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Comcast Employees Change Customer Names To 'Dummy' and Other Insults

Solandri Regulatory failure, not a market failure (241 comments)

There is no competition because the local governments in most of the areas Comcast services has given them a government-approved monopoly. The market has nothing to do with this because the government has deliberately eliminated market forces.

yesterday
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Indian Woman Sues Uber In the US Over Alleged New Delhi Taxi Rape

Solandri Re:How (236 comments)

if you ever are the victim of a newsworthy accident/ crime, you will get cold called by a number of lawyers, who want to represent you pro bono

because such cases gild their CV, get their name out there. free advertising

They represent you pro bono because they think you have a good chance of winning, and standard lawyer's fee is 33% of any award or settlement. They're not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. The dozen or so lawyers in the $200 billion tobacco company master settlement became instant billionaires.

yesterday
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How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft

Solandri Re:Create a $140 billion business out of nothing? (410 comments)

Close, but you're not thinking big enough. Microsoft committed the same blunder as the Maginot line. They built their empire on PC (x86+x64) dominance - making sure Windows dominated the architecture, and making sure their software dominated Windows. Their defenses were built around x86, and their warning tripwires were set up to detect anyone encroaching on their x86 territory.

They were blindsided when iOS and Android sprang up outside of x86, essentially creating their own Microsoft-free playing fields. They actually had a mobile OS long before iOS and Android (Windows CE, which eventually became Windows Phone after about 5 different renamings), but they were so focused on bringing it into the x86 fold (some of the WinCE PDAs look like Win XP clones) that they completely missed the opportunity for a new mobile sector.

yesterday
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How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft

Solandri Re:Create a $140 billion business out of nothing? (410 comments)

I'm kinda like you. I jumped aboard Sprint's "unlimited data" plan way back around 2000(?) when they first implemented it. I've been tethering ever since (I got aboard before they changed their ToS to say you can't tether). Had to plug in with a cable at first, but on my rooted Nexus 5 I just use the built-in hotspot.

If you want my (biased) opinion, we're getting to the point where we're trying to jam too much functionality into our phones. Smartphones are great (I've had a PDA since 1998), but there are certain things which pretty much require a bigger screen. The way cellular data should be working is that you pay for it on your phone, and it shares it with your tablet and laptop via a hotspot. Instead, the cellular companies are so hell-bent on milking people for as much money as they can they're forcing the adoption of the more complicated and expensive solution of putting a cellular radio in your tablet and laptop, and getting a new service accounts for them.

yesterday
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How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft

Solandri Re:Create a $140 billion business out of nothing? (410 comments)

Now everything's been clones of the iPhone since. Inertial scrolling, multitouch, practically identical user interfaces out of the box down to even the colors of the icons, etc -- they all use these things basically identically. Before the iPhone they had plastic buttons and you would try to scrolled around by jabbing little arrows on side of screen.

You're confusing inevitable industry evolution for copying Apple. The LG Prada did those things before the iPhone, because that's the way the industry was headed whether Apple ever released an iPhone or not. Apple won their case against Samsung only because the judge disallowed evidence Samsung had prepared showing phones they had in the design phase before the iPhone was announced, because they missed a filing deadline. Like I keep telling people, just because the first time you saw something was on an Apple product, doesn't mean Apple invented it. And likewise just because other companies started doing it after Apple, doesn't mean they copied Apple.

Sadly, it all ended in 2011. Look at phones. They're all the same as 2011 iPhone was just with 2015 cpu/graphic, 2015 screen brightness/contrast, 2015 CMOS camera sensors. Same with computers. Everything's just the same as an iPad or Macbook Air from 2011.

Wow, talk about Reality Distortion Field. Apple just had the biggest quarter in history. It came after they abandoned Steve "no one is going to buy a big phone" Jobs' arbitrary and damaging restrictions on what products the company could make. His ego was so inflated, he thought everyone should use the same product that best fit his needs. Since his death you've gotten an iPhone with a wider aspect ratio (something Jobs opposed), a smaller iPad (something Jobs opposed), giving buyers a choice of two different iPhones and iPads (something Jobs opposed - he thought you were so stupid you'd be confused by two choices), and a phablet iPhone (something Jobs opposed). And that's just on Apple's product lineup. If you don't see other changes and improvements in the market, it's because you're willfully ignoring them. (BTW, the MBA has one of the worst screens on any laptop above $500 - not sure why you're holding it up as your champion. The MBPs are much better.)

Most of us who don't like Apple dislike them not because they're Apple, but because they artificially restrict market choice. But Cook has been doing a good job giving users back the choice that Jobs took away. And as long as they continue down that path, there's little reason to continue to hate Apple. You folks who love Apple so much that you hate everything else OTOH...

yesterday
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New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels

Solandri Re:Careful With This Logic (216 comments)

The same logic saying biofuel is inefficient (requires a lot of land for low energy yield) is the same logic saying meat is inefficient (which is true, meat is energy inefficient) because it requires a large amount of crops for the livestock.

It's worse than that. A comparison purely on efficiency ignores another vital factor - cost. Yes solar panels might be 50x more efficient than plants at capturing solar energy. But they're infinitely more expensive. You have to manufacture the solar panels. Plants manufacture themselves. Why build shiny 50-story high rises at the cost of billions, if "magical" one-story houses which build themselves and self-replicate are widespread?

That's what biofuel is. Its reputation has been tarnished badly in the U.S. by the corn lobby using it to put themselves on the public dole.* But their fundamental basis is sound. The cheapest and most prolific solar collectors in the world are plants. Not only do they cost nothing, they will spread by and maintain/repair themselves. Nature has spent hundreds of millions of years working and plants are the most efficient solution it came up with for harvesting solar energy. They are so successful that all life on earth (except at hydrothermal vents deep underwater) get their energy from plants. Heck, all oil and coal originally came from plants.

All biofuels are is taking the energy in plants and converting it into alcohol fuel, instead of an alcohol drink or ATP. The only impediment I can think of is that plants are such an attractive energy source, they've had to evolve defenses against being consumed for hundreds of millions of years. Consequently, modern plants store that energy in a form where it's exceedingly difficult to extract (cellulose). But there should be workarounds: Certain animals like termites have cultivated bacteria which breaks down cellulose into its component sugar molecules. Or we might be able to genetically engineer a plant which keeps more of its energy in the form of sugar than cellulose. Or we can take a plant which already does that (e.g. sugar cane) and engineer it to grow in a wider variety of climates.

* Corn ethanol began because of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Food shortages led to price increases and starvation. To prevent a recurrence, the government began subsidizing farming (mainly corn) to insure there was always overproduction. This crashed the price of corn, so the government set it up so it buys all the corn from farmers at a price which can keep the farms in business, then resells it. Since there is more supply than demand, there is always corn left over. This excess corn would otherwise rot in silos, so a variety of uses for it have been found - feed for cattle, HFCS, foreign aid. And during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, someone came up with the bright idea - why don't we convert it into alcohol for fuel?

It's a fine idea for excess corn. The cost of growing and harvesting that corn is a sunk cost. You're never gonna recover that cost, so it's better to do something with it than nothing. So turning it into ethanol makes sense. But the moment you start growing corn for the sole purpose of turning it into ethanol, the economics of it completely breaks down because now it's no longer a sunk cost. Not only has the corn lobby been looting our country's treasury for decades, it's been impeding the growth of other legitimate and more efficient ethanol crops by distorting market prices with their subsidy.

2 days ago
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FDA Wants To Release Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Florida

Solandri Re:So.... (262 comments)

They're part of the fragile balance of our precious, vulnerable ecosystem

That's a myth dreamt up by people wanting to protect the environment, but who had never taken any higher-level math or engineering courses and had no clue how dynamic systems function. Fragile balances are almost impossible to find in nature, for the simple reason that if something is fragile enough that any perturbation would upset it enough to destroy it, it would've self-destructed long ago before man ever showed up.

Nearly all surviving balances in nature are stable equilibria. They're not fragile at all. If you perturb them, it just re-stabilizes at a new equilibrium point. e.g. If you tilt the bowl in the wiki picture, the ball doesn't fall off the top of the bowl like in the first picture or roll away like in the third picture.. It just settles in at a different spot on the bottom of the bowl in the second picture, now-tilted slightly.

2 days ago
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US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One

Solandri Re:track record (293 comments)

If the two-engine planes are such a risk, how the hell have they got air safety certificates?

Because the certification for twin-engine planes only looks at engine reliability and environmental factors like rain and hail. It doesn't consider being shot at with missiles and small arms fire, which is a required safety criteria for Air Force One.

3 days ago
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US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One

Solandri Re:Not going to disappear quickly.... (293 comments)

Even if Boeing stopped building 747 variants tomorrow, they'd be around for ages. They're the mainstay for long-haul travel, and dwindling sales probably are more related to market saturation - as in, there are enough in the air now to meet current demand - than any inherent shortcoming in the design.

An individual airframe is typically retired before 100,000 pressurization cycles. This is a limitation of the aluminum used to make the skin, which unlike other ferrous metals does not have a fatigue limit. In other words, aluminum always grows weaker with use. As you get closer to 100,000 cycles, you increase the odds of a catastrophic fatigue failure where the aluminum literally unzips like plastic shrinkwrap after you've cut a notch in it. (Aloha 243 had nearly 90,000 cycles due to its short-duration island-hopping history.)

The 747 is typically used on long-haul overseas flights lasting 10+ hours. This drastically reduces the rate at which airlines can rack up pressurization cycles. Even if one were flown 2x a day every day, it would take over 130 years to reach 100,000 cycles. By comparison, a 737 used for the 40-minute LAX to Las Vegas route may fly 10x a day and reach 100,000 cycles in a little over 25 years. This is why 747s are hanging around - their skins simply have less wear and tear on them despite being in service for more years and logging more flight hours than other planes.

The 747-8 was always a bit dodgy. When Boeing made the original 747, they weren't planning to make it with a partial second deck. It was supposed to be a stepping stone to future models with a full second deck (designing the 747 nearly bankrupted the company). Boeing pitched the full two-decker model to the airlines for decades but could never get enough interest to justify actually building it. Then Airbus came with its "who cares if we'll sell enough to make money, our governments will pay for it if it doesn't so let's build it" A380, and Boeing threw together the 747-8 as a possible alternative.

The slow rate of A380 sales (nearly 10 years old, 318 orders, 147 deliveries) seems to substantiate Boeing's marketing research that there just wasn't sufficient demand (yet) for such a large plane. By comparison, the 747-400 had 465 deliveries in its first 10 years. The 747-8 has 119 orders, 83 deliveries in the same timeframe as the A380. As you state, in the 400-525 passenger category, the market is pretty well-saturated by older 747s which are still airworthy.

I suspect that there are more refinements to come - it's just too useful an airframe to discard. It may take Boeing a bit to roll in some of the working dreamliner tech but it seems reasonable that they'd try to do that when time and demand permit.

In terms of airline operating economics, the number of passenger per flight nearly always has a larger magnitude of effect than efficiency gains for new technology. For an airline you are almost always nearly best-off flying a plane with slightly more capacity than the number of passengers. Airbus tried to claim the A380 would be so efficient this wouldn't matter, and you could fly a 747-sized number of passengers on a A380 for cheaper than a 747. I was very skeptical, and the fact that airlines aren't tripping over themselves to replace their old 747s with A380s is a pretty good indication that it's still cheaper to fly a 747 for 747-sized passenger capacities.

The next place to watch is to see if Airbus will roll out a twin-engine competitor to the 777 (maybe a longer A350-1000?). Airbus' competitor to the 777 had been the A340 (both are in the 300-450 passenger range). But the A340 is a 4-engine plane which uses much more fuel. Consequently, the 777 beat the A340 into a bloody pulp in the market. The 777 has had 1827 orders in 20 years, vs 379 orders for the A340 in 20 years. Right now, that's the gap in Airbus' lineup

A320 = 100-200 passengers.
A330/A350 = 250-370 passengers.
* A340 = 300-420 (retired in 2011)
A380 = 500-625 passengers.

That leaves a gap between 370-500 passengers which is currently being filled by the 777 and legacy 747s. Airbus claims you can configure the A380 for as few as 407 passengers, but no sane airline is gonna do that when they can configure the exact same plane for 500-650. I suspect they're holding off on a 777 competitor in hopes of directing more sales to the A380, but such sales inevitably end up going to the 777. In contrast, Boeing's lineup tightly covers all passenger capacities pretty well right now:

737 = 100-200 passengers
787 = 240-360 passengers
777 = 315-450 passengers
747 = 467-525 passengers

3 days ago
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Canada Upholds Net Neutrality Rules In Wireless TV Case

Solandri Re:What? (98 comments)

Wasn't there a Dr. Who episode based on something like that? Where the public got to decide at any time if an elected official's performance was not in their best interests. And if they voted that it wasn't, he was summarily executed?

3 days ago
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Canada Upholds Net Neutrality Rules In Wireless TV Case

Solandri Re:LOL (98 comments)

This sort of thing is more easily prevented by prohibiting the provider of the pipes from also selling what's sent through the pipes, and vice versa. So if you sold cellular data service, you wouldn't be able to also sell a video streaming service. That's how electricity and natural gas is sold in most places. One company gets an exclusive contract to lay down the wires/pipes, but are prohibited from selling electricity or gas. Instead, other companies sell those utility services (sometimes using the pipe-owner as a billing intermediary, other times adding an "access fee" to their bill to cover what they have to pay the pipe owner).

Unfortunately, we're in a funny in-between state right now because phone service is moving from point-to-point to packet-based. That is, your phone calls used to require a dedicated line(s) between you and the call recipient - a line you had total and exclusive access to for the duration of the call. There is no distinction between pipes and the content in the pipes in this model. Now we're switching more to a VoIP model where voice traffic is sent as data packets over shared pipes, and the distinction makes sense. Until this transition is finished, entrenched companies will be able to argue against separation of the pipe business and content business.

3 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access?

Solandri Re:Government Intervention (475 comments)

Yeah, who would have thought that European 'socialism' would be more effective at bringing the internet to the masses than American private enterprise?

Unfortunately, the Internet service market in "socialist" Europe is actually more free market than in the U.S. You guys have multiple companies vying to provide and improve internet service. In the U.S., most local governments have regulated the market (under the guise of limiting unsightly wires by restricting who can build in public easements) so most Americans typically have only one choice of phone company and one choice of cable company.

3 days ago
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Dell 2015 XPS 13: Smallest 13" Notebook With Broadwell-U, QHD+ Display Reviewed

Solandri Review of non-touch version (117 comments)

MobileTechReview covered the non-touch 1920x1080 version here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP6oTd_OhoA

The size comparison to the Surface Pro 3 (12") is very impressive, almost hilarious.

The Achilles heel of the Macbook Air has always been the display. Not only is it lower resolution (currently 1440x900), but it's a TN panel with poor color gamut (about 60% sRGB). I suspect this is deliberate market stratification by Apple, to give people a reason to pay extra the Macbook Pro. So the MBP gets a retina IPS panel covering 100% sRGB. The MBP gets a low-res TN panel covering 60% sRGB.

The Surface Pro 3 took square aim at this chink in Apple's armor, by putting in a 95%-100% sRGB screen. The Dell does as well by using a 1920x1080 Sharp IGZO panel with 98% sRGB coverage. That increases pressure for Apple to put a retina panel on their MBA, at the risk of cannibalizing MBP sales (basically any artist who does color-sensitive work right now is forced to pay extra for the MBP). Comparison to the Dell with the MBA here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2FPvHFLSOI

3 days ago
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Dell 2015 XPS 13: Smallest 13" Notebook With Broadwell-U, QHD+ Display Reviewed

Solandri Re:OK, based upon notebook shopping thus far (117 comments)

Unless you have enough room for a proper GPU, low end discrete GPUs are increasingly somewhat pointless, since they always add complexity and cost; but don't necessarily outperform integrated ones by all that much.

Here are game benchmarks for the Intel HD5500, nVidia 820m, and AMD R7 M265 (older 35 Watt tech I throw in only for comparison since their current lowest-end R9 is equivalent to an 840m).

The 820m is a 15 Watt part, and best case hits nearly 2x the framerate of the HD5500. Probably about 1.7x faster on average, with a few titles being CPU-bottlenecked. The R9 M265X is also a 35 Watt part like the 840m and performs slightly better, so I imagine if/when AMD puts out 15 Watt version of the R9 to compete with the 820m, it'll roughly double the HD5500's FPS as well.

Having a discrete GPU does complicate the cooling solution (the iGPU on the Intel gets cooled by the CPU's cooler). But if you're planning to do some gaming, you should still opt for the dGPU over the iGPU if at all possible. The exception would be if you only play titles not needing powerful GPUs, like Sims, DOTA, LOL, WoW.

3 days ago
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YouTube Ditches Flash For HTML5 Video By Default

Solandri Anything like Flashblock for HTML5? (224 comments)

I tried setting Chrome to use HTML5 on YouTube for about a month. I had to switch it back to flash because of one thing - Flashblock. With flashblock, you can open a bunch of videos at once in different tabs, and they will not start playing until you flip to the tab and click the flashblock button. With HTML5, all those videos start playing in the background tabs simultaneously as soon as the pages finish loading. So you're basically limited to opening one video at a time. No queuing up videos you want to watch and flipping through them tab by tab.

Does anyone know of an extension similar to flashblock but for HTML5 on Chrome?

5 days ago
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Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'

Solandri Re:How are they rocky? (67 comments)

Depends on the composition of your "rocky" planet. Fusion reagents are energy-positive up to iron. So basically, elements heavier than iron requires multiple supernovae to generate a substantial quantity. Elements lighter than iron can be released in just 1-2 supernovae.

The elements which make up most of the "rock" on our rocky planet are oxygen, silicon, calcium, iron, potassium, aluminum, and sodium. Of these, oxygen, silicon, and iron are a regular product of stellar fusion, and can be distributed from a single supernova.

5 days ago
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New Google Fiber Cities Announced

Solandri Re:Do you trust them? (147 comments)

If you're that worried, you can always route your traffic through a VPS for about $5/mo extra. Google peeking in on your data packets is so easily circumvented it's barely worth mentioning.

OTOH, with Verizon announcing it's ending FiOS rollouts, they need a good swift competitive kick in the rear to get them to provide what the market wants, rather than milking their existing infrastructure for as much money as they can. The only reason they're able to do things like stop fiber rollout is because they have a government-granted monopoly in the areas they serve. A competitor - be it Google or anyone else - is exactly what's needed to break up that monopoly and give the people what the want.

5 days ago
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Valve's Economist Yanis Varoufakis Appointed Greece's Finance Minister

Solandri Re:This doesn't sound... sound (327 comments)

It seems like trained economists are just as likely to fuck up an economy as would be trained monkeys -- because at the end of the day you have shockingly little control over things, and probably less of an understanding that you claim. Let's not start pretending that economists actually know anything about the economy. They know what their ideologically driven view of economics tells them to they know.

It's not really the economists' fault. Theirs is a profession based on predicting human behavior, which is unpredictable at best. A trained economist can make some basic, fundamental predictions which will correctly improve economic efficiency, especially in a developing economy. But once you get to a well-developed economy, most of the efficiency gains have already been made. And economic direction depends more on random variances in individual people's decisions.

Normally you can get around this problem by using a huge sampling size to average out the variances. But economics has the added twist that everyone knows what everyone else is doing. And if housing prices start going up, people think "wow, other people must know something I don't know, and I'd better start investing in housing" even though they have no idea why it's going up. That herd mentality messes up even averaging out the variances, and can turn even the perfect economist's predictions wrong.

The best engineering analogy I can come up with is a dynamically unstable (chaotic) system. You can predict the long-term (decades) and overall trends. But the day-to-day and year-to-year motions are highly irregular. But nobody cares about the long-term trends, and take economists to task for incorrectly predicting year-to-year movements.

5 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Personal Archive?

Solandri Re:External Harddrive (250 comments)

An external hard drive is most convenient, but you have to be careful with RW media. One of my photos I was working on became corrupted. No problem, I just plugged in my external drive where I kept the backups. Then in a momentary drop in brain oxygen, I proceeded to drag and drop the corrupted file over the good backup, not the other way around. Goodbye backup. And undelete doesn't work when you copy a file over another file with the same name. (Fortunately this was a slide scan so I still had the analog original.)

If it's archival material (stuff that doesn't change), this is still a strong argument for using WORM (write once, read many) media - optical discs like DVD and Blu-ray. I'd been hoping someone would make a HDD enclosure with a write-protect switch like on SD cards. But the only one I've found was a specialty item apparently designed for police forensic work, not user friendliness. The write-protect "switch" is a jumper - I've mounted it inside another enclosure I had, but I have to open up the enclosure to switch the jumper. Which is probably fine if you're only using it on evidence hard drives which you never want to write to. But for home use where I'm toggling between writing new backups and occasionally restoring old backups, it's rather inconvenient.

5 days ago

Submissions

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Interior of burnt Herculaneum scroll read for first time

Solandri Solandri writes  |  about two weeks ago

Solandri (704621) writes "When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, it destroyed a library of classical works in Herculaneum. The papyrus scrolls weren't incinerated, but were instead carbonized by the hot gases. The resulting black carbon cylinders have mostly withstood attempts to read their contents since their discovery. Earlier attempts to unfurl the scrolls yielded some readable material, but were judged too destructive. Researchers decided to wait for newer technology to be invented that could read the scrolls without unrolling them.

Now, a team led by Dr Vito Mocella from the National Research Council's Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (CNR-IMM) in Naples, Italy has managed to read individual letters inside one of the scrolls. Using a form of x-ray phase contrast tomography, they were able to ascertain the height difference (about 0.1mm) between the ink of the letters and the papyrus fibers which they sat upon. Due to the fibrous nature of the papyrus and the carbon-based ink, regular spectral and chemical analysis had thus far been unable to distinguish the ink from the paper. Further complicating the work, the scrolls are not in neat cylinders, but squashed and ruffled as the hot gases vaporized water in the papyrus and distorted the paper.

Full paper in Nature Communications (paywalled)."
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Students figure out how to unlock school-issued iPads

Solandri Solandri writes  |  about a year ago

Solandri (704621) writes "The Los Angeles Times reports that the LA Unified School District's plans to assign an iPad to every student in the district are on hold after students figured out how to unlock the iPads. Once unlocked, the iPads can be used for decidedly non-academic activities such as surfing the web and accessing social media sites. According to students, unlocking the devices is simple — just delete your personal profile info."

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