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Comment Situational awareness (Score 2) 696

Two principles to be aware of when you are on a bike in auto traffic:

1. You are in the most danger when auto traffic crosses your path. Intersections are the most obvious example. Especially dangerous are turning lanes and off-ramps when you are going straight - cars that are changing lanes or preparing to turn are looking for other cars, not bicycles.

2. If you hear a siren, get off the road NOW. Cars will be trying to get out of the way of emergency vehicles, and looking to avoid other cars, not bicycles.

I've been a short-distance commuting cyclist since 1994. I've been hit once in traffic - at an off-ramp, by a car that was getting out of the way of a fire truck.

Comment Make it symmetric and I'll consider it (Score 1) 253

I live in a blessed neighborhood that has both FIOS and Comcast, so I can credibly threaten to switch. I almost went for Comcast recently; they offered me

105 Mb down + basic cable + phone

for the same price as Verizon's

50 Mb down + basic cable + phone

The deal-breaker was Comcast's up speed is 10 or 20 Mb, and Verizon's is 50 Mb. Not in this age of video calling and torrenting, thankyouverymuch.

Comcast's infrastructure is still apparently fundamentally biased toward broadcast. Verizon at least understands communication should be two-way.

Comment Wanna know why people like Bill Gates now? (Score 1) 292

Because his goals and your interests are now aligned.

Broadly speaking, the Gates Foundation wants to improve the world. It doesn't care about making a profit, it just wants to get the most improvement for the money it has available to spend. It can choose freely what kind of energy production to promote, and it is clearly choosing based on a bang-for-the-buck basis.

When Gates was running Microsoft, his goal was to make Microsoft bigger. Microsoft's mission statement of "enabling people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential" was actually subordinate to the goal of growing Microsoft, which is why one-Windows-running-on-everything was promoted over, say, clear standards and interoperability for Office files.

Comment So, ignorant people are easily influenced (Score 3, Insightful) 133

Who knew?

Seriously, I personally know the difference between sponsored and unsponsored links. I use the short-cut links in the sponsored section when the same place shows up near the top of the unsponsored section. Otherwise, I take those links with a big block of salt.

Folks, Google is about as good as we can expect to get for a company that makes its money off of advertising-supported services. They need to be watched and called out when they do marginal things, but they aren't deliberately evil as corporate policy goes.

Facebook, on the other hand...

Comment Big Data stupidity (Score 3, Interesting) 66

A lot of our problems today are the result of people in power fundamentally misunderstanding what Big Data is good for.

We used to assume it was impractical for the Government to keep records of everything we do in the public sphere. Those things have gone from possible to practical to inevitable, mostly due to Moore's Law.

Just because you have everything recorded, doesn't mean it's useful, though. Technologists who should know better talk about searching these records to find the "needle in the haystack", selling the vision of complete records + powerful search tools = Total Awareness.

What they conveniently skip over is:

* All records have inaccuracies
* If the inaccuracy rate is higher than the occurrence rate of what you're searching for, the search is not useful

Consider medical screening tests. If you have a test with a false positive rate of 1 in 1000, it is useless to use such a test to search for a condition that happens to 1 in 1000000 - 999 times out of a thousand, the test will say you're sick when you're fine.

Now, consider:

* The error rate of address OCR


* The rate of secrets being exchanged via US Mail

Anyone in the Government who can't produce an estimate of those two numbers shouldn't be allowed anywhere near those records - it would be like giving a child a loaded gun, or a politician a Twitter account.