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Comment Recharging cell phones is easy (Score 1) 582

First of all, even that smartphone has a few hours of talk time, if you stop playing games and doing other battery-burning stuff, though they're not as reliable as old dumb phones were. If you can safely get out of the house, you can charge the phone in your car; if you can't safely get out, you should have called the emergency folks already.

Power for the cell towers is an issue, if the roads are down and the phone company can't refill the generators, but usually they're designed with enough slack to handle that.

Comment POTS is dying (Score 1) 582

I started working for The Phone Company before divestiture, but after the first Electronic Switching Systems, though crossbar and step-by-step were still around for a long time (and may still be, in some rural areas.) Heard on the radio recently that only 30% of households have POTS lines these days; mobile phones and cable TV companies have displaced most of the rest. As far as "civil unrest" goes, your kitchen phone's only useful if you're at home, and you could just as well use your cell phone. Power failures don't bother my cell phone (widespread power system outages can, if the cell towers don't have adequate backup power, but these days that's only a problem if the power and roads are out long enough that refueling generators is a problem, or if somebody's stolen the generator.)

If you really need emergency backup communications, get a CB radio and a 2-meter ham set, and nobody's going to mind too much that you don't have a ham license if you're using it for legitimate emergencies.

Comment Re: Communication isn't stupid. Telephones are. (Score 1) 582

If somebody's on your phone, somebody or something is at your house. In the case of incoming calls at my house, it's usually an answering machine (and most of the calls are either spammers, or robocalls from the pharmacy saying a prescription's ready, or recently robocalls from the electric company saying they're doing street construction and the electricity will be down for an hour, or oops, down for another hour.) Outbound calls are usually Tivo phoning home to get the program data or one of us calling a cellphone to find it.

But the NSA can still tap your POTS line, if you're talking to somebody who's previously gotten a call from somebody who's previously gotten a call from a foreigner.

Comment Video is why RPi, not PogoPlug (Score 1) 95

RPi and BeagleBoneBlack have HDMI video built in (though BBB won't do 1080p and RPi will, because the graphics chip is heftier even though the CPU's a bit slower.) None of the Pogoplugs I've seen have video; they're headless only.

But yeah, if this x86 thing has SATA, that does make some extra applications possible.

Comment A Microcontroller IS a computer (Score 1) 95

No, it's not a blazingly fast computer, but both the Arduino and RPi are computers. If you want a built-in graphics chip, no, Arduino doesn't have one of those, but you can still drive simple displays. If you want to listen to sensor wires and turn on LEDs, either one will work, though the Arduino and BeagleBoneBlack have a lot more connector pins than the RPi, but you can do microcontroller jobs with either one. If you want an operating system, yeah, Arduino isn't going to run anything very sophisticated, but it's still more powerful than the 8-bit computers my friends were using in the late 70s and early 80s. (Not me - I was using PDP-11s, VAXes, and mainframes back then, or vacuum tubes; I'm only now catching up with this retro integrated circuit stuff :-)

Comment Much slower than Beaglebone Black (Score 2) 95

The main problem with Raspberry Pi is that it's an earlier ARM spec; the new Beaglebone Black is ~$45 and has a newer ARM version so you get more choice of operating systems (I've read that RPi can't do Ubuntu, but BBB can, though reviewers differ on whether RPi can also.) On the other hand, the RPi has a more powerful graphics chip, so it can do full 1080p, which the BBB can't (which answers the question of which one I'm going to get to put next to my TV.) BBB has a 1 GHz CPU and a lot more I/O pins than RPi, but so far I haven't been doing anything where that matters, and I can use the Arduino to play with sensors.

Comment All the Fiating was done Up Front (Score 1) 537

Yes, it's a fiat currency, called into being by somebody, not backed by anything, only tradeable for what other people will offer you. But the important difference from government fiat currencies is that it's designed so there's a limit on how much of it can be made, unlike traditional fiat currencies which were limited by the amount of cheap metal available for coinage, or modern fiat currencies which are limited by the number of zeroes you can fit on a piece of paper, i.e. limited only by the greed of the government and the people's unwillingness to overthrow them. It's not like Zimbabwe dollars which have had at least 30 zeroes dropped of them, leaving what a friend of mine referred to as "homeopathic quantities of money". Sure, Satoshi acquired a bunch of the coins for himself up front, and potentially he could still be mining more, but the number of them is never going to get above 22 million or whatever.

Bitcoins could still lose most of their value, like those once-valuable Beanie Babies, but they can't hyperinflate.

Comment Saw lines Thursday night :-( (Score 1) 189

Spent Thursday with friends. We had a US-style turkey dinner (well, veggies for me) at church at lunchtime, hung out for the afternoon, went to Korean BBQ for dinner, and on the way there we saw people waiting in line at Best Buy.

Ok, going to restaurants technically counts as "buying things", but we didn't actually do that Friday.

Comment GPU Mining+Stolen Electricity is still profitable (Score 1) 194

Stealing CPUs for mining probably isn't worthwhile. Using your own GPU isn't particularly worthwhile (unless it's winter and you have electric heat, and aren't buying new hardware.) ASIC miners are available surprisingly cheaply on eBay and IIRC DealExtreme, and if you're going to buy mining equipment, the best choice is probably them or maybe FPGA boards. But from what I hear, GPU mining with stolen electricity is probably still profitable, at least if you're infecting machines yourself; not sure if it's profitable if you're also renting botnet time.

Comment Re:Need more information (Score 3, Interesting) 497

I used to offer to help them get the FTC's $50,000 reward for stopping telemarketing abuse by turning in their boss. None of them took me up on it :-)

But that program's over, so I usually just ask them how their family feels about them scamming people for a living. Most of them just hang up, some of them get mad.

Comment Re:Weasel Words: (Score 4, Insightful) 172

Unfortunately, the US government will probably try to find a way to do just that. If they can allege a link between Satoshi and DPR-or-Ulbrich, that gives them a better excuse to try to pry information out of anybody involved with Bitcoin, either through legal process in the US or through possibly-illegal wiretapping overseas.

Comment Re: Early Paypal (Score 3, Informative) 172

Paypal's primary niche in the early days was being a popular way to pay sellers on eBay using credit cards. The seller could accept Paypal much more easily than opening merchant accounts with multiple credit card services, and the buyer didn't have to give the seller their credit card number, and the transaction fees were competitive. It was way better and faster than buyers having to mail sellers a check, waiting for the post office, sellers having to wait for the check to clear, buyers hoping the seller wasn't scamming them; it cuts a huge step out of the non-credit-card market.

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