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Comment Obtaining data from schools? (Score 1) 1025

I haven't decided if I think all of this stuff is sensationalism or not, but it doesn't really matter. If I ask my school for a count of the number of kids in the school that are unvaccinated, and a count for the number of kids in my kids actual classroom that are unvaccinated, first are they legally allowed to share that (anonymous) data with me, and second are they legally required to share that data with me? It seems that if there is a possibility that some moron is risking my own kids health, I should be able to find out about it.

Comment Re:I'm always happy when I have a tax liability (Score 1) 394

Really? You're so pent up that your way absolutely has to be the right way? Did you stop reading my comment before the end? Why would I have a financial advisor if I did not have substantial investments. In my case I max out my 401k, I max out my IRA's, I have monthly automatic debits that go straight to my financial advisor. And yes, I also claim far too few exemptions so too much tax is taken out of my paycheck. It works for me and for many other people. Your way works for you and for many other people. Give it a rest - your way is only best for you, not for all people. My standard financial investments lost money last year. My 401k made money last year. If I had given my extra money to my financial advisor as most people would recommend, I would have lost some of it. I ended up ahead because I chose to give the government a free loan. Too bad for me. I guess I lose. I think it's depressing that you assume your way is the only correct way because technically I am losing out on interest I could have made. But you forget to take into account that you don't always make interest every year unless you're in a fixed investment, which typically have very low interest rates. It's simply an overlooked method of diversification. You have investments in many different things in order to diversify. You also have some money in recurring CD's or something like that so you can take it out with limited penalties if necessary. You also have some money in a money market or other low interest bearing account. If you're a normal person, you also left some money out of the financial advisor's hands and in a savings account that bears extremely low interest. And then I have yet another 'savings account' that is completely out of sight for the year with the federal government that I am absolutely guaranteed to get 100% return on when I ask for it back with zero penalties. It's not a bad thing.

Comment Re:I'm always happy when I have a tax liability (Score 1, Insightful) 394

Exactly. Some of us truly understand that we are giving the government a free loan, and simply don't care. If the most I can owe the government without incurring penalties (being required to prepay quarterly the next year, and so on) is $1000, it's not beneficial to me. $1000 by 24 paychecks is $41.66. What am I going to do with $41 extra bucks per paycheck? I'm going to spend it on a few extra lunches out, or a couple Blu-Ray's, or whatever. Now, if I go the opposite way and claim far too few exemptions, I get a large tax return every spring. I can then take that rather large sum and do something useful with it. I can dump it into a Roth IRA to max out the previous year's Roth, or I can make substantial improvements to my home, get a downpayment on a car, whatever. Basically it's an interest free savings account that is completely out of sight out of mind for the entire year, and then I get a 'bonus' check every spring. My financial advisor stopped getting mad at me for it this year, because he lost me money last year due to the economy and at least I didn't lose any money on the free loan I gave to the government. I didn't gain what I cold have, but I didn't lose anything either.


RDP Proof-of-Concept Exploit Triggers Blue Screen of Death 128

mask.of.sanity writes "A working proof of concept has been developed for a dangerous vulnerability in Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). The hole stands out because many organizations use RDP to work from home or access cloud computing services. Only days after a patch was released, a bounty was offered for devising an exploit, and later a working proof of concept emerged. Chinese researchers were the first to reveal it, and security professionals have found it causes a blue screen of death in Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 machines. Many organizations won't apply the patch and many suspect researchers are only days away from weaponizing the code."

Comment Re:Day of no pay (Score 1) 337

You're not the first person posting that it was a day with no pay. I don't really understand this logic. As a salaried person, I get an annual salary, broken out into 24 pay periods and am paid on the 15th and last day of the month. Some people have 26 pay periods and are paid every two weeks, or even every week. It's an annual salary that is contractually agreed to, typically not an hourly or daily salary. By definition, with my annual salary, I am paid for every week-day that I work and even for some sick and vacation days. If I take my annual salary and divide it out into the working hours for my pay period, then it happens to be that every four years my daily/hourly salary is ever so slightly less because they pay me the same amount that year and there was an extra work day (2008 work hours that year instead of 2000). But I still got paid for the day, and I got paid at the same rate as every other day in this year.

Comment It depends on what you mean by "online" (Score 5, Insightful) 201

There are online courses, such as MIT's open courseware, and then there are online courses, such as UIUC's master of computer science. For courses that you take via Open Courseware, Kahn Academy or similar programs, I doubt your current or future employer will think much of it. For courses that you took towards a masters degree from an accredited brick-and-mortar university, on the other hand, should carry the same weight as if you attended them in person. Why? Because you are watching the same lecture that students physically present are watching.

I've been working towards my masters of science in computer science degree since 2007 (one class at a time takes forever). I started taking classes remotely at a remote television site at my employer. I later left that employer and got a job somewhere that didn't have access to those remote television sites, so I started taking the classes online. Since I started, I'm now at my third company, and all three have been more than willing to pay for my courses. In fact, that's probably the most telling point for whether anyone is going to take your courses seriously: is your company willing to pay for the classes. My advice is only take classes from a public or private university with a real physical campus, and only universities you would consider attending in person if you lived nearby.

Now, having taken courses remotely for several years, let me forewarn you about online learning:
  • -- Online classes are harder than in-person classes. "But you said it's the same class that other students are taking in person!" Yup, it is. But those students have the ability to ask a question in lecture. They get to be in the room as it's happening and can look at all the boards the prof is using. When you watch it online, you watch what the video-taper thought was most important. I can't tell you the number of times I've been staring at a slide when the prof says something like "I'm pointing at the most important aspect of this class. If you don't understand this, you won't do well. Now this other thing, don't worry about that." "Wait!" I scream at my monitor. "What are you pointing at!"
  • -- You get less attention than on-campus students. In the nine classes I've taken, I've had maybe 6 homeworks/exams returned to me. Most of those were from the same class. A guy I worked with got his MSEE from a California state school taking all courses online, and he always got his exams back, so it probably just depends on the university you attend.
  • -- Some classes will still insist on group projects. Yup, group projects suck, but they suck even more when you have no way of meeting the other students in your class. Online students are also typically students that have other lives, which is why they are taking classes online! Coordinating your schedule with theirs is challenging, as is the process of vetting a good project partner.
  • -- You may be required to physically show up to present a project. When I first started I had to take a prerequisite class that had a lab; a lab I had to drive 1 1/2 hours to attend in person, which wasn't so bad, but it would be three hours from where I live now. Take prerequisites from somewhere else if this isn't an option. My co-worker had to fly to California to take an exam. Both of these are the exception, not the rule, but be prepared for that possibility

Now going online also puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to choosing your institution. You get to pick from many more universities than are likely to be proximate to where you live. You can watch lectures multiple times, rewind to the part where the prof started speaking gibberish and watch it until you understand what the heck he's talking about. You can also choose a university where the courses are taught by professors and not TAs. I've had all of my classes taught by the professor. If you choose to pursue a degree either in person or online, good luck!

Comment Easy but engaging reads (Score 1) 647

I like easy but slightly thought provoking reads. Things that take a time and place in history, start with known facts and spin off into a what if this happened. There are many books about what could have happened if Hitler had found certain religious artifacts he was looking for and if they really did what he thought they did. Spy novels and ocean exploratory books (Clive Cussler, etc) where you take the same basic premise - a ship sank, it had X on it, what happens if it is found... Here's some fun authors - Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly, James Rollins, Brad Metzler. Depending on reading speed these could be finished on a very long flight. Check the New York Times lists and skip the chick flicks and biographys.

Comment Many of us still only have 3.2GB (Score 2) 543

If you're running a 32bit OS like older WinXP setups, unless you monkey around with it you can only see 3.2GB of RAM anyway. I bet there's way more legacy 32bit desktops and laptops out there than the newer Vista and Windows 7 boxes where 64bit became the standard. In this scenario it really doesn't matter if you installed 4GB because the OS can only touch the first 3.2GB of it.

Comment Mildly concerning privacy problems (Score 1) 73

I've recently discovered that okay deals can be found on the gift card secondary market. Where you sell the gift cards Aunt Rosie bought you that you won't ever use, and turn around and buy one (at an 8% or so discount to face value) for a place that you do shop.

So if I got one of these gift cards, sold it on plastic jungle or one of the other places, and an unsuspecting person bought it, would the person who gave it to me end up getting a report stating what that third party bought? Isn't that an invasion of that third parties entitlement to privacy?

Although this scenario is a bit of a stretch, I bet swapping gift cards and using them to pay off debts to friends is pretty common for college kids.

There's no way this should be legal. Your own children have no real right to privacy in the home that you provide them with, but everyone else does have a right to privacy. Privacy aside, that third party person should in no way be restricted to how they spend the money unless there's some big flashing light on the gift card that says it can only be used to buy books.

Comment Monitoring is always an afterthought (Score 1) 387

I can't speak to many of your questions. However, I can provide small insight into your networking question. The industry I work in is application monitoring, and it's often an afterthought added only if there are problems. If you go with Infiniband, your choices for capturing and monitoring packets in order to help you analyze application issues will be extremely limited. However, if you go with the more widespread adoption of 10GbE you will have many vendors you can pick from with very advanced features to help monitor how your app is performing across your internal network. This entire supercomputer is nothing without its network or its application, so if it were me, I would spec in a very robust solution to monitor how the application is performing on the network. The most robust solutions are packet capturing appliances tapped or spanned in from the switches (taps are preferred). This is greatly superior to capturing traffic inside a server node itself because the OS and NIC will alter the speed and form of the packets when they are sent out onto the network.

Comment Background info (Score 1) 524

This is actually huge news for the financial companies.

Most people don't really understand what these companies do. Ethics aside, these prop shops do largely automated trading based on extremely propietary software that monitors market conditions, news, weather, politics, etc all at the same time. It would have to be a huge hedge fund (not a smaller prop shop) to shell out $100M unless they thought they would have an advantage because nobody else could afford it. But yes, the basic premise of cuting 6ms off the time and having financial companies beating down their door to sign up for service is absolutely correct. If you can make a large trade 1ms before your biggest competitor so that you buy in cheap and they buy in higher or cancel their trade, then you can make big money. There's a whole industry creating products for these low latency trading firms with specialized switches, routers, software, etc that is tuned to support extremely low latency networks and zero dropped UDP packets.


Opossums Overrun Brooklyn, Fail To Eliminate Rats 343

__roo writes "In a bizarre case of life imitates the Simpsons, New York City officials introduced a population of opossums into Brooklyn parks and under the boardwalk at Coney Island, apparently convinced that the opossums would eat all of the rats in the borough and then conveniently die of starvation. Several years later, the opossums have not only failed to eliminate the rat epidemic from New York City, but they have thrived, turning into a sharp-toothed, foul-odored epidemic of their own."

Comment Great control room setup (Score 3, Interesting) 421

I used to work for a large insurance company in Chicago. The director charged with building our NOC in 2000 basically traveled throughout the country visiting other large IT organization's NOC's and took the best ideas and made them work for us - and it did resemble 24.

Take a large crescent shaped room with a 30' or more ceiling. The video wall was three different sections (this is important for separation of displays and multiple tools at the same time). The display units were high end rear projection systems that were each hooked up to computers that drove the display and were roughly 3'x5' each. Of course there's no seam or separation between the screens. Any group of screens can be used to display anything you want (1 screen, 2, 4, 6, all, etc). Pretty basic stuff nowadays, but it was great ten years ago. The left and right banks had three screens stacked on top of eachother, by either 4 or 5 wide. The center bank was 3 high by either 8 or 10 wide.

Three rows of crescent tables with low walls in front separating them, and minimal separation between workspaces - you want people in a NOC to work very closely with eachother, especially in case of an outage. Each station had two or three LCD screens mounted on articulating arms, but not to be stacked on top of eachother like those trading desks you see with 6 or 8 LCD screens at them. That would be too tall, and you couldn't look over the top to see the main video wall without standing. The room sat close to 50 people. Around the edges of the room are various cabinets, printers, personal storage for the three shifts of employees that work in the NOC, etc. Of course high end chairs are important as others have noted. Lighting is also equally important. You have to be very careful with making sure it is as close to natural lighting as possible. The lighting we used was recessed and inset so that no lightbulb shone directly out or down on the people - it made it less harsh, but still very bright in the room based on a good design. Wireless headsets are important, and also minimizing speakerphones and any other distracting noise.

Behind the rows of tables at the back of the crescent in the donut hole section if you will is an enclosed room large enough to sit 30 people comfortably with power, phones, and network connections to cover it. The walls facing the NOC are floor to ceiling glass, and it has connectivity to the videowall of the NOC so that displays from their can be sent to the meeting room as well. It has every high end normal conference room tool you could need - multiple video conferences, smartboard, integrated microphones and speakers, etc. Everything was hidden inside builtin cabinets made of high end wood. This main room is the situation room. During a large outage, 2nd and 3rd level staff will work out of the room in conjunction with the NOC teams. Directly upstairs from the situation room is another identical room, also with floor to ceiling glass walls looking out to the video wall of the NOC. This upper room was reserved for senior and executive management use during a large outage. Engineers and Executive management have different needs during an outage and require separate spaces and separate functions, although constant information does need to feed between the two. The upper room was more of the showpiece room. It had a motorized curtain that you could press a button on the wireless control panel to open and close. The entrance from the building going up to the second floor board room does not give anything away for what the NOC itself looked like, so once everybody was assembled in the room and the button was hit, it never failed to impress first time visitors. They would always leave their chairs at the conf table and walk right up to the glass wall to look down at the people working in the NOC and see what was displayed on the board.

It was an extremely impressive setup. I am now in sales and visit customer sites on a daily basis and I have yet to see something that even approaches what this director designed at my old employer.

You can't forget to include cable or satellite to display weather and headline news. For fun, don't forget to include a high end stereo system and a blu-ray player so you can watch movies or the occasionaly superbowl game since you already have cable service anyway.

Comment Discover recurring payments on secure #'s (Score 1) 242

I use secure #'s from my Discover card for every purchase I make online that I can - I have however come across a few that won't accept Discover, and then I think twice before I purchase on a non-secure card. This feature is available on every Discover card of every persuasion and has been for a few years. It's not technically one time use. My understanding of it from experience is that if the same company charges the exact same amount to your number at a common interval (1 month, etc), then the charge will be accepted. It has worked for me before - I believe with Tivo. However, many times companies will process the first payment themselves, and subsequent recurring payments will go through a clearinghouse. The different payment info is enough to get the payment denied, which can be both good and bad depending on if you really wanted to setup a recurring payment.

I used to have a Visa credit card from MBNA and they offered secure numbers as well. They probably still do, but check into it before making the plunge. Unfortunately I got rid of MBNA and now just use Chase, and they do not offer secure credit numbers, so I have no backup if Discover isn't accepted. Maybe they paid too much for Bank One and Bear Stearns.

Comment Re:175/hr is slow? (Score 1) 119

This is really how it works? Come on, what decade is this? I've been on the user side and now I'm on the vendor side of packet based application performance products. Think wireshark or the defacto standard certain brand name that jumps into your head. A primary part of the job is showing people how inefficient their database calls are when they either ask for everything every time and don't cache it, or they get tiny bits and pieces a few bytes at a time instead of larger more efficient downloads.

So Twitter can't bundle multiple requests into the same stream? It's not exactly rocket science - even SNMP can do this now. It saves processing power, bandwidth, time to load, etc. Pretty crazy.

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