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German Railways To Test Anti-Graffiti Drones

mikefocke The German train system (208 comments)

When I can I choose in the EU to go by train. Just back and used 3 trains. Even reasonably priced and good food! And even the buses operated by the German DB system are top notch. I'm comparing to the US counterparts which I also use occasionally.

You want graffiti, go to Italy.

about a year ago
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Is Buying an Extended Warranty Ever a Good Idea?

mikefocke CR is right (329 comments)

Because they base their judgement on the amount paid out versus the amount paid in. And their figures year ago on auto "extended warranties" was ~30% of what people paid in got returned in the form of expenses to repair, 70% went to selling, overhead, administration, etc.

Why does every clerk selling you something try and sell the warranty/insurance? Because all the management get bonuses, the selling company gets something, the insurer gets something, etc. That money isn't returned to the consumer in benefits.

I'm 70, have made it a habit of insuring to the hilt everything I can't afford to pay for (house, auto, liability, umbrella rider, etc). For all products I decline coverage because I can afford (with some pain) to pay for them. I'm way way ahead.

Extended warranties are like a casino, a very few win, some break even and the average loses big. Except casinos pay out at much higher rates...some more than 95%.

Before you buy, do some research on the latest profit and loss statement from the insurer. Oh, and insurers often do go bust only to reform the next day under a new name, same management.

about a year ago
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FAA On Travel Delays: Get Used To It

mikefocke The rich (720 comments)

Figure out what it takes at today's interest rates to generate $50k a year and it isn't $500k.

If you are 70 and the amount of money that you take out of an IRA is $30k per year, it takes nearly $1m to fund that and then you pay taxes on the $30k. So you better have more than $1.5m in investment assets to retire at 65 and take out $50k because you project to live another 30 or so years. And that doesn't account for much inflation beyond the norm over your 30 years and historically you'll see a stretch that will seriously affect your nest-egg.

So criteria #1 is invalid, not in concept but because the numbers are way too low.

How much do you have in your savings accounts for retirement. Go to one of the calculators and do the math. Scary for most when the average savings is less than $100k.

about a year ago
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No Such Thing As a Tax-Free Lunch At Google?

mikefocke It isn't taxed already (631 comments)

They didn't pay tax already on the money used to purchase them in the sense that they paid corporate income tax on the funds. Because the expense of buying the food and preparing it and cleaning up afterwards etc is written off as a business expense and thus isn't all Google's profit ... some of it is (depending on what tax bracket Google is paying) but some would be tax money that could pay for all the infrastructure Googlers and the rest of us use every day.

1 year,10 days
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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Unwanted But Official Security Probes?

mikefocke Call up the hospital IT network guys (238 comments)

and make friends. Tell them what you are seeing and express your concern for live confidential data being exposed and ask if they are seeing similar probes on their side. See what they say. Maybe they say "oh, that is just us" and you have one response. Or maybe they say "we are seeing that too" but we have been told it is some contractor we hired to do penetration testing. Then you have another response. Or maybe they don't know a thing in which case you report what you are seeing up your channels and across to their senior IT guys.

But first start by making friends.

1 year,13 days
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Ask Slashdot: Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?

mikefocke Go back and rerad the Federalist Papers (73 comments)

and examine the concern over the frenzy of the mob and the need to temper it as a reason for not having immediate votes by every citizen directly.

I just finished 6 hours worth of recorded lectures on the Federalists versus the anti-Federalists and the debates leading up to the writing of the constitution. Interesting how the concerns of both sides are still in play centuries later in most of the red/blue disagreements.

1 year,14 days
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Massive Data Leak Reveals How the Ultra Rich Hide Their Wealth

mikefocke Ah but (893 comments)

When I report my income, do I really report all my income or is much of the real income available to me hidden in deferrals, tax free municipals, etc? I'm not rich, but I can assure you even my reported income is very different from the real income with the difference mostly in the ability to defer income on investments (iBonds, IRA, 401K, etc.)

Every businessman I know writes off things which personally benefit him be it the yacht (qualifies as a second home), the vacation place, the golf club, the charity deduction (designed to provide positive exposure for his business), the gas for his truck, the company car he commutes in, etc.

The poor have no such investments or write-offs. So their reported matches the real.

I filed my taxes the other day, I was shocked at the low % amount of tax relative to even reported income.

So I question the stats of tax paid versus income percentages because if one of those figures isn't the same (real) for all the strata being compared, you get a very false picture.

1 year,15 days
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A Sea Story: the Wreck of the Replica HMS Bounty

mikefocke Till you have been in a huricane at sea (184 comments)

you have no appreciation of the power you are forced to grapple with. Not wanting to get caught in port and with all ships sortieing out to skirt the storm, I've stood 28 feet above the waterline regularly taking green water (not white foam) over my head with the bow of a 260 ft long ship burying. At that point, few are functioning, many sick. You sleep lashed into your bunk for only minutes at a time, walk only the interior passageways bouncing from bulkhead to bulkhead, spend long hours on watch and hope like heck you are alert enough to make the right decisions. And before leaving port every petty officer and then officer inspected the spaces to make sure there was nothing loose. Everything was designed to be bolted down to steel or aluminum and not go moving around. Even the TVs. And all critical systems were redundant.

Thank you engineering division for keeping those screws turning.

1 year,19 days
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EU Car Makers Manipulating Fuel Efficiency Figures

mikefocke You can increase far more than 50% in most cases (431 comments)

Go back a few years.

My wife drove an Acura TL at 22.9 MPG with Premium fuel needed so the cost is about equivalent to getting 20.
She replaces with an Avalon which gets 25.3 for about 25% more miles per currency unit.

I drove a CRV at 22.2 and replace it with a Prius station wagon (so same class of car) at 42 for about 90% improvement.

(all fuelly figures, not EPA)

And someone buys our trade-in cars and potentially replaces 15MPG older cars and gets 50% improvements. And the 15 MPGs replace 12s and so on down the food chain until the oldest get wrecked or are uneconomical to repair and thus go to the scrapyard.

Sure, there are exceptions but this is how the higher EPA figures help over time.

(It is weird to realize your old car is parked right in front of you at the shopping center.)

about a year ago
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Re: the debt deal reached Sunday night ...

mikefocke But they do work hard..just not for your interests (788 comments)

Because the business of a congressman/woman is to get elected. They were out raising campaign funds for their next election. I've known congressfolk and I wouldn't have their job except on the assumption that I would be a one term representative of the people's interest...and not what the media or politicians has stirred them up into clamoring for today. Once you make winning the next election important, you lose the ability to think long term and damn the short term political consequences.

more than 2 years ago
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Alternatives To Paypal's Virtual Credit Card Service?

mikefocke Re:A regular bank account? (242 comments)

You can also be denied credit despite having a very large net worth if you don't have your name on the prior credit card accounts you have used or if the credit reports have the information wrong. My wife just got turned down asking for credit in an amount that is a rounding error compared to her net worth. But since the credit history doesn't show any of the assets she might have nor does it list her participation in the credit I might have had (she has paid the bills for the last 37+ years) her history/worthiness looks sparse/doubtful.

It amazed me how many facts the 3 credit reporting agencies got wrong or how they were listed differently on each of their reports.

I'd urge you to check yours...and your spouse's if you should have one. The results may shake your confidence in the system.

more than 3 years ago
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Internal Costs Per Gigabyte — What Do You Pay?

mikefocke What other charges do you pay for internal IT ? (420 comments)

Is the per storage unit the only metric used to derive the internal transfer "cost"? Or is it the only metric?

Hardware, backup hardware, floor space, cooling, network, external network, off site backup, transfer costs of media, depreciation, staff, software, software development, etc.

Do you provide separate funding from your cost center for the desktop, portable, phone, fax, printers, etc? Pay for per page printing in a tiered manner (desktop, group printer, black and white at the central facility, color, binding, etc.)?

What labor market are you in? Done any corporate downsizing so that fixed costs have stayed constant where usage has declined?

What I'm trying to understand is just what the per unit of storage cost has to cover.

What starts out as a simple question needs lots more background before you are able to compare apples to apples. Most IT groups don't make a profit as such but try to estimate for budget purposes whet you will need 18 months in advance of actual usage. Try it sometime and you'll understand that plucking a number is probably as good a method if done by the right person with an understanding of the organization and what it will be trying to do over the next year or so.

more than 3 years ago
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I trust Web apps like Google Docs ...

mikefocke The last time I trusted google with my documents (194 comments)

they lost every document which had a "?" in the file name. About a dozen whose value was about 3 days worth of 12 hour day's work.

I'm uploading 341 pictures to a printing site as I type this. The pictures are on 2 computers, a camera and a memory stick. I'm a mainframe guy whose backup habits saved my bacon more than once.

Not with anything I really value thank you....

more than 3 years ago
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It's Time To Split Up NSA Between Spooks and Geeks

mikefocke It all depends (122 comments)

It all depends on what level of Common Criteria evaluation you are talking about. At the higher levels, there is a lab authorized to conduct a product inspection and, once you pass that test, you get a medium level NIAP certificate. If you wish a higher level of CC approval in the US, after this original process NSA itself takes control and does its tests. So the process is still a two step process with NSA involvement...or was about 4 years ago when I was involved in taking an "Orange Book" product through CC evaluation.

about 4 years ago
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The State of Robotic Surgery

mikefocke The skill of the person using the tool (72 comments)

really matters. No matter if you are using a so called robotic tool or an X-ray generating tool, the Doctor you choose and his or her experience and success rate will determine the outcome far more than the type of treatment you choose.

When you talk to a doctor, ask him how many of the procedures he did last year and what his success rate was. I had the choice of a Doctor who answered "3 and I don't know" and a Doctor who answered "several a day and people with your 'scores" have had a success rate of x and a complications rate of y". Show me the Doctor who measures the success of the way he does a procedure and tries to improve and I'll show you the increased success active learning brings.

Plug ProstRcision into your search engine.

more than 4 years ago
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Apple's "iKey" Wants To Unlock All Doors

mikefocke What happens (383 comments)

when I go out and forget my iPhone? Or want to leave a key hidden for the kids coming over before we get back? Or the painter?

Simple problems deserve simple solutions.

more than 4 years ago
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Lessons of a $618,616 Death

mikefocke Re:It depends on your own ability to pay. (651 comments)

In the case in the original article, the man's family was quite able to pay the out of pocket costs. Some of the drugs were experimental, some of the combinations of drugs were also in trials. And the choices being made given the descriptions of the man's state at the time the decisions were made were seemingly rational and an end treatment decision was made.

I've been in the room when life ending/extending choices of treatment were made by a patient. Been in the room to hear the Cancer diagnosis too many times. My son is alive for having had a treatment that hadn't been tried often on someone his age...and now is a new data point for someone with the same diagnosis. And I'm a Cancer survivor. In my case, the treatments cost about $50k. Simpler cancer, not nearly as near term fatal a diagnosis. Personal costs were near zero. Thank goodness for great health insurance (I had been paying for more than I used for 40 years), good doctors who had been experimenting for 20 years to document the right doses and thanks to the many people who had been their patients who didn't make it in the early days when their cure rates were awful but whose treatment enabled them to ultimately learn how to treat successfully.

Read the whole article, not just the headline. It sounds more reasonable the more you read...until you get to the estimate that 31% of the health care costs are administrative. Ask you congressman what they are doing to reduce that layer of costs.

more than 4 years ago
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A Public Funded "Microsoft Shop?"

mikefocke Before I would comment I'd have to know (490 comments)

a lot more about what the hospital is using computers for, what custom or pre-packaged software they use, what hardware exists, what proportion of the users are Office users and to what level of expertise, are online patients records involved, etc.

It isn't just the OS...it is the whole cost of purchasing the software to run the hospital, the paths future upgrades in response to private and government demands will take, the enforcement of privacy protections, etc. All in the midst of a rapidly changing medical funding environment when everyone is making demands to change...in one direction or another.

When you have a total understanding of the implications of every line in the IT department's budget, who the stakeholders are and the politics of what software they use (doctor driven, insurance company driven, medicare driven etc) then you'll be in a position to discuss what OS they could use in business terms. Once you have compared your hospital's budget for IT against a similar sized and functions hospital using another solution and you present that comparison, I'd bet OS costs are a triviality compared to the other IT costs. What is the cost of eliminating the expertise of all the rest of the IT support staff in terms of patient care, doctor functioning, etc? People resist change..they are scared of it. Not sure they can measure up...no matter how smart they are.

When you make an argument on the basis of a better OS, you just show to the higher-ups you don't understand their real problems...you are just one of those techies.

more than 4 years ago
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US Government Begins Largest IT Consolidation in History

mikefocke Re:Better not use Northrop Grumman (283 comments)

Of course it is

consolidations are always a mess and ones full of job implications mean political interference (I want em in my district).

But you have to do something as the growth of government IT gets out of hand and we can only afford so much.

IIRC, the government consolidated all the payroll systems it had into about 4 pay centers back about 10 years ago. Went from maintaining hundreds to one s/w run 4 places for redundancy. Everybody screamed they needed theirs because it had unique features, they learned to do without or incorporated the features into the new s/w. Wasn't that fairly successful?

While all govt computing is a bit more complex now than a single application was then, still if we are to afford the things we really need, consolidation and standardization makes sense.

Now the contracting and execution...that will be a challenge. And so what if it takes 5 years, if we are going in the right direction and saving money in the long run. Because we can't sustain even the current government spending on what we are willing to vote as taxes.

more than 4 years ago
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Secret Service Runs At "Six Sixes" Availability

mikefocke Re:1980's mainframe? (248 comments)

Don't ever underestimate the difficulty of porting specialized applications

One Government agency I know of was informed with 5 years advance notice that their long time mainframe computer manufacturer would no longer be in the hardware business nor support the operating system. The Govt let a huge contract to port the applications. After several years, and millions spent in progress payments, that conversion attempt failed. So did several more. So after 10 years and about 4 attempts at conversions using some of the biggest software contract houses in the country they were still running on the original hardware and software and buying used equipment for backup. One of the few in the world.

It got done eventually I suppose.

Why, you ask, was it such a task to convert? Because they were attempting to replace something that had been custom built on top of and inside an operating system over perhaps 20 years. Distributed database and multiple geographic locations processing bits of the data using computers from multiple manufacturers communicating together long before the Internet (not that you could have put that kind of data on the net). So in order to convert, it took an understanding of how the whole thing worked and those that had that level of understanding had long since retired. It wasn't Cobol that was the problem but human limitations.

more than 4 years ago

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