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Comment Re:Good luck to them (Score 3, Insightful) 230

"Sure, I found 1,0000 Mbps for $70/mo"
"Well. I can offer you 14Mbps for $40/mo"

I suppose for a lot of (non-geek) people that might look like a compelling alternative, so it's not totally silly of the rep to offer it. However, I suspect that most of those who'd prefer 14 Mbps for $40 over 1000 Mbps for $70 would find 5 Mbps for $0 even more compelling.

Comment Re:renewable resource (Score 2, Informative) 255

Helium isn't produced from natural gas, it's found trapped underground in natural gas fields. So unless you can power a hydrogen fusion plant with renewable natural gas, we only have what we can find in the ground for the time being.

OTOH, the earth creates a great deal of new helium every year, as a byproduct of the decay of various radioactive elements in the crust and core. It's not an unlimited resource, but neither is it something we're easily going to deplete even though close to 100% of the helium we use for various purposes ends up being released into the atmosphere and floats off into space.

Comment Re:It's all about (Score 1) 1532

What it's actually about is thinking you've got a God-given right to run a 'democracy' when your political philosophy is that "The proper role of government is to help the rich get richer faster than they would without it".

That's a straw man. Perhaps the AC does want government to help the rich get richer faster, but there are an awful lot of people who simply want the government -- particularly the federal government -- to stop interfering so much. Federal subsidies and support for the wealthy and corporations should end. So should federal welfare programs (that's a role for states, since there's no constitutional basis for the feds being involved, and since doing it at a state level allows for diversity of approaches). While we're at it, let's cut the armed forces by about 90%, and eliminate the army almost completely in favor of increased national guard forces. Most of the federal law enforcement agencies can go, too -- as can most of the federal criminal statutes; again that's a job for the states.

Nearly all of what the federal government should either be done by the states or not done by government at all. That's got nothing to do with making the rich richer.

Comment Re:Non-Essential Employees (Score 1) 1532

offices and government buildings need to be cleaned, the public traipsing through the DMV are a messy bunch

Federal employees clean the state DMV offices?

I know, it was just an example, but I think it's funny how consistently people who are explaining why the federal government is necessary give examples of things the federal government does not do. There have been a half dozen examples of this just in up-modded posts on this article alone; yours was just the last straw that provoked me to post.

I suppose if you live in DC federal employees (actually, probably federal contractors) do clean the local DMV offices. In that case, I offer my condolences.

Comment Re:Speaking of Google and Privacy (Score 1) 88

Anyone know how to prevent Android Device Manager being able to access my location anytime it feels like it?

Find the Google Settings app (note that this is not the same as the "Settings" app -- that's general Android stuff, "Google Settings" is specific to the Google apps), open it, click on "Android Device Manager" and then uncheck "Remotely locate this device".

Note that this means that if you use your device you will not be able to use Device Manager to find its GPS location. I think you'll still be able to use it to remotely ring, lock or erase the device, unless you disable that as well.

Comment Re:Does anyone understand the "zombies" craze? (Score 1) 220

I suppose for a single individual, a bike plus a good bike trailer (or maybe a backpack and/or large panniers) would be a good option. I have a wife and four kids, though... oh, and I don't live in an urban area.

I'll stick with my SUV + camp trailer, thanks. The trailer is always packed with canned food, cooking & heating fuel, water purification equipment, has solar panels for electricity, etc. It's also got tents, sleeping bags, and all sorts of other assorted camping equipment and tools -- including the stuff we'd need if we decided to abandon the vehicle and start walking. As for the guy with the gun, well, I am the guy with the guns :-)

Also, I have a couple of neighbors who are similarly-equipped, and we've discussed how we'd pool our resources in the event of a zombie uprising, caravaning for mutual support.

In an actual disaster, of course, my first choice is to hunker down at home. It's fairly defensible and I have a roughly one-year supply of food stored in the basement. I also have a generator and generally on the order of 60 gallons of fuel in the tanks of my cars and boat (the amount in the cars varies, obviously, but the boat has a 35-gallon tank which is always full). But in the event that staying home isn't a good idea, I can have the trailer hooked up and be on the road in 5 minutes. Given 30 minutes I'll make sure the water tank is full and top up the SUV tank plus some gas cans with the contents of the boat's tank, assuming I can't stop at the gas station. Given a couple of hours I'll coordinate with the neighbors and we'll hit the road together, with everything we can jointly muster.

For other situations, I have 72-hour kits in small backpacks in the garage, one for each member of the family which we can grab at a moment's notice.

I certainly agree about the value of fitness, of course. And I like bikes -- I ride my road bike ~100 miles per week, almost year-round -- but I don't see bikes as a viable way to transport myself and my family.

Comment Re:Does anyone understand the "zombies" craze? (Score 4, Insightful) 220

As somebody who isn't a hipster, and who isn't part of Generation Y, maybe I just won't ever understand it. But the whole concept of "zombies" and any fascination with it comes off as really idiotic, petty and rather stupid.

I don't think this has anything to do with hipsters, or Gen Y.

From what I can see, the zombie apocalypse is partly a joke and mostly a convenient abstraction which stands in place of any of dozens of different disaster scenarios. The zombie apocalypse is nice in that it captures a sort of maximally extreme yet potentially-survivable scenario. There are plenty of possible disasters for which preparedness is just pointless (because you'd be dead anyway), but once you exclude those from consideration, the needs of survival in the remaining, more or less realistic, disaster scenarios are pretty neatly covered by the clearly-fictional notion of societal collapse brought on by the sudden conversion of much of humanity into mindless undead predators.

In a nutshell: If you're well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse, odds are good that you're also well-prepared for any real disaster, so it's a nice target.

Comment Re:Great! Can we have a copy? (Score 4, Insightful) 513

Obama isn't the one who started all this - he is just the one who is refusing to stop it. There's lots of blame to go around here, no need to pile it all on one person.

I think there's a lot of value in piling it all on the person who is currently in the best position to do something about it, but isn't. Accurate allocation of blame is a job for historians.

Comment Re:As a world traveler (Score 1) 252

Have the attorneys selected by the leadership of some well-established liberty-focused organizations, like the ACLU or EFF, swear them to secrecy, and have them act as opposing counsel.

There is a much better option; scrap the NSA and this pathetic court completely.

That's a much better option to recommend -- if you want nothing to change at all.

Comment Re:So what? (Score 1) 46

I don't think the search bubble really exists yet, not in any significant way. The value of personalization is obvious (as are some of the risks -- which can be addressed by having the search engine deliberately throw in a few outside-the-bubble results) but I don't see a lot of it happening yet, except with respect to the really obvious things like geographical location.

Comment Re:So what? (Score 1) 46

Note that unlike some of the people who responded to my post I wasn't saying you were being untruthful about what you saw, just that I couldn't reproduce it. It's not at all unlikely that the recent update fixed your particular search, especially since one of the changes is to use the knowledge graph more -- meaning that Google search now (probably) knows the difference between NSTableView and UITableView, knows that one is associated with OS X and the other with iOS, and understands that even though the two strings are very similar, someone searching for the former is probably not interested in information about the latter.

If you think about it, your complaint that maybe "Google thinks I should be programming for iOS" is very interesting. Making connections like that is something that human brains do automatically and so effortlessly that we often don't even realize we do it. But until very recently, Google didn't do that at all. Google searches were originally pure string searches with a clever ranking algorithm based on counting links. The ranking algorithm was improved bit by bit over time, but until very recently it was still just pure string searches with clever ranking. It's now progressing towards actually knowing what real-world entities the strings refer to, how those entities are related to other entities and what that implies about what the searcher is actually seeking.

Personally, I expect Google search to get dramatically more effective as knowledge graph data is more thoroughly incorporated. Ideally, the "verbatim" option should become irrelevant and go away, because the search engine should understand what you're looking for and know when to be literal and when to cast a wider net. To be maximally effective will require personalization as well. It's the difference between a smart "grep" and an intelligent personal assistant who knows you, understands what you're trying to accomplish and gives you what you need -- including knowing when you need a smart grep.

Comment Re:As a world traveler (Score 1) 252

The FISA court has rejected a small number of warrant requests, the government has withdrawn nearly three times as many itself, and many, many more have been modified by the court - about 4.3%.

Which is just more evidence of the problem of a "court" whose primary business is all conducted ex parte. The system allows the government to constantly test the boundaries of what the court will allow, and allows the government to ensure that no binding precedents they don't like are ever issued by it, much less by the appeals court.

But it's silly to argue about whether or not this system is constitutional. Instead, we should just be pushing to fix it. The thing that would help the most is simply to make it an adversarial system. Even if the actual target of the warrant in question isn't able to be represented (because that would require that the target know about it), we could hire some civil liberties attorneys to be the opposition. Have the attorneys selected by the leadership of some well-established liberty-focused organizations, like the ACLU or EFF, swear them to secrecy, and have them act as opposing counsel.

Further, in the event that the target of the warrant ever is brought into court, copies of the FISA court proceedings should be made available, and the opposition counsel in the FISA proceeding should be permitted to consult with the target's defense attorney. The proceedings might have to be redacted to protect sources and methods, but generally the method is "serve this warrant on this person/company", so I think that should actually be pretty rare.

Adding opposing counsel would also make the appellate court an effective tool. As it stands now, since FISA proceedings are generally ex parte, hardly anything is ever appealed because the government doesn't want to risk establishing clear precedents. So, instead, they just withdraw their request and try again. But with an opposing counsel, real appeals would happen, and binding precedential guidelines would be set.

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