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Comment Re:Not very secure (Score 3, Informative) 478

Once upon a time, like ten years ago, File Vault encrypted home folders as a dmg file on a partition. That is no longer the case and has not been the case for years. File Vault doesn't work like that anymore, and it hasn't worked like that for years. Now it's whole disk encryption like Microsoft's Bitlocker, and utterly bulletproof. The only way to lose your disk is to overwrite the key blocks at the start of the disk.

Technology moves on, man.

Comment Re:Help Me (Score 1) 290

I still have most of the Commodore 64 code that I ever wrote, even though the computers are sitting in my brother's attic 2,000 miles from here and the disks are long gone. As I've upgraded platforms I've pulled in my files from the previous platforms, and now we have emulators so I could even run the programs again if I wished. This obviously isn't going to help with things that had a hardware component like my card for interfacing a Commodore 64 with a 1571 disk drive at full 1571 speed (wire-wrapped, naturally, and using a ROM simulator SRAM chip to hold my code), but (shrug). The whole need for that is really not there anymore since a simulated 1541 is ridiculously faster than the real thing was.

Comment Re:phone (Score 1) 290

I would use an Arduino board with a Bluetooth adapter to do all the grunt work, and use the (Android) smartphone just for the user interface, talking to the Arduino via a Serial profile. We do something like that in ham radio nowadays to interface APRS with Android tablets, with the Android tablet providing GPS coordinates to be outputted as ham radio packets to the APRS system, and accepting GPS coordinates sent via packet radio from the ham-radio-interfaced Arduino to display the call signs of surrounding ham radio stations on the Android tablet's display . (Can't do it with iDevices because Apple won't open up access to the Serial profile).

Comment Re:Floppy drive (Score 1) 290

The capacitors are easy to replace. The chips are fat and happy NMOS that are somewhat static sensitive but otherwise pretty indestructible. The big problem with the chips is the 6526 CIA, which is the parallel port chip that is likely interfaced with the balancer machine. Those tend to pop if you stare at them wrong because the raw digital lines go directly from the CIA pins to that port on the back with no (zero) buffering, and it's been quite a while since they were manufactured. I used to pop them all the time when interfacing my wire-wrapped gadgets to my Commodore 64 and our local Commodore repair center knew me by name and when I came in the door immediately went in the back and got a 6526 out of his tubes of spares to sell to me. That was, of course, thirty years ago. Today they can still be found on eBay as pulls from recycled machines, but with the normal caveats of buying recycled components from eBay -- i.e.,. most of the time the seller has no way of testing them, so what you get may or may not work.

Comment Re:dust (Score 1) 290

Err, no. The SID chip is on the motherboard of the Commodore 64 (the schematic is even in the technical manual -- want to see my copy?) and is mixed with the television signal out the RF port on the back, or is available as a pin on the 8-pin round audio-video connector on the back of the Commodore 64, from whence it can go into a 1702 monitor (via an 8-pin to 8-pin cable) or broken out and sent to a powered speaker (via an 8-pin to RCA breakout cable, which also allowed hooking to a normal composite monitor). The 1541 has nothing to do with sound.

Comment C-64 was often used for industrial applications (Score 1) 290

Back in the day, the Commodore 64 was often used for industrial applications like this where the cosmetics of having a trash computer were outweighed by the cost savings of using a common off-the-shelf piece of hardware that had a bunch of easily controlled digital I/O lines hanging out on a card edge connector on the back. In the late 80's I had a contract to write software to display weather radar on a C-64 screen where the resulting consoles were deployed on offshore oil rigs talking back to the homeland over 1200 baud radio modems. I also had a contract to do the heat and magnetic calibration on directional drilling probes, where the signals from the drilling probe went through an analog to digital converter and were then bit-banged in over the parallel port lines on a Commodore 64.

Today I'd probably use something like an Arduino for things like that. But that of course didn't exist back then.

Comment Sure you can sign away your right to sue (Score 2) 602

You can bet that these contracts have forced arbitration in them -- you must agree to forced arbitration, or you don't get your severance pay. Because that's how evil banks roll.

So why is that bad? Well, consumers win 40% of the time when they sue a bank in court. But if a consumer instead is forced into arbitration because of a forced arbitration clause in the contract, consumers win less than 4% of the time, according to a study of arbitration decisions in California. I.e., forced arbitration basically means you signed away your right to sue in any meaningful way -- and the Supreme Court has upheld those agreements as fair and reasonable, so you can't even appeal to a "real" court.

Comment Or from Apple's perspective, mission accomplished (Score 1) 138

Apple gave fair warning to vendors that they wanted sandboxed applications to be the standard for the platform. Sandboxed applications do not run out of system directories, they are basically "jailed" in their own sandboxes. Microsoft, like most software vendors, ignored Apple. So now the vendors are reaping the rewards of what they sowed.

The bigger problem with El Capitan lies with virtualization and VPN software. These need to make changes to the system routing and interface tables to properly route packets between virtual machines and the Internet, or between the local host and the other end of a VPN tunnel. El Capitan breaks our VPN at work and I have advised our employees to not upgrade to El Capitan due to this fact until Apple and VPN vendors come up with a solution to this problem. I certainly am not going to advise employees on how to disable Apple's security system (SIP), that would be lunacy on my part akin to telling employees how to disable virus protection on their Windows laptops given the increasing threat level for Macs recently.

In the end, we need more secure systems, and Apple is providing one. The fact that it breaks existing applications and inconveniences users is unsurprising. It would have been surprising if that *hadn't* happened -- which is one reason why consumer operating systems are so insecure (because making them secure breaks so much stuff).

Comment Re:Rain rain go away (Score 1) 221

Yep. Microwave fade. It's inherent in ultra high wavelength transmissions. That said, we have modulation techniques today that have effective error correction, unlike back in the day when this was all done with FM and you ended up losing data when you had poor conditions. Think about how your mobile phone gets massive bandwidth and reliability out of OFDMA (LTE's downlink technology) under much worse propagation conditions in city canyons, and scale that to microwave frequencies.

That said, given the bandwidth limitations of long distance microwave technology and improvements in fiber technology over the past five years, it seems to me that this is a solution whose problem is already on the way out. NTT has fiber that can transmit 69.1 tbit/sec over a 240km distance. Out here in the West you can put towers on top of mountains to get line of sight for that long of a distance, but practically speaking you won't get line of sight for more than 100km or so in the flatlands without an enormously tall and expensive tower. The network between Chicago and NYC mentioned in the paper has towers every 70km and runs at 400mbit/sec. Clearly fiber can do that distance, and with much better bandwidth.

Comment Re:I'm probably missing something (Score 1) 417

The Central Valley of California is sitting on rich topsoil over 100 feet deep. Before the modern water projects, it mostly grew winter wheat, because there's enough moisture in winter (the rainy season in California) for that in most years. The Central Valley is technically a Mediterranean climate, not a desert (though the southern part of the Valley is technically semi-desert). But the water projects made it profitable and possible to grow crops year-round rather than just in the winter, mining that 100 feet of topsoil for food. Telling people they can't mine a resource like that doesn't go down well with Americans, who tend to be an ornery sort.

Comment More expensive water can mean more water usage (Score 1) 417

An example is almonds. Almonds now use close to 10% of water used in California. One almond takes approximately 1.1 gallons of water to create it.

So: Why, in the midst of drought, are California farmers planting *more* almonds? The answer, paradoxically, is because water has become more expensive. The water projects are not delivering water to California farmers, so California farmers have a choice between a) not growing crops (and thereby losing their farm, since no crops means they can't pay the mortgages they took out on their farm equipment and/or farmland to expand in earlier more optimistic times), or b) drilling wells. Drilling wells that in some cases are a thousand feet or more deep. The water from these wells is ridiculously expensive for two reasons: 1) the simple cost of drilling, and 2) the large amount of electricity needed to haul that water (at 8 pounds per gallon) up that 1,000+ feet of pipe to the surface.

In fact, the water from these wells is so expensive that if the farmers used it to grow a low-water-use crop like wheat they'd lose money. Most low-water-use crops like wheat or corn have a relatively low price on the commodities market, a price that will not pay for the cost of the well and the electricity to pump water out of the well. So, paradoxically, expensive water has caused farmers to instead grow almonds -- one of the only crops that sell for a higher price than the cost of the water needed to grow them, yet also one of the most water-thirsty crops on the planet.

And now you know the side of the story you don't get from the Libertarian free market think tanks and their notion that expensive water would cause water usage by farmers to decline. What matters to farmers is *not* the absolute cost of the water. What matters to the farmers is the *marginal* cost of the water -- the difference between what it costs to obtain the water, and what income they get from using the water. When water was cheap but in limited supply, farmers grew crops that were water-thrifty because the price of those commodities was enough to pay for the water. Now that water is expensive but they can pump as much as they wish from the ground (until the aquifer runs dry, anyhow!), the California farmer's slogan becomes "drill, baybee, drill!" and the almond trees go in.

Comment Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 1) 734

Actually, 65% of rich people in the United States (defined as the top 1% of income level) were born rich, according to the latest report I read on intergenerational income mobility in the United States. The only resources or intelligence they were ever required to exercise were to call Daddy when they needed more money. In my experience they're not stupid, but the documentary "Born Rich" probably gives you a good sense of the bubble they're born and raised in and its effects on them.

Just as with the AMT now hitting middle class families, current US tax policy against expatriates merely uses rich people as an excuse to be abusive towards middle class expatriates. Truly rich expatriates don't make money income (their income is investment income typically "earned" in the United States) so are not subject to this insanity.

It is always wise to distinguish between the propaganda used to pass a law, and the actual effects and purpose of the law.

Comment Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 0) 734

People whose field is IT tend to have children whose field is IT. And while the world is large, the SF Bay area is still the center of the technology startup world. The amount of money invested in SF Bay area technology startups every year by venture capitalists is greater than the amount of money they invest in technology in the entire rest of the world. While I agree that you can be a sysadmin anywhere, if you want to work on game-changing technology there's a mouth-drooling variety of possibilities in the SF Bay Area. I resisted moving to the SF Bay Area for years, but there's just too much cool stuff going on here to move away again.

I do not know these specific children so I have no idea if they have any desire to create leading-edge technology in the future. If they don't, US citizenship is just trouble. If they do, however, US citizenship opens up interesting vistas in one of the few places in the United States that isn't turning into a seedy dump.

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Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -- Aldous Huxley