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Winklevoss Twins Plan Regulated Bitcoin Exchange

timholman So the twins want to open an exchange ... (79 comments)

Now all the Winklevoss twins need to do is find is a reason for the average American consumer to buy BTC and use them, instead of using credit cards and debit cards that are protected from fraud and loss by federal law. Bitcoin may be a great deal for businesses, but it is a terrible deal for consumers, and without people on both sides of the economic equation it is slowly dying (witness the long slow decline in price, and the fact that a few hundred thousand people at most possess all the BTC in circulation).

That's the crux of the problem, and the one that no one has figured out yet, beyond yelling "Those evil bankers and politicians are robbing you with fiat money!" Right, so I'll pay my percentage to the twins, instead of my local bank? That's like choosing to be eaten by jackals instead of wolves.

about a week ago

Bitcoin Volatility Puts Miners Under Pressure

timholman Re:Virtually currency value is entire faith based (290 comments)

Speaking of those who hold bitcoins I heard on NPR this morning that there are only about 250,000 people in the world who hold bitcoins. That's not enough people for me to take it seriously.

Bitcoin proponents may disagree with that number, but for the sake of argument let's assume that 10X as many people (2.5 million) hold BTC. That would mean 0.0357% of the world's population holds about 13.7 million BTC (all that have been mined so far). Since only 21 million BTC can ever be mined, then those 0.0357% possess 65.2% of all the BTC that ever will exist. With those numbers, the speculative hoarding frenzy surrounding Bitcoin is easy to understand.

Given also that many Bitcoin "believers" preach that BTC will one day become the dominant world currency, then what we have is a potential wealth gap that makes the wealth gap in the U.S. look positively socialist in comparison.

That, to me, is what makes Bitcoin so downright bizarre. A bunch of people have convinced themselves that all fiat currencies will collapse one day, making them rich beyond the dreams of avarice, since no one will think of using any cryptocurrency except BTC, because ... well, just because. And then they will own the world.

about two weeks ago

Bitcoin Volatility Puts Miners Under Pressure

timholman Re:Nothing has been lost! (290 comments)

Bit Coins are actually more real then the US Dollar. Sure we get a paper or coin note stating that this represents so much. But at least bit coin is connected to something in limited supply thus needs to be shared.

I've never understood the logic behind statements like this. There are an infinite possible number of cryptocurrencies. A cryptocurrency is nothing but a mathematical algorithm being run on a lot of computers. By its very nature, it can't be in limited supply. Saying that Bitcoin is valuable because it's scare is like saying that digital music or digital video must be valuable because they're scarce.

Any one, at any time, can create his own blockchain and create a Bitcoin clone. After that, all he need to do is persuade other people to adopt his blockchain, and a new standard has been created, with the originator becoming "wealthy". In fact, I suspect that this idea may suddenly occur to the operators of one of the big idled mining centers over the next few months.

And before anyone says, "But Bitcoin was first!", let me reply, "Friendster and MySpace".

about two weeks ago

EnOcean Wireless Sensors Don't Need Batteries (Video)

timholman Re:Wait (46 comments)

I thought powered by RF was impossible and a scam?

Slashdot basically killed that company outright with nothing more than the argument that the technology was impossible. Search the thread for my screen name and watch me get shouted down for suggesting it actually is possible and even provide links to ICs you could use.

And now here we have a story that's touting it as a legitimate device?

I've no idea if iFind was actually a scam or not. They clearly went bust just days after the Slashdot story. But this kind of smacks of hypocrisy. Why was that a scam and this is not?

If you had actually bothered to watch the video, or read the transcript, you'd know that EnOcean is not using RF harvesting to power any of their devices. They are using mechanical, solar, and thermoelectric energy harvesting techniques to power ultra-low power sensors, and to generate RF signals to control other powered appliances (e.g. desk lamps). They are using clever engineering, but they are not making any claims that violate the laws of physics.

iFind was a scam. There was no way that a device that size could harvest, store, and utilize RF energy at the levels claimed by them. Not to mention that the so-called "inventor", supposedly with multiple advanced degrees in engineering and medicine, had absolutely no presence or history on the web.

And Slashdot didn't "kill" iFind. Kickstarter killed it, after performing a little due diligence and realizing that something was fishy with WeTag. But if Slashdot helped pushed Kickstarter into checking into the background of WeTag's principals, then so much the better.

Energy harvesting from ambient RF does work, but to capture significant amounts of energy requires lots of area (e.g. an antenna or large pickup coil), or to have RF energy beamed directly at the device. At no time does EnOcean claim to be using RF harvesting to power their devices; they are only using ultra-low power RF radio bursts for short-range communication.

about three weeks ago

Bitstamp Bitcoin Exchange Suspended Due To "Compromised Wallet"

timholman Re:Bitcoin still seems sleazy to me (161 comments)

You are not liable, any more liable than you are with cash, getting your bitcoin back will be at least as difficult as getting your cash back would be. You will have to file some kind civil claim and convince a judge or possibly jury the other party did not honor their part the transaction contract and you require some kind of redress.

Which, of course, is why people carry credit cards, because it lets them dispute the charge without going to the effort of filing a lawsuit to get redress.

Well yea, that is the trade off, I could easily carry a USB stick or whatever with the equivalent value of $250K in btc and go buy a house or something. Its inconvenient to walk around with that much cash. Still sever minutes is much faster than the several days a check would require to clear.

It's inconvenient and dangerous to walk around with that much cash, which is why we have a banking system. My bank electronically transfers the money to the seller's bank after I sign the paperwork, in the presence of an attorney and licensed agents. It gives me peace of mind, it prevents me from being ripped off, and once I sign, I walk out of the office and I'm done. So exactly what advantage does BTC provide to such a transaction, when it's exactly like carrying a big bundle of cash?

And I won't even get into the insanity of taking out a home loan in a deflationary economy. You really think that everyone is going to pay for homes and cars in full, without loans?

You'd better get used to it. Between the changes with chip-and-pin and ideas like CurrentC, the powers that be are pretty determined to strip those protections away from you anyway.

No one is going to force me to use CurrentC, and chip-and-PIN is intended to reduce credit card fraud, not make me to eat any loss if my account is compromised. On the other hand, I know that a BTC transaction would absolutely force me to eat the loss, because that's exactly how the system is designed to behave.

You're just dancing around the inconvenient fact that consumers have no incentive to use BTC over credit cards. It's a market for speculators and early adopters who are fervently hoping that someone else will buy their BTC and pump up the price, but no rational consumer (at least in the U.S. or Europe) has any incentive to do so.

about a month ago

Bitstamp Bitcoin Exchange Suspended Due To "Compromised Wallet"

timholman Re:Bitcoin still seems sleazy to me (161 comments)

The entire notion of bitcoin has always seemed a little sketchy to me.

Not just sketchy, but pointless (at least to the average consumer).

What sane person would use a debit card that mandates irreversible transactions if you are cheated by a merchant, makes you liable for all fraudulent use of the card, and takes several minutes for a purchase to be validated? Because that's basically what Bitcoin is. It's like stepping 50 years into the past, into a world without consumer protection laws.

If you were an early adopter of BTC, obviously you have a huge incentive to push for wider adoption, as this lets you turn your CPU-mined BTC into free money. But if you are someone who has never touched BTC in your life, you have no incentive to buy them now, and none to use them. It doesn't matter how many merchants accept BTC, because the average shopper would be insane to use them.

Regardless of what happens to the exchanges, BTC has hit a brick wall in adoption. Read about the experiences of merchants in Florida who signed up to accept BTC prior to the Bitcoin Bowl. Several of them stopped accepting BTC when it became apparent that no one was spending them.

about a month ago

Bitcoin Gets Its First TV Ads

timholman What's in it for consumers? (127 comments)

The two new ads promote Bitcoin and BitPay as a secure alternative to traditional credit-card transactions.

Yes, BTC is exactly that for a business, but exactly what incentive does a consumer have to use it?

Right now, if I want to buy something with U.S. dollars, I pull out my credit card or my cell phone, and I buy it. The transaction is completed in a matter of seconds (no waiting for verification via a blockchain), and if I use Apple Pay or Google Wallet, it is extremely secure.

On top of that, if I am cheated by the merchant, I can contact the credit card company and dispute the charges. Furthermore, even if my credit card is somehow compromised, I am only liable for $50 maximum by law, without having to go to court or sue anyone.

What does BTC do for me? First, I have to buy BTC, and then spend it quickly before the value changes. Second, if the merchant cheats me, too bad. BTC gives him all the power - transactions are irreversible. Third, if my BTC wallet is compromised, I can kiss my BTC goodbye. All of the consumer protections that I enjoy with credit cards are gone. So exactly what do I get out of the deal?

For the average consumer, Bitcoin is a solution in search of a problem. BTC may be a great way to buy contraband, or to send money to someone in a 3rd world country, but that is hardly something the average person bothers with on a regular basis.

Bitcoin is a niche product, and will remain so, despite every effort by BTC evangelists to persuade consumers to give them real money in exchange for their cryptocoins. Someone give me a reason to use BTC on a regular basis that doesn't involve some idealistic "screw the establishment, fiat currency is evil" rationalization. As a consumer, I don't see the point.

about 1 month ago

Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

timholman Re:I don't even... (323 comments)

What else am I supposed to do?

The same thing my generation did: ignore the self-styled "experts" who tell you you're doing it all wrong, and trust your own best judgment instead.

The world is chock full of wonderful theories about child-rearing and education that might provide better outcomes if we all had infinite time, infinite patience, and infinite resources to try them out. But we don't, so we do the best we can with what we have. That is particularly true when you are a parent of a young child.

This reminds me of the current fuss over "flipped classrooms". Yes, it seems like an interesting idea, and it might provide better outcomes, but it requires several outstanding teaching assistants who understand the concepts well enough to provide one-on-one instruction during class time.

In the real world most of my teaching assistants don't understand the material any better than my students. So unless my employer can figure out how to clone me, I'm going to stick with what works, rather than lose sleep over what is impractical to even attempt.

about a month ago

Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

timholman Re:Hoax (986 comments)

Everyone that says they have a box that makes energy from nothing, I say, phase match your box to the line current from the local utility, roll your meter backwards, and cash the ensuing checks. Then talk to me.

This, a thousand times over. Having a "free energy" machine, if it existed, would be like owning a machine that printed money.

Rossi claims he has constructed 1 MW reactors. Assuming this was true, and assuming Rossi could sell that power for just $0.10 USD per kW-hr, then he has a machine that effectively generates income at the rate of $100 / hour. Use half of that income for operating costs and personal expenses, and Rossi makes a net profit of $36,000 a month if the machine runs 24/7.

In a year Rossi has $432,000. Long before then, he would be able to build a second generator, doubling his income. Assuming one generator could "double" itself every six months, in five years he has a profit of $18.4M USD each month. In less than a decade, he is the wealthiest man on the planet.

So why isn't Rossi doing that, instead of trying to get investors to write checks? Because he can't, of course. Like all frauds and pseudoscientists, he is utterly incapable of actually doing anything useful with his so-called "invention".

about 4 months ago

The Apache Software Foundation Now Accepting BitCoin For Donations

timholman Re:Why wouldn't they? (67 comments)

Bonkers like Newegg, and Dish Network? Both of which accept bit coin.

No, they accept USD, or whatever fiat currency they specify, with a transaction processor like Bitpay converting BTC to fiat on the spot.

Lots of companies "accept" BTC that way, but they're really getting paid in some national currency. It is rather disingenuous of people to claim otherwise.

And yes, a company would be bonkers to accept, and keep, anything as volatile as BTC.

about 5 months ago

Comcast Training Materials Leaked

timholman Re:Is there an counter to this? (251 comments)

For example, if you want to disconnect.
Comcast: Thanks for calling in... long nonsense fill speech later... How can I help you?
You: I would like to disconnect my service effective immediately, if you waste my time and/or do anything other than disconnect me immediately, I will request a supervisor, I will accept nothing less than a supervisor, I will not allow you to put me on hold, and I will make this call miserable for the both of us until my service has been satisfactorily disconnected.
*at this point 90% of agents will just do it and take the hit on their stats to not deal with you, but if they wont, read on*
Comcast: I'm sorry to hear that sir, but I will have to transfer you to our disconnect department...
You: *cut them off* Please get your supervisor, do not put me on hold. Thank you.
Comcast: But my supervisor can't...
You:You're wasting both of our time, call your supervisor over, I'd like to speak to them immediately. Inform them that if THEY can't disconnect my service, I'll be asking for their manager as well. This will continue until my service is disconnected, I will not be put on hold.

This is way too much effort, unless you happen to enjoy yanking some chains over the phone.

Here's how you quit Comcast:

(1) Disconnect every piece of Comcast equipment in your home.
(2) Load it in a box, and put the box in your car.
(3) Drive to the nearest Comcast customer center.
(4) Dump the box on the counter and tell the rep: "I wish to terminate my service immediately."

No one will argue with you. You have completely bypassed Comcast's customer retention process by doing this. Pay the amount due on your bill, get a receipt with a complete list of the equipment you've turned in, then go home.

about 5 months ago

Comcast Confessions

timholman Re:I must be the outlier (234 comments)

I cancelled my Comcast cable service last week. Walked into the office, handed them my equipment and told them I wanted to cancel my account. The person behind the counter checked in the equipment, had me sign a form indicating I had returned all the equipment and pay the prorated amount I owed.

I was in and out in just over a minute. I waited in line significantly longer than that.

You're not an outlier, but you did do exactly the right thing. You cancelled in person, instead of over the phone.

The people you call on the phone are highly incentivized to keep you as a customer. The ones working behind the counter are not.

If you want to quit ANY cable service, then disconnect all the equipment, load it in your car, take it down to their local office, and tell them that you wish to drop their service immediately. No one will argue with you; at that point you have bypassed their normal customer retention script.

about 6 months ago

Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

timholman Re:Hardly surprising.. (291 comments)

Barring a total miracle like Rossi's unicorn reactor it seems we've already passed the point of no return.

If there are any miracles to be had, I can assure you they won't be coming from a pseudoscientific scam artist like Rossi.

It's not like we don't have the technology to tackle AGW. We know how to build nuclear power plants right now, and we also know how to deal with the waste. All we lack is the political will to do it. We don't need "miracles" from snake-oil salesmen like Rossi.

about 6 months ago

NASA Launching Satellite To Track Carbon

timholman Re:what a waste of money (190 comments)

We must go even further than that. We must entirely eliminate all carbon and carbon-containing compounds from the earth's biosphere. Otherwise, oxidation of organic compounds will once again result in the release of CO2.

As a side effect, doing so will eliminate all danger of young children dying due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Think of the children!

about 7 months ago

Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

timholman Re:Well, in all fairness... (104 comments)

If you do some Googling for a Paul McArthur locator patent, you get two patents. That doesn't say he exist, but if he doesn't, somebody's gone to an awful lot of trouble to pretend he does, as one of these patents were filed 12 years ago (not Bluetooth at the time, obviously.)

Yes, that could be the same Paul McArthur. I also notice he is last on the list of inventors, which probably indicates he had the least contribution. But with a name like "Paul McArthur", who can be sure?

So maybe his name really is Paul McArthur ... or maybe not. But in any case, "Dr. Paul McArthur", the man with the B.S. in "Electronics and Microprocessor Design", the man who earned a Ph.D. and M.D. by the age of 28 while working full-time as an RF design engineer, yet has no presence on the web and don't bother to list the details that would allow anyone to verify his expertise ... that man is definitely a fake.

about 7 months ago

Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

timholman An obvious pseudoscientific scam (104 comments)

The iFind project stunk of a pseudoscientific scam from the outset. Ignoring WeTag's laughable claims of the iFind being able to harvest any usable amount of energy from a device that small (RF harvesting circuits either need big antennas or to have RF energy beamed right at them), consider the biography of the so-called "Dr. Paul McArthur":

Currently I am working out of Plano, TX. I have been involved in this industry since 1984. After I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics and Microprocessor Design, I continued my education and obtained my two graduate degrees while I was also working full time as a senior RF design engineer in MRI, at the ripe old age of 28. My Ph.D. also included bipolar IC design at that point, but was more system level, concentrating on RF interactions with the body from consumer product sources. My other degree was medical.

A bachelor of science degree in "Electronics and Microprocessor Design"? That's like earning a degree in "Computer Programming and Windows Apps". Pseudoscientists love to claim academic credentials, but always seem to screw up the details, because they want their credentials to sound as impressive as possible. And on the flip side, they'll never tell you where their degrees supposedly came from.

Then there's the matter of the Ph.D. and the M.D. degrees, both earned by the age of 28 while he was working full-time as an RF design engineer. Really? So did he start when he was 12 years old? And I guess he never slept? And of course you could ask the obvious questions, such as:

(1) "Dr. McArthur, what schools did you earn your graduate degrees at? And what years did you earn them?"
(2) "Dr. McArthur, can you point us to the references for the journal articles that you published as part of your Ph.D. degree?"

Not that you would ever get an answer, because "Dr. McArthur" is a fake. He was clever enough to pick a name that was less obvious than "John Smith", but still essentially impossible to track down using web searches.

If you look into "free energy" scams, you'll find people like "Dr. McArthur" everywhere. Some of them buy fake degrees from diploma mills, and others just make up their educational credentials wholesale. If you ever find yourself dealing with someone who touts his credentials but won't give you a straight answer where and when he got them, then you can be certain you're dealing with a fraud or a pseudoscientist.

about 7 months ago

Test: Quantum Or Not, Controversial Computer No Faster Than Normal

timholman Re:The real question in my mind (119 comments)

Seems odd to me though that they can't provide easily verified sample problem spaces where their device works better than a conventional PC as the problem gets 'bigger'.

This "failure to do the obvious thing", i.e. the designers not providing their own sample problem spaces to validate their own design, is one of the warning signs of pseudoscience.

It is equally troubling if they state "Hey, you didn't run the right test" as a post hoc excuse, while failing to specify just what the right test was beforehand. They are shifting the burden of proof to others - another warning sign of pseudoscience.

There are many, many historical cases of otherwise reputable scientists and engineers falling into a pseudoscientific mindset. It should not be ruled out here.

about 7 months ago

Interviews: Forrest Mims Answers Your Questions

timholman Re:Too bad about evolution (161 comments)

I really liked Mims's electronics books, but I can't respect him as a scientist when he misrepresents the theory of evolution and proposes (essentially) intelligent design instead.

Personally, I have no problem respecting Mims' contributions as a scientist. There isn't a single scientist or engineer on earth who doesn't have some blind spots in his philosophical and political worldview. No matter how smart or accomplished someone may be, I guarantee that if you talk to them long enough, he or she will reveal something about his or her personal beliefs that will leave you scratching your head and saying, "WTF?"

I may not agree with Mims' views on evolution, but keep in mind that no one reading this Slashdot article knew what those views were until they read his answers. Mims has never used his books as a platform to proselytize his religious viewpoints. Furthermore, those books have inspired many, many people to learn about electronics, and that is a net gain for the world.

In the long run, scientific facts will stand on their own. They will not go away, regardless of how many people refuse to believe in them. As long as Mr. Mims doesn't try to force his ideas on others, then I choose to appreciate him for the good he has done, and ignore the rest.

about 8 months ago

Driverless Cars Could Cripple Law Enforcement Budgets

timholman Re:Kind of a problem ... (626 comments)

This to me has always been the point at which driverless cars kind of fall apart, determining who is really in charge, and defining what that means.

The only thing that really falls apart is how we assign blame if an accident occurs. You are right, it is silly to pretend that people will be expected to take control of an autonomous car in a split second. They will sleep, read, play games, eat, whatever ... but they will not pay attention to the road. The car will be in charge, and with every passing year fewer people will even know how to drive, much less want to.

So ... who pays if a driverless car has an accident? Easy enough; every owner pays into an annual fund managed by the government that is used to pay for any injuries. In effect, the government indemnifies everyone, because the benefits of driverless cars (far fewer deaths and injuries overall) far outweigh the potential risk of death and injury to a few.

The model is already used by the U.S. government for vaccines. A very small percentage of children who get vaccinated have a very bad reaction to them. Their injuries are paid for by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. That way, vaccine manufacturers don't get sued out of business, and we don't have thousands of children dying each year from communicable childhood diseases.

I would assume a similar model will be adopted for driverless cars. Instead of having human drivers kill 35,000 people a year, we would have autonomous cars killing orders of magnitude fewer: a tremendous net gain for society as a whole.

about 8 months ago

An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

timholman Re:single biggest threat to STEM education (264 comments)

Yes. THIS.

The single biggest thing that renders useless an otherwise-great STEM education is the lack of ability to write well.

Legion are the devs who string together many words, but forget to have a verb or period at the end. Innumerable are the IT wonks who can't scrape together a coherent and concise summary of 1000-page compliance reports. I swear, the collective plural noun for some of the security analysts at work is "a shimmer of tin foil hats" or "a fuckery of subjectivism" ...and they don't even understand the nature of the criticism.

Can I *PLEASE* have a critical thinker and good writer in the house???? Anyone??

You are absolutely correct. Most people with STEM backgrounds cannot write a coherent paragraph or make a coherent presentation. But guess what? The same is true with most humanities majors.

I used to serve on a faculty committee that evaluated essays for the entire university. As a group, we would read a short essay, grade it, and determine if the student needed to take remedial composition courses before graduation.

I never saw any significant correlation between a particular major and writing skill. The good, mediocre, and bad writers were pretty much spread across the entire student body.

The one correlation I've observed in my career is this: good writers universally tend to be good readers. They read for pleasure, and read a wide variety of books. Those also tend to be exactly the people who have good critical thinking skills, because they've had the voices of hundreds or thousands of different authors in their heads all their lives. That exposure to so many different viewpoints is absolutely critical.

If you want to make people better writers, then make them better readers. That is the hard part, and there is no simple solution.

about 9 months ago



Psystar Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple Dismissed

timholman timholman writes  |  more than 6 years ago

timholman (71886) writes "A judge has dismissed Psystar's suit claiming that Apple violates the Sherman Anti-Trust by tying its operating system to its hardware.


From the article: "Indeed, Psystar's allegations are internally contradictory. Psystar alleges that Mac OS is, by definition, an independent and unique market. That is, Mac OS, by definition, admits no reasonable substitutes," Judge Alsup wrote in his ruling. "Psystar further avers, however, that Apple engages in the alleged anti-competitive conduct "in order to protect its valuable monopoly in the Mac OS market and, by extension, Apple-Labeled Computer Hardware Systems from potential competitive threats," and that Apple's "unreasonable restraints on trade allow APPLE to maintain its monopoly position with respect to the Mac OS and Apple-Labeled Computer Hardware Systems submarket.""

Is inexpensive video surveillance possible?

timholman timholman writes  |  more than 6 years ago

timholman (71886) writes "After a series of burglaries and auto break-ins in my neighborhood, I'm thinking about adding some video security cameras to my home. To me, the object isn't just deterrence — if someone tries to break into my house or my car (parked on the street in front of my house), I'd like to provide a high quality image of the perpetrator to give to the police. Inexpensive video surveillance systems are nearly useless, since the image quality is atrocious. The problem is being able to get good image quality at an affordable price. After some research, I've decided that using network cameras to FTP images to a central server over a HomePlug network is the best solution. However, good megapixel network cameras (e.g. Stardot or Axis cameras) can easily cost more than $1000 each. Has any Slashdotter dealt with a similar situation? Is there any way to get reasonable quality (preferably open source) video surveillance equipment for home use (daytime and nightime) without paying an arm and a leg? Is it better to go with a couple of expensive cameras, or a multitude of inexpensive cameras? Is paying two to three thousand dollars simply unavoidable if I want to monitor my front and back yards?"

$399 Mac Clone a LIkely Hoax

timholman timholman writes  |  more than 6 years ago

timholman (71886) writes "According to Gizmodo, an investigation has shown that the $399 OpenMac is almost certainly vaporware, as is Psystar itself. http://gizmodo.com/380488/psystar-exposed-looks-like-a-hoax The company's address has actually changed twice this week, according to its web page, and Psystar is no longer accepting credit card transactions. Too bad for those who may have already ordered an OpenMac!"


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