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Comment: Very normal (Score 2) 201

by Orgasmatron (#47709897) Attached to: Comcast Training Materials Leaked

And has been for decades. Every customer contact is a sales opportunity. EVERY contact.

After the dot com bust (the first one), I had bills to pay, so I ended up in a call center for the local cable company. It wasn't quite the low point of my life, but it was in the running.

The call center was brand new, and the high speed data side was briefly allowed to operate normally, but soon company politics pushed out the (technical) director, and replaced him with a MBA (and EEOC-bingo winner).

We were all trained to sell, instructed to sell on every call, and evaluated on selling. This was policy from day one, but widely ignored in my department until the MBA took over.

I earned a reputation for solving problems. Incompetent or uncaring employees would fail to fix things over and over again, pissing off customers. After months of continuing problems, they would call to yell. Usually, they'd end up getting more excuses and empty promises. Sometimes they'd get me (or one of a handful of other fixers).

I'd mute my microphone until they were done venting, then I'd figure out what the hell was wrong, and get it fixed, often with a generous service credit to appease them for the months that we'd dicked them around.

Over a few months, I solved hundreds of problems (some going back for many months or years), probably prevented at least a couple of suicides (monopoly, it was us or nothing) and maybe a mass shooting or two (yes, some of them really were that angry).

One thing I know for sure is that none of those problem calls wanted a fucking sales pitch. "Mr. Smith, now that I've fixed the problem that has prevented you from using the service that you've been paying for these last six months, and you've put your guns away, can I upsell you into a premium package?" Yeah, right. Maybe they'd be interested in an upgrade in a few months, after we'd re-established a bit of trust, but not right away.

One of my randomly selected evaluation calls happened to be one of my problem calls. The recording followed the call through our system, so it started with 20 minutes of him yelling at one of the sales girls, then her calling me in tears asking to transfer the call, then him yelling at me, then me figuring out the problem and fixing it, then him thanking me, almost in tears himself.

I had an awesome score on that call, but still failed the review because selling was mandatory. I told my supervisor that he'd better screen my review calls from then on because I had no intention of following the policy. He could either run interference for me and keep me around until one of my interviews panned out, or he could write me up for my second and third strikes as they came up.

I was gone before my next review came up, so I have no idea what he decided.

I kept in touch with some friends, and still lived in their service area. The call center went downhill from there. They switched to a voice attendant, so even the people that were happy when they dialed their phones were pissed off by the time they managed to talk to a human. I know I always was. (At first they had a backdoor, swearing three times would get you to a human quickly, but word got out and they disabled that feature.)

Moving to a non-monopoly town (three[!] fiber lines in my yard! 75 meg up/down for cheap!) was the wisest move of my internet life.

Comment: They might be right (Score 5, Informative) 534

I work for local government (in a different state). A number of cities and counties around the state have banded together to manage custom software projects, etc, using a legal device known as a "Joint Powers Agreement".

The JPA creates a legal entity, much the same way that a contract creates a trust. This entity is essentially a delegation of authority from the various local government entities that constitute it, so it has some strange properties. For example, it has bank accounts, employs staff, rents an office, etc, but does not file tax returns.

It also, as far as our lawyers can tell, is exempt from all data practices laws. This isn't the end run you might seem to think. If a data request comes in to the entity, the staff there tells them to contact the relevant member entity. The requestor can then ask me (for example), and I am obligated to collect the data from my systems, and from the organization.

Basically, the legal reasoning is that the entity doesn't own anything, it merely possesses things on the behalf of the member entities. This is also why it doesn't file tax returns.

I don't know the legal situation in Massachusetts, but these are principles that derive from western jurisprudence in general, rather than from the laws of my state, so I suspect it is pretty similar. No idea where the 501(c)(3) thing comes in. I suspect that is more about being able to accept donations than anything else.

Personally, I think the citizens of that state should ask their legislature to pass a law to require such entities to respond to information requests, if that entity is involved in police operations. It is in the public interest to be able to request data from a consolidated entity of this nature, rather than having to deal with each individual member entity.

Comment: Re:records go back to 1880, very funny (Score 1) 547

The difference, of course, is that 0 and 1 are integers. They have infinite precision. Batting records are not +/- x, they are discrete; the records never indicate that a batter got 0.97 or 0.05 hits during an at bat.

We could adopt the convention of saying that a given batter has hit 60-of-200 or whatever, but it is more useful to normalize that down to .300 batting average so that we can compare him to the guy that has 221-of-743. But in the end, the batting average is really just shorthand for the actual ratio of discrete events.

A temperature measurements is not a discrete event and temperature "averages" are not a simple ratio of them.

The average of 14 +/-1 and 31 +/- 1 is not 22.500, it is the range [21.5-23.5].

Comment: Re:We'll its Bush's fault (Score 2) 372

Maybe it has something to do with the IRS not being in the White House, and not using the White House's email system.

Or maybe it has something to do with the article itself saying that the White House's email system archives everything, and has been in place "since Obama took office", which most people would suppose means 2009, not a year after the 2010 article discussing the system in the past tense.

Comment: Re:Monopolies? (Score 1) 258

by Orgasmatron (#46960629) Attached to: The Mere Promise of Google Fiber Sends Rivals Scrambling


I live in a semi-rural area outside of a small town that has never (or at least not recently) granted a cable monopoly. My house is serviced by two fiber networks, both relatively cheap.

I moved here from a big city that has had a cable monopoly since before I was born. No home anywhere in that city has access to even a single fiber service, but a few huge institutions have been able to get it recently.

A while back, the cable company pulled a move straight out of Thunderdome by threatening to literally shut everything down if the city ran their own fiber lines to connect their own buildings instead of leasing them.

There are two smaller cable companies that lobby the city council and the state PUC 24/7 in hopes of getting the monopoly lifted so that they can move in and compete. They have detailed plans for running their own fiber networks. Actually, the incumbent had to back off on the Master Blaster thing when the challengers offered to hire every trainable person in the region and work around the clock to build a new network and restore service citywide in 4 months.

So, yeah. If you think that economics prevents cable competition, instead of governments, you've been lied to.

P.S. Cities are swimming in public land, most commonly the right-of-way on a road, which is wider than you probably think. No cable, phone, or electrical distribution network ever really needs to use eminent domain.

Comment: the struggle (Score 1) 600

by Orgasmatron (#46820051) Attached to: The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science
Pay attention! There are people around you that do not conform to the current orthodoxy. They are, at best, ignorant twits, and at worst, enemies of the people. It is your duty to ridicule them and mock them. If they do not recant, you may need to increase your efforts.

Be careful about dehumanizing people that you disagree with. Someone disagrees with you too, and we all know what comes next in this movie.

There are damn few scientists doing science these days, but "scientists" willing, for a buck, to spread a thin veneer of justification over your own bias and hate are readily available.

Comment: Re:Dear slashdot, (Score 1) 92

by Orgasmatron (#46708249) Attached to: MtGox's "Transaction Malleability" Claim Dismissed By Researchers

No, there is no intention to tighten the blockchain rules at this time. This would cause a hard fork, and breaking compatibility with old versions is not considered lightly.

Mtgox's software is unique. The reference client, for example, can not be fooled by changing transaction IDs. The frequency of success at actually winning the race to get the modified version into a block only matters if you've written your own software that is totally reliant on transaction IDs.

There are two values, each with a 1 in 256 chance. 1/256 + 1/256 = 1/128.

Bitcoin tends to attract fame-seeking researchers making wild claims. This is no different. The paper would be correct if the claim was narrower, that "this one type of mutation out of the many kinds possible, and which no one has suggested as a culprit, was not involved". But the paper is written to make a much broader claim, and I haven't seen the authors going out of their way to mitigate that misunderstanding in the press, much the opposite.

Comment: Re:Dear slashdot, (Score 1) 92

by Orgasmatron (#46707175) Attached to: MtGox's "Transaction Malleability" Claim Dismissed By Researchers

I didn't say that mutated transactions didn't exist, or that the researchers haven't actually seen any.

They certainly do exist, and I have no reason to doubt that the researchers have found some in the wild.

I'm saying that if such an attack had been responsible for Mtgox's woes (which I and, I think, most others find extremely unlikely), they would not be visible using the methodology discussed in this paper.

Comment: Re:Dear slashdot, (Score 1) 92

by Orgasmatron (#46707067) Attached to: MtGox's "Transaction Malleability" Claim Dismissed By Researchers

In my opinion, this was most likely incompetence. Or, possibly Mtgox stole from their users (or Mark stole from his own company, which is the same, as far as I'm concerned).

It is extremely unlikely, in my view, that transaction malleability played much of a role.

A malleability exploit is something that people might be willing to accept as "could have happened to anyone", so I think it was tried as cover for incompetence of the more ordinary "not clever enough to safely hold other people's money" variety.

Comment: Re:Dear slashdot, (Score 1) 92

by Orgasmatron (#46706863) Attached to: MtGox's "Transaction Malleability" Claim Dismissed By Researchers
The signature is two values (r,s). These values are stored and transmitted as binary strings. They have a maximum length, but not a minimum. So, if your calculated r is less than 2^248, the most significant byte is all zeros, ditto 2^240 and the next byte.

The spec says to minimize the encoding, but openssl accepts the padded form. The bitcoin software started refusing to relay transactions with improperly padded transactions, even though they are still valid, if they make it into a block.

So, as the new version got more popular, the odds of a padded transaction being spread from mtgox to a miner decreased. Note that this only matters for less than 1% of transactions from gox, those that by chance ended up with unusually small values.

At some point, they basically never spread across the network, but were available through an API. The claimed attack is that people took these transactions, fixed them, and broadcast them. The fixed version would spread, but the original would not.

In this case, you would never see these as modified transactions by looking at the network, which is what this paper was looking at.

There are other ways to mutate transactions that are visible on the network, but they don't work very often, since it involves accepting a transaction over the p2p network, changing it, then broadcasting your version in hopes of winning the race to reach a miner first. These do happen, and the researchers do see them. But they aren't particularly useful for scamming mtgox (or anyone else).

Oh, and did you notice that less than 1% of transactions were vulnerable to the real attack? To extract large sums, you'd need to constantly churn huge bitcoin values into and out of mtgox, profiting on roughly one cycle out of every 128. This would have left huge traces in the blockchain, which no one has noticed so far.

Comment: Dear slashdot, (Score 5, Interesting) 92

by Orgasmatron (#46704951) Attached to: MtGox's "Transaction Malleability" Claim Dismissed By Researchers
This paper has already been widely dismissed by the bitcoin community. Not that we necessarily think that Mtgox was actually hit by a malleability attack. Just that this paper is nonsense.

The very short version is that what these "researchers" were looking at isn't actually how the alleged bug would have worked.

Comment: Junk (Score 2) 367

by Orgasmatron (#46599203) Attached to: More Than 1 In 4 Car Crashes Involve Cellphone Use

This is a page out of MADD's playbook.

Accident report forms are used to collect statistical data. Like a game of Telephone, as you get further from the event, the more the "data" reflects the currently prevailing biases.

Here is an example, one that has been documented by researchers trying to figure out where bullshit MADD claims were coming from:

Drunk pedestrian steps out in front of a car, gets hit and killed. The "Fatality" box gets checked, of course. The pedestrian's alcohol box also gets checked.

Now a researcher comes along and compiles them into alcohol-involved vs alcohol-free.

Then a second researcher comes along and looks at the alcohol-involved accidents and counts how many of them were fatalities. Sadly, this guy doesn't bother looking at the primary data, he just assumes that the alcohol involved was in the blood of the driver that caused the accident.

Bam! A drunk pedestrian has morphed into a drunk driver. And since there is lots of money to be had by producing statistics that support neo-prohibition, and none to speak of for honest research, the "researchers" are rewarded for their apathy.

Now imagine a checkbox on the accident report form labelled "cell phone present"...

Comment: Wrong title (Score 0) 301

by Orgasmatron (#46570969) Attached to: Researchers Find Problems With Rules of Bitcoin

Should be "Researchers Find Their Biases".

Really, nothing new here. I blame the soft "sciences" for lowering expectations, science reporters for breathlessly reporting sensationalist drivel instead of digging in, and the global warming cabal for trying to pass off the output of their numerical models as "data".

I've read a bunch of this crap, but not all of it. Just off the top of my head, the global consensus does not in any way resemble a state machine, and writing a paper using one to draw "conclusions" about the other is a study of gullibility, not of bitcoin. So far, that one is still my favorite academic "research" into bitcoin.

In many ways bitcoin is an experiment. There are indeed open questions. With the huge number of unknowns in the system, I will continue to be skeptical of people that claim to already know how the experiment will turn out.

Comment: Meanwhile... (Score 1) 653

by Orgasmatron (#46527139) Attached to: $30K Worth of Multimeters Must Be Destroyed Because They're Yellow

Actual intentional Fluke clones stream across the ocean in small lots from ebay every day. Some of these are presumably actual Fluke meters, just being sold by the factory directly, rather than through normal channels.

Plus the hilarious things like FUKE meters, which are very clearly inferior copies, but intentionally made to look similar.

And then the generic $3 meters in red, black, yellow, orange, green, whatever. Sometimes these come with a brand name you've never heard of, sometimes they are completely devoid of all identifying marks.

I'm guessing that way more than 2,000 of these have made it in the country so far this year, mostly with laughably and obviously bogus customs forms.

From reading the comments, it would appear that Fluke really did "invent" the yellow multimeter, and they have a legitimate concern about protecting their trade dress. But for most people (particularly those under 40 or 50), "cheap multimeter" (of any color) is a stronger brand than "yellow multimeter".

Comment: Re:Consistent, yet counter-productive. (Score 1) 1098

by Orgasmatron (#46063609) Attached to: FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

Ugh. It seems like it must be a lot of work to be so completely wrong about this.

Under the GPL, if someone makes improvements to the software and then distributes it, they MUST provide the source of those changes to the community.

Under non-copyleft licenses, they can make the changes, distribute the changed product, and tell the community to fuck off.

It isn't about harming anyone, it is about ensuring that those who benefit from the community's work contribute back to the community.

The bugs you have to avoid are the ones that give the user not only the inclination to get on a plane, but also the time. -- Kay Bostic