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Comment: Re:Give it a few weeks (Score 1) 833

by jc42 (#48036965) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Dealing only in KPH is sufficiently hard for someone like myself raised with MPH that even if i switch my GPS / speedometer to KPH, I still have to do the mental conversion back into MPH to get a feeling for "how fast is that".

A couple of weeks of driving in a KPH based country and you'd get over it. It just takes a little experience is all.

So what's with all these people estimating weeks to learn such things? I remember years back, when I took my first trip to the UK, and people talked about the weeks it'd take to learn to drive on the left side of the road. I found that, by the time I'd got a few blocks from the airport, maybe 5 minutes, I'd already stopped consciously thinking about it, and just drove like the others around me. Similarly with the speedometer the rest of the world; all it took was matching the numbers on the highways signs to the numbers on the dial, which worked right from the start, and felt natural after a few minutes.

The only real difficulty I've found with such things is learning the words in a different language. I've found that that can actually take a few weeks, though the vocabulary on traffic signs is generally so limited that it's not all that difficult a task. But I haven't seriously tried learning the terminology on signs in China or Japan yet. That might be a bit more of a challenge than, say, Finnish or Russian road signs. ;-)

Comment: Re:And many, many more (Score 1) 833

by jc42 (#48036639) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

But in my country, we order beer as a half-pint or a pint, and everyone knows what they're getting.

So which country do you live in, where this is true? Here in the US, and across the Pond in the UK, the stated size of a beer glass is usually the capacity to the brim, but the amount in the glass is less than that. Off and on, there has been a bit of a fuss over this shorting in both countries, and there have even been laws passed outlawing the practice, to little avail. If you're living in a country where beer is measured in ounces or pints, you're almost certainly getting short measure in any bar or restaurant. It's only likely to be accurate if they're using the sort of glass with a visible "fill line", and those are not common.

So where do you live, that you get the advertised measure in glasses of beer (or other drinkables)? Curious readers want to know ...

(We might note that it is obviously silly to require that drinking glasses be full to the brim. That would mean slippery floors from the spilling as the glasses are carried to the table. But that doesn't justify lying about the amount that you're delivering to the customer. It just means that glasses should be made slightly oversized, preferably with a fill line near the top. ;-)

Comment: Re:FP? (Score 1) 833

by jc42 (#48036271) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Also lumber. Everyone knows a 2 by 4, but say that in metric. That'll probably be easy to fix though.

Yeah, maybe, but we also know that this is an obvious case where vendors are legally permitted to defraud the customers by giving short measure. ;-) A 2x4 is nowhere near 2 or 4 inches in actual size. In general, the US measures used with lumber are wrong and useless when trying to build something with any precision. It'd be a lot more useful to switch over to the actual measure of thickness. Giving it in mm would be a good idea, so the buyer doesn't have to bring along a tape measure to make sure he's getting the size he needs.

And yes, I do routinely cut wood to within an accuracy of 1 mm. Calling a piece a "2 by 4" is OK for informal purposes, I suppose, but in addition, the store should be required to display the actual measurements in mm. If I think it's going to need some serious sanding, I can take that into account myself.

Comment: Re:Calls from Credit Cards on "Suspicious Activity (Score 1) 78

by jc42 (#48030047) Attached to: Medical Records Worth More To Hackers Than Credit Cards

Because under US law, credit card companies are liable for the cost of credit card fraud above a nominal amount, they have strong incentives to continuously search for and attempt to block fraudulent transactions. I don't think there is any comparable legal driver that forces health providers to bear the financial cost of similar fraud from patient info loss, nor are they necessarily "in-line" to see the exploitation of information stolen from them. ...

Perhaps the significant difference here is that, with credit cards, the main usage is bogus charges that have an immediate monetary value. With the medical information, there's no specific dollar amount that's been "stolen"; the value is in who's willing to buy the information. This doesn't result in any specific charge against the medical corporation or the patient, so the financial system considers its value to be zero.

This is also what might make it difficult to fight. You can't just say that the medical corporation is responsible for an charges over $50, because there are no such charges in the patient's name. The only effective way of fighting the problem will involve the (mis)use of the medical data.

I've seen this comment from some Scandinavian sources, to explain an interesting curiosity: In recent decades, a lot of medical "advances" have come from Scandinavia, and what they've mostly had in common is that they started with study of accumulated medical records, what the statistics folks (including my wife ;-) call "data dredging". This has turned up all sorts of interesting correlations. Now, we can cue the "Correlation is not causation" mantra here, but in fact such correlations are often pointers to useful research, as people try to explain them.

The interesting part of this is the explanation of why this data dredging happens so much in Scandinavia. The explanation seems to be that the governments there didn't try to make the medical records very secret. Rather, they imposed serious financial repercussions to "misuse" of the data. Thus, here in the US, expensive medical problems (e.g., a positive HIV test) typically result in loss of job and permanent unemployment. In Scandinavia, firing an employee because of expensive medical problems can result in serious fines against the employer. So employers have an incentive to find good medical help for employees instead of firing them. (The fact that medical services aren't charged to employers also helps.)

I haven't seen much discussion of this outside of Scandinavian sources, though, and there might be a lot more going on. But there is definitely a problem in the US, where medical data is a valuable commodity that can be used for all sorts of anti-social (and anti-individual) purposes for profit. But the medical industry doesn't suffer when this happens, so they have little incentive to "waste" resources preventing it.

Comment: Re:Thai Tasting (Score 3, Interesting) 103

by Rei (#48026993) Attached to: Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

While I personally see a device like this (sorry... ROBOT!) of rather limited use for testing prepared dishes, I can see great utility for it for testing ingredients. You could have a standardized, unambiguous way to rate the quality or at least properties of a given product, be it meat, fruit, vegetables, etc. I bet cultivar breeding programs in particular could really benefit from this - "Well, I was hoping that this new mango would be a huge innovation, but actually it's almost identical to a Keitt. Though to be fair its mouthfeel is somewhat like a Carrie, and it does have a small amount of a new novel aromatic compound..." Just a single mass produced sensor package that measures a wide range of different properties at once in a repeatable, universal manner. If such a thing could become widespread, I'd bet half of the "cultivars" out there would pretty much disappear, having been shown to be essentially identical to others.

Comment: Re:How much is that doggy in the window? (song lin (Score 1) 151

by jc42 (#48026815) Attached to: LTE Upgrade Will Let Phones Connect To Nearby Devices Without Towers

How do you propose it gets around blackouts? If it did you would have the entire epicenter relying on fringe cell phones for service. It's like having an entire town piggy backing on a handful connections. Those who are in range will have their batteries toasted before you could say YouTube.

Well, one thing that might help is a "social responsibility" campaign. Publicise the fact that this is an inherent problem, and the solution is for as many people as possible should be prepared with extra batteries; portable battery packs, etc. Explain to people that the system will only work if enough people have the extra power in their pockets to keep the messaging system alive. And that, in an emergency situation, they might avoid using sites like youtube. ;-)

Granted, some people will enjoy leeching off the rest of us. But it's possible that, by calmly explaining the situation to people, most of us will do what it takes to keep the system up and running.

Comment: Re:How much is that doggy in the window? (song lin (Score 2) 151

by jc42 (#48026665) Attached to: LTE Upgrade Will Let Phones Connect To Nearby Devices Without Towers

Don't we already have a tech called bluetooth for that?

Bluetooth doesn't handle phone-calls or SMS. That and that it's generally just a goddam trainwreck - I admit that, on occasion, it will actually work.

The nearest thing I know of is the Serval project.

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project had this capability from the start. Their normal setup is a flock of laptops with only wireless comm hardware, all talking to and relaying messages for their neighbors, plus a wired machine somewhere in the area that provides access to the outside world.

Actually, this was the intended "normal" situation back in the ARPAnet era. It didn't make sense to the military funders to rely on a single relay machine that would be an easy target. But suppliers of the commercial Internet never liked the idea, because they've always wanted to charge customers for every device with access. A flock of devices using a single member's Internet access was explicitly banned at first because of this. As they slowly realized that they couldn't continue to hold the Internet back that way, they switched to the approach of software that hands packets to a single router/gateway box, and not directly to any neighbor.

We still see this very clearly with email, which on most customers' gadgets requires sending a message to an email "server" (typically on an ISP's machine), rather than directly to the target machine. If members of your family want to send messages to each other's gadgets, do the messages go directly to their machine? Or do they go to an address on some company's machine, which tells the recipient that they have a message? This isn't accidental; it's done that way so that the company has access to all your messages, and you have to continue to pay them or lose the ability to send messages to people within your own household.

This isn't necessarily silly. I live in a house with 3 floors (plus a basement ;-). Such verticaly houses are fairly common here in New England. My wife's "home office" is in the (half-size) top floor, a finished attic actually, and if I'm working a couple of floors lower, messages like "Lunch?" or "Mail's here" are much faster by email or IM than by running up and down stairs. It's often annoying when local IP packet storms (especially at lunch/dinner time) interfere with delivery of such messages. This sort of "insignificant" traffic would work better if the original machine-to-machine design were implemented. But the commercial ISP market would lose if they couldn't charge for (and read) such traffic, so we can expect them to fight it.

Comment: Re:What's in a name (Score 1) 421

Yes, yes I would. Geez, what's in a name? Do you really need it to be called something more aggressive and manly? It's a tool used for chatting with other people. I talk to my Google-employed friends using Hangouts. I chat to my Human-Rights-Lawyer friend using Hangouts. And if it were called "The Pink-Lace Chatroom App" and my friends preferred that, I'd use it. I don't care--my applications are there to get things done, not impress people with their branding.

Are you somehow concerned about the perception people will have of you if you use something to talk to people you know? I figure the only thing my apps say about me is that I know people and I like to talk to them. I'm only a few years away from 40 at this point--maybe it's just my age that makes it so wildly unimportant to me what the name of the application is.

Honestly, I think Hangouts is among the worst of my chat applications. It's among the least reliable, and has the fewest features. If they decided to make it 10 times better and give it the name 'My Little Pink Unicorn' as you suggested, I would 100% keep using it. What's wrong with pink unicorns anyway?

Comment: Sounds about right (Score 1) 78

by jc42 (#48022751) Attached to: Medical Records Worth More To Hackers Than Credit Cards

"When I've looked at hospitals, and when I've talked to other people inside of a breach, they are using very old legacy systems — Windows systems that are 10 plus years old that have not seen a patch."

No surprise there; that's about how long it takes to process all the paper work (mostly due to HIPAA) to get a new system approved for use inside a hospital. The new Windows 8 purchases should be coming online sometime around 2024.

If you want to install a patch, the approval process starts all over from scratch ...

Comment: Re:worse than crapware (Score 1) 421

Yes, heavens forfend that you use your communications device to communicate with people.

The things I use most are chat applications. I use iMessage, Hangouts and WhatsApp because that's what the people I want to talk with use. I like iMessage best for various reasons, but the whole point of my phone--by which I mean this little communications computer that I carry with me--is to stay in contact with people throughout the day. I also use it for social media because that's also about keeping in contact with people.

I understand everyone's use case is different, but slagging Hangouts as an app for teenage girls? C'mon.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley