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Comment Re:Cool article... (Score 1) 129

If a serial killer killed you during your Uber ride, how would you give them a bad review?

Uber would know you didn't arrive. I suppose the serial killer could deliver your phone to your destination...

Also, you could start calling 911 or taking other action with your phone as soon as you realized something was going wrong. That wasn't an option for taxis when the current regulations were set up.

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 2) 275

Wrong, breeding for desired characteristic is an entirely different matter than what Monsanto is doing.

So, how do you feel about selective breeding processes that include drenching the organisms in radiation or mutagenic chemicals in order to dramatically increase the mutation rate? Nearly everything in your grocery store was bred via this method, which has been in use for at least a century, because it works really well. By massively increasing the mutation rate you can get your desired characteristics orders of magnitude faster than relying on natural mutations and cross-breeding.

If you're not okay with that method, then there's not much available for you to eat.

If you are okay with that method, can you explain how insertion of single gene to produce a desired effect is worse that thousands of random mutations, all of which are completely unknown outside of the immediately-observable phenotypic effects?

The fact is that humans have been doing various degrees of genetic engineering on our food crops for millenia, and massively increased it in the last couple of centuries (once Darwin explained how it worked). The methods of the last couple of decades are refinements which, if anything, should be dramatically safer than what came before, since the changes are smaller and better-controlled.

Comment Re:Cool article... (Score 1) 129

The taxi industry is regulated for very good reasons (one being safety)

I hear this all the time, but no one ever elaborates on what the reasons are. You said safety, but didn't say what the regulations are, how they are intended to affect safety and whether or not they really do.

One regulation that does make sense is the requirement that they carry commercial insurance policies. I think Uber has addressed that part (though I know some think Uber's solution inadequate).

As far as I can tell, the rest of the regulations are just an attempt to construct a functional reputation system in a context where little information is available to riders. By making it difficult and expensive for people to become cabbies, and relatively easy for them to lose that privilege, regulations ensure that only people who are serious about making taxi service a long-term business will do it. For exaple, this prevents J. Random Serial Killer from painting his car yellow and using it to pick up victims. Unless J. Random is also very wealthy, in which case he has lots of easier options. That's just one example, but the same line of reasoning applies to many other forms of abuse.

That all makes sense in a context where riders have no way to judge cabs other than by their appearance. But smartphones and the real-time, ubiquitous access to driver reputation databases they make available change the equation. Or so it seems to me.

Can anyone articulate precisely what other problems the regulations solve, and why the "rideshare" model (yes, I know it's not really ride sharing; let's discuss substantive issues, not quibble about naming) doesn't address them as well, or better? I'd like, for once, to have a conversation about this subject that goes beyond "Uber is exploitative and law-breaking!!!" and discusses the actual underlying issues. In what way, precisely, are cab regulations a better/safer/more efficient solution than ridesharing?

Comment Re:EU Privacy (Score 1) 58

Obviously you can't invert md5, but if I hash my list, and you hash your list, and there is significant overlap, you can, to a reasonable but not 100% certainty, figure out which items on my list correspond to items on your list.

Depends on how it's done. For example, the advertiser could generate a bloom filter and provide that, rather than hashes of individual items on the list. Assuming the false positive rate was tuned correctly, you can use this method to arrange to provide very little information, while still generating the matches you want (plus some). Most advertisers wouldn't know how to tune the false positive rate appropriately, of course, but Google could tell them.

That's just off the top of my head, first glance at the problem. I suspect that there are even cleverer techniques that could be used, and while I don't know any details of how this system works, I do know Google engineers, and Google privacy design policies and procedures, and I'd be shocked if there were any obvious way to extract personally-identifiable information, in either direction.

(Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer, but I'm speaking only for myself.)

Comment Re:Advice: Just cut up the card (Score 2) 324

Closing accounts can negatively affect your credit score by reducing available credit and time of oldest account (and possibly average age of accounts). If you try to maintain the same number of accounts, you also add to the number of applications, which is another negative against credit scores.

Comment Re:This is why you call your bank before tourism (Score 2) 324

My experience with Citi matches yours, but Chase seems to be on their game. Fraudulent transactions have triggered notifications within minutes of the transaction taking place, and they're very pleasant and professional when I call to discuss them.

Comment Re:This is why you call your bank before tourism (Score 3, Insightful) 324

Both of my frequent flier-linked cards have expressly said that there is no need to call and notify them. It doesn't really change much aside from them adding a note to the account which may or may not be read by the fraud investigator--if there is one. Every time my cards have been blocked, it's completely automated, and the programs aren't likely to examine notes left in the account.

Comment Re:Gun-free zone? (Score 1) 1146

Frankly, college students are adults, they should be able to have guns on campus.

Not all college students are mature enough to own a gun responsibly.

Apparently the college students in Utah are. Campus carry has been legal for more than a decade. Number of student shooting rampages: zero.

Comment Re:Gun-free zone? (Score 1) 1146

So what you're saying is that all (or virtually all) campuses are gun free, so the fact this specific campus is gun free is pretty much meaningless.

No, actually. Several US states permit firearms on campuses. See the map at (hover over each state to see its rules).

Comment Re:I much prefer... (Score 3, Informative) 278

...the way pedestrians act in Boston and New York: total chaos. People wander across the street randomly, and drivers are very aware that this is going to happen, so they slow down.

Interestingly, Boston and New York have very different pedestrian accident rates. New York has 1.52 pedestrian deaths per 100K, not much better than San Francisco's 1.70. Boston, though, has 0.79.

It's also worth pointing out that SF is actually safer for pedestrians than most big US cities. Boston appears to be the safest.

Comment Re:That'e exactly the wrong outcome! (Score 5, Interesting) 43

If they really want things to change, they should agree to work towards abolishing stupid patents---not to create semi-trusts that other companies have to fight.

Google has been spending tens of millions lobbying for patent reform, and only started to playing the patent game when it became clear that changing it wasn't going to work quickly enough -- though they haven't stopped trying to reform patents. The apparent contradiction has led some some pundits to question their motives, though I don't see that it's really a contradiction... the patent system is badly broken, but that doesn't mean Google can function in the industry as it is without playing the patent game. It's perfectly reasonable to play by rules you hate because that's what you have to do while simultaneously trying to change the rules.

Personally, I think software patents are a crock, but I'm listed as inventor on a few of them. I hate the game, but it is what it is so I play it while donating to organizations trying to change it. My rule is that I donate 50% of my patent bonuses to the EFF. I suppose if I were a better man I'd donate 100% (after taxes), but I do like to have some recompense for the effort I put into writing disclosures.

(Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer, but I'm speaking for myself only, not for Google.)

Comment Re: None of my cards have a chip! (Score 1) 316

I realize the limited value of anecdotal evidence, especially from cashiers. Some just shrug and say they don't know when they'll work. But when I do get answers, they're remarkably consistent about reported problems.

Aside from Home Depot, none of the stores I've been to in the last couple of months have working chip readers. That includes Sprouts, Tom Thumb, Kroger, 7-Eleven, CVS, or any of the myriad small stores. My wife works in a small retail shop and has asked, and was told that even with the newly-deployed chip readers, they're not likely to be active for several weeks or months yet.

It's not happening as fast as it was supposed to, and that's going to be a problem come tomorrow.

Comment Re: None of my cards have a chip! (Score 1) 316

I've asked dozens of stores in the last couple of months if I can use the chip reader, and they all say that they haven't enabled them (and some have said they don't have plans to enable them) because of problems with the activation of the chip readers. Two 7-Elevens told me that they had problems with double-charges, a big-box store (I don't remember which) said the cards didn't read properly all the time in tests, and several others have said as recently as last week that the required software hadn't been loaded yet because corporate was still testing upgrades. Many restaurants and stores don't even have chip readers yet.

If these are even partially accurate, then despite the long lead time, I suspect this is going to be a massive fiasco. Home Depot is the one place that I've been able to use the chip reader (and that was in July, IIRC) and it went flawlessly for the one or two transactions, but that's not to say that all of the tens of millions of other upgrades are going to work as well. I'm hoping the confusion dies down quickly, but I'm not counting on it.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. - Kahlil Gibran