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Comment: Re:with what? (Score 4, Interesting) 180

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48625603) Attached to: US Links North Korea To Sony Hacking

The official line so far is "The DPRK is responsible, but the attack originated from somewhere else".

"Responsible" most likely means hired someone to do it. Knowing the DPRK they probably paid those someones in reasonably good quality counterfeit US currency. Though that is pure speculation on my part bast on past news events.

The fact they won't tell us form where else means "China" again pure speculation on my part but common its not like DPRK has exactly normal relations with anywhere else. They would tell us if it was some other pariah regime some place, so I assume it has to be China as its the only place I can think of that DPRK would have access and would be to politically sensitive to name.

Russia also fits the bill, although I'm not surprised that you didn't know that. Russia still has reasonably friendly relations with North Korea and shares a small border with it where North Korean "guest workers" (really slave labor) do logging and perhaps some other manual work on the Russian side for little pay and without any choice in the matter. Putin just recently said he was looking to improve relations between the two countries. North Korea spent years playing its patrons the Soviet Union and China off each other. The USSR and China had strained relations for many years and North Korea leaned towards whichever side at the time it could get more money out of. The Soviet Union gave them their first nuclear reactor and the training necessary that put them, if unintentionally, on the path to getting nuclear weapons. Boris Yeltsin had the good sense a long time ago to stop all payments to North Korea, basically saying "Too bad. So sad." They've never been resumed. So he left China holding the bag for being 100% responsible for financially propping up the regime. Kim Jong-Un's father was actually born in Russia, although official reports in North Korea deny this. And his grandfather was a Russian military officer during the 2nd World War and became the eventual dictator of North Korea because Russia's first choice for the job turned it down and grandpa Kim seemed loyal enough to the Soviet Union to be a really good back up choice. So while Russian-North Korean ties don't get much press, Russia gets all of the benefits, whatever they are, of being "friends" with North Korea without any of the costs that China got stuck with.

Comment: Re:About Fucking Time (Score 2) 422

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48620487) Attached to: In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations

For years, the only thing this served was to try to get votes in Florida. And even then, I do not know how much good that did.

Either Obama has written off the Cuban vote in Miami or he has decided to concede FLA to the GOP. Either way, Obama has finally done something right.

Opening up relations with Cuba makes too much financial sense for pride or antiquated ideas of anticommunism to get in the way.

Well, considering that the vote in Florida decided the 2000 US presidential election and could have been a major factor in the other elections since then, pandering to the voters did have some value. I heard rumblings that Bill Clinton wanted to resume normal relations with Cuba towards the end of his presidency, but he feared that doing so would throw the state to the Republican candidate and might decide the election. At the time, the majority of Cubans voted Republican but some did vote Democrat. The majority of Cubans at the time were also vehemently opposed to normalizing relations, so to give Gore a chance so he could retain some decent minority of the Cuban vote in Florida, Clinton let the idea die quietly without much of the public knowing it was ever under consideration. As an American, I can tell you that outside of the Cuban community there's been not a lot of support for the embargo and restricted travel to Cuba for years and many of us resent national policy being dictated by such a tiny minority of people in one state, way out of proportion of their true significance to the nation.

Cuban voters no longer matter in Florida, thankfully. The old ones just vote Republican no matter what for the most part. They're never going to change. The younger Cuban generation no longer cares about the embargo and are more willing to vote Democratic. Plus, the number of Puerto Ricans in Florida has swelled in recent years and they do mostly vote Democratic, so long standing old people Cuban Republican votes have been neutralized. Florida will no longer be lost or won by a stance on this issue as the people who do care have lost their significance. What finally made it practical was the lessening of the voting power of the old school Cubans and the willingness of some Republicans to reconsider the idea because of lost business reasons.

Comment: Sometimes sellers do truly ask for 1 cent (Score 3, Informative) 138

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48603353) Attached to: Amazon UK Glitch Sells Thousands of Products For a Penny
Just last week I looked on Amazon for an old CD that's now out of print. It's an old classical music CD not rare or of particular interest outside of fans of the artist. In fact, you can rather easily find it available in MP3 or AAC formats on Amazon, iTunes, and a few other places. One seller only wanted 1 cent for a used copy with about 2 to 3 dollars for shipping. Sometimes people will sell old CDs, DVDs or books that have little collectable value for 1 cent just to make it up a little on shipping charges because Amazon ranks the copies by lowest price first in the Marketplace without counting the shipping cost. So while you could charge $2.01 for it and offer free shipping and make just as much as charging 1 cent and 2 dollars shipping, the 1 cent offer will go to the top of the list and the $2.01 offer in my example would be listed after anyone with a lower cost for the item, even if the item+shipping cost was much larger. You could sell it for 1 cent and charge $4 for shipping and get listed earlier than a $2.01 charge with free shipping.

Comment: Re:Growing Isolation (Score 3, Interesting) 157

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48581317) Attached to: Google Closing Engineering Office In Russia
Your comments are pretty astute. As someone who has actually spent a lot of time in the past decade in Ukraine, and mostly in the Russian speaking parts where the people may see themselves with a strong Russian identity, I have some insight into this. Basically living in the Soviet Union just ruined these people to an extent that it may take many decades or even centuries to fix. The amount of dishonesty and ethical shortcuts required to get by in such a system is something we in the West are just not used to. And even today in the parts of the old USSR that are not in the EU, which is 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics, corruption is just a normal way of life. All this stuff has led to a situation where the people don't really plan long term. In general they are "carpe diem" types to an extreme, often an illogical extreme. As an example, if you were to offer the average Russian a choice between giving them 1000 US dollars today, no strings attached, or giving them 10000 US dollars in 6 months, no strings attached, they'll take the 1000 now. Their mentality is that they may be dead in 6 months or you may be dead in 6 months and unable to give it to them or something unforeseen may happen in the future, so they are really short term planners in the extreme. Putin seems to plan a bit more long term than on average, but I am pretty sure that his plans are far more short-sighted than such planning would be in the West or even China where their culture encourages a very long term view of things. The obvious problem of this is that when things don't go as you expect, you don't really have a plan for that, so I expect he'll double down on the anti-western sentiment and the non-obvious repression like making bloggers identify themselves and saying they need to keep posts clean as a cover for monitoring for subversive posts against the government.

Comment: Re:LS (Score 2) 170

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48547515) Attached to: Sony Hacks Continue: PlayStation Hit By Lizard Squad Attack

Isn't this the same group/person that called in a fake bomb threat on an airplane not too long ago? I'm surprised they're still walking free.

Yes. I think it's reasonable to conclude that they are located outside of the USA or any country friendly to it and thus can't be brought to justice. However, based on what I've seen on some published court reports, the wheels of justice turn really slowly on criminal activities over computers even when the perps live in the USA, so there is also a chance that the US government actually knows who they are and can get to them but is just taking its time to do so.

Comment: There probably are some paid services here (Score 1) 133

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48523179) Attached to: Chinese CEO Says "Free" Is the Right Price For Mobile Software
I don't have enough time to really dig into this, but a couple of different things might be going on here.

1) They may offer reduced functionality apps for free and you can pay to get more features. Nothing unusual there.
2) They have a business product line and I'm guessing that none of that is free, so it may be that individuals use their stuff for free and businesses pay.

It could also be that they are insanely managed and they're giving the store away to just get customers using them, but they seem to have a real revenue stream so I discount this without eliminating it.

Comment: Re:Um, what? (Score 1) 433

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48469649) Attached to: Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina Considering US Presidential Run

She was a largely incompetent CEO. WTF skills does she thinks she brings to the table as a fscking President?

Ask George W Bush.

Well, George W did serve almost 6 years as governor of Texas, our 2nd most populous state. He won election twice to that office and resigned it after being elected president the first time. Ronald Reagan was a former governor of California and before that, his most "political" job was being president of the SAG. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both served as governors. You don't have to like Bush or think he was a particularly good governor although he did win re-election which means most voters liked him just fine there, but the fact is that Americans in general do think that serving as governor makes you qualified to run for president. That doesn't mean you'll get elected (Milt Romney, Mike Dukakis, Jimmy Carter in 1980). The last non-politician to mount a somewhat successful campaign to run for the presidency was Ross Perot and he had bona fide business credentials, paid for a privately organized hostage rescue in Iran that went well and made him look like he had King Kong cajones when the US attempt to do the same became a spectacularly infamous failure for Jimmy Carter's administration and played a part in his 1980 loss, and he ran with a narrow but specific platform (NAFTA bad. Paying down US debt good). Fiorina is pretty delusional in that Americans won't elect somebody with zero political experience. If she speaks well on the campaign stops she can make some noise for a while, but the primaries always wear down the non-professional politicians. Perot had to run as a 3rd party candidate using his own money (mostly) and while he was very successful by 3rd party standards in the USA, in the end he did not come close to victory either time he won. He may well have influenced the outcome of the 1992 election though by siphoning more votes from George HW Bush than Bill Clinton.

Comment: Re:Need automatic "loser pays" in jurisprudence (Score 2) 219

It's no secret that prosecutors usually throw every charge they can at an alleged criminal

They wouldn't be doing it, if they — the prosecuting agency(ies) — faced non-trivial monetary loss for every charge, that did not hold up in court...

To keep it harder for entities — both private and governmental — with large legal budgets to initiate frivolous proceedings, the loser must pay winner. There is no such thing currently and even winning a suit can leave one with thousands of dollars in debt. It must become automatic and not require a separate lawsuit by the winner to recoup his legal costs.

My best friend is a lawyer (we both live in the USA - don't know where you live off hand and I'm too lazy to check your profile) and we've talked about this very issue, but what you propose is DOA in the USA for a variety of reasons. Lawyers absolutely hate this idea. The standard lawyer response is "But with that kind of risk, people with legitimate grievances will simply not sue rather than risk losing". Of course fewer law suits is not good for lawyers. Most legislators at the state and national level are attorneys. This is simply never going to happen unless maybe non-lawyers gain control of state and national government on a massive scale.

One of the problems with the current system is that the really big companies and rich people can simply throw lawyers at a case to try to win, cost be damned. Disney, for example, is known for rarely losing law suits against them, even when death has occurred. Can you imagine someone losing a wrongful death case against Disney and having to pay $100,000 or more in Disney's legal fees? I have a friend who got divorced in another state when his (now ex) wife basically nutted out and decided to divorce him. She quit her job so she could plead poverty in the divorce case, hired one of her city's most expensive divorce attorneys to represent her, and the attorney took the case knowing full well that the wife had no money at all - none - with which to pay the legal bill. My friend admitted to hiring a cheap attorney to represent him and his attorney did a poor job. The court bought the "poor little girl" argument even though her lack of money was self-inflicted and ordered my friend to pay 100% of her legal bills. Cost him over $30,000 to pay for his ex-wife's attorney fees in addition to the very generous terms she got in the divorce. Keep in mind that this was a simple divorce between average people and not some millionaire/billionaire trying to get out of a pre-nup.

Finally, the US legal system does actually allow for legal fees to be imposed on losing parties in cases where the lawsuit was brought by the losing party and they knew that they had no grounds for it and did it just to stick it to the other party and hope for a lucky verdict in court. But I can tell you that such cases are very rare indeed and even when courts rule that someone was subjected to an unjustified lawsuit that should never have been made in the first place, they almost never award legal fees to the victor simply because doing so sets a bad precedent that it might happen more and more often and having it happen more often might lower the amount of lawsuits, which impacts attorney money and might even lead to a need for fewer courts and fewer judges for those fewer courts.

Comment: Brown outs once a month on average (Score 1) 516

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48466581) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?
I live in a suburban area in one the USA's ten largest metropolitan areas. Sorry, but I don't like to be more specific about where I live. On average I experience brown outs once a month. A true loss of power probably occurs 3 or 4 times a year, almost always in conjunction with some type of weather event (ice, snow, heavy rain). In the past I was stupid and never used a home UPS for any computers I had, so from time to time I would have disk drive problems after power outages, even if only brown outs. I also had quite a few PC power supplies fried by brown outs. Switching to UPS devices has stopped this. In fact, we have so many brown outs that I actually have my TV and some electronics connected to a UPS which I use really to protect against the constant brown outs rather than using it to provide power in outages to those devices. I wish power was reliable where I live, but it's not.

Comment: Re:Dear Sony, I am delighted! (Score 2) 155

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48456807) Attached to: Sony Pictures Computer Sytems Shut Down After Ransomware Hack

Would I be right to believe the Sony Pictures, being part of the Sony conglomerate, are infected with the same high-handed corporate arrogance that we have seen at Sony Music? "cough" root kit "cough"

You would indeed and I submit their use of Cinavia copy protection on BluRays and DVDs as proof of this. You may be asking "What is Cinavia?" Well, it is a copy protection technology that uses an audio watermark. The watermark appears within the range of human hearing (so you can't just filter away the high frequencies above human hearing to remove it) and doesn't appear to be anything that humans can hear, but all current BluRay players are required by the licensing agreement to support it. How it works is that if a BluRay disc plays and Cinavia is in the audio, the player determines if it is playing an original pressed disc or a copy. If it finds a copy, it shuts down play within 10 minutes of starting and produces a warning message that Cinavia has been detected on a copy and you're not allowed to play the copy.

There is currently quite a bit of hysteria from some consumers in the BluRay field over it because apparently 100% of the people upset about it have kids who ruin their discs and now they "can't make copies". I say that with sarcasm. Well, you can make copies, you just can't make BluRay copies. Non-BluRay players are not required to detect or honor Cinavia, so ripping your BluRays and making MKVs out of them without conversion works fine. Even most BluRay players will happily play such files without checking for Cinavia.

I'd like to point out that Cinavia is not free. Companies that use it pay a fee for using it. I don't know what the price is, but I can tell you that Sony puts it on every BluRay they put out, even those foreign films they release that have limited audiences. For all I know, it may actually cost more to use Cinavia on some of those films than Sony can even make back in sales of the discs. Sony even puts it on a few DVDs and no DVD player is required to detect or support Cinavia, and they still sometimes use it there. The only other studio I know of that has ever used Cinavia more than once is Warner Brothers and they rarely use it. Even Disney has only used it once and they're one of the Hollywood studios most paranoid about people copying their stuff. The lack of use leads me to conclude that the price for using Cinavia is probably quite high and only Sony is crazy enough and consumer hostile enough to pay to use it all the time.

Comment: Re:Texas representative? (Score 4, Informative) 57

Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative

Okay submitter, what do you expect from a Texas representative?

Well, Louie Gohmert is at best eccentric and at worst stupid beyond belief. The fact that he keeps getting re-elected really says a lot about the voters in his district. Do a search on his name plus the words "terror babies" for one of his most, ahem, "interesting" fears. He's never gotten less than 61% of the vote while running for Congress.

Ron Paul is about as crazy as they come, unless you're a Libertarian, in which case he makes perfect sense and everybody else is insane. He's not a current member of Congress, but he inflicted his idiocy on D.C. for years. He didn't lose re-election - he simply retired or else he'd still be promoting his wacko ideas in DC today.

Sheila Jackson Lee is infamous for her use of staffers to do personal errands for her. One staffer was told by his doctor to quit or he would die from the stress. She has proposed more failed legislation than any current member of Congress according to one source. She's been in the top 3 every year in a poll of the meanest members of Congress to work for.

These are just a few of the "distinguished" representatives from Texas.

Comment: Re:Ask the credit card for a refund (Score 2) 307

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48416811) Attached to: UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

The card charges 30 pounds fee to refund it, and the hotel loses the money and the fee.

Do that often enough and the hotel will lose the right to take credit cards, because the card companies don't want scams like this.

A hotel that can't take credit cards will lose most of their business very quickly.

In the past, I'd have agreed with you, but not any more. Things have really changed in the credit card industry since what we call "the Great Recession" in the USA. In the past, I successfully protested several charges and one time got almost $400 taken off over a dispute with a Hong Kong hotel. Approximately 6 years ago, I bought 2 tickets on a European based airline. I don't want to name them, but let's just say it's not a major carrier and they aren't particularly well known unless you happen to live in the country where they are based. My at the time girlfriend was supposed to go with me on a trip. Her mother had to have emergency surgery and being an only child and her mother having divorced her husband many years ago, my girlfriend had to stay and help and miss the trip. I did not want to go by myself, so I contacted the airline. They said that the tickets were non-refundable. I then asked if I could just get a credit towards a future flight and they said no. So basically their position was that those tickets were only good for the exact flight I booked them and for no other flight. I was not advised of this at the time of purchase, so I protested it. It went on for months. I printed out copies of their entire website, showing the ticket buying process and showing that nowhere on the site did they state their policy about no-refunds, no credits. I provided copies of the email the airline sent me when I bought the tickets, showing that at no point did they mention no refunds, no changes, no credits. The airline's response to my submission was to simply say "We told him he couldn't have refunds" and offer no proof to back it up. After months of wrangling, my credit card company essentially told me that because the airline refused to refund the charge, I was stuck with it, despite my submission that they never told me their refund policy. The bottom line was that my credit card didn't want to eat the charges of the airline tickets and they were unwilling to rule in my favor because they would have had to eat the charges since the airline refused to do a refund. Granted, a hotel charge is a lot less, but I have to warn from my experience that if the hotel puts up even a half assed fight like that airline did against me, that may be enough to prevent you from getting the money back.

Comment: Not Google's problem (Score 1) 137

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48410757) Attached to: Court Rules Google's Search Results Qualify As Free Speech

So, if Google's search results are considered free speech, do they also have the same responsibilities as other forms of free speech. What if you search for a person and the results incorrectly suggests that the person is a pedophile? Does that qualify as libel, or is that suddenly not Google's problem?

It's not Google's problem to report that somebody else made a libelous claim any more than if you tell your neighbor "Hey, that guy John Doe down the street put on the internet that you're a convicted child molester but I know that's not true", your neighbor would have a legal claim against John Doe, not against you for telling him. The fact that Google reports a search result doesn't make them responsible for the content in the USA. Things might be different in Europe though.

Comment: Re:I am sure there will be a challenge (Score 1) 137

by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (#48410727) Attached to: Court Rules Google's Search Results Qualify As Free Speech

Or how he stated that the Right to Privacy doesn't exist in the Constitution, which was how he defending the banning of homosexuality under sodomy laws (you know, "what happens in private between consenting adults is no one's business"....well Santorum thought it was his business)...

I'm not defending Santorum at all because I think he's pretty stupid, but the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution. It's never mentioned. The Supreme Court has ruled that such a right is inferred by the other things in the Constitution, but strictly speaking he does have a valid point. A different Supreme Court such as the current one might well have come to the other conclusion that if it's not mentioned explicitly, it doesn't exist.

Brain damage is all in your head. -- Karl Lehenbauer