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Comment: Re:Canada has the future :) (Score 1) 282

by SirAudioMan (#47446121) Attached to: Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

I'm Canadian and I agree with you on all of these points. When I visit the US I find it annoying that a) your paper money is such crappy quality, and b) it all looks the same making it harder to tell the difference in my wallet. I always end up with a million $1 bills because out of habit I end up breaking 5's, 10's and 20's to pay for things. In Canada, up until 1996 we still had $2 bills before the toonie (the $1 bill was changed to a loonie some time in the 80's).

The penny round just started a few years ago and nobody missed a beat! It only applied to cash transactions (not debit or credit, as those are billed in exact amounts). If I'm not mistaken, the cost to produce the penny is more than it's face value.

I have never understood why the US treasury doesn't just stop producing $1 bills and force a coin into circulation. That's what Canada did - nobody had any choice and it was preceded with much education about the new coins making sure people understood the coins were legal tender. $1 bills are quite rare now, as are some $2 bills, both of which are still legal tender. I remember when the toonie was introduced, NOBODY would give you funny looks and everybody accepted it. I suppose it's one of those funny differenced between our cultures like opinions on guns and public healthcare.

Comment: Coding = Practice, practice, practice (Score 1) 254

by SirAudioMan (#47286533) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Way to Learn C# For Game Programming?

As someone who has been coding non-professionally for 20+ years as mostly a hobby (though I have developed a few apps to make my life easier at work) here is my advice:

I started coding as a kid with QuickBasic, them moved on to VisualBasic (pre .NET), did some x86 assembly too. Back then I tried and tried to learn C/C++ over the years but never really liked it for some reason. I finally started with VB.Net 10 years ago. Initially I found it hard to make the move to .NET, but grew to really like it's power, bells and whistles. I didn't code for a few years, but did tinker around with PHP/Javascript which is a C-like syntax. This forced me into getting used to such simple things like brace brackets, semi-colons, etc, and I began to really like finding that switching back to the VB syntax was a bit of a pain (I kept adding those damn semi-colons at the end of each line!!!)

About 5-6 years ago I finally started to make the switch to C#. I started with re-writing an app entirely in C# (previous version was in VB.NET). This allowed me to translate/transfer my knowledge to a new syntax as they are both very similar thanks to the CLI. Eventually I had completely moved over to C# and was loving it. Over the last few years I have been into programming in C/C++ for the Arduino/Atmega, which has taught me a huge amount about embedded programming and mostly how C/C++ manages memory (gotta love pointers). Nothing (except maybe assembly) forces you to understand memory management like coding in C/C++. I am by no means an advanced C/C++ coder, but I am getting stronger every day and love just how much control I have with it!

Now my actual advice:
Start with C/C++ because in my opinion it's the hardest to master and teaches you the 'nitty gritty' of coding without all the crutches of the other language like garbage collectors, type safety, exception handling, and fancy libraries. If you can learn to code in C, or more specifically C++ you will be able to learn anything easy. But do it the other way and you may struggle due to bad habits and crutches the other languages teach you! I wished I had started out with C/C++ way back when, however hindsight is always 20/20!

Comment: Re:Not the same, but tangentially related... (Score 2) 93

by SirAudioMan (#46792913) Attached to: How Nest and FitBit Might Spy On You For Cash

I was going to post about this but you beat me to it! Each and every time I see those stupid Progressive commercials or similar I always think the same thing. Sure it seems innocent now, a reduction of 10-20% in your insurance rates now (woo hoo). But then next thing you know you are speeding (5-10 mph over) through a GREEN light with the flow of traffic and get T-boned. Now the person who T-boned you will likely get charged, and you will get off without a charge because you didn't cause the accident. The cop never caught you speeding so in the eyes of the law you are ok.

Now comes the Progressive monitoring device. Your insurance company has a policy (that you agreed too when you signed up with them) saying that they can pull the data from the monitoring unit at any time. Maybe it's even automatic telemetry where it get's reported in real-time. Your insurance company pays to have your car fixed, and all appears well. Six months later you notice your premiums go up drastically even through you were not at fault and were no charged by the police.

What has happened? Your insurance company has looked at the data and decided that because you were speeding you breaking the law and thus a higher risk driver! Bingo your rates increased and all because you VOLUNTARILY gave the insurance company the ability to monitor your every move. Insurance companies do NOT have your best interests in mind - their primary goal like all for-profit corporations is to MAKE money. They simply can't be trusted.

People say, yes but if I have one of those units and I never speed! I say, BS! I have very rarely met anybody who drives perfectly in the eyes of the insurance companies or the law. It's human nature to occasionally (or always) speed and break minor traffic laws.

Mark

Comment: Dell LCD Monitor (Score 1) 702

by SirAudioMan (#46790747) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

I have a Dell 2005FPW 20" LCD that I bough in 2004. I believe it was the first series of widescreens from Dell, this one being 16:10 with a res of 1680x1050. I remember when I first used it with Windows XP I had issues with Dell's drivers no supporting the WSXGA+ resolution correctly. It has support for VGA and DVI, plus a composite and s-video inputs too. I have thought about replacing it with a newer LED monitor but the damn thing wont die (knock on wood) and works just like the day I bought it!

Mark

Comment: In The Great White North Eh! (Score 5, Informative) 386

by SirAudioMan (#46756891) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

In Canada our tax day is April 30th...it's actually been extended this year several days due to the Heartbleed vulnerability found on the CRA's (Canada Revenue Agency is equivalent to the IRS) electronic filing servers. Yes, about 900 SIN numbers (similar to your SSN) were compromised!

Personal income tax forms (T1) are submitted to the Federal Government which includes any provincial forms/schedules that may be needed. All employment income is reported on a T4 as submitted by employers to the CRA but more importantly to each employee used to calculate any over/underpayments. There a dozens of other T forms for different things like investment income, educations deductions, etc.

Personally I report employment income, investment capital gains on my non-registered retirement savings, and this year some capital gains on a stock I sold to pay for tuition. I also report and deduct any retirement savings from my taxable income (RRSP's and Pension like a 401k). Generally, I have about 6-10 different papers that I need to co-ordinate before I begin to calculate things.

I used to use Intuit's TurboTax software, then switched to the online version but always found the software/website to be somewhat hard to use and poorly laid out. This year I found out about a new alternative web tax software for Canadian Tax called SimpleTax.ca. It's designed much better, and is actually free to use, plus it's CRA Netfile certified meaning it's been checked and verified by the Government. They ask for an optional donation at the end, which I'm sure is just temporary until they build a client base.

Normally I get a refund of anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on a number of factors such as EI, CPP and Income Tax overpayments PLUS the benefits of deducting registered retirement saving (this makes a huge difference).

Mark

Comment: Re:Cable is too locked down. (Score 1) 56

I agree with all your comments. I live in Ontario, Canada and most cableco's in Ontario (the big ones anyhow) encrypt almost all their channels using encrypted QAM. So they force you to buy/rent one of their expensive cable boxes just to access the channels ON TOP of paying for the channels themselves. Basically, built in tuners are useless if using cable.

Both the FCC (and it's equivalent in Canada, the CRTC) do very little to rein in the big telcos. I got tired of paying $150/month for digital cable and cut the cord. I now use Netflix and have recently started using OTA to pick up about a dozen channels in my area.

Mark

Comment: Re:throttling, crappy HD quality, is why I downloa (Score 1) 235

by SirAudioMan (#46290383) Attached to: FCC Planning Rule Changes To Restore US Net Neutrality

We have the same problem here in Canada too. Depending on where you live you have your choice of either ONE cable company or ONE DSL company. Now, by law the huge common carriers have to be able to sell their bandwidth and services to 3rd party providers. For example where I live in Ontario I have Cogeco (which now owns Atlantic Broadband down in the US btw, I also used to work for them for several years). They offer the typical internet, tv and voip where they charge an arm and a leg for service. When I was working for them I got discounts/free service (taxable however) for all three services. So for $30/month I received 15:2 Mbps internet, unlimited telephone in North America, and a few hundred cable channels with about 30-40 being in HD. While the internet is actually pretty good and doesn't appear to be throttled (yet), the cable channel quality sucks balls! HD channels are garbage with heavy heavy compression and random dropouts.

Fast forward to about 8 months ago when I left the company. My entire bill went from about $30 to $300!!!!! I originally ditched the cable channels completely and moved to Netflix where the quality is much better. I also ditched their voip telephone and moved over to Voip.ms with my own ATA. I still use the interent which includes a 'generous' 125Gb datacap with a $1.50/Gb of overage. Last month I had $21 in overages charges.

The other day I decided to make a simple wire loop antenna for picking up over-the-air HD signals just to see what I could pick up for free. I live about 40km west of Toronto and am am about 50km from Buffalo, NY. The results are impressive as I can easily get approx 20-25 full HD channels, most from Toronto and a few from Buffalo, NY. I calculated that with a better antenna I will be able to receive all the major Canadian and American networks in full 19Mbps ATSC. Not only is it free but the OTA HD broadcast are far superior to the QAM HD channels offered by cable.

Cost of services with cable (after I left the company):
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TV Channels, 250, but I only watched maybe 20-30 = $200/month
Unlimited Voip Telephone = $50/month
Internet, 15:2 Mbps with a 125 Gb Cap = $50
TOTAL: $300/month

Cost of what I have now:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TV Channels, 20-25 = $FREE and much better quality
Netflix = $8/month
Very cheap voip through Voip.ms = $3-5/month
Internet (same as above) = $65/month - I lost a bundle discount when I ditched tv and phone
TOTAL: $73/month

So by cord cutting I am saving a huge amount of money each month and basically have almost the same level of service as before. Sure I don't get Discovery or speciality channels like that but all that is on those channels is crappy reality TV anyhow. I do miss Nat Geo though :(

Mark

Comment: Similar Problem with 2007 models (Score 1) 359

by SirAudioMan (#45999469) Attached to: GPUs Dropping Dead In 2011 MacBook Pro Models

Years ago I bought a refurbished 2007 model 17" MBP that was less than year old when I ordered it from Apple's refurbished online store in 2008. Upon receiving it, ON FIRST BOOT I noticed a very similar problem. It would start to boot, video output was all distorted and then it would kernel panic! I ended up calling Apple as my unit did have a 30 or 60 day or something like that warranty. We tried a bunch of things like resetting the NVRAM, etc but the problem still occurred but only on hard boot from cold. I ended up taking pictures of the screen and sending them to Apple who then happily did a warranty swap with no questions asked. I still have the second MBP which worked greated for years. It never gets used now because it so old and the battery is shot but the build quality and ergonomics on those models were far superior to the new ones. I would love to install Linux on it but I wasn't able to get past the UEFI boot process.

Mark

Comment: Terms of Service and the lack of knowledge! (Score 2) 170

by SirAudioMan (#45859759) Attached to: Facebook Being Sued Over Mining of Private Messages

People always act surprised when they find out social media or similar services mine, distribute and sell their data. People fail to realize that the ToS legally allows these companies to do whatever they want with it (except for violating certain laws). Unfortunately, we live in a society where the instantaneous gratification of signing up for these services means people don't take the time to read these ToS. Let's be honest, who has ever taken the time (myself included) to read the Tos, EULA, etc of a product or service. We just blindly assume these companies can be trusted. I do try to exercise lots of caution and don't put personal or private stuff on Facebook, etc. It's gotta pass the grandmother test meaning what would my grandmother say if she saw it.

What I would like to see are new laws governing more transparency requiring clearer language instead of lengthy legalese and jargon. On any service you are always given the option of reading the ToS before clicking agree. As silly as it sounds, perhaps we need a system where users are forcefully presented with clear terms presented in a similar fashion as the side effects of medication as mandated by the FDA in TV commercials. Also, these ToS should not be able to be changed without clear communication as to what the changes are and the possible implications.

However, then perhaps the top 1% wouldn't be as rich as they are...lets remember:

1. Create fancy social media website or service
2. Bury crazy ToS in a long legalese document nobody would read, nevermind understand
3. Follow the ToS to the letter, quoting it when people complain
4. Profit!!!

Mark

Comment: It's about inspiring students... (Score 4, Interesting) 123

by SirAudioMan (#45695227) Attached to: Code.org Stats: 507MM LOC, 6.8MM Kids, 2K YouTube Views
I am 32 and have been coding for 20 years, mostly as a hobby but a short stint working in an IT apps department, and some coding for other work related things. It was 20 years ago when I was around 12 years old I got the itch to want to code. My father (who is a P. Eng) bought a computer in the mid 80's (it was a Compaq Deskpro 8086) when almost nobody had one. I started using it from a very early age, mostly for games, etc.

I started to notice my father would spend many hours working on something so I started asking him what he was doing. Being the type to turn everything into a teaching moment, he would explain that he was programming in Pascal. I thought it was cool that he could create programs, but didn't think much about it until a few years later when he bought a new PC. I saw him coding in QuickBasic 4.5 where he could program with graphics and compile to an EXE. I started asking more and more questions until he started to let me try it out. Soon I was hooked and learned all the basics and advanced stuff of QB, eventually moved on the Visual Basic, some assembly, and eventually into more modern stuff. Now I code in C#, C, C++, Javascript, PHP, and others and love it.

The point being, all those years ago my father inspired me and got me interested in coding at such a pivotal age. I have taken those skills and interests and applied them to many areas of my life even though I do not code for a career. The whole idea of Code.Org is to inspire and get kids interested in it. It fosters higher levels of thinking, feeling of accomplishments, and give them a purpose in life instead of just consuming things like games and mindless entertainment.

I think it's just great what they are doing, and having Gates and Zuckerburg as spokesman is also great!

Comment: What We've Got Here Is Failure to Innovate (Score 5, Insightful) 118

by SirAudioMan (#45101117) Attached to: BlackBerry Founders May Try To Take Over the Company
...and a huge amount of bloat as a company that only produces ONE product! About 5-6 years ago I used to spend many weekends (dating my future wife) in Waterloo, Ontario, where the BlackBerry/RIM's headquarters are located. I was always amazed at just how many buildings were scattered around the city just dedicated to RIM. It always seemed excessive to me!

Fast-forward to today. I was driving to work in Mississauga, Ontario (about an hour east of Waterloo) and decided to take a different route for the first time. To my surprise I saw two huge BlackBerry building that looked like they were no more than a few years old. I can only imagine this is the tip of the iceberg as to the properties, corporate jets, and huge amounts of staff they still have and are in desperate need of shedding as they are burning through cash like crazy and have almost nothing to show for it.

If Mike Lazaridis were to come back that would be the kiss of death for them - the nail in the coffin. Let's remember who was on the board (along with Ballsillie) during the times that allowed the company to a) grow massively b) fail to innovate and c) put all their eggs in one basket. Then when times got tough, both of them chickened out, sold shares and took the money and ran. Mike Lazaridis might be smart engineer who is good at technology and ceasing opportunities but is likely a lousy businessman and innovator.

BB doesn't need better hardware or better technology - they need a better leader who innovates, inspires and can see into the future much like Jobs, Page/Brin, etc. I am afraid it's far too late to save the company as they are at least one generation behind everything and have an abysmal market share. They may be good at doing email but that is very easy technology to implement/copy in other devices. Honestly the best thing that could happen to them at this point would be if somebody like Google or Micro$oft bought them for their patents and IP.

It is very sad what has happened to them and all the employees who have lost or are loosing their jobs but their downfall is almost entirely their own fault due to their arrogance, failure to innovate and lack of product diversification.

Comment: Annoying! (Score 1) 179

by SirAudioMan (#42831563) Attached to: Facebook Breaks Major Websites With Redirection Bug
At first I thought I somehow angered facebook and caused my session to get corrupted! Each time I visited a few different news sites after a few seconds It would be redirected to the error page. I ended up having to clear my cache to prevent the annoying redirect. I find facebook is good as a time waster but I find it scary how many sites have access to my logins and can track and control content.

I put up my thumb... and it blotted out the planet Earth. -- Neil Armstrong

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