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Comment OS X / Ubuntu / Windows 7 (Score 1) 326

My primary desktop system in the office is a 2015 Retina Macbook Pro 15" (El Capitan), with dual 17" external displays connected (total of 3 displays counting the onboard screen). I also have a separate Windows 7 Lenovo Thinkpad that I use for teaching (since it has the stylus and touch screen that Apple does not support). I also administer a small computing laboratory consisting of five Dell Optiplex workstations running Ubuntu 14. At home, I have a 27" iMac running El Capitan, with about 10 TB of external disk storage.

Comment How many of us are actually calling tech support? (Score 1) 209

I think most of these complaints about tech support being "unbearable", while legitimate complaints, are things most of us that are fairly technologically literate don't have to deal with often. Why? Because the methods most of us geeks use to solve problems are the logical ones -- if something doesn't work as expected, as Google it and see if someone else experienced the same thing, or check the manual (gasp!). If something is defective, we RMA it back to the manufacturer and get a new one, and don't waste hours on tech support calls. If the product is something we use for business, the company will probably have a service contract and we'll talk to someone right away if needed. If, for some reason, we have to call tech support, we'll call and put the phone on speakerphone while the annoying advertising muzak plays in the background while we go about our business solving other problems, so when somebody finally picks up the phone, we start talking. 95% of the people that call the mainstream tech support lines are mainly the technologically illiterate folks that couldn't identify an SD card from an HDMI cable if it hit them in the face. The people that have the unfortunate task of having to talk with these people, realize that the process of actually educating them is futile, and make every effort to get them off the phone as quickly as possible, so that they have more time to solve the problems of the 5% of the people calling that actually know their ass from a hole in the ground.

Comment Why? (Score 3, Insightful) 65

My car automatically connects to my phone via Bluetooth every time I get in. I can listen to mp3 music over the car stereo, talk to someone via hands free, or even listen to pandora over the phone's LTE connection (though I have enough mp3s that I don't have to). I can even use the phone's GPS to tell me where I am and give me instructions through the car stereo on where I need to go. I don't need an extra monthly bill so that the car has its own connection. But capitalists love connected cars because the auto manufacturers can advertise the next generation "connected automobile" and the wireless companies get another monthly revenue stream. They're also hopeful on marketing this to parents so that they can have an internet connection available for their kids to watch Netflix or play games on long family trips instead of actually having to ***gasp*** socialize and interact with them.

Comment Copyright infringement vs. Extortion (Score 4, Insightful) 56

Sci-Hub is clearly engaging in copyright infringement by the definition of the law as written. But one could make a very good argument that Elsevier is also engaging in Extortion as well, by charging as much as $30-35 per paper to download a PDF. Is there any data out there on how many people actually pay these fees? Most people with access at a Carnegie Research I institution don't need to pay the fees, but there are a lot of smaller academic institutions whose libraries don't have the resources to subscribe to everything. The options are either email the author and ask for them to send you a copy (most of the time, this works), contact a colleague at another institution and ask them to send you a copy (many academics will do this for friends and collaborators), visit Sci-Hub and download it yourself, or pay the extortion fee and obtain it. Three of these options violate copyright laws as written, but the first two options have the advantage of maintaining contact with other researchers in your field and increasing communication, which can help your career. Do we really want to stifle this all in the name of making a few extra bucks for the publishing companies so that their stock can go up a quarter of a point?

Comment Re:This is why America needs President Trump (Score 2, Insightful) 284

Trump himself has used and abused the H1B visa system, and he's admitted it. Why? Because as a businessman himself, even he recognizes the opportunity to save money by importing cheaper foreign labor. Anyone that believes that Trump is somehow going to change his ways and be America's great labor force "savior" is just delusional.

Comment $30-$35 an article? (Score 1) 191

Who exactly made the decision that the going rate for a single scientific journal article was $30-35? That seems to be way too high. And who actually pays for that? Does anybody? Is there any data on how many of these exorbitant, highway robbery fees are actually paid? I seem to recall back in the 80s and 90s when doing research papers in the library, before things were online, students would keep a library copy card handy with maybe $25 or $50 on it to cover copying of journal articles needed for research. Because the copier would charge something like 5 or 10 cents per page. Students would readily pay this because it was easily explainable since you were getting a hard copy on paper. Now, with notebook computers and the like, you don't need to pay for copies, and you can print PDFs at home on your own printer (where you budget to buy paper by the ream. But even back in the 80s and 90s, part of that copying fee of 5 to 10 cents per page was for the copyright royalty fees to the publishers (the library still has to subscribe to the journal). I think if publishers would find a way to make their journals available for 50 cents to $1 per article, and also find a way for students and faculty to keep a small account somewhere for this, as opposed to having a separate account for every journal, they would see that more people are more than willing to pay a relatively modest fee for access to these journals. But I'm not sure if we can go back to that, either. Publishers may very well have burned all the bridges by extorting us with completely unreasonable fees in the interest of making their stock go up a quarter of a point. Ain't capitalism great?

Comment [Obligatory] Microsoft Car (Score 1) 196

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating, "If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

2. Every time they painted new lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull ove r to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue.

For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Only one person at a time could use the car unless you bought "CarNT," but then you would have to buy more seats.

6. Apple would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive -- but it would only run on five percent of the roads.

7. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "general protect ion fault" warning light.

8. The airbag system would ask, "Are you sure?" before deploying.

9. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the antenna.

10. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally Road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither need nor want them. Attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50 percent or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.

11. Every time GM introduced a new car, car buyers would have to learn to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

12. You'd have to press the "start" button to turn the engine off.

Comment Re:Yawn (Score 1) 105

I think it bears mentioning that these are pilot programs and being tested in a couple of jurisdictions. It's not standard practice yet. What it will probably develop into is more of a system whereby officers would have an NFC reader in their phone or device and you would transfer your drivers license and/or insurance information over to the officers NFC-capable device, and he would have limited access to view the information he needs without storing the data on his device permanently. Of course, in order for this to work, Apple would have to open up their NFC reader to developers, instead of locking it to everyone but Apple Pay.

I have used the Progressive app on my phone as proof of insurance with officers. This IS actually standard practice in many states (Tennessee, for example, completely allows digital proof of insurance). Every time I have showed proof of insurance to an officer this way, they have never taken my phone back to their car. They saw that I had insurance and that was good enough for them and they didn't ask any other questions.

As for the "battery is dead" issue, that should be a non-issue in the car if you have a car charger for your phone.

Comment Re:Missed opportunity (Score 1) 105

Walmart and a consortium of other retailers is in the process of rolling out CurrentC, which is another mobile payment platform. The key difference between CurrentC and Apple/Android/Samsung Pay is that it does not use NFC, and uses a more clunky QR code instead, that is scanned at the point of purchase. CurrentC does not go through the credit card system, because Walmart and other retailers want to avoid the credit card surcharge. Instead, they use the ACH system connected directly to your checking account. That also means that by using ACH and CurrentC, you lose any fraud protection offered by the banks. Once money is debited from your account, you're not getting it back. That will pretty much kill CurrentC in its tracks.

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