boundaries and getting involved in things that aren't their business is certainly a reason for concern.

Why what police force get involved when...

This is a basic, 50,000 foot view; it's not intended to cover all the details, and corrections gratefully accepted, but I believe this covers the gist of it...

It's pretty clear that the threats, particularly against the appearance of Anita Sarkeesian at Utah State University were, at a minimum, interstate.

When the threats cross a state line, the move from local police jurisdiction to federal police (FBI) jurisdiction, since police forces may only operate within their own jurisdictions. If the crime spans larger jurisdictions, such as adjacent cities within a county, or adjacent counties within a state, then it may be handled by an inter-agency task force. If it gets bigger than that, then the next larger jurisdiction encapsulating the jurisdictions involved takes ownership. The jurisdictions and agencies, are as follows:

Within a city: The city police force
Within a county: The county sheriff
Within a state: The CBI (California Bureau of Investigation - agency name varies by state)
Interstate: The FBI
International: Interpol

Within these classifications, inferior jurisdictions are often acted to cooperate/participate in the investigatory legwork, arrest operations, searches, evidence gathering, forensic work (autopsy, crime scene investigation, and so on).


When a crime occurs on a federal lands or reservations, the FBI always has jurisdiction. For "indian reservations", investigator power lies in both the FBI and in the tribal police force (depending on the nature of the crime).

When a crime occurs on a military base, the investigatory power lies within the branch of the military; for most crimes, this is the MPs or Military Police. For more serious crime, or crimes involving military personnel not on base, or non-military and military personnel both, it goes by branch of service:

Navy, Marine, Coast Guard: NCIS - Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Army: USACIDC or CID - Criminal Investigation Division of the Army Provost's office
Air Force: AFOSI or OSI - Office of Special Investigations

Generally, anything involving a civilian, or occurring off base, ands up being a joint investigation with local authorities, which can include authorities in other countries (e.g. naval bases in Japan, air force bases in Germany, etc.).

For terrorist threats, USDHS - DHS - the Department of Homeland Security - gets involved. They are probably already involved in the Utah State University threat. At that pint, they can call on the capabilities and services of agencies such as the DOJ (Federal Marshals office), the NSA (which is allowed to operate domestically), the CIA (which is allowed to operate extranationally), the DIA (which is allowed to operate with regard to foreign military), and so on.

All in all, the more something escalates in terms of geographic reach, or in terms of threat level, the higher up the food chain you go, further and further into territories where you do not want to be. At some point in the escalation process, you get to the stratospheric regions where people simply "disappear" (otherwise known as "extraordinary rendition").

Does that answer your question?

Comment: In related news... (Score 1) 201

by tlambert (#48632217) Attached to: Investigation: Apple Failing To Protect Chinese Factory Workers

In related news... Apple is continuing to deny responsibility for space junk launched into space by Boeing, which is known to use Apple products, and has repeatedly dodged questions about their sole responsibility for the existence of Somali pirates, who are known to have held hostage container ships containing one or more containers of Apple products, among the many thousands of containers aboard.

Oh. I'm sorry... weren't we playing the "Blame Apple for the actions of other people" game?

Comment: Re:Question. (Score 1) 201

by tlambert (#48632169) Attached to: Investigation: Apple Failing To Protect Chinese Factory Workers

Question. Why do they work people so hard instead of just hiring more people? Are these guys salaried instead of hourly? Is it about keeping down costs on training or employee benefits like dormitories they don't think they can operate without? It can't be a massive labor shortage or the employees would quit and find somewhere else to work...

The cost to the company for an employee includes more than just that employee' hourly wage, and much of it is not fungible.

This is why in the U.S. we have 3 people working 40 hour weeks, instead of 4 people working 30 hour weeks. In order to reduce the work week length, we'd need to be able to make 3x40 equivalent to 4x30 for the employer. Most of the overhead that makes this losing math is associated with government, although there's also per employee equipment costs and space costs at the worksite. Everything else is pretty much unfunded government mandates per employee, so that the more employees you have, the higher your costs.

Comment: Take advantage of the system (Score 1) 280

by tlambert (#48613891) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

Take advantage of the system

(1) Find the best college or community college that'll have you as an English teacher
(2) Teach English for small $
(3) Take advantage of the perquisite that you get to take some amount of free classes because you are faculty
(4) Finish an associates in a STEM field. An associates is transferrable, even if credits are not (I suggest microbiology)
(5) Either transfer as a student, or, if it's a good college, finish your bachelors degree there
(6) ...While still teaching, if you can; 1-2 years experience teaching at a college level puts you higher on the hire list

NB: "Good college" is relative; you will generally get out of any program what you put into it.

Comment: People without degrees tend to lack the vocabulary (Score 2) 280

by tlambert (#48613807) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

People without CS degrees tend to lack the vocabulary necessary to communicate efficiently with their peers about CS topics in situations where they are required to work on a team. Big "O" notation, names of algorithms, breadth of algorithmic knowledge, etc..

If you are not going to be working on a team (and it's the rare company who does not believe they will become larger in the future), then a portfolio of previous work is generally acceptable.

Because companies believe they will grow, you are most suited to being a consultant, or, alternately, working for a consulting firm.

I've frequently considered creating a "vocabulary test", along the lines of those multiple choice test games passed around on Facebook; the problem with doing that, however, is people would "learn to the test"; and while it would be a form of education for them, as a result they would successfully get their foot inside the door of place where they would ultimately not be successful. This would not be a service to either them, or the places which hire them. To be effective, it would have to end up growing to the point that it might as well be a certification exam. And still, people would learn to the test, instead of having any depth of knowledge necessary to communicate with those who do.

Comment: Linking Drought and Los Angeles: Easy To Do (Score 1) 222

by tlambert (#48607563) Attached to: Linking Drought and Climate Change: Difficult To Do

Linking Drought and Los Angeles: Easy To Do

Northern California sends most of their water south to Los Angeles so that they can grow water intensive crops like walnuts, rice, avocados, etc., when other crops would take hugely less water (but not be as profitable). Sadly, agribusiness pays a deeply discounted price than the rest of us, so we're effectively subsidizing their shrinking water bills with our ballooning ones.

If Los Angeles would just *catch* their run-off, instead of dumping it into the ocean using their huge drainage system you tend to see in Terminator movie car chases, and walked down at the end of Buckaroo Banzai, they wouldn't need to take all the water from Northern California, or most of the water from the Colorado river.

How much of the recent torrential rains in California that happened to land in the Los Angeles area do you think ended up in storage systems, vs. the ocean? I'll give you a hint: not a lot.

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A guinea pig is not from Guinea but a rodent from South America.