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Microsoft Surface Drowning?

David Jao Re:The problem of Microsoft (337 comments)

You often can't customize your own install without breaking the law. The GP post specifically mentioned OEM Windows licenses as a way of getting cheap Windows licenses. This is no accident: OEM licenses are the only way to get cheap Windows licenses. Any sort of enterprise license will be far more expensive. But an OEM license is the least customizable of all the options. You can't even legally install an OEM licensed copy on any other machine other than the individual machine that the software came with, since an OEM license is tied to an individual machine. To get a custom install starting from an OEM copy, you can't just make one custom version and install it on all your machines; that kind of activity is specifically forbidden by the terms of the OEM license. You'd have to spend 30 minutes individually on each and every machine in your organization if you go the OEM license route and you don't want to break the law. Those 30 minutes of staff time are way more expensive than the bare-bones OEM license cost. Alternatively, you could purchase an enterprise license, but now we're no longer talking about cheap Windows licenses, we're talking about very expensive Windows licenses.

So, yes, you can customize Windows installs, but it's much more expensive to do so in any legal way, since you need an enterprise license, which really does cost ridiculous amounts of money. There is no cheap way to get customizable Windows. Even then, it's a bit of a hassle compared to Linux.

about two weeks ago
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Microsoft Surface Drowning?

David Jao Re: The problem of Microsoft (337 comments)

It's not the price (free or pay). It's what you can do with the software. Apple software is still subject to BSA audits. You can't distribute customized versions. Things are slightly better in that hardware support is uniform and there are no client access licenses, but you also encounter new problems like Apple dropping software support for your hardware. Free software is just better. The cost of purchasing the software is insignificant. The time and hassle saved by free software is the real jewel.

Microsoft and Apple are poor choices unless your (sysadmin, IT, and staff) time isn't worth anything.

about two weeks ago
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Microsoft Surface Drowning?

David Jao Re:The problem of Microsoft (337 comments)

The Microsoft tax is not just about the monetary price of Windows. That's actually the least burdensome part of the tax. The real problem is the cost of license compliance. Most obvious are the direct costs: license management, purchase records, and receipt tracking. How much staff time are you going to spend on keeping track of Client Access Licenses? Is this expense worth it, when there are free platforms with no CAL requirements? I bet you didn't know the MS EULA gives the BSA the right to audit your premises at will. That's another huge overhead which simply does not exist with free software: A single small screw-up (almost inevitable, given the minuteness with which the audit is conducted) results in heavy fines plus having to pay the considerable costs of the audit. Compared to this insanity, anyone using exclusively free software can simply slam the door on the BSA and tell them never to come back unless they have a warrant.

Those are just the direct costs of compliance. The indirect costs of Microsoft's licensing model are something that even fewer users realize. You can't customize a distro and legally release the result to anyone outside of the organizational unit holding the license. You can't slipstream updates and legally distribute to outside parties. You can't create USB bootable media and legally release it to anyone else. Rescue discs and installation discs customized for particular hardware are left to the mercy of your OEM. All of these restrictions cause considerable friction which slows down the agility of your business. If nothing else, it makes it very hard to outsource IT functions; at most, you can hire contractors who have to keep your OS software bits separate from everyone else's OS software bits. How can this situation possibly compare favorably to free software where anyone can create and share anything? It really can't.

about two weeks ago
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Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

David Jao Re:and linux aswell (267 comments)

Yeah, you're right, I logged out and now it's not working. Oh well, on to version 4.3. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing this move as evil. Skype was already maximally closed-source. It can't get any worse.

about two weeks ago
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Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

David Jao Re:and linux aswell (267 comments)

Uh, what? I've been using Skype 4.0.0.8 on Linux (CentOS 6) for years. It still works. Nothing's been cut off.

about two weeks ago
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Google Spots Explicit Images of a Child In Man's Email, Tips Off Police

David Jao Re:Hash Collision (790 comments)

Finding an incidental collision in SHA512 is newsworthy. SHA512 is an iterated hash function (more specifically, a Merkle-Damgard construction). Any iterated hash function has the property that a single collision can be leveraged to produce arbitrarily many collisions. A single collision would destroy the entire utility of the hash function for almost any application that depends on collision resistance.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find Resources On Programming For Palm OS 5?

David Jao Re:SDK available here: (170 comments)

Following the link to the SDK gives a 404. Palm development tools were never readily available even when the platform was popular. Now they're almost impossible to find. Obstructing access to development tools is one sure-fire way to kill off a platform.

about three weeks ago
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

David Jao Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (377 comments)

10% of poor Americans are homeless. That alone renders all of the article's claims nonsensical on their face. There is no way that 97% of poor households have refrigerators.

about a month ago
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

David Jao Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (377 comments)

First of all, the number claimed in your link is 95%, not 97%. Second of all, try making even basic efforts at fact checking. For example, your article claims 99.7% of poor families have refrigerators. This is plainly untrue -- homeless people don't have refrigerators, and they make up 10% of poor people. The numbers in the article are clearly unreliable and agenda-driven, which is not surprising, considering the source.

about a month ago
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

David Jao Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (377 comments)

For those with access to a supermarket, a combination of lack of time, lack of education, and lack of ability to delay gratification that causes people to eat junk food. Not money.

None of the above. For most poor and even lower-middle class families, the limiting factor is lack of access to food preparation equipment and facilities. Low-income housing often lacks a kitchen. Even if you have a kitchen, one often lacks appliances; trying to subsist on unprocessed food without a refrigerator or a stove is difficult to put it mildly. Families near the poverty line move from place to place a lot, often on short notice in response to evictions. There's no way they could maintain possession of bulky appliances under such circumstances, not to mention an adequate inventory of cookware.

Poor families are really living on the edge, much more than you realize. Once you get to the point where you can't afford a security deposit for an apartment, a lot of options close off. Food preparation is one of them.

about a month ago
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

David Jao Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (377 comments)

Food prices are high, but all of my meals (which are nutritious) cost $1-$2 max, usually closer to $1. You just have to know how and where to shop. Of course, this is the US, which is a first world country...

It is not enough to know how and where to shop. You also, generally, need a kitchen and appliances (stove, refrigerator, etc.) in order to produce nutritions $1 meals. Many poor and even lower-middle class families simply don't have these things. The kind of housing that you can get for cheap is going to be one-room boarding houses with limited access to food preparation facilities. You're lucky to have even a shared kitchen. As for appliances, they're not actually very expensive -- an iPhone costs more -- but poor families generally move far too often (usually involuntarily) to maintain possession of bulky items.

about a month ago
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No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months

David Jao Re:laying off...but needs more H-1B's (282 comments)

Believe it or not, there was a time, not too long ago, when a company was defined as a collection of employees and shareholders, rather than exclusively as a collection of shareholders as is the case today. Back then, the definition of what's best for a company included employee welfare as well as shareholder welfare. A company was considered successful if it generated employee wealth as well as shareholder wealth, rather than the exclusive focus on shareholder wealth which prevails today. Companies had planning horizons of decades, which you need in order to offer retirement pensions, which were also commonplace. At some point, all of that went out the window, and except for a few big winners, we are all the poorer for it.

about 1 month ago
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Avast Buys 20 Used Phones, Recovers 40,000 Deleted Photos

David Jao Re:Really? (231 comments)

They could have filled out the loan application somewhere else and uploaded it to a service like Dropbox. Viewing it later on the phone would leave a cached copy on the phone.

about a month and a half ago
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San Francisco Bans Parking Spot Auctioning App

David Jao Re:Communism (404 comments)

The other two examples, however.. even if I don't personally agree with them, why shouldn't they be allowed? I think those are perfect examples of good free market. Someone should be able to sell something they make for whatever they want.

Monopoly power leads to deadweight loss and suboptimal consumer surplus. This is economics 101. The theory is very well known. I wouldn't expect members of the general public to know basic economics, but on slashdot, it's fair game.

There are other obvious examples of free market failure. Do you let factories pollute the oceans? What about overfishing and tragedy of the commons? How about photocopying books at cost -- do you prevent this (via copyright) even though it's obviously market interference?

about 2 months ago
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

David Jao Re:It depends on the field (538 comments)

We're talking about two different things. Yes, a school like Harvard pays top dollar for a full professor that they really want. Those positions are not underpaid. Harvard will outbid Ohio State and anyone else for the cream of the crop. But when it comes to untenured assistant professors, Harvard absolutely does underpay, and so does every other elite math department. For example, BPs at Harvard make $60600 per year. That's low even compared to the national average, never mind compared to what you would expect at a top institution.

Continuing with the Harvard theme, if you google Benjamin Pierce assistant professor, the first page of Google results links to the following former BPs: Lauren Williams, Pavel Etingof, Danny Calegari, Nathan Dunfield, and Xinwen Zhu. These people, obviously, landed on their feet and got hired in other universities, quite prestigious universities in fact. And I am sure if you did a comprehensive survey of all former BPs, you'd find the majority working in R1 universities and on the tenure-track. Similar remarks would apply to the untenured named instructorships at any other elite math department, e.g. Dickson Instructor, C.L.E. Moore Instructor, Veblen Research Instructorship, and so on. They're all slightly underpaid. They're all hugely prestigious. And few people have trouble landing a job afterwards.

If you get denied tenure at a lower-ranked school, then yes, that is a disaster. Those schools are set up to give you every opportunity to pass the tenure review. If you fail to do so, then that's on you, and as you say, you'll be an outcast.

about 2 months ago
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

David Jao Re:It depends on the field (538 comments)

I addressed this issue in the last sentence of the paragraph that you quoted (or misquoted, as the case may be, by omitting that critical last sentence). The GP was talking about "professors in technical areas" which I interpret to mean areas such as computer science or engineering as opposed to mathematics, in other words the "TE" part of "STEM". Salaries in these fields are quite a bit higher than in mathematics.

about 2 months ago
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

David Jao Mary Margaret Vojtko (538 comments)

When Mary Margaret Vojtko died last September—penniless and virtually homeless and eighty-three years old, having been referred to Adult Protective Services because the effects of living in poverty made it seem to some that she was incapable of caring for herself—it made the news because she was a professor.

The story of Mary Margaret Vojtko is more complicated than it seems on first glance. Vojtko was a hoarder who rebuffed numerous attempts by others to reach out and help. Among other things, she refused to let a repairman fix her boiler because she didn't want anyone disturbing her house. Yes, she was paid poorly and had no benefits, but there were other factors at work.

about 2 months ago
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

David Jao Re:It depends on the field (538 comments)

Well, that's the trade-off of working at a top university. The top universities have no problems attracting top talent, and they can get away with underpaying their professors. People will still compete for those jobs because of the prestige. As a rule, the phenomenon of associate professors without tenure exists only at a few elite universities. Even if you get denied tenure at these places, it still looks good on your CV. The mathematics community understands that you can be extremely strong and still not meet the standards for tenure at these places.

Once you get below the very top, the GP is basically right, all the way down to at least liberal arts institutions (at community colleges, the situation is again different). I'm an associate professor of mathematics at a very good but not absolute top university (Waterloo). All associate professors here have tenure. I make north of 10k gross per month, although perhaps not well north. I'm very happy where I am. I could make more money in private industry, but tenure is worth more to me than the salary difference. In more technical fields than mathematics (such as computer science or engineering), the salaries are higher, as they have to be, to compete with Google and engineering firms.

All of the above applies to tenure-track professors only. Contingent faculty positions are much more financially precarious.

about 2 months ago
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Auditors Release Verified Repositories of TrueCrypt

David Jao Re:Cross-platform (146 comments)

If you're seriously interested in disk encryption, it's pretty clear that there is no viable platform other than Linux, and maybe BSD. Any other platform will be riddled with NSA backdoors, and you'll have no way to check. So I don't understand why cross-platform compatibility is even desirable, much less necessary.

about 2 months ago
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Virginia DMV Cracks Down On Uber, Lyft

David Jao Re:does this need refactoring (260 comments)

I think we were talking about the threat of a taxi driver killing a passenger, not the other way around.

about 2 months ago

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