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Engine Data Reveals That Flight 370 Flew On For Hours After It "Disappeared"

dcavanaugh Grand Theft Aircraft? (382 comments)

Just because the transponder was manually turned off, that doesn't prove a terrorist forced the pilot to do it. Maybe it was an inside job.
Why would it make sense for a plane to disappear? A Boeing 777 costs at least $200 million. The parts alone are worth many millions of dollars. Even though many of the parts have serial numbers, there are struggling airlines and outsourced maintenance depots that might be receptive to creatively sourced parts. Even if the plane was shredded for scrap, it's a lot of money for one day of work.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Email Encryption Gateway For a Small Business?

dcavanaugh BINGO (155 comments)

The privacy threat that people are MOST LIKELY TO FACE is the government investigating you as a "person of interest" for various reasons. Once they get your private messages, it's fairly easy to become a target for harassment. Sure, they could always get a search warrant and pressure you to decrypt the information. But hardly any of these "investigations" are backed by enough evidence to justify that tactic. The "invisible hand" prefers to work invisibly. Most email providers will quietly hand over your information to the government without so much as a whimper of protest.

Encryption that won't survive a subpoena of your ISP or email service provider is simply not worth doing. Client-based encryption is tough to set up because your contacts need to do the encryption and decryption on their machines. But it works.

about a year ago
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FiOS User Finds Limit of 'Unlimited' Data Plan: 77 TB/Month

dcavanaugh For once the ISP has a point (573 comments)

This case really IS excessive; it goes well beyond what an individual user would reasonably use on their own.

Most of the OTHER cases (esp. cable companies) involve mysterious limits that individuals can break by watching (or downloading) too much online video. Of course, if you buy the cable company's overpriced TV services, you can watch as many shows as you like, on however many set top boxes you have, drawing down an unlimited volume of video-over-IP traffic to do it. Just don't watch video that competes with the cable provider, and it's all good.

about a year ago
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Cockroaches Evolving To Avoid Roach Motels

dcavanaugh Bacteria and humans are NOT equally evolved (315 comments)

The opportunity for genetic mutation is primarily in the process of reproduction. Humans take roughly 20 years to reproduce. Bacteria reproduce millions of times faster. This is why we it's an uphill battle to keep producing new antibiotics, but the police have nothing to fear from criminals who might evolve to be born with bullet-proof exoskeletons.

Medical science can keep people alive that would otherwise be killed by various weaknesses, thus negating the evolutionary process in humans. The concept of letting the weakest people die is socially unacceptable, so we don't do it. I'm not in favor of doing that, but the human evolutionary process is pretty much limited to physical characteristics that attract the opposite sex. Even then, ugly people can always get plastic surgery.

about a year ago
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Patent Expires On Best Selling Drug of All Time

dcavanaugh Re:Choosing the correct tactics (491 comments)

The big pharma companies employ vast armies of sales reps. These people visit docs in person and try to persuade them (with free stuff and other perks) to write scripts for their products. Docs that play along by writing "no substitutions" on prescriptions get a lot more "rewards" than those who don't. The same concept applies to pharmacists, in an attempt to discourage them from making generic substitutions.

It took many years, but the insurance companies finally got smart. They require generic substitutions wherever possible, and stick the patient with big co-pays if a prescription is filled with a name brand when a generic choice existed -- if they cover it at all. The docs and pharmacists don't have as much latitude as they used to. I never had a problem with generic drugs, so have to say the insurance companies might be right on this.

more than 2 years ago
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Why Everyone Hates the IT Department

dcavanaugh Re:Reflections (960 comments)

"Actually I think this is a problem somewhat unique to IT. Everyone has a computer at home and therefore thinks they *know* what IT does."

Sometimes they really do.

"They think its just a matter of scale and that the issues they face on their PC are the same ones the IT department deals with."

And sometimes they are right. When the IT department provides LESS capability at a HIGHER price than the users could obtain on their own, this can be hard to justify. Certainly, there are audit compliance, security, and scalability issues. But sometimes the IT department doesn't handle those very well either.

If a key deliverable of the IT department is stability and security, why does the Exchange server go on holiday for days at a time? Why does this happen every few months and nobody gets fired? Why is spam being broadcast to our distribution lists? Whose bright idea was it to allow database usernames and passwords to be left in text files on the web server and exposed to the Internet? After the fourth time the website was hacked, why is the only management action limited to deleting the above mentioned text file and recoding the website not to need it? What are all of these audits really worth if critical failures are swept under the rug? If we nuked the IT department and left everyone to fend for themselves, would we REALLY be any worse off? Not every company has a great answer to these questions.

more than 2 years ago
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Netflix Expects To Be Unprofitable In 2012

dcavanaugh Re:Overvalued for 10 years (323 comments)

The service split and price increase was so incredibly harebrained, it's almost as if management (and their friends) was holding onto a short position that was about to expire.

The real uppity-ups are never short. They receive options and free stock to the point where they can never get rid of it all. Part of the justification for ridiculous CEO compensation is that the board never wants the CEO to profit from diminishing the business. Looking at Netflix, you would never know it, but senior management was not short.

That's not to say that people in middle management didn't know what was happening or how to profit from it. When a company defies common sense as much as Netlflix did, it's usually because senior management dragged middle management kicking and screaming into the quicksand. At the end of the day, scapegoats will be selected from middle management, the uppity-ups will have golden parachutes, and a new owner will try to reverse the stupidity.

more than 2 years ago
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Netflix Expects To Be Unprofitable In 2012

dcavanaugh Re:Overvalued for 10 years (323 comments)

Market imbalances is how money is made in stocks. An overpriced stock that pays no dividend has "short me" written all over it. I am never surprised when a stock falls in line with performance metrics, but I am often surprised at how long it takes before that happens.

NFLX has been a screaming short for a long time. The service split and price increase was so incredibly harebrained, it's almost as if management wanted to fail.

more than 2 years ago
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One Tenth of China's Farmland Polluted With Heavy Metals

dcavanaugh Re:Mercury (412 comments)

Do you know that the average Chinese farm contains more mercury than a rectal thermometer? Would you EAT a rectal thermometer? Well I would. Ah, mercury, sweetest of the transition metals.

Would you (could you possibly) eat and entire Chinese farm?

Not all at once, but mercury stays in the human body for a long time and humans eat three times a day.

more than 2 years ago
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Your Tech Skills Have a Two Year Half-Life

dcavanaugh Marketable life of skill != useful life of skill (289 comments)

Some people learn only the cookbook level of tech skills. They know just barely enough syntax, buzz words, and key words to hack their way through a project. For such people, even the 2 year half life is optimistic. I once met a guy who knew how to configure TCP/IP networks, but only using MS tools. He didn't know how routing or DHCP configurations worked, but he knew how to set it all up on Control Panel.

Others learn the true spirit of what technology is all about. They know not just syntax, they understand why it works the way it does and what can be built at the outer limits of creativity. These people can get a lot more than a 2 year half life, and they can even parlay a current skill into new tech skills, using the old skill as a base.

more than 2 years ago
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Your Tech Skills Have a Two Year Half-Life

dcavanaugh Re:What about languages? (289 comments)

How marketable is SQL? There are two ways to look at it. Will SQL help you distinguish yourself from others and leave them in the dust? No. But just try to get hired without it.

There are lots of legacy databases out there, and you won't be talking to them without a fair understanding of SQL. Even the niftiest of whiz-bang query tools will generate flawed SQL every so often, leaving you on your own to figure it out.

more than 2 years ago
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Your Tech Skills Have a Two Year Half-Life

dcavanaugh Re:What about languages? (289 comments)

I don't think the theory applies universally to all tech skills. C has endured well over the years. So has SQL. Other languages, not so much. I don't see many ads for Ada or Lisp these days. Your actual mileage may vary.

more than 2 years ago
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Netflix Loses 800,000 Subscribers After Qwikster Gaffe

dcavanaugh All about trend, forecast, and a history of errors (325 comments)

Several ways to play this, none of which encourage buying (or even holding ) NFLX stock.

1. Europe is going to be risky. Lots to go wrong, individual countries to add their own red tape. Unknown market acceptance. Sell NFLX on the risk.

2. Projected losses next year. Sell NFLX on the anticipated loss.

3. If and when NFLX proves they have a viable operation in Europe and they have somehow avoided the mistakes that led to unsustainable pricing in the US, buy the stock THEN. But what prevents the content industry from initiating another shakedown? Are they going to try again in Asia? South America? Africa?

But there isn't any scenario where it makes no sense to buy the stock NOW. How much confidence should investors have that the management team who made such a mess with Qwikster and the price increases will somehow be better in Europe? The reward for a successful European rollout is about the same as what they would have had in the US had they not screwed it up.

more than 2 years ago
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Netflix Loses 800,000 Subscribers After Qwikster Gaffe

dcavanaugh What we have here is a failure to negotiate (325 comments)

Netflix should have anticipated the loss of customers due to a price increase and factored that into their negotiations with the content industry. Although Netflix would be screwed without a sufficient variety of content for its DVD and streaming business, they are equally screwed with marketplace rejection of their pricing. Their management team needs to be swapped out.

The trick is to take a page from the RIAA playbook. They overstate the cost of piracy every chance they get. The Netflix strategy would be the doom-and-gloom projections of lost customers (thus reducing the value of the content to Netflix). If anything, Netflix underestimated the severity of the situation. What a bunch of idiots.

It's not easy to threaten to put yourself out of business if a key supplier is unwilling to play ball. But considering their eroding customer base, it's time to renegotiate those contracts and roll back the prices. Or fold up the tent and liquidate. The explanation to the content providers is simple: "We are in danger of going out of business. You can put us under by refusing to sell us product in a manner that is consistent with our pricing model. But it's going to cost you when we stop paying. After you finish off the other flat-rate services like Hulu, that leaves you with Amazon, Apple, and maybe Blockbuster. Lotsa luck negotiating with them after you kill off all of their competitors."

Steve Jobs had it easy with iTunes. Copying your old CDs and piracy were both "zero revenue" models for the music industry. Anything they didn't like about iTunes they quickly learned to tolerate when the alternative was no revenue at all. Netflix doesn't have that choice because video piracy is not that common.

It's obvious the video industry wants to abolish buffet-style pricing at the retail level. They missed out when brick and mortar video rental stores bought individual media and rented them repeatedly. Subscription pricing is perceived as less desirable because they are convinced that whatever the subscription price is, more money could be collected on a pay-as-you-go basis. What they fail to realize is that only about 20% of their content has enough of an audience to attract individual paying viewers. If they want to kill subscription services like Netflix, then 80% of their inventory might as well go in the dumpster.

more than 2 years ago
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US Student Loans Exceed $1 Trillion

dcavanaugh Re:Really simple solution tested in practice: (917 comments)

You raise an interesting point. If it's worth lending all of this money to students because we know they will produce enough to justify the investment, it might be worth turning public higher education back into what it used to be. State budgets have been cut to the point where public colleges are public in name only. In some states, you might as well go to a private school.

I can think of a few ways to do this.

1. Tax the finished product (degrees), based on the estimated earning power that the student received as a result of a public scholarship. If they fail to maintain appropriate grades, their education is no longer free. If the student graduates but fails to get a job that requires the degree they received, they pay nothing. At that point the government discovers the need to offer fewer scholarships in that field of study.

2. Consider the premise of the H1-B program. "We have a shortage of degreed workers in various fields...blah blah blah". OK, great. Most of the people who enter the country to work as indentured servants come from countries that offer fully subsidized higher education. If an employer really wants that degree, they should pay for it one way or the other. Let the employers hire as many H1-Bs as they want, no limit. But for each one they hire, the employer pays an annual tax equivalent to the cost of a year of college for a native replacement worker. You want to hire an H1B because you pretend you can't find someone in the local market with a BSCS? Go ahead and hire an H1-B, but plan on paying an excise tax that effectively sponsors a local student. Pretty soon the "shortage" will disappear.

more than 2 years ago
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US Student Loans Exceed $1 Trillion

dcavanaugh Re:You think the housing collapse was bad (917 comments)

The average job posting is generating over 1000 responses, so the most likely outcome of an application is nothing. If the labor market were tighter, your decade in IT would be worth something and you would get an offer with or without the associates degree. Nothing short of a BSCS scores any points at all, and even then it's just a checkbox for the HR dept.

In a slack market like this, the requirements are piled on until the applicant pool is trimmed to a reasonable number. Employers can get a Ph.D for the help desk these days, so they might as well require an MSCS and see what happens.

The "degree or equivalent experience" phrase is commonly used because employers are under pressure to enforce their published requirements. There were affirmative action cases and hard-to-fill positions where employers made exceptions to their degree requirements while simultaneously screening non-degree applicants out of other positions where the degree requirement was easy to enforce. In reality, non-degree hires are like adulterous office romances. Nobody admits that they are doing it, and yet it happens all the time. HR people are now being told that if they publish a degree requirement, they have to enforce it. Since employers want the ability to enforce degree requirements when they can but ignore them at a whim, they use weasel words to keep both options open. If Bill Gates wants to join our IT department, we'll find a position for him under the "equivalent work experience" loophole.

more than 2 years ago
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SF Authors Predict Computing's Future

dcavanaugh Predictions notoriously inaccurate (258 comments)

On The Big Bang Theory, there is a flashback scene where several of the characters are playing with their iPods. Sheldon says to them, "I assure you, you'll be sorry you wasted your money on an iPod, when Microsoft comes out with theirs."

more than 2 years ago
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BlackBerry Outage Spreads To North America

dcavanaugh Re:Double Standard (272 comments)

Not exactly. Blackberry operates a parallel e-mail system, meaning the typical user has corporate e-mail service via Exchange, with BES connecting Exchange to the world of Blackberry e-mail. An earthquake is a natural event that is addressed in disaster recovery planning. The earth shook, things broke, we get it. When BB has an outage (for whatever reason), people start to wonder why we need the redundant layer of BB service in the first place. Corporate e-mail (e.g. Exchange) is viewed as a necessity, while BES is optional. It is certainly possible to get a smart phone to process e-mail without BES.

I guess it all boils down to how reliable your core e-mail service is. In the companies where I have experience with Exchange coexisting with BES, BES was a nuisance but it almost always worked. We had a lot of downtime with Exchange, so for the most part we appreciated having our Blackberrys work when Exchange didn't. Better admins or a better e-mail server might have made us reconsider the value of BES, since it was an additional point of failure. But in our case it helped more than it hurt.

more than 2 years ago
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BlackBerry Outage Spreads To North America

dcavanaugh Re:the crackberry effect turns against them (272 comments)

BB server is a lot of overhead when you consider it requires an Exchange server that can just as easily deliver mail to smart phones directly. If we are going to assign IT server responsibilities to a smaller number of less qualified people, things like BB server need to go away and things like Exchange need to be outsourced to cloud vendors.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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dcavanaugh dcavanaugh writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dcavanaugh (248349) writes "Remember the laughter when Microsoft flopped with their ill-fated imitation of Apple's "switch" campaign? A marketing lesson for us all: Non-fiction is the way to go.

Reuters has an article titled, "Oracle shows no momentum in Linux effort". From the article: "Oracle's Web site includes a list of seven information technology executives preceded by the phrase, 'Customers of all sizes across a variety of industries are embracing Oracle Unbreakable Linux.' Reuters attempted to contact all seven. Five responded, but only one, restaurant chain IHOP, said it is using Oracle Linux. The other four said they were using other products, including Red Hat.""

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