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Comment: Online Presence (Score 4, Interesting) 111 111

As visible in your official company FAQ, you had run a ISP as well as other online services (I seem to recall there having been some manner of MOO/MUSH service for running online games), well in advance of most other RPG publishers. Furthermore, you run your own digital store (e23) rather than using through the DriveThruStuff platform used by the rest of the tabletop industry, and made PDF copies of your books available for purchase before the other "major" industry players (Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle, WhiteWolf, and WotC).

How much of this decision was strategic—based on a firm belief this was "The Way of the Future"—and how much was it exploratory / risk-taking? In hindsight, what decisions for your online presence would you have made differently?

Comment: It takes four magic words in the first sentence (Score 2) 479 479

Hi, I'm an enraged customer, I'd like to speak to your escalations manager.

It helps to say that in the kindest possible tone, too.

"Escalation manager" is the normal term for someone who talks to "enraged customers". It may or may not be what your ISP uses, but the two phrases in the same sentence tend to get you to the right manager.

Did escalations for a while at Sun, some of the problems were real fun. Others weren't.

Comment: Re:"stealing just like stealing anything else" (Score 1) 408 408

Imagine if a company in Virginia had, in their terms and conditions, a line prohibiting a citizen of Massachusetts from purchasing their product or service? One requiring they buy it from a specified licencee in Mass?

Can you say "criminal conspiracy in restraint of trade" ?

Comment: Epic fail: someone always matches (Score 2, Interesting) 129 129

This scheme will work for one branch in Lesser Nowhere, Sechwan Province, with a finite and small set of pictures, and a small number of crooks. Once the number of faces increases, the probability of a false positive explodes, roughly as (N 2) (select every two out of N), where N is the size of the pools of pictures + the person being scanned.

The well-known example is the "birthday paradox", in which twenty-three people at a party increases the probability of two of them having the same birthday to fifty-fifty. That particular case was because the actual probability was multiplied by (25 2) = 25! / ((25-2)! * 2!) = 6900 comparisons being made, times 1/365 chances of a hit.

The German federal security service considered using one of my then employer's recognizers for airports to catch terrorists, but ended up facing the problem of accusing grandma of being part of the Bader-Meinhoff gang (;-)) No matter how accurate we were, a few more people in the pool would give us false positives. We'd need roughly an accuracy of 99.9 followed by roughly as many decimal places of 9s as there were powers of ten of people.


Comment: Re:"Whether or not you believe there’s a pro (Score 1) 613 613

I caution attempts at social engineering result in greater injustices than those they seek to fight against.

I would say that the first thing those attempting social engineering should seek is to utilize the solutions they propose. For instance, it's amazing how many of the politicians in the US who seek to raise the minimum wage also make broad use of unpaid interns. If even the crusaders can't manage to pay everybody minimum wage (not the new level of $10, $15, or whatever is being proposed today, but just the current amount), what makes you so certain it's a great idea?

Comment: many recruiters are hired off the street (Score 1) 227 227

A sister company did recruiting, and a then colleague said "I asked for a MVS and Unix person in a particular state with experience in a package", and got hundreds of names, none of whom knew all those things". The didn't know the difference between "and" (3 candidates) and "or" (3000 unqualified candidates). I still get requests for things I only ever did once, with co-requisites of things I've never done...

+ - UMG v Grooveshark settled, no money judgment against individuals

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: UMG's case against Grooveshark, which was scheduled to go to trial Monday, has been settled. Under the terms of the settlement (PDF), (a) a $50 million judgment is being entered against Grooveshark, (b) the company is shutting down operations, and (c) no money judgment at all is being entered against the individual defendants.

Comment: Re:Good (Score 2) 302 302

I'm not entirely sure you're not trolling, but I'll bite anyway.

The US Constitution states that the purpose of copyright is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts", artists and inventors may be granted a (temporary, limited) exclusive right to their work. Anytime copyright comes up among my group of friends (who include a large number of writers, musicians, and graphical artists, in addition to programmers) copyright is a fairly contentious issue. I tend to like to argue the position that any "common", mass produced work that is unavailable for public purchase for longer than one year has outlived its' salable value and should lose copyright protection. (This is particularly true in the age of digital distribution, where "shelf space" is a non-issue.) Fine art (where only one copy of the item ever gets created) clearly requires a different definition for copyright term, but for the things which usually are referenced in these debates online -- CDs, mass market books, newsclippings, etc. -- a strictly limited term is far more beneficial to keeping works available to the public.

Comment: Re:Help me out here a little... (Score 1) 533 533

I think you'll find that electricity won't flow out of the solar supplier if the voltage in the line is at 120v, as there's nowhere with a lower voltage for it to flow to. Anyone who draws current from the system creates a region of lower voltage, and current flows toward them until the voltage is the same everywhere. Think of it electricity as being rather like water in a sealed watertower: no more flows in if it's full, plenty flows out if someone lowers the pressure by opening a tap.

Therefor the spike from all the solar installations just offers more power. If no one takes it, current doesn't flow, the solar folks' ammeters don't budge and they don't get paid by the power distribution company. If somebody turns on a light, current flows, and some supplier's ammeter moves, usually a supplier close to the lightbulb. Ditto the consumer's ammeter, what we call the "electric meter"

Comment: They have to put in safety equipment in any case (Score 4, Interesting) 533 533

To connect a power source to the grid, there has to be a cutoff that disconnects it when the grid voltage drops to zero due to, for example, a tree falling and shorting it to ground. If there isn't a cutoff
  • - the grid sucks all your power and probably blows your fuses and/or rectifier diodes, and
  • - the hydro guy who expects to be handing a dead line suddenly has it jump to 110 or 220V, the instant he lifts it off ground.

Linemen don't like becoming part of the circuits, so they successfully called for the disconnect-if-zero laws.

Power companies (at least in Canada and large parts of the world) already have equipment to deal with the fact that the power can flow both ways. In fact, claiming they don't have equipment is only true IFF the power companies are the ones who like electrocuting their employees (;-))

You're using a keyboard! How quaint!