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Comment Because "Rachel" isn't unique, easy to outsource (Score 2) 281

There's a large ecosystem that provides most of the pieces - call centers that accept calls, equipment and service providers for making calls, workers willing to listen to abuse for low pay, credit card companies that will pay merchants. Long distance telephone calls cost next to nothing even before VOIP made them cheaper, and the Caller ID system wasn't designed to prevent spoofing (in fact, spoofing is a feature, because it lets your office PBX output your phone number instead of the main number for the office, etc.) You can pretty much outsource the whole scam, and do the potentially-getting-arrested parts from outside the US.

And since "Cardholder Services" isn't already a fake scam business, there's no reason that another scammer can't take advantage of Rachel's reputation and run their own scam.

On their last few calls, I've been offering "Rachel"'s minions opportunity to make $50,000 for ratting out their boss to the FTC. I've gotten some really amusing profanity in return.

Comment Why I don't text while driving - Bad UI ! (Score 1) 217

Sure, there's all this political correctness about how it's rude to run over people and crash into cars because you were texting while you should have been driving. But that's not the real reason I don't do that...

The #$#$* HTC Android 2.1-update1 text application uses too small a font size, and doesn't let the user change the font, so I have to put on my reading glasses if I want to read texts, and I have to take them off if I want to see past the dashboard. Yes, Android has a little microphone widget on its keyboard so you can theoretically create text message bodies by voice, but the rest of the user interface still requires you to read it, so you can tell it you want to create a text, push the little icon, figure out if the words it guessed were even vaguely correct, tell it who you want to send the text to, etc., so it's really no help.

A decent text application would give the user a choice of font sizes, and would at least have the option of reading text-messages using text-to-speech. An insanely great text application would let you use it entirely under voice control.

Comment New Arduino Esplora (Score 1) 228

The Arduino Esplora is an interesting starting point. It's a slightly bigger board, shaped like a game controller, with buttons, joystick, potentiometer, accelerometer, temperature sensor, light sensor, buzzer, microphone, RGB LED, a few other LEDs, LCD connector, and some 3-pin I/O connectors. So if has a lot of the sensors and toys you might want to play with already built in. You can program it with the Arduino software (though a few pins already have stuff attached to them, so if you want to run an existing Arduino application you may need to change what pins to use for what devices.) It doesn't accepts Arduino shields, so there are times you'd be better off with other models, but you've got lots of cool stuff to start with. I think the list price is about $50-55 from Arduino, and I saw one for about $65 in Radio Shack.

The Esplora and the new Leonardo have some other differences from the standard Uno - they use small surface-mount ATmega32u4 chips instead of the bigger socketed through-hole ATmega328 that the Uno has, so you can't just pop the chip in and out. The 32u4 has a few more pins, and has built-in USB support, so it has more flexibility for doing USB applications and doesn't need a dedicated chip for the USB interface the way the earlier Arduinos have.

Comment Start with Arduino, then branch out (Score 4, Informative) 228

Arduino has a really short friendly learning curve - the system is designed so a random not-very-technical artist can pick it up, start doing blinky lights and sensors, find lots of interesting community support and demonstrations and applications. All the pieces you need to get started are right there - hardware, software, IDE, sensors, output devices, documentation. The Arduino hardware is fancier than a bare-bones AVR chip on a breadboard (and building one of them is a good second project), but it's still pretty cheap. The software may hold your hand a bit too aggressively, but once you've learned what you're doing you can get deeper (think of it as a mostly-C scripting language.) If you'd rather use gcc to write your programs at the bare-metal level and avrdude to download them, you can, but Arduino lets you do your work at higher levels until you need that. You could buy an ISP programming tool for $20-50 to program raw AVR chips with, but you can also use a ~$30 Arduino to do that job, so just go buy one.

Once you've used the Arduino a bit, you might want to branch out to a TI or STM development board, or something like Propeller with a lot more CPU horsepower if you need that, or PIC (if you want to know what people used to learn on before Arduino.)

Stuff you're going to have to buy - whatever prototyping board you want (I'd recommend Arduino), a solderless breadboard or two, solid-core wire in a couple of colors, some LEDs, assorted resistors and capacitors, probably several different types of sensors and output devices, maybe a power supply (USB gives you 5v, which is just fine if you're doing everything tethered to your laptop or have a USB phone charger around.) If you don't have electronics stuff around home already, you'll probably end up spending $100 or so, typically for a kit from Sparkfun or Adafruit or MakerShed, plus some random shiny-looking parts from their catalogs, plus you'll start to find Radio Shack very useful when you need to stop in and get some more LEDs or various connectors (and get yourself a bag of assorted resistors and a bag of assorted capacitors if you didn't have enough from a kit.) If you're going to solder boards, you'll also need a soldering iron, solder, and some breadboard to work with.

Comment Re:Mexico doesn't want them. Re:Texas (Score 1) 444

Santa Ana's first offer in the peace negotiations after he lost the US-Mexican war would have also given the US Chihuahua and Sonora, and the US turned him down. It was debatable whether Mexico really could say they controlled those two states; they were mostly unconquered Indians at the time, and I'm not sure if they'd yet found silver there.

Comment It's really a Peering fight with Cogent (Score 1) 207

In this posting, below, Animats points to an article that says it's really a peering fight between Orange and Cogent, an ISP that Google uses for transit. More detail in techdirt. At least 90% of the time, if you see an article about "ISP Peering Fight", Cogent is one of the players. They're really big, they're really cheap, and they sell lots of bandwidth to content providers. They're pretty much the bottom of Tier 1 - they'd like to get free peering from all the other Tier 1 providers, but that doesn't always happen, and occasionally somebody decides not to peer with them.

Content providers and Eyeball providers each think that the other side should pay them money. After all, content's worthless if nobody can see it. But consumer eyeballs only buy your broadband service if there's something to see. And the transport-oriented networks get squeezed by both sides, which is one reason they usually end up buying or being bought by consumer broadband networks.

Comment Have you paid ANY attention to Turkish politics? (Score 5, Informative) 444

Turkey's government was radically secular for close to a century, since Kemal Ataturk's nationalists kicked out the Allies, Sultanate, and Caliphate after the WW I fall of the Ottoman Empire. They were fairly aggressive about it - requiring western-style clothing, banning fezzes, and suppressing non-Turkish cultures (such as the Kurds), enforcing use of a Latin-based alphabet instead of Arabic alphabet (and too bad for you if your name used not-officially-Turkish letters.) They did strongly push education of women, banned headscarves even for women who wanted to wear them, and let women vote (at least in the years they were paying attention to votes.) They've even had women as Prime Minister. Islam was still permitted as a religion, and was still the most common religion, but the government was not Islamic.

They stayed secular until a few years ago when more Islamists got elected to Parliament, but have loosened up since then.

Comment Re:I voted "delicious" (Score 1) 201

Sometime in the last week or two I went to a website that didn't display properly and found that it was because I was missing the Java plugin for my browser. (Apparently the IT department at $DAYJOB had just blocked it, because they're really on the ball, or more likely I'd forgotten to reinstall it after the last time they updated the browser and just hadn't encountered any sites that used it in a while.)

It's disappointing - Java has a fairly strong security model (except for the occasional implementation bug), and I've felt fairly safe running it over the years, as opposed to JavaScript which lets all kinds of people do all kinds of dangerous things, and I keep it turned off by default using NoScript, but have to enable it for way too many websites. (And people tell me "It's easy to write perfectly safe code in JS", missing the whole "It's also easy to write really malicious code in JS so it's not safe to leave it turned on.")

Comment Poor People Get Poorer Schools (Score 1) 412

The article is really ambiguous about the cause here. Is it

- Non-academic-track kids in non-US countries don't take the test , or
- the US has a lot of poor kids who don't get adequate schools because they're poor, and we'd have better test results if we didn't have so many poor kids?

Both factors are true, but I can't tell from the article whether it's saying "US ranking would be this much higher if the non-academic kids on the other countries took the tests (yay, US!)", or "US ranking would be higher if we didn't include the poor kids (sorry, doesn't count.)"

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