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Comment Re:I understand the concept (Score 3, Insightful) 210

I see cash gifts the other way. I have hobbies where the items I need for those hobbies is either expensive, obscure to the average bear, or both. The items that fall outside of those two categories I probably already have or there is a reason I don't already have it. Many of my relatives have started to just give me cash for gifts. At first it was prefaced with "I know it is impolite to give cash, but I know you've mentioned a Whizbang 6000 or some such doohickey and I don't even know where to get it. I figured this way you can get it yourself and make sure you get the right thing." I do the same thing to other relatives, such as my brother, who has no common hobby to me. I know he hunts with hounds, but I wouldn't know what call to get him, or know if a particular tracking collar will work with his particular tracker, if he already has an extra, or if it is better to buy from store B instead of store A because they have a longer return period in case it fails after the first couple of uses. Sure I could call and ask him, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a surprise gift. By giving him cash, I know he'll get what he wants. We call them universal gift certificates.

We give cash because we don't want to have the awkward fake "Thank you, I wanted a HoundHunting-a-day calendar!" when he knows it will mean standing in line for 2 hours to exchange 2 of the 3 he got for something he can actually use. By exchanging cash he is usually online showing me "what I got him" (or at least helped him get) after the family meal. That makes me much happier seeing him excited about getting something he *really* wanted.

Now that there are little kids around at Christmas time, pretty much all of the gift giving has changed to focus on them. We adults usually give token or even gag gifts now and get much more enjoyment out of watching the kids and enjoying time together as a family than anything else.

Comment Re:Define "Public" (Score 1) 155

Depends, does a person have to enter your private property to use said electrical outlet or garden hose, or is it wired/piped out to the street (or other public right-of-way) with a sign hanging on it saying its open for use? Is a crime committed if someone waking in front of your house if they stop in the light provided by your porch light and use that light to read the directions someone gave them?

You have to remember that we're talking about radio waves that can and do extend well beyond property lines in the physical world. The other thing to remember is that access points broadcast (read announce) to everyone within range that they're open. They also approve or deny every attempt to connect to it. So in essence, a person driving down the road hears the AP advertising itself, asks if it is OK to connect to it, gets approved, and gets assigned an IP address.

I don't think there is any way to tell for sure if an open AP is intended for open use or not, and it should be assumed that if it is open it is OK. Say your name is Joe, and you live next door to a completely unrelated Joe's Coffee Shop. If you name your WiFi SSID "Joes" and leave it open, how are the coffee shop customers to know they are using your AP rather than one provided by the business for their use?

To get back to your electricity analogy, if someone breaks into your house and they turn on a light, do they also get charged for stealing electricity, or do they simply get breaking and entering and/or burglary? What if they get a drink of water from the kitchen sink? The crime they committed was the entry of private property without permission in the first place, not use of readily available resources once on that property.

If you don't want others to connect to it outside of your physical property boundaries, then you need to take steps to prevent it. This includes lowering the power, MAC filtering, using WiFi blocking paint and window coverings, and turning on encryption. If your signal extends beyond the physical boundaries of what you control, and therefore no trespassing needs to take place to use your advertised resource, then no mis-deed has taken place.

Comment They don't really want us to conserve that much (Score 1) 172

My particular meter does not have this feature. It has the 2 LED (more likely 1 LED, 1 photo detector) interface, but it does not work the way most do. I was considering getting one of those Black & Decker power monitor devices, but my meter is specifically listed as not compatible because the interface doesn't operate the same way.

As the GP said, it may be possible to make a device to read the LCD "wheel" but not nearly as easily as a simple blinking light would be. For now I'm just relying on the power company's (crummy) website to get 2 days-delayed data.

Personally I think the power companies are against the consumers having real-time in-home display. While they always push conservation in order to keep their PR campaigns in full force, we have to remember where they make their money. They don't want us to see a blinking red light on our wall to remind us that there are too many lights left on in the house, or that Jr. forgot to turn his TV off when he went to sleep. They push the EnergyStar appliances and tell us to swap out our old water heaters and refrigerators, "which will save $20 a year in energy expenses! OMG!!!" What they don't want us to do is have an easy way to find the little things we are leaving on unnecessarily which could easily shave $20 or more *per month* off of an average geek's bill.

What I have been considering is a full setup from Brultech. http://www.etherbee.com/BrultechSampleSite/store/category.php?id_category=15 I haven't taken the chance to go figure out which model would fully cover my panel (I need to go see how many circuits I have and what size of main supply I have) but I think the $400 range models would be enough. With an average power bill of $115, if I could see a 20% savings by better managing my power usage it would pay for itself in a year and a half.

In the end, I think the power companies prefer to have us looking at "the big picture" which tends to bury the details. Since "the devil is in the details" they are providing us with just enough information to make the majority of people think they are doing everything they can to help.

Comment Re:Reading the meter (Score 3, Interesting) 172

The digital meters used in the Idaho Power area anyway has a scrolling line on the bottom of the digital display. This represents the old turning wheel and uses in fact the same calculations.


Our power meters use a slightly different digital method, it has a bar that "fills up" at the bottom, and it is measured from the moment it resets to the next reset as the equivalent to one wheel revolution.

Your power meter should have a way to see current usage, give your utility a call if you can't figure it out, and if there is in fact no way to read it, I'd get in touch with the public utilities commission and see if it is a requirement.

Comment Re:Farmers are often on the cutting edge (Score 1) 153

Talk about only looking at one side of the coin! There are harmful nematodes and beneficial nematodes. Just like bacteria. There are a plethora of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system now, but there are also bacteria that will make you very sick if introduced into your digestive system, or into your body in general. Bacteria that will turn milk into yogurt, and bacterial that will turn milk into a dangerous rotten cup of botulism.

I have not looked at this product in detail, but if it is formulated properly it will kill off the specific nematodes that are harmful to the crop being grown, and not kill the non-harmful and even beneficial little critters. Most agricultural chemicals are formulated this way. There are herbicides that you can apply that will kill most everything except corn, and others you can apply that potato plants will tolerate just fine but will kill corn. Just like the drug industry, every chemical has benefits and potential side effects. Farmers attend classes put on by various entities (for-profit and non-profit, both government and private) on how to wisely manage and minimize the use of chemicals. Unless you're meaning a city-slicker who bought 5 acres for their horses when you say "farmer," most farmers don't just go blindly put chemicals on the soil because the saw an ad in a magazine this afternoon.

As for early adoption of technology being a lust for shiny things, sorry, that just isn't the case. Farmers are actually very hesitant to try new technology until it has been proven. As the GP said, farmers have been using GPS systems in their machinery years before they became common in everybody's cars, but they weren't a $49.95 box they could buy at Walmart either. These systems cost tens of thousands of dollars by the time they were installed, so they had to be proven to be beneficial. That GPS system may allow a tractor to drive in straighter rows down the field with better accuracy than a human driver. Spacing rows an extra 2 inches apart on each pass of the tractor, multiplied by hundreds of passes on a field, works out to a lot of wasted space, which means a lot of fuel wasted, time wasted, and a greater environmental impact. While farmers may have been an early adopter of GPS compared to the consumer market, rest assured that years of testing and proving were done before the farmer was convinced it would pay for itself. Those yield maps you talk about enable farmers to apply as little chemical as possible to each individual area of a field, thereby altering the "natural" soil balance as little as possible. This also saves money on the expensive chemicals, and lessens the needed chemicals in following years when different crops are grown in order to keep the soil as balanced as possible.

I grew up on a farm and decided I wanted to pursue another career when I graduated from school. I know from first-hand experience what kind of planning goes into making a farm work. It isn't just throwing out a handfull of seeds, applying a dozen chemicals, and reaping the rewards. Farming is a very difficult vocation not only in the physical sense, but the intellectual sense as well. The only "dumb" farmers I've ever known didn't farm for very long before they went broke and went on to other work. I know my family sure would like to get all these subsidies that all farmers are supposed to be getting, but unless you're a multi-thousand acre corporate farm, they're few and far between.

With that said I wholeheartedly agree that we as a society use too much corn syrup and chemicals in our foods. There are a few recipes in the standard Betty Crocker Cookbook (even 30+ year old versions) that call for Kero (corn) Syrup, but they're all for treats that should be eaten sparingly anyway. I fully believe the preservatives and "chemicals used in the manufacturing process" of foods and food prep products are not good for us. This is not a result of the "dumb farmers" though, they are doing it as little as possible.

Comment Re: 4.0 GPAs? (Score 1) 617

I've never heard of any schools around here doing that. Mine was back in the good ol' days when you got 4 points for an A, 3 for a B, etc. Average them all together for the duration of high school and there is the Grade Point Average.

Guess you can change the grading scale all you want, but a turd is still a turd, no matter how much polish is applied.

Comment Re:How about... (Score 1) 617

And that is exactly why I feel "zero tolerance" policies are always a bad idea. When you remove the ability for common sense to make an exception to a rule, you're going to have cases where people are hurt. You had a medical reason for missing too much school, it wasn't that you were being lazy and skipping. If a student misses too many days because they were skipping, then they should be held back, but with a doctor's note showing a handicap preventing attendance (as in your case) that should not be an option.

I don't blame you one bit for going the GED route, in fact I even considered dropping out and getting my GED after my Freshman year when I realized how worthless of an "education" I was receiving. In the end I decided it probably wasn't the best idea and completed the next 3 years. That said, I have never had an employer ask for my diploma, so my perception that a "diploma will look better than a GED" was not relevant. Looking back I probably should have done that since (as you confirmed) everybody says the GED is actually tougher. I think now that getting a GED a couple of years early would have been the accomplishment of greater prestige.

Comment Re:How about... (Score 1) 617

I disagree. I graduated with a 3.98 GPA in high school, which means I had an 'A' with one or two exceptions during my entire high school "career." What I learned is that there is a point of diminishing returns as far as effort vs. reward went. I quickly figured out what that magical point was, and the only "game" I played was to put in the least amount of effort possible to maintain that A grade in class. Why put 3 hours into a well thought out essay on my homework assignment when I can get just as good of an A for an essay I threw together in 30 minutes and spend the next 2.5 hours honing my programming skills? Why spend the whole hour in class working on this map when I can half-ass it well enough to get an A and spend the rest of the time doing "homework" for my other classes? That way I could spend my home time working on electronics projects and learning how they work. I guess you could say the biggest lesson high school taught me was resource management. Contrary to your statement, I used "the game" to make sure I had time for learning side-trips and experimenting with subjects I actually wanted to learn more about.

One of my favorite XKCD comics describes the way I feel perfectly: http://www.xkcd.com/519/

The problem with our school systems today is that we don't encourage excellence, we enforce mediocrity. And when a few students miss the mediocre mark, we just lower that bar a little to make sure they aren't left behind and don't get their feelings hurt. What happened to the days when Little Johnny would get made fun of because he failed 2nd grade and had to take it over again with the "little kids?" Not only did that give Johnny a slap in the face to show him that there are consequences for his lack of study, but it set a heck of an example to the other kids who would make damn sure they didn't end up like Johnny. Did he get his feelings hurt? Sure, but you can bet he was able to read and do basic math by the time he graduated, unlike many students with a diploma today. If not, he dropped out and found work doing an unskilled job, leaving the better jobs for those who actually cared to learn. It also meant the diploma actually stood for something other than spending 13 years setting in a desk eating paste and throwing spit wads.

Makes me consider pulling my kids into home schooling more and more every day...

Comment Re:What we need... (Score 1) 251

You honestly believe it doesn't cost you anything for credit card fraud? Somebody somewhere directly pays it, and that somebody is usually the merchant that accepted the bad card. There may have been no way for them to know it was a bad card when they took it, but they still get the charge-back. Now they're out the merchandise they sold, and they no longer have the money for the merchandise. The stores of course don't just take that fraud out of their profit with a smile on their face. They base their retail prices based on a certain percentage of shoplifting, credit card fraud, etc. When those expenses go up, so do the prices they charge for their wares. You and I wind up paying for that fraud a little at a time with each and every purchase.

Your math is seriously flawed in how much damage is done. Sure that waiter may make $25, but that is a drop in the bucket. The fraudsters are going to hit each of those 50 cards for hundreds of dollars in charges, or more if they can get away with it before the card is shut down. If each one averages $250, that is $12,500 in fraudulent charges for that single waiter's take. Multiply that by the number of waiters, gas station attendants, skimmers, and every other source of compromised card numbers and you have some seriously large amounts. A far stretch from the $25 "so what" amount!

Face it, I don't want my card to get stolen. It may be a minor hassle, but I already have enough "minor hassles" to deal with and I don't need any more. I don't want to have to go back through and give a new card number to all of the companies that I have automatic payments set up. I don't want to have to fill out paperwork, convince my bank to give me my money back while they investigate (I don't use credit cards, only debit attached to my checking account), and I don't want to pay more at the store each and every time I make a purchase.

To me, the minor inconvenience I would endure to implement a better security system pales in comparison to the "minor hassle" I'd have to deal with now. As they say, "An ounce of prevention..."

Comment Re:What we need... (Score 1) 251

I already carry an RSA device with me for my PayPal account's online access. It has a serial number on it which links my particular device back to the algorithm and seed to generate the numbers. Why would it not be feasible for me to enter that serial number into my banks' systems so I have a single OTP that works for all of my cards? It would take some massive cooperation between the card companies to do so, but it sure would give them some nice good-will towards their customers.

And before we head down that path, yes it would be less secure to have a single key to multiple cards, but if I were to get mugged, there is no more effort on the criminal's part to take 4 RSA keys than 1, considering they'd likely be on the same keyring anyway.

What the banks need to do is force new card systems to allow for a PIN to be entered with all transactions, credit or debit. That pin could be issued in many ways. For example, a manually updated PIN for the less tech savvy. Those users would need to accept a higher limit of responsibility, say $200, should their card/pin be compromised. The next step would be a weekly PIN e-mailed or sent via SMS, and would reduce that limit to $50. And finally, the constantly-rotating RSA token which would carry $0 liability. This would allow those that don't want to be bothered to learn a new system or memorize a changing PIN to carry on as usual, and those of us who are willing to take on a minuscule amount of burden to get rewarded for our part.

Its all about making it more difficult for the crook. If they get Grandma's card number today, its good until it is detected by her looking at the bank statement, or by the bank sooner if she is lucky. The crook could potentially store the card and not use it for 6 months. A weekly changing pin would reduce that number's usefulness to 1 week, after which point it is no longer valid. Now the crook has to sell or use that card within a few days otherwise it is worthless. A daily updating key (again sending a new key to the holder's phone via SMS every day would be simple and fairly inexpensive) would lessen that window of usefulness to hours. Finally an RSA token updating every minute would make the compromised number likely worthless by the time the numbers were collected, and at worst there would only be time for a few transactions.

The banks and card networks can point fingers at the merchants and customers all they want, but when I can buy a token for $5 to protect my Worlds of Warcraft account, they have no excuse for not implementing a more secure system from their end.

Comment Re:report it to the fcc (Score 1) 499

It is nice seeing the number of licensees going up, that is for sure. My grandfather was a ham, though inactive by the time I got into it. I got my license in the summer between 5th and 6th grade, and my daughter got her license last winter, and was 7 at the time.

It is disappointing how the "do it yourself" trend is going down, even in the nearly 20 short years that I've been a ham. Heathkit was pretty much gone when I got started, and even Ramsey only has a few QRP rigs now. They still had full FM transceiver kits at one point. I always wanted one, but $150 wasn't feasible for a pre-teen with only an allowance for an income. There are still kits out there, but there aren't too many "beginner" level ham-related kits. Antennas are the main DIY components on the typical ham shack now, and many people tend to buy them at extremely overinflated prices anyway.

I think the biggest area now that hams are pushing the envelope in is the Software Defined Radio (SDR) field. Some of the work coming from the guys (and gals) working on these things is simply amazing. The ability to see an entire band in a "waterfall" display and simply click on a signal to tune it is neat. Then to be able to apply software-based filters to clean up an otherwise unreadable signal simply blows me away. Then using a 4 antenna vertical array, the SDR can apply a directional pattern to it by adjusting the phase on each antenna input to refine the signal even further.

I'm working on teaching my daughter the basics of electronics as I feel it is a good foundation to learn more advanced topics later on. She's helped me build my antennas, and has helped me solder together a few small projects I've built.

Yeah, model rocketry... That brings back some good memories!

Comment Re:report it to the fcc (Score 2, Informative) 499

Normally I don't feed the trolls, but sometimes the trolls just beg to be fed a little bit of humble pie. It took all of about 20 seconds to find an article showing actual ham deployment, at the request of a local emergency agency, in the US. http://journalstar.com/news/local/article_84aba07a-3d9b-11df-8d7a-001cc4c03286.html A local news source including video from officials involved. Is that "reputable" enough for you?

And ham radio isn't just using "ancient analog technologies" to chat with each other about the bad conditions in nursing homes. While there is a lot of analog technology still in use, hams are also at the forefront of digital (extremely) narrow bandwidth communications development. The other thing to consider is that old analog technology doesn't stop working because one ham's clock is set a little off from another's, essentially what happened in Nebraska to take the 911 systems offline.

Ham radio is also not slowly dying as all the "old fogies" die off. The number of newly licensed hams is actually on the increase. http://www.ah0a.org/FCC/Graphs.html That data is sourced from the FCC license database if you want to go compile it yourself. There was a decline for a few years, but it is increasing in popularity again and is almost up to the pre-decline numbers. More and more young people are getting involved in ham radio. I know personally of several licensed hams who are 7 and 8 years old! The younger hams are very passionate about the hobby and more importantly the public service provided by hams.

As Random Coward pointed out above, if you think if the ham bands were suddenly taken away from hams that the spectrum would all turn into "part 15" unlicensed spectrum, you must not have taken your meds for a while. You said yourself how valuable the spectrum would be if it were to be auctioned off. Do you think the FCC and the rest of the government is going to donate those billions of dollars worth of spectrum to the public domain? They'll go the the highest bidders and they will be defended from illegal users (what "the people" will be) without end.

If you want "the public" to use the ham spectrum, nothing is stopping you from getting your license. It costs $14 to cover the expenses of the VOLUNTEERS who will administer the exam to you. Study materials are available at no charge all over the Internet. Once you have your license you'll be out a couple of hundred bucks for some radio gear to get started using the spectrum as you see fit (within the legal boundaries of course.) Ham radio is not about the "rich" people at all. It is just like any other organized hobby or service, you can do it relatively inexpensively or you can literally spend as much money as you want on it, depending on what you want to do and how far you want to take it.

Say what you will, but your argument doesn't hold water against verifiable facts.

Comment Re:I just go into Ham (Score 1) 368

There are lots of younger hams out there. I myself got my license back when I was 11 or 12 years old, and my 7 year old daughter just got her license shortly before Christmas last year. To my knowledge she is the youngest in our state, however I do know there are younger kids out there. I remember reading an article not too long ago about a 6 year old passing the test in Canada, which I've heard is much more difficult than the tests here in the US.

As far as I am concerned, anything we can do to encourage the younger generation to explore any hobbies in the scientific world the better.

73 de KB7QOA


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