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Comment Re:Renting a Computer? (Score 1) 80

About 15 years ago I checked into renting a stereo VCR (these weren't all that common yet) to copy some VHS tapes. We had one stereo and one mono in our house. All I wanted to do was rent the machine for a week. By the time I would have paid the initiation fee, the 3 month minimum rental fee, and some other charge I don't even remember now, I was $25 away from going out to the electronics store to buy one brand new. In the end I decided to just go buy one and I gave away our older mono deck to a friend who didn't have a stereo TV anyway.

I learned a lot about how those places work that day. It was my first and only experience trying to rent from one of those places. Since then I've had numerous friends and some family members mention wanting to go rent a couch, or washer/dryer, etc. I've set each of them down, shown them the math, and proven that they could do without for 4 months, save what their weekly payments would have been, and outright bought the item at a regular furniture or appliance store. Most of them did just that, but of course there were those who "couldn't wait" and did it anyway. The only use I have for rent-to-own stores now is sometimes you can get a *screaming* deal on a return if it is a model or two behind the current stock. Nobody coming in to rent an item wants last year's TV when they can get this year's for only a couple of dollars more (per week.)

Comment Re:Funny... (Score 1) 221

Where does all of this FUD come from here on /.? I just received a new card from my bank a month ago, and it has the contactless PayPass chip. This is from one of the big conglomerate banks.

Cripes, /. used to be a place to go for articles with somewhat intelligent comments. Now it is more and more like The Onion every day.

Comment Re:Anyone surprised? (Score 4, Informative) 221

There is so much wrong with that comment that I don't even know where to start...

First of all, most retailers do not have "insurance" that covers fraud. Yes accidental liability insurance for legit (or less than legit) accidents. As far as merchandise goes they simply "write off" any loss of products in whatever form (shoplifting, credit card fraud, bad checks, damaged, etc.) in the retail industry we call this "shrink." In that aspect you are correct. Insurance is a gambling game, the insurance company is betting they'll pay out less than the insured has in claims. Something like shrink, which is all but guaranteed to happen, is not something an insurance company is going to be offering. They may have some policies on individual high-ticket items in some cases, but I don't know of any "umbrella" shrink insurance available.

Where you really go astray is in saying this "write off" is a "victimless" crime. Let's take your example of walking into a store and buying a $1000 TV with a stolen card. Right off the bat, the merchant will pay somewhere in the 1-3% range to take that card, depending on its card processing volume, card brand and type and other factors. Let's just say 2% to make it easy and call it $20. Anywhere from 1-90 days later (more in some cases) the merchant receives a chargeback request from the card processor, saying the cardholder is disputing the charge. Merchant sends all required information, but since the cardholder wasn't actually the one using the card, the dispute is successful. Merchant now has $1000 removed from their account, along with a $25 chargeback fee. They've now spent $45 out of pocket, plus they're out the merchandise which probably cost them closer to $800 (electronics themselves don't have that high of a markup rate, unlike accessories like cables.) All said and done the merchant lost $845 tangible costs, plus intangible costs like the employee time required to stock that item on the shelves, the cashier's time to run that transaction, etc. Where the retailer would have made $200 on the item, they now have to sell 5 of them to make up for the one lost item and have a little profit.

Now do you think the merchant is just going to accept that loss and move on? Of course not, they have sales numbers and profit margins they expect to maintain. If they have no control over whether that item left, which at the time of the sale they had a card approval and no reason to suspect otherwise, what can they control? They can control the price they charge for all of their items. Retailers expect to have a certain percentage of shrink, so that percentage of profit is added back into every item they sell in the form of higher prices. When shrink goes up over time, retail prices go up accordingly. If the retail market won't support higher prices, then costs must be cut by means of reduced personnel and other means, or they close their doors completely.

What this means in the end is that you and I, along with every other honest customer, are the victims. Because of this credit card fraud, we pay higher prices and deal with reduced service levels at the stores. Even if there is a shrink insurance that some retailers may have, the money to pay for the premiums and deductibles would be passed down to us in the same way.

Enforcement for any retail fraud, including shoplifting, seems to take a back burner for police. Unless the retailer has the person detained (which can be a whole new can of worms) police are very unlikely to pursue the case, even if the retailer has positive identification and video of the person leaving the establishment with the merchandise. Even if they do, prosecution is likely to plea it down to a lesser charge so the person gets a slap on the wrist and is free to go do it again, learning from the mistake of getting caught. Credit card fraud is even worse because it involves coordinating with out-of-state organizations such as the card processor, the actual cardholder if it wasn't a local theft of the card itself, etc.

Comment Re:Terms of service: lost device liability (Score 1) 150

I'm pretty sure this violates their merchant agreement with the various card issuers. Denying customers one of the key benefits of using a credit/debit card is a big no-no. It sounds like they're trying to be way too cheap, trying to ship without insurance and via a carrier that can require signature upon delivery. It actually makes me a little suspicious that perhaps this is part of their business model:

1. Use a shoddy shipping method without confirmation of correct-person receipt
2. Wait for packages to get mis-delivered
3. Charge customer for said merchandise at full retail value
4. Profit

I was actually a little intrigued by this service until I read that in their terms. I also don't like that you can only have the item for a month. If they'd correct their shipping method and chargeback terms, and make it similar to netflix where you can keep it as long as you like while continuing to pay the monthly fee, I may decide to give it a try. Sometimes 30 days is not enough time if you're on the fence, and sometimes it may be useful to rent something for a few months.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 487

This was Boise, Idaho, but I should disclaim that it was over 10 years ago that I worked for this company and had those relationships with local LEOs. Since then the traffic reporting has become fragmented (each media group is doing their own rather than having one consolidated company do it) and the leadership has changed several times on the LE side. The greed factor may now be in place so it could be a completely different ballgame. I personally don't speed or break other traffic laws (risking a $50+ fine to get to some place 2 minutes earlier seems dumb to me, let alone the safety factor) so I haven't "tested the waters" so to speak.

Overall though the Treasure Valley (Boise and surrounding area) is a very nice place to live for many reasons. 30 minutes to an hour from downtown Boise and you can be in the mountains camping or skiing (depending on the time of year,) out in the desert for great ATV riding areas, or on a secluded river bank for some great trout and catfish angling. An 8-10 hour drive can put you along the Washington, Oregon, or California coastline for oceanic recreation. Boise has a decent sized airport for business travel with direct flights to several international airports too.

Comment Re:So? (Score 3, Informative) 487

I used to work in the media for a company providing traffic reports for the local TV and radio stations. We worked very closely with law enforcement, including having 2-way radios provided by them so we could offer our aircraft and pilot when they needed air support. When we heard about speed traps they were setting up (they call them "directed patrols") we'd publicly announce them as part of our traffic reports. One day we were talking with some of the officers and the subject was brought up. At first we thought they may be upset that we were doing so, but on the contrary they encouraged us to do so, saying they saw a significant reduction in speeders and tickets written after we announce it. This helped them in their goal of reducing the drivers traveling at excess speed in the troubled areas. In fact they started calling us to let us know if we didn't hear it on the scanners, and even gave us their plans at times far in advance so we could warn drivers ahead of time. In short, they'd rather have someone hear about their trap and not speed through the area, than operate in silence and write more tickets.

While most drivers that knew about the traps adjusted their speed accordingly, there were some I'm sure that simply avoided the area and continued to speed elsewhere. The thing to remember is just because a trap is set up somewhere doesn't mean there aren't just as many officers as normal still out on patrol. Most of the time they bring in reserve officers of have officers work extra shifts for those directed patrols, so it doesn't impact the regular patrols. This means you're just as likely to get caught speeding outside of the trap area as you are any other day. The old "all the officers are busy in area X, that means I can do whatever I want in any other area" doesn't apply with speed traps or other pre-planned increased enforcement.

Like radar detectors, scanners aren't a "get out of jail free card" for traffic violations and are more of a false sense of security than anything. Also, in many areas it is an additional crime to use a scanner in the commission of a crime. While the burden of proof may be nearly impossible, if they could prove you used a scanner to avoid police patrols in order to be able to violate traffic laws, you'd have a lot more troubles to deal with.

Comment Re:Too bad it's not this easy (Score 1) 258

It's actually very easy to get a basic miner running against a mining pool, it really isn't a challenge at all. Download and start Guiminer, put in your user/pass for the desired pool, hit start. 2 minutes of work and it is done. As long as you have compatible hardware that is all there is to it, literally. Optimizing it, on the other hand, can take a lot of effort to get every last point of efficiency. But if I were to set up a trojan to do it for me, I wouldn't care about optimizing every system as the volume of GPUs running will be more than enough. Spread the trojan to say 10,000 machines, and say it actually runs and finds usable hardware on 10% of them or 1000 machines. Say those 1000 machines, unoptimized, are able to mine 50 Mhash/sec each (average hardware with some conservative overclocking and optimizing runs at around 200 Mh/s) for a total of 50,000 Mh/s or 50 Gh/s. At the current network difficulty, that would work out to just over 27 bitcoins per day, or $300 per day at current exchange rates. Assume the network power stays about the same (some users find and remove it, but others take its place) for a year, we're talking 9,855 bitcoins, or $108,000. Not bad for something accomplished with "some gay trojan."

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.

http://efundies.com/electricity/how_to_read_power_meter.htm

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.

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