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Comment Re:Really? (Score 2, Informative) 236

Learn how to use your damn voice mail because nothing is that important.

And if it is that damn important, pull over to the side of the road.

On a serious note, this order really does have some practical benefit because if a federal employee has something that is important enough that it has to be dealt with while driving, the employee can pull over, make the phone call, and the employee's boss will have no justification to complain about the employee being 5 minutes late for whatever appointment s/he was driving to. If the boss complains, the employee has a written policy to cite.

Comment Re:'bout time (Score 2, Insightful) 236

I don't know why a mobile is worse, perhaps it's a pavlov dog thing since when you have a phone to your ear you are normally trying to block out your surroundings.

I suspect a big part of it is that passengers are present and can see what's going on on the road.

When there's traffic that needs attention and I, as the driver, get distracted from the conversation I'm having with my passenger, the passenger understands why I'm distracted from the conversation without the need for me to explain why. When talking on the phone, it takes both more time and more mental effort on my part to explain what's going on to the person I'm talking to. ("Sorry, I'm concentrating on switching lanes now, so I'm not listening to what you're saying".) In practice, when on the phone, the driver is more likely to just keep full attention on the conversation.

That's not to say that having an involved conversation with a passenger can't be dangerous, just less so.

Comment Re:Just federal employees? (Score 4, Informative) 236

Re "Just federal employees": The president can ban federal employees from texting while driving for work (or having cream in their coffee while on the job, for that matter, if he so chose) by an executive order. Banning all drivers from texting would take an act of a legislature, and this sort of thing is typically done by state law, not federal law. Congress can effectively force states to enact highway laws like this by withholding federal highway funds.

Congress may get there soon, but it takes more time.

Comment Re:free upgrades? (Score 3, Informative) 647

We need some fucking laws. In other countries, you can't commercially use the word "free" to refer to any transaction which money changes hands for any reason whatsoever. Let's enact those here too.

I am sick and tired of having to hand over money for "free" merchandise. Why not call an air ticket "free" with a seating fee, a booking fee, a fuel fee, an oxygen fee, a plane maintenance fee, and a landing fee tacked on?

"Free" should mean precisely one fucking thing when you come across it in public: free .

I was deliberately not passing judgement.

However, reading what Apple actually says, I slightly misrepresented them. What they say is "If you've purchased a qualifying computer or Xserve on or after June 8, 2009 that does not include Mac OS X Snow Leopard, you can upgrade to Mac OS X Snow Leopard for $9.95.*", with the asterisk noting that that covers shipping and handling. I mistakenly used the word "free", but Apple never does.

Apple's upgrade page.

Comment Re:As a UW Student... (Score 1) 418

Tuition is just a way to trim down their applicant pool. The state pays much more of your tuition than you do.

That's a cute one-liner, but if only it were true. The UW-Madison in-state tuition ($8020 for 2009-2010) is about the same as the state subsidy per student ($9379, 2008-2009). This doesn't factor in the additional $8040 per student for room and board. Nonresident of Wisconsin/Minnesota tuition is about $22,000 plus room and board.

Comment Re:Barriers to leaving a country (Score 1) 676

Sure, "yo, I'm leaving", "yes sir, here, let me stamp your passport."

Well, yeah, that's what immigration is, most of the time (at least with my US passport). The UK, the US, and Australia give a bit of interrogation at immigration (and the Canadians do to Americans whatever the Americans DHS does to Canadians citizens, entirely justifiably), but Chile and the EU just open and stamp the passport, both on arrival and departure. I can't speak from experience about anywhere else. (And GP is right that I was wrong to call what they do at exit "customs".)

That's not a barrier to leaving a country, and it's not "customs." Requiring you to be fingerprinted is a whole different league. Interesting that this story shows up alongside another today where some cancer patient was detained because they couldn't get a good set of fingerprints off him. I actually just got back from a conference in Hawaii with this guy who got hassled at the border because he climbs and his fingerprints aren't all they could be.

Yes, requiring foreigners to be fingerprinted is a whole different league, something I've written my elected officials to complain about. (The people directly affected can't do, which is why it probably won't change.) That doesn't mean that the exit immigration check that most countries do isn't immigration.

As GP suggested, the US has, until recently, had essentially no idea how many visitors overstayed their visas. I don't see the problem with that old approach, in general. Exit immigration is fairly time-consuming, mostly standing in line.

Comment Re:Barriers to leaving a country (Score 1) 676

All countries exercise at least some control over who can enter, but there's only one kind of country that erects barriers to who can leave. How long until you guys build a wall? Oh, apparently you've started already.

Huh?

While I agree with the complaint and don't like much of anything about the changes to US Customs and Immigration procedures in the last 7-8 years, the US is one of relatively few countries that doesn't put all passengers through an exit customs and/or immigration check. In all the overseas airports I've flown out of in recent years (in Australia, Chile, the UK, and Spain), you pass through a customs check before entering the international departures area.

This check is pretty cursory, but it's only the US and Canada (in my relatively limited experience) that don't do it.

Comment Re:The big question that must be answered (Score 1) 784

How will this mesh with the Sears decision by SCOTUS? My understanding (I'm not a lawyer) is that taxing interstate commerce is prohibited by the constitution (the root of all US law).

My understanding is that the states don't have the authority to collect taxes on a business without a presence in their state without Congressional approval. However, the Congress (which explicitly has the authority to regulate interstate commerce) can certainly pass a law giving states that authority.

Comment Re:So it's true--NOT AT ALL! (Score 1) 265

Except this phone is not unlocked; it's just without a contract! You can buy the phone, but you can't use it with any provider other than AT&T (without illegally unlocking the phone yourself) and, if you do activate the phone with AT&T, you still have to get an iPhone contract (i. e. you can't buy the no-contract iPhone and activate it on a regular, voice-only plan).

Unlocking a cell phone is not considered illegal in the US. There have been recent challenges to that, but it currently is considered legal. Here is the first link I found from searching for it online:
http://www.darknet.org.uk/2007/04/legal-to-unlock-cell-phones-since-november-2006/

Yeah, I know. I meant "illegal" as shorthand for "in violation of the EULA supplied by the overbearing lawyers at Apple and AT&T, voiding your warranty, potentially making your life difficult after future software updates, and of questionable enough legality that you may face lawsuits from which you can't affordably defend yourself".

I wish Apple would sell an actually unlocked iPhone; I might well buy it at $600.

Comment Re:So it's true--NOT AT ALL! (Score 1) 265

All that the $400 higher price for the unlocked iPhone is proving

Except this phone is not unlocked; it's just without a contract! You can buy the phone, but you can't use it with any provider other than AT&T (without illegally unlocking the phone yourself) and, if you do activate the phone with AT&T, you still have to get an iPhone contract (i. e. you can't buy the no-contract iPhone and activate it on a regular, voice-only plan).

Comment Re:Jesus H. Christ's squeezable bacon! (Score 1) 1240

Is a teenager having a fucking ibuprofen such a monstrous and immediate security threat that we need to strip search her? Or was somebody just a little too eager to strip search a 13 year old? Hmm?

The strip search was ordered by an assistant principal and carried out by two other, female school employees. The order is monstrous and grossly disproportionate to the alleged offense, but my reading of the story sees no suggestion of sexual innuendo.

Remember that this happened six years ago and has been working its way through the courts since then.

Comment Re:Been following this for awhile. (Score 1) 1240

I love how America has so many laws and yet regardless of how many patriotic movies it creates it still believes the constitution has limited application.

Well, IANAL, but my understanding is that the question is whether the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government or by anybody and whether a public school counts as the government. For example, the Fourth Amendment does not generally apply when you fly a plane. You have every right to refuse the search and not board your plane, but you have no right to refuse the search and board the plane anyway (the TSA claims, with judicial backing with which I generally disagree). Similarly, I guess, the student could have simply left school. The fact that she is required to be in school and that the school acts in the place of the parents makes that line of argument tenuous, but it's not entirely specious.

A related note: it is clear that the First Amendment only applies to governments (originally only the Federal Government, although 20th century court decisions have interpreted the First Amendment to apply to state governments as well in light of the 14th Amendment). The First Amendment does not apply to private entities and didn't apply to public schools until the latter half of the 20th century. To my lay eye, the Fourth Amendment is less clear about how restricted its application is.

Comment Re:Who Cares? (Score 1) 374

PDAs are great for those of us who don't have a staff. I think in the case of POTUS, Mr. Obama will soon discover he doesn't need to thumb around on a tiny keyboard when he is sitting in the most sophisticated communications centers on earth.

You're partially right, but the point is that Mr. Obama specifically does not want to rely entirely on his staff for information; unlike his predecessor, he wants to read the newspaper and write short emails himself, limiting the filter of his inner circle. During the campaign, he found the Blackberry to be a marvelous tool for that job.

Comment Re:Congress has been Slashdotted (Score 1) 581

If you're curious (or other emotions) about a vote, call or write your Representative's office and ask; they'll send you a letter explaining the reasoning. Better yet, send the letter before the vote, and you'll get both (some) influence and an explanation.

I strongly second the grandparent's point: a good Representative should not always do what his/her constituents want.

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