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Comment: Why track with GPS? (Score 1) 815

by RobinH (#49736487) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

There's a lot of talk about the fact that this would mean tracking everywhere you went. Why not just track miles driven by your odometer? I don't know about Oregon, but here you report your odometer reading when you pay for your license plate. You could just also pay the estimated tax (you already tell your insurance company how far you're probably going to drive) when you license your vehicle, and then pay/receive the difference when you re-register it next year, plus when you sell it. Seems a lot simpler and less expensive than a GPS tracker.

Also, seems like there should be a per-distance tax for roads, plus a gas consumption tax just to cover the increased societal costs of using gas. Use the gas tax to build out charging stations.

Comment: Re:I'd like to see the environmental nightmare die (Score 1) 369

by RobinH (#49643763) Attached to: Keurig Stock Drops, Says It Was Wrong About DRM Coffee Pods
Yeah, no kidding. My wife wanted one for Christmas, so she got one (not from me). Thankfully it's a Keurig 1.0. I insisted on finding one of the good re-usable stainless steel filters and I just put regular ground coffee in it. Works great for me. She only cares about the convenience, and won't use the re-usable one. It's sad to me, but it's her choice. Honestly, how people can think throwing out all these plastic k-cups are a great idea is beyond me.

Comment: Re:Can't wait to get this installed in my house (Score 1) 514

by RobinH (#49594301) Attached to: Tesla Announces Home Battery System
I also live in Ontario and did a calculation for that based on prices of Chinese lithium ion batteries at the time (6 months ago). Back of the napkins said it would be greater than 10 years to get a payback, but the prices are still dropping. I'd say this kind of stuff is going to happen soon. I recently installed a whole home power monitor for interest sake, and honestly for $3500 even if it paid itself back to break-even over the 10 year warranty period it would be an interesting project to take on. Still I imaging the switching equipment you need to install along with this is pretty serious cost, and I don't think this comes with a charger/inverter either.

Comment: Re:The third factor (Score 1) 385

by RobinH (#49502783) Attached to: Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?

There is some truth to this. I am a "successful" programmer (in my opinion, since I get paid to do it and people are generally happy with the results). My job every day consists of a series of frustrating problems where the solution is not obvious, but I'm sure it should be possible to solve it. A 3rd party library causes a heap corruption about once a week, or customers refuse to send data files in a consistent format. The print spooler service keeps stopping.

People come to me with the *simplest* of problems, and they can't even be bothered to type their question into Google, let alone *read* the results that come up! Most people aren't even willing to try it or learn for themselves, just waiting for someone's permission, I guess.

"It just doesn't work" is such a commonly repeated phrase, right next to "the Internet's not working". What doesn't work? Did you try doing it like this? Did it work yesterday? Has it ever worked? Can anyone else get it to work? Don't you want to know how it works? Do you even want it to work, or are you just relieved that you have something external to blame for why you couldn't get your work done?

Seriously, the key to success is just not giving up when you know something's possible.

Comment: Difference (Score 3, Interesting) 254

by RobinH (#49501257) Attached to: The Upsides of a Surveillance Society
There's a difference between a "surveillance society" which is where a small class of people or organizations owns or has access to all the surveillance, or just a "public society" where lots of private individuals have cameras, phones, etc., and decent means of communication. In the latter case, it's the people (society) who actually have the power. It's much more democratic, i.e. "I'm publicly shaming this person because the vast majority of people feel their behavior is unacceptable." In the former, it's about centralized power, i.e. "Make this person's life miserable because they're a threat to my power." I'm all for distributed cameras and communications, I just wish people would keep the data local by default, and not provide it so willingly to 3rd parties to aggregate it.

Comment: Re:"Knowledge-based" questions are really bad (Score 1) 349

by RobinH (#49376525) Attached to: Sign Up At irs.gov Before Crooks Do It For You
I guess I wasn't clear when I posted. These questions weren't things I'd entered, it sent me to a 3rd party site to validate me, like Equifax or something. Also, now that I think about it a bit more, it was a Canada Revenue site some time last year (2014), not my bank. Hmmm, very disturbing.

Comment: "Knowledge-based" questions are really bad (Score 5, Informative) 349

by RobinH (#49373229) Attached to: Sign Up At irs.gov Before Crooks Do It For You
I was signing up for something through my bank, and it was asking me some of these questions like, "Which of these employers did you previously work for?" Unfortunately none of them were correct (this wasn't a huge surprise because I had already tried to correct my credit report information... they seem to have me confused with someone else). That meant I couldn't continue, but it turns out if you start the test over again, it gives you the same question but randomly selects the "wrong" answers. All I had to do was remember what the original multiple-choice answers were, and pick the one that didn't change. Basically that means there's almost zero security with this method of authentication.

Comment: Re:Why SSD in a "do-nothing" PC ? (Score 4, Interesting) 93

I have upgraded 4 computers from HDD to SSD's since Christmas. They were all from 2 to 5 years old, and all of them run like they're a brand new computer. They boot amazingly fast, and they launch programs really fast. Compiling is much, much better too. I wouldn't ever go back to a rotating hard drive for anything other than long term archival storage now. Maybe I'd do a hybrid drive, but really around $100 or so for 240GB is a really nice sweet spot at the moment.

Comment: Stop with the sending my data elsewhere (Score 1) 47

by RobinH (#49340841) Attached to: Dueling Home Automation Systems at SXSW (Video)

I've been doing home automation stuff on and off for about 10 years now. It seems like every new device in the past few years has to have a connection to the internet and be controlled through a web-connected app. In some ways I kind of understand this: so many people have a smartphone, and they already know how to get it online, so if you connect your "IoT" device to the internet then you kind of get your remote control for free.

However, the whole idea of broadcasting data from the inside of my house to some 3rd party server on the internet is such a crazy idea. I recently installed a whole home energy monitor (it monitors the incoming feed and a bunch of the main branch circuits). It does come with software that I was running on a local PC, but the main way that they recommend to use it is to sign up for an online service (around $2/month) and have it upload your data there. Since their software wasn't great, I was tempted to do that... for about 10 seconds. Do you realize how much personal information that would mean transmitting to a 3rd party?When your stove, microwave, dishwasher, and washer/dryer runs? No way! Looking at the data it's pretty easy to pinpoint when we're there and when we aren't. In the end, I opted to write my own logging and reporting software, and that gave me the ability to add some useful features, like emailing me if the backup sump pump turns on (meaning my main sump pump has stopped working for some reason). Still, most people just have to take what's offered, and I think that's pretty scary.

Also consider the nest thermostat, which has an occupancy sensor, or the Xbox 360 which has a camera that's reportedly "on" all the time looking at your living room. This isn't a good idea.

Comment: Re:From a simpler era (Score 1) 95

by RobinH (#49309149) Attached to: South Korea Begins To Deprecate ActiveX
To be fair, comparing ActiveX to Java is incorrect. The counterpart in the Java world of ActiveX is the "Java Applet" which, along with ActiveX, really needs to go away. Writing a self-hosted Java program is no different than a .NET program, and neither one are going away any time soon. JavaScript, however, only had one serious competitor: VBScript. JavaScript won. It's the best thing we have for rich client functionality, and it's not going away any time soon, even though, I think, HTML5 is going to absorb some of the heavy lifting that JavaScript is doing. Going forward it should all be JavaScript and browser makers need to take JavaScript sandboxing seriously.