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Comment Advice from a MRR of 40+ years (Score 1) 149

It's only a hobby.... it's only a hobby....

There is likely a model rail club or more in your area. See if they have open house and go check out the place. A good club will be warm and welcoming with folks that are comfortable to be around. Forget the layout at the club, you are looking for a place to hang out with others that know a lot and don't mind answering questions. Fastest way to kill enjoyment of the hobby is to get around folks you'd rather paste in the beezer than talk to. Model railroaders are 25% normal people, 50% kind of quirky, and 25% jerks, given a random sample.

First step is to decide what you want to do. I like to do 1900's, 1960's, and modern railroading, so my layout is designed to be able to add and remove things that are not period. So the box car icing station from the 20'-60's becomes a fuel rack by removing structures and putting others in it's place. Also, do you want to be able to turn a train on and let it run around on a loop, or is it going to be a point to point layout?

Final advice - your relative may say maybe even before their death - but I wouldn't take over anything much before then. Just enough to comfort them they have gotten to bug to bite you is about right. If they give it all up too soon, they may be giving away what joy they can still get from the hobby. Just my two cents.

Digital control for more than a simple model is almost required. Most folks go with DigiTraxx system for controls, and various others for the decoders depending on what is desired out of the model. If you want sound, lights, and smoke (the good kind) out of a model, then almost certainly the decoder choice will be the appropriate SoundTraxx Tsunami - about $100 for the decoder, speaker, and supplies. Retro fitting decoders is fairly easy - the hardest part for me is getting the engine opened up without breaking off things.

Submission + - Power cycle a remote server and router

buss_error writes: I am using Belkin WeMo's, ezOutlets, and Raspberry Pi's with custom software to reboot remote servers.
WeMo's: Good for servers, not good for rebooting routers as they don't have a reset only function.
exOutlets — Great if you don't have too many, has auto power cycle upon no ping from a set of web sites they select.
Raspberry Pi's: Best, but takes programming.

What do you use to power cycle a remote server and router?

Comment Sad (Score 1) 928

I've used South West Airlines for more than 3 decades. Unless the people responsible for kicking off an unhappy passenger are corrected in public, I will no longer include South West Airlines in my travel plans, nor will I authorize use of their services for my employees.

When I have an unhappy customer, I don't demand they delete their rant, I ask them how I can fix it for them. Sometimes it's not what I'd like to do, but it is what I must do to make my customer happy. I never have, and I never will ask a customer to remove a negative comment. I will ask what can I do to make this right, and if there is any way I can meet the expectation, I will.

#Eyes on YOU SWA

Comment Re:Cars are a luxury (Score 1) 390

Hmm. Much depends on where you live. If you are on the west or east coast, with great public transport, then I agree.
If however, you live in Texas, where public transportation is treated as a poor joke, and one in bad taste at that, and vast metroplexes, then maybe not so much.
It's funny, because the buss routes through the "poor" side of town are 40% less than on the "rich" side of town. On the poor side, you are expected to walk as much as 6 miles to a "transportation hub", while on the "rich" side, there are no routes longer than a mile away from any business or residental section.

Comment Libability (Score 2) 440

The issue here isn't that CostCo is being numb, the issue is that people can sue CostCo if they claim to be sick from the peanut butter. Even if the food bank gives it away, and the person that gets it gives it away, the chain is still there, and CostCo is still in the sights of a plaintiff as a target for a suit.

This is pretty much why railroads will shred brand new cars if they were in a derailment. It's easier accounting to pay the manufacturer for the car than to risk 100,000 or more in liability because the car "might have been" damaged in the derailment leading to the suit. Hmmm. $40K for the car an know that's the end of it, or risk potentially $100K+ payouts for decades after from someone that might not even be born yet? It's simple math.

Comment Re:The tighter you clench your fist, Lord Vader... (Score 2) 273

He's a sysadmin at the NSA, which means he's supposed to be maintaining their servers -- not looking through classified materials.

That's a problem the NSA needs to look into. Unauthorized people seeing classified data is a problem.

So if he were to report to his superiors about his concerns with any of these highly classified programs, he'd be admitting to looking at information he should never touch.

Another problem for the NSA to look into.

If he did anyway, he would have been shit-canned immediately and investigated.

Third time's the charm, right? Right?

So, it sounds like a complete pile of horseshit to me.

Except so far no one is saying "yeah, we looked into his complaints, they were completely baseless."

By the way, my tag line is the same tag line I've used for most of the years I've been reading Slash Dot.

Comment Great - but don't limit it! (Score 1) 415

I have a HD camcorder. The charger is proprietary. It dose the amazingly complex thing of supplying 8.4 VDC at 1.5 amps. The battries are proprietary too. They supply 7.4 VDC at 890mAh.

Not common (and I think I know why) but not out of the realm of cobbling up something to match. However, any aftermarket parts just don't work. Why? Because they don't have the all holy and copyright/trademarked "protection" of geniuine equipment which would "degrade" my user experience. Never mind that a simple battery for this camcorders costs retail $190USD, while the price of the parts is nearer to $12.

And while we are about tilting at windmills, let's go after ink cartridges. I wouldn't mind paying $400 for a printer, if I could get ink packs for it for less than $130 per month to print about 200 pages.

Submission + - What to do when your Government is out of control 1

buss_error writes: I've been watching the NSA and related stories. All I can say is that my personal feeling is that our government is completely out of control, ignoring our rights, and doing what ever they want. I hate to say this, but it seems that no matter who we vote for, it doesn't affect the out of control cowboy moves made by the minions of Bureaucracy. Peaceful protests are ignored. Legal challenges, directives, and congressional orders are shrugged off with less effort than rain. They do what they do when they want, how they want.

No one sane wants to see a city vaporized by a terrorist's atomic bomb, but it that any worse than a society where we have no secrets from the Government? "I've got nothing to hide" is a mind set that trusts that someone won't find a rationale that something you did was harmful. Then make your life a living hell with "secret evidence" you are not able to see or refute.

To quote Ben Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

How do we, the citizens, reign in the over broad, overzealous surveillance culture? Normally I'd say "cut off the money" but that depends on elected representatives to pass a budget to do just that. Time and again, they have failed to do so.

Comment It's all about the last mile (Score 1) 353

The barrier to entry for competition in the US is the last mile from the home to the internet hub. This may of course be more than a mile, but usually it's right around that. Cable companies have pumped billions of dollars per large city into their infrastructure. AT&T same. They are not about to allow competition in their areas if they can (legally or under the table) prevent it. Some of the dirty tricks used by incumbent telco operators is to have a "third party" buy up internet cooperatives once they become medium to large (more than 1000 subscribers), then bankrupt them, forcing the current customers to either pay much higher fees for less service via the incumbent, or do without internet all together if the incumbent decides a portion of the co-op is too expensive to build out to.

As far as radio frequency spectrum, look at what most of them already have in inventory versus what they have in use. The incumbents are stock piling spectrum to keep it out of the hands of competitive companies that require it to provide better service at lower cost. The FCC needs a rule that if 50% of the spectrum is not in at least 80% use, the spectrum is taken away and put back up for auction.

It is frequently stated that the US has the worst internet at the highest costs in the world. This is incorrect. It's only about the 8th worst, it just affects the most people.

Submission + - Sites that don't tell you the price without signing up

buss_error writes: I've been noticing more and more sites that simply will not tell you the price of their items without creating an account and logging in, or giving them your email and telephone contact. My reaction in such a circumstance has always been "Then I guess they're doing so well they don't need my business."

Are sites that do this shooting themselves in the foot and losing a lot of sales, or am I a stick in the mud for not wanting to part with my email and telephone number to get a price?

Comment Well, if they ask me for my disk password.... (Score 2) 555

I have an encrypted loop back file that auto-mounts upon log in, requesting first the account password via getty, then the disk password in .bashrc

Interesting thing to note kids:

Never use mass transit without pulling out your "Sunday go to meetin'" laptop. You know the one I mean.
The one that, first thing you do, is to DOD wipe the drive (Thanks DBAN!), then load the OS (Linux, of course.)

If you mount a drive over a directory that already has files in it, you can't see the files in the original directory.
So, in my encrypted directory, I have many many files of Porn that I bought the files. Carefully recorded in an invoice.txt file in the directory
along with the bank account .pdf showing the credit card transaction, banal stuff like my tax returns, the in box for the email address I hand out when I -know- they are going to spam me, browser history when I don't care when someone sees what I'm browsing, megabytes of files created by /dev/urandom and dd. That sort of thing. If I'm asked about the "gibberish" /dev/urandom files, I tell 'em the truth. They are there to confuse people that somehow get access to my system. They are completely worthless, and in fact, can be deleted. Here, let me delete them for you just to prove the point. Oh, you don't want me to? OK. But really, it's just
gibberish. Nothing to see. Honest Injun!

On the base directory, I used to have my "real" files. Now I do something far sexier than that dodge. I used to just not give the loop back encrypted drive
a password, it would fail to mount, and I'd have my real files.

The key takeaway here is "Give 'em something to titillate them while at the same time hiding your real private files. Sensitive files belong in a encrypted cloud drop box outside of ANZAC treaty partners. Remember to delete history on that kiddos. Not ALL history, just that which shows you accessed a drop box."

I have to wonder though. Why am I more afraid of my own government than I am of "terrorists"?
I don't want to hurt anyone, and I don't have a "statement" to make that requires more than a few harsh words to select people behaving badly.

The below has been my tag line almost since I opened a Slashdot account. Sad to say, it's more true now than it ever was before.

Comment AT&T (Score 1) 380

AT&T - for all that it's the same name as the precursor of the inventor of the telephone system and many innovative systems, is sadly not even a pale ghost of it's former glory. What they are is group of clue avoiding MBAs cum lawyers running a reconstituted monopoly to maximize shareholder profits and piss off customers. They are worse than that barking dog that just won't SHUT UP, they are a drag on innovation, competition, and customer service. While they do a great job of "servicing" their customers, it's not in a way that is appreciated or desired by those same customers. Besides, they use crunchy peanut butter as lube. With no "reach around". (I know how disgusting a mental image that is. Sorry, but that's about what I feel about them.)

If I had the power, anyone at AT&T (Indeed, ANY telco) above lower management would be forever barred from working anywhere near telecommunications, internet, or anything more advanced than a grill for flipping burgers. Even that I would consider high risk; food poisoning, you know.

America: Highest Internet costs, Lowest Internet speeds. Go figure.

Comment Depends.. (Score 4, Interesting) 197

On what is kept. If it really is just the metadata and not the conversation, then the storage requirements are not all that large.

For Landlines, there is a unique identifier applied at the switch. I mis-remember what it's called, but in South Texas, it usually started with BAPA- blah blah blah for several digits.

For cell phones, there is the OMEI/UDID/ESN. Normally around 14 to 20 digits, usually 15.
Next, called number, same info.
Last, call duration.

I believe it's long been known that using particular words in a telephone conversation would raise a flag. I don't know if that's true or not. If so, lets consider this scenario:

Call metadata captured and stored - always.
Call voice session saved to a temporary storage area.
Call concludes.
Voice data is analyzed for key words using automation. (Think about when you call your credit card company, and can input your CC number by voice)
If no keyword flags are raised, delete the conversation after X time (or immediately, who knows?)
If keyword flag is raised, score by number of keywords, flag conversation for human review, preserve all data.
After human review, who knows?

What I think: If preserving our freedom comes at the price of invading all of our privacy, then the terrorists have been gifted with a victory they could have never won for themselves. We have destroyed our freedom with the illusion of security, and now have neither freedom nor security. To draw a parallel, how is having the TSA able to squeeze my balls protecting me? "Dude - don't touch my junk!"

Comment I worked in K12 for 15 years (Score 1) 168

About all you can do if you can't get someone to listen (and I'll bet you can't, and I'll tell you why) is to refuse to give your permission for your child to use the Internet as school. So why won't they listen?


When I left, there was a ~4 million dollar budget to renew and expand the email system (All teachers and staff, all kids, plus all parents, maybe e-mail for life like some colleges do, mail boxes that hold more than 512 megabytes and anti-virus). Google came in and moved everything to Google for under $200,000, expanded coverage of users as we'd wanted, and freed up 3 staff members that were doing nothing but email for other tasks. Hard to argue that $3.8 million bucks that suddenly pops up for other uses isn't a good thing, especially when a lot of other money was cut off. What's going through the superintendents head goes something like this: "Someone worried about privacy -something I don't understand but sound like it's not that important- for kids versus like, 3.8 million I can put toward fixing X, or maybe keeping those 1,000 classroom teachers I was going to have to lay off..."

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