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To Fight $5.2B In Identity Theft, IRS May Need To Change the Way You File Taxes

Bourdain Practically speaking as a CPA... (410 comments)

(1) Our tax structure isn't going to change meaningfully anytime soon
(2) The IRS won't allow or enforce any sort of efile for everyone in the short-term
(3) The IRS does allow you to file Form 14039 which puts a flag on your account which will make it harder for someone to cheat you out of your refund because your account will go through extra checks (such as making sure that your address and other information hasn't changed from last year since most information breaches don't contain all of the information necessary to file your tax return) and will reject fraudulent looking returns
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf...
(4) The IRS might decide to, upon filing form 14039 or if you have experienced a fraudulent return filed for you, a distinct PIN which is like a PIN for a credit freeze


Morale of the story if you're concerned about not getting your refund
-file form 8822 when you change address and notify your employees and other agencies which file forms on your behalf to have your current address so all filings point to the same physical address
-file form 14039 to have the identify theft flag added to your profile
-always try to arrange so you owe a little money come tax time (but not so much that you owe a penalty) so your refund is not in purgatory in the event of a fraudulent return filed on your behalf
-if you do indeed get a refund, try to file as early as possible to beat out a fraudster

about a month ago
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FCC Chairman: Americans Shouldn't Subsidize Internet Service Under 10Mbps

Bourdain The most logical explanation for this... (353 comments)

...turn of events is that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler must have moved recently and big telecom didn't know where to send their "support" checks in time.

about a month ago
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Aereo Embraces Ruling, Tries To Re-Classify Itself As Cable Company

Bourdain Re:How might their cost structure / roll-out chang (147 comments)

I emailed the author of the Ars article, this is what he said though I can't opine as to whether or not it is truly applicable (though I'm certain Aereo's attorney's would know for sure though it seems too low to me intuitively...):

The fee is (more or less) 1% of gross revenue if you're a cable system.

See section 111 here:

http://www.copyright.gov/title...


(F) If the actual gross receipts paid by subscribers to a cable system for the period covered by the statement for the basic service of providing secondary transmissions of primary broadcast transmitters are more than $263,800 but less than $527,600, the royalty fee payable under this paragraph to copyright owners pursuant to paragraph (3) shall be—

(i) 0.5 percent of any gross receipts up to $263,800, regardless of the number of distant signal equivalents, if any; and

(ii) 1 percent of any gross receipts in excess of $263,800, but less than $527,600, regardless of the number of distant signal equivalents, if any.

about 3 months ago
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Aereo Embraces Ruling, Tries To Re-Classify Itself As Cable Company

Bourdain How might their cost structure / roll-out change? (147 comments)

According to Ars:

the royalties are set by the government, not the broadcasters

--> Is the above true, does someone know this for certain?

--> If so, what would the marginal cost be per user?

One other thing to consider is that Aereo has pretty good software developed right now and if they don't need farms of antenna's with local presence anymore, they could theoretically be located anywhere if they are, effectively, a retransmission service and would no longer need to build out local infrastructure (i.e., which I suspect was one of their larger costs) and could just use cloud type services (e.g., amazon/rackspace) to host their DVR/transcoding/etc. services

about 3 months ago
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Windows 9 To Win Over Windows 7 Users, Disables Start Screen For Desktop

Bourdain Re:One switch to rule them all? (681 comments)

I, embarrassingly and sadly, live in Excel through my job as a CPA and as a frequent reader and occasional contributor here, unsurprisingly have a little bit of a programming/IT background.

I fully appreciate that the ribbon interface is better for novice users and has a flatter learning curve compared to the 2003 conventional interface but what really got me about the new versions is the slowness (only minimized slightly by being on a well configured new core i7, etc.). The new versions are so poorly engineered that they:
(1) frequently miss keystrokes/combinations that I enter
(2) calculate generally more slowly and/or less intelligently
(3) execute vba substantially more slowly

As such, my preferred setup is that I have Office 2003 and 2010 installed on the same machine (2010 via sandboxie which is tricky but doable to get right except that I use Outlook 2010 directly as opposed to sandboxed instead of Outlook 2003 since the newer Outlook is a real improvement and the ribbon doesn't bother me in that context of lighter usage)

I use Excel 2003 for almost everything and, only when I need to, I open up files in 2010 if they won't open in 2003.

Office 2007 is crap
Office 2013 is crap
Office 2010 is the least bad version of the new Office's

about 3 months ago
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NYC Considers Google Glass For Restaurant Inspections

Bourdain The system in NYC is so worthless anyway... (104 comments)

...as someone who has scoured and mined the NYC health department data (not to mention the review / grade pending period making the data even more worthless; i.e., most restaurants receive a hidden "C" at which point they display a "Grade Pending" sign then have a month to get their "A" at their reinspection and then most likely go back to their "C" ways --> to all those statisticians out there, which rating is the real one? the first one when they weren't expecting it or the one where they had a few weeks notice?

My hope and wish is that the letter grades determined by the score would be meaningfully correlated to the risk of food poisoning in the restaurant however there is little relationship between those things and that restaurants wouldn't have a chance to get a reinspection which clearly defeats the purpose of the test in the eyes of anyone with even the most minimal statistical/scientific education.

Instead of using google glass, the health department should reevaluate their methods of inspection and reinspection grading policy where part of their inspection relates to testing actual prepared food instead of seeing if a mouse or roach might have been on the floor (oftentimes they can just scurry in from the sidewalk and have zero impact on the food)

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Effective, Reasonably Priced Conferencing Speech-to-Text?

Bourdain Re:There isn't any... (81 comments)

Based on what I get on my TV when I press the Mute button, they really shouldn't be...

Most of the time when you view closed captions, it is typed up, not automatically transcribed by a computer program - link

Further, for live events, it is typically typed live by a stenographer which yields the inherent delay

As for errors, I personally have mostly seen errors when I'm watching over the air and the reception isn't very clear (though I don't often use closed captioning so my sample size is limited)

about 10 months ago
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Germany Produces Record-Breaking 5.1 Terawatt Hours of Solar Energy In One Month

Bourdain Re: Uneconomics 101 (687 comments)

I pay about $0.27/kWh in NYC for what's that's worth...

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Need a Phone At Your Desk?

Bourdain Re:Call Quality (445 comments)

I only wish I had that problem

My employer's IT department has misconfigured the VOIP voice system so poorly, I much prefer to use my cell phone for phone calls as the sound quality is vastly superior...Now I just can't wait until my plan upgrades to unlimited minutes

about 2 years ago
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Gaining Info On Tech Execs With Just Their Email

Bourdain Re:Hate using my Email address as log in (75 comments)

I do the same thing (re: custom email addresses) though since I use gmail to manage the domain, I also use subdomains as well to sort them (i.e., in order of importance of general class of address)

note that the free gmail version using a "+" both exposes your address and doesn't work with a lot of sites whereas subdomains work just fine (if you host a domain w/gmail)

more than 2 years ago
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Identity Theft May Cost IRS $21 Billion Over Next 5 Years

Bourdain Re:I had someone file under my SSN this year. (112 comments)

While I'm a CPA but not a tax accountant, I'd suggest asking a tax accountant about the option of "underwithholding" to the tune of $1500 for this next year and apply this unpaid refund against your balance a method to avoid this issue, at least in part, is to structure your tax payments and withholding to never yield a refund from the IRS in the first place which is not a perfect science but can be pretty close in most cases if you're organized...

more than 2 years ago
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Options For Good (Not Expensive) Office Backbone For a Small Startup

Bourdain I'm not any sort of IT/implementation guy but... (204 comments)

...in terms of real cost, my guess is that even if you buy whatever licenses you need/want from Microsoft for whatever software you have a need for, it won't really be that expensive compared to irritating your users (also, just use hosted exchange as $10/month/user should be a non-issue).

Before making any decisions, I'd consider asking your admittedly tiny user base what software/suites they need/want instead of just making blind purchasing decisions

more than 2 years ago
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IT Managers Are Aloof Says Psychologist and Your Co-Workers

Bourdain Re:Er, no. (378 comments)

How a person can know the intricacies of double entry bookkeeping but fail to understand why opening every single attachment they receive is verboten is beyond me.

Being both a CPA and someone who does lightweight programming (mostly scripting via VB, VBA, SQL and some macro languages) and occasional light IT work (setting up computers/routers/small networks, building/repairing computer hardware, etc.), most accountants are, at best, not interested in engaging in real abstract reasoning or learning. I assure you that accounting is really quite simple and there are very few intricacies (except perhaps in the design of their terrible accounting software database which have thousands of tables as a simple report's underlying query could require multiple "union's" for pulling the same type of data...)

more than 2 years ago
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Putting Emails In Folders Is a Waste of Time, Says IBM Study

Bourdain Re:"Reference" folder (434 comments)

I've been doing something very similar to this once I took the plunge into using Gmail.

I only keep the emails that require some action in my inbox and everything goes into an archive folder.

The two secret sauces of my email system are this though:

(1) A series of well written rules to tweak what of a few folders email arrive in such as to tweak my level of attention to the arriving email:
(a) if I'm only on the "cc" it goes into a "cc" folder
(b) if it goes firmwide, it goes to a firmwide folder
(c) if I'm on the "to" it stays in my inbox
(d) if it's one of a series of automated emails, it is automatically sent to archive

(2) http://lookeen.com/ --> the best outlook search tool I've ever used but it requires some understanding of how it works to most effectively use it
(a) you can only search its index and it can't reliably update it index in realtime (I believe as a function of outlook's terrible internal I/O // pst/ost filesystem...)
(b) the speed of lookeen and outlook by extension appear to be related to the degree of fragmentation of the underlying indices and datafiles so I configure lookeen to rebuild its index (2-3 gb of emails takes 10-15 minutes to index on an older computer) and also to selectively defragment both lookeen's database and outlook's files each night

This approach yields lightning quick searches where I'm frequently telling people I work with when I sent them what email over the phone so they look it up the old fashioned way...

about 3 years ago
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If it were mine to decide ...

Bourdain Re:Oppose a single GSM carrier (182 comments)

I also understand that even if you DO buy an unlocked phone outright in the US, and you go to your carrier to get a plan for it, you still have to go on a contract, and you still have to pay handset repayments as part of the cost of the plan anyway (!?!) (i.e. the plan cost doesn't change if you bring your own handset). It would make me rage uncontrollably if I lived there full time ;)

Not true. I bought my cell phone unlocked with the intent of having a no contract plan. After researching all the cell services, I found out that T-mobile was the only one who actually had a cheaper plan with no contract if you brought your own phone. Guess which company I went with. If this merger had occurred earlier, then I would have been left with no choice.

I'm also aware that T-mobile is the only one to give a cheaper plan, but, while a hassle, I routinely buy and resell phones on my Verizon contract and end up making a return equal to $15-$20/month on my sale (e.g., buying an iphone for 200 an reselling for 600 net of fees yielding 400 over 24 months).

This works especially well with my parents since they don't want smartphones and those phones' discounts are larger since the carrier's phone subsidy is based on a data plan that will never be used.

about 3 years ago
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Do Developers Really Need a Second Monitor?

Bourdain Re:The second monitor is pretty vital to me. (1002 comments)

Usually I'm translating a spreadsheet that's been helpfully locked into .pdf form by another government agency back into a usable spreadsheet, and being able to glance back and forth without sacrificing the full screen view is sanity preserving.

Having done that sort of task before, and typically, en masse in the context of electronic discovery, I strongly recommend a suite a software to assist in that task:

(1) ABBY FineReader 8.0 -- (primarily for scanned spreadsheets) an OCR program, granted an older version, it's the best they ever made and is still available if you ask for it
(2) AbleToExtract -- for documents which have been printed to pdf and don't require OCR
(3) pdf tools command line suite -- useful when dealing with large volumes of pdf's
(4) any pdf password remover -- if you can view a doc, the "edit" password for using the above software (to extract images or content) is usually inherently "crackable"
(5) the newspaper -- good for reading with the all the time you save above instead of getting fired for not having work to do and not looking like you're working anymore

more than 3 years ago
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The Insidious Creep of Latency Hell

Bourdain Re:I noticed this (297 comments)

The orb is gone in Office 2010. Microsoft listened to that feedback and changed it.

Good for microsoft, it took them a few years to fix that one

Access is not just a database, but a forms engine. You can't replace Access with Postgre, it's only part of the solution. What people like about access is that it's a single file that you distribute, double click on it and your app runs, including the database. Postgre simply can't do that, even if you use some other forms engine.

Number one, it's called Postgres or PostgreSQL, not Postgre which suggests to me you're either not detail oriented or are not familiar with the actual product. That said, you're right about the forms engine positioning of Access but in reality, virtually all of the "applications" I've seen built in Access are crap and slow. I've intentionally avoided learning Access's VBA because the application is so terrible and having "skills" in it of any substance are nearly worthless. Also, in the consulting world of sorts, I see people all the time tinkering with Access typically producing wrong results or getting odd error messages because of Access's jet engine [intentionally built-in] failings. That said, in very isolated situations where the amount is data is pretty small (typically fewer than 1 million records w/o many sophisticated fields) and it has to be sent to someone who wants to run "their queries" it's acceptable.

Lots of people were constricted by Excel 2007's 64k row limitation. Excel is a useful tool for a lot of people who aren't database experts. You can call them clueless, but they are getting their jobs done just fine with Excel.

I frequently work with these people who allegedly "get their jobs done fine". These are the sort of people who sometimes ask me for help and then I do 1 to 2 weeks worth of their work in 10 minutes of my time while they watch dumbfounded since they are so ridiculously clueless. I've seen people run counts in SQL on massive servers across a wide variety of tables, one at a time. Keep in mind these tables were never indexed because these "individuals" don't understand what indexing is (to Access's credit, it does have some rudimentary indexing which you typically have to manually enable depending on the situation...). As such, these "individuals" spend days just counting records in tables whereas I'll write a script which will index all of the relevant fields and record all of the counts, typically taking a few minutes instead of days...

If you look at your first article, and read all the way to the bottom, you'll find that Office 2007 was slow to execute macros at first, but later hotfixes solved that problem. Office 2010 is also significantly faster.

I saw that too, but wouldn't you say that if their first "upgrade" is actually a downgrade in terms of performance, then the developers didn't have their priorities straight? After all, why should it takes a few hotfixes and a version that comes out ~6 or 7 years later only to get back to where you were?

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Nursing Students Expelled over Facebook photo

Bourdain Bourdain writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Bourdain (683477) writes "Last month, a nursing student was expelled from a community college in Kansas after posting to Facebook a photo of herself standing next to a human placenta. The student, 22-year old Doyle Byrnes, reportedly took the photo during a lab session, led by Johnson County Community College nursing instructor Amber Delphia. ... According to the lawsuit, the students asked their instructor for permission to take a photo with the placenta, because they were really stoked, wanting to share their excitement with their friends and family on Facebook. Delphia reportedly gave her implicit consent, but warned her students that the photo mustn't include any identifying information about the woman who originally produced the placenta. (Delphia denies having knowledge of the students' plans to share the photo on Facebook.) According to the suit, the girls made their intentions clear to the instructor, who allegedly replied, 'Oh, you girls.'"
Link to Original Source
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Really misleading ads from broadband providers

Bourdain Bourdain writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Bourdain (683477) writes "From the I-really-wish-they-asked-me-before-getting-into-that-contract department:

Gizmodo has put together a good compilation of the — seemingly almost criminally — misleading (largely plain wrong) advertising from our favorite local monopolies. My personal favorite is from At&t which states you need 3 mbps to use social networking sites like facebook (an accurate but still absurd requirement might be a something to effect of needing a multiple core processor if you allow of the javascript & flash to run on said sites)"

Link to Original Source
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RFID Fingerprints: Preventing RFID Counterfeits

Bourdain Bourdain writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Bourdain (683477) writes "Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a unique and robust method to prevent cloning of passive radio frequency identification tags. The technology, based on one or more unique physical attributes of individual tags rather than information stored on them, will prevent the production of counterfeit tags and thus greatly enhance both security and privacy for government agencies, businesses and consumers."
Link to Original Source
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Amp'd Mobile Shuts Down

Bourdain Bourdain writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Bourdain writes "Maximum PC reports that Amp'd mobile will shut down on July 24th. Apparently not enough people were attracted to a phone service with a misspelled name despite the underlying network being Verizon's. Maximum PC goes on to say, "The Q&A goes on to explain that users must pay their final bills or will be turned over to a collection agency — kindly enough Amp'd explains that 'no early termination fee will be assessed.'" When looking on the Q&A on Amp'd's site, one sees something relating to their claim of CDMA phone portability in addition to the [already] legally mandated number portability. Only time will tell whether this is accurate or not suggesting that Amp'd phones might be usable, to varying degrees, on Verizon (most likely) and Sprint (less likely) as well as other smaller niche CDMA carriers (despite the seemingly rather small selection of phones)."
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