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Comment Re:File a Complaint (Score 1) 38

The option the poll didn't have was "Put me on your do-not-call list" then hang up.

The do-not-call list is a joke to:
(1) "This is Heather from Credit Card Services" scammers
(2) "This is Microsoft calling about your computer that has viruses" scammers
(3) "This is the IRS and we will arrest you if you don't send us money" scammers
(4) "You're just won a free vacation cruise" scammers
(5) "We can make your business #1 in Google search results" scammers
(6) Every bogus charity that hires a call center to shill for money
(7) Every political robocaller (exempted by law from the do-not-call list)

Unfortunately, that makes up 99.9% of the calls I get on my landline. The real missing option should be "Buy an Obihai voice service bridge, program it to screen all incoming calls, and never have another robocaller ring my landline again."

Comment Re:Happened to me (Score 1) 163

I bought my own cable modem, had been using it for over a year when I finally decided to return Comcast's modem. Took it down to their local office and had the customer service rep. check the modem back into inventory and remove the rental fee from my account before leaving. The first month after having it removed everything was fine, there was no rental fee billed, the 2nd month after it re-appeared on my bill and they tacked on an extra charge for the prior month as well as sent a separate mailing notice to inform me they had noticed there was no rental fee on my account and it must have been a billing error on their part but not to worry as they weren't going to charge a penalty, just 2 months worth of rental fees. In order to have the issue resolved I had to call customer service and have them "open an investigation" to check with the local office to verify they had received my old modem back.

I have a better story than yours. I purchased my own modem back when my local cable company was @Home. Comcast then bought @Home, and I upgraded and replaced my own modem for DOCSIS 2.0 and later DOCSIS 3.0.

Then last year, I get a letter from Comcast telling me that due to some error in their billing, I had somehow not been paying their modem rental fee - an error that they were now correcting.

After several calls to Comcast Customer Support, I was asked to provide the MAC address of my modem, so that Comcast could check it against their inventory. My modem was not in their inventory, so they agreed to remove the rental charge.

Two months later, the rental charge is back on the bill. I call customer support, and the lady insists that my modem belongs to them, and "proves" it by reading back the MAC address I provided to them two months earlier.

It took two more months, and escalating my complaint to the corporate office, to get everything fixed.

Comment The tinfoil hat crowd is out in force (Score 3, Insightful) 78

If you browse through the FCC database and read the objections to date, what you'll find is mainly a bunch of "OMG! Electromagnetic radiation will poison us! Stop Project Loon!" It's the tinfoil hat crowd, the ones who think that WiFi and cell phones are giving us brain cancer. Some of their letters are good for a laugh, but they're not a serious threat to Loon.

The serious objections will come later, from telcos who find their wireless rate models undercut by Google, or by petty despots who absolutely, positively do not want Google giving cheap Internet access to their subjects.

Comment Netflix learned their lesson from Starz (Score 2) 302

Four years ago, the Starz network tried to destroy Netflix by yanking its content over demands for much higher licensing fees. It was a body blow to Netflix, and many people wondered if the Netflix streaming service could survive the loss of content. Fortunately, Netflix did survive, and now they're successful enough to call their own shots.

Any information that Netflix provides to its competitors will just be used to try to destroy them, just as Aereo was destroyed. You don't do your enemies favors in this business. All that matters to Netflix is that they get enough viewers for their original content to justify their production costs. They are under no obligation to reveal their viewership numbers to their competition. If I were in their shoes, I'd be telling the major networks to take a flying leap, too.

Comment Re:Is this a problem? (Score 2) 325

There are fewer articles to write than their were before, and they have realized that having fandom pages for every character of every new anime series isn't what Wikipedia is for.

But why not? What harm does it do for Wikipedia to host those fandom pages (as it once did)? It's not as if the Pokemon pages are going to bleed over into the pages on the history of WW2. Wikipedia is a digital encyclopedia; the economic limits of page count don't matter. Wikipedia's decline began when they started cracking down on that sort of content, as if it somehow harmed other articles (which it didn't).

On top of that, Wikipedia wants to be treated as an authoritative information source, but you can't have that when any idiot with a keyboard and an agenda has as much editing power as an expert in a given field. Like most people, I gave up on editing long ago; life is too short to spend fighting it out with fanatics who insist on reverting every edit with a "my way or the highway" attitude.

Comment Re:Cult of personality? (Score 1) 97

Ms. Holmes is an interesting character as all such individuals are at some level. What I would like to know is how she convinced a rather stellar list of individuals to become involved with her company.

It's no mystery. Peoples' brains shut down when the prospect of huge riches are dangled in front of them (provided they get in on the ground floor, of course). Many con artists have scammed people out of millions with far less than what Theranos has disclosed.

As a case study, Google the story of Madison Priest. About 20 years ago, he claimed to have built a video compressor box that would stream data at optic fiber speeds over twisted pair copper wires. He also claimed the technology had been given to him by space aliens. Despite that, he got millions in venture capital from Blockbuster, U.S. West, and Teddy Turner (son of Ted Turner), among many others. Priest, by all accounts, was a uneducated two-bit con man, but he still got more than $6M (most of it spent on his personal expenses) before the investors gave up on him. Ms. Holmes, in contrast, is a well-educated, well-connected woman who travels in the highest circles of finance, and consequently has been able to obtain orders of magnitude more investment capital. However, so far it seems that her invention has no more substance to it than Mr. Priest's invention did.

If Theranos does crash and burn (and the indicators are not good), then I would bet that she will walk away from it relatively unscathed - not because of her wealth and status, but because that's how these situations play out. Madison Priest only did serious prison time because he was caught running a major marijuana growing operation in Florida, not because of his fake invention. Prosecutors and juries don't understand science and technology, and it is very hard to convict someone who says, "Of course my invention would have worked. I ran into technical difficulties and the company ran out of money when my investors bailed."

Creating a fake technology company is almost the perfect crime. As long as you pay your taxes and don't play games with the stocks you issue, your nose will be clean when the house of card collapses.

Comment Another Twitter case study (Score 3, Insightful) 519

You know, sooner or later people might get it through their heads that using Twitter is a strategy for fools.

You have two choices with Twitter: either you tweet some meaningless groupthink post, guaranteed not to offend anyone, OR you post something that offends someone, somewhere. And if you offend enough people, suddenly your life and career are in tatters when the Internet mob turns on you.

You'd think that enough peoples' lives have been ruined by thoughtless tweets that the lesson would have been learned. But it seems there's always another fool just waiting to make an example of him/herself.

Comment Which continuity? (Score 4, Interesting) 438

From the article:

The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

So will this show be set in the original TOS / TNG / DS9 continuity, or in the Abrams continuity?

Lots of plusses and minuses either way.

Comment It's all a matter of perspective (Score 4, Insightful) 212

Asking the devices which connect to this vast complex network of networks to detect, and then transparently fix problems in the infrastructure without the permission of the administrators is, well, it's absolutely the pinnacle of buzzword driven product management. Real pointy-haired boss territory.

Except that what Apple is doing with WiFi Assist is hardly so cryptic. Transparently switching from one network to another (both of which the user has permission to access) in order to maintain a data connection is hardly "the pinnacle of buzzword driven product management". I would say that it is the sort of behavior that most people would expect in the modern mobile era.

Apple's mistake was not in creating the feature. Their mistake was in implementing the feature as being "on" by default without considering the ridiculously low data caps of many cellular contracts, and the ridiculously high overage fees of some of them. In the next iOS update WiFi Assist will be turned "off" by default, and this entire "controversy" will be filed on the shelf right next to Bendgate.

If Apple really wants to shake things up, they need to build their own cellular network with 100 GB or 200 GB data caps. Sprint looks like a good candidate to buy in the U.S. given its current financial situation. Do that, and people won't be bitching about WiFi Assist; they'll be praising it as the new normal.

Comment Re:Paging Governor Walker (Score 1) 312

Here's a nice windfall for the Job Creators of Wisconsin. This may be as much as another $800 million you can cut from University funding.

It will be a double whammy. Not only will the state legislature have an excellent excuse to make an enormous cut in the UWM budget, but the university itself will use a very large chunk of that money to hire a small army of new administrators while growing the university bureaucracy at a furious pace, resulting in even higher overhead costs for future UWM research contracts.

In the long run, UWM will wind up with a few shiny new buildings and a whole lot of highly-paid assistant vice provosts looking for more ways to justify their salaries by micromanaging the faculty and the student body.

Comment Been going on for some time (Score 2) 41

This has been going on for years. My colleagues and I get email inquiries from Iranian students quite frequently, seeking research positions. Their email messages will include embedded mail bugs to track who opens the email. The same students will then try to friend us through Linkedin.

It's a unique pattern of behavior, quite different than what we see with students from other countries. We have speculated that it is being coordinated by some agency within Iran, although we have no real proof of it.

Comment One of the last real news outlets remaining (Score 3, Insightful) 92

I'm an NY Times digital subscriber, for two reasons. First, subscription costs are dirt cheap for people in academia. Second, the NY Times is one of the few remaining news services in the USA that practices investigative journalism any more. I may not always agree with the NY Times' "slant" on a particular story, but at least there is some real content to what they publish.

Our local newspaper is your typical Gannett mess, with the only real "news" being the USA Today insert. The local news is little more than thinly-disguised opinion pieces, local crime reports with minimal information, and articles that rightfully belong on a Gawker site or in People magazine. My wife and I dropped our remaining weekend subscription to the local paper months ago, and we haven't missed it since.

Comment Re:Stupid FUD (Score 1) 303

If a malicious user gain physical access to your network, a high-voltage attack is the least of your worries. Network sniffers and other tools can quickly own your entire network doing far more monetary damage then some fried networking equipment.

Exactly. If attackers want to physically destroy your network, there are a million different ways to do it. They could just as easily set the building on fire, or shoot out a power transformer. But their goal is to exploit it.

Consider the evolution of malware. Many years ago, people got their kicks from distributing viruses that would arbitrarily corrupt or erase your files. But how many years has it been since anyone bothered with that? Far better to pwn your computer, preferably without your knowledge. And if you're going to threaten to destroy files, extract some Bitcoin ransom instead.

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