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Comment: Re:Hardly surprising (Score 1) 249

by ottothecow (#48084911) Attached to: Why Do Contextual Ads Fail?
Honestly though, don't you kind if prefer it this way?

In this world, the advertisers know that you were looking at various info related to electric cars, but they don't actually know that you bought one. They didn't see the financing pull on your credit report, they didn't see the actual transaction, so they are just guessing that you might still be shopping.

I would much rather they keep doing this, because it makes me believe that while my browsing habits are up for grabs, my actually purchasing habits are still a little bit more private. Obviously, it is a little different if Amazon is advertising products on Amazon that they have already sold you (though I never catch them doing this, only offering complementary products), but how is google supposed to know that I ended up winning that ebay auction after I spent a week researching the item?

Comment: Re:Hacking attempt? (Score 1) 742

by ottothecow (#48084863) Attached to: Complain About Comcast, Get Fired From Your Job
That's because your "independent contractor" comcast driver didn't report the equipment as returned (did he give you a receipt?) and instead sold it on craigslist.

FWIW, I once had a non-contractor--as in an actual comcast employee--out for a second visit after the useless contractor (usually they are only good for swapping your modem, restarting your computer, and maybe recrimping the cable end) failed to identify the problem. He was clearly of a different breed...had actual knowledge of the underlying systems, had specialized test tools, etc. Of course, in the end, the problem was that some idiot contractor had cut our wire at the box when trying to disconnect someone else's service, so this guy's higher-tier support wasn't really needed except for the fact that the contractors are too stupid to realize a wire's not even connected on the other end.

I am sure there are contractors who don't suck, but most of these guys jobs are simply going around and drilling the most convenient holes they can in your house to run new service (god forbid they might actually think about how ugly a cable would look coming out at waist height in the middle of a room...). They get paid by the visit, and aren't paid enough to give a shit. I signed up for comcast service last week (moved to comcast-exclusive building...) and am ever-thankful that they offered to send me a "self-install" kit instead of letting one of these yahoos into my house.

Comment: Re:Like SAS etc (Score 1) 240

by ottothecow (#48042009) Attached to: Back To Faxes: Doctors Can't Exchange Digital Medical Records
I too interviewed with Epic (Madison's not a bad town really...wouldn't be my first choice, but I had zero offers at the time I applied).

Place sounded like a borderline scammy place to work. The kind of company that grew too big to keep being managed by its founder and initial employees (not that it can't be done, but it can lead to a lot of personnel decisions being made based on things other than employee merit). Seemed like they thrived on overworking visa-holders since it was almost impossible for them to leave the firm (can't just quit, but can't easily find new work when you are travelling to client sites, working long hours, and returning back to home on the weekends to the middle of Wisconsin where it is hard to find another sponsoring employer).

I didn't return for the second interview...

Comment: Re:Uber Fresh? (Score 2) 139

by ottothecow (#47913035) Attached to: Uber CEO: We'll Run Your Errands
Restaurants in america also do this already. In cities, many of them contract with a delivery service (a guy with a car who makes loops of several restaurants, picking up deliveries and dropping them off).

Fees are already $5 or less...and often you can order online through a service like Seamless or GrubHub.

It seems like this cover's other types of errands. Home Depot doesn't deliver that part you discover you need in the middle of a project. If you are already a carfree city dweller, you might have to take an Uber to the store to buy the it is a logical extension that you could pay a little extra for the driver to make the trip without you. Saves you from having to clean yourself up (or at least get enough of the grease and grime off to feel comfortable riding in a stranger's car), and you can keep working on your project while they fetch the part.

Comment: Re:No "standard" iPhone size? (Score 5, Interesting) 730

by ottothecow (#47864615) Attached to: Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments
Yeah. While it is hard for me to visualize exactly what size the smaller 6 will be, I know a lot of people who have stuck with apple because of the consistent form factor.

As the android phones grew to massive sizes, they could just keep buying iphones that fit in their pockets (without having to wear baggy pants or cargo shorts).

Same thing happened with the Moto X for me I guess. I was ok with the form factor. Bigger than the iphone, but smaller than the competition...and still just (barely) small enough that I could reach all 4 corners of the screen with my thumb while holding it in one hand. Now the new Moto X+1 is getting even bigger and it is definitely not going to be my next phone. Luckily I am still loving the Moto X and have no reason to upgrade for another year...but I have zero interest in going bigger.

Comment: Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (Score 1) 359

by ottothecow (#47830249) Attached to: How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms
I know slashdot loves RPN--and that is part of why I made an effort to use this ancient 12c--but I'm not entirely convinced.

I get *why* it is better, and I see where it improves things, but I just can't get down with it. Maybe I spent too long using traditional calculators (and don't do enough with the 12cnow), but I can think around calculator entry and order of operations...RPN takes some of that thought away, but it comes so naturally on a normal calculator that I notice an improvement.

Probably just need to use it more...or use it for more complex calculations (but that's what computers are for...). I also use an RPN calculator app on my android phone, but I don't feel the benefits there either. Someone else at my company once posed the best reasoning for using the 12c that I have heard: his boss can't figure out how to work it, so he is never at risk of having it commandeered.

Comment: Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (Score 1) 359

by ottothecow (#47829897) Attached to: How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms
First, they may retail at $150, but amazon sells them all day long at under $100. The fancy color version clocks in at $104, and you can still get an 83+ for $88 (which is going to be sufficient and keystroke identical to the 84+). There is also a large used market for these things. Buy one from a graduating senior for a huge discount...or sell one when you are done and recoup much of your expense (certainly enough to make it worth buying TI over the $50 casio that nobody will buy when you are done).

Frankly, I think it is a good thing that they have remained so stable. It's a tool, not some newfangled tech toy...just a fricking calculator. They don't become obsolete. When I was in high school in the early 2000s, I knew plenty of kids who had their older brother's TI-83. Today, their older brother's kids could now be old enough to continue using that exact same TI-83--and it really could be the exact same one since those calculators are durable as hell.

Which brings me to my second comment--I think it is hard to make a cheapo clone of these that doesn't suck. I'm sure someone could do it since there are android devices that sell for less (and TI emulators for android), but the build quality on the TI devices is pretty high. You'd have to stash all of the components in a pocketable case along with 50 physical keys, and make it capable of running on commodity batteries for months without a swap. Those physical keys have to stand up to a lot of abuse too...TI is raking in a lot of profit on these, but I bet their margins aren't really *that* high.

Comment: Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (Score 1) 359

by ottothecow (#47829803) Attached to: How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms
Your daughter is going to have a tough time graphing y=x^2 with that calculator.

This article is about graphing calculators. When kids are still in the "scientific" calculator realm, there is a lot less care about what model you use. Sure, they will recommend a model, but any calculator should be pretty easy to find the sqrt, sin, cos, and tan functions on (which is most of what kids need when they step beyond 4-function calculators).

Casio's graphing calculators are harder to use (the teacher truly won't be able to help), and while they compete on price, the cheapest casio grapher on amazon (without guessing at whether it meets the requirements) is $43. You can get an 83+ on amazon for $88, an 84+ for $94 and the fanciest silver edition for $104. If you don't want to keep the calculator after graduation, the TI calculators will have enough resale value to more than make up for the higher initial cost (and you can start off with a used one to save even more money). HP used to make some nice competition, but those days seem to be over.

yeah, the hardware seems weak, but remember, the hardware was weak when the 84 was first introduced--these have always functional, durable units rather than cutting edge tech (and what do you need your calculator to do? besides games, I can't think of what you would need a faster chip that point, you are moving to a computer with a keyboard since you are about to do some programming).

Comment: Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (Score 1) 359

by ottothecow (#47829721) Attached to: How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms
This is what people forget...your phone can do it all, but your calculator is much more convenient to actually use.

I have a TI-83+ and a TI-89 at home. Admittedly, I haven't used them in a while--I have a HP 12c at my desk, basically always have excel and SAS running (and Tableau too these days), and actually do most quick arithmetic with launchy and alt-space. But, they are great calculators and they are still going strong.

Got the 89 late in high school because it was more fun to play with and had the CAS, but the 83 I have had since the 7th grade is perfectly functional. The key layout is sensible, the menus are navigable, and the low-res screen shows me what I need to know without draining the battery. The 89 is a little better at all of these things (and will pretty-print your inputs), but other than the CAS functions, I can't think of anything that it can do which the 83 cannot.

The 84+ is mostly a logical improvement over the 83. Little more modern look, faster cpu, USB and some more memory (more than enough for what is needed). It does have Mathprint which makes entry a little more like how you would write functions on paper (although I might argue against this..."classic" mode teaches kids how to enter functions with multiple parameters, which is a key lesson for anyone who will later do some simple scripting or even just write excel formulas). They have always felt overpriced, but if they are as durable and long lifed as my 83+, it is not a bad investment. Those calculators have been dropped, abused, and used hard for years without a thought about taking care of them. I owned them before I ever had a cell phone, and I still own them now, None of my phones have lasted that long (not even counting obsolescence...I kept my Razr for years but the keyboard corroded, and my Galaxy S was barely functional at the end of its life between software updates and degraded hardware).

Finally, the HP 12c is still a standard calculator for financial professionals. That thing is even more outddated than the TI-83 and uses RPN which nobody knows how to use, but it still goes for like $80 for the plus model. Similar issues abound: entrenched user base that knows how to use that specific model, lots of hand me down models (mine was made in 1988...2 years after I was born), and several big standardized tests that specify that model (the CFA exams, among others). Truth is, there isn't a ton of complaint from the actual users...because they calculators work great for their intended purpose. The 12c doesn't get complained about because the buyers are the users. The TI graphing calcs are being bought by parents who think "why am I paying so much for an obsolete piece of junk that does less than my kid's cell phone?" without realizing that the calculator does a significantly better job when it comes to features and usability.

Comment: Re:It still sucks. (Score 1) 163

by ottothecow (#47811017) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: the State of Free Video Editing Tools?
+1 for never crashing. I gave up on a commercial tool I was trying after it crashed. I had done some saving, but this particular failure mode ended up destroying my saved project file (IIRC, it was clearly in a state of crashing so I tried to get off a save...that attempted save overwrote the good save and I was SOL).

Can't remember if it was MAGIX Movie Edit Pro or Sony Vegas that did that to me...but I literally gave up on that project (still have the raw footage sitting on my drive) because I didn't want to start from scratch. I think it was MAGIX, but I don't want to unfairly slander a product. I was trying it out because I had hated the experience editing my previous video with Premiere Elements which was a watered down piece of garbage. Vegas was next on my list to try (unless it was Vegas that crashed, in which case MAGIX was next), but I actually ended up editing my next video using the software that GoPro distributes. Unfortunately, that software was pretty crash-happy too. Made it through with copious use of ctrl-s, but not sure I want to do it again.

What's the state of iMovie these days? Last I heard, they watered it down and made it junky (to push people to final cut express), but I remember back 10+ years ago, it was pretty solid. Not sure it is worth getting a mac (or figuring out a hackintosh) though.

Comment: Re:Insurance and a 1099 (Score 1) 312

by ottothecow (#47810439) Attached to: Uber Now Blocked All Over Germany
I don't know about Germany, but I have been following the Uber/Lyft issues here in Chicago.

Those specially "licensed" taxi drivers? Turns out the taxi license is just a test to see if you know the city streets and where certain landmarks are. There is no additional test on driving ability, kindness to customers, or anything like that. While I admit that it can be annoying to get a driver who can't find a major intersection, the presence of GPS systems makes this less important (and uber now lets you prefill your destination and will then give your driver directions). But the taxi companies try to make it sound like they have superior safer drivers because they have a chauffeur's license.

With uber, the terrible drivers get booted. You leave them bad reviews and uber will actually call you to ask about your trip. Enough of those and those drivers are gone. Compare this with taxi drivers where you have to go out of the way to make a complaint with little likelihood that the taxi company will do anything about it. And in my experience, the Uber driver's are much more courteous and are smoother drivers. They don't drive like asshat taxis both because they want to keep their good ratings, and because they are driving their personal vehicles which they do not want to damage (while every taxi is a little scraped up and nobody cares).

I think the rideshare companies have some serious liability insurance issues to work through and I wouldn't be opposed to some sort of enhanced driver's license requirement (but I want that to be an on-the-road test of driving safety, rather than a 100% geography test). But I don't think banning them is the right answer. In just a short amount of time, Uber has managed to roll out a wide-ranging service in Chicago that is leaps and bounds above what the taxi industry has been able to do with technology. I can actually rely on Uber, unlike the taxi companies where 25% of the time they won't actually show up if you have arranged an early morning ride ot the airport...and that reliability is worth major points (and that extends to the yellow cab drivers who use uber to find passengers--they are also a step above the random cabs you find on the street or having to deal with the taxi dispatch companies).

Comment: Re: Ridiculous. (Score 3, Informative) 463

Unfortunately I think you will find that we don't imprison *anyone* who is involved in a fatal crash with a cyclist. Even when road rage or illegal device usage are a factor.

I am sure you can find a couple of examples, so maybe saying it never happens is overreaching, but you will find a distinct lack of prosecution in car-cyclist deaths compared to car-pedestrian deaths that are otherwise identical.

Comment: Re:two classes of games (Score 1) 382

by ottothecow (#47778859) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Best Games To Have In Your Collection?
You should try Lords of Waterdeep.

Don't let the D&D tie-in scare you off (it literally has zero bearing on the game besides giving a general "theme" and providing names and artwork to put on the cards/board).

Best with 3 or 4 players (a little off with 5 but workable). Super easy to learn and teach, especially if 1 player already knows the "detailed" rules...everything is laid out on the board so other than basic gameplay, there is nothing to remember (e.g. If you place your piece on this space, you will get 2 orange blocks, as shown by the picture of two orange blocks). I think there is an iphone version, so someone can get acquainted with the rules prior to introducing the game to the group.

Comment: Valve Combo (Score 1) 382

by ottothecow (#47778753) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Best Games To Have In Your Collection?
For PC games, looking at modern games you might actually play: Depends who you play with, but if you want to be able to have games that you can play with friends (online or LAN) that are pretty standardly owned across large groups of people...hard to go wrong with the basic Valve Stack.

Helps that there are crazy steam sales all of the time, and many of these games can be had for 99 cents.

  • Counterstrike--might as well have 1.6, CS:s, and CS:GO...I held off from CS:GO, but it is really quite delightful to play with a group of friends who aren't hardcore CS players. The institutionalized version of Gun Game, and the smaller arena maps are great in a small LAN party situation.
  • Team Fortress 2. TF2 is great, and it is free. Harder to play with just a small group, but you can all join a big server together and have fun.
  • Left 4 Dead 2. Great coop play with 4 people and devastating versus play with 8. Excellent LAN game, but no problems playing online either.
  • DOTA 2. Not my favorite game, but it is free and widely played. AI is very good, so you can play decent LAN games with any number of players (either coop vs AI or split into teams with AI filling in the gaps) without feeling like you are carting around an idiot (which is how playing 3-player L4D2 often feels).

I am sure there are more games you could add to the list, but if you have those 4, odds are you can find a game in common with pretty much every PC gamer out there.

Comment: Re:various card games (Score 1) 382

by ottothecow (#47778573) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Best Games To Have In Your Collection?
I find that *not* having the Special Building Phase would slow the game down even more.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if 5 player games go faster than 4 player because of this.

The extra builds let you get things done faster and keeps the game engaging for all players. I find that one of the big problems with advanced board games is the detatchment players feel between turns in games with more than 4 players. Some games solve this with simultaneous action (such as Game of Thrones where everybody places orders at the same time). Catan solves it by letting players interrupt and build. Building 2 turns after your turn gets you 4 more chances to gain resources from what you built (and prevents you from losing resources on a 7) which can only speed the game up.

What slows the game down, especially with more players, are players who are annoying about trades. Lots of time can be spent going down the rabbit hole of players not being quick and direct about trades.

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright