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Comments

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Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

rjstanford Re:USB DACs (499 comments)

There's no need to spend that much. A lot of motherboards have S/PDIF outputs, and with a good coax/TOSLINK DAC (like the ~$40 FiiO D3), pristine noise-free stereo sound is both easier and cheaper than buying an expensive sound card.

Or even with a cheap shitty coax cable like the one that you got for free in your wheaties 20 years ago to connect your VCR to your TV. Its a digital signal after all - communication either works or it doesn't.

about two weeks ago
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Blue Shield Leaks 18,000 Doctors' Social Security Numbers

rjstanford Re: Identity Theft (74 comments)

Well, yes and no. Its a good thing "in theory" but turns out to be dreadfully inconvenient in practice, just as having an official registered address is a bad thing "in theory" but turns out to be totally reasonable in practice. Its not as you haven't already provided an address to various government agencies for your drivers license, income tax, etc...

about two weeks ago
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Blue Shield Leaks 18,000 Doctors' Social Security Numbers

rjstanford Re: Not such a big problem (74 comments)

I knew an ObGyn who retired shortly after being sued for $BIGNUM for delivering a baby with a clubfoot - a genetic defect. His insurance company refused to fight and wanted to settle for $MEDIUMNUM instead. Thing is, they would then raise his rates significantly. If he chose to fight the case in court and lost, they wouldn't cover any damages since they'd offered to settle it for him. Heads they win, tails you lose.

about two weeks ago
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Uber Is Now Cheaper Than a New York City Taxi

rjstanford Auditable logs? (139 comments)

One thing that you get from taxis that you don't get from Uber (or clones) is an assurance that the rates will be metered fairly.

I use Uber Black whenever its available because I trust the company and I enjoy the product. That doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge the need for some regulation in the taxi market. We tried going all gypsy before and it didn't work very well - hell, DC was annoying until just a few years ago with random pricing.

Uber could choose to work with the cities and go in offering full (anonymous, 1 week delayed) logs of all trips with pricing information. Any city inspector could take a trip and then compare his calculations to his receipt and, when it appeared publicly, the log records. There are many things they could do in fact if they weren't intent on being assholes and pretending that all regulations were dumb.

Hell, pre-negotiated pricing through the app with an add-on congestion charge would also work around many of the complaints.

The worst part about this is that this weird obsession with the Lyft market may well bring down the wonderful, "traditional" Uber Black service. And that would be a shame.

about two weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:They are not a charity (228 comments)

Trivial. Open source serves all. So find some "certified disadvantaged group(s)" that happens to use the software. Then say you do this specifically for them. Some church uses the sw? Research group? Homeless shelter? . . .

You could start by showing evidence of significant donor activity from non-users of the software. One of the biggest requirements is that an organization wishing to give tax benefits to its donors should be shown to not be significantly serving the donor base. The fair market value of any benefits received by donors in exchange for their donations (even if not done as a 1:1 swap but more of a "nudge, nudge, y'all donate and we'll write software that you can have but we'll give some away too," basis must also be deducted from their donation for tax purposes.

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:Yes, maybe... (228 comments)

Suppose that I give a group money to house homeless people so that they don't have to huddle around my air vents in the winter. Does that then make the homeless support group a commercial entity?

No, but if you read the IRS letter itself, in this case it would be more like you giving a group money and in return they gave you (and others) a place to sleep. If that's how they operate then they'd be declined 501(c)(3) status also - while they would be able to claim a deduction for the resources they spent giving strangers beds, you would not be able to deduct the amount that you "paid" for a place to sleep, even if they called it a donation and were known as The Hilton Foundation.

The whole thrust of the IRS's decision was that the Yorba was not sufficiently distinguishable from a for-profit software company.

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:Yes, maybe... (228 comments)

That's really no different than a wealthy benefactor having some controlling interest in large a charitable endeavour like funding the building a hospital, which then will benefit the donor and the rest of the public. I think it's generally accepted that money can be given to charities "with strings attached", so long as the outcome is within the mission of that charitable organization.

And the Fair Market Value of those strings - often zero in the case of having a building named after you, non-zero in the case of getting a free operation - will be deducted from the amount of the donation that you're eligible to claim against your income when its time to file your taxes. Its almost as if they thought of that.

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:ah (228 comments)

It is obvious he needs someone to wrangle the correct result out of them.

I still haven't actually seen any evidence from him that this isn't the correct result. In what way do you see him behaving as a charitable organization? Why does everyone assume that the IRS's decision is automatically incorrect because "open source"?

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:501(c)(3) Classes (228 comments)

Actually, one significant difference is that the donor-base for a non-profit hospital is almost completely separate from their "customer base" of patients. Things start smelling really fishy when your (tax-deductible) donations are used to provide services back to the donors. If there's any direct relationship between those two events and the Fair Market Value of the service will be deducted from the donation for tax purpose.

I'd guess, but do not know for sure, that the majority of the donors to Yorba are also its customers. Admittedly you don't have to donate to receive the benefit, but if there's significant overlap (80%+) it would be very reasonable for the IRS to conclude that the donations are in fact payments for software and as such are not donations.

If the "foundation" was supported significantly by disinterested donors for the purpose of creating software to benefit a separate class who could not otherwise afford such software, that would have fulfilled one of the main requirements that the IRS was asking for in their letter. The fact that such evidence was not forthcoming is fairly damning.

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:They've got a point. (228 comments)

Do you truly believe that Yorba is behaving as a charity? If it was a for-profit company selling OSS software on a "pay what you will" model, as many do, would their daily operations look at all different? Would their books be any different? Why should they get to avoid paying taxes where the rest of us do not?

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford Re:They've got a point. (228 comments)

I recommend reading the excellent IRS writeup posted at http://yorba.org/docs/IRS-dete... by the way.

One of the key phrases:

Developing Open Source Software Is An Activity Ordinarily Carried On As An Incident To Commercial Or Industrial Operations

In a nutshell, Yorba failed to properly differentiate themselves from a traditional for-profit company. As a for-profit software company owner, I'd say that that's a fair statement. If Yorba was actively engaging in outreach to provide free software to schools (and then incidentally released it to the public), again that would be different.

When you apply for 501(c)3 status you're asking that the general public subsidize your business. Its not unreasonable to require a significant burden of proof before such a federal subsidy is granted.

about three weeks ago
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

rjstanford They've got a point. (228 comments)

Without some reasonable crackdown, anyone could set up a 501(c)3 that donates software to various entities and - in an unrelated coincidence - receives donations from those same entities (or related entities).

To put it more concretely, Yorba receives money for software development - often but not always by the same people who use the software. This is a normal activity of for-profit companies. You aren't allowed to take a for-profit company, rename "license fees" as "donations", and claim tax exempt status (which has twice the expected effect - once for the "donor" who gets to deduct his software purchase and again for the "charity" which is typically exempt from all sorts of other taxes).

If most of the money came from sources other than the software users - as is in fact the case with people like the Apache Foundation - that would probably be different. If your company looks like a for-profit enterprise (or alternately a hobby) in everything except name though, its going to be treated as such by the IRS.

about three weeks ago
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Former NSA Chief Warned Against Selling NSA Secrets

rjstanford Re:He doesn't need to reveal secrets (138 comments)

Completely agreed. He can also use his network of (public) contacts to make introductions between threatened enterprises and the right people to fix them - or introducing peers who have had similar issues but aren't happy being completely public about that fact yet both trust him to use that knowledge for their benefit. Getting your security vendor wrong could be a very expensive mistake.

about three weeks ago
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Former NSA Chief Warned Against Selling NSA Secrets

rjstanford Re:Laugh-worthy (138 comments)

Nope. I've talked about this with many lawyers. It varies by state. In CA, non-compete clauses are basically unenforceable. In TX, where I live, they're the law of the land.

-Chris

You need to talk to a better attorney then (if you're near Austin I can recommend Tom Nesbitt - IANAL but I do consult with them when I have questions like this). Even in Texas there's a long list of things that a company has to do in order to enforce a non-compete clause including but not limited to showing that your actions caused them real harm. I prefer to follow both the letter and the spirit of those agreements, but its always good to know how much is actually enforceable.

Your current company does not have the right to take away your future livelihood.

about three weeks ago
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Prisoners Freed After Cops Struggle With New Records Software

rjstanford Re:Management botched it again (128 comments)

You cannot make the application simple to use because then it won't do what it needs to do. Make the application powerful and then you pay on the user end side of thing.

One thing that I enjoy about both modern development and enterprise development is that - when done correctly - you can actually do both. With task oriented design rather than data oriented design, each workflow can be exactly as simple as it can be and as powerful as it needs to be for every situation. Its harder and more expensive to build this way, but the savings in training and support can more than make up for it. Convincing people of that fact is part of the reason that a good enterprise sales team is expensive.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

rjstanford Re:Put it on a disc (208 comments)

Even better - tell your lawyer. They have whole teams of people dedicated to solving this problem. Let them do the job that they're experts at and stop worrying about it.

There are lots of things to secure transmission of data, but once it arrives on the recipients' desktop, you run the risk of their system being compromised and exposing the data.

Yup. And when you give them money they may spend it on hookers and blow - or even donations to the Heritage Foundation or Greenpeace. You'll be dead. Once you've passed on the data and what it represents, its truly not your problem and no longer your concern.

If it bothers you that much have your lawyers set up a trust instead. Again, let experts be experts.

about a month ago
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US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

rjstanford Re:Goodbye 1Click (220 comments)

Indeed, that's the whole point - swapping limited protection in exchange for permanent education. Somewhat akin to the goals of the OpenSource movement on steroids, if you think about it.

In theory, at least.

No need to raise fees by the way, simply keeping the money the patent office charges in the patent office rather than using it as a generic profit center would more than take care of the staffing and backlog problems.

about a month ago
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US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

rjstanford Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (220 comments)

That's just it though. You can patent a fan if its novel in some way. You cannot patent the idea of a thing that moves air by spinning a wheel with blades on it.

Traditionally, software patents have been far closer to the latter than the former.

about a month ago
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US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

rjstanford Re:Patents, from a developers perspective (220 comments)

Honestly, I'm no fan of software patents, but that's as silly as claiming that if you weren't advancing the art of blacksmithing that you couldn't patent a complex and novel piece of machinery made out of iron.

about a month ago
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US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

rjstanford Re:Goodbye 1Click (220 comments)

Software just feeds a similar list of steps (mathematical transformations) into a computer and does something.

That'd be just fine IMO. Most software patents show vague pictures of the inputs and outputs of those transformations, and then claim to have patented the transformations themselves. Its as if the cotton gin patent simply showed cotton growing in fields, then t-shirts, and had a large box in between them that was patented under "a method for transforming cotton from its natural state," which was then used to attack the loom.

about a month ago

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