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Comments

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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

crow Massachusetts web file (382 comments)

For my state taxes in Massachusetts, it's trivial to do web file through the state's web site. Once my federal taxes are done, it takes just a few minutes to enter all the numbers and I'm all set. At least my state allows me to file electronically for free.

2 days ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

crow excel1040.com (382 comments)

Yup, that's what I've used for the past three or four years. I just print directly from the spreadsheet, and it always works fine. I usually have to file a few extra forms, and I can download the PDFs from the IRS site. The PDFs are nice in that they let you fill in the data and then print them.

I considered buying software this year because it was getting complicated with figuring out accounting for rental property, but I had fun figuring it out myself.

I've set up a separate spreadsheet where I track all my expenses. One is for charitable giving, with a pivot table that gives a total by year. I have one for miles driven for charity, and the pivot table then gets added as an entry on the giving sheet, so I just have one number to copy to Schedule A.

I did the same for all my rental property expenses, adding a column for which line on Schedule E the expense goes on. The pivot table gives me the exact numbers to copy to the schedule.

Now for future years, it's all easy as long as I keep filling in the data every time we save a receipt. (I've considered scanning all the receipts and adding the images to cells in the spreadsheet, but that's too much work.)

Why in the world they don't let you submit PDFs online to them instead of mailing them on paper (only to be scanned back to electronic form), I have no idea other than lobbying from the tax preparation industry.

2 days ago
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Bachelor's Degree: An Unnecessary Path To a Tech Job

crow Right: No degree == Bad pay (286 comments)

Exactly!

All the examples are relatively low-paying jobs, not the high-paying jobs that everyone says tech is great for.

3 days ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

crow What all is included? (721 comments)

I expect the numbers are right, but the question is what all is included. This wouldn't be just the federal web site. They're almost certainly counting those who signed up through state exchanges. They're also going to count anyone who signed up on paper. All of that is fine, as this is a measure of the program, not of the web site.

But does it include those who signed up for expanded Medicare? Those are people who weren't insured before, and now are thanks to the new law, but it's not what most people think of when they say "Obamacare."

about a week ago
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Australia May 'Pause' Trades To Tackle High-Frequency Trading

crow Only delay sell orders? (342 comments)

I was first thinking that there should be a minimum holding period of five seconds, but I'm not sure that's technically feasible. How about only delaying sell orders? That would effectively create a minimum holding period.

about two weeks ago
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The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?

crow Like photo printers (400 comments)

Remember how photo printers put photo shops out of business? Not exactly. If you want prints, it's usually cheaper to go to the local drug store or box store and print them out there than it is to buy the special paper and ink yourself. It will likely be the same with 3-D printing. If you don't do it all the time (and most people won't), it will be cheaper to print your designs at a local shop. They'll have the large high-quality industrial printer that you can't afford, along with a wider choice of materials than you could stock.

What it will do is cut into the profit margins for mass-produced items. They will have to compete with the price of printing out your own design, not just what other companies are charging. That will eat into the profits of retailers.

about three weeks ago
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Crows Complete Basic Aesop's Fable Task

crow Crow behavior (87 comments)

I remember in grad school, there was a crow that was often on a branch above the path to the computer science building. After walking past it, he would fly down next to me and screech loudly right when he was next to me, then circle back and cackle after landing on his branch. He apparently enjoyed the reactions he got by startling people.

Birds are very smart. Another reason to be afraid of dinosaurs, I suppose.

about three weeks ago
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New Mozilla Encoder Improves JPEG Compression

crow Needed for Digital Cameras (155 comments)

My digital camera has horrible compression. I can load and save the pictures with pretty much any application, and the size of the files is reduced significantly without any noticeable image quality reduction. (And yes, I am saving it in the original size.) Maybe it's just my old Sony camera, but it's likely a common issue--I expect embedded compression in consumer devices worries more about simple and fast than best quality for the file size.

about a month and a half ago
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Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires

crow Re:XP Works (860 comments)

But my point is that Microsoft has nothing to do with this. If they're not already maintained well, they're probably already infected with malware. Lack of support from Microsoft isn't likely to make the problem much worse than it is already.

In other words, keep doing what you're doing, and you're probably at just as much risk tomorrow as you were yesterday.

about a month and a half ago
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Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires

crow Re:XP Works (860 comments)

To protect from malware from a web site, you should do the following:

*) Run a good anti-virus program
*) Make sure all plug-ins are current, especially Flash
*) Use a Flash block add-on
*) Remove Flash
*) Use an up-to-date browser (probably Chrome or Firefox)
*) Use an ad blocker (most malware on legitimate sites is from ad networks)
*) Configure private mode to not allow plugins
*) Use private mode for untrusted web sites

None of those have anything to do with whether Microsoft is supporting your OS or not.

about a month and a half ago
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Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires

crow Re:XP Works (860 comments)

No, it won't magically break. It will keep doing what it always has been doing. Yes, new security holes might be found that won't be patched. Yes, this means you need to have a good firewall and practice other safe computing strategies. Yes, you should be doing that already.

So essentially, very little is changing.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

crow Re:Titanium Backup, other Android Apps (531 comments)

I use Llama to configure based on location. I've heard nothing but good things about Tasker, other than not being free.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

crow Linux: Only the basics (531 comments)

On my regular Linux desktop and laptop systems, I just want the basic apps, and then have it get out of the way so that I can work:

emacs, xterm, OpenSSH, and twm (with a few patches I've added).

The only big apps that I use are Thunderbird and Chromium.

I make sure to not install Gnome or KDE.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

crow Titanium Backup, other Android Apps (531 comments)

On a new Android phone, the first thing that I do is root it and install Titanium Backup.

Then there are a few other apps that I must have, though the specifics aren't as important as the functionality:

VNC client: I like Jump (which was a Amazon Free App of the Day a while back) because it has ssh integrated. It's a pain using middle and right mouse buttons, though, and it doesn't use public key authorization for ssh (though I think the iPhone version does).

Terminal: I like KBox (http://kevinboone.net/kbox2.html) so that I can write and use some scripts.

SSH Client: I think I use SSH Droid.

Hacker Keyboard: Having a keyboard with both numbers and symbols active at the same time as letters is really nice, even if it does use up half the screen.

about a month and a half ago
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Apple Drops Snow Leopard Security Updates, Doesn't Tell Anyone

crow Re: Snow Leapard: Rosetta (241 comments)

The point is that it should have noticed that upgrading the software on the iPad would require an updated iTunes, which was incompatible with the system. The problem would have been avoided if iTunes had insisted on upgrading iTunes before upgrading the iPad.

about 2 months ago
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Apple Drops Snow Leopard Security Updates, Doesn't Tell Anyone

crow Snow Leapard: Rosetta (241 comments)

Snow Leopard is particularly important for many users because it was the last release to support Rosetta. Anyone who still needs PowerPC apps can't upgrade.

My wife still uses Apple Works, so upgrading won't work for her.

Also, Apple has been known to push upgrades that break things without warning, so upgrading is often a last resort. For example, we were running 10.5, and iTunes asked if we wanted to update our iPad to the lastest release. After doing so, it said we had to upgrade iTunes. But we couldn't upgrade iTunes because that required 10.6. There went our ability to sync the iPad.

about 2 months ago
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Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation

crow GPA == Student Stack Rank (264 comments)

There have been lots of articles about employee performance reviews and the "stack rank" system. Pretty much everything that has been learned about employee performance reviews can apply to students, particularly in higher education.

Companies like to use performance reviews when adjusting compensation, and they also like to have a system that encourages employee development (or at least retention and advancement of the better employees, and hopefully helping other employees become "better" employees). Perhaps we can learn something from the corporate world.

I've heard others suggest using class rank. That's fine if all professors are grading at the same level, but they're not. I think that was part of the point of the original article.

Of course, there are other aspects of the system that can be adjusted, too. Perhaps you force professors to give out lower grades, or come up with a system that voids the advantage of a professor who consistently gives higher grades. But then don't report the grades on transcripts. Just report that a given student was in the top 10%, 25%, 50%, or passed (say, one level overall and another for in-major courses).

There are lots of solutions.

about 2 months ago
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With HTTPS Everywhere, Is Firefox Now the Most Secure Mobile Browser?

crow Why doesn't Slashdot do SSL? (279 comments)

This doesn't work with Slashdot. At least if you put in a https, it redirects, so they have it set up; they just don't use it. You would think that a technology site would be up on current technology.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Online News Is Worth Paying For?

crow Nagwalls ignored (361 comments)

I ignore the nagwall limits by loading the links in a private browsing window. This is mostly for articles where someone posted a link, not for regular reading.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Two Lost Doctor Who Episodes Found

crow crow writes  |  more than 2 years ago

crow (16139) writes "Two episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s, thought to have been destroyed in the 1970s, have been found. Both were in the hands of a private collector who didn't know what he had. Like most episodes of the time, these were half-hour shows, part of a four-part story, and portions of both stories are still missing."
Link to Original Source

Journals

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Drinking age, status crimes

crow crow writes  |  more than 11 years ago A friend asked, The drinking ago: pro or con?

I'm of mixed opinion. I'm uneasy about the idea of status crimes. From a pragmatic perspective, I believe (though I haven't researched the statistics) that raising the age from 19 (as it was in many states) to 21 did, indeed, succeed in reducing drunk driving fatalities.

I think the problem is that our culture is not one in which we are taught to drink responsibly. Hence, when first given access to alcohol, the consumption is anything but responsible. By prohibiting such access until people are of an age where they are supposedly more responsible to begin with, such irresponsibility is minimized.

Not the best approach, but I don't see our culture changing teach more responsible behaviour anytime soon. On the contrary, I think we are still moving towards blaming others for our problems.

Of course, as one who doesn't drink, I may not have the best perspective on the topic.

Now on the related topic of the smoking age, I'm all in favor of the movement in California to raise the age to 21. Here my reasoning is very different: I don't think anyone should smoke, and setting a higher age should reduce the number of people who start smoking. This would be a move consistent with the trend to reduce smoking as a part of our culture. (California, like most western states, is large enough that the problem of people crossing the border to buy cigarettes is only an issue in a small portion of the state.)

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Gas Tax at 40%

crow crow writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Today's thoughts on taxation:

The state tax on gas is $.21/gallon in Massachusetts. The federal tax is $.184/gallon. That's $.394/gallon, putting the pre-tax price at the pump under a dollar a gallon at the cheaper stations.

That's currently about a 40% tax.

Are any other forms of energy taxed at anything close to 40%?

Now granted, the government spends a lot of money keeping the transportation system going, but is 40% appropriate? How much does Massachusetts spend on transportation (excluding the Big Dig), compared with how much it brings in from the gas tax? What about the federal government?

Are gas taxes subsidising other government programs, or are other taxes subsidizing transportation? There are good arguements to be made for which way (if either) it should be, but I just don't have the information.

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