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The Great Taxi Upheaval

jfruh we're missing the METERS (218 comments)

The meters on traditional cabs may sometimes be tinkered with, but that's illegal, and in the vast majority of cases they're accurate and legally binding. Whereas with the new wave of rideshare apps there's no indication of what charges you're reacking up until you arrive. You can get an estimate to start with on at least some of the apps but it's not binding, and especially when surge pricing is in effect you can end up with large and unexpected charges that are difficult to predict.

I use Uber and Lyft a lot, and I'm the first to admit that traditional taxis brought this on themselves, by often refusing to take credit cards and by never adopting a convenient method of hailing a cab for the increasing pool of people who use smartphones. But traditional rules around taxis were put in place for a reason, and meters in particular were created and regulated to protect consumers against arbitrary price-gouging.

about 3 months ago
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Proposed SpaceX Spaceport Passes Its Final Federal Environmental Review

jfruh Why do they need their own spaceport? (40 comments)

Out of curiosity, what do they need their own spaceport for, especially if (as an earlier poster notes) they only intend to launch about once a month? Are there constraints on the use of launchpads at Cape Canaveral, where there's already been a great deal of investment in building launchpads, support structures, etc.?

about 5 months ago
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Taiwan Protests Apple Maps That Show Island As Province of China

jfruh Isn't this what the Taiwanese believe as well? (262 comments)

Both the government of the People's Republic of China (which controls the mainland) and the government of the Republic of China (which controls Taiwan) believe that Taiwan is a part of China. The two just disagree about who China's rightful government is. I realize that over the past 60 years Taiwan has grown more and more self-contained and has become a de facto state independent of China, but in theory there's nothing either side should object to in portraying Taiwan as part of China.

about a year ago
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How Big Data Is Destroying the US Healthcare System

jfruh this is banned starting next year (507 comments)

Kind of bizarre that this whole jeremiad seems to ignore the fact that the Obamacare reforms ban exactly this practice starting in 2014? This is responsible for a lot of the disruptions to the market we're seeing now -- some young healthy people are going to be paying more, and some older sicker people are going to be paying less. (The other disruptions are that some of the old policies had coverage caps that wouldn't have covered expensive catastrophic illnesses; that's also banned, and their replacements are more expensive.)

about a year ago
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Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Private Business Will Not Open the Space Frontier

jfruh SpaceX is impressive, but... (580 comments)

...to say that it's an example of free enterprise in space is laughable. The company's most high-profile missions -- the Dragon capsules to and from the ISS -- are fully paid for by NASA. SpaceX is essentially a government contractor. It's "profitable" because the government is paying it do things (and because it can do those things more efficiently than the government could itself, for a variety of structural reasons). So, yeah, I have no doubt that Elon Musk could set up a Mars colony if the U.S. government paid him to do it. I'm just not sure that really constitutes "private business" doing the job.

about a year ago
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Transport Expert Insists 'Don't Dismiss Wacky Hyperloop'

jfruh 10% of the capacity of high-speed rail (385 comments)

An actual transit engineer crunches the numbers here:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/19848/musks-hyperloop-math-doesnt-add-up/

And finds that while the journey for individuals may be faster, the system as a whole would have one-tenth the capacity (i.e., the ability to move people in numbers) than the planned high-speed rail system. You could solve this problem by building 10 times as many tubes, of course, but that would eliminate the 90% cost savings Musk is touting.

The radically reduced travel times vs. HSR are also deceiving. The maps Musk released show the system travelling from the fringes of the Bay Area to the fringes of the LA area, because it's hard/expensive/impossible to get land for the straightaways you'd need for the project within densely built up urban areas. To get from San Francisco to the hyperloop station, or from the hyperloop station to downtown LA, you'd have to switch to local transit or drive, which will double or triple travel time. Not coincidentally, must of the construction and expense that adds to HSR's very high price tag will come in SF and LA urban areas, since that system goes from downtown to downtown.

about a year ago
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Microsoft Slashes Prices On Surface

jfruh Re:Better idea - inform the consumer (330 comments)

Right now MS adverts for the surface are nothing more than hipster dipshits dancing on a boardroom table and spining the Surface around ... MS can't act like Apple.

iPad and iPhone ads are actually pretty good about showing you in succinct ways what you can do with the product. They're usually made up of quick, targeted clips of apps in use. It's kind of flabbergasted me that Microsoft hasn't done the same thing with their TV ads, especially when it comes to Office. It's almost as if their marketing dept. came to the conclusion that "We have to fight Apple on their own terms" without actually sitting down to watch how Apple markets its products.

about a year ago
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How the Syrian Electronic Army Hacked The Onion

jfruh Re:I read the Onion, I thought it was a joke (91 comments)

This is wildly incorrect. You could tell form their posts that the Syrians knew exactly what the Onion was and were actually writing Onion-style headlines to promote their point of view. "UN admonishes Syria for getting in way of Jewish missles," that sort of thing.

about a year and a half ago
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Surface Pro Sold Out; Was It Just Understocked?

jfruh for the love of god, why? (413 comments)

It's a lap-burning battery-sucking brick with processing power to rival a laptop. That's the type of tablet I want.

You and very few other people! I mean, what's the point, exactly? Why not get a similarly light ultrabook? The whole idea of a tablet is that it's light, the batterly lasts all day, and the UI is oriented around touch. I mean, there are things about the iPad that drive me nuts (particularly file-handling, or rather the way it tries abstract away file-handling completely) but it gets all that right. Do you really want something as heavy as a laptop with a laptop-focused OS, but with no keyboard?

about a year and a half ago
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Forbes 2013 Career List Flamed By University Professors

jfruh fundamental misunderstanding of what academics do (370 comments)

The problem is that many non-academics believe that the primary job of college professors is teaching undergraduates, and so they see any time not in the classroom as "time off" (never mind that the ratio of classroom prep time to classroom time can approach 1:1 if you really care about doing it right). In some institutions this is much of what college professors do, but in most schools that have any pretentions of being a research institution, academics are expected to produce publishable scholarship. Scientists and engineers spend much if not most of their time in the lab; humanities profs tend to work less collaboratively, but still spend a lot of hours reading, researching, and writing in whatever their field is. Most schools will give lip service to the idea that working with students is the most important thing, but in reality most of the incentives are geared towards producing quantifiable amounts of research (so many books, so many published articles, etc.). Far from having semester breaks "off," professors often use this time to focus more intently on their research, and sabbatical years are generally used to polish off major works of scholarship. On the surface, it can seem like this is work you're doing for you rather than for your job -- after all, it's your name on the book, and you take your reputation with you if you jump to another school -- but this work is one of the university's primary missions, and it's what they're paying you to do, as it reflects back on htem.

It's also worth nothing that in those schools where teaching undergrads really is the primary mission, professors spend much more time in the classroom than the stereotype discussed in the Forbest article (i.e., 3 or 4 classes a semester as opposed to the two typical of a research institution).

Finally, there's an awful lot of diversity within academia as to what professorial workload is like. In particular, more and more academics are being hired on interm or adjunct bases and end up spending a lot more time in the classroom for a lot less money than what tenured and tenure-track profs get. The irony is that the way to get onto the tenure track is to publish impressive research, but the lower-level jobs often don't allow you the time to do it.

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Facebook, Twitter For Business, Is It Worth the Privacy Trade-Off?

jfruh Yes, and use a one-time-only address (158 comments)

Having a social media presence is pretty crucial to doing the sort of freelance work you're describing, since so much of how you get business happens via word of mouth (and so much of "word of mouth" happens on social media).

One of the simplest things you can do to protect your privacy is to create an email addres that you *only* use for social media accounts (like, a special gmail address that just forwards mail to your regular adress, or maybe facebook@yourdomain.com if you own your own domain). This rather horrifying article from the WSJ about the way that social media tracking work makes clear that your email address is a big part of how your identity is tracked online. If they can't match the email address you use for your Facebook login with any other aspects of your online identity, you have some protections.

If you're using them strictly as a business tool, I wouldn't worry too much about photos -- I do think it's helpful to have a photo of yourself, especially in a one-to-one business like freelance photography. You can set your Facebook account so other people can't tag you in their photos.

about 2 years ago
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How Websites Know Your Email Address the First Time You Visit

jfruh Wall Street Journal has more details (184 comments)

The Wall Street Journal had a big article about this practice, which is not new and is fully mainstream among U.S. companies. The article contains this COMPLETELY AMAZING quote" "Dataium [a company that facilitates this tracking] said that shoppers' Web browsing is still anonymous, even though it can be tied to their names. "

about 2 years ago
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Why Can't Industry Design an Affordable Hearing Aid?

jfruh Re:Because it's a medical device. (549 comments)

But in the end it's because the manufacturers have figured out what the highest price an average insurance company will pay...

This actually isn't true, at least in the United States. Very few health insurance plans pay for hearing aids, and I don't believe their included in the mandated coverage under the ACA either.

about 2 years ago
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Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ Scores In the Twenty-First Century

jfruh Re:Definition of "smart" (421 comments)

Sorry this is uncited, but I remember reading about an IQ test that western researchers tried to give to residents of a rural African village sometime in the mid-to-late 20th century. Most of the villagers were illiterate, so the crux was developing a test that didn't involve reading or writing. One of the test items involved a bunch of abstract shapes that had been molded out of clay; the villagers were told to match the shapes that "went together." Most of them "failed" this part of the test, because the researchers' definition of "passing" would be to match up shapes that looked alike, whereas the villagers tried to interpret the shapes as real objects and group them functionally, e.g., they matched spherical objects that looked like fruit to long, thin objects that looked like knives.

about 2 years ago
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AT&T Promises To Expand LTE To More US Markets

jfruh Re:How about percentage of the LAND AREA? (105 comments)

The whole POINT of wireless is that you can use it when you're ON THE ROAD, somewhere OUT OF A CITY, or otherwise anywhere but parked at home or the office. The carriers seem to have lost track of that.

Er, you realize that the vast majority of people, even when they're on the road and out of their home/office, are going other places where people live, right? Usually in their own city? For most people, I'd wager that the huge majority of their cell phone calls are made within a half-hour drive from their house.

more than 2 years ago
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The Nation Is Losing Its Toolbox

jfruh revealing conversation with my stepfather (525 comments)

I had a conversation with my step-father a few months ago (he's 71) when he was talking about how when he was a teenager and young adult he used to tinker with his cars all the time, trying to squeeze a bit more performance out of it. Now, of course, he never opens his car's hood. "Do you miss it?" I asked him. "Of course not," he said. "Those cars were garbage. They lasted half as long as the new models, and the reason we were always tinkering with them is that stuff went wrong with them so often that you couldn't afford to take it to the mechanic for every little thing."

more than 2 years ago
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It Costs $450 In Marketing To Make Someone Buy a $49 Nokia Lumia

jfruh Re:Subsidized price (363 comments)

"Windows" and "Microsoft" are not positive brands. You attach "Windows" to something, and people immediately think of their home PC. That is not a good thing given how awful the average home PC is.

Notice that in Nokia's big first wave of ads for the Lumia (the "beta testing is over" ads with Chris Parnell, aka 30 Rock's Dr. Spaceman), nobody ever says the words "Microsoft" or "Windows".

more than 2 years ago
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Data Center Staff Will Sleep Among the Racks For London Olympics

jfruh I'm sorry, this is ridiculous (210 comments)

There's such a fucked-up culture, particularly in tech, that you aren't hard-core unless you're sacrificing your life and health for work. It's a two-week event: would it kill the employer to pay a bit more to bring on extra staff to work the overnight shift?

more than 2 years ago
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Television Next In Line For Industry-Wide Shakeup?

jfruh TV is not about picture quality (381 comments)

If TV is about picture quality, why does my wife watch Modern Family on the 15-inch screen on her laptop in our office and not on the 40-inch HD TV we have downstairs in the living room? Oh, right, because it's super easy for her to legally watch episodes whenever she wants via ABC's Web site in a browser, whereas doing so on our TV varies between "a pain in the ass" and "impossible."

The company that solves this problem will make millions, and it won't be a company that's convinced that all people want is ever-sharper video.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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High-Tech Walkers Could Help Japan's Elderly Stay Independent

jfruh jfruh writes  |  4 days ago

jfruh (300774) writes "You may have heard that Japan will deal with its aging population by relying more on robots. Osaka startup RT Works is showing what that might mean in practice: not humanoid robotic caregivers, but tech-enhanced versions of traditional tools like walkers. RT Works's walker automatically adjusts to help its user deal with hilly terrain, and can call for help if it moves outside an predefined range."
Link to Original Source
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Making Best Use Of Data Center Space: Density Vs. Isolation

jfruh jfruh writes  |  4 days ago

jfruh (300774) writes "The ability to cram multiple virtual servers on a single physical computer is tempting — so tempting that many shops overlook the downsides of having so many important systems subject to a single point of physical failure. But how can you isolate your servers physically but still take up less room? Matthew Mobrea takes a look at the options, including new server platforms that offer what he calls "dense isolation.""
Link to Original Source
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Internet Companies Want Wireless Net Neutrality Too

jfruh jfruh writes  |  5 days ago

jfruh (300774) writes "As it looks more likely that the U.S. will impose net neutrality rules on landline ISPs, big Web companies are aiming to get wireless data providers under the same regulatory umbrella. The Internet Association, a trade group that includes Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, and eBay, wants the FCC to "harmonize" the treatment of mobile and wired broadband providers in its net neutrality rules. Wireless providers are fighting back, claiming their networks are fundamentally different."
Link to Original Source
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Startup Promises 500 Mbps Wireless Broadband By Mid-2015

jfruh jfruh writes  |  4 days ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Despite the availability of LTE, wireless data has never replaced cable, copper, or fiber as the main pipe bringing wireless data into our home. That may change next year: Mimosa Networks, a California-based startup, is building wireless networks using commodity Wi-Fi chips running a modified protocol to provide 500 Mbps data to whole neighborhoods."
Link to Original Source
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Oracle Database Certifications Are No Longer Permanent

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about a week ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Time was that you could get an Oracle database certification and declare yourself Oracle-certified for the rest of your career. That time is now over, causing a certain amount of consternation among DBAs. On the one hand, it makes sense that someone who's only been certified on a decade-old version of the product should need to prove they've updated their skills. On the other, Oracle charges for certification and will definitely profit from this shift."
Link to Original Source
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Big Companies Want EU Data Protection Rules Watered Down

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about a week ago

jfruh (300774) writes "The EU is considering watering down its data protection rules to lesen the regulatory burden on small companies processing what is deemed to be "low risk" data. Unsurprisingly, there's one group that wants these rules changed even further: large companies. DigitalEurope, a lobbying group backed by IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, is pushing for further changes."
Link to Original Source
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"Phony Cell Phone Tower" Stories Were PR For A Secure Cell Phone Company

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about two weeks ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Last month, a spooky story was making the rounds on tech news sites: mysterious cell phone towers popping up all over the country claimed by nobody. In fact, the towers are almost certainly run by law enforcement agencies, while unsettling, aren't new; and almost every story includes quotes from Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, the company that sells the phones that detected the towers — stock Galaxy S IIIs turned into hardened phones with numerous exploits removed and all kinds of security added. Was the whole kerfuffle a masterful act of PR?"
Link to Original Source
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Eric Schmidt: Anxiety Over U.S. Spying Will "Break The Internet"

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about two weeks ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Oregon Senator Ron Wyden gathered a group of tech luminaries to discuss the implications of U.S. surveillance programs, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt didn't mince words. He said that worries over U.S. surveillance would result in servers with different sets of data for users from different countries multiplying across the world. "The simplest outcome is that we're going to end up breaking the Internet.""
Link to Original Source
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Coming Soon: LCD Screens In (Almost) Any Shape

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about two weeks ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Traditional LCD panels are rectangular because the tiny chips that drive each pixel of the display are fitted along the edge of the glass panel on which the screen is made. But in a new breed of screens from Sharp, the chips are embedded between the pixels so that means a lot more freedom in screen shape: only one edge of the screen needs to be a straight line, which could give rise to a host of new applications."
Link to Original Source
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Bug In Bugzilla Could Reveal More Bugs To Attackers

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about two weeks ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Bugzilla is an open source bug-tracking tool that many development shops use to keep tabs on bugs — including code vulnerabilities — in their codebase that they're working on fixing. Ironically, Bugzilla has now itself been found to contain a flaw that would allow users to escalate their priviledges and gain access to information on bugs they aren't authorized to view."
Link to Original Source
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Google's Security Guards Are Now Officially Google Employees

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about two weeks ago

jfruh (300774) writes "People concerned about the growing gap between the rich and poor point to a common practice in Silicon Valley: going through staffing agencies for non-core jobs like janitorial and security work, leaving those workers disconnected from the company and lacking in the job security and benefits their co-workers take for granted. Google has now decided to buck the trend, bringing their security guards in-house."
Link to Original Source
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Why Is Internet Access In Africa So Difficult?

jfruh jfruh writes  |  about two weeks ago

jfruh (300774) writes "Eight of the ten countries in the world with the lowest levels of Internet penetration are in Africa. Some of the reasons may seem obvious to outside observers — the poverty of much of the continent's population for instance. But it's also true that broadband rates on undersea cables that connect the continent remain prohibitively high."
Link to Original Source

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