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Comment: Agreed, single-use numbers and Paypal FTW (Score 1) 98

by billstewart (#48687613) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Companies With Poor SSL Practices?

That also reduces the ability of the company to coordinate your purchasing information (though your name and address are probably relatively unique, unless you also use single-use versions of those, like random apartment numbers for your house.)

Somebody else also recommended using PayPal for sites that you don't want to trust on a regular basis. Any place that you don't trust, or that you think might be lax about security, or that you're not planning to use repeatedly can get by with that.

Comment: Sizes of Constellations (Score 3, Interesting) 48

The phrase "smallest of all 88 constellations" really irks me. Constellations aren't real things, they're imaginative descriptions of patterns people see to make it easier to remember which stars are which. There's at least one constellation "The Triangle*" which is smaller, or if you allow two-star constellations, "those two faint dots over there" is even smaller.

(*Yes, I stole that The Triangle from Terry Pratchett; it's the name of a Discworld constellation.)

Comment: Windows says 3:30 1:20 2:50 4:20 0:35 ! (Score 1) 58

by billstewart (#48682081) Attached to: My laptop lasts on battery for ...

Windows estimates on how long anything takes seem to be pretty random. For battery life, that seems to be exacerbated by the manufacturer's power management software as well (and I haven't figured out which lies my new HP tells, compared to the old Dell.)

We have a new program from the IT department at $DAYJOB, which puts the machine into hibernate overnight if you haven't used it for an hour or so after 7pm. (These are laptops, so the energy the company gets to brag about saving is on my electric bill, not theirs, but I've got electric heat so it doesn't really save anything.) The big impact is that the VPN connection drops, so I have to wake up the PC, then log in to the VPN, then before I do anything else, go into the browser and reload the autoproxy, so the firewall doesn't replace half my tabs with non-restorable "your proxy settings are wrong" banners. Costs me about 15 minutes extra in the morning, though I can get some of that back by making coffee while I wait.

Comment: Chimps (and humans) are Apes, not Monkeys (Score 1) 201

by billstewart (#48682017) Attached to: N. Korea Blames US For Internet Outage, Compares Obama to "a Monkey"

Ooook! Don't say the M-word near the Librarian!

You're thinking of the "Bush or Chimp" website. We're not monkeys!

And as the other poster said, at least in America, calling black people "monkeys" is specifically racist; calling white people that is just a non-racial insult.

Comment: Why Kozmo sort of succeeded (Score 1) 34

Ok, the company as a whole tanked rapidly, as one might expect, but according to friends who lived in its territory at the time, one reason the service was so popular was that one of the things it delivered was weed. The company itself didn't sell it, but the drivers did that themselves, so they were happy and the customers were happy, and there were an awful lot of deliveries that had only one random item on the books (plus weed.)

Comment: Skype Call Setup and Media Path Protocols (Score 1) 71

by billstewart (#48673601) Attached to: Ars Reviews Skype Translator

Skype used a server-based system to set up calls, going through supernodes if possible (so it was semi-P2P), which handled subscriber lookup functions and also NAT transparency (which was the big thing that Skype did better than standard VOIP protocols such as H.323 and SIP.)

For the actual media path, if it could go directly, it would, but otherwise it would carry the call through supernodes (again, the NAT traversal problem.)

These days it seems to be mostly central servers, partly as a result of Microsoft buying them and partly because there was a lot of corporate pushback against supernodes using your corporation's bandwidth to complete somebody else's call.

Comment: Original implementations for obvious things are ok (Score 2) 188

by billstewart (#48657151) Attached to: Uber Pushing For Patent On Surge Pricing

If you believe in a patent system at all (which is a separate argument), an original implementation for a relatively obvious concept can still be patentable. Most patents I've seen start out by claiming something fairly obvious (a wheel) and have several progressively less obvious claims before getting to the core invention (a specific axle mounting design, etc.) and then maybe some variations. Most articles about patent abuse focus on the more obvious claims being obvious; that's separate from whether the more abusive actual cases are somebody getting a patent for the less obvious parts and then suing people for violating the much more obvious claims.

Since Uber's lost about 10 previous attempts, they may very well be trying to patent something obvious (charging more when it's busy), or may be trying to patent more specific things about their implementation (but maybe still obvious to the patent examiners, who've actually taken taxis before, even if they haven't written compilers or optimized databases.)

Comment: Cable to Cuba (Score 2) 115

by billstewart (#48649629) Attached to: Cuba Says the Internet Now a Priority

The politics that mattered weren't the ones with Chavez, it was the US pressure on anybody else. Cuba's a really convenient place to run cable, and there's some cable there, but the amount of actual service that it was carrying was very tightly restricted because of the US embargoes. The telcos would have been happy to run a lot more of it, but weren't allowed to.

Comment: Modern Cellular is the way to go (Score 2) 115

by billstewart (#48649621) Attached to: Cuba Says the Internet Now a Priority

It's not completely wireless; to get any reasonable bandwidth out to the users, you need fiber to the towers, not just T1 or radio uplinks, but that's not too hard to do. (As another poster says, the telco's run by the government, so they shouldn't have a problem getting permits, just the usual issues with new construction in old cities.)

No reason to use old phones - the newer standards are much more efficient at spectrum usage.

And there's been fiber to the island for a long time; the problem has been that the US embargoes on trade with Cuba severely limited the services the telcos could provide. To the extent that that was caused by Treasury regulations (which Obama can change for two years) rather than law (which requires the Republicans in Congress to cooperate), they can get some of that service running quickly.

Comment: Agreed: Transactional Currency, not Investment (Score 1) 144

by billstewart (#48628899) Attached to: Will Ripple Eclipse Bitcoin?

Sure, some people will invest in Bitcoins, and other people will invest in racehorses. (I avoid the problem by mining Dogecoins, which are almost totally worthless.) That's missing the point of Bitcoin, which is that it's intended to be a currency for relatively-private transactions.

Unfortunately, the markets that most wanted a currency for relatively-private transactions didn't do as good a job as they should have about being relatively-private on their own end (i.e. Silk Road got busted), but there is still a market for legitimate transactions, as you've pointed out.

It's hard to think of you as the end result of millions of years of evolution.

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