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Submission + - Did last night's US presidential debate Wi-Fi rip-off break the law? (

schwit1 writes: The host of the first presidential debate on Monday night, Hofstra University in New York, may have broken the law and could be in line for a huge fine.

Reporters at the event were appalled to find that among the heavily marked-up items they were offered – $150 to rent a lamp, anyone? – was a $200 charge for a "secure wireless internet connection."

Worse than the clear effort to price-gouge people trying to file stories, however, was the fact that the university decided that only its wireless access points were allowed to be used, and even sent someone around with a Wi-Fi signal detector apparently threatening to throw out anyone who was using an "unauthorized" access point.

That action – effectively shutting down people's ability to use their own internet connection in order to force them to use a paid-for service – was ruled illegal in 2014 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a landmark ruling against Marriott Hotels.

Comment Probably actually illegal (Score 5, Interesting) 182

This is probably actually illegal. Sony had to pay a settlement for disabling Linux on the PS3; HP is doing the same, so has at least a civil suit. Uniquely, however, HP has proven that their product is compatible with third-party ink, and has taken action to specifically to lock-out competition. That's probably an instance of Tying, and HP has sufficient market power to show that Tying is anti-competitive.

Comment Re:Dear article writer: Listen to yourself (Score 2) 73

The thing is big data lets you go to East Africa and use gajillions of samples to map out a statistical analysis of exactly what square meter of ground you want to tap into to get the most-likely absolute-best geothermal energy production. Rough knowledge lets you do ... about the same thing, just without taking it to planck scale.

We're not talking about the difference between a 500 gigawatt production facility and a 900 gigawatt production facility; we're talking about 500 gigawatt versus 500.1 gigawatt.

That's why Apple [], Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. are all building huge data centers. They want a piece of the pie of influencing & controlling because ultimately it will bring profits.

Big data makes the difference between 30%-effective advertising and 70%-effective advertising. Big energy can go outside and run a thermal scan of the ground (from an air plane, using IR cameras) and then just pick somewhere for geothermal; THAT'S HOW ADVERTISING WORKS WITHOUT BIG DATA! If you just bluntly advertise based on a survey of demographics, you get significantly less conversion. You go into a city and say, "Hmm, lots of black people here, kind of poor, thug life, ok. Put up billboards about Ciroc featuring buff black dudes in do-rags with face tattoos." With big data, instead of running online ads that say, "You're in regional Baltimore, so let's show racially-profiled ads that basically assume you're a black gang thug," they can try to pinpoint exactly what behaviors describe the recipient of a particular ad, and serve an ad that matches their interests, thus get much more conversion.

So, again, while advertisers might more than double their effectiveness by churning through piles and piles of data, all that effort gets power companies roughly zero over just taking a fly-over with thermal or sonic imaging. The most important data tool in oil prospecting is AUTOTUNE. They don't much benefit at all from big data. Neither does most other things (farming, manufacturing, music production, pharmacology, chemistry).

Comment Re:Dear article writer: Listen to yourself (Score 1) 73

Dissent on the +2 Troll moderation. This guy is an angry prick but I'm pretty sure the analogy makes no sense, at least not to any layman. Even to my senses, coal and oil are the basis of economy: all economy runs down to energy. Hunter-gatherers are solely concerned with food to power human muscle to hunt and gather; agrarian societies are similarly concerned, until they invent animal power (still food) and mills (water, wind, coal, oil, solar power). Societies require human time to produce the things required to live, and they reduce that time by technology, which eventually requires non-human energy: tractors harvest food more-quickly, mills process grain more-quickly, and we're freed from human labor time by extracting energy from coal and oil.

Data is a commodity processed by technology, like cloth or sand. It's not a source. Data requires energy, and energy doesn't require much data at all--so little, in fact, that just basic human knowledge such as knowing that Africa is sunny and has geothermal hot spots in the north-east can tell you where to drop your solar and geothermal power plants. Data might be nice for squeezing out 1% more efficiency--and 1% of ENERGY is a hell of a lot--but society runs on energy, and data *needs* energy; energy doesn't actually need data, and society can get all of its energy needs without energy being built using big data infrastructure.

Comment Re: You wouldn't download an Oreo (Score 1) 209

The other argument is ridiculous, too.

Of course their analogy is highly questionable, since transmitting data over a network doesn't actually consume anything, now does it? You eat the cookie, the cookie is gone, but you transmit data over a network, the network is still there and can transmit data endlessly.

When you eat a cookie, it isn't gone. The biological cycle eventually moves that load of nutrients back around through plants and animals, with sunlight as input energy, and human work brings about a new cookie.

When you use a network's bandwidth, the remaining bandwidth is reduced. If your network has 1Tbit/s of bandwidth and you consume 200Gbit/s, that leaves you 800Gbit/s to work with. If people start pulling 700Gbit/s, that's half a Tbit of bandwidth that's being consumed. It's gone, unless you can beat back people's usage.

Comment Re:How exactly is Amazon screwing me over? (Score 1) 110

Yes, and it's curated links. Real media says "man with gun stopped by armed restaurant patron," Drudge links to it; media says, "Armed patron was actually undercover cop; another patron opened fire and hit someone with a stray bullet," Drudge doesn't link that follow-up.

You can do a lot by filtering information.

Comment lower infosec budgets will INCREASE hacking damage (Score 3, Insightful) 183

This report looks at a lot of data, but (as noted in the Limitations section) it's only what was publicly available. Lots of breaches, especially w.r.t. ransomware, go unreported. Lots of breaches go undetected and/or aren't as easily measured as money (e.g. a rival company steals your un-patented trade secrets).

However, my biggest issue with this analysis is that its conclusion makes no sense. It says that the cost of cyber breaches is roughly equal to the cost of maintaining a defense. This paper fails to account for how money spent on cyber-defense reduces the money lost to cyber-attacks. If you're advocating for a radical reduction in InfoSec, this is the (only!) figure that matters.

Information Security is important, and there is good work being done here and more work needed. Cutting the InfoSec teams down will correlate to an increase in attacks that get through. This paper seems to be suggesting that reduced InfoSec budgets will somehow also limit the damage they combat. That makes no sense.


Stephen Hawking Wants To Find Aliens Before They Find Us ( 280

Stephen Hawking is again reminding people that perhaps shouting about our existence to aliens is not the right way to go about it, especially if those aliens are more technologically advanced. In his new half-hour program dubbed, Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist said (via CNET):"If intelligent life has evolved (on Gliese 832c), we should be able to hear it," he says while hovering over the exoplanet in the animated "U.S.S. Hawking." "One day we might receive a signal from a planet like this, but we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn't turn out so well." Hawking manages to be both worried about exposing our civilization to aliens and excited about finding them. He supports not only Breakthrough: Listen, but also Breakthrough: Starshot, another initiative that aims to send tiny nanocraft to our closest neighboring star system, which was recently found to have an Earth-like planet.

Comment They say that as if they know how to write policy (Score 1) 65

What's the advantage of this policy? It looks like a fixed fee without charging separate rental fees would encourage all customers to rent, else they're paying for someone else's modem. That the modem rental cost to you is essentially a $2 fraction of your bill instead of a $10 line-item only occurs because 80% of users are paying that $2 but not renting a modem; so why wouldn't you? On the other hand, if the modem rental is a separate fee, everyone gets to avoid it by buying an $80 modem... except poor people, who can't take the outlay, and have to pay the extra $10/month. The good news is those poor people would probably pay that $10/month anyway, since everyone would take advantage of modem rental, so there's no difference at the bottom end.

In other words: this proposed FCC policy does no harm to the poorest, but helps the less-poor. Okay, I'll buy it.

We've been universally bad at good consumer policy, in general, which is easily pointed out by Federal cell phone fees.

The Utility Users Tax for Wireless ($4 per serviced device) costs America over 90,000 jobs. When you factor in the Federal USF Cellular fee, it's almost 113,000 jobs.

These regressive taxes most strongly target the poor and middle-class, as they represent a larger percentage of income for users with lower incomes. An average 2.4-person household with one cellular device per person currently pays $115.20/year; for households with more persons, it's higher, and a two-adult, three-child household with five phones would pay $240/year.

A 0.01638% increase in all Income taxes would draw the same Federal revenue. A median-income household would pay $8.84/year; a minimum-wage household would pay $2.38/year; and a top-1% household would pay $278.46/year.

In terms of income tax, the average 2.4-person household as reflected above, paying $115.20/year, would pay a higher percentage the less income they have. The median-income household currently pays 0.213% of their income in these cell phone taxes; the minimum-wage household pays 0.794%; and the top-1% pays 0.000678%.

So there you have it: Federal wireless fees are equivalent to a higher income tax the lower your income actually is. I'm not saying the FCC's policy here with cable modems is bad, but we should be concerned whenever they start tinkering with fees because this shit happens.

Comment Re:It's missing the full picture (Score 1, Insightful) 198

It's lower-efficiency anyway, thanks to separation and storage energy costs. You used clean energy? Great! You used 2,000MW of energy instead of 600MW, which means there were 1,400MW of coal energy that could have been clean energy but weren't because you wasted all that clean energy doing a bullshit hydrogen stunt!

Comment Re:26 out of how many? (Score 1) 106

The point appears to be that some concentration of users in one small area have complained their shit is blowing up, and have been shown false or insubstantiable; meanwhile across the whole world, fractionally as many actual, legitimate or apparently-legitimate reports have come in. The United States seems to have few enough reports of exploding phones that it's not actually worth checking too hard if people are bullshitting.

Comment Re:Not a surprise (Score 3, Insightful) 106

I'm surprised it didn't happen with Tesla's autopilot (4 reported claims, 1 of which looks probably-true but has been questioned, the other three of which have zero substantiation and are of the form "my car crashed itself! It must have been that autopilot-thingy I heard about last week!"). Happened a lot with Toyota's acceleration thing.

Comment Re:Wow, spend $3billion? (Score 1) 161

It's not just that; mental health is one of the most complex problems available, and it's a big part of disease.

Cancer is hard to fix. HIV is hard to fix. Congenital defects (genetic diseases) are hard to fix. They're easy to identify, easy to understand, and easy to describe; and even knowing everything about them, it's hard to find a way to fix them. When we do, the fix is difficult, complex, error-prone, and severely harmful to the patient. Most diseases are handled by vaccination or by ignoring them until they go away (e.g. flu medicine makes you feel alright until your body gets rid of the flu on its own).

So you think we'll just start picking at these things a bit harder? Okay, sure.

Let's not forget that there's an entire class of diseases you can't even see. When depression or dysthymia kicks in in full force, your trained psychiatrist might not notice. When they do notice something's wrong with you, they're likely to mis-identify what. When they do correctly identify what, they don't have a way to make it stop; they have to go through a huge set of behavioral and pharmaceutical treatments that can affect the disease, diminishing it as much as possible so you can cope. When they manage to find a working treatment, that treatment is unstable, and may fail in the future just because your brain, liver, or kidneys are doing something different, or you're not hydrated as well, or not sleeping as much--as you get older, you sleep earlier and wake earlier, or sleep more, or sleep less, and that can change around your mental health problems and the appropriate treatment.

I'm not saying cancer isn't important; just if you want to take on disease, cancer is not your model for "how hard could it be?"

*A* person with mental health problems doesn't cause much inconvenience for anyone. *A* person with HIV can spread the disease. The existence of all of these diseases, however, places economic strain on our society which does, in fact, make me poorer. Treating all these medical conditions is a waste of time and resources, and could be spent making other crap that our income could buy--that *I* could buy, since the cost of everyone's medical benefit would be lower (cheaper insurance) and thus the price of everything relative to everyone's income would follow, thus I'm able to buy more things. The sum total of all disease does, in fact, affect us all in profound ways, and reducing the impact of those diseases (treating them more effectively, eliminating them entirely, etc.) would make us all much richer.

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