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Comment: TIL about wiretapping without wires (Score 4, Informative) 99

I always assumed that the exception to anti-wiretapping laws for pen registers was some kind of case law.

But not only is 18 USC 3121 is a specific law about pen registers, looking at 18 USC 3127 and the definitions that are incorporated from 18 USC 2510 , it's clearly intended to include radio communications.

For radio that's "readily accessible to the general public" the interception and disclosure rules have an exception, as you might expect, but no sign of that sort of thing in this pen register law.


Comment: If maintenance is the excuse, then wrong units (Score 1) 826

by EmagGeek (#49736959) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

If they really want to make road taxes usage based, then they need to charge by the ton-mile or something like that. Wear and tear on roads goes by the weight of the vehicle, and if I remember correctly it is a non-linear relationship (square or cube, I can't remember).

It's pretty trivial for a vehicle to compute its own weight, so it is similarly trivial for a vehicle to compute its own road tax as well. Many cars are now coming equipped with GSM modems as well, so your car could simply upload your road impact once/month and you can be billed for your use tax.

Piece of cake.

Comment: Re:Language, Density, and Whitespace (Score 1) 244

by EmagGeek (#49719165) Attached to: RTFM? How To Write a Manual Worth Reading

Oversimplified language creates more ambiguity, not less. It may *seem* less ambiguous to people who don't understand the subject matter. But, to people who do, failing to be both precise and descriptive in your language creates more questions than are answered by your text, or worse, sends an inaccurate message.

Comment: Re:Typical government response... (Score 2) 393

I think you're right except for a couple of glaring, incorrect assumptions on your part. First, PTC is not new technology. It has been around for a very long time. Second, it is not under "rush" deployment because it has been under deployment for a very long time. In fact, George W. Bush signed into Law a mandate to deploy this technology where appropriate by this year. Finally, the curve in question does not require PTC because the speed limit leading up to the curve is below the maximum safe speed for it. Under normal operating conditions a slow-down is not required beforehand.

The only thing that I find super-shocking about this whole event is that Bush has not yet been blamed for it. After all, he could have sent the Law back to Congress asking for a faster deployment, not that it would have made a difference in this case since it is not a requirement for this curve.


Schools That Ban Mobile Phones See Better Academic Results 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-thing-down dept. writes: Jamie Doward reports at The Guardian that according to a recent study in the UK, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling over a pupil's academic year with the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4% after schools banned mobile phones, "We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days." In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day. But some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city's chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

The research was carried out at Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester schools before and after bans were introduced (PDF). It factored in characteristics such as gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs status and prior educational attainment. "Technological advancements are commonly viewed as increasing productivity," write Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. "Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions."

Comment: Language, Density, and Whitespace (Score 3, Funny) 244

by EmagGeek (#49689489) Attached to: RTFM? How To Write a Manual Worth Reading

What I've learned from decades of reading professionally-written manuals can be summed up in two steps:

The first step in writing a good manual is to have a very weak grasp of the language used by your target audience. It is important to use many grammatical and spelling errors, just to make sure the reader stays on their toes and pays attention. Research has also shown that users do not like to read manuals that use advanced vocabulary or complex grammatical structures.

The second step is to manage the density of information on the pages properly. A piece of paper is pretty large, and so are most screens, so a lot of information can be included on a single pane of view. It is important to make the most of this space and convey as much information as possible, as densely as possible. The more information a user can see without having to turn pages, the better. Use of separating devices, indications, and other correlative marks should be avoided, as it takes away from space that can be used for more information. They also can cause there to be more whitespace on a page, which should be avoided at all costs.

Comment: Re:Not yet statistically significant (Score 1) 408

Well it is interesting in so far as knowing when the companies think they need to have human operators still.

Actually, having a licensed human operator ready to take over is a legal precondition for putting an autonomous car on the road (in all US states where they're legal at all).

Comment: A few points (Score 2) 509

by singularity (#49638997) Attached to: What To Say When the Police Tell You To Stop Filming Them

1) The problem I see with the "Am I free to go?" question is that in all of the recorded interactions I have seen, the police officer more often than not just ignores the question.

Police: "Sir, can you tell me your address?"
Citizen: "Am I free to go?"
Police: "Sir, I need your address so I know if you should be on this street."
Citizen: "Am I free to go?"
Police: "Sir, do you live on this street or not?" ...and so on. Eventually the police officer will either concede the person is free to go, or will call for assistance.

2) For all of the talk about "99.6% of officers do not abuse their power", I have a problem when 99.6% of officers willingly choose to cover for the 0.4% that abuse their power. In my mind, that means that the 99.6% are also guilty of abusing their power, this time by not investigating and arresting criminals - in this case their coworkers.

If a big city police department was found to completely ignore the crimes of another subset of the population, that would be described as a corrupt police department. The fact that the subset in this question is the very same police department should not make a difference.

3) I am always confused by the "Let the investigation run its course, do not give in to the demands for immediate justice" calls that follow incidents of police brutality caught on tape. If someone records me shooting someone as they are running away from me, you had better believe I would be arrested as soon as the police located me. Putting me on paid leave for a few weeks while they "investigate"?

4) As was seen in the Baltimore riots and countless other major protests before, the police, as a department-wide policy, have no problem locking people up for 24-48 hours and then releasing them without charging them with anything.

The few people that are charged are caught in the catch-22 of being charged with resisting arrest, but no other crime. Their only crime was verbally and/or physically trying to prevent an officer from handcuffing them when the protestor was not doing anything illegal in the first place.

5) At what point do we start holding North Carolina officers responsible when they unconstitutionally pull people over for a burned-out rear tail light? NC law only requires a single "stop lamp" on the rear of a car. The Walter Scott incident should have never happened, as it is reasonable for NC officers to know by now that NC law has held being pulled over for only a failed brake light is unconstitutional.

Comment: Re:sudo bash (Score 2) 300

by rakslice (#49618933) Attached to: Ubuntu 15.04 Received Well By Linux Community

It's because some people take such things way too seriously. I would suggest that you try each one and compare the resulting environment variable values, and then choose whichever best suits your purpose. And to trolls who find 'sudo su -' shocking, exactly which resulting difference are you concerned about? I'm curious.

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.