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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 2 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 4 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 4 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 5 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 5 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 5 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 6 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 6 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 8 months ago

An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

timholman I've heard this before (264 comments)

I'm not quite sure where Dean Fitzgerald is coming from with this editorial. It's not as if every accredited ABET school doesn't already teach humanities as part of its engineering curriculum. In fact, the ABET 2000 accreditation process requires every engineering school to demonstrate that its undergraduate students are exposed to cultural, ethical, and economic concepts.

As someone who works at a university and teaches engineering courses, I've heard similar remarks from faculty members in the humanities throughout my career. To me this is just another example of the old "engineers aren't fully rounded human beings, because they haven't majored in the humanities" spiel.

"So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities - the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence - as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences."

I agree completely. But where are they going to get that understanding? From my experience, probably not in a humanities classroom.

In too many humanities courses, it's not about critical thinking, it's about figuring out the personal beliefs of the professor, because in many cases your grade depends on not offending those beliefs. I saw it when I was a student, and I still see it as a faculty member today. Too much of the grading in the humanities curriculum is entirely subjective, and in that sense I mean that it's the professor's opinion that counts the most ... and the students know it.

When I give an exam problem, the student's political and religious beliefs are completely irrelevant to their grades. The answer is either right or wrong, with partial credit assigned according to a standard rubric. My personal prejudices are meaningless. I wouldn't have it any other way, and neither would my colleagues.

A good engineering course teaches the essence of critical thinking: look at a problem, analyze it, write down a system of relevant equations, and solve it. What passes for critical thinking in many humanities courses is: "Repeat back my personal viewpoint verbatim, or else suffer the consequences with your grade."

So I think I'll take this latest editorial from Dean Fitzgerald with a very, very large shaker of salt. This strikes me as yet another in a very long series of not-so-subtle digs at STEM curriculums.

about 8 months ago

The Case For a Safer Smartphone

timholman Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (184 comments)

we need are smarter drivers on the road who fucking know better.

Here's the problem: we've tried to make people into better drivers since the automobile was invented. It hasn't worked. You can't change human nature.

People still drive drunk, they still drive distracted. The main reason fatalities have dropped is only because cars are safer.

We don't need smarter drivers. We need smarter cars ... or specifically, self-driving cars. Take the human entirely out of the equation, and only then will you see a real difference.

We'll have self-driving cars on the road long before anyone invents a smartphone that "knows what's good for you". And when that happens, the problem of distracted driving will become completely moot.

about 8 months ago

The Graffiti Drone

timholman Re:I expect... (126 comments)

He's not going to complain when the police drones provide a counterpoint by dousing him with pepper spray, right?

Or let's put it another way: does KATSU object to the police having drones in the sky, providing 24/7 surveillance?

Because if he does, his high-tech vandalism is providing the government with the perfect rationalization for putting their drones in the sky: "See? The bad guys have drones, and they're using them to commit crimes. We need our own drones to stop them."

Add to that argument the fact that homeowners and business owners hate taggers, and idiots like KATSU are simply making things worse for everyone.

about 8 months ago

Nanodot-Based Smartphone Battery Recharges In 30 Seconds

timholman Re:Now it's the grid engineers' problem to solve.. (227 comments)

A Tesla S has an 85kWh battery. To charge that in 30 seconds requires 10,200,000 watts of power - approximately the full electrical service to a decent size skyscraper. That's 42,500 amps at 240V, the full maximum power available to over 212 modern homes and a totally impractical amount of current to handle with any reasonable electrical equipment. So while fast-charging batteries are great and a necessary step forward in technology, the universal adoption of electric cars will require not just upgrading our infrastructure, but a complete rethinking and redevelopment of the electrical grid using not-yet-imagined technologies.

Not to mention the fact that you are assuming perfectly lossless charging. If the charging process is 90% efficient (an optimistic number), then you need 11.3 MW to charge that car, with the battery pack dissipating 1.13 MW of waste heat during the process. That won't do much good for the interior of the car or its occupants.

Unless someone invents room temperature superconductors for electrical transmission lines, it will be impossible to replace our modern fleet with all-electric vehicles. Even if a refueling station could offer "swap out" batteries, it would still draw about 708 kW from the grid on a continuous basis trickle-charging the batteries, just to refuel 200 cars a day (and that's assuming lossless charging).

Electric cars are best suited for overnight charging from the grid, while the Tesla fast-charging stations are only practical because so few people use them. If everyone in the country bought a Tesla, the shortcomings of the electric power grid for electrical vehicles would quickly become evident.

about 8 months ago

Scientists Solve the Mystery of Why Zebras Have Stripes

timholman Terrible summary (190 comments)

You know, if you're going to just copy and paste part of the article as your summary, you might as well post the last paragraph, and get to the actual explanation:

Zebras have stripes because biting flies have an aversion to landing on striped surfaces.

about 9 months ago

The Future of Cryptocurrencies

timholman Re:What we've learned from Bitcoin (221 comments)

There are scaling problems. Currently, every user has to have a complete copy of the entire transaction journal back to the first Bitcoin, and has to keep up with all the transactions as they happen. The confirmation process has a 7 transaction per second limit. Confirmations take about half an hour before they can be trusted; longer during busy periods.

IMO, this will be the ultimate nail in the coffin for Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrency that relies on a single blockchain. Bitcoin advocates wax eloquently about the beauty of the BTC transaction verification system, but it has always struck me as profoundly stupid. It's as if someone said, "Hey, let's create a giant Excel spreadsheet, and have everyone in the world record their financial transactions on that one spreadsheet. Plus, your transactions won't be confirmed until a majority of people verify your math. Brilliant!"

No, it's stupid. If I want to buy a hot dog in New York, why should that matter to a guy who wants to buy a newspaper in Los Angeles? Why does my financial transaction have to be intertwined with his while we both queue up on the same blockchain? It is absolutely one of the most profoundly inefficient ways of spending money that anyone could have possibly invented.

Or put it this way: the BTC network can handle about 604,800 transactions a day. Assuming the average person buys or sells something with BTC an average of 5 times a day, that means the network hits its limit with 120,960 users ... worldwide. And this is the financial system that is supposedly going to replace all fiat currencies? It's laughable.

Of course, Bitcoin supporters will claim that the network can always be scaled up in speed. But what they don't point out is how quickly bandwidth and disk space requirements will explode if this happens. For example, scaling the network up to 2000 transactions per second would result in a Bitcoin node downloading about 1 MB per second. No big deal, until you realize that means each node will need about 2.6 TB of bandwidth each month, and that's just to handle the needs of 10% of the population of the United States, assuming 5 transactions per person per day.

The numbers don't make sense, and never will. Modern economies are far too complex to operate in the serial fashion that a blockchain mandates. Bitcoin will never be more than a niche player in the world financial system.

about 9 months ago

Amazon Coins and How the Definition of 'Crypto-Currency' Is Getting Too Loose

timholman Re:Muckraking and FUD, move along, nothing to see. (115 comments)

The blog author is... pretty much clueless. Nobody but him is confusing Bitcoins and Amazon Coins, or referring to the latter as crypto-currency. Nobody but him is confused about the difference between the two.

I think there is a less obvious motive behind this article. It's not that BTC promoters think that Amazon Coins are confusing consumers; rather, to them any competing digital currency is a danger to Bitcoin. The only thing that makes a BTC "valuable" is its scarcity. Since only 21 million BTC will ever be mined, that makes every BTC unique and irreplaceable.

But being unique and irreplaceable does not necessarily equate to being valuable. As in all things digital, Bitcoin's own popularity will be its undoing. There are already dozens of competing crypto-currencies out there, many of them little more than BTC clones. If you have BTC, then it is in your best interests to attack the competition in order to preserve the uniqueness of your "investment". Although no one will be confused by the difference between BTC and Amazon Coins, the very use of the word "Coin" dilutes the BTC brand, so to speak.

In fact, I think we may be seeing the opening salvos of a brand recognition war between competing crypto-currencies. If you have BTC to sell, you do not want a potential buyer to consider an alternative currency. Similarly, if you have Dogecoins, Peercoins, or Litecoins, but not Bitcoins, then it will benefit the value of your own stash if you can promote it as a superior alternative to BTC.

It will be an interesting battle that will ultimately wipe out the speculative value of BTC (and all other crypto-currencies), as consumers realize that many, many different currencies exist that behave just like BTC. Ultimately the value of a BTC (or any other crypto-currency) will drop to a level that is more representative of the network processing costs to verify a transaction, rather than any intrinsic value of the coin itself. And when that happens, BTC may actually go more mainstream, as it will no longer be subject to huge day-to-day shifts in value, or market manipulations by get-rich-quick schemers.

about 10 months ago

Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

timholman More FUD (937 comments)

This meme of "self-driving cars will never work, because who gets sued?" keeps popping up, yet the idea of having liability insurance for personal possessions not under your direct control has been around for a long, long time. If someone visits your home and hurts himself while on your property, your homeowner's liability insurance covers you, even if you are not physically present. The insurance companies will learn to deal with self-driving vehicles, because there will be money to be made, and they will figure out a way to get into that market.

In any case, self-driving cars are absolutely inevitable for one major reason: our aging population. Senior citizens are going to demand the freedom of personal transportation, and anyone in the U.S. who tries to tell them "no" is going to be fighting the AARP, which has some of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington. Furthermore, consider citizens who are blind, or deaf, or epileptic. Why shouldn't they have the right to personal transportation? This will become a mandate for individual rights enforced by the federal government.

In any case, people who claim self-driving cars will never work keep ignoring the elephant in the room: 35,000 fatalities and 2.2 million injuries a year, and a cost of $250B due to car crashes - and that is just in the U.S. alone. We slaughter each other right and left, and just shrug our shoulders. I'd much rather trust a computerized driving system, even if it has rare failures, because statistically I'll still be much, much safer on the road.

Ultimately, this argument will all be moot. It reminds me very much about how some people railed against personal cell phones when they first began to appear. How did that work out? In thirty years, you'll have a whole generation of adults who have grown up without having spent 5 minutes of their lives behind the wheel. At that point self-driving cars win by default, because most people won't even know how to drive anymore. To them, knowing how to drive a car will be about as relevant as knowing how to saddle and ride a horse.

about a year 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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