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Comment I Process Retail Returns Daily (Score 5, Interesting) 96

The list is no surprise. Their top returns can be classified into 3 categories:
1) Tablet cases/covers. Oftentimes they explicitly claim to fit the iPads, and also other 10.1/7" tablets, but end up too loose and the tablet slips out, and of course the straps aren't adjustable. Few people bring their tablet into the store to check, and it's likely a present and still in a box.

2) Devices which utilize radio waves. Interference by walls/furniture, and other devices, cause reception to vary widely. The overloaded 2.4GHz spectrum is making this gradually worse. For wireless audio, people have little tolerance for the signal cutting out. Remember 'antennagate'? A poor wifi antenna can make a tablet (or unlocked phone) hard to use.

3) Sticks of RAM. I was kinda surprised by this, although thinking back to how many unused sticks of RAM I own that my mobos just won't work with for various reasons, it shouldn't be too surprising. Some people likely get SODIMMs instead of DIMMs and vice versa, or the wrong speed, or the wrong DDR tech.

In brick and mortar, top electronics returns are phone chargers with the wrong plug (Lightning instead of micro-usb or vice versa), and $5 headphones whose wires snap after bending them twice. Tablets are next, followed by Wifi speakers. God, the tablets; the cheap ones are cheap enough to be unusable, but are expensive enough to warrant returning, so the return rate is ~75% on some of them. Printers were very frequently returned because the manufacturer tried to save 50cents by not including a USB-B cable; customers would complain it had no cable, and for some reason they don't have a dozen laying around their house like I do. Only including a black ink cartridge and no color (or vice versa) was another frequently given reason. If people weren't able to rip the packaging open and try it on, I imagine many smartphone cases would be returned; apparently noone knows what phone they have, and have to try to put the case on in order to figure out if it'll fit. At best, they know they have an iPhone, or 'a Samsung', but most often, it's e.g. 'a Verizon'. Most amusing return award: an HDMI cable returned for 'not working with a 3d signal' despite the packaging explicitly saying it did. Surprisingly, (small) TVs were almost never returned, I guess they really do encourage passivity.

Comment Bring On the GM Livestock (Score 1) 514

I suspect that genetically modifying livestock will lower the number of animals that need to be slaughtered. The meat per animal will go up, and they can be engineered to have improved immune systems; the mass culls of flocks suspected of infection with serious disease can go the way of the Dodo (pun intended).
As meat production goes up, price will go down, increasing consumption somewhat, but it will reach a limit; eventually we'll reach Peak Meat where people are too gorged on animal flesh to consume more (obesity epidemic notwithstanding), even if it's cheaper than human-edible grains.
I predict that animal size will gradually increase in order to improve efficiency. For example, there will eventually just be one giant 50-foot-tall chicken-zilla in America. She will be given a name, and slaughtered on television after a ritual involving nude chanting in a circle. I'll bring the body paint, absinthe, and wing sauce!
And how about some GM cows that don't produce so much methane. Or go a step further and make meat-sacks that have no legs or heads, and nutrients are pumped in and wastes are pumped out. I'm sure noone will have any kneejerk reactions to that idea, nosirree. I wonder how much of that will be allowed under Kosher/Halal.

Comment Re:GM producers are shooting themselves in the foo (Score 1) 514

Animals that are GM to grow faster will bioaccumulate less toxins before they are slaughtered, so it may actually be healthier than the non-GM version. Wild fish generally swim in far more polluted waters than what the farms use (because farms care about yields and disease.)

Comment How Would That Help? (Score 5, Interesting) 274

These include electronic/anonymous payments, virtual currencies and the transfers of gold and precious metals by pre-paid cards.

Two problems here. Electronic payments can transfer from anything to anything else, meaning two accounts both external to the EU; the EU's rules would never touch that transaction. The payment can then be introduced into the EU if someone wanted to (and honestly it would never need to). It's the old trick of "abstract until it's legal."

Second is that there's no point in only restricting cards that represent 'precious metals', since it represents a denomination that's indirectly backed by the metal. A card could just as conveniently represent the same value in base metals, or blue chip stocks, or frozen concentrated orange juice. Limiting prepaid card value to 500Euro or something should suffice.

That said I don't see how any of that would've prevented the Paris attacks or allowed the accomplices to be found out after the fact. Wallet cash could've covered transportation, food and lodging; and the guns (probably the largest expense) were smuggled into the country anyhow. The total cost was probably less than 50k Euros, almost all of which was probably paid in cash to criminals who weren't going to try and trace their payment even if it were traceable (demanding cash because they don't want to be traced themselves). I don't know the details of the case though. All I see is politicians trying to push through a EU PATRIOT ACT.

Comment Unclear Rules (Score 2) 309

Lessig's campaign asked the DNC for clarity on the rule, and they kept waffling back and forth on whether it requires 1% in the polls >6 weeks before the debate, or 6 weeks before the debate. I have a feeling that noone at the DNC actually knows which it is, explaining the conflicting answers; the 'rule' is probably only there for show, and never actually critically applied; it is simply 'known' which candidates have enough buzz, and those are the ones that make it to the debate.

Comment Modern Tests are Dysfunctional (Score 1) 278

In theory, tests should be utilized for two purposes: determining the effectiveness of a curriculum and how it is taught (i.e. the teacher), and determining a specific student's retention. Unfortunately, making test scores part of a student's permanent record (via Grades) leads to discrimination against those who do poorly on tests, which leads to the dysfunctional practice of 'cramming'. Cramming leads to much-reduced retention compared to other learning techniques, and further testing (e.g. final exams) will lead to more cramming rather than more learning in ways that improve retention. Sudden pop-quizzes could be utilized instead, where the students don't know to cram for them, but I'm skeptical these could be done in a cram-proof manner, particularly if they are regular occurrences.

The solution is for test results to not be associable with individual students or affect grades. Pop quizzes can be used to determine who needs additional instruction to understand the material. Only 1 standardized test should be necessary annually, not 10 like the summary says is average. Furthermore, only giving funding to schools who score well leads to a positive feedback loop, where rich schools get higher scores and thus get more money they don't need, while poor schools get low scores and don't get the money they badly need. There's too much graft involved with the boondoggles that aren't helping, and I imagine standardized tests are a part of that. The lack of nationwide homogenization in schools is a double-edged sword: some happen to do something right, somehow, that the federal govt. wouldn't have thought of, yet others fall into easily-avoided traps that the dept. of education could ward off.

Rant mode:
Even in pre-NCLB public schools, I wasn't taught what breadth of endeavors and fields of study there were. I didn't know what Sociology was until college, for example. I don't necessarily think every high-schooler should take a Sociology course, but they should at least know it exists. There are countless things that exist that schools fail to notify students about: "hey, this exists. it's a thing. check it out maybe." One's world can seem to feel like it holds nothing more than what's taught in one's courses. Many students aren't interested in (at least some of) the few things their public schools offer, leading some to come to dislike learning in general, which leads to anti-intellectualism. Some people will just never have the patience for learning things that are abstract or not immediately obvious to be relevant to them, so teaching them things like math or geography are a waste of time compared to teaching them practical hands-on things like carving furniture. Worse, it's condescending for some teachers to suggest that "if you do bad at $my_subject then you're doomed to be a burger-flipper for all your days" as if that's a horrible inevitable fate. There are LOTS of blue-collar jobs of all different types, which can be done by someone without even a high school education, some of which a given person may enjoy.

It seems that certain subjects are considered 'sacred cows', and are rarely justified for why they are taught, particularly for as many hours as they are. For example, Algebra is great, as a programmer I use it all the time; there's certainly enough knowledge of Algebra to fill 50, 100 or maybe 1000 hours of class time... but does the average high school student really need more than 5 or 10 hours to learn the most important elements of it they're most likely to actually remember and use? If some obscure element is required to be understood primarily for the purpose of understanding something in a later class, it can be explained in that later class right before what builds upon it, saving time for those who never take that later class. In high school did I really need to be taught the details of WW2 three separate times? The teachers went into more depth each time, sure, yet I learned about names and dates of battles and who won them and why rather than stuff like the Nuremberg Trials and why they were important. There's so much filler and busywork that it drowns out the more-important stuff, and that time could be better spent teaching other subjects that there's supposedly no time for. In fact, some kind of cost/benefit analysis is needed; hour 500 of history could probably be better spent as hour 1 of engineering, even just by a teacher who looked up the subject on Khan academy the previous night.

Comment Dismissed Due to Standing, Again (Score 1) 213

Proving standing when one is subject to a secret procedure is akin to proving one's innocence: it may be impossible unless the guilty party steps forward and admits guilt. What the judges SHOULD do is modify the rules on determining standing, so that if it regards a secret procedure, the judge does his own discovery, and examines the classified information on his own, in order to determine if the plaintiff has standing. Judges already privately examine classified information in other contexts, so it shouldn't be unreasonable. Maybe get FISC involved if necessary.

Comment Wouldn't Be the First Time (Score 4, Insightful) 61

This has happened before. People who gain critical thinking look back upon what they were learned about history in school or books, and realize that much of it is heavily colored by biases popular in that place and time. '1984' made the concept of rewriting history well-known, although propagandized 'interpretations' of historical events surely predated it. That someone went to the trouble to write a long description of an event indicates a motivation to do so, but that motivation may not be a desire to record or disseminate the truth; therefore, being written down is not proof of its truthfulness.
For example, it used to be a common occurrence for trusted/respected writers to have new writings attributed to them in order for their 'legitimacy' to be improved. Thus the large amount of apocryphal writings that exist. The Wright bros. weren't believed by journalists at the time that they'd achieved controlled flight; later, they withheld their flyer from the Smithsonian unless they agreed to acknowledge them as the inventors of controlled flight and ignore all the others who worked on airplanes at the time; so the media can get it wrong coming and going.
And then there's the whole 'mainstream media'/Faux News problem, presenting 1/3 of a story and encouraging people to jump to conclusions.
In the past, storytelling was the main method of history preservation. Look at how many myths and urban legends that led to, as well as gross embellishments a la Journey to the West. When you were a kid, chances are you believed a myth or 50; how did you feel when you grew up and realized they were nonsense?
In the end it's going to come down to chains of evidence leading to a trustworthy content creator: a well-known photographer, speaker, or a journalist who goes right to the source. If it originated from an anonymous internet account, then it's less trustworthy.

Comment Security More Important Than Location (Score 5, Insightful) 381

Most countries fall into one of four categories here: Five Eyes (shares surveillance data with U.S.), 'The West' (same, probably with implicit economic threats involved), Laizzes-faire governments (trivially bribed in order to share surveillance data with U.S.), and totalitarian (keeps the info to themselves but surveils everything openly).

Reporters Without Borders maintains a nice ranking here of countries based on their histories of surveillance and censorship; however, sometimes it turns out that a country high on the list will be revealed to have been engaged in a mass-surveillance scheme all along or has major corruption problems that weren't factored in.

In practical terms, it has always been advised that anything unencrypted sent over the Internet should be assumed to be snooped upon, and now we merely know how true that assumption always was. Your efforts should be put into ensuring everything is encrypted and hashed using secure algorithms that haven't been broken. Even if your server is physically located in Utopia, whose government never does any surveillance, censorship or takedowns, hackers (government or otherwise) from other countries can compromise your server and take all the data or install backdoors to your encryption efforts, so security is more important than location. Of course, a country that doesn't have a history of raiding datacenters hosting certain materials is still a good idea, but don't forget that your upstream hosting providers are one bribe/threat away from pulling your plug unilaterally, so choose them well too.

To restore a sense of reality, I think Walt Disney should have a Hardluckland. -- Jack Paar