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Comcast Converting 50,000 Houston Home Routers Into Public WiFi Hotspots

Zen Re: Liability (474 comments)

This really is no big deal. I'm a Chicago customer and was initially a bit peeved when I heard about this. But then I read the actual letter. I'll paraphrase it, but as I recall it had a few specifics in it that all these fear mongering web articles are skipping.
1) It creates a new ssid on the router. That means anyone connecting is connecting outside my network.
2) They went to great pains to state that it was extremely unlikely to disrupt the service that I pay for. For instance, I have the option to pay for something like 100Mbps, but I choose a lower tier. Comcast obviously has additional bandwidth they can provide for this service. It doesn't impact the customer.
3) It also said I had the abity to disable it if I wanted to. This is the part that nobody gets. You can turn it off! Problem solved!

I left mine alone in the end. If it doesn't impact me because it's going to use untapped bandwidth that I don't pay for, and they connect through a separate ssid, then I simply don't care.

about 3 months ago
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Study Finds Unvaccinated Students Putting Other Students At Risk

Zen Obtaining data from schools? (1025 comments)

I haven't decided if I think all of this stuff is sensationalism or not, but it doesn't really matter. If I ask my school for a count of the number of kids in the school that are unvaccinated, and a count for the number of kids in my kids actual classroom that are unvaccinated, first are they legally allowed to share that (anonymous) data with me, and second are they legally required to share that data with me? It seems that if there is a possibility that some moron is risking my own kids health, I should be able to find out about it.

about 2 years ago
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My most recent tax bill was ...

Zen Re:I'm always happy when I have a tax liability (394 comments)

Really? You're so pent up that your way absolutely has to be the right way? Did you stop reading my comment before the end? Why would I have a financial advisor if I did not have substantial investments. In my case I max out my 401k, I max out my IRA's, I have monthly automatic debits that go straight to my financial advisor. And yes, I also claim far too few exemptions so too much tax is taken out of my paycheck. It works for me and for many other people. Your way works for you and for many other people. Give it a rest - your way is only best for you, not for all people. My standard financial investments lost money last year. My 401k made money last year. If I had given my extra money to my financial advisor as most people would recommend, I would have lost some of it. I ended up ahead because I chose to give the government a free loan. Too bad for me. I guess I lose. I think it's depressing that you assume your way is the only correct way because technically I am losing out on interest I could have made. But you forget to take into account that you don't always make interest every year unless you're in a fixed investment, which typically have very low interest rates. It's simply an overlooked method of diversification. You have investments in many different things in order to diversify. You also have some money in recurring CD's or something like that so you can take it out with limited penalties if necessary. You also have some money in a money market or other low interest bearing account. If you're a normal person, you also left some money out of the financial advisor's hands and in a savings account that bears extremely low interest. And then I have yet another 'savings account' that is completely out of sight for the year with the federal government that I am absolutely guaranteed to get 100% return on when I ask for it back with zero penalties. It's not a bad thing.

more than 2 years ago
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My most recent tax bill was ...

Zen Re:I'm always happy when I have a tax liability (394 comments)

Exactly. Some of us truly understand that we are giving the government a free loan, and simply don't care. If the most I can owe the government without incurring penalties (being required to prepay quarterly the next year, and so on) is $1000, it's not beneficial to me. $1000 by 24 paychecks is $41.66. What am I going to do with $41 extra bucks per paycheck? I'm going to spend it on a few extra lunches out, or a couple Blu-Ray's, or whatever. Now, if I go the opposite way and claim far too few exemptions, I get a large tax return every spring. I can then take that rather large sum and do something useful with it. I can dump it into a Roth IRA to max out the previous year's Roth, or I can make substantial improvements to my home, get a downpayment on a car, whatever. Basically it's an interest free savings account that is completely out of sight out of mind for the entire year, and then I get a 'bonus' check every spring. My financial advisor stopped getting mad at me for it this year, because he lost me money last year due to the economy and at least I didn't lose any money on the free loan I gave to the government. I didn't gain what I cold have, but I didn't lose anything either.

more than 2 years ago
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Leap Day, to me, means ...

Zen Re:Day of no pay (337 comments)

You're not the first person posting that it was a day with no pay. I don't really understand this logic. As a salaried person, I get an annual salary, broken out into 24 pay periods and am paid on the 15th and last day of the month. Some people have 26 pay periods and are paid every two weeks, or even every week. It's an annual salary that is contractually agreed to, typically not an hourly or daily salary. By definition, with my annual salary, I am paid for every week-day that I work and even for some sick and vacation days. If I take my annual salary and divide it out into the working hours for my pay period, then it happens to be that every four years my daily/hourly salary is ever so slightly less because they pay me the same amount that year and there was an extra work day (2008 work hours that year instead of 2000). But I still got paid for the day, and I got paid at the same rate as every other day in this year.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Like To Read?

Zen Easy but engaging reads (647 comments)

I like easy but slightly thought provoking reads. Things that take a time and place in history, start with known facts and spin off into a what if this happened. There are many books about what could have happened if Hitler had found certain religious artifacts he was looking for and if they really did what he thought they did. Spy novels and ocean exploratory books (Clive Cussler, etc) where you take the same basic premise - a ship sank, it had X on it, what happens if it is found... Here's some fun authors - Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly, James Rollins, Brad Metzler. Depending on reading speed these could be finished on a very long flight. Check the New York Times lists and skip the chick flicks and biographys.

more than 2 years ago
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RAM in my most-used personal computer:

Zen Many of us still only have 3.2GB (543 comments)

If you're running a 32bit OS like older WinXP setups, unless you monkey around with it you can only see 3.2GB of RAM anyway. I bet there's way more legacy 32bit desktops and laptops out there than the newer Vista and Windows 7 boxes where 64bit became the standard. In this scenario it really doesn't matter if you installed 4GB because the OS can only touch the first 3.2GB of it.

more than 2 years ago
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Amazon Patents Gift Card Parental Controls

Zen Mildly concerning privacy problems (73 comments)

I've recently discovered that okay deals can be found on the gift card secondary market. Where you sell the gift cards Aunt Rosie bought you that you won't ever use, and turn around and buy one (at an 8% or so discount to face value) for a place that you do shop.

So if I got one of these gift cards, sold it on plastic jungle or one of the other places, and an unsuspecting person bought it, would the person who gave it to me end up getting a report stating what that third party bought? Isn't that an invasion of that third parties entitlement to privacy?

Although this scenario is a bit of a stretch, I bet swapping gift cards and using them to pay off debts to friends is pretty common for college kids.

There's no way this should be legal. Your own children have no real right to privacy in the home that you provide them with, but everyone else does have a right to privacy. Privacy aside, that third party person should in no way be restricted to how they spend the money unless there's some big flashing light on the gift card that says it can only be used to buy books.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Use For a New Supercomputing Cluster?

Zen Monitoring is always an afterthought (387 comments)

I can't speak to many of your questions. However, I can provide small insight into your networking question. The industry I work in is application monitoring, and it's often an afterthought added only if there are problems. If you go with Infiniband, your choices for capturing and monitoring packets in order to help you analyze application issues will be extremely limited. However, if you go with the more widespread adoption of 10GbE you will have many vendors you can pick from with very advanced features to help monitor how your app is performing across your internal network. This entire supercomputer is nothing without its network or its application, so if it were me, I would spec in a very robust solution to monitor how the application is performing on the network. The most robust solutions are packet capturing appliances tapped or spanned in from the switches (taps are preferred). This is greatly superior to capturing traffic inside a server node itself because the OS and NIC will alter the speed and form of the packets when they are sent out onto the network.

more than 2 years ago
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$300M To Save 6 Milliseconds

Zen Background info (524 comments)

This is actually huge news for the financial companies.

Most people don't really understand what these companies do. Ethics aside, these prop shops do largely automated trading based on extremely propietary software that monitors market conditions, news, weather, politics, etc all at the same time. It would have to be a huge hedge fund (not a smaller prop shop) to shell out $100M unless they thought they would have an advantage because nobody else could afford it. But yes, the basic premise of cuting 6ms off the time and having financial companies beating down their door to sign up for service is absolutely correct. If you can make a large trade 1ms before your biggest competitor so that you buy in cheap and they buy in higher or cancel their trade, then you can make big money. There's a whole industry creating products for these low latency trading firms with specialized switches, routers, software, etc that is tuned to support extremely low latency networks and zero dropped UDP packets.

more than 2 years ago
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Ideas For a Great Control Room?

Zen Great control room setup (421 comments)

I used to work for a large insurance company in Chicago. The director charged with building our NOC in 2000 basically traveled throughout the country visiting other large IT organization's NOC's and took the best ideas and made them work for us - and it did resemble 24.

Take a large crescent shaped room with a 30' or more ceiling. The video wall was three different sections (this is important for separation of displays and multiple tools at the same time). The display units were high end rear projection systems that were each hooked up to computers that drove the display and were roughly 3'x5' each. Of course there's no seam or separation between the screens. Any group of screens can be used to display anything you want (1 screen, 2, 4, 6, all, etc). Pretty basic stuff nowadays, but it was great ten years ago. The left and right banks had three screens stacked on top of eachother, by either 4 or 5 wide. The center bank was 3 high by either 8 or 10 wide.

Three rows of crescent tables with low walls in front separating them, and minimal separation between workspaces - you want people in a NOC to work very closely with eachother, especially in case of an outage. Each station had two or three LCD screens mounted on articulating arms, but not to be stacked on top of eachother like those trading desks you see with 6 or 8 LCD screens at them. That would be too tall, and you couldn't look over the top to see the main video wall without standing. The room sat close to 50 people. Around the edges of the room are various cabinets, printers, personal storage for the three shifts of employees that work in the NOC, etc. Of course high end chairs are important as others have noted. Lighting is also equally important. You have to be very careful with making sure it is as close to natural lighting as possible. The lighting we used was recessed and inset so that no lightbulb shone directly out or down on the people - it made it less harsh, but still very bright in the room based on a good design. Wireless headsets are important, and also minimizing speakerphones and any other distracting noise.

Behind the rows of tables at the back of the crescent in the donut hole section if you will is an enclosed room large enough to sit 30 people comfortably with power, phones, and network connections to cover it. The walls facing the NOC are floor to ceiling glass, and it has connectivity to the videowall of the NOC so that displays from their can be sent to the meeting room as well. It has every high end normal conference room tool you could need - multiple video conferences, smartboard, integrated microphones and speakers, etc. Everything was hidden inside builtin cabinets made of high end wood. This main room is the situation room. During a large outage, 2nd and 3rd level staff will work out of the room in conjunction with the NOC teams. Directly upstairs from the situation room is another identical room, also with floor to ceiling glass walls looking out to the video wall of the NOC. This upper room was reserved for senior and executive management use during a large outage. Engineers and Executive management have different needs during an outage and require separate spaces and separate functions, although constant information does need to feed between the two. The upper room was more of the showpiece room. It had a motorized curtain that you could press a button on the wireless control panel to open and close. The entrance from the building going up to the second floor board room does not give anything away for what the NOC itself looked like, so once everybody was assembled in the room and the button was hit, it never failed to impress first time visitors. They would always leave their chairs at the conf table and walk right up to the glass wall to look down at the people working in the NOC and see what was displayed on the board.

It was an extremely impressive setup. I am now in sales and visit customer sites on a daily basis and I have yet to see something that even approaches what this director designed at my old employer.

You can't forget to include cable or satellite to display weather and headline news. For fun, don't forget to include a high end stereo system and a blu-ray player so you can watch movies or the occasionaly superbowl game since you already have cable service anyway.

more than 3 years ago
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Alternatives To Paypal's Virtual Credit Card Service?

Zen Discover recurring payments on secure #'s (242 comments)

I use secure #'s from my Discover card for every purchase I make online that I can - I have however come across a few that won't accept Discover, and then I think twice before I purchase on a non-secure card. This feature is available on every Discover card of every persuasion and has been for a few years. It's not technically one time use. My understanding of it from experience is that if the same company charges the exact same amount to your number at a common interval (1 month, etc), then the charge will be accepted. It has worked for me before - I believe with Tivo. However, many times companies will process the first payment themselves, and subsequent recurring payments will go through a clearinghouse. The different payment info is enough to get the payment denied, which can be both good and bad depending on if you really wanted to setup a recurring payment.

I used to have a Visa credit card from MBNA and they offered secure numbers as well. They probably still do, but check into it before making the plunge. Unfortunately I got rid of MBNA and now just use Chase, and they do not offer secure credit numbers, so I have no backup if Discover isn't accepted. Maybe they paid too much for Bank One and Bear Stearns.

about 4 years ago
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Twitter Throttling Hits Third-Party Apps

Zen Re:175/hr is slow? (119 comments)

This is really how it works? Come on, what decade is this? I've been on the user side and now I'm on the vendor side of packet based application performance products. Think wireshark or the defacto standard certain brand name that jumps into your head. A primary part of the job is showing people how inefficient their database calls are when they either ask for everything every time and don't cache it, or they get tiny bits and pieces a few bytes at a time instead of larger more efficient downloads.

So Twitter can't bundle multiple requests into the same stream? It's not exactly rocket science - even SNMP can do this now. It saves processing power, bandwidth, time to load, etc. Pretty crazy.

more than 4 years ago
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Caffeine Addicts Get No Additional Perk, Only a Return To Baseline

Zen Re:Makes sense (506 comments)

This is all pretty much common knowledge to anyone who has had an kicked a caffeine habit. And yes, certain soda's have much, much more caffeine than coffee which generally has much less than 100mg per cup. My habit started in High School with a two liter of coke on the way to school and through the first period or two (band, not real class). It soon moved up to a peak of 1800mg per day by way of no-doz and other generic caffeine pills. I couldn't function without it. I finally woke up one day, stopped cold turkey all pills and all liquid forms of caffeine, and after a week or so I was fine again. It is a real addiction, and there are real symptoms. You also will get accustomed to it like any other drug and build up a tolerance.

I'll drink 3 or 4 cans of pop a week, and I'll have coffee 2 or 3 times a week, but that's nothing compared to most of my coworkers. I do it more for the liquid than the caffeine as I believe I have all but killed the possibility of caffeine affecting me for a decade or two. Also, I had a science teacher who taught us in school that caffeine will take up to an hour to ingest into the body, so the immediate effect on most people of perking them up within the first few sips is pretty humorous to me. The pills never did that - it would take a while after I took them to do anything. I would like to find out if that is true, but I think it is.

more than 4 years ago
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Best Solutions For Massive Home Hard Drive Storage?

Zen My solution - Raid 6 (609 comments)

You don't specify what constitutes lots of data. In my case, 2 years ago I went for 6 750GB SATA drives in a Raid6 configuration. There's some very good posts here about some lesser known data reliability options, but personally I wanted to go with a worldwide standard that had been around for a long time and wasn't reliant on a couple guys hacking code in their spare time to make disk redundancy and file access work.

I bought a standard full size tower case, got a very large power supply, and spent a good deal of money on a mid-tier Raid controller. My primary requirement was Raid 6 so I could lose two drives without losing all my data, and my secondary requirement was having true hardware raid support. Most Raid controllers that are not enterprise business class are not true hardware raid - meaning that they use software and the CPU for some of the operations. This slows down file read/write. I did the research and read reviews and got a decent Promise card - if you have the money, go for LSI, Areca, or 3ware. Next, I got a Promise hot swappable 4 drive SATA bay. Not really sure why, it doesn't serve any purpose since in 2 years I haven't had a failure and thus have not had to hot-swap a drive. A very important thing is that I also purchased 7 drives for my 6 drive setup. So I already have a spare if I need it, and I don't have to worry about having the spare cash when a drive fails, or waiting on an RMA if it was still under support, etc. The one thing I wish I had done, and still might, is buy a spare raid controller with the exact same chipset. If your raid controller fries, ALL of your data is gone unless you can get the array up and running on an identical controller. That's a freaky thought!

6 drives in raid 6 at 750GB gives me a little under 3TB of disk. I wanted that in a single partition for ease of use, so I messed around with some 64 bit Linux distributions and did not have any luck. I finally settled on Vista of all things, but only after I got fed up with fighting with Linux - I didn't give it a fair shot, I should have been able to make it work. The only thing I can think is that it didn't like my controller or motherboard.

So, 6 drives of 750GB in Raid6 gives me 3TB. At the time I had less than 1TB of stuff, and wanted to make sure I had room to grow. I didn't grow anywhere near as quick as I expected, and I'm still at less than 2TB today. 2TB drives in a raid6 would give you 8TB, and that's if you only used 6 drives - you could easily add more into that same Raid6 array (depending on how good your Raid controller is). Even if all of your movies are dual layer quality, say 6GB each, that's over 1300 movies. That'd certainly last me a long time!

more than 4 years ago
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I mailed / filed my tax return form ...

Zen Re:The key benefit to overpaying (432 comments)

I'm with you on getting a refund vs owing the government. I purposely set a higher withholding amount on my W2 so that I get extra money back at the end of the year. My finanicial advisor (who is a friend that happens to be a certified advisor) gives me crap about it every year.

The way I look at it is this: If I had an extra $50 or $100 in my paycheck, would I actually save it or would I spend it? My answer is simple - I would find something to spend it on. So since I don't need it to balance my budget, I'll let the government hang onto it for me. That way in February when I get my money back I'll have a large chunk of money all at once that I can use to either spend on something big I needed to save for, or I can use it to fill up my Roth IRA for the previous year. So instead of going out to dinner an extra couple times per month, by loaning the government my money interest free I can actually get something substantial instead of wasteful.

You just have to know how the psychology works for you. Same concept as bribing yourself to get the paperwork done early, or setting your clock 10 minutes fast so that you're always on time. You know it's dumb and so does everyone else - but that's the system that works best for you.

more than 4 years ago
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US Wants UK Hacker To Pay To Fix Holes He Exposed

Zen Re:If he's a hacker... (403 comments)

Hmmm. Close, but I'm not convinced. How about this one.

If you had a million dollars locked in a safe and someone cracked the safe and stole your money (without damaging the safe), would you put your next million dollars in the same safe even though it was still perfectly usable? Of course not. But if they caught the thief and recovered every penny of the money stolen, would they also be able to charge the thief for buying you a new safe? I don't think the US courts have any procedure for doing that, except maybe you can collect damages in a civil court which could be the cost of a new safe to keep your money in.

more than 4 years ago
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Amazon UK Refunds Windows License Fee, With Little Hassle

Zen Microsoft Money Back Guarantee (194 comments)

I don't know if Microsoft offers an official money back guarantee program in other continents, but they do offer one for North America. I used it recently myself because the copy of Windows XP that I purchased for a client would not install due to an odd raid controller. I had to return it and buy Vista instead. They took it back with zero hassle, and I had a check in the mail a couple weeks later that I think actually included the shipping charges from me shipping them the XP media kit. This program does not cover computers purchased with pre-installed software though (OEM). For that you have to go to the company you bought it from. I was pretty happy when I realized I could get my money back from Microsoft and not have to eat the extra cost of the software license. Anybody else in a similar situation, the website is:

Microsoft Product Refund

more than 5 years ago
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Analyst, 15, Creates Storm After Trashing Twitter

Zen Re:I partially agree - twitter, facebook, etc are (381 comments)

I think you're actually right. That's exactly what I was looking for. I'm never going to get it because even though I'm only 30 and have lived and breathed tech for my whole life, I have no desire to talk to people without actually having something useful to talk about. As they said on a certain chick flick "That's not exactly a soup question".

I'll never call myself a true introvert - there were plenty of those at my college. Typical computer nerd style, and my friends and I were definitely not like them. But, your point is valid. I don't go out of my way to talk to people I have no reason to talk to right then.

more than 5 years ago
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Analyst, 15, Creates Storm After Trashing Twitter

Zen I partially agree - twitter, facebook, etc are bad (381 comments)

I just had this discussion with my wife over the weekend, but in our case we were talking mainly about Facebook and not Twitter, but the same principal applies. My take is that I like the concept of being able to keep in touch with friends and family easily, but the implementation of facebook, myspace, twitter, and sms messaging leaves a lot to be desired. Facebook and myspace allow other people to post things which you may or may not want posted about you, and it keeps those postings for a certain amount of time (# of posts). Yes, you can delete them, but that's not the point. If there was damage, it's already done. Twitter is completely abused by people posting things about going to the store or going to a movie. Who really cares about that except stalkers or people who need to live vicariously through other more exciting people? I see the point for texting/sms, but I can't stand hearing about people that constantly text their friends. If you need to have a conversation with someone with multiple questions and answers, then it's a lot quicker (and cheaper) to call them. It's only quicker to text if it's a single message with a single response. Yes, I'm very technologically literate - I have worked in the computer networking hardware industry for ten years. But the implementation and addictiveness to many people of these four services is really bad. I know a few people who use these services solely for posting pictures and stories for family and good friends - I definitely get that.

For the flip side - my wife uses facebook quite a bit and likes getting updates from people she probably wouldn't call and talk to. Also enjoys looking at pictures when someone posts them. I get that - I just don't get the constant attention it requires. I look at her page, and see 3-4 updates from some of her friends on a daily basis, and we're not talking high school or college kids here. And half of them are lame attempts at introspective comments like - "can't wait to go drinking", "feeling lonely", "two days until the weekend", "my life is like xxx song lyric", etc. She agreed with me about that stuff, but it seems like most of our joint friends enjoy posting comments like that. As for twitter, she equated it to instant messaging. Definitely not the same thing because it's kept forever and isn't a two way conversation.

I'm not starting flames. I just don't understand why so many people are so addicted to these computer based types of social networks when to an outsiders perspective many of the posts seem either phony or useless. There have to be other people out there that agree with me, or that can come up with rational reasons as to why I'm wrong.

more than 5 years ago

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