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Ask Slashdot: Remote Support For Disconnected, Computer-Illiterate Relatives

enjar You could lock down Windows (312 comments)

My first instinct is to recommend iPad -- I got my parents one and they haven't booted the Windows machine in years, the dial-up aspect of that could be tricky (you would need a router that dials out via modem -- it's doable, but might be more complex and assumes the presence of a mail client on the iPad that talks to the ISP ... hopefully it's POP or IMAP, but without specifics it's hard to know. But if you must use Windows, it's not an impossible situation. You just need to know where the knobs and switches are, and enable them.

A lot of other modern stuff is going to not work well with the dialup option.

For the purposes of the discussion, I'm assuming they are on Windows 7. If they aren't on Windows 7, they need to get there, at least. If they are still on XP that just sucks because a lot of the below stuff isn't there.

Parental controls:
I have children and have done a fair bit with the parental controls. In this case, instead of the parental controls being used for kids you would be using them for your parents, which also works. To enable the parental controls, you create a username for your parents as a regular (limited) user. This will prevent them from doing a lot of stuff right off the bat, like installing software. You also should make sure that UAC is enabled. You can create a Admin user for yourself. Once you have set that up, you can download the remainder of the controls from https://familysafety.microsoft... , and then control the user account for your parents. You can control what is accessed on the Internet, if they can download stuff, programs they can run, etc.

You can also do a LOT with Group Policy. Type gpedit.msc at the Run Window and lock down everything you don't want them to change. You can lock down the Desktop, among other things.

Windows also has the ability to send a Remote Assistance request via email or as a file attachment, which uses Remote Desktop to allow screen access and control. Given that you are going to be doing this over dialup to some other part of the world, you can set your client appropriately to minimize bandwidth utilization by dropping the amount of colors being shipped back, not showing the desktop, etc -- it's all under the "Experience" tab of the Remote Desktop client, and I've successfully used it over some pretty slow connections with decent results -- it will outperform VNC in many areas, especially screen refresh time since you can cut out a lot of the unnecessary stuff.

If you are going to do the above, get it sorted out on the beginning of your next visit since when you lock stuff down it's not hard to be too tight and stop stuff from working that should actually be working.

yesterday
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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

enjar Re:$50K would not be that out of line (373 comments)

Was the main driver for your purchase of the Prius environmental/social awareness or economic/thriftiness? I like to drive, but I'm also thrifty and "environmentally aware". I also like interesting engineering. The Prius just turns me off in so many ways -- the electronic nannies that prevent anything resembling "fun" that you might have in a car, although the engineering is pretty neat. The rest is straight from the Toyota "transportation appliance" style book. It's well-made, well-engineered and very reliable ... but bland. People would congratulate me on my "responsible and adult" choice if they even noticed the car at all.

The Tesla is in a whole other league. Styling comes from someone who knows what a decent car looks like. The car seems to have something of a performance bent. The engineering comes from people who make rockets as their other job. Would I want to be seen in one? Hell yes. Would anyone call me "responsible and adult" for showing up in one? Not likely -- they would want to go for a ride!

yesterday
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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

enjar Re:the usual question is, who will buy it? (373 comments)

First off: You aren't Tesla's target demographic.

Second: You and your downtown-living millenial pals sound like the kind of people who would love to summon up a vehicle when you wanted it with your phone, have it do your bidding (commute, take you to a concert, out to eat, etc), and then disappear somewhere else. It would be Someone Else's Problem. You'd pay for it with a subscription if you used it a lot or pay a higher charge if you didn't. And Someone Else would deal with the other stuff. This is where the "self-driving" and "electric" vehicles are going to come together and end up being a nice compromise between the cab market and the city bus market. Having a nice car in an urban environment is really not a great value, anyway -- there is no place to park, the thing gets rammed by people trying to squeeze in a parking spot, and with parking being an expensive nightmare (in time, money, or both), public transit or a bike are more useful options.

yesterday
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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

enjar $50K would not be that out of line (373 comments)

The Model S was aimed squarely at BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-Class and other similar upscale large luxury sedans. The people who can afford those like new gadgets, new technology and the like -- and have the disposable income to afford them. It would not surprise me at all if they had sufficient income to have a "second" car that they use for occasions where they will exceed the range of the Model S, in addition to a "family hauler" for the wife and kids to get around in.

If the Model 3 comes in at $50K, that will put it in line with equivalent models from the same marques they were going after with the Model S -- Audi A4, BMW 3-series. It's at the top of the range for a 3 or A4, but not absurdly so. Plus there are tax credits and in many cases the electricity is free at the SuperCharger station, or substantially cheaper than gasoline. If you are lucky enough to work at a place like I do, the electricity is free so you can charge while you are at work.

Tesla is a luxury brand. It's not being marketed to Prius and Yaris owners. Although the cost of a plug-in Prius gets pretty steep pretty quick ... to the point I'd take the (likely) much better looking Model 3, if it takes after the looks of the Model S. The other "eco" cars are kind of dowdy.

yesterday
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If Tesla Can Run Its Gigafactory On 100% Renewables, Why Can't Others?

enjar Re: Expense (444 comments)

The average price of a new car in the US is $30K nowadays. A BMW 3-series starts at $32K, and given that Tesla started out going after the market dominated by things like the BMW 7 series, S-Class Mercedes, Audi A8 and Lexus LS, it's not surprising that the next market(s) they would go after would be similar -- the SUV will compete against things like the BMW, Mercedes and Lexus models and the smaller car will compete against the 3-Series, Audi A4 and Lexus models. The luxury auto business has higher margins and people who can afford those higher margins tend to want more of the latest anything -- phone, computer, tablet, clothes, thermostat, food/drink, etc. It would probably not be unreasonable to assume that the buyer Tesla is targeting is someone who likely has a fairly recent smartphone, luxury car less than five years old, owns a home, is married, and is in their late 30's to early 50's. They likely have a fairly established career, a family, and an income around $150K before taxes. They aren't going after the people who are shopping the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit, or recent college grads, or people with their first job. They are pretty much going after the same people Audi did when they were rebuilding themselves.

As someone who is shopping in the $15K range for my next car, and who is very close to hitting 200K miles on the current one, I largely agree with you. I have come around to the point where I'm aggressively eliminating all debt that I possibly can, with the eventual goal of being debt free. Pouring 40K into something that's going to be regularly doused with road salt, snow, rain, mud and will eventually wear out entirely seems like a waste of money. I need a car to get around, get to work, visit family and friends -- for my lifestyle there is definite value which owning an automobile provides, there is no denying that. But at this point in my life I can say that I'd rather spend $15K on a compact sedan that will accomplish all I need it to do than spend $40K on something that largely does the same thing. That extra $25K can go towards retiring debt, funding college for the kids, paying down the mortgage, etc.

Sources on the 30K price:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/mo...
http://www.autoblog.com/2012/0...

Sources on Audi:
http://www.npr.org/2011/11/29/...
http://www.npr.org/blogs/money...

about a week ago
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Why Munich Will Stick With Linux

enjar Re:There is actually one problem with opensource (185 comments)

If I were in charge of something like the city of Munich I would put out a memo that says, "If you talk to a large software vendor then your continued employment is unlikely."

Yes, because threats to a person's means of feeding themselves and their family are great motivators that generate high morale and happy employees in any organization.

It would be more effective to require that software procured, deployed, maintained and used by the organization be accompanied by a business case that thoroughly explains all alternatives which were examined, in terms of functionality, cost, ROI, training costs, etc. That document needs to be reviewed and signed off by appropriate managers and technical leaders depending on the scope of the project. Or make a liberal policy that Open Source requires a lower review bar -- although you can get in trouble with being more permissive since the care and feeding of any software package requires time and effort, and sub-par software can eat up time and effort like nobody's business -- be it closed source or open source.

I employ both open and closed source software to make my projects work. Sometimes I can do it all on Open Source, other times, business requirements prevent it or the Open Source alternatives just quite frankly aren't good enough to meet the project requirements. Open Source wins a lot of the time, but not always -- but this is a marked improvement from five or ten years ago.

about two weeks ago
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Why Phone Stores Should Stockpile Replacements

enjar Re:Regulation, regulation, regulation (253 comments)

I'm glad someone figured out

- what side of the road to drive on
- what voltage at what frequency comes out of the wall plug, and what amperage is allowed
- who can broadcast radio waves on what frequency so I can enjoy radio, television, mobile phone and data
- when I pump 93 octane gas into my car, it means something. Also that the pump is dispensing the amount of fuel I'm paying for.

There are stupid regulations like the drivel posted above. There are also regulations that make some sense or which have come about as the result of abuse, collusion, etc.

about two weeks ago
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Why Phone Stores Should Stockpile Replacements

enjar Self-insure, you whining idiot (253 comments)

Rather than shelling out whatever you paid for the insurance policy, put the same amount in a bank account. Put whatever monthly premium you would have paid into a bank account. Do this for every phone you upgrade. Given the depreciation rate of consumer electronics, you will likely hit the point where the amount you will need to pay for a replacement of the same model (if it exists at all) is less than the amount of money in your bank account. Furthermore, since you likely don't kill every phone you own, money should accumulate in this account over time to the point you could buy an entirely new phone for full price, drop it down the sewer when you walk out of the store, and not blink an eye because you already have the money to cover a replacement.

FWIW this entire story reads like one first world problem after another. While boating for fun with girls in bikinis, you get picked up by a yacht and your phone gets wet. Puhleeze.

about two weeks ago
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Dell's New Alienware Case Goes to Extremes To Prevent Overheating

enjar Re:Ineffective advertising (149 comments)

I thought of the Mac Pro when I saw this design, and thought "this is more what the Mac Pro should have been". Maybe not from the aesthetic perspective (maybe a bigger trash can than the current model?), but the things this system can do are far more akin to what the old cheese grater Mac Pros could do:

- accept GPU cards of the maker you choose, and upgrade them as new models come out. Or, more accurately, more PCI devices.
- accept more storage devices in the bays, or a mix of SSD and disk technologies to give a price/performance mix for people who need it.

The new Mac Pro's exterior and technological designs have a lot of high points. What is misses was that the people who were shelling out the money for the "Pro" model were probably populating a lot of the drive bays, maxing out the RAM, adding additional GPUs and making use of the dual processors or putting in add-in cards that connected to storage or other specialized equipment. They might also be upgrading the GPUs during the 3-4 years they held onto the machine, as the GPU power has been appreciating pretty quickly.

So the new model misses the use case that those people had and replaces it with a throwaway all-in-one box whose only expansion potential skips the PCI bus and takes it down several speed steps to the Thunderbolt devices that you string together like Christmas lights with wall warts, which is going to turn into a dusty rat's nest of cables. I suspect PCs like this one might be appealing to the people who bought the cheese graters.

The only major complaint I had about the cheese grater was that you couldn't put in a 19" rack without resorting to the use of a saw to hack off the handles. We have several of them in our test lab and I was hoping to consolidate them from shelves into a rack so they would look nicer and be easier to maintain but it was kind of a pain in the rear. I'd have been perfectly happy if they had not gone with the trash can design and just come up with a new motherboard that supported newer Xeon processors, had PCI 3 and the latest SATA speeds (which we get all day long for our Windows and Linux servers -- using the same hardware!), but instead we get the trash can.

Or just bring back the freaking XServe.

about three weeks ago
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Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

enjar Re:This is good! (528 comments)

Ours is not to reason why, just divide and multiply.

about three weeks ago
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California DMV Told Google Cars Still Need Steering Wheels

enjar Manual controls will be with us for a while (506 comments)

There are still a lot of situations where the automatic controls would not know what to do without a second thought. I live in a part of the country where it snows. Evidently when road markings are covered by snow, the automatic controls don't know what to do. I am expected to be at work on days when it snows, and I can drive on a snowy road without much of a problem -- I just need to take into account the variables as they present themselves. Another situation that pops up occasionally is that I need to park the car in a field or other unpaved surface -- there are no lines and no dedicated spaces, and I'm often directed where to park by a human. I can't imagine the self-driving car knows how to do that yet.

Not to undermine in any way the fantastic work that's been done by Google and other people working in this field. For many conditions that are well-understood (e.g. long distance freeway driving on a clear day), it seems like a lot of this technology is nearly ready to come together in existing automobiles, where you put the GPS, lane departure and adaptive cruise control together and pretty much drive the car. I even saw a video of some guy letting his Acura pretty drive itself with these technologies enabled. He was a total flippin idiot for actually getting out of the driver's seat, but the car did everything right. Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

about three weeks ago
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New Windows Coming In Late September -- But Which One?

enjar Re:Not worth it (251 comments)

It is the universal operating system, after all
(this comment and the original one typed into a machine running Debian)

about three weeks ago
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New Windows Coming In Late September -- But Which One?

enjar Re:Not worth it (251 comments)

Microsoft forcing things was the cause of a little legal trouble they got into a while ago. Be careful what you wish for.

Also, if you buy from the "Business" side of many Windows PC retailers, you will get exactly what you describe -- a bare Windows install with no additional software / trialware / bloatware / etc. Or you can just buy a retail/OEM Windows license and DIY on a system you built yourself. I did this a few years back for my family's desktop machine, saved a pile of money and was able to configure the PC pretty much exactly how I wanted with a SSD, more RAM and so on.

I hadn't known about the "Signature" thing mentioned in the other replies, but I know where I'm buying from next.

I'll also note that Linux is by no means free of crappy packages. There are some great ones out there, to be sure -- but many distros bundle some substandard crap with them as part of the default install. I'll spend time on pretty much any Linux install I've set up pruning useless packages and replacing them with better alternatives. It's nowhere near as annoying as some of the crap that's bundled with many retail installations of Windows, as it won't pop up a nagware screen in a month, but it can definitely be present.

about three weeks ago
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How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier

enjar Re:So ... (218 comments)

people would be calling for airstrikes.

Let's hit that lab with a high explosive, exposing the pathogen to the environment and letting it leave whatever containment it might be inside in a completely uncontrolled manner. What could possibly go wrong?

If there was military intervention, I'd hope it was a bit more thought out than an air strike.

about a month ago
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NFL Fights To Save TV Blackout Rule Despite $9 Billion Revenue

enjar Re:We all pay either way (216 comments)

Local team games are always broadcast OTA when they are on NFL Network or ESPN. IIRC it's a FCC rule that they have to do it.

Of course that has little to do with the public funding of private enterprises that are wildly profitable and make millions of dollars. I enjoy watching football, but there are many better things to spend public money on. Roads, bridges, schools, universities, libraries, etc. are all for more generally useful than a stadium that stays vacant the majority of the year.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Computer Science Freshman, Too Soon To Job Hunt?

enjar Look for internships. Ignore the "junior/senior". (309 comments)

When I was in college, I applied for an internship during my freshman year. I got it. Why? Because I applied, had a resume with a list of relevant skills and was eager and impressive in the interview. I ended up working that internship part time during the school year and full time in the summers, and graduated with "three years" of industry experience. I use the quotes because if I was really pedantic, it would be less because some of it was part time.

There were other internships available when I was applying that I didn't get for one reason or another, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that if I had never applied, I'd never have gotten the job.

You could also look for contract work opportunities, but the internship comes with a built in knowledge that you are in college and side-steps the scheduling problems you would run into otherwise and sets an expectation that you will be returning to school, so if things don't exactly work out and don't come back, it's no huge deal.

about 4 months ago
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Women Increasingly Freezing Their Eggs To Pursue Their Careers

enjar Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint (342 comments)

I am turning forty this year, and already have two school aged kids. They can feed themselves, wipe their own asses, go to bed on their own and bathe themselves. They also can clearly communicate (sometimes too clearly!) their needs, wishes, desires, aches, pains, etc. Even still, they are damned tiring to have around and suck up a lot of time, too. I can only imagine the sheer living hell that would be having an infant at this point in my life. I'd either need the mom to be some twenty something trophy wife with a pile of twenty something energy, or someone who made a pile of money so we could hire a nanny, because I can't imagine a forty something woman who works a full day and is a high achiever coming home and being Super Mom. I know I barely scrape by some days on the parenting scale after a big day at work.

I do keep in shape (which helps keep the energy up) and I do love my kids, but I see people with infants and it makes my vasectomy turn into a happy memory. You have to pick priorities in life, and I know by making the choice to have kids, I've likely shut more than a couple doors career-wise since things like business travel, relocation and ability to take "risky" (e.g. startup) opportunities are kind of off the table now, or there is a whole bunch more at stake than before.

about 5 months ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

enjar I gladly pay someone to do my taxes for me (386 comments)

When I was younger and unmarried, I always did my taxes myself. For the first few years of married life, I did them as well. Even after buying the house and having the first kid I still did them -- me, TurboTax and a lot of frustration. Then came The Year Of The Thick IRS Envelope. Usually when you get a job offer or accepted to college, the thick envelope means "winning". Not so when you get a thick envelope from the IRS. That generally means Something Is Wrong. What came to pass was that my wife's employer at the time had reported a stock option sale incorrectly, and the manner in which it was reported made it look like we owed $12K more. It was sorted out correctly, but I'd officially had enough of the nonsense. I'm generally a DIY type in all other aspects of my life, from the server room to home renovations and fixing my own car -- but this one I gladly farm out. I throw a few hundred bucks at the problem and I don't have to deal with any of it. Our return is also more complex since my wife runs her own business, too -- so I'm just happy to have it taken care of so I can work on other projects and spend time with my kids.

I would really like the US to have a better tax code, but honestly I'm going to be in the grave before that happens.

about 5 months ago

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