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Comment How it should work. (Score 1) 319

- Immediate call if a charge is suspect. I had this happen recently making a big purchase at Home Depot. Card got declined; I was confused. Then my phone rang with the card issuer on the line. Confirmed my identity (smart, phone could've been stolen) and that the charge was legit. Re-ran the transaction and it went through. Catch: For this to work smoothly, the call really needs to come in within 60 seconds, otherwise I would probably try another card for fear of holding up the line.

- Instant notification for ALL charges. Notification by text message and additionally email. If your card is compromised, the thief will often try a small charge as a test to see if the card is still valid. This happened to me recently: I had email notifications setup for charges made, but the bank only sent the notifications for charges over $10, so i didn't see the first fraudulent charge and only found out later when they called me about a $300 charge at in the Netherlands (US-based card). Each text message should be appended with a message like "If you did not make this transaction, reply 'NO' to this message." A reply would freeze the account until you can call in.

- App-based 2-tier authorization - You make a charge and a notification pops up on your phone with the details requiring you to confirm the transaction before it gets approved. I'm wary about this one because it would require having your phone and a working connection at all times, and it could leave you screwed if that isn't the case.

Comment Re:Off-Earth habitation (Score 1) 683

I agree: mastering a self-sustaining space station makes a lot more sense. We'd learn some things that would help us make the several-month journey to Mars with minimal weight (important because weight is a huge cost of any space mission). We could put another such space station into orbit around Mars as a place for surface expeditions to be launched from and return to. Once you have a self-sustaining space station down, whether in orbit or on a planetary surface, you greatly reduce the possibility of putting humans into the outer reaches of space only to have them die from running out of oxygen or food before we can send help.

Comment Re:Good guy teleco emplyees... (Score 4, Informative) 123

I have a dual-SIM phone with one SIM on T-Mobile's network, the other on AT&T's (both are MVNOs). My experience has been that T-Mobile has better overall coverage in the areas they cover -- and by that I mean actually getting 3 or 4 bars on T-Mobile while indoors and getting 0 or 1 bars on AT&T (obviously in the exact same location since it's in the exact same phone).

I think it's pretty well known that T-Mobile is not the carrier of choice if you're looking for extensive rural coverage. If you need that, my impression is that Verizon is the way to go. But if you're in an urban area 99% of the time, T-Mobile is amazing given their prices and their perks, i.e. free unlimited data and text when traveling overseas. (I think most people don't realize just how unprecedented it is to have unlimited data when roaming abroad, and to date I know of no other carrier in the WORLD who offers that.)

Comment Re:Sort of the opposite of what I was hoping... (Score 4, Insightful) 80

Exactly this. Android isn't a fledgling OS anymore where Google has to suck up to carrier demands. It needs to require that Android phones be able to receive critical system updates. It's actually pretty inexcusable that Android has gotten this far without this -- and I say this is a die-hard Android user.

Comment Re:Linux Mint 17.2 with MATE from Windows XP (Score 1) 69

The only aggravation is the start menu still lags on first opening (a "paper cut" issue, but it's been around for a while).

Thanks for mentioning this. I've put Mint on a few old laptops since XP's EOL, and that start menu lag was a dealbreaker for me with Cinnamon. It really leaves a bad first impression, and frankly I hoped it would have been fixed by now.

Comment Most "new tech" will be lame tech in 20 years. (Score 1) 557

In 1972, when my parents built the house I grew up in, they put in an intercom system. At the time, I'm sure it was an "oooh, wow" gadget. We hardly ever used it, and today there's one terminal remaining in the house which, by today's standards, is incredibly dated-looking and ugly. On top of that, it probably lasted longer than the electronics produced these days. The lesson I take from that is to keep it simple, design for potential additions/upgrades if needed (the "add conduits" advice given multiple times in this thread) and make sure anything you do add can be easily replaced, upgraded or removed so that it's not an eyesore in 20 years. Things like in-floor heating sound like a great idea reading some of the other posts here, but I wonder: what will happen when that system fails down the road? Rip up the entire floor to fix it or replace it? (I'd actually like an answer to this if anyone knows.)

I'd put that "gadget" money into the better energy efficiency ideas which have been mentioned in other comments here -- especially simple design features that will continue to pay off throughout the life of the house with little or no maintenance. One simple non-tech suggestion I'd like to add: consider adding internal doors so that unused parts of the house can be closed off and left at a cooler (or warmer) temperature than the parts of the house you actually spend time in. For example, many houses have a ground floor where everything is open and the kitchen, family room, living room and dining room are all connected. If you live somewhere with cold winters, it doesn't make sense to be heating up the living room and dining room if you're spending all your time in the family room. With a closed door separating them you could shut off the heating vents in the unused room(s) and save on heating costs. This also helps limit noise travel when company is over. (Note that if you live somewhere with genuinely cold winters, you might not want to do this with rooms that have water pipes, as they could freeze and burst.)

Comment Streaming Internet Radio Player, Baby Monitor (Score 2) 110

Sorry few others here seem to see the value in finding a function for still-useful technology that you probably picked up for free.

Up until a couple years ago I used an old WM6 device as a streaming internet radio player. Perfect function for it, as it remained plugged in and so battery life was never a concern, and it meant rarely having to interface with the device (which was of course clonky and sluggish by today's standards).

Another possible use which I recently stumbled upon is using them as baby monitors. No idea if there are dedicated apps for this for WM, but it sounds like you might be willing to create one yourself, which is great (and if you do, I hope you share it). This is actually a brilliant use for old smartphones because:
1. many of the dedicated solutions on the market use analog transmission (which results in static) or, if digital, are quite expensive ($100+)
2. they can remain plugged in so battery life isn't an issue
3. it's not really an issue if the phone's screen is cracked
4. they can potentially interface with someone's current smartphone, which they probably have close-at-hand anyway

Comment I still don't get the love for WhatsApp. (Score 2) 65

Why do people use WhatsApp when, at least for Android (which runs on ~80% of the world's smartphones), it's an app that requires a $1/year subscription after your first year, and when there are many free services that do the same thing (any instant messaging service) and more (VoIP, video calls), and which have desktop clients (because I'd rather reply from my laptop when I'm already using it anyway)?

I've thus far refused to use WhatsApp because I find it pointless given the free, arguably better alternatives. Am I missing something? Does WhatApp have some killer feature that no other app/service has? What makes it better than, say, Google Hangouts or Viber (which even has a desktop client for Linux). Am I wrong in thinking that WhatsApp's continued popularity is only due to WhatsApp's existing popularity?

Comment Re:more direct connection to producers (Score 1) 191

I just remembered a 4th point:

4. Returns. Let's say you aren't satisfied with something purchased from a Chinese seller. They say they're happy to refund your money if you return it. Do you know how much it costs to ship a 1-pound package to China? $15 ($16.75 if done from the Post Office). Do you think they're going to reimburse you for that? And that cost is without any kind of tracking, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear that your package never showed up (whether lost or "lost").

It's not hard to admit errors that are [only] cosmetically wrong. -- J.K. Galbraith