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NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower

Miamicanes Accounting formalities (200 comments)

Serious question: how much of that alleged $700k/year-to-mothball is real, hard cash NASA has to spend, vs accounting formalities like "how much would the site be worth if put to its highest and best use" (and taken as a paper loss because the site isn't being used)? Or one-time costs that were incurred for mothballing, but aren't likely to be repeated annually (like shuttering the building, building a fence around it, etc)?

Don't discount the accounting formalities. I once worked for a company where upper management directed us to immediately dispose of about 100 non-obsolete laptops... at a disposal cost of more than $900 apiece. Why? Because they were sitting in a stack in the middle of a mostly-empty datacenter literally covering most of a square block, and some idiot in the accounting department decided that they were costing us $25,000/year to maintain for no reason besides "they're taking up 100 square feet, and we're paying $250/foot per year in rent"... in a building that was about 95% empty & leased for 20 years at the height of the dotcom boom just because "it was there". The fact that even if you take the fictional annual rent for the floorspace seriously, it took more than FIVE YEARS just to break even on the insane disposal fees. And in the meantime, we had to buy new laptops to replace the ones we were ordered to dispose of, because new people were still getting hired. Wait, it gets better. As a matter of policy, we were required to ship the laptops to the disposal center via FedEx. Priority Overnight. Individually. Almost a decade later, I *still* can't grasp how anybody could have possibly thought it was sane, let alone a *good* idea.

4 days ago
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Thanks To the Private Space Industry, Things Are Looking Up For Space City USA

Miamicanes Re:Global Warming (47 comments)

Bzzzt. Florida is probably in the best position of any state (besides MAYBE New York) to deal with climate change. Why? Because we haven't had anything that vaguely resembles a natural river or coastline in almost a century. Our coastline is ALREADY fortified against flooding. Drive to South Beach sometime, and notice that West Avenue (the road along the western edge of the island) is already a few feet higher than the surrounding terrain. Then observe that there's another huge berm sitting between Ocean Drive and the ocean itself (the one covered in sea oats with boardwalks over it).

Then, while you're at it, take a peek at the western edge of urban Dade & Broward counties. Notice the HUGE-ass dike that keeps the "Everglades" side underwater, and the "human" side dry & suitable for condos, office parks, and golf courses.

It's the same as the Netherlands. Everyone likes to point to it as a country that's in peril of being submerged, but it's probably the *least* likely country in Europe to even *notice* rising sea levels, because the barriers around it were all solidly over-engineered with plenty of wiggle room to spare. And when the time comes to rebuild them in a century or so, they'll just get rebuilt a few feet higher.

about a month ago
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Google Announces Project Ara Developer Conference, Shows Off First Prototype

Miamicanes Re:only for nerds (66 comments)

In theory, the answer is a qualified "maybe". Most new laptop discrete video cards connect via mini-PCIe, and I believe there's some anecdotal degree of physical compatibility between Alienware/Dell and someone else (Clevo, I think). As a practical matter, if you you're talking about buying a better video card on eBay that was explicitly designed for your exact model (say, upgrading from the cheapest ATI card to the best Quadro), you'll probably be OK. Everything else is a crapshoot.

Apparently, screw holes are a big, big problem with cross-device compatibility... different laptops put them in different places, even when the electrical interface, shape, thickness, and cooling arrangements are compatible.

There are actually a lot of relatively upgradable laptops out there (as long as you don't insist on one that's a glued/laminated-together 1mm-thick Apple-inspired abomination that's built like a cell phone). The problem is, it's nearly impossible to make any kind of informed purchase decision in advance of actually buying anything. The information you need just plain isn't reliably available until some brave soul tries doing it, takes pics, measures things, and posts the pics to his blog. Thinkpads are somewhat of an exception... but Lenovo made a new mess of their own (and got lots & lots of hate) when they started whitelisting specific mPCIe cards in the EFI BIOS and refusing to enable cards not on the list.

Put another way, there's a lot that can go wrong, and you're at least as likely to burn cash on parts with limited resale value that won't ultimately work, and can often be purchased only used on eBay from sellers who harvested them from broken laptops bought for scrap.

about 2 months ago
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AT&T Locks Apple SIM Cards On New iPads

Miamicanes Re:Go T-Mo (112 comments)

No need for a lawsuit. Just file a complaint with the FTC under the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, then sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch the manufacturer beg for mercy. Or ask to speak to the front-line employee's supervisor, and just say the magic phrase that pays: "If you don't fix it, I'm going to file a Magnuson Moss complaint with the FTC". They'll blanche, take the phone, charge the usual deductible if you let them, JTAG-reflash it back to stock, and proceed as normal.

The catch with Magnuson Moss is that the manufacturer is under no obligation to return a rooted or reflashed phone to you STILL rooted or reflashed. They're 100% unambiguously entitled to JTAG-reflash it to stock prior to returning it, even if the newer version to which they reflashed it doesn't have a working root exploit. So, 9 months from now, you COULD conceivably find yourself owning a rooted & reflashed phone with a flaky USB port that's eligible for warranty repair, but will be returned to you reflashed with unrootable Android L and a locked-down bootloader. You'd be stuck between two equally-shitty rocks and hard places... flaky USB with root, permissive SElinux, and ext2 microSD hacked back into the ROM... or working USB, but no root and Google-crippled microSD that only supports FAT32, and restricts what apps can do with it regardless.

about 2 months ago
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AT&T Locks Apple SIM Cards On New iPads

Miamicanes Re:Go T-Mo (112 comments)

What, exactly, does Verizon do that is so dishonest and earns them so much hate?

They lock down their phones, and in the past they've actively disabled features supported by their phones' hardware to force you to use their premium services (Bluetooth modes, Wifi, and GPS have all been casualties of Verizon's lockdown fetish in the past). Compounding matters, there are lots of semi-rural places where Verizon is the only carrier with viable service (or at least, viable service INDOORS). Verizon was also the only carrier who forced bootloader-locking up until AT&T joined the party last year.

That's why T-Mobile is the carrier everyone desperately wants to love, even in areas where their service is poor. They're the only carrier who DOESN'T lock down their phones & try to restrict what you can do with them.

about 2 months ago
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Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems

Miamicanes Re:Google Changes Its Slogan (289 comments)

It's "Don't be Evil".

~15 years ago, Google was "Chaotic Neutral" (openly disruptive, with both lawful and lawless tendencies).

Today, they're more "Neutral Neutral" (they still enjoy being disruptive, but they've been reined in by self-preservation and forced to pay lip service to lawfulness).

Twenty years from now, they'll probably be "Lawful Neutral", with increasingly-frequent side trips into "Lawful Evil" territory (which they'll rationalize and publicly blame on government regulations, even when those regulations are more of a pretense than a legally-binding order backed up by overwhelming firepower and force).

The real danger isn't Eric Schmidt. It's his successor's successor, who (more likely than not) will be a bland, Wall Street-approved CEO with a completely conventional background who'll contentedly fill his role of making Google the government's favorite bitch... as long as he can invoice the feds for the effort, eliminate R&D, outsource everything to Nigeria, and prop up the stock price with annual layoffs and the sale of a division or two, just like every other major corporation in America that's owned primarily by risk-averse institutional investors run by CEOs who went to the same elite universities.

about 2 months ago
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Will Fiber-To-the-Home Create a New Digital Divide?

Miamicanes Re:Let's solve basic connectivity first (291 comments)

Wireless might be good enough to leapfrog over asshole landlords (and maybe restrictive/corrupt municipalities with hostile neighbors willing to host towers aimed into the restrictive municipality), but at the end of the day, you really need to get real fiber within at least a thousand feet of the end user. The upper microwave band is still mostly empty and has enormous amounts of available bandwidth, but there's a good reason why: at those frequencies, even things like smog, air pollution, humidity, and fog start to seriously mess up the transmission. Hell, back when I had Sprint, I saw my wimax speed literally fall to 10% of normal during driving rainstorms, and their 2.6-GHz spectrum had almost UHF-like propagation compared to what you'd see in a state like Florida from 20-60GHz. Yes, there are a few semi-prime chunks where precipitation isn't as big of a problem... but THOSE aren't the chunks that will be available for wireless broadband, because they were snapped up years ago by companies like MCI for long-distance backhaul. The chunks that are left are vast, but they have propagation characteristics that are more like wireless HDMI (~50 feet, literal line of sight within the same room).

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces Motorola-Made Nexus 6 and HTC-Made Nexus 9

Miamicanes Re:Meh (201 comments)

I'm sure you HAVE... but from what I remember, the gNex bootloader wasn't even TENTATIVELY circumvented until February or April of the following year, and wasn't robustly-overcome to the point where owners no longer worried about Verizon pushing an involuntary phone-bricking update on them until summer... ~7 months after initial release on Verizon.

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces Motorola-Made Nexus 6 and HTC-Made Nexus 9

Miamicanes Re:Meh (201 comments)

Hence, my second paragraph ;-)

The catch is... nobody really knows for sure WHEN someone will have a working root for bootloader-locked Z3s. It's probably safe to say that SOMEONE eventually will... but it could EASILY be 3-7 months, with no guarantees. And if you DID root the phone, back up the DRM keys, and reflash, you'd STILL probably be fucked if the phone got lost/stolen/broken & had to be replaced under warranty, because the new one would probably be locked in a way that defeated the older root method.

I learned MY lesson the hard way. ~3 years ago, I bought a Motorola Photon fully expecting it to either have a working bootloader unlock that didn't disable Wimax, or for Motorola to become non-evil as a Google-owned company. I will never, ever totally forgive Motorola for the 2.3.4 Trojan non-update they did their best to make everyone THINK was going to be an early open beta of ICS, but REALLY permalocked the bootloader(*) so you couldn't even sacrifice working wimax and unlock it. The phone got angrily thrown in a drawer in disgust, and I went back to using my old Epic 4G for 3 months until I finally got a Galaxy S3 on release day. #Motofail. #Neveragain.

As a direct result of AT&T's decision to lock the bootloaders like Verizon on all new phones, I'll be fleeing the intolerable yoke of AT&T's authoritarianism for the liberating sanctuary of T-Mobile when my new Note 4 arrives in a couple of days.

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces Motorola-Made Nexus 6 and HTC-Made Nexus 9

Miamicanes Re:No SD card, non-removable battery (201 comments)

Is there a modern phone with a removable battery, and an SD card slot that isn't locked down?

Galaxy Note 4. Just make sure you buy the T-Mobile version. The Verizon and AT&T versions are pre-crippled with locked bootloaders.

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces Motorola-Made Nexus 6 and HTC-Made Nexus 9

Miamicanes Re:cool (201 comments)

Making a phone that can do both CDMA and GSM, and work on multiple carriers' LTE, is a political and business obstacle caused mostly by Qualcomm's complicity with anticompetitive American carriers, not a technical one.

The radios in these phones are overwhelmingly software-defined (and constrained by limits dictated and imposed by the carriers, the most important of which is "thou shall not support the frequencies of any other US carrier, even if the phone is nominally unlocked"). Even in cases where the RF amplifier might not be optimized for a particular carrier's band, the line between "doesn't work" and "doesn't work as well as it does with other carriers" is a lot blurrier than most people realize. Put another way, it's not rocket science. American phones aren't physically INCAPABLE of interoperating with multiple networks... they're arbitrarily PROGRAMMED to be incompatible.

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces Motorola-Made Nexus 6 and HTC-Made Nexus 9

Miamicanes Re:Meh (201 comments)

Huge warning about the Z3 -- Sony implemented a chunk of the camera firmware in a way that causes it to be crippled forever if you unlock the bootloader... and as of at least a few days ago, there was no root exploit that didn't depend upon having an unlocked bootloader. There probably will be one eventually... but you might be waiting a LONG time to get it. Ask yourself whether you'll still be happy with the phone if you end up not being able to root it for months (or ever), and if you'll still be satisfied with it if the low-light performance goes to hell as a consequence of unlocking the bootloader.

Put another way, don't buy a Z3 unless you know beyond doubt there's a working root exploit for it that doesn't require an unlocked bootloader, and make equally sure that the phone you're buying has a ROM that hasn't slammed the door and locked out that root method. You'll still lose a chunk of the camera's functionality for the duration of your use of a custom ROM, but at least you'll preserve the ability to restore the phone back to stock at some future time if desired.

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces Motorola-Made Nexus 6 and HTC-Made Nexus 9

Miamicanes Re:Meh (201 comments)

In other words, AT&T and Verizon will sell crippled, ruined, defective-by-design phones with locked bootloaders masquerading as real "Nexus" devices, tainting the brand name as badly as Verizon's Galaxy Nexus did. :-(

about 2 months ago
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ChromeOS Will No Longer Support Ext2/3/4 On External Drives/SD Cards

Miamicanes Re:Forget Ext2/3/4, use UDF (345 comments)

My guess is that UDF is probably encumbered by one or more patents that are licensed under terms that allow them to be used for free if the manufacturer already paid the royalties related to the optical disc recorder/media, but would require separate and additional royalties from the manufacturer of any non optical drive. With optical drives, those patents are unavoidable and have to be paid either way. With hard drives & flash drives, they'd be an extra cost that's currently discretionary.

about 2 months ago
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NVIDIA Begins Requiring Signed GPU Firmware Images

Miamicanes Re: Supply & Demand (192 comments)

Keep dreaming. Linux on the desktop yet? :)

At the rate Microsoft is going in their mad race to piss off & alienate just about everyone with a high-end workstation (by pushing Windows towards dumbed-down touch-based interfaces), that goal is actually starting to look attainable. Five years from now, one of two things will likely happen:

* Microsoft will have finally pissed off & alienated enough users for some critical mass of high end desktop/workstation power users to decide Windows is annoying them more than making their lives easier, and vendors like Adobe will notice & release their flagship software for Linux (effectively destroying what little market would remain for high-end Windows applications).

* Hedging their bets, companies like Adobe will port their flagship apps to Linux... then port them back to Windows with "kde6.dll" as a dependency. IMHO, this is Microsoft's ultimate nightmare scenario. If the apps high-end workstation users care about are all native KDE apps with equally good Linux versions, there's literally nothing left at that point to keep them chained to Windows. They'd basically be running Linux under a Windows kernel through a compatibility thunking layer anyway. ESPECIALLY if the apps are licensed in a way that allows users to buy the app once, then install & run it under BOTH Windows AND Linux.

Why KDE, and not Gnome? Licensing & logistics. KDE is Apache-licensed, so there's nothing to stop Adobe from bundling an installer for KDEwin directly into their own installers to auto-install it if the user hasn't done so already. And KDE for Windows already exists in beta form (see: http://windows.kde.org/ ).

Five years from now, we might not all be running Linux per se... but most of us will probably be running "Winux" (Windows kernel, Linux UI).

about 3 months ago
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Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market

Miamicanes Re:So offer a cost effective replacement (185 comments)

Not really... it just would have meant the authorities would have needed a proper court order to make Mastercard/Visa/Amex tell them who that one-time number was associated with, and furnish them with a list of every other transaction that person engaged in over some finite window of time. We're not talking about Bitcoins here, just very long credit card numbers still associated with exactly one real-world account, from a universe of potential numbers that's too sparse to effectively guess a valid number (let alone use one to commit fraud). At the end of the day, they STILL had to bill someone for it, so it was no secret who that number was associated with.

about 3 months ago
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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

Miamicanes Re:Study evaluated sacharin vs glucose (294 comments)

~3 years ago, I seriously considered buying a postmix drink dispenser and installing it in my kitchen. I ended up abandoning the plan for two reasons:

1) fountain Pepsi One is like the all-aspartame variant of Diet Coke... it's only manufactured on demand for large customers who are big enough to be their own distributors, and no distributor (as of 2011) carried it. And even if they did, it's aspartame+saccharin blend, not sucralose+aceK like the canned version.

2) fountain Diet Mtn Dew is 100% saccharin-sweetened, and 100% disgusting.

Should one or both someday change, I might reconsider it as an option. Especially if Samsung or LG ever makes a refrigerator whose in-door water dispenser can do double-duty as a postmix drink dispenser for 2 or 3 different drinks.

about 3 months ago
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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

Miamicanes Re:Study evaluated sacharin vs glucose (294 comments)

No. The testing is real and rigorous... at the point in the manufacturing process where the syrup itself is manufactured by Coca-Cola or PepsiCo -- the last stage where they're in a position to enforce total quality control. It's almost pointless to enforce quality and consistency standards at the bottling plant if the syrup itself is variable in quality or consistency from batch to batch.

My point is that there's a HUGE gulf between the amount of processing required to get stevia from harvested leaf to the point where someone could use it in an adhoc manner to sweeten their coffee (with large tolerance for day-to-day variability), and getting it to the point where it behaves as consistently and predictably in bulk manufacturing processes as aspartame, sucralose, or ace-K, and consumers can expect every can to taste exactly like the last.

about 3 months ago
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Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google

Miamicanes Re:Don't use a google account with Android. (126 comments)

ARM TrustZone can do it quite effectively... which brings about the opposite problem. The key isn't under the user's direct control, and can't be recovered by the user. The same evil can be used to encrypt proprietary binaries so they can't be pulled off and used with AOSP-derived ROMs. It doesn't matter how nominally-open the operating system is if the hardware it's running on is a black box without public documentation or drivers.

Robust encryption whose key is under YOUR direct control (as the device's owner and end user) is a very good thing. Robust encryption that uses keys known only to the device itself is just another insidious form of DRM aiming to lock down and control the entire user experience.

It's shit like this that's forcing me to leave AT&T and go to T-Mobile so I can have a rootable Galaxy Note 4 with unlocked bootloader. Yeah, in theory, I could buy the T-mo variant and use it on AT&T... but AT&T's new pricing structure unsurprisingly manages to be at least $10/month more than I'm spending now... and that's WITH their alleged BYOD discount. And on the slight chance they allowed me to insure a T-mobile Galaxy Note 4, I'd be completely fucked if I had to use that insurance, because they'd almost certainly replace it with a bootloader-locked AT&T version that's the entire reason for hating them in the first place.

about 3 months ago
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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

Miamicanes Re:Study evaluated sacharin vs glucose (294 comments)

Individual bottlers might do their own thing (Pepsi's south Florida bottler for Diet Mtn Dew in 2-liter bottles specifically seems to have some MAJOR quality control problems... at least half the bottles I've bought over the past couple of years have been AWFUL), but Coke & Pepsi THEMSELVES are INCREDIBLY anal-retentive about making sure that the syrup itself has absolutely predictable and consistent taste before it leaves the factory.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Spanish authorities to kill Excalibur, dog of the nurse who contracted ebola

Miamicanes Miamicanes writes  |  about 2 months ago

Miamicanes (730264) writes "On Tuesday, Spanish authorities got a court order allowing them to seize, kill, and burn the body of Excalibur, dog of the nurse who contracted ebola. Excalibur has no signs of illness, and a petition by animal lovers around the world to save Excalibur's life & quarantine him instead has gathered more than 370,000 signatures in just a few hours. (link to petition: http://linkis.com/www.change.o... )"
Link to Original Source
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Sprint Epic4G 3G upload speeds limited to 150kbps

Miamicanes Miamicanes writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Miamicanes (730264) writes "Nearly everyone who owns a Sprint Samsung Epic 4G and has benchmarked its 3G performance has discovered that its 3G upload speeds are apparently limited to 150kbps. So far, Sprint has not officially acknowledged it as a problem, nor has it indicated whether this might be a firmware bug, a PRL issue, tower-related, or the result of a deliberate policy to cap 3G upload speeds. Regardless, the problem is causing widespread anger among Epic4G owners, many of whom have bitterly noted the irony of being charged a $10 surcharge so they can endure data transfers that are slower than they had 4 years ago (and a quarter of the speeds enjoyed by Evo owners on the same 3G network)."
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Networked RGB Christmas lights sync'ed to music

Miamicanes Miamicanes writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Miamicanes writes "Ever want a string of Christmas lights made with RGB LEDs so all the lights can change colors? Or with their own microcontrollers, so each can act autonomously? Hell, why not go all the way, and network them while you're at it?

I did.

For the past 4 years, I've burned most of my Decembers, Novembers, and increasing chunks of October working on this project. This year, for the first time, they look like "normal" LED Christmas lights (I bought a few sets of clear LED lights on sale at Lowe's & removed the plastic diffusers from them to use on my own lights), and the controller I built last year finally works properly & reliably communicates with the lights.

Each light module has its own Atmel ATtiny25 microcontroller, linear power supply, RGB LED, and passive components. The whole thing is wired in parallel with just 3 wires... +12v, ground, and communication. One of my specific design goals was to keep the wires thin (AWG22 or smaller), which required higher supply voltage and individual power supplies for each module (not really a big deal... the regulator chip and 2 capacitors added about 50c to the cost of each light, and completely eliminated my original power problems).

The result? My favorite version of "Feliz Navidad" (recorded by Home Grown, an awesome SoCal punk band), accompanied by what's arguably one of the most sophisticated (and expensive) strings of Christmas lights in the world. Their own video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCLogsA2vMQ) is incredibly well made and hysterically funny, too! If Blink182 sang the song and made a video for it, it would ALMOST be as good as the one Home Grown made :-)

How expensive were the lights? I don't know. I've lost count. I've spent at least a kilobuck or two. If you assume my time is valueless, and you ignore the cost of the tools I've bought, the parts I've destroyed, and the crate of non-working light modules (roughly 3 or 4 for every working one that you see on the tree here), each light module has about $4-5 worth of parts (bought in hundred quantities from DigiKey and Futurlec). There are 36 on the tree today. Do the math. Then forget it, because it's too cool to care how expensive it was. Grossly over-engineered perhaps, but cool nonetheless."

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