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Comment Re:It's still our problem; just well hidden (Score 1) 385

Years ago, my bank at the time sent a letter announcing a wonderful, new capability: they'd enabled my credit card to also be usable as a debit card; no change to the credit card number. Needless to say, I demanded that they remove this unrequested capability. They did, but the only way they could was by issuing a new credit-only card with a new number; a completely unnecessary inconvenience.

Comment It's still our problem; just well hidden (Score 1) 385

Yes indeed, exactly. And short of not using a card at all, there's really no alternative anyway. As someone else referenced here, the switch to chip cards has been a disaster in the US. Most stores I visit still don't accept chip cards; exactly one restaurant I've visited accepted chip cards, and the process was quite painful. I keep reading about new POS terminal updates designed to try to shorten/simplify the process, so it's far from stablized. And none of the stores I visit accepts a smartphone payment method yet. So even with a tinfoil wallet, my card's vulnerable to hacked or dishonest merchants anyway. Online, I could probably use a 1-time number, but why add to the transaction grief since my card's so exposed anyway? Credit card terms require the banks to limit my exposure to $50 if I report in a timely manner (a federal regulation), and most banks waive that too on a timely report (and I've exercised this more than once). And this limitation of liability with credit cards is one main reason why I've never had a debit card; it was many years before some banks provided similar coverage for them (but there are other reasons too).

Presumably, though, the banks have successfully offloaded the risk to merchants that have not switched to chip cards yet. And that risk is probably rather significant to those merchants, many of them small. The cost has to be paid, and eventually winds back to consumers like me as higher prices, but that's so indirect and invisible that nobody notices, so nobody complains.

But it's that hidden cost, plus the additional hidden (to me) cost of the basic transaction itself (that presumably no longer needs to include the bank's risk for this particular example) that leads me to pay cash for anything less than $10-20. It's the same reason that many small merchants want cash below a similar threshold (or charge a higher price for credit cards) even if the credit card companies' terms to them have forbidden that. But for purchases larger than that, cash is at least as impractical and risky. And the risk with credit cards is certainly nothing new (which shows that the banks didn't care from the get-go, and still don't).

Comment The article used primary metric measurements (Score 2) 229

Actually, the article gave all metric primary measurements, and English in parentheses for enough of them for the metric-impaired to understand the scale.

"...about 10 by 10 centimeters (4 by 4 inches) across and 2 centimeters thick"

So apparently, it was the OP who took the queue from NASA.

Comment Check out Rolly Crump's It's Kind of a Cute Story (Score 1) 97

Rolly Crump, one of the original Imagineers, mentions some of this in his "It's Kind of a Cute Story" book and "More Cute Stories" audio CDs that have come out fairly recently. Plus a lot more Disney history from around that era. (I have no direct interest, other than enjoying these a lot.)

Comment Problems with unpublished rules (Score 1) 162

My problem is this: too many sites don't even publish their password policies, so I can't even begin to tell what is an acceptable password. I may go to the trouble to use mixed case, only to find out that their password is case-insensitive. Or they may accept a long password but silently truncate it. Or they may not accept special characters, but "tell" me only with an error message when I try one. Or sites that turn right around and *send* me my new password so I won't forget it (again, without telling me ahead of time). Or this beaut from Verizon Wireless: to enter your billing password (a secondary password that you can't change if you forget even if you know your primary password there), if you have to on your phone, you convert its mixed-case letters via the phone's keys. The prompt (long after you've created your password) says that the password "abc2" is the same as "2222". In essence, they reduce everything to digits.

This is a completely new twist on "security by obscurity". Your password is defined under double secret probation.

At least most sites are now accepting greater than 8 characters. But even that took years.

Comment Some better interpretations (Score 2) 458

I think the next greatest feat in physics will not be a new discovery, but just figuring out how to explain the current state of knowledge to a high school student. How can the field progress if only a handful of people actually understand the information we now possess?

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you saying we should only pursue theories and bodies of knowledge if the average idiot can understand them?

I don't think so.

One interpretation of the OP's comment is essentially related to Feynman's famous quote: "I couldn't reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don't understand it.". In other words, if the practitioners don't take the time to be able to explain their work to laymen, they are moving too fast even for their own good.

Another interpretation is this: we are all constantly asked to take action (e.g., vote) on questions that depend more or less on information that many, even the majority, not only don't understand, but have utterly no clue or even intuition about. Even in a representative democracy (to stick with the voting example), we need enough understanding to vet our representatives. The minimum requirements for education need to be not just a little higher, but a lot higher than they are. And a lot of what's missing could be addressed by the OP's proposal.

Comment Why I bought, sometimes (Score 1) 329

I bought the extended warranties in three circumstances:

In the '90's and into part of the '00's, my experience with laptops was that every one of them across multiple brands and users failed in some way before an extended warranty's period ended. And that included a startup that grew to as many as 80 people. Yes, the more abusive users had more problems, but even the gentle users did too. And IIRC, even CR recommended them then in this particular case. I had all manner of parts replaced under the warranty during that period, and it paid off. That said, this has become much less true in the last 8 years or so; I don't believe they pay any longer. This was never true for desktops, which have had readily available replacement parts for cheap (so I didn't cover those).

I bought a TV for my ailing mother, wanted a turnkey experience for her if the TV failed, and I wasn't close enough to be able to deal with it if the unit died. The TV didn't fail, but I received the peace of mind I purchased.

The third case was a little different: a home warranty when purchasing a house. It was pretty clear on inspection whether some of the appliances were close to their EOL. And the bonus is that through negotiation, one can often get the seller to pay part or all of the premium. Made money on that one too.

I haven't bought extended warranties on anything else, and it's paid off.

Oh, one special case: I skipped the extended warranty on tires for my car one time, and discovered (very soon after purchase, fortunately) that the installer had drastically over-inflated the tires, which would have, of course, caused accelerated and non-uniform wear. I suspected such nonsense and checked before I'd driven very far, and reduced the pressure to spec. "Coincidence? Perhaps! You be the judge!"

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