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Journal: Coupon sites dealfind, teambuy bankrupt, bought by Ncrowd 1

Journal by BarbaraHudson
Less than 2 weeks ago, the company that owns discount coupon sites and filed for bankruptcy. People who had bought discount coupons aren't getting refunds from either teambuy or the individual merchants (who are also refusing to honor the coupons).

Deal-lovers who bought everything from tooth whitening treatments to digital cameras on and are angry about getting burned along with some merchants after the cut-rate online coupon sitesâ(TM) insolvency filing in Canada.

One of Canadaâ(TM)s largest coupon websites has filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving customers stranded. Couch Commerce Inc., the parent company of and, went into financial restructuring in Canada under the Companiesâ(TM) Creditors Arrangement Act on Aug. 29.

This month, it sent form-letter emails to customers, saying they could not get refunds related to any purchases made on or before that date. Nor could they use any credits issued on or before that date.

The new acquirer, ncrowd, currently has an empty FAQ page, so former dealfind and teambuy customers need to rely on blogs and the press for information.

User Journal

Journal: Moroned Off Vesta 2

Journal by mcgrew

John's first patron of the day was waiting at the door when he approached.
        "Roger!" he said as he unlocked the door. "I haven't seen you in years! Want a beer? My stuff is pretty damned good if I do say so myself, and it's a lot cheaper than the imported stuff."
        "Sure," he said. John poured a beer and handed it to him. He took a sip. "Not bad, John. So you're tending bar now? I heard the shipping company fired you for that thing on Vesta. They said you killed a couple of guys."
        John laughed. "Tending bar? It's my bar! Fired me? The president and the CEO both tried to talk me out of retiring, but my wife's building a telescope here. Time for me to settle down, I'm tired of pirates and all that other bullshit."
        "Yeah, I heard you married a scientist."
        "So what have you been up to, Rog?"
        Roger laughed. "Well, I've been waiting for you to open for an hour most lately, it's been almost a year since I had a beer. I've had a bunch of Saturn runs and a Vesta assignment the last couple of years and haven't been to Mars in a long time, but when I got back from Vesta they sent me here with a load of barley and hops and stuff like that. Did you buy all of that?"
        "Yeah, that's my shipment. I told you I'm making beer, didn't you see the sign? I have a microbrewery here, that's all beer ingredients. So how do you like it?"
        "It's good beer, you're pretty good at it. So they begged you not to retire? When I was on Vesta unloading some food supplies they told me that you got fired for killing two passengers. Did that happen?"
        John laughed. "No, not only did they not fire me, I got a raise. And yeah, two stupid rich tourists died but it was their own stupidity, arrogance, and sense of entitlement that killed them, not me."
        "So what happened?"
        "Well, I was taking scientific equipment to Vesta and a couple of the other asteroid stations in the belt, and I had two first class passengers. A couple of assholes from Austin who were born rich and got richer speculating on the stock market. Idiots who couldn't learn because they thought they knew everything."
        "Yeah," Roger said, "Texas is damned weird, I lived in Houston for a while when I was a kid. Everybody wore those stupid looking hats and acted like they were all ranchers or something. History class was filled with Sam Houston, the Alamo, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It's been a museum for a couple hundred years now."
        "Yeah, that's those two morons to a tee. Drug store cowboys, all hat and no cattle. Probably couldn't tell a cow from a horse and thought milk came from factories.
        "All they did was bitch and complain and break rules. They hated the coffee I made for them, and my coffee's pretty good, lots better than robots did then. I'm glad they upgraded those robots, I always made coffee for passengers because the robot coffee was barely drinkable.
        "They complained about the pork, what would I know about pork? Hell, I wasn't rich, I was just a boat captain. I only ate pork a couple of times in my life before I met Destiny. There wasn't anything I could have done about the pork but they bitched about it every damned day even though the cookbots did damned good on everything else but barbecue. Oh, they complained their asses off about the barbecue, too."
        "They're crazy about barbecue in Texas," Roger said. "Some folks there eat it every day. I've seen them barbecue eggs! They're always bragging about how big everything is in Texas, too."
        "Yeah, they bitched about how âdinkyâ(TM) their cabin was. Hell, my whole damned houseboat would probably have fit in their living room and it's a big houseboat. Crappy trip, the only good thing was they were paying for full gravity so it didn't take very long to get there.
        "Anyway, these guys liked reading old science fiction, really ancient stuff. They'd run across a short story called Marooned Off Vesta, and when Vesta ordered supplies from one of their companies they decided to buy tickets and ride along.
        "These dumbasses wanted to recreate the damned story!"
        "What was the story about?"
        "Well, it starts with..." Another patron entered. "Gus Harrison! How about that!" John said.
        Roger grinned. "What are you doing in a bar this time of morning, old man? I haven't seen you in years, either."
        Gus laughed. "You're the one with a beer in front of you. I just got back from Europa and haven't had a beer in months. What do you have, John?"
        "Pretty much everything, but my best seller is my own stuff."
        "John makes some damned good beer," Roger said. "I like it better than imported. Give me another one, John."
        "Yeah, I'll try one," said Gus. "So what have you guys been doing?"
        "John's been telling space stories. He was telling me about some morons off Vesta."
        "Yeah, like I was telling Roger, two annoying rich tourists wanted to recreate an ancient story some Russian guy wrote a few hundred years ago. It starts with three guys who have just survived a collision with an asteroid that destroyed most of the ship and killed everyone else."
        "I think I read that," Gus said. "Marooned Off Vesta?"
        "Yeah, that's the one."
        "He wasn't Russian, he was American, Isaac Asimov. He emigrated to the United States with his parents from Russia when he was three. Rog, in the book one of the three guys puts on a space suit, crawls around the outside of the ship and blasts the ship's water tank with a laser or something and the water shoots out and puts them on Vesta where they're rescued by its science station. So what happened on your trip, John?"
        "Well, these morons thought the guys in the story could have just jumped from orbit and landed on Vesta and decided to prove it."
        "What?" Gus and Roger exclaimed in unison.
        "That's just stupid," Gus added.
        "No shit," John replied. Well, they found out the hard way."
        "How did they get outside the boat?" Roger asked. "We keep everything like storage locked away from passengers."
        "They hacked the lock with some kind of gizmo they bought on the black market. It was really damned sophisticated, it kept the alarm quiet and the warning light dark."
        "Son of a bitch," Gus said, "The stupid bastards dealt with pirates? They're lucky they lived long enough to buy the tickets. So they suffocated out there after they ran out of air?"
        "No, worse. It was bad. I discovered it half an hour after they were floating outside and the meteor alarm went off. Lucky they wasn't able to unhook that alarm, or it really would have been like that story, only we'd all have died. There wasn't time to rescue the morons so I got the hell out of the way of the rocks. When the storm passed I went back into orbit and retrieved what little of them that was left, and delivered the cargo and the dead morons to the landing boat from the station."
        "Almost wrecked your ship, did they?" Roger said.
        "Yeah. I was moroned off Vesta."

I was thinking about shopping his out to various science fiction magazines, then remembered all the ones I bought when I was young. I realized that there was no way any story with John and his friends and their "colorful language" was going to published in a "family magazine" so I decided to go ahead and post it here. I hacked most of it out this morning.

Marooned Off Vesta was Isaac Asimov's first published story, appearing in the pulp fiction magazine Amazing Stories in 1939.

The magazine stopped publication in 2005. It was reborn as a free web magazine at the above link in 2012. It's where I found the link to the Asimov story.

User Journal

Journal: Is Windows 10 really that "business friendly?" 1

Journal by BarbaraHudson

Sure, the conventional start menu is back, but the live tiles off to the side are going to present two problems for business, who will probably want to lock that feature down tight or remove it entirely. I can't picture employers wanting their employees to customize the menu so that they can see their facebook, twitter, or other social media feeds. And I don't think employers want every supplier of data to a live tile to know every time the user clicks the start menu.

Sure, you could set a time between refreshes (but that sort of defeats the whole concept of a "live" tile), but the suppliers of the data feeds are still going to have some idea of when the person starts work, etc.

Back when businesses first integrated Windows into their workspaces, there was a tremendous waste of time by employees playing solitaire and arranging the desktop the way they liked it, always fiddling around with the wallpaper and icons. And then the web came along, in many ways making things worse. And smartphones. Live tiles are going to be yet another distraction. Every time a user goes to start another application, they're going to be presented with several opportunities to look at something else instead. Distractions lead to mistakes and lower productivity, and businesses will be paying for this. So too will employees who find themselves out of a job because they get caught up in the "new shiny" to the point where their work suffers.

At least with Windows 8.1, you can disable showing the start menu by default and never see a live tile. Unless Microsoft provides a way to completely lock down or disable tiles in the start menu, I don't think Windows 10 is going to be classifiable as "business friendly".

User Journal

Journal: Example of a legitimate use for Tor 1

Journal by BarbaraHudson
Found this in the Firehose. Hope it makes it to the front page, because in some jobs, and some parts of the world, being "stealth" when you're trans is the only safe option How Tor protects and serves transgender service members.

Last year, for example, a Navy cryptologist named Landon Wilson was put up for promotion while serving in Afghanistan. The recognition of ultimately backfired: As the paperwork was prepared, colleagues found out that Landon was born a girl and was thus was a transgender man. He was fired despite his prowess and the resources the military had poured into training him.


Other soldiers claimed they were forced to bury dead bodies and take on other punitive duties after their gender identity had been outed.

Multiple women [serving in Afghanistan] have told me that they were suddenly put at the head of their supply convoys every week until the end of their tour, with the idea that if there were an [explosive device], theyâ(TM)d be in the position that would be struck by it,â

Pretty good argument that not all users of Tor are doing it to hide acts of wrongdoing.

The Matrix

Journal: The Matrix is Mimetic 12

Journal by Jeremiah Cornelius

As Yuval Harari points out, "What is so special about us that allows for such cooperation? Unflatteringly, it is our talent for deluding ourselves. If you examine any large-scale human cooperation (or co-option), you will always find some imaginary story at its base. As long as many people believe in the same stories about gods, nations, money or human rights (memes and antitropes) - they follow the same laws and rules (of conduct)."

User Journal

Journal: Surprising Statistics 1

Journal by mcgrew

Bored, since I can't do anything to the book but wait for the USPS, I decided to log into my web host's site and check out statistics for my site. Most of them were completely unexpected.

I expected most visitors to be running Windows, but very surprised at how many Linux users came. 71.4% were running Windows, not surprising, but the 12.5% running Linux was completely surprising, considering that everything I read says only something like 1% run that OS. Many of the 14% "unknown" are likely to be Linux as well.

Linux kicks Apple's ass on my site! Only 1.4% are logging on with a Mac; they're dead last.

Browsers surprised me, too. The 52.3% that Firefox has wasn't surprising, but the fact that IE was dead last among desktop browsers (well, except Safari) but what surprised me even more is that people are still using Netscape and Mozilla. And I thought I was bad about not upgrading! 7.8% were on Android's browser.

Also surprising was the number of folks from non-English speaking countries, some of which outnumbers visitors from New Zealand (not many Kiwis visiting at all).

What really surprised me was that there were zero with scripting disabled. Not that it matters; I don't use any (except a little CSS) but I did use a little javascript back in the day when I was running my old Quake site. If I did use it, disabled scripting wouldn't hurt anything, my code always failed gracefully when it failed.

I still can't believe all the tools I have at my disposal, although I doubt I'll use more than one or two; I manage files with FileZilla and rarely log on to my host's site.

User Journal

Journal: Yes, SimCity 2k is beatable. 5

Journal by BarbaraHudson

While looking around for a minecraft clone so I could see what the hype was about, I came across something called Dwarf Fortress. The New Yorker describes it as SimCity's evil twin.

And some games werenâ(TM)t allowed in at all. These gamesâ"most notably the immensely popular SimCity, as well as its lunatic homemade successor Dwarf Fortressâ"were deemed âoetoo complex or too time consuming,â and are represented only by noninteractive video displays. This is about as satisfying as looking at pictures of food, but it is also in a perverse sort of way a real tribute: these games are still too big, too stubbornly new and strange and mysterious, to fit into a museum just yet. They canâ(TM)t be sampled; you must surrender to them.

Designed by Will Wright, who had made only a single previous game, and first released in 1989, SimCity casts the player as a slightly supernatural city planner, laying out roads and power plants and building zones in a simple, brightly colored interface with a distinct resemblance to MS Paint. You choose tax rates and ordinances from a series of menus, and try to balance traffic and property values and pollution and dozens of other factors on the way to creating a successful cityâ"with the definition of âoesuccessfulâ rather up in the air. It has no âoeend,â no plot, no set goal: you play until you are bored, or until your city seems to you to be perfect or maimed beyond repair. Along with its increasingly pretty and complex sequels (the 1994 SimCity 2000 is the one chosen for âoeApplied Design,â

This canard still persists today. I know it can be beaten - I did it, and it's simpler than I thought.

First - the background. Back when my retinas were getting lasered on a regular basis, I would fire up SK2k in an emulator under KNOPPIX. This gave me a chance to focus on large graphics on a large screen, instead of stuff like fonts. It worked too - my eyes would recover after a few days of intermittent gameplay.

So, since SC2K had always held a certain fascination for me, I determined to beat it. Without bothering with complications like variable tax rates for different industries, etc.

It turns out that the real limiting factor is good old H20. Starting with a flat world and enough water available in rows in the center, you never have to add any more water. Why in rows? Because your pumps benefit from having water on 6 of the 8 adjacent tiles, giving them the best space/capacity trade-off. Why in the center? Because you'll put your industries along the edge, so half (or more near a corner) of your pollution goes to your neighbors, instead of spoiling your water supply.

You do NOT need a seaport. Ever. Or a marina. And you can ignore most of those "Commerce needs new connections" messages.

The optimal grid is 9x9, surrounded by roads on all sides. Continue this pattern, even through the water area (a grid of 9x9 blocks of 9x9), surrounded by a ring of 9x9 blocks for commercial / sports development later in the game. Leave enough of a gap for a set of highways to go from one edge of the screen to the other (forming a huge # sign), by working from the edge to create more 9x9 blocks.

DON'T draw all the roads right away - just lay them out as you need them, otherwise you'll go broke.

If you build police departments, fire departments, schools, etc. as required, you will eventually "break the simulator" Turns out (it's in the docs) that there are only 150 "mini simulators" in the game. You'll know when you're broken this because the next launch arcology will fill up immediately. Do this a few times, and you can start eliminating public utitilies, schools, etc., to increase revenue even more.

Once you have built and populated enough launch arcologies, you'll get the "The exodus has begun" dialog. Game over.

It took me 24 hours, going from 1900 to 26-something. I took a load of screen-shots, to document progress, and saved the game almost every "year", just in case that last run hadn't worked, but it DID!

User Journal

Journal: Sorry I haven't written 6

Journal by mcgrew

I've been busy editing. I sent off for a printed copy this morning, so you'll probably see more of me the next couple of weeks, as will the folks at the bar. I'll probably be bored, since I've been working obsessively on that book since March.

I updated my web site slightly this morning, adding a "coming soon" heads up about the book. I'm hoping to publish in a month. There will be one lucky fellow who will get a free hardcover copy, and hardcover copies will be "invitation only" but all you'll have to do is email a request and I'll return the mail with a URL where you can get it. I may do the same with the paperback.

My apologies, but the eBook version will be priced at two dollars more than my first books, which were free. It will be a two dollar Amazon download. If your reader doesn't do Amazon, forward your Amazon receipt to me with your reader type and preferred file type and I'll send it back by email.

If you're afraid I'm just trying to collect email addresses to spam, I'm not. I don't give or sell my address book to anyone. Moreover, my site collects absolutely no information about visitors whatever, and doesn't use cookies or any kind of scripting whatever.

PDF and HTML files will continue to be free, as well as the eBooks of the two previous books. The prices on the printed books will only change if the printer changes his prices.

Most likely I'll work on that new short story, Moroned Off Vesta about the incident Captain Knolls mentions several times in the book. It will have him in his Martian bar telling a friend who captains the company ships about what happened.

The title is a nod to Isaac Asimov's first published story, Marooned Off Vesta. I may try to shop it to a few science fiction magazines before I post it.

I mentioned my web site earlier, the domain registration needed to be renewed and I needed more space; their "free" hosting (it comes with registration) only gives you five megabytes. I had to delete the Bible to make room for The Paxil Diaries and wouldn't have had room for Mars, Ho! It's costing me $35 a year for ten times the space. "Free" is fifteen bucks.

Yes, they're cheap and they're good. I had to use their tech support to get FileZilla to see the files for FTP; the process had completely changed. Unlike some help desks I've dealt with in the past, they were excellent.

The changes to FTP include a lot. I can have subdomains, many subusers with their own separate users, all sorts of goodies now. Forums, discussion boards, comments, SQL, PHP, Java, Ruby, the whole kit and kaboodle.

And I won't be using any of it.

I've registered all my past domains with them, starting in 2000, and never once had a problem with them. They're a Canadian company, register4less. If you have a small site and need less than 5 megs and no frills it's only fifteen bucks.

Oh, and buy a book, I have new false teeth to pay for.

User Journal

Journal: Little historical help out there 12

Journal by smitty_one_each

I had said

Maybe we can agree that, as is nearly always the case, there was a spectrum of motives [for/against slavery]. If boiling it all down to "plain old economics" was the sum, then the 3/5ths Compromise would not have been as contentious in [debates about the Constitution in] 1787.

Now, I realize that there is this concerted effort out there to try to hang guilt on contemporary Americans. I've two words in reply to these efforts, the second of which is "you". Doubling down on my comment above, no one is virtuous; not me, not the slave traders then, not Abraham Lincoln, not those flinging guilt today. But do note such figures as Luther Martin:

Martin was an active participant in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was an especially strong proponent of proportional representation in Congress and fought to prohibit the further importation of slaves. The slave trade, wrote Martin, was "a solemn mockery of and insult to God." Slavery itself was "inconsistent with the genius of republicanism ⦠as it lessens the sense of the equal rights of mankind and habituates us to tyranny and oppression." He would later become honorary counselor of the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Ultimately, Martin opposed ratification of the Constitution and became a prominent Anti-Federalist in Maryland. He authored four open letters to the citizens of Maryland in which he addressed his concern that a strong federal government was bound to expand in size and scope and thereby threaten the liberties of all. His voice was a part of the larger national chorus that supported the Constitution as long as it came with a bill of rights.

If you aren't willing to step back and view the sweep of events from Independence through the Civil War through the Civil Rights movement to the Racism Industrial Complex of our day, that juxtaposes Ferguson, MO to ISIS, then I think you're missing some major points.

United States

Journal: FDL Nails It: Superpower Performance Art

Journal by Jeremiah Cornelius

'The Cause Of Empire Leads To The Graveyard'

"This is a vision of the world in which might makes right - a world in which one nation's borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed. America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might - that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future...

America is and will continue to be a Pacific power, promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations. But we will insist that all nations abide by the rules of the road, and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully, consistent with international law. That's how the Asia-Pacific has grown. And that's the only way to protect this progress going forward."

User Journal

Journal: Not a Racist Country? Really? 23

Journal by PopeRatzo

A black man is gunned down by police for handling a toy gun in a Walmart. A gun that Walmart was selling.

But this white guy can carry a real, loaded rifle (and body armor) in front of a school, refuses to show ID to police and nothing happens.

Open Carry laws are clearly meant just for white people. Laws that only apply to one race are the definition of racist.

User Journal

Journal: For crying out loud in the dark, NYT 32

Journal by smitty_one_each

It seems that the Paper of Record had no record of the broad coalition built by George W. Bush for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, including ground troops from more than a dozen nations, when it attempted to explain the difference between the approaches of Bush and Barack Obama on war in Iraq and now Syria.

I'll concede that George W. Bush answered the question: "Does the U.S. have any business engaging in nation building?" with "abso-effing-lutely NOT".
However, I think that the Paper of Record has so thoroughly soiled itself that even its staunchest, vertebrae-free sycophant apologists here on Slashdot can just lay by their dishes.
This embarrassment on the basic facts of the previous decade underscores the NYT's basic unreliability, and the uselessness it brings to discussions of, say, Benghazi.

User Journal

Journal: We've gone past "good enough" computing ... 7

Journal by BarbaraHudson

Time was when most of us were complaining about needing more ram, more cpu, more storage. Today? Computers are cheap, fast, multi-core, more energy-efficient than ever, with more storage than many of us will ever use ... and by the time we fill up those huge hard disks, we'll just buy a newer, faster computer with several times the storage and even more ram for less.

And if that's not enough, there's online storage. It's not just Linus Torvalds who can say "Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it." Everyone does it - even when they really shouldn't.

"Fast, good, cheap - pick two?" Not any more. For most users and use cases, we really can have it all, literally right in the palm of our hand if that's what we want. Sure, a lot of the old skills that were needed when hardware sucked are now obsolete, but I for one don't miss those days. Not when I can concentrate on doing what I want instead.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang