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Intuit, Maker of Turbotax, Lobbies Against Simplified Tax Filings

mx+b Do Something About It (415 comments)

Whatever court decision decided that corporations are people too was garbage.

That would primarily be the Citizens United v FEC court decision of 2010, and further backed up by the recent McCutcheon decision of 2014, though of course other little laws and regulations contribute.

If you would like to do something about it, I would encourage you to join a group such as the WolfPAC and Move to Amend. A couple state legislatures (California and Vermont, I believe) have *already* passed bills calling for a constitutional convention to propose a new constitutional amendment that puts into law that corporations do not have the rights of people, and there is similar pending legislation in many other states. Call/write your state congressmen today and get it done, and we can put this nonsense behind us. It is not impossible, it has been done in past history and is already starting to happen now; I'm sure you haven't heard it on the news, but it is happening. Get involved in making history!

2 days ago
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Emails Reveal Battle Over Employee Poaching Between Google and Facebook

mx+b There Is No Spoon (132 comments)

Really, the issue is that people like to attach labels to things so they can strawman you. There really isn't such a thing as a left and a right in American mainstream politics; it is one big Corporate Party where we get the "left" and "right" labels based on which corporate industry you pander to the most. They fight with each other so much only because the industries they represent happen to often be at odds. It's not because either really subscribes to a real philosophy.

In past elections, when the country has a "vote the bums out" attitude, we see massive switch over from one party to the other. After Bush, there was a flood of congresspeople to the Democrat side for the election so they could be "Not Bush/Republican". After the antics of Obama's first term, we saw a flood of people switching parties to Republican to be "Not Obama/Democrat". Really, the party title means little now because most of these bozos are the SAME PEOPLE, they switch their party affiliation as the wind blows to try to stay in office.

I say all of this because being leftist/socialist is not necessarily shown as a bad thing just because there are some douches in power that align with the "left". That is a logical fallacy in itself, and we must all try to rise above that and not let the labels define us -- which is exactly what the "left" and "right" want us to do. Let's have a real conversation on the problems of the country, and possible fixes.

Vote Green Party, Justice Party, or Libertarian Party, in 2014!

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing For Windows XP EOL?

mx+b Forever? (423 comments)

I see this response a lot, and I completely understand it. Business needs what it needs, and so if it doesn't see a need to update, it won't. Got it. Perfectly. Crystal Clear.

But an honest question: What happens to that 100k database (maybe 200k in the future?) 5,10,20 years from now, when the computer it runs on breaks and you can't get replacement parts for that old motherboard. When Windows 98 does not have drivers for the hardware being made. When the database grows so large that the HDD in your Windows 98 box can't even handle it. When Windows 98 can't keep up with the network speeds and standards of the future that are required to stay competitive. When the install medium itself gets scratched too many types and stops reading.

I don't feel like I've EVER seen any contingency plan for this. The excuse is always "You're out of touch, business needs to run older systems". Again, I agree and understand. But at some point, maybe not soon, but at some point it WILL stop working, or at the very least, it's age hampers the budget more than helps.

Is there a plan to at least move to VMs to try to preserve the software a little more? (Maybe you are already using the VMs). Are there good backups for the VMs? Can the VMs access the USB ports and what not for your devices? How many of your devices use old ports that don't even come on any computer sold in the past 10 years?

While I understand the reasons for not upgrading immediately (or not even quickly), 15-20 years seems excessive, and I start to think this is a failure of business leaders more so than a misunderstanding of technical people.

about three weeks ago
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Why Buy Microsoft Milk When the Google Cow Is Free?

mx+b Missing The Point A Bit (409 comments)

... I'm a customer who pays with my information. Google then takes that information and offers it to advertisers. So, if Google wants me to keep paying with my information, they have to provide me, their customer, with a good service...

What happens if one day, some Google executive decides they know so much about you that it's not worth it to give you free service 100% of the time?

This is always the danger of proprietary software, no matter how much you pay, what you pay, or even if it's free -- at some point, someone can arbitrarily snap their fingers and your service is gone. You may not be a customer that they want to please forever... just for right now, while it's profitable.

We really need to support efforts like LibreOffice and ownCloud, so that we can have our own systems regardless of what anyone else does.

about a month ago
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Ubuntu's Mir Gets Delayed Again

mx+b Re:This could be good news... (241 comments)

I think we need both to compete.

Why? Given they both solve the same problem, but one has wide support and has shipped on devices, what use is the other?

"KDE solves the same problem as GNOME, what use is GNOME?"

"Firefox solves the same problem as Chrome, what use is Chrome?"

"iOS solves the same problems of a phone OS as Android, what use is Android?"

We can go on like crazy with this concept. Competition spurs people to do better, even if ultimately one wins out over the other. The challenge is never to let anyone stay dominant for too long, lest people get lazy. Each of my examples above I think was in a bit of a rut until the competitors came along, and now they both push each other along, making everything better. I think we should encourage competition whenever feasible. (Although I am certainly open to the idea being that Canonical/Mir is not a particularly great competitor, but I wouldn't go so far as to make your claim; if another organization came up to make a Wayland competitor, I would be interested to see their ideas and take on the problem and let the best win).

about a month ago
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Is the New "Common Core SAT" Bill Gates' Doing?

mx+b Where's Important Things Like Logic (273 comments)

The thing that bugs me about this attempt at reform isn't so much what they have done, but what they HAVEN'T done. There's things to like in the new standards, for sure. The math standards seem pretty decent (without studying them closely I can't say for sure; I wonder if possibly we're going TOO easy on our kids, I'd like to assume our kids can be smart if we push them and make some basic level of calculus-type mathematics part of the standard). The english standards are a bit harder to follow because they are categorized weirdly, so I will admit I am not too sure what is in there, so the following rant maybe should be taken with a grain of salt.

I think these standards are missing an important question -- why are THESE the important topics we should focus on? As an educator myself, teaching fresh-out-of-high-school students up to 40 year olds returning to school, the major thing I see across all age and economic groups is a lack of understanding of basic LOGIC. Without a good grounding in logic, in being able to make logical inferences and spot fallacies, it is extremely hard to talk mathematics with these people, because they simply cannot follow a train of logic. It bewilders them, and they either give up or they start to believe it's just "magic formulas" that I made up and have no grounding in the real world. 'I just memorize and pass the class so I can move on with life' is their mantra, because they think the subject is a waste of time, because they do not understand how it works. But that's sad because logic is the basis of mathematics, which has tremendous influence on most of the sciences. It's all logic! And it will also help people more so than learning quadratic equations, as it will help them spot fallacies in politicians' arguments, and prepare them for more knowledge-based jobs in the new economy -- network engineering, programming, electronics troubleshooting, etc. It's all logic. I try my best to add some basic logic skills to the math classes I teach to help people out with this, and it seems to work -- I have had consistently good reviews, and many students tell me they really appreciate the down-to-earth-ness of explaining why the formulas work and what they are doing. People are not stupid, they just don't know any better yet, and throwing upper-level concepts at them before they are ready is counter-productive.

tl;dr: If logic is not a part of this standard (which AFAIK, it isn't, I've certainly never heard anyone mention it and the website gives no easily-spotted indication otherwise), then I think the new standards are entirely missing the point of a reform.

about a month ago
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U.S. Students/Grads Carrying Over $1 Trillion In Debt

mx+b Re:Credit cards to the rescue (538 comments)

My wife actually attempted to pay one of her loans with a credit card, since she received an offer for a card with 0% interest for nearly 2 years. It seemed like a no-brainer to put one of her higher interest loans on 0% interest and try to get rid of it later. She called to pay it off on credit, and was told they do not take credit card payments. When she asked why, they gave a long story about "looking out for the students' best interests" and how credit cards are evil, and basically they won't do it. Has to be cash payments only. So, not as easy as you think. They really have the system rigged to only play their way.

about a month and a half ago
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Two Ubuntu Phones Coming In 2014, Aiming For Top 50 iOS/Android Apps

mx+b Firefox OS? (141 comments)

Is there still updates/plans for Firefox OS in the next year or two? I would definitely still love to see a Mozilla OS. They seemed pretty good at keeping their OS open and in user control (no weird technologies, etc.).

about 2 months ago
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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

mx+b Re:Why do free contracting work? (1098 comments)

Now you can't make money period! All the nice frameworks you know are GPL. You can't link them because then you must give away your work for free with no cost to potential competitors all because RMS doesn't believe in the right for you to make money other than support?! How is that fair?

I believe that's a misunderstanding of the GPL. You must only provide code to someone that gets your software -- you could sell the software and only give the code to those that buy it, for example, and meet the requirements.

But let's say that's true. If they can package and sell and support it, great for them. I would bet that unless they are deeply involved in the software, they wouldn't be able to support it -- meaning their customers will ultimately call me to fix it. So I get money and exposure.

The other possibility is that the company does know my software very well and at a deep level, and can support it and modify it. Then the GPL requires their updates be released as well, and so I would get access to their changes to integrate into my product. In this case, its a win-win.

Maybe not everyone is a fan of this idea, but I do not think it is as dire as you claim (and I have in fact started a business using this concept for the software aspect of the work; it is not very old yet, so I will admit the jury is out on it so far, but this isn't me just talking in theory but rather something I think makes sense for my situation).

Want some investors to fund your company? They will see GPL and freak. Why? They can't see the asset as that technically counts as a distribution. Your company value goes down next to nothing and so does your income in disproportionate to the risk going up.

I'm not really convinced "investors" are the smartest people in the world, at least in general. I'm not sure I buy the argument. There are plenty of community-minded people that contribute to things. Why can't the business be a little more non-profit? (Or at least a B-corporation, where you prioritize helping the community even though you are for-profit). Sure, maybe not everyone is keen on it, but I bet you can find a few investors. Or, save up for yourself or take a loan out and skip the businessmen that will insist you run your company into the ground for their profit entirely. That's my approach, though I also agree that this depends largely on what type of business it is (some fields require much more start up money than others).

What if you pay taxes as a business and yet can't use that tax payer funded code? That is what BSD is about since everyone who pays gets it back.

My original post was in regards to for-profit private business use of open source code. Government-backed free-to-the-public software is a different beast, and in that case, it may actually be best for a more BSD-type license to allow larger usages. But I am still not entirely-convinced; if the public paid for it, and you use it, why should you be able to keep ALL of the profit? In this case, every citizen has invested in it, and should get something for it. Maybe simply paying a tax to fund further development of any software would be better than requiring every change to be open? What would be your idea?

I think it is important to be clear here (a) who contributed the code and (b) who the audience is. If it is tax-payer funded open source, businesses that use it owe something to the initial investment of the citizens, and that can be in the form of GPL open sourced changes, or maybe just paying an extra tax to refund the citizens. If it was a donation to public domain by private citizens, then BSD/GPL makes sense if the private citizens are fine with what that means.

In essence when you want a paycheck for your employer even as an employee that is all closed source. Closed source = income. Property rights is what gives rise to business and no business can exist without them.

I think Red Hat has shown closed source is not the only path to income. Considering they support Fedora and now CentOS, I think they made the strategic decision that being open helps their bottom line. It very well might depend on the type of business whether being open makes sense, but I do not think business requires being completely closed. Property rights are important, but I think that's a different question from whether to be open or not, and in what manner. You still own the copyright to the software, for example, with GPL, so its not like property rights are being totally thrown at the window.

about 3 months ago
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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

mx+b Re:Why do free contracting work? (1098 comments)

What he cares about is some company taking his work, making it better, selling it back to him and then not letting him hack on it

There was perhaps a bit of a confusing conflation of ideas there, I apologize. But I did end that sentence with exactly that concern: "even worse, prevent you from doing what you want with THEIR copy of your work! It needs to be a 2-way street.".

RMS in the past has said he has no problem with people making money off free software, and in fact encourages it, as long as the 2-way street is open for people to use each others' work. This was the point I was trying to make.

about 3 months ago
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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

mx+b Re:Why do free contracting work? (1098 comments)

My original comment did acknowledge that some might be perfectly fine with providing something for all to use no matter what. Just to achieve something and get it out there. There is nothing wrong with that philosophy, just a different one.

My attitude is that companies make plenty enough money off of people by charging ridiculous amounts for incredibly buggy software. Why should they be able to develop that software easily using my open source library without any return to the person or community that provided it? I don't need a specific acknowledgement or payment to satisfy my ego -- that isn't what I am after -- but rather that something I contribute to the community, I expect to stay in the community. There is nothing more insulting to me than someone that takes the ball and goes home, and that is how I view the situation. WORST CASE SCENARIO, of course. I also understand that perhaps many companies keep the communities in the loop and contribute when they can, and only keep some aspects proprietary. But this isn't what I'm talking about; my concern is, what is necessary to prevent a company from taking community property for their own profit, and not sharing anything with the people that worked hard to provide it?

Without getting too political, it is in my view an odd extension of this income inequality debate. People have different views, see different problems and have different ideas for solutions, and that's fine. But there is room for discussion (not angry debate, but friendly discussion) on what are our most important priorities, and this post (and the original) are my contribution to that discussion. I look forward to seeing other ideas!

about 3 months ago
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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

mx+b Why do free contracting work? (1098 comments)

I like to think of it as, why are you doing FREE work for a proprietary company that has no obligation to you other than to possibly hide your name at the bottom of a long list of credits buried in the help menu? This is what the BSD license allows.

If they aren't going to pay me, then I want them to have to contribute back anything they do with my software, which is what GPL requires. THAT is their way of paying me for my time -- that down the road I can save some time by getting help back from them. And not just me, but the entire community gets that help.

If you are ok with that, then who am I to judge? But I don't think it is as simple as "anything other than his way is bad" -- it is more of a question of, does it bother you to do free work for people, or do you not care just because you think its cool? RMS's concern is that it bothers him to put effort in to let lazy people take it with absolutely no acknowledgement and pay, and even worse, prevent you from doing what you want with THEIR copy of your work! It needs to be a 2-way street.

about 3 months ago
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Hacker Says He Could Access 70,000 Healthcare.Gov Records In 4 Minutes

mx+b This Was Commercial (351 comments)

I think it is important to point out that effectively this was the work of a commercial company. It was contracted out, and the contractor subcontracted and did whatever it wanted at that point. (Sounds like relatively little government oversight of the project was had, considering the massive cleanup effort when it came to light).

I think it would be fair to argue that the government should have been more involved and had more oversight of the project. I actually wish it was developed "in-house" so to speak, and open source (as I think all publicly funded software should be). The government can do great things. Look at NASA. We have(had?) plenty of smart people with the goal to do something awesome. I wish we hired a software/computing/cryptography group like NASA to just go in there and get it done in an awesome manner. I think the government work could have been magnitudes better if it was done this way.

This was a failure on both sides really -- too many government officials that insist the best way to do things is like a private contractor do it (either for ideology or money), and commercial companies more interested in the paycheck than anything else.

about 3 months ago
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Google Launches Android Automotive Consortium

mx+b You Knew It Was Coming... (117 comments)

Just imagine: you go out for a drive, and your car starts communicating with other cars in the next lane and suddenly its a beowulf cluster of them...

about 3 months ago
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Are High MOOC Failure Rates a Bug Or a Feature?

mx+b Wrong Expectations on Both Sides (122 comments)

But apparently everyone actually in higher ed assumes that some guy works 60 hours a week, should pass at exactly the same rate as the kid who managed to get a 4.0 from all his teachers in high school and spends all his time on Academics.

I think that's it exactly. I have tried a few of these MOOC classes on a couple different websites (I am primarily a teacher, so not only do I like learning new things and refreshing myself, but I also enjoy seeing different teaching styles to try to integrate into my own).

I have taken a few that were very delightful -- it seems some of the computer science theory classes are the best MOOCs, possibly because they are the most used to working with computers and through the internet?

But many treat the online MOOCs EXACTLY as they would a university course. I have an interest in physics and engineering, for example, so I signed up for a class about photovoltaics, hoping to learn enough to maybe make better decisions in the future about a PV system for my house. Instead, what I got was a few rambly lectures about how photovoltaics are the future, and then straight into a homework assignment requiring some calculations and formulas never elucidated anywhere in the material. Luckily I am comfortable with integrals and was able to complete the first assignment, but I simply gave up after this as it was not a good first impression. Perhaps it was better in later weeks? Who knows. And I think this is the point -- the Lecture-then-let-the-students-struggle-to-solve-homework-problems-never-discussed-in-class model is INCREDIBLY frustrating to begin with, but then to do it completely online without much of a place to turn to? (No solid connections with students or faculty). Its a model for disaster.

MOOCs I think can succeed, but only if we actually take the opportunity to re-think how we present knowledge and check understanding. The university system is, IMHO, beginning to unravel and show itself as not being sustainable. Simply thinking universities can continue on exactly as-is but "in the cloud" is stupid, and this is why many MOOCs are failing to keep their students.

about 4 months ago
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Munich Open Source Switch 'Completed Successfully'

mx+b Other Motives (275 comments)

While the financial savings is great, let's also not forget that it is partially about freedom -- no forced upgrades from vendors, no special expensive proprietary software to read what should be public record, etc. I am more excited about the latter -- an openly accessible government and public records is important no matter how much it costs, but it's especially nice that we can have that AND save some cash.

about 4 months ago
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Physicist Peter Higgs: No University Would Employ Me Today

mx+b Can We Compete Against Them? (308 comments)

I've often wondered lately if there are enough dissatisfied PhD-dropouts and overworked junior professors that if we got together, we could start a new college and directly compete against these attitudes (both the problems with professors and research, and the problems with the student curriculum and lack of teaching enthusiasm in general). I am quite seriously interested in doing exactly this if I could build up a coalition and some funding.

about 4 months ago
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Geeks For Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries

mx+b Plato's Republic (730 comments)

Wasn't this basically Plato's argument a long time ago? The best theoretical form of government is to have a "philosopher king" that has a lot of power but always acts in the interests of the people, this way things get done efficiently and even if the uneducated people think its not correct to do. But of course the problem is making sure the king is a philosopher -- most of the time, these type of people are not the ones that even want to be king. Otherwise, you end up with a very bad situation. Democracy is not perfect but it tends to smooth out the problem of not having philosophers as leaders, but we don't always know what is best for ourselves.

about 5 months ago
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Republican Proposal Puts 'National Interest' Requirement On US Science Agency

mx+b Re:Impossible requirement (382 comments)

Some of the professors/scientists I worked with before were great at doing this. Technically you are correct, but these people really knew how to come up with crazy narratives about how important the research is and how it can lead to advances in defense, generate more money, etc. (this was how I originally came to work with them, I fell for the marketing in my more idealistic days; when I couldn't work on what I thought I would because the push was more on doing some research that could be tied to the marketing, I ultimately left).

The unfortunate side of this legislation is that it will cause an opposite effect. The things that will get funding are the BS more-marketing-than-legit-research proposals made by people that don't have a unique thoughtful idea at all (just looking at getting grants and tenure), and the actual true research proposals where someone has a legitimate interest to study and cannot predict its ultimate value will get thrown in the gutter.

It's very sad, let's try not to let this happen. But I guess to do so, not only do you need to stop this type of legislation, but you need good people in general reading the proposals...

about 5 months ago
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Wikipedia's Participation Problem

mx+b How Does One Become an Editor? (372 comments)

I have not tried to contribute to wikipedia yet (though I have thought about it, I have been unsure whether I want to try given the currently climate described), but it occurred to me: how does one become an editor?

I am wondering, if current editors are appointed and have permanent control and this is causing problems, what if Wikipedia switched to something akin to slashdot's moderation (and metamoderation) tool? Let random people vote on if they think the change was warranted. They don't need to be experts on the topic, just answer yes or no as to whether the change was significant and properly documented with references. If so, then vote ok, and overrule the mods that may be blocking it. Is that not possible?

about 6 months ago

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