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Comment: TurboTax on Windows, Paper Returns (Score 1) 357

by billstewart (#46757551) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

Am I trusting my tax data to online services? Fat chance. Too many people have my data already.

More precisely, my wife runs TurboTax, I run errands and fetch papers and caffeine.
Back in the 80s, we went to H&R Block because of the complexity of moving expenses from my first post-college job, and my wife said "that looks easy", took the H&R Block tax prep course and did a year of working there, then a couple years at another tax/accounting company, then started her own tax business, using TurboTax and a laptop. It was a bit difficult to keep everything working, because TurboTax assumed you had a desktop PC with a real disk drive instead of floppies, but after a couple years of using RAMdoubler and disk compression, she was able to upgrade to a laptop that resembled what TurboTax needed. Eventually she went back to doing computer businesses and was able to get rid of most of her tax clients (and eventually all of them), but she's been doing the taxes in the years since then.

I think we're finally using the personal version of TurboTax by now; we used the tax-preparer version for many years because there were things the personal one just couldn't do or didn't do well (including importing previous years' data from the tax-preparer version, which kept us on that for a couple years after we would have switched.)


IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When Microsoft terminated official support for Windows XP on April 8th, many organizations had taken the six years of warnings to heart and migrated to another operating system. But not the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Only 52,000 of their 110,000 Windows-powered computers have been upgraded to Windows 7. They'll now be forced to pay Microsoft for Custom Support. How much? Using Microsoft's standard rate of $200 per PC, it'll be $11.6 million for one year. That leaves $18.4 million of their $30 million budget to finish the upgrades themselves, which works out to $317 per computer."

Comment: Download new OpenSSL, not just recompile (Score 1) 239

by billstewart (#46720753) Attached to: Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability: A Technical Remediation

No, you actually have to fix the code to add bounds checking, or download a new version of OpenSSL (which probably gets you other fixes as well, unless you were already running the latest version.)

Recompiling OpenSSL with the proper flag isn't enough to do the job - there are people who've done that and had problems keeping OpenSSL stable on their platforms, and more importantly, that still doesn't stop the Heartbleed attack from causing trouble. You need to get the code not to try to fetch memory beyond the appropriate object's array bounds, though OpenSSL should also default to using malloc()/free() instead of rolling its own badly.

Comment: Re:WHO (Score 1) 51

by billstewart (#46702369) Attached to: Ties of the Matrix: An Exercise in Combinatorics

Back in the 90s and early 2000s I was consulting, so whether I wore a tie or not depended on the customer. The sales guy I worked with brought me along to one Japanese company in the late 90s, so I guessed conservative and wore a tie. They asked me not to do it again; they'd convinced their management that nobody in Silicon Valley wears ties, and didn't want anybody to mess that up :-)

I did wear a tie to a New Year's party recently, and I wore one to a trade show a year or so ago just because I hadn't had any excuse to wear a tie in ages.

Comment: It's about language theory, not just ties (Score 1) 51

by billstewart (#46702349) Attached to: Ties of the Matrix: An Exercise in Combinatorics

There's a whole lot of deep security and programming thought that goes into most of Meredith and Dan's papers (I don't know the other two authors), so while I haven't read this one yet, I'm expecting good things from it. Go check out the whole "weird machines" security discussion.

Also, I've got a closet full of ties, most of which I haven't worn this millennium, so hey, why not :-)

Comment: MOD PARENT UP PLEASE! (Score 1) 92

Yeah, that's becoming really annoying for a lot of newer systems. One of the good things about the RPi and Beaglebone Black is that both of them have HDMI connectors for the video, uSDHC storage, and USB for other I/O (SATA would be nice as well, but USB gets the job done.)

Comment: RPi GPU is still a major selling point (Score 1) 92

The RPi's GPU may not be the top gaming rig out there, but it's fast enough to play 1080p television. For me, that's fast enough that sometime soon I'm going to get around to getting one and hooking it up to my TV, probably to run XBMC as well as using it as a home file server. The interesting alternative would have been the Beaglebone Black, but it looks like the BBB's GPU is more limited, and can only do 1080 at a really low frame rate. (And of course now the BBB seems to be sold out and backordered - it does have a better CPU.)

Comment: WaPo still won't use word "torture" (Score 5, Insightful) 207

Cowards. They're not willing to call it what it is, because they're still the Establishment Media, and don't want to lose access to the government people who are their big information sources.

At least National Public Radio has the excuse that they're directly funded by the government (and "viewers like you", and grants from Exxon, Archer Daniels Midland, some recent movie, etc.) - it was 10 years after Gitmo before I first heard them use the T-word in a news story; before that it had only been guests on Terry Gross's interview shows (and Terry herself.)

Don't let the right-wingers tell you that either of these are "liberal" media.

Comment: Re: intelligence in the bulb vs. light fixture (Score 1) 176

by billstewart (#46635295) Attached to: The Connected Home's Battle of the Bulbs

If you sell light bulbs, you'd rather make your profit on the part people are likely to replace soon than the part they don't change very often. People are much more willing to replace a light bulb themselves than a light fixture mounted on a wall (which might require an electrician in some places, might only get replaced during a decorating change such as repainting the bathroom, and which probably still works fine, as opposed to the old incandescent bulb that burned out.)

Comment: Why an Internet of Things? "Because We Can". (Score 1) 176

by billstewart (#46635269) Attached to: The Connected Home's Battle of the Bulbs

Yes, this adds a lot of complex control circuitry to your lightbulb - a microcontroller ($0.50 will get you 8-bit and 16-bit CPUs, and there are probably ARM CPUs for under $1 by now), and some kind of radio or sound or light sensor for signalling (also no more than a few bucks), and a 1/N share of the cost of the remote control (which only needs to cost more than $5 because a $200 home automation system needs a fancy GUI and lots of user interface development.)

I might very well want to set different light bulbs in different rooms to different colors, to coordinate with the paint colors and the lighting needs of the various activities we use those rooms for. I'm not in their target market demographic, but having recently had to pick paint colors for my living room and seen how radically any color we tried changed depending on the lighting (direct/indirect sunlight, different kinds of incandescents, compact fluorescents, and cheap LEDs) and even depending on the color of adjacent walls/furniture - human color vision is an amazingly weird and twisty system - I can see that some people might very well want to have their lighting change its behaviour based on time of day.

On the other hand, I'm definitely in the target market for a cheap LED replacement for 150-watt incandescents, and for that matter for 100-watt; most of the cheap LED market is still for the 40-to-60-watt incandescent replacement.

Comment: Re:If only.. (Score 2) 176

by billstewart (#46635143) Attached to: The Connected Home's Battle of the Bulbs

I've lost a light switch before. My apartment has a hallway with switches at both ends, one of which was at the natural location for a laundry-sorting table by the washing machine. Stuff gradually accumulated, hiding the switch that we didn't use much anyway. At one point, the light stopped working, and when replacing the bulb didn't help, I was getting ready to tear apart the switch box to replace that one and another that was occasionally flaky, and then I remembered the other switch - which had gotten pushed to an intermediate position between up and down.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.