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Comment Re:VOIP sucks. (Score 1) 426

Those in rural areas, for the most part. I have family in a small town about 30 minutes south of Dallas (which isn't all that rural) and they have no available cable service and baling wire phone lines that can barely handle dialup. Satellite service is available, but as others have pointed out satellite and VOIP don't get along well due to the lag of sending a signal to space and back. My Sprint laptop card works somewhat but the signal isn't very strong.

Comment Some other roadblocks (Score 5, Insightful) 426

I've used VOIP for years at both my business and my house - but we still have a landline. Just a few other roadblocks we ran into that weren't mentioned:

  • faxing is unreliable. Yes, businesses should migrate into the 21st century and ditch the fax machine, but MANY businesses (including many of my suppliers) still rely on the fax for their daily operations. We've gotten around that by using a fax-to-email service, but that's sometimes a pain to deal with.
  • credit card machines are similar (also using a modem). Again, move into the 21st century and use an IP connection instead, but change is hard. Many businesses are still using their 20 year old credit card machine, and until you phase those out you'll still need a landline.
  • security systems apparently don't work well without a landline - I don't know the mechanics of it but I suspect it's similar.
  • The biggest issue - VOIP is simply not reliable. POTS lines are required by federal regulations to have a certain uptime, VOIP lines are not. If your VOIP provider goes down in the middle of a business day you have no recourse other than perhaps an SLA agreement with them. We use several and they're generally very reliable, but not to the standard of the good old copper line.

I love the flexibility I get with VOIP, I can work from anywhere with a decent internet connection and have all kinds of routing options through my Asterisk server, but we still have our incoming calls defaulting to a POTS line that runs into the Asterisk box. VOIP is constantly gaining ground but it's not there yet.

Comment Re:The professor Gates case??? (Score 4, Informative) 746

Have you listened to the 911 call? I have - the caller did not mention race until the 911 operator asked her. When asked, she replied "one looked kind of Hispanic but I'm not really sure." This hardly jives with your idea that she was "some busybody neighbor doesn't like your skin color living on her street."

Agreed, the situation could have been handled much better on both sides. Personally from what I've read I think Gates was just being a twit and the cop didn't do much to help the situation. Before you spew racial vitriol all over the internets, get your facts straight.

Since you apparently have not yet read the transcript I assume you're too lazy to look it up (it was posted on the front page of major news sites for some time after the incident). I'll save you the google time and provide a link:

Comment Re:Holy Crap! Calm down (Score 1) 1092

This story seems to imply that the "man in a white van" was some pedophile or serial killer or whatever.

But there is a 99% or more chance that in fact he was the kid's father, or uncle or something, and that this incident was related to some family drama about child custody or the like.

True, but there's a 99% chance if the mysterious man WAS in fact a relative, he did not have the legal right to take the child. If he DID have the right, and he knew where the child was, there would have been no need to pull up in a van and kidnap the kid when he could have had the courts/police do the same thing.

Yes, I'm aware that our legal system is messed up and takes forever to process such things. However, since we're talking made-up statistics, there's a 99% chance that the man would still face significant consequences for his actions even if he was simply taking the law into his own hands to take the kid back while the police muddled through the paperwork and red tape.

Comment Re:Holy Crap! Calm down (Score 1) 1092

My wife taught elementary school for many years. It was all too common that kids would get "lost" in the bus system.

  • you're dealing with kids as young as 4
  • the child's classroom teacher may or may not be the one to take the child to the bus. Teachers generally divide up the duties, one will take bus kids to the bus lane, another takes kids to the parent pickup lane, another takes kids to the side door if they're walking home. Especially with a new batch of kids it's hard to keep up with who's who.
  • dismissal is a circus
  • bus drivers take days off
  • buses break down, are gone on field trips, etc so it's not always the same bus
  • kids don't pay attention - if the bus changes and they announce it over the PA, the kid will forget by the time he gets outside
  • kids lie - "my mommy said to go home with Johnny today!"
  • parents change how their kid gets home - maybe yesterday Mom picked him up, today she has to work late so he rides the bus, tomorrow he IS going home with Johnny
  • you're dealing with kids as young as 4

Especially at the start of the school year, this is not at all uncommon. Parents panic, and justifiably so, but the kid is usually found pretty quick when the bus driver finds an extra child on the bus at the end of the route. I wouldn't say it's an everyday occurrence but definitely a few times each year.

Comment Re:I didn't RFTA but ... (Score 1) 859

Unlike the limiter that you describe, this system adapts to different roads. With a basic limiter I can still drive 70 km/h in a residential neighborhood where the limit is (for example) 30 km/h. Using the system described in the article, the GPS would recognize that I am in a residential neighborhood and limit my speed appropriately.

Comment Re:You Can't Fight the Internet (Score 1) 544

It's well known that you can take pictures of (just about) anything you want that's visible from a public place and then publish the photos without any copyright issues. However, no respectable photojournalist would take such gory pictures, and if he did no respectable news outlet would purchase them or even consider publishing them. Pictures of the smashed car, maybe. Pictures of the smashed head, no.

By "significant public value" I assume you mean educational value - "look what happens when you act stupid." That's certainly arguable, but doesn't require personal identification of the girl behind the wheel to be effective.

Comment Re:Public domain? (Score 1) 92

Unfortunately the line between the Guard and the US military is very blurry and becoming moreso every day. A large number of the troops currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are National Guard. When I deployed back in 2005 for hurricane relief (after Katrina+Rita) we were on state orders for a few days, but it wasn't long before the federal government picked up the tab (which meant a few extra benefits for us). The various state National Guard budgets receive quite a bit of money from the Federal budget every year and report to the National Guard Bureau.

Not to turn this into a gun control discussion, but I don't think that today's version of the National Guard is really what the founding fathers had in mind as a "well-regulated militia." There are many varying interpretations of that bit of text, but none describe a branch of the military funded and controlled (albeit remotely) by the Federal government.

Comment Re:Sesame Street & the Importance of Bilingual (Score 1) 1077

Unless one lives in an English speaking country outright, school is never going to be sufficient to learn a workable English—there is simply not enough time for practice. That's valid for English and any other language.

Agree completely.

Many of my friends have had classes in Spanish either in high school or college. During my high school and college years I spent a lot of time waiting tables at various restaurants. The kitchen staff and bussers were almost invariably Hispanic, mostly immigrants from Mexico or South America. Later I spent a year managing a warehouse where many of the employees were immigrants. I learned quite a bit of Spanish language from them - especially words about food, boxes, trucks and profanity. While my friends can conjugate verbs and correct my Spanish grammar, I can actually communicate with Spanish-only individuals.

Comment Re:Sesame Street & the Importance of Bilingual (Score 1) 1077

Actually, Americans are more likely to tell you that you need to speak English. I can't think of a single store in America where someone's going to try to find you a translator; most people simply don't have time for that level of customer service.

I live in Texas, north of Dallas but south of Oklahoma. We have a pretty big population of immigrants from central and south America. Many times the first generation speaks very little, if any, English. As a result many businesses and stores will have someone on staff who can speak Spanish and communicate with those customers. Many government forms are translated into Spanish. When my wife taught public school, every time she had to send a note home to her class she sent it in both English and Spanish (the receptionist translated). Most of the kids could speak English but often their parents could not. While I can speak a little bit, when I ran my retail store I made a point to have a fluent Spanish speaker on staff. I know that we got several sales from Spanish-speaking customers that most likely would have fallen through if we had to rely on my minimal Spanish vocabulary. At the moment I'm job-hunting and there are many, many jobs out there specifically looking for someone bi-lingual.

Other parts of the country may well be different, but in this area it's par for the course. Some businesses will, out of principle, refuse to translate anything or have a translator on staff. In most cases it's just good business sense to have at least some capability.

With other languages it's a crapshoot. We had some German customers in the store once who were vacationing. I had no way to translate for them, but I think unless you are in a business that deals with tourists from overseas on a regular basis then there's not much reason (from a strictly business perspective) to cater to that.

Comment Re:Required reading (Score 1) 628

Several years ago I worked as a waiter at Pappadeaux seafood restaurant in Dallas. During some parts of the year we sold crawfish. They arrived at the restaurant frozen in big plastic bins. Before cooking them, we would pull the bins out of the freezer for a while to let them thaw out (apparently it tasted better that way).

Even though the critters had been frozen for quite some time (I assume several days, at least as long as it takes to get from Louisiana to Dallas, plus a day or two in our freezer) once they thawed out they would begin to move and respond to basic stimuli. At that point it wasn't long before they were thrown into boiling water, but at least for a short time they were alive, walking and clawing at anything they could get hold of including each other. It was a favorite trick of one manager to hide a defrosted crawfish in the bins of kale that we used as garnish on all the plates. Quite the surprise when you reach for a bit of greenery and get pinched by a crustacean.

Now, do they feel pain? I never made any attempt to find out. However, the freezer treatment didn't kill them.

Comment Re:NASA problem (Score 1) 500

I had a teacher do that to me once in high school compsci. She startled me so much that I jumped up and knocked her over the next row of desks. Not bright for the 5'2 100lb teacher to do that to the 6' 190lb student, eh? Though I fell asleep in that class many times after that, she never again woke me up in that same manner.

Comment Re:How do I establish whether I am still a victim? (Score 1) 158

Unfortunately, many password systems will reject those passwords. I used to use a similar system, but started seeing errors about "your new password cannot use more than x characters from your old password." This of course means that they're saving my old passwords in plaintext or reversible encryption, which is a security risk in itself.

My most recent scheme is to use a pattern on the keyboard (yay for muscle memory). Usually I'll do the pattern once, then hold shift and do the same pattern. This gives you upper and lower case, and if you include a number or two it gives you numbers and punctuation. As long as your pattern is 5 characters long you'll pass 99% of the password rules out there (5 keys, hold shift then the same 5 keys makes 10 digits). When the time comes to change your password, shift the pattern one key to the left or right. This way I can at least guess my password in a few tries if I have to.

My fallback is this:
Stores the passwords on my palm pilot, encrypted. As long as I remember my decryption password and don't lose my palm pilot, I'm golden.

Comment Re:The spreadsheet won't help. (Score 1) 600

Dude, you're at the wrong bank. Between business and personal accounts I've banked with a half-dozen different places and don't remember one that would screw me the way you've described.

I DO take issue with one local bank, in that they always post the withdrawals for the day in descending order by amount. One day this resulted in 7 overdrafts, when it would have been only 1 if they had posted the debits in reverse order. However, that same bank ALWAYS posts deposits first, then withdrawals. If I go on a shopping spree over the weekend, spending more than what's in my checking account, as long as I make a deposit by 3 PM Monday everything is fine.

The other place where I currently do business is a credit union. They post transactions in real time throughout the day. That includes deposits - if I know a bill is coming that will overdraw my account, I make a deposit before it hits and I'm good to go.

Banks are definitely out there to hit you with as many fees as they can. They are, after all, for-profit businesses. As long as you learn the system and play by the rules you shouldn't get hit with many.

Based on the scenario you describe, the only way I can see that it would work out the way you describe is if the bank is not crediting your deposits to your account immediately. If your bank is doing that to you on a $200 deposit then you need a new bank. I've had money held before on larger checks (several thousand, or more than a few hundred from out of state individuals) but never $200. Even when the deposits were held it was never more than a day or two.

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