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Comment Test your equipment (Score 5, Informative) 135

When it comes to USB, test your equipment, even if you haven't upgraded to Type C yet.

I've personally discovered two counterfeit or substandard (depending upon your personal definitions of the terms) USB charging cables.

What I use to test is a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10-inch tablet. This tablet wants approximately 0.7-0.8 amps at 5 volts, but it will charge in a degraded mode if the charging cable isn't up to snuff, or if it's plugged into a desktop or laptop (which normally only supply 0.5 amps).

Every cable should begin by charging in the degraded mode when plugged into my laptop and then upgrade to normal charging mode when plugged into any of my half dozen or so 2 amp USB chargers. Among over a dozen cables, I detected two that were not up to snuff, and you'd be surprised at my results. One cable from the dollar store was garbage, but another, colored cable from the dollar store that had fancy LEDs was fine. Three 10 feet cables were fine. The other reject was an average-looking cable with an average feel. It did not appear to be substandard or counterfeit.

If you want to get fancy you can get a device from that measures current and voltage across the USB port. They cost about $3 shipped. That is how I determined that my tablet will draw approximately 0.7-0.8 amps. From that experience I'd be surprised if many devices actually draw a full 2 amps. It's nice to have a 2 amp supply, though, because it gives you a safety factor if your cables are somewhat substandard. Maybe the newest 2016 phones will draw close to 2 amps. Get the meter and find out!

Based upon my experience, the best USB chargers are from Samsung and anything else that has a counterfeit-resistant UL sticker. And also based upon my experience, if you notice that a charging cable is getting warm, you should probably replace it because it's dissipating electricity as heat rather than conducting it.

Comment The solution? (Score 3, Insightful) 442

Fight every accusation against you in court, however minor. $10 parking ticket? Fight it.

If everyone contested every civil fine, then there wouldn't be civil fines. There aren't enough hours in the day to adjudicate every fine, and courts know it. They expect you to pay it, and they love for you to pay it online.

If you must pay, for example, a $10 parking ticket, go into the office of the entity during business hours and pay with a $100 bill. If the ticket is some amount of money like 55 or 65 dollars, pay in singles. Do not use the Internet, mail, a credit card, or a drop box. Waste the maximum amount of time possible. If you want to speak with the cashier's supervisor, do it. If you got your ticket in a small town, get the mayor on the phone and have a discussion about it, seeing if he can do something to help you.

These are all things that I do, and they work great. When it costs more than a small percentage of $x to collect $x, people have second thoughts. Nobody wants the hassle of having to look a human being in the eyes. It makes people very uncomfortable.

Why do this? Because when you don't show up they hound you to pay them. Turn the tables and annoy the shit out of them instead. They'll get their money eventually, but there is always the chance that they'll make it go away just to make you go away.

Comment Accidents of history (Score 3, Informative) 315

The reason why typewriters and computer keyboards are so US centric is that the English-speaking world happened to be at the top of its game when these products were created. First it was Great Britain and its territories and then the United States. The language of computer science is English. Computer scientists use less Latin than any other scientist that I'm aware of. All common programming languages are based upon the language of mathematics, which is Latin with symbols. English is close enough: All common programming languages read left-to-right, top to bottom. All common programming languages are alphabetic and use mainly SVO, subject-verb-object, just like English. The keywords in all common programming languages are English words. The punctuation marks are the same or more similar to English than any other language. You could say that all common programming languages are Latin with symbols, written in English.

This is why it is easier to be a programmer for a native English speaker than for any other person. Everything fits like a glove, because we invented a large portion of this technology, not because we're any better than any other person. (*)

As China rises, we're beginning to see things like electronics data sheets written in Chinese with an English translation as an afterthought. Quite clearly the standard computer keyboard is only natural for English users. It's utterly horrible for the Chinese. Imagine if the keyboard was created in the Far East. Our 26 letter alphabet with no accent marks would be the afterthought. Programming languages might have been mostly symbol-oriented with Chinese symbolic keywords. We might have needed to be fairly good Chinese speakers to be any good at programming. Future technologies could be like this.

Any contact with an alien race would be more of the same. We could have roughly the same technology but vastly different ways of interacting with it, depending upon whatever culture was dominant when it was created.

(*) I'm aware that QWERTY was designed to slow down typists but it's actually extremely well suited to type English. All 26 letters and the common punctuation marks require a single keypress, and they're all right at our fingertips.

Comment Time (Score 2) 329

I rarely post two responses to the same Slashdot article, but I've read everybody else's responses and nobody has yet mentioned the value of his or her time.

When buying the cheapest product, too many people do not factor in the value of their time.

Let's say that I buy a $10 tool instead of a $50 tool. If the $10 tool breaks, then I will probably waste a minimum of an hour of my time replacing it, not to mention wear and tear on my vehicle. To me an hour of my time is worth more than $40. Saving anything less than $50 on a tool that has the possibility of malfunctioning is a losing proposition.

Get yourself the best tool, and save yourself the grief of wasting your valuable time.

Additionally, nobody has mentioned the value of his or her physical or mental health. When a tool malfunctions, it takes a toll on you. Maybe the tool will only injure you slightly, but was it worth it? Stress hormones in your brain shorten your lifespan, so why make it hard on yourself by making your work more stressful due to malfunctioning tools? We are not machines with replaceable parts. We are fragile humans, physically and mentally.

Comment Re:Crescent won't learn (Score 4, Interesting) 329

I would agree that the three standard Harbor Freight torque wrenches compare favorably with the 1990's era Craftsman torque wrench that I paid $90 for. I tested the $10 Harbor Freight tool side by side on my vehicle with the Craftsman tool and they are close enough that it would be hard for me to justify paying 10x times the price. I can also leave the $10 Harbor Fright torque wrench in my vehicle and not have to worry about it getting lost, permanently borrowed, or stolen.

My recommendation is to own one set of quality tools made in the United States. Keep this set where you use tools the most. Also buy a set of cheap backup tools. Keep these tools where you wouldn't commonly use them, but they still might come in handy. For example, at your employer or at your significant other's place.

And every time you shop at Harbor Freight, make sure to get your free flashlight and use your 20% discount coupon. I always carry around a stack of Harbor Freight coupons.

Comment Waste issue (Score 1) 645

If you look back through the archives, you might be able to find a few of my longer and more detailed responses whenever the subject of nuclear energy arises. I'll restate my conclusions here.

Current nuclear energy production techniques produce new waste products that did not exist before. These products are so deadly that touching them for a reasonable period of time will result in your painful death in a few days to a few months. These waste products are dangerous for timescales of hundreds of thousands of years, give or take one order of magnitude. I'll restrict my analysis to this so-called high-level radioactive waste, not low-level radioactive waste like contaminated equipment and clothing.

The earliest written languages are around 5,000 years old, give or take a thousand years. Nobody except for a handful of people in the world can read those languages. Most humans can only read languages a few hundred years old at most. In the poorest regions of the world in 2016, half of the local population can read no language whatsoever, local or remote, ancient or modern, because they are illiterate.

Regions of the globe that formerly had the leading civilizations can fall on hard times due to overly intensive agriculture, drought, earthquakes, other types of natural disasters, or any number of freak occurrences. North America, over thousands of years, could swap places with sub-Saharan Africa in terms of, most importantly, literacy, scientific and otherwise. There is no guarantee of forward technological progress. Simply look at the Roman Empire and the following Dark Ages. It took civilization until the 20th century to recover most of what was lost.

Let's fast forward 25,000 years. Due to climate change, there is a population of mostly illiterate nomadic herders in North America. Quite by accident, they come across our 2016 state of the art nuclear waste containment facility. Over the years all of the security measures have been destroyed by natural disasters of one kind or another. Amazingly there are still legible signs posted in 100 of the most common languages from 2016 Earth. Since these herders can't read, the signs are quite useless. Even if the locals could read, the signs would take weeks for academics living thousands of miles away to decipher. Being curious and in need of building supplies, these individuals clean out the facility, emptying all high-level waste containers, hoping to find useful materials. Over the next few weeks the material spreads to other local tribes. The advanced civilizations of sub-Saharan Africa are unaware of this until after a few more weeks tens of thousands of people from the primitive tribes of North America start dying from radiation poisoning. All because some pretty ignorant people in 2016 thought that nuclear energy was completely safe.

This is what nuclear energy produces: Ticking, deadly time bombs for future civilizations, with no guaranteed way to warn them of the danger.

Comment Something that we're forgetting about AI (Score 2, Insightful) 207

AI is [or will be] programmed by human programmers.

At present there are two alarming trends in programming. One, companies are unwilling to pay properly trained Western-educated programmers and are increasingly outsourcing programming to inexperienced programmers in Third World countries. Once these programmers become better at their craft, they demand higher pay and/or move to the West and the companies move to even cheaper countries. Two, despite outsourcing, there are probably not enough competent programmers in the world to fulfill current and future demand, so there will always be many incompetent programmers being utilized, regardless of economics.

While the world's best programmers are true craftsmen, the worst programmers are the ones we have to worry about. Some company looking to save a few dollars will hire a few incompetents and, rather than your word processor crashing causing you to lose a few minutes of work, your AI's built-in curbs will malfunction and it will go rogue. How many programmers in the world today can design a bug-free security sandbox? As AIs become more sophisticated, every programmer will have to be able to do this. AIs have to be contained, yet what intelligent human would willingly consent to being imprisoned? In the battle between an inexperienced programmer from sub-Saharan Africa in 2100 who is the first generation of his tribe to not be a shepherd, and an AI, can you guess who will lose?

Unless we can change the way our field works, we must assume that the worst and least experienced programmers in the world will be working on AI. There is no basic competency required in programming. Companies will simply pay the least amount of money that they can get away with, like they always do. The AI that kills us won't come from research labs at MIT, it will come from the Microsoft outsourcer office in Bhutan.

Comment Bluetooth (Score 1) 412

Bluetooth isn't perfect, but I'm a happy convert.

I'd rather have Apple put a micro SD card slot where the headphone jack is. I'll never buy an Apple smartphone, but Samsung and the other Android device makers have been issuing close copies of Apple products lately in terms of hardware specs.

Wires hanging off of wireless devices for ordinary use cases seems wrong. I'm 100% wireless charging now as well, even though I have an older device without the capability built in.

The only downside of Bluetooth is occasional audio interruptions. I'm not sure why this happens, but I have a feeling it has to do with misbehaving apps eating up too many CPU cycles.

Comment Definition of online (Score 4, Informative) 53

I personally purchased things in the mid-1980's online using Quantum Link, but CompuServe dates back to 1969 so people were obviously making online purchases throughout the 1970's. BBSes were active and often linked together in massive networks from the 1970's through the 1990's. Whether that counts is up for debate.

If you're speaking strictly about the Internet, the Usenet forsale groups have been around for a long time. My first use of the Internet was in 1992 to sell some old computer junk, but Usenet dates back to the 1980's.

It's amazing how ignorant people are of the online world before 1995.

Comment Re:unionize (Score 1) 177

If you're afraid that what you write on Slashdot could jeopardize your job, then I advise you to quit. Specifically, though, we're talking about unionizing. I'll talk with anyone at any company I work for about unionizing, its pluses and minuses. Being a programmer is about intellectual freedom. If you can't speak your mind, then your ability to program the way you should is probably equally constrained.

The chief benefit of a union for a programmer is this. Let's say that you were injured in a car accident and your intellectual abilities have suffered, but they may eventually recover. A union is the type of organization that might go to bat for you. For a man under 35, the biggest risk of substantial injury is in a vehicle accident.

Programmers are supposed to be smart enough to be able to deal with the business side of their careers. But clearly we are NOT. Hence, Google offers to completely take over its employees financial affairs to get them in order. This benefit seems like Big Brother but to me it's actually quite a nice thing that Google is doing. Going to engineering school virtually bankrupted me, and it costs twice as much today.

Comment As a living thing (Score 1) 492

As a living thing, the most important thing in life is to reproduce. It isn't to worship a deity, or to eat, or to work, or to sleep. More politely, the most important thing for a heterosexual man to do is to meet women. (Substitute all of the pronouns you want for women and for people in the LGBT community.)

For years I tried to convince myself that working on technical projects was the most interesting thing that I could possibly be doing, and I denied my basic biology. By your 30's the defects in our society's social structure become readily apparent. The social norm for nerd behavior does not favor us in any way whatsoever. It distances us from the requirements of our biology. Is it self-imposed? In part, I suppose. For the most part, though, we're brainwashed. Programming is not preferable to having sex. Programming should be something you do after you're exhausted from sex. The value that companies get from the software that we write means that we should be getting paid 10 times what we do at the very least, or work one day a week and spend the rest of our lives doing what we should be doing.

This individual has it completely backwards. His job at Google and money are his god. He is a brainwashed automaton, exactly who Google wants to work for them.

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