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Comment: Re:T-Mobile (Score 1) 209

Your reply is intelligent, so I'll respond.

I've been with tmobile for 10 years or so. Not as long as you. I've always had an unlimited plan, or at least a plan so high that I never went over. A few years ago (3 or 4???) they called me out of the blue to tell me I was eligible for a lower rate. I peppered them with questions to figure out what the catch was. There was no catch. It was the same features I already had, for less money, and it was a permanent rate. Then, a year or two ago I dropped my rate again when I went to their new uncontract gimmick where you save $20/mo by not prepaying for a new phone that you might never upgrade to. Not to mention that the $20/mo fee is more than the cost of buying the phone contract-free. The way they marketed it was a complete gimmick. But for almost everybody you'll save money by dropping the $20/mo fee and buying your own phone. So yes, my rates were lowered multiple times while my service stayed the same.

In my case my service actually went up after dropping the rates down because now I have completely unlimited text on both lines, where before I had text blocked on my cell phone and only enabled on my wife's. I don't understand your comments about the 500 texts per month fee. Mine are unlimited. It's clearly unlimited in the US per the contract. Just like I can't expect to call Russia from my cell phone and not incur any extra charges (unless it is specifically listed in my contract). In foreign countries, you have to read the fine print to determine if they are free in that country or not. I believe this is a new feature that just started last summer, but maybe that's just when I found out about it. I was fortunate enough to travel to central Europe, and I can tell you that my texts were free, and so was my data service. I don't think I made any phone calls while I was over there, so I'm not sure if those would have been free.

I also don't understand your comments about overage fees and the unlimited data plans. T-Mobile's standard plan has unlimited data, plain and simple. They make it very clear that you only get a certain amount at LTE speed, and then any additional data is delivered at 3G. They actually make that part very clear so no-one can claim they were tricked. I pay a little extra so I can get enough LTE speed data that I never run out. But even if I didn't pay for the extra LTE, I would still have unlimited data (just at a slower speed). There are no overage charges for data, period. Data is unlimited. Speed is not. I greatly prefer to have it setup this way as I never have to worry about my bill. I'm not paying to get more data - that's a misnomer. I'm merely paying to get more data delivered at a higher speed. I'm not sure what you meant by it not applying to everyone. Maybe there's some old plans out there that cut you off at a certain amount? I have no idea.

Just to re-iterate, I have completely unlimited phone, data, and text on two lines for $80/month. I pay to get a bit more data delivered at higher speed for an extra $20/month. And, because T-Mobile is a worldwide company and not just US based, they allow us to use their services in specified foreign countries for free as long as we have the right type of phone (for the right frequencies in those countries). Not all countries are included, but where I went in Europe was.

If you're annoyed at overage fees, then get off the old grandfathered plans and get the new plan where everything is included. I thought for sure there was a downside to the new plans both times I switched, but there isn't. I buy my phones at retail prices, and I break even after less than two years (vs $20/mo). So even if I upgraded every two years I would still be saving money on these lower plans. And if I keep the phone for three years, then I'm just banking those savings to have more to put down on the next phone.

If you live and mostly stay in a major city with LTE coverage, there really isn't a downside. I've been to San Francisco, Vegas, and far outside Boston recently with no loss of coverage. It's a good deal.

Comment: T-Mobile (Score 1) 209

Check out T-Mobile. I live in Chicago, and they're great. Yes, almost everyone I know uses either Verizon or AT&T. But they complain about overage charges and dropped calls. I don't have that problem.

Seemingly every year or two T-Mobile actually lowers their price. I used to pay about $150 for two lines. Now I pay $80 total for both lines, with completely unlimited voice, text, and data. They include 1GB of 4G LTE data per line per month, and then I pay an extra $10 per line per month to bump both of them up to 3GB of LTE each. But even if I used 15GB per month, I still wouldn't be charged more than the $100 ($80 + $10 + $10) that I normally pay. After I go beyond 3GB, my data speed gets dropped down to 3G. But I can continue to use as much data as I want. I just switch to wifi for data when I get home, and I have never had a problem with going over 3GB.

I traveled to another country over the summer, and I was even able to use my phone for free over there. It was awesome!

There's no downside to T-Mobile. There's no contract, no overage fees, no nonsense. If they have LTE coverage in your city, check them out.

http://www.t-mobile.com/covera...

Comment: Re: Liability (Score 1) 474

by Zen (#47208935) Attached to: Comcast Converting 50,000 Houston Home Routers Into Public WiFi Hotspots

This really is no big deal. I'm a Chicago customer and was initially a bit peeved when I heard about this. But then I read the actual letter. I'll paraphrase it, but as I recall it had a few specifics in it that all these fear mongering web articles are skipping.
1) It creates a new ssid on the router. That means anyone connecting is connecting outside my network.
2) They went to great pains to state that it was extremely unlikely to disrupt the service that I pay for. For instance, I have the option to pay for something like 100Mbps, but I choose a lower tier. Comcast obviously has additional bandwidth they can provide for this service. It doesn't impact the customer.
3) It also said I had the abity to disable it if I wanted to. This is the part that nobody gets. You can turn it off! Problem solved!

I left mine alone in the end. If it doesn't impact me because it's going to use untapped bandwidth that I don't pay for, and they connect through a separate ssid, then I simply don't care.

Comment: Obtaining data from schools? (Score 1) 1025

by Zen (#41108021) Attached to: Study Finds Unvaccinated Students Putting Other Students At Risk

I haven't decided if I think all of this stuff is sensationalism or not, but it doesn't really matter. If I ask my school for a count of the number of kids in the school that are unvaccinated, and a count for the number of kids in my kids actual classroom that are unvaccinated, first are they legally allowed to share that (anonymous) data with me, and second are they legally required to share that data with me? It seems that if there is a possibility that some moron is risking my own kids health, I should be able to find out about it.

Comment: Re:I'm always happy when I have a tax liability (Score 1) 394

by Zen (#39681115) Attached to: My most recent tax bill was ...

Really? You're so pent up that your way absolutely has to be the right way? Did you stop reading my comment before the end? Why would I have a financial advisor if I did not have substantial investments. In my case I max out my 401k, I max out my IRA's, I have monthly automatic debits that go straight to my financial advisor. And yes, I also claim far too few exemptions so too much tax is taken out of my paycheck. It works for me and for many other people. Your way works for you and for many other people. Give it a rest - your way is only best for you, not for all people. My standard financial investments lost money last year. My 401k made money last year. If I had given my extra money to my financial advisor as most people would recommend, I would have lost some of it. I ended up ahead because I chose to give the government a free loan. Too bad for me. I guess I lose. I think it's depressing that you assume your way is the only correct way because technically I am losing out on interest I could have made. But you forget to take into account that you don't always make interest every year unless you're in a fixed investment, which typically have very low interest rates. It's simply an overlooked method of diversification. You have investments in many different things in order to diversify. You also have some money in recurring CD's or something like that so you can take it out with limited penalties if necessary. You also have some money in a money market or other low interest bearing account. If you're a normal person, you also left some money out of the financial advisor's hands and in a savings account that bears extremely low interest. And then I have yet another 'savings account' that is completely out of sight for the year with the federal government that I am absolutely guaranteed to get 100% return on when I ask for it back with zero penalties. It's not a bad thing.

Comment: Re:I'm always happy when I have a tax liability (Score 1, Insightful) 394

by Zen (#39668301) Attached to: My most recent tax bill was ...

Exactly. Some of us truly understand that we are giving the government a free loan, and simply don't care. If the most I can owe the government without incurring penalties (being required to prepay quarterly the next year, and so on) is $1000, it's not beneficial to me. $1000 by 24 paychecks is $41.66. What am I going to do with $41 extra bucks per paycheck? I'm going to spend it on a few extra lunches out, or a couple Blu-Ray's, or whatever. Now, if I go the opposite way and claim far too few exemptions, I get a large tax return every spring. I can then take that rather large sum and do something useful with it. I can dump it into a Roth IRA to max out the previous year's Roth, or I can make substantial improvements to my home, get a downpayment on a car, whatever. Basically it's an interest free savings account that is completely out of sight out of mind for the entire year, and then I get a 'bonus' check every spring. My financial advisor stopped getting mad at me for it this year, because he lost me money last year due to the economy and at least I didn't lose any money on the free loan I gave to the government. I didn't gain what I cold have, but I didn't lose anything either.

Comment: Re:Day of no pay (Score 1) 337

by Zen (#39216737) Attached to: Leap Day, to me, means ...

You're not the first person posting that it was a day with no pay. I don't really understand this logic. As a salaried person, I get an annual salary, broken out into 24 pay periods and am paid on the 15th and last day of the month. Some people have 26 pay periods and are paid every two weeks, or even every week. It's an annual salary that is contractually agreed to, typically not an hourly or daily salary. By definition, with my annual salary, I am paid for every week-day that I work and even for some sick and vacation days. If I take my annual salary and divide it out into the working hours for my pay period, then it happens to be that every four years my daily/hourly salary is ever so slightly less because they pay me the same amount that year and there was an extra work day (2008 work hours that year instead of 2000). But I still got paid for the day, and I got paid at the same rate as every other day in this year.

Comment: Easy but engaging reads (Score 1) 647

by Zen (#38444254) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Like To Read?

I like easy but slightly thought provoking reads. Things that take a time and place in history, start with known facts and spin off into a what if this happened. There are many books about what could have happened if Hitler had found certain religious artifacts he was looking for and if they really did what he thought they did. Spy novels and ocean exploratory books (Clive Cussler, etc) where you take the same basic premise - a ship sank, it had X on it, what happens if it is found... Here's some fun authors - Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly, James Rollins, Brad Metzler. Depending on reading speed these could be finished on a very long flight. Check the New York Times lists and skip the chick flicks and biographys.

Comment: Many of us still only have 3.2GB (Score 2) 543

by Zen (#38078514) Attached to: RAM in my most-used personal computer:

If you're running a 32bit OS like older WinXP setups, unless you monkey around with it you can only see 3.2GB of RAM anyway. I bet there's way more legacy 32bit desktops and laptops out there than the newer Vista and Windows 7 boxes where 64bit became the standard. In this scenario it really doesn't matter if you installed 4GB because the OS can only touch the first 3.2GB of it.

Comment: Mildly concerning privacy problems (Score 1) 73

by Zen (#37850860) Attached to: Amazon Patents Gift Card Parental Controls

I've recently discovered that okay deals can be found on the gift card secondary market. Where you sell the gift cards Aunt Rosie bought you that you won't ever use, and turn around and buy one (at an 8% or so discount to face value) for a place that you do shop.

So if I got one of these gift cards, sold it on plastic jungle or one of the other places, and an unsuspecting person bought it, would the person who gave it to me end up getting a report stating what that third party bought? Isn't that an invasion of that third parties entitlement to privacy?

Although this scenario is a bit of a stretch, I bet swapping gift cards and using them to pay off debts to friends is pretty common for college kids.

There's no way this should be legal. Your own children have no real right to privacy in the home that you provide them with, but everyone else does have a right to privacy. Privacy aside, that third party person should in no way be restricted to how they spend the money unless there's some big flashing light on the gift card that says it can only be used to buy books.

Comment: Monitoring is always an afterthought (Score 1) 387

by Zen (#37393034) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Use For a New Supercomputing Cluster?

I can't speak to many of your questions. However, I can provide small insight into your networking question. The industry I work in is application monitoring, and it's often an afterthought added only if there are problems. If you go with Infiniband, your choices for capturing and monitoring packets in order to help you analyze application issues will be extremely limited. However, if you go with the more widespread adoption of 10GbE you will have many vendors you can pick from with very advanced features to help monitor how your app is performing across your internal network. This entire supercomputer is nothing without its network or its application, so if it were me, I would spec in a very robust solution to monitor how the application is performing on the network. The most robust solutions are packet capturing appliances tapped or spanned in from the switches (taps are preferred). This is greatly superior to capturing traffic inside a server node itself because the OS and NIC will alter the speed and form of the packets when they are sent out onto the network.

Comment: Background info (Score 1) 524

by Zen (#37385592) Attached to: $300M To Save 6 Milliseconds

This is actually huge news for the financial companies.

Most people don't really understand what these companies do. Ethics aside, these prop shops do largely automated trading based on extremely propietary software that monitors market conditions, news, weather, politics, etc all at the same time. It would have to be a huge hedge fund (not a smaller prop shop) to shell out $100M unless they thought they would have an advantage because nobody else could afford it. But yes, the basic premise of cuting 6ms off the time and having financial companies beating down their door to sign up for service is absolutely correct. If you can make a large trade 1ms before your biggest competitor so that you buy in cheap and they buy in higher or cancel their trade, then you can make big money. There's a whole industry creating products for these low latency trading firms with specialized switches, routers, software, etc that is tuned to support extremely low latency networks and zero dropped UDP packets.

Image

Opossums Overrun Brooklyn, Fail To Eliminate Rats 343

Posted by samzenpus
from the urban-opossum-blight dept.
__roo writes "In a bizarre case of life imitates the Simpsons, New York City officials introduced a population of opossums into Brooklyn parks and under the boardwalk at Coney Island, apparently convinced that the opossums would eat all of the rats in the borough and then conveniently die of starvation. Several years later, the opossums have not only failed to eliminate the rat epidemic from New York City, but they have thrived, turning into a sharp-toothed, foul-odored epidemic of their own."

Comment: Great control room setup (Score 3, Interesting) 421

by Zen (#33485272) Attached to: Ideas For a Great Control Room?

I used to work for a large insurance company in Chicago. The director charged with building our NOC in 2000 basically traveled throughout the country visiting other large IT organization's NOC's and took the best ideas and made them work for us - and it did resemble 24.

Take a large crescent shaped room with a 30' or more ceiling. The video wall was three different sections (this is important for separation of displays and multiple tools at the same time). The display units were high end rear projection systems that were each hooked up to computers that drove the display and were roughly 3'x5' each. Of course there's no seam or separation between the screens. Any group of screens can be used to display anything you want (1 screen, 2, 4, 6, all, etc). Pretty basic stuff nowadays, but it was great ten years ago. The left and right banks had three screens stacked on top of eachother, by either 4 or 5 wide. The center bank was 3 high by either 8 or 10 wide.

Three rows of crescent tables with low walls in front separating them, and minimal separation between workspaces - you want people in a NOC to work very closely with eachother, especially in case of an outage. Each station had two or three LCD screens mounted on articulating arms, but not to be stacked on top of eachother like those trading desks you see with 6 or 8 LCD screens at them. That would be too tall, and you couldn't look over the top to see the main video wall without standing. The room sat close to 50 people. Around the edges of the room are various cabinets, printers, personal storage for the three shifts of employees that work in the NOC, etc. Of course high end chairs are important as others have noted. Lighting is also equally important. You have to be very careful with making sure it is as close to natural lighting as possible. The lighting we used was recessed and inset so that no lightbulb shone directly out or down on the people - it made it less harsh, but still very bright in the room based on a good design. Wireless headsets are important, and also minimizing speakerphones and any other distracting noise.

Behind the rows of tables at the back of the crescent in the donut hole section if you will is an enclosed room large enough to sit 30 people comfortably with power, phones, and network connections to cover it. The walls facing the NOC are floor to ceiling glass, and it has connectivity to the videowall of the NOC so that displays from their can be sent to the meeting room as well. It has every high end normal conference room tool you could need - multiple video conferences, smartboard, integrated microphones and speakers, etc. Everything was hidden inside builtin cabinets made of high end wood. This main room is the situation room. During a large outage, 2nd and 3rd level staff will work out of the room in conjunction with the NOC teams. Directly upstairs from the situation room is another identical room, also with floor to ceiling glass walls looking out to the video wall of the NOC. This upper room was reserved for senior and executive management use during a large outage. Engineers and Executive management have different needs during an outage and require separate spaces and separate functions, although constant information does need to feed between the two. The upper room was more of the showpiece room. It had a motorized curtain that you could press a button on the wireless control panel to open and close. The entrance from the building going up to the second floor board room does not give anything away for what the NOC itself looked like, so once everybody was assembled in the room and the button was hit, it never failed to impress first time visitors. They would always leave their chairs at the conf table and walk right up to the glass wall to look down at the people working in the NOC and see what was displayed on the board.

It was an extremely impressive setup. I am now in sales and visit customer sites on a daily basis and I have yet to see something that even approaches what this director designed at my old employer.

You can't forget to include cable or satellite to display weather and headline news. For fun, don't forget to include a high end stereo system and a blu-ray player so you can watch movies or the occasionaly superbowl game since you already have cable service anyway.

Comment: Discover recurring payments on secure #'s (Score 1) 242

by Zen (#33101034) Attached to: Alternatives To Paypal's Virtual Credit Card Service?

I use secure #'s from my Discover card for every purchase I make online that I can - I have however come across a few that won't accept Discover, and then I think twice before I purchase on a non-secure card. This feature is available on every Discover card of every persuasion and has been for a few years. It's not technically one time use. My understanding of it from experience is that if the same company charges the exact same amount to your number at a common interval (1 month, etc), then the charge will be accepted. It has worked for me before - I believe with Tivo. However, many times companies will process the first payment themselves, and subsequent recurring payments will go through a clearinghouse. The different payment info is enough to get the payment denied, which can be both good and bad depending on if you really wanted to setup a recurring payment.

I used to have a Visa credit card from MBNA and they offered secure numbers as well. They probably still do, but check into it before making the plunge. Unfortunately I got rid of MBNA and now just use Chase, and they do not offer secure credit numbers, so I have no backup if Discover isn't accepted. Maybe they paid too much for Bank One and Bear Stearns.

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