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Comment More Practical Suggestion (Score 2) 131

I already use my Android phone to do some light remote work. I use ConnectBot to SSH into a remote workstation. For graphical apps, I set up port forwarding for VNC (there's a menu option for it in connectbot) and use AndroidVNC

I have my VNC server set to only accept connections from localhost (and it's firewalled, too), so that only connections which are forwarded and encrypted via SSH wind up being accepted. This way I get secure remote access, the VNC protocol tends to be less bandwidth-intensive than raw X, and it preserves my session in case I get disconnected.

Don't get me wrong, an X server on Android is a cool technical achievement, but existing SSH and VNC clients for Android are a more practical and secure way of accessing your workstations/servers on the go.

Comment Nupur Lala and the perfect balance (Score 1) 534

I had the pleasure of meeting the champion from spellbound, Nupur Lala, when we were both undergraduates at the University of Michigan. We became great friends and, along with another friend, shared an apartment our senior year. Although she is undoubtedly a genius, Nupur is far from the stereotype of the over-achieving Indian kid. She loves her family and is proud of her heritage, and her parents are likewise very proud of her. Her parents didn't, however, force her into academic competition or drill her with thousands of words per day. They did instill in her a love of learning and gave her a great deal of gentle encouragement when she showed a passion for language.

I think Nupur's example shows that very high-achieving young people, Indian or otherwise, need not be humorless robots driven by overbearing parents. She's a fun-loving, friendly, and extroverted woman who has the support of an engaged family that values academics without pushing too hard. She attended public schools her whole life (on through UM, go wolverines!) and likewise found teachers and peers who inspired her to further develop her talents.

In the end, what I'm driving at is that my experience with an Indian spelling bee champion contradicts a lot of stereotypes about Indians and Indian families, as well as those about high-achieving students. In her case, triumph is all about passion, inspiration, and love, not ethnicity.

Comment A Great Film, But Don't Forget Moon (Score 4, Interesting) 705

I saw District 9 this Friday, and I have to agree that it was a great piece of cinematic sci-fi: an allegory for apartheid with a very human unlikely hero and some great popcorn-fodder action sequences. I'd like to remind everyone, though, that it still has some competition for year's best sci-fi movie in the form of Moon, which is a drama of isolation, loneliness, and ethics set in the stark, cold beauty of space, very reminiscent of 2001. While it doesn't match the action of D-9, it makes up for it with its emotional intensity and thoughtfulness. I highly recommend any Slashdot movie fans out there see both.

Comment What a Wonderful World it Would Be (Score 2, Insightful) 789

Of course, it would be lovely if we could dispense with the entire status quo wherein mobile carriers subsidize the cost of phones to lock people in to long-term contracts. I'd gladly pay more for unlocked smartphones if it meant I could pay less for service (you'd better believe the cost of all those handsets is built into your bill) and switch at-will.

Now, it's true that you can buy some unlocked phones today, but it's far from the ideal situation for several reasons:
1. The price of unlocked phones is substantially above the wholesale price which phones are sold to the carriers for (I don't expect a volume discount like they get, but a few hundred dollars markup is a bit steep).
2. Some phones simply aren't available unlocked without going to the grey market, including the iPhone. That's because a lot of the most appealing phones (I'm debating an iPhone 3GS or an HTC Magic for my next) are offered as "exclusives" for a single carrier. That means that, in my region, if I want a particular phone, I'm stuck with AT&T or T-Mobile, respectively, for service.
3. No price break on service. If you bring your own phone to play, you're still paying the extra that would cover the cost of a carrier-provided phone, which in this case is pure extra profit for the carrier.

Now, just imagine if a similar situation existed with TVs: you only get a cool new TV when you sign up for an extended cable or satellite contract, and you're then locked into using that TV with that provider. You'd also have to consider the tradeoff between the features you want in a TV and the coverage and quality of service you get. In other words, it would be an intolerable, fragmented mess.

But the service providers love vendor lock-in, and the phone manufacturers are only to happy to collude with them. It would probably take regulatory action to cut this particular knot. It's not impossible (remember when the FCC finally forced the mobile carriers to implement cell number portability, then they all advertised it as a great new feature), but I certainly wouldn't hold my breath for it.

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