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How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms

BillX Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (359 comments)

Ah, those were the days. At my HS the teachers were wise and would personally clear the memory on your calculator themselves. A fake "Mem cleared" program circulated widely. It not just intercepted the keystrokes you would use to actually clear the memory, but even displayed the text dimly (probably by clearing and rewriting the string rapidly) to simulate the fact that clearing the memory on a TI-8x also reset the screen contrast to (extraordinarily dim) factory default.

about two weeks ago

Hidden Obstacles For Delivery Drones

BillX Problem to be solved (215 comments)

People plinking a drone when it flies over their yard (or any public field) and getting a free Xbox or whatever it was carrying.

about two weeks ago

FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

BillX The important bit (338 comments)

This has nothing to do with "banning municipal broadband" today, and everything to do with not granting a power at the Fed level that would let a future FCC in 1-2 election cycles do exactly that.


"If the history of American politics teaches us anything, it is that one political party will not remain in power for perpetuity. At some point, to quote Sam Cooke, 'a change is gonna come,'" Berry said. "And that change could come a little more than two years from now. So those who are potential supporters of the current FCC interpreting Section 706 [of the Telecommunications Act] to give the Commission the authority to preempt state laws about municipal broadband should think long and hard about what a future FCC might do with that power."

Arguing that municipal broadband networks could discourage investment by private companies, Berry said, "Itâ(TM)s not hard, then, to imagine a future FCC concluding that taxpayer-funded, municipal broadband projects themselves are barriers to infrastructure investment. So if the current FCC were successful in preempting state and local laws under Section 706, what would stop a future FCC from using Section 706 to forbid states and localities from constructing any future broadband projects? Nothing that I can see."

about a month ago

Fighting Invasive Fish With Forks and Knives

BillX Re:What kind of fish? (180 comments)

They can be delicious if prepared correctly. The main problem with carp is the pin-bones all through the flesh - you can't just split them down the middle, peel out the skeleton and enjoy, so many folks give them a pass. They're also a fairly thick fish, and with those bones it's not really practical to fillet them, so cooking them through without overcooking some part can be tricky. Slow smoking works great - a slab of smoked fish is basically finger food anyway and usually pinched off in small pieces, so it makes the bones less of an issue.

about a month ago

The Man Responsible For Pop-Up Ads On Building a Better Web

BillX Re:good intentions? (135 comments)

Ads were not an original part of free web hosts' user agreements during much of the the Web 1.0 bubble (only the usual "we can change this agreement whenever we like" clause) - and in the area where a static 468x60 banner was the gold standard, few could have forseen the evilness that was the popup ad. (Disclaimer: I tried Geocities and Angelfire circa 1997. Angelfire at the time appeared to be a medical transcription company that happened to have some server space left over.)

about a month ago

Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

BillX Re:Quick rule of thumb (561 comments)

I know a couple radfems and social justice, professional victim types, and use a very similar test for the stuff they are always parroting: I call it the Black People test. Replace every occurrence of "men", "white straight males", etc. with "black people" and re-read it. If posting the revised copy under your name would get you fired from your day-job, it fails the test.

about a month ago

Harvesting Energy From Humidity

BillX Twist on a very old idea? (89 comments)

While the "water droplets spontaneously jumping off superhydrophobic surfaces" effect is interesting in itself, the mechanism of stripping charge from those droplets as they leave the apparatus sounds like a variation of the Kelvin water-drop energy harvester from 1867. In this case, rather than charge separation via the cross-connected cups, electric-double-layer charge-separation occurs between the droplet and the hydrophobic surface, causing the two to come away similarly unbalanced when the droplet jumps away.

about 2 months ago

Pseudonyms Now Allowed On Google+

BillX Welcoming and inclusive (238 comments)

"For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place..."

Neither here nor there, but this is the kind of language companies usually use just after being spanked for discriminatory-like* practices.

* "Can't have my name attached to a post about controversial topic X in the current political climate whilst keeping my day job -> excluded from the service -> more controversial ideological groups more excluded -> discrimination!" ...I wonder if someone's trying to scratch up a case to this effect...

about 2 months ago

FCC Proposal To Limit Access To 5725-5850 MHz Band

BillX Re:So who is behind this? (112 comments)

In principle I would agree, however, the idea of parking this nuanced distinction on the desk of a regulatory bureaucrat makes my neck hairs stand at attention.

about 2 months ago

IEEE Launches Anti-malware Services To Improve Security

BillX Taggant vs. any other digital signature scheme (51 comments)

While I'm admittedly not an expert in cryptography or trusted computing schemes in general, I don't see how this differs on a technical level from numerous other code-signing schemes with a central certificate authority (CA) (and its chain of delegations) blessing "good" code and revoking such blessings. Well known examples include Securicode / Windows Driver Signing, the anti-consumer bits of UEFI, etc. Can anyone shed some further light on how this is different?

As with other such systems, it assumes the existence of a benevolent authority that cannot be hacked, the cooperation of all packer vendors, the cooperation of all packer *users* (who are not malware authors)... and all packer users who *are* malware authors never hearing of it.

The only main difference I can see (and its potential downfall for its purpose) is that end-users don't pay for certificates. While that's great for end-users (driver signature enforcement in x64 Windows versions is pretty close to extortion IMO), this seems to break down for any packers that are not a licensed commercial product where an explicit, one-on-one packer-vendor to packer-user relationship exists. This excludes any freeware and open-source packers*, where any schmuck can just download and run it (and even modify it) without key exchanges or other communication with its author.

Conversely, if any old schmuck can obtain a fresh signature at any time ("it's free!"), what's to stop any old schmuck from doing exactly that? The stipulations that the system is free to both end-users and packer vendors, bankrolled entirely by A/V vendors out of the goodness of their hearts, suggests any background-checking that occurs as a condition of generating a signature can't be very exhaustive.

* While the IEEE materials refer to the proof-of-concept running on "a modified version of UPX", a well-known F/OSS packer, this almost certainly has to do with the ability to quickly bodge this feature in due to easy source code access, and very little to do with whether the actual author of UPX is complicit in or aware of the system, or whether this scenario can possibly work in the real-world for open-source packers with anonymous downloads.

about 2 months ago

Overkill? LG Phone Has 2560x1440 Display, Laser Focusing

BillX Re:Probably not (198 comments)

Still does. I just bought, and then returned, a Moto X after discovering that Motorola's "unlock your bootloader" page is a sham. Tried it on a brand-new, retail, unlocked device and got "Your device does not qualify for bootloader unlocking" . The better part of an hour going round in circles with their tech support and they are unable (or unwilling) to even state the criteria that would, theoretically, make a device "qualify".

(An aside: While most companies might claim unlocking or rooting a device "could" void the warranty, it's usually with a wink and a nudge as long as the device is factory-restored before RMA'ing or at least not obviously bricked. A couple have software tamper flags that can likewise be reset. Motorola, on the other hand, uses the device serial # to generate and return - by email - a bootloader unlock code, and immediately blacklists the device for warranty service the moment they do so, whether you actually use the code or not.)

about 3 months ago

Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

BillX Re:Slashdot Effect (104 comments)

Hackaday had a similar discussion just over a month ago. The consensus there seems to be likewise that it is probably a scam. (Or *extremely* optimistic kid who has seen a few of the technologies involved work on paper. But more likely a scam.)

about 3 months ago

The Military Is About To Get New Augmented Reality Spy Glasses

BillX Re:Spy glasses? (58 comments)

Heh. For our military this seems very counterintuitive. AFAICT the push in recent years has been toward anything that reduces unnecessary cognitive loading in heated situations, and frees up their tactical senses (eyes & ears) generally. At my day-job a recent project was a tactile display vest specifically to replace voice and hand-arm signaling, keeping soldiers' eyes and ears free for other matters. Basically a dense array of vibrotactile drivers (like what makes your phone buzz) that can display messages on the skin, which is basically "unused bandwidth" thus far. Blocking vision with AR, and in a very obvious way, seems counter to this trend.

about 3 months ago

Chrome 35 Launches With New APIs and JavaScript Features

BillX Reading TFA (73 comments)

I'm not remotely interested in Chrome, but I want to see what's in store for Firefox about 2 releases from now.

about 4 months ago

Canadian Teen Arrested For Calling In 30+ Swattings, Bomb Threats

BillX Re:Autoimmune disorder... (350 comments)

Another popular option is to route prank calls through a Deaf relay service (TTY). Whatever you type, the operator HAS to repeat it to the called party. This gets around voice identification - even more relevant if the callee is someone who knows you or you pull this shit regularly.

A friend discovered a new employee at his work was doing this, and got his cell # somehow. We had lots of fun with him.

about 4 months ago

Why Mobile Wallets Are Doomed

BillX Also (272 comments)

Also: TFA verbed 'onboard'.

about 4 months ago

USPTO Approves Amazon Patent For Taking Pictures

BillX Re:Our patent system is totally broken (152 comments)

It looks like there is only one extremely narrow independent claim (calling out a specific ISO and lens) - claim 1 - but it's a red herring. The real meat of it is Claim 2, which is much more broad and from which every subsequent claim through Claim 24 derives. Claim 25, the only remaining independent claim, is also much more broad.

about 4 months ago

Zenimax Accuses John Carmack of Stealing VR Tech

BillX Re:Trade secrets, not patents (148 comments)

Indeed, sounds like a non-compete-clause type of snit... the old "you can't work in the field you work in because you learned lots of stuff while working for us".

about 5 months ago

Firefox 29: Redesign

BillX Molasses mode (688 comments)

All (valid) complaints about the continuing dumbing-down of the interface aside, have they fixed the FF28 behavior where opening a new tab/window gets progressively slower with use, until after a few days of use, opening one freezes FF and pegs the CPU for upwards of 20 seconds before it appears? (Or just crashes.)

Closing and re-opening FF resets the molasses clock, but that's a poor substitute for just working correctly in the first place.

about 5 months ago


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