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Comments

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$42,000 Prosthetic Hand Outperformed By $50 3D Printed Hand

CodeBuster Re:Sunk Costs (285 comments)

To be fair, some of these costs would exist in any business. There are always capital equipment costs, employee costs, administration costs and in some cases research and development costs. However, you are on the right track with your criticism of artificially high medical device costs. Indeed, these high costs can be seen not just in prosthetic hands or limbs but also in more mundane devices such as hearing aids and prescription eyeglasses. In my estimation there are two main reasons for this:

First, the devices are sold through specialized middlemen who bill your insurance company which in turn bills you and perhaps your employer for premiums. This is the classic third party payer problem that exists throughout the healthcare industry here in the United States and is in no small part responsible for the high costs which are ultimately borne by the consumer in the form of higher premiums and higher out of pocket costs.

Second, and related to the first point, the market for FDA approved medical devices here in the United States is highly regulated and therefore high cost. There is a great deal of regulatory rigmarole and ceremony required to bring a product to market. This imposes costs of course, but it also results in delays while the product winds it's way through the circuitous approval processes. By the time something is approved for sale as a medical device it's not only expensive but often obsolete or at least several generations behind the state of the art technology.

Finally, it ought to be remembered that medical devices are now assessed an additional tax under Obamacare, on top of any previous expenses. It's hard to see how this will lower costs, especially for those who find themselves in need of a medical device. Although, I suppose that "reform" is in the eye, or the hand in this case, of the beholder.

3 days ago
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Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

CodeBuster Gasoline Will Always Compete with Electric (359 comments)

It'll be a long while until gasoline is so expensive that updating the power grid to handle electric cars makes sense.

The same upgraded power grid or the nuclear reactors that would certainly be involved in powering it, since no other method would even come close despite what the wind and solar boosters would have you believe, could also be used to produce artificial gasoline from coal, natural gas or even sea water feedstocks using gas to liquids technologies. The US Navy is exploring these same technologies to produce jet fuel from sea water and have had some success on an experimental scale.

5 days ago
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Vintage 1960s Era Film Shows IRS Defending Its Use of Computers

CodeBuster Re:Uproar? (146 comments)

The IRS doesn't want to pre-populate your tax forms, aside from lobbying by self interested tax preparation firms like Intuit or H&R Block, because (1) it might be construed as an "official" invoice of what was owed and therefore "complete and correct" and (2) it might serve to tip off potential tax cheats as to what the IRS does and does not know about their income. The IRS enjoys certain advantages from forcing citizens to fill out the forms themselves, under penalty of law for failure to report, and remaining cagey about what they do and don't know to discourage cheating. It's similar in concept to the panopticon. You know that they could be watching anyone and anything at anytime even if they cannot as a practical matter watch everyone and everything all of the time. Because taxpayers are kept in the dark with regard to what the IRS knows about their income, they behave as if the IRS knows everything and that everyone and everything is being watched all of the time. This panopticon effect magnifies the effectiveness of limited IRS auditing and investigative resources because many people behave themselves, even though they aren't being given special attention, merely because they fear what will happen if the IRS does catch them in a deliberate lie.

about a week ago
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How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

CodeBuster Re:Just because you can doesn't mean you should (226 comments)

Most people are a lot more comfortable and eager to break someone else's code than they are their own.

Not me. I'm just as merciless with my own code as I am with others' when writing tests. Proper testing involves taking on the role of the malicious agent who is actively trying to break the code, feed it bad inputs and generally muck up the works. If the code passes those tests then it stands a much better chance of rolling with the punches in the real world of production.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

I've never been paid in foreign currency or paid foreign taxes, so I cannot speak from personal experience, but I think that the basic concept is sound. If you work in Europe say and are paid in Euros and pay European taxes then you ought to be able, at the very least, to write off that amount that you paid in European taxes from your gross income so that your US taxable income reflects the fact that you paid foreign taxes. Otherwise, you're being taxed on taxes and it's tough to argue that relief from that is a "loophole".

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

A modest refund is alright and I get that your time is valuable and that you have had yearly life events, but when I hear of people who aren't receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit having 3000 refunds it's a bit shocking that they wouldn't rather have an extra 250 dollars per month in their pocket. As you said, you probably won't be buying houses, getting married and having kids every year for the next ten so eventually when things settle down you may want to have another look at that withholding or you estimated tax payments because nobody that I know ever wishes that they put more into the escrow account with Uncle Sam at zero percent.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

The brackets in the US are now indexed for inflation which is tracked and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so you can get a rough idea of next years tax amounts by looking at this year's tax table and making the appropriate multiplication.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:Refunds indicate bad tax planning (630 comments)

BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Claiming more allowances than you're entitled to is against the rules. How many an individual is entitled to depends upon work situation, certain life events, whether deductions are itemized or not, household status and other factors. The IRS provides a calculator or you can use publication 505 and the worksheets to figure it out for your specific case. Knowingly providing false information on IRS forms is a crime, but then again you know that because you're a smart ass.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:Refunds indicate bad tax planning (630 comments)

I think that you're right about the W-4. Claiming more allowances than you're entitled to, even if the tax works out to be correct at the end of the year, is against the rules. Whether or not that results in a penalty, I don't know. The over/under payment thing matters more if you have 1099 income from which taxes are not withheld or self employment income and file quarterly estimated tax payments with the IRS.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:Refunds indicate bad tax planning (630 comments)

It would be better to owe $2K each year than to expect refunds.

I don't have the formulas in front of me just now, but a $2K underpayment of taxes would probably result in some kind of penalty. If you have under paid your tax bill by more than about $1K by the time that the IRS is accepting your 1040 for the year, penalties are likely. The penalties for underpayment can be quite severe, easily over 30 percent APR last time I checked, so it behooves you to try and be as accurate as possible when estimating your quarterly tax payments. Overestimating is not good, but underestimating can be just as bad or even worse. As you said, good planning is key.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

rather than springing it on everyone after they had already budgeted around receiving their expected tax refund.

If you aren't paying quarterlies then why are you even getting a refund? Adjust your W-4 withholding so that you don't pay them more than you have to in the first place. If you are paying quarterlies then try to improve your income estimates so that you don't give Uncle Sam an interest free loan of your money. I understand that it can be difficult for self employed people with highly variable incomes, but most Americans don't fall into that group and should know their yearly tax liability to within a fifty dollars or so at the beginning of the tax year.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

The attempt reveals something about the IRS' attitude.

It's not a matter of attitude. Attitude is irrelevant in this case. The employees of the IRS and government officials working there could theoretically be punished or prosecuted for failing to perform their lawful tax collection duties. It's a matter of law, not attitude.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

The United States is one of the few (only?) countries that makes no distinction between income earned at home or income earned abroad for purposes of taxation. If you're a US citizen then all your income is taxable, subject to the US tax codes, regardless of where you earned it or where you lived. That is why you never hear about US "tax exiles" because the only way to end your US tax liability is to renounce your US citizenship which can only be done at a US embassy on foreign soil and only upon presentation of proof of alternative citizenship.

about a week ago
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Heartbleed Coder: Bug In OpenSSL Was an Honest Mistake

CodeBuster Re:Unit Tests are Not Optional Anymore (446 comments)

Nope. It's a waste of time.

Compared to what? Updating the firmware on millions of production routers and servers because a critical flaw made it into production? Paying out claims against the company that resulted from security breaches associated with the bug? Going back, after the code has already been designed, written and deployed to fix a bug that would have been tens of thousands of times cheaper to fix had it been caught instead by unit tests well before release? Testing has a cost, yes, but gambling that your code will get by without it can wind up costing you more than you'd ever imagined was possible. How would you feel about driving a car with software written according to that philosophy or banking software that get's it mostly right but every once in a while zeros out your balance for some strange reasons?

about a week ago
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Heartbleed Coder: Bug In OpenSSL Was an Honest Mistake

CodeBuster Re:Unit Tests are Not Optional Anymore (446 comments)

How do you know each type?

You refuse to accept types that you cannot identify at runtime or you use a type safe language. Accepting void pointers or the like is just asking for trouble.

What if your bug occurs if one parameter is 37? How do you know in advance that this is a different type to be tested?

Then you test for that. You wrote the code for a specific reason and purpose, right? Well, then you ought to be able to prove that with tests. Knowing what tests you need and how to write them is itself a skill and a worthwhile one at that.

about a week ago
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Heartbleed Coder: Bug In OpenSSL Was an Honest Mistake

CodeBuster Re:Unit Tests are Not Optional Anymore (446 comments)

Unit testing would only have caught this if someone had thought to test for an invalid payload length in the incoming request.

Sounds like a good test to me. The length of the payload was an input in this case and it should have been asserted against the true length of the buffer in a test.

Thing is, for networking, those tests need to be right there in the code. Any data coming in off the web needs to be treated like a TSA officer treats a hippie in a 'Legalise Dope' T-shirt.

That is yet another reason why we separate concerns in our code, so that we can plug in mocks and stubs as needed to simulate inputs into or outputs from a module of code. This enables unit testing, but it also leads to better organized and more clearly written code that accurately and concisely expresses the intent of the module. The existence of unit tests is a necessary, although not a sufficient, condition for good code.

Simple code review shows that OpenSSL wasn't doing that.

In hindsight yes but this code was reviewed (supposedly) and this was missed. Code review alone is not enough, you must prove it with tests.

about a week ago
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

CodeBuster Re:And they've already stopped (630 comments)

Incorrect. They suspended enforcement while they review the matter. However, if the IRS finds, as a matter of law, that they're obligated to collect these debts, per the meaning of the statute, then they must attempt to collect them unless the law is changed or the courts rule otherwise. I've often heard from those on the left, "Oh, don't worry they're not going to enforce that" or "they're only going to use that against the right people", but here is the perfect example of why the law isn't always the best instrument to use in pursuit of social policy goals. There can be no mercy under the law. It binds all, whether they be high or low, equally. Anything less and the law fails to defend our individual rights and freedoms against the mob or the corrupt rule of the strong over the weak.

about a week ago
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Heartbleed Coder: Bug In OpenSSL Was an Honest Mistake

CodeBuster Unit Tests are Not Optional Anymore (446 comments)

No production code without unit tests. Every possible type or class of input must be tested. All assumptions must be tested. All outputs must be verified for each possible combination of inputs. All failure modes must be exercised. No excuses, just do it.

about two weeks ago
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Navy Creates Fuel From Seawater

CodeBuster Re:"Unwanted" Methane? (256 comments)

It depends upon what sort of fuel you're trying to produce. Methane can definitely be burned as a fuel, on your stove for example, but it's not a good aviation fuel. The idea here is to skip methane and go straight to ethane or propane which can be up-converted to even longer chain hydrocarbons via more heat and pressure, eventually yielding jet fuel. Artificial hydrocarbon fuels themselves are nothing new. The basic processes have been known since the early part of the 20th century, but because it's way cheaper to simply refine naturally occurring petroleum pumped out of the ground, nobody does synthetic hydrocarbons unless they have to. For example, Germany produced synthetic aviation gasoline from coal during WWII as supplies of oil were gradually cut off and South Africa produced diesel fuel from coal during the sanctions of the Apartheid era.

about two weeks ago
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Navy Creates Fuel From Seawater

CodeBuster Re:They do. (256 comments)

There's no doubt that manufacturing fuel on board is desirable from a logistics standpoint. The question is cost, not just monetary but energy. As you're no doubt aware, hydrocarbon fuels are incredibly energy dense which means that an equal amount (and probably more) energy most go into their creation from scratch using the most basic raw materials, H2, CO2 and CO. The question is how much space is available onboard for production scale versions of these reactors and how much steam and electric power will the reactor have to supply to make this work. I don't know, but I would guess lots. This fuel production sounds like an energy hungry process. How much power and steam can be spared from other onboard needs to power fuel production? Would this stress the reactors, possibly reducing service life or requiring more frequent nuclear refuels? There are trade-offs here, it's not a slam dunk.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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$5 Per Month Music Streaming Not Possible in US

CodeBuster CodeBuster writes  |  more than 4 years ago

CodeBuster (516420) writes "The social music network MOG has signed deals with all four major labels and indie aggregators to launch an unlimited on-demand streaming service that will cost $5 per month starting Thanksgiving Day, November 26. We first caught wind of this plan last December, when the company’s CEO David Hyman gave us a sneak preview. Back then, the plan was to offer this as a free, ad-supported service, but Hyman says that is not possible due to the high cost of licensing on-demand music for the United States."
Link to Original Source
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Apple is the New Monopoly

CodeBuster CodeBuster writes  |  more than 6 years ago

CodeBuster (516420) writes "Mike Elgan editorializes in an article on PC World that Apple is the New Microsoft when it comes to monopolistic practices, especially with iTunes, iPhone, and iPod, and that the role of industry's biggest bully is increasingly played by Apple and not Microsoft. From TFA,

"The most vociferous Microsoft haters slammed the company for being a greedy industry bully that used its monopolistic, clunky, copycat operating system to force software on users and coerce partners into unfair licensing deals. Don't look now, but the role of the industry's biggest bully is increasingly played by Apple, not Microsoft.""
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Diane Feinstein vs. The First Amendment

CodeBuster CodeBuster writes  |  more than 6 years ago

CodeBuster (516420) writes "United Press International reports that, "U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday she is "looking at" the possibility of reviving the fairness doctrine for U.S. broadcasters. Feinstein, speaking on "Fox News Sunday" with Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said talk radio in particular has presented a one-sided view of immigration reform legislation being considered by the Senate. U.S. talk radio is dominated by conservative voices.""

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