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An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

uncqual Re: Agner Krarup Erlang - The telephone in 1909! (340 comments)

There's quite a bit of inefficiency with this system at my (very large) local Fry's when it was very busy. Although with NewEgg et al, I rarely go into a Frys now - I used to go in once every week or two now maybe only go once every few months and rarely when they are busy so my experiences may not reflect current practice well. In this case, they have many registers open and it's quite far from the head of the queue to the registers at the extreme reaches of the large register farm. As a result, when a checker is assigned a register a long way from the head of the queue, they end up waiting several seconds for their next customer to arrive and begin their transaction and that waiting time is wasted labor. Those checkers who are assigned registers closer to the head of the queue keep busier -- I don't know if they rotate to compensate for this or the best checkers are put at registers near the head of the queue or there is some other way to help compensate for this phenomena.

Also, without a "line coordinator" (who usually stands on a platform so they can see over the heads of customers), there can be several "green lights" on registers and as people self dispatch to these lights, it's often unclear to the next person in line if all the registers with green lights have been "claimed" by customers ahead of them who are walking towards registers and it's also hard to notice when a register light has just changed from red to green. This results in two people arriving at the same register or the person at the head of the line standing there thinking there's no available register when there is. Fortunately, when they are busy, the always seem to have a line coordinator to keep track of all this.

However, it occurred to me immediately that technology could pretty much solve this problem and eliminate the line dispatcher. At the head of the line, there could be a button (perhaps along with some motion/proximity sensors) which the customer at the head of the line holds down. A screen would display a register number as it becomes available and, perhaps, that register's light could then flash orange or something to make it stand out. When the button is released (and perhaps when sensors note the person at the head of the line has passed beyond the button), the displayed register is considered assigned and the next customer presses the button to get their next assignment. It's a bit complicated, but the average Fry's customer (at least in this area) is probably a little smarter and able to understand such a system than the average Walmart customer.

There, actually, would probably be no reason for the lights anymore on the registers with this system since each customer is told which register to go to.

As well, the system could track how long, on the average, it takes between a transaction finishing and the next one starting (presumably longer for those far from the head of the queue) and as hints of transaction completion are evident (payment in full for example) and item count/size are analyzed (for estimating bagging time), the next customer could be dispatched to the register before the prior transaction was actually complete - sometimes this would result in double stacking but the checker could delay the dispatch if they knew there was some reason the current transaction would take longer to complete "post payment" and if double stacking occurred the checker could notice it and with a single button push put the "stacked" customer at the head of the electronic queue and they would get redispatched to the next available nearby register (perhaps only "downstream" if possible to reduce two way traffic). Redispatches would be indicated on a small screen at each register and would only be done once a target register is immediately available (i.e., no speculative dispatch so customer doesn't get pissed at being "stacked" multiple times).

Extra credit for all the germs passed from customer to customer touching the button - although with some "gating" system sort of like freeway onramp metering and sensors, the button could probably be eliminated at the expense of a bit of floor space :)

Perhaps short sub-queues closer to the registers they service could be instituted (people are directed from the single long line to three or four short subqueues which service a subset of the registers, thereby reducing the time between register assignment and the customer appearing at the register. However, this would probably require more floor space, create more confusion, and, although more efficient at getting people to the front door more quickly on the average then the current system, may seem "unfair" to those who happen to get stuck in a slower subqueue than the customer behind them.

4 days ago
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Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

uncqual Re:Walmart is used to this (232 comments)

Largely, though, it's the clientele. Just look at the "People of Walmart" websites...

What, did Walmart breed or cloned these people? Did they raise their own food and make their own stuff before and stopped doing this when Walmart came to town? Surely these people were shopping somewhere before Walmart came to town. So, is your complaint is that "Before Walmart, these people stayed on their side of the tracks where I couldn't see them"?

about two weeks ago
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ISPs Violating Net Neutrality To Block Encryption

uncqual Re:No Carriers (149 comments)

It's kind of like watching a Hollywood hacking scene.

Speak for yourself. The password cracking programs I use display all the passwords as they are checked (unfortunately, I've been unsuccessful at cracking passwords in keyspaces exceeding 5 alpha numeric characters - I think I need a monitor with a faster response time).

about two weeks ago
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Test-Driving a $35 Firefox OS Smartphone

uncqual Re:Buffering.. (132 comments)

OpenSignal isn't a very reliable source of information on coverage as it's based (at least in part) on crowd-sourced data. If people in an area are not using the app and contributing data, an area will show no coverage.

It's quite likely that the more rural an area is in India (or the United States), the less likely it is that someone will be using OpenSignal's app in a given location for several reasons. First, there are just less people per square km each day - so a 1% market penetration for the app is more likely to leave areas without data. Second, rural areas tend to be less affluent and therefore less likely to have phones that have room for lots of apps and/or subscribers who are willing to spend money for bandwidth for the app. Finally, I wager (admittedly based on my experience in the US) that urban areas have, on the average, a larger percentage of people who are techncally savvy and likely to have even heard of OpenSignal.

I live in one of the world's tech centers with very good cell coverage. However, the heat maps would lead you to believe in many areas that the only coverage is along freeways and arterial streets and there is none on secondary (typically residential) streets. I know this is completely untrue and I assume it reflects that thousands or tens of thousands of people a day use each freeway and arterial streets and drive a significant percentage of their miles on such streets so if a small percentage of the people run the app, one of them will end up using the major streets every so often and providing data. On the other hand, in a quiet residential neighborhood, that same penetration of users would likely show many/most blocks w/o coverage because these streets have so few "passenger miles" per year.

As well, there are large greenspace areas w/hiking trails around where I know there is coverage and there's absolutely NO hint of that shown via OpenSignal - again, low usage by people with their phones on and running the app probably is the cause.

Maybe you can trust OpenSignal where they claim there is coverage, but it's pretty unreliable for showing where there isn't coverage. (This gives me some ideas for a better app - but I won't share that here!)

about two weeks ago
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Apple Sapphire Glass Supplier GT Advanced Files For Bankruptcy

uncqual Re:Possible sequence (171 comments)

All of GTAT's creditor's (like all creditors) presumably knew there was a risk that GTAT (like all companies) couldn't pay their bills. The creditors should have (and, probably did) factor that risk into either the loans they made to GTAT (such as via higher interest rates), the price of the products they sold GTAT (i.e., higher prices), or the terms on which they sold to GTAT (such as C.O.D. or net-10 vs. net-60).

It's a stretch to say that GTAT's losses are being "socialized" by the government onto their creditors. The creditors all decided to take a risk. Usually the creditors win, in this case they have probably lost - that's just business. These businesses that will likely absorb these losses could have protected themselves in a variety of ways but, likely, chose not to because they felt the risk adjusted cost of doing so exceeded the benefit.

All the government will be doing in this case is administering contracts between private parties which were entered into willingly. Federal bankruptcy law is implicitly part of every contract to loan money or sell or buy goods - the government will just assist in enforcing that portion of GTAT's contracts just as the government assists in enforcing a contract between you and a roofer when you sue the roofer in small claims court for the roofer's failure to deliver on the contract.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is It Worth Being Grandfathered On Verizon's Unlimited Data Plan?

uncqual Re:Ting (209 comments)

Ting resells Sprint service.

They roam to Verizon for Voice and Text if there's no Sprint service available (although, if you're in an area with marginal Sprint coverage, you may get stuck with a crappy Sprint connection while a Verizon user will get a great Verizon connection).

However, they do NOT roam to any other carrier for Data. In many sparsely populated areas outside where I live, Verizon has MUCH better data coverage than Sprint. It's not been much of a problem for me, but I don't use data much (and I make it a point to keep maps cached on my phone for simple map usage).

about three weeks ago
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Boeing Told To Replace Cockpit Screens Affected By Wi-Fi

uncqual Re:Surprisingly (142 comments)

If this is really a crash risk, I'm not convinced relying on passengers not forgetting to turn their devices OFF (completely) or put them in Airplane Mode is a terribly comfortable solution.

Anyway, that may not be enough - from the article:

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was concerned that the screens could be disrupted by mobile satellite communications, cellular signals from phones, and air surveillance and weather radar.

(Is it really a crash risk? That I don't know.)

about three weeks ago
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Microsoft's Asimov System To Monitor Users' Machines In Real Time

uncqual Re:Start menu usage dropped in lieu of what? (269 comments)

In order to be certified as a Windows 10 system, keyboards, mice, monitors, and system enclosures will have to have shock sensors so MS can tell that users are throwing their mice at the wall, hitting their heads against the monitor, or kicking the system enclosure in frustration.

In Windows 11, users will be required to have shock sensors implanted in their foreheads and hands to detect when they hit their heads against the wall or beat their dog or spouse in frustration over dealing with Windows.

about three weeks ago
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FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

uncqual Re:So. (126 comments)

If enough people agree with you, they will vote for the Green Party candidate, the Socialist Party candidate, or the Libertarian Party candidate. However, it seems they don't. (I, personally, haven't voted for a "major party" candidate for President for decades and I've voted in every Presidential election since I was 18).

Rinse and repeat for your Senate and House candidate(s).

about a month ago
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FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

uncqual Re:So. (126 comments)

Did you vote for the right guy? Maybe not. But, that's on YOU. Remember, Obama was re-elected after it was clear that "hope and change" was just that - "unfulfilled hope for change". Representative democracy is messy and inefficient. The alternative, based on various experiments over the past couple hundred years, is worse.

about a month ago
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FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

uncqual Re:So. (126 comments)

No, it is NOT necessarily representative. Those who feel strongly about an issue are more likely to comment. If 95% of the people believe in X, but it's not their primary goal in life (more worried about their kids, jobs, families), they won't even be aware of the offer to comment, let alone comment. So, the fact that 5% comment for ~X is NOT even remotely representative. It is a self-selecting sample and is, basically, completely irrelevant. In a (representative) democracy, we each get a vote and the fact I feel more strongly about X than you do should not give me more influence when counting votes.

For the record, I am in favor of a version of "net neutrality", but with technical understanding. The notion that "every packet must be routed without regard to what either end paid or even wanted or what the endpoints are is absurd. Yes (and I hope /. readers understand how absurd this position is), in the masses of people who don't know a router from a switch, or Level 3 from Comcast, or latency from bandwidth, or a packet from a session, "net neutrality" may sound good -- until they discover that it actually requires removing Netflix servers from Comcast data centers (and, increasing their monthly charges to pay for the unnecessary costs both Netflix and Comcast incur by instead both routing the packets through Level 3 et al). It's a return to the old days of monopoly telephone service where the FCC controls every innovation and the incumbent players are insulated from innovation.

Ideally, the subscriber pays (perhaps via Netflix et al) for the service they want. However, the network protocols to do this effectively don't exist yet end-to-end across all levels. We should work on this. Just as if I pay more for 200mbps than my neighbor who pays for 15mbps, I am happy deciding if I should pay more to route my Skype or Netflix or ??? packets with high QoS. However, I sure as hell don't want to pay for that for my BT traffic.

about a month ago
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FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

uncqual Re:So. (126 comments)

Allowing caching servers on an ISP networks is NOT "net neutrality" (for example, Uncqual Streaming Svcs Inc is unlikely to be offered that because I offer, well, a byte a month to my zero subscribers). The point is,"every packet is identical" and "no packet is treated differently" and "no deals between ISPs and providers" -- all benchmarks of "net neutrality" zealots, PREVENT such deals which save EVERYBODY money and result in a much more efficient delivery system.

about a month ago
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FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

uncqual Re:So. (126 comments)

3.7 million comments, even if all were rabidly in favor of "net neutrality", is a small fraction of registered voters in the US. Therefore, one can't draw the conclusion that the majority of the voters agree, or disagree, with net neutrality.

For example, many people may be fine with allowing Netflix to partner with their ISP to put Netflix servers in their ISP's datacenters to feed content directly onto the ISP's network - esp. if that would save money for everyone and increase service quality at the same time.

We vote for our representatives (including our President who can exert a lot of control over the FCC) and they manage and direct the organizations that make these decisions. That voting process gives everyone an opportunity to make their opinion heard and their vote counted. It also allows only those who have the right to vote to do so. It also prohibits one person from casting multiple votes w/fake addresses etc. None of that can be said of the FCC comment process.

In the next Presidential election, vote for the a candidate who will push for net neutrality if that's important to you.

about a month ago
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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

uncqual Re:I dunno about LEDs, but CFLs don't last (602 comments)

Or, you can just drop a brick in the tank.

However, make sure to shut the water off and empty the tank first so you don't make a mess from splashing water.

This can dramatically reduce water usage - at least for a couple of days.

about a month ago
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The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

uncqual Re:So in the future ... (144 comments)

Yes, I believe I will see the day when I can go in, and print myself a new car, with tires and the fuel cell.

And I believe you must be posting from the far distant future (and, apparently humans have evolved to handle very high temperatures or our current projections on the lifecycle of the Sun are very wrong).

Cars have many different materials in them and even the same materials get processed differently (with heat treating, chemical baths, etching etc). Stocking all these materials efficiently and being able to handle the different processes in on demand 3D printing seems to be a very distant dream - esp. if the result is not 30,000 parts produced on different machines that then need assembly. Imagine the complexity and cost of 3D printing the following in one facility where you "can go in and print yourself a new car":

  1. "Bag" part of an airbag
  2. "Explosive" charge to deploy the airbag
  3. The circuitry for the ECU, airbag control, et al
  4. Tires
  5. Cabin Air Filters
  6. Specialized glass for windshield/side windows/rear windows
  7. LCD panel for driver control
  8. Bearings (motor, wheel, etc)
  9. Brake pads
  10. Lubricants and fluids (brake etc).
  11. Tires
  12. Etc...

There would have to be an amazing advances in material science and engineering way beyond 3D printing technology to make this work.

You might be able to "design" your car's body panels and have them 3D printed along with various decorative elements, but not the core of the car from the ground up for a very long time (and, by that time it's possible/feasible, the notion of a "car" will likely be a long forgotten quaint historical reference).

about a month ago
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Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

uncqual Re:This is supposed to be the *WAY* they do their (392 comments)

And, that's a problem with our laws that should be fixed. If a competent PCP would not have referred the person to an ER, the ER doctor/PA/NP should be able to tell the person that their condition is not a medical emergency and advise them to see their primary care provider and the ER should suffer no more risk than the PCP would have. It should also be a crime to misrepresent your medical condition at an ER in order to get preferred or priority treatment (yes, this would rarely be prosecuted, but the occasional prosecution would deter people from doing it).

There is a good social reason for NOT completing treatment and diagnosis after evaluation determines the problem not to be an emergency -- the next time that person (and their friends and family) probably will not clog up the ER with what is obviously a cold or minor sprain that can be dealt with during normal business hours by their primary care provider.

The system, expectations, and culture is broken -- requiring ERs to act as PCPs is not the answer and the liability laws should reflect that.

about a month ago
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Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

uncqual Re: This is supposed to be the *WAY* they do their (392 comments)

This is rare. However, if that's a concern for enough women in the market for insurance, insurance companies could offer, if it were not for PPACA rules, pregnancy coverage for women who have had a (potentially unsuccessful) tubal litigation at a vastly reduced rate (a few dollars a year would cover it given how rare such pregnancies are).

This is not unlike, for some strange reason, PPACA rules allow charging a additional premium for smokers - or put another way, a discount for not smoking. Why can't insurance companies offer similar discounts for those who take steps to avoid other conditions such as pregnancy by having a tubal litigation? Note that non-smokers still get lung cancer (much more likely I suspect than women who have undergone a tubal litigation getting pregnant).

Why not allow insurance companies to charge more for people who engage in "extreme" sports - their odds of getting expensive injuries at a young age are much higher than someone who doesn't engage in them.

about a month ago
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Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

uncqual Re:This is supposed to be the *WAY* they do their (392 comments)

So, they'd be using the very expensive ER visits rather than the much less expensive office visits.

And that is simply a problem with the law or hospitals not being willing to say "no". When someone presents with the types of problems that result in "very expensive ER visits rather than the much less expensive office visits", the ER should simply tell them to leave (and have them arrested for trespassing if they refuse) because they are not emergencies - if I call 911 because I want a pizza, they won't deliver it and I may well get in trouble if I keep calling with that request.

about a month ago

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