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Comment No scathing reply here, but I think you're wrong. (Score 1) 232

Higher fuel prices mean people drive a little bit less. (You start phasing out the unnecessary stuff, and encourage people to be a little more efficient about the trips they do make.) But that's the low-hanging fruit that doesn't really have a huge impact. People who are short on money already behave this way because even $2/gallon gas gets expensive. You can buy a couple of meals for what you pay to fill your tank one time.

And the "urban sprawl" you refer to is, IMO, a thing with just as many benefits as downsides. There's MUCH more to it than just worrying about logistics of how close to a job someone lives.

For example, look at the water shortage challenges happening in some places on the West Coast. That's basically a distribution issue caused by having too many people interested in trying to live all packed in to relatively small areas. Or look at some of the challenges with garbage in places like New York City. The people who decide they don't want to live in the "big city" help spread out the impact we have on our geography and natural resources. And as someone pointed out above - it has the effect of keeping housing prices down too. When you get a big concentration of people in one city, there's too much competition for housing and costs skyrocket for rent as well as home ownership.

There's nothing wrong with or unsustainable about the "American dream" as it traditionally existed. If you extend that to building a McMansion with a number of large rooms you rarely use but keep paying to heat and cool anyway -- that's a different situation. But for our family of 6, finding an older 2 story home with 4 bedrooms and a 2 car garage was exactly what we needed. This, in turn, allows my wife's mother to live with us instead of the popular theme today of pushing our elders off to some retirement community or nursing home to live out their remaining days ....

Comment Too little, too late .... (Score 4, Insightful) 63

I'll be *very* surprised if this catches on.
There are plenty of people trying to sell corporate IM solutions -- and Facebook is a late entrant in this category.

We adopted Slack and I had my doubts, initially, that it was even going to amount to much for our company. But it's proven itself to be pretty handy, largely because they gave a lot of ability to link up notifications and error messages from other applications to it, and everything put into Slack is persistent. (I can go back in a search and find a troubleshooting tip or a web URL that a co-worker mentioned months ago, if I need to.) Plus, it's cross-platform compatible with clients that work well on our iPads and iPhones, Windows PCs, Macs, etc.

Still, we're finding ourselves in a situation where we've got an IM client built into our VoIP phone system's control panel on our computers, and Slack for our departmental communications, plus all of our Mac and Windows users long ago standardizing on using AOL's AIM messenger (linkable to Apple iMessages on the Mac) and publishing a directory of all of our employee's IM names in there. We're pretty saturated on corporate chat clients.

Facebook has a relatively poor reputation in the workplace anyway, though. People consider it a time-waster and a site needing to be blocked in some instances.

Comment Don't agree with the conclusion .... (Score 4, Interesting) 232

The author concludes that our best hope to fix this trend is a return of high gasoline prices.

IMO, that's ONE way it might change, but pretty much the WORST option.

Personally, I'd rather see more people opt for electric cars or public transit because improvements were made in those areas, making them more desirable!

High fuel prices punish the people who are already struggling, on tight budgets. If they need to drive a vehicle for any kind of delivery or taxi job (Uber, Lyft, etc.) - it means their costs go up, because they can't just "drive less". Often, it's the same story for someone who relies on a car to commute to/from work. All those people telling you to carpool to work or take a bus aren't being that realistic. In many cases, you need the ability to haul things around in a trunk or back seat of a car that you don't get when using a bus or other mass transit, and you can't always find a workable carpool. It makes everyone pay more for package delivery too, harming your ability to get your asking price when you sell used goods on the Internet via sites like eBay. (It actually hurts the whole economy since pretty much every business relies on shipping in some manner. But it hurts individuals the most, IMO. The big companies do enough volume so they can negotiate pretty nice discounts with shippers like UPS or FedEx. They may pay more than they used to to ship goods, but it'll still be far less than you or I pay.)

I know personally, I live around 50 miles from my workplace. I used to take the commuter train, but the combination of increased prices for it and reliability issues forced me to go back to driving. There are just too many times the train is really late due to freight train traffic that gets priority on the rails they use, or mechanical breakdowns. When I was waiting on the last train of the evening and it was one hour, then 1 1/2 hours, then 2, 3 and finally 3 1/2 hours late -- I had enough. (To add insult to injury, it was cold and raining outside, and the station platform is outdoors with no good shielding from the wind or rain.)

What I *have* done is to express my plight to my bosses at work, who finally agreed to let me start working from home more often. That winds up letting me claw back all of that commuting time I lost before - as well as saving on travel expenses. So it's a win all around. But yeah -- I really tried to stick with the public transit option. They just don't have their act together enough to make it attractive.

Comment This may be somewhat accurate .... (Score 4, Interesting) 154

One of our pre-teens is an avid gamer, and lately, we've noticed she started complaining about getting banned from online games she plays. When we looked into it more closely, we found out most of it was for attempts at hacking. Even in Pokemon Go, she had two accounts set up .... one "regular" one, and the other she was using to hack.

She definitely exhibits the interest in manipulating software to get the results she wants, and despite our lectures about why cheating is bad, etc. -- it seems to increasingly fall on deaf ears.

Now, would I say all of this means she's headed down the road of becoming a cyber-criminal? Not exactly .... In daily life, she abides by most of the rules. She's not the type to try to steal something from a store, for example. She generally knows right from wrong. But I think when it comes to games where everything is virtual, she has a feeling, deep-down, that it's more "ok" to cheat and hack. And in 1 or 2 cases where I thought she was "permanently banned" from a game, she got her accounts back again. I'd say it's quite likely that required a bit of bending the truth to an admin somewhere, to make that happen.

So all I guess I'm saying is, there's probably kind of a mushy grey-area here. Once you start taking an interest in dishonest play in a computer game and experience the thrill of successfully beating the system to do it -- you're exhibiting the same characteristics the common criminal does (enjoys the challenge of outsmarting the system for personal gain). I think many will draw a line in the sand, deciding that for example, "copying a copyrighted piece of music is acceptable" (because you didn't actually deprive anyone else of their copy by doing it) and "cheating in games is acceptable" because they're just entertainment anyway and nobody's really getting hurt. But you have a sense of morals/ethics that says you'd stop at something that was actually emptying another person's bank account or taking tangible goods without compensating someone for them. Others won't, especially if nobody really tried to teach them right and wrong....

Comment Re:Microsoft Update Catalog is my new hero (Score 1) 221

Yes, it's good advice to try to install the "Convenience Rollup" on a fresh Win 7 SP1 install before trying to update the rest of the OS.
But from my experience with that? You absolutely *do* have to install the prerequisite KB30203369 first, or else it won't do a thing. And when you download and run that prerequisite, it still has to go through some type of "searching for updates" process which seems to involve communicating with the Windows Update servers Microsoft hosts. I had a lot of problems with THAT process getting stuck for hours and having to reboot and try again once or twice before it finally went through.

Comment IT as overhead (Score 1) 183

I remember back in the mid to late 90's, many companies viewed I.T. as much more than "overhead". In some cases, it was pretty understandable. They literally brought businesses to whole new levels of efficiency by eliminating paper and pencil methods of handling customer orders, inventory and more.

When you first started giving everyone personal computers as business tools just as essential as the telephones on their desks, you created a massive shift in the way business was conducted. Nobody but internal I.T. (or paid I.T. workers coming in on an hourly basis) were responsible for implementing that.

The problem is, there was an expectation that somehow, I.T. staff would keep coming up with more amazing ways to re-imagine or refine the business to make it more profitable and efficient. And increasingly, that STOPPED happening as the people employed in I.T. found themselves bogged down in just keeping the existing infrastructure functioning and keeping employees trained to use it.

Comment Not sure you have a lot of options? (Score 5, Informative) 221

I think if the patches are bundled together now - you basically have to treat them as one larger patch. In other words, nothing changes except any time you find you did one and it breaks something, you roll the whole collection back until it can be rectified.

IMO, Microsoft's Windows Updates have been a huge, overly confusing mess for a long time anyway. I used to use WSUS to centrally administer them and for our small to mid-sized company, it became more trouble than it was worth. I like the advantage that you only have to download the patches once to the central WSUS server and then all the clients grab copies from there to save your Internet bandwidth. But in practice, our workforce is mobile enough that it's almost better we just let their laptops grab updates over the net from wherever they're at so they get patched more quickly.

Sifting through all of their patches and deciding when it was safe to "release" them was getting to be way more time-consuming for I.T. than it should have been. So often, you have slews of patches that wind up marked "superseded" by other patches, and there are weird dependencies too. Can't do certain patches unless you've done others first. (Why not automate all of that so any patch dependent on another one just auto-applies the required one as part of its installation?)

If you do a fresh install of Windows 7 these days? The update process is PAINFUL! You'll literally need to leave the PC downloading updates for a good 8-10 hours or more before it finally starts doing anything obvious. (It seems that it needs so many individual patches to get current, it overwhelms their updater service trying to sort through all of it and prepare to download them in the proper order?)

Comment Thank-you (to "sjames") (Score 1) 183

I was just going to post when your comment made me rethink the whole thing and write this reply instead.

Having worked in I.T. for 25 years or so now, I'm pretty familiar with the "computer security" marketplace. Most of the time, you've got a combination of "former hackers who decided they could make a living out of selling comp-sec stuff" and big companies seeing $$$$'s by getting behind these initiatives to sell solutions.

Meanwhile, in the rest of corporate America, I.T. expenditures are increasingly under a microscope, because companies have long since been burned by and learned from the old idea that I.T. was an investment in the company's future. These days, I.T. is viewed more like a line item expense on budget spreadsheets. Sure, it's necessary .... but it's necessary like hiring a janitor is necessary, or like buying office supplies is necessary. When your I.T. staff recommends the latest gizmo that promises to do X and Y to stop outside system attacks or to analyze traffic? They start asking a lot of questions. What would it really cost us if we didn't buy this and we got hacked? What kind of disaster recovery stuff do we have in place to put things back to the way they were before the hack? What else can I.T. do to improve our security before we go buying all of this new stuff?

And guess what? In the majority of situations, the reasonable answer is to say "no" to the expensive new security appliances or software. A lot of that stuff is going to quickly become obsolete anyway. (Quite a bit of it is subscription-based where it receives regular updates from the manufacturer as long as you stay current on your payments. Guess what? When the (often small startup) security company making it gets bought out by someone else or goes belly up, you're often left with a costly paperweight that someone wants MORE $'s to replace with the "new, supported alternative/improvement" to it.)

If your I.T. people are competent enough, they should be keeping up with all the OS and software updates/patches, and that alone seals up quite a few of the security holes at NO extra cost. Other times, the smarter choice may be outsourcing one or more of the services you used to host in-house. Let the "big guys" host it for you and let THEM pay all that money for the fancy security appliances to protect your data AND the data of thousands of other customers of theirs. At scale, those security tools/software purchases make a lot more sense.

Comment Another reason I don't have Verizon .... (Score 1) 222

I was once a Verizon customer, many years ago. (Actually, I started off with AmeriTech who they took over.) Back then, it was all about your analog cellular minutes per month in your plan. Even then, Verizon became unworkable for me because as I used my phone heavily for business and personal use, I kept racking up more minutes of usage in a month than my plan had. Overages were billed at something outrageous like 25 cents per minute.

I called Verizon's customer service at one point, saying basically; "Hey... look. I'd like to keep your service, but you've got to sell me a package with enough minutes so I don't keep getting these overages. Can I buy a bigger plan?" Their response was no ... they didn't sell plans larger than the one I had, and didn't feel most customers needed such a thing.

These days, everything's about the data .. not the voice minutes. But same thing seems to apply. They want to dictate what their customers need/want.

In reality? Yes, I get that LTE cellular technology isn't really capable of the traffic loads carriers would get if they just gave everyone unlimited free data usage on their devices. But that's a shortfall of the technology then. That's not the customer's fault, who know what he or she wants and is willing to pay for.

So what do I propose? I think at the very least, all of the carriers should be doing everything in their power to open up the use of wi-fi access points to their subscribers. This is one area where Comcast actually has things right. I can go all over the U.S. and as long as I'm a current Comcast broadband customer, I can log in to any wi-fi hotspot identifying itself as XFinity. It constantly impresses me how often that gets me an Internet connection when I'm out and about someplace, while others don't have a usable wi-fi.

Comment Alternative to trashing CRTs (Score 1) 166

The push to "recycle" old CRTs by sending them to places that claim to properly dispose of them is probably misguided to begin with. There's a mentality that CRT = ancient, worthless technology. But until 2006 or so, these were still being manufactured and sold in stores. The dropoff in sales was sharp and sudden, once LCD and plasma technologies took hold.

The fact is, you still see a number of motel chains using CRT TVs in the rooms. And why not? They're perfect for that purpose! Being heavier/bulkier and known as of "no value", it prevents theft, while still serving their intended purpose just fine.

And the concerns that they contain toxic substances are overblown too. By the time the personal computer was invented, the front glass of CRTs stopped using lead and replaced it with barium. Monochrome CRTs don't even contain enough lead, period, to fail an EPA test for it. The *rear* glass of a color CRT is still often leaded glass, but that lead won't ever leak out of intact glass. You'd have to crush it up to release the lead that's vitrified into the glass itself.

Instead of spending money to tear these things apart, I think it'd make more economic sense to hang onto the working ones and to refurbish the defective ones using parts from broken ones. Especially as time passes, there will surely be some renewed interest and fascination in the technology. (Maybe even collectors and enthusiasts wanting to buy one to watch at home, just like we saw the resurgence in popularity of vinyl records?)

Comment Re:Isn't surge pricing an AUTOMATED process? (Score 1) 428

Of course you have a human who programs the logic in the code. My point is, people are acting like there was supposed to be some way for Uber's corporate staff to monitor the news 24 hours/7 days and immediately jump in as soon as reports of the bombs going off in trashcans came out. "Quick! Let's stop the usual rate management software and insert new rules to give people cut rates in NJ and NYC until we say it's ok to return to normal operation!"

Or maybe you're just upset that Uber charges peak rates during busy times in the first place?

Comment Isn't surge pricing an AUTOMATED process? (Score 1) 428

As far as I understood things, Uber's system automatically raises prices based on surges in demand. There's no human intervention involved.
So getting all upset at Uber for this is pointless. Yes, most companies like to give people some financial breaks in times of disaster, like cellphone companies waiving fees for residents in flooded area or areas hit by tornadoes. But Uber can't really do anything about the computerized system working as designed and re-calculating rates based on usage, as soon as an event happens like the bombs going off.

Maybe they'll decide to issue those people credits in the coming weeks? Who knows? But people getting all angry and deleting the app seems stupid to me.

Comment So we're back to this headphone jack thing again? (Score 1) 248

Look ... The headphone jack is gone on the iPhone 7 series because Apple wants it gone. It's as easy as that. If a 1/8" stereo headphone jack is THAT big of a deal to you? You obviously need to start considering other smartphone products. I'd say chances are real close to 0% that Apple will decide to bring it back again in a future iPhone.

Despite the uproar, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus phones achieved record sales. T-Mobile said they sold more of them the first day than they've ever sold of ANY phone in their company's history. So there you have it.... Despite all the Internet rage, the truth of the matter is -- people still think the new iPhone is worth buying.

I pre-ordered one myself, in fact. I've been using the iPhone since the very first version was released, other than a couple of brief stints on Android devices. I'm most comfortable with the iOS menu system and like the iPhone overall. I think each new iteration has brought enough value to make it a worthy upgrade from older models I've owned and the 7 series is no different. When I look at how I *really* use my phone, I see that I almost never plug anything into the headphone jack anyway. Sure, I had a Square reader that used it. But I already upgraded that to the new bluetooth model that can read chip cards and do Apple Pay. In the car, my stereo uses a USB to lightning cable to attach it. I have an LG bluetooth stereo headset I use with it, so no need for a headphone jack for it either. And the Mophie and other battery cases I've owned already required dongles to plug something into the headphone jack since their design made it impossible for a regular jack to plug far enough into make good contact with the phone. So yeah ... this really isn't going to be a lost feature I care too much about.

If you're one of those purists who just HAS to use your iPhone as the audio source for your flawless music listening experiences? Apple has added a few proprietary things on to the bluetooth specification so the wireless EarPods and other headphones they make for it will use those enhancements to make wireless listening better than what you usually get with bluetooth. (Probably fixes some of the glitchiness where audio skips occasionally, etc.) And the free adapter they include still lets you plug in your 1/8" headphone jack anyway ...

Comment Hrmn .... (Score 1) 412

At least here in the USA, such things have happened (kids filing lawsuits against their parents over various grievances) -- but I think 99.9% of the population takes a very dim view of it.

I guess I'm ok with the legal OPTION being available for such things? But it seems really extreme. I'm not sure that most minor kids fully realize the ramifications of doing such a thing. I mean ... as much as you may dislike your parents embarrassing you with your childhood photos, you may later decide that was "nothing" compared to a lifetime of not communicating with your parents anymore (which is VERY likely to be the outcome if you won a lawsuit against them).

Comment Re:Headphone jack is WAY overrated on a phone (Score 1) 324

Well, seeing that T-Mobile just reported the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus pre-orders broke their ALL TIME sales record for any phone -- I don't think it's at all clear that my opinion was just "crap", and nobody really wants this new phone that lacks a headphone jack.

Freeing up the space inside the phone that the 1/8" jack occupied so it could be used for other things counts as an advantage. So does the ability to make the phone a little bit thinner (even if that's a very minor advantage). Say what you will about the need for devices to get thinner and thinner ... but it's a proven seller. Laptops keep getting thinner and I can't find almost anyone who actually says they preferred one of the older, thicker styles to any of the thinner variants. People have a certain admiration for "sleekness" and appreciating how much tech is crammed into a small, thin space.

But really, the "benefit" here amounts to giving people a push to use superior technology. That's something Apple does often, through deletion. Remember the uproar when they got rid of the 3.5" floppy drive in all of their computers? Turns out they were right.... All they did by removing it is give people that little push to move on from older tech. I remember the Windows people's snarky comments back then. "If they ever did that on a PC, we'd lose the ability to do BIOS flash upgrades and troubleshoot by booting from an alternate drive!" (Those sure look like weak arguments today when you can do all of that from faster USB flash drives that hold hundreds of times more data and cost less than a box of floppy disks.)

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