Saturday, July 27, 2013

Seven months since leaving Slashdot

At the end of December 2012, I left Slashdot. Cold turkey, no more reading, no more story submittals, no more comment moderation. I had good karma and I have no idea what they did with it. Like others, I posted under a handle so you won't find my contributions without working at it.

In case you are not familiar with Slashdot, it "is a technology-related news website owned by the US-based company Dice Holdings, Inc. The site, which bills itself as 'News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters,' features user-submitted and evaluated news stories about science and technology related topics." (Source: Wikipedia)

I left for four reasons: I have better sources for "News for Nerds," they refused to track a story back to its original source, the editing of stories was atrocious and I got tired of the stupid comments. Let me expound on these.

Better sources: I have several blogs and other news sources for my tech news. As a whole, they are faster and have better reporting and editing than Slashdot. One of the last straws in December was when Slashdot posted a story that I had read elsewhere two days earlier.

Original source: Slashdot relied on reader-submitted stories. While there is some original reporting on the Internet, many news sites simply scrape and rewrite content from the originators. How many times have you read a story in a major media source and realize that it was written by the Associated Press? The readers who submitted content rarely took the effort to track the story back to its roots, something I always try to do on this blog. This resulted in incorrect information and incomplete stories.

Sometimes, they had ridiculous situations where an Australian news publication was used a source for a United States story. It also resulted in a couple of cases where someone was able to sneak through a story that was a couple of years old.

Atrocious editing: Readers are nerds and their submissions need editing. This didn't happen as much as it should have. Ranging from misspelled words and wrong word usage to summaries that totally misrepresented the stories, this got really obnoxious after a while. Also, the problems listed in "Original source" were passed right on through by the editors.

Stupid comments: Every blog or other site that allows comments has to have a way to deal with stupid ones. Slashdot had an excellent moderation system that used people like me with good karma to keep the stupid comments in line. It was just too much work and there was just too much stupidity to deal with.

I really have a problem with tech people who work exclusively in a Wintel world (Windows + Intel) world and have no clue that there's other worlds out there that have nothing to do with Microsoft or Intel. They would be amazed to know that there are servers out there that don't run any antivirus software and yet are not vulnerable to malware!

Last year, I was wasting too much time cussing at stories and comments on Slashdot. Now I have that time back to do other things, like write this blog.

Updated Aug. 9: Replaced "stupid commenters" with "stupid comments." I really shouldn't call people stupid. People aren't stupid, they just do stupid things, like post stupid comments. As Forrest Gump's mother used to say, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Friday, July 26, 2013

The new Gmail Inbox: I like it

I like the new Gmail Inbox with tabs, which I got yesterday. I'm training it as there are some things that are showing up under the wrong tab. But for the most part, the default classification is good. Here is a screen shot of the top of my Inbox*:

My understanding is that "Primary" is the default tab for any conversations (groups of messages) not showing up under the other tabs.

"Social" are messages connected with social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogs I've subscribed to, etc.

"Promotions" are messages that have an advertising flavor to them. Promotions are not spam as that goes into the spam filter. A sample message is like the one I got from Toyota today, "Bruce, Get a First Look at the All-New Corolla."

"Updates" are more newsy items from companies that I have a relationship with. A typical entry is from Fidelity Investments, "Tax-smart investing tips."

As I mentioned, I'm training it. For example, the two messages from showing in image showed up under "Updates" and I want news like this to be under "Primary." To move them, I selected them with a check in the box at the left then right-clicked (left-clicked for left handers) on the message and selected "Move to Tab ➜" then "Primary". I got a confirmation message that the message had been moved and this:
"Do this for future messages from Yes".


* Yes, I have 14,435 messages in my Inbox of which 4,868 are unread. Google said when I signed up that I don't have to delete messages any more and I listened to them. I recently searched for and used a message I wrote in 2008.

Earlier this week, I passed a milestone that I like: I have now reached over 1,000 page views on this blog. Someone out there is reading my stuff.

The NBC News app has a problem, has a problem

Updated Sept. 6: Although the software on my phone has not been updated, this has been fixed. This post will be kept for reference.

Screen shot from my iPhone
I get NBC News on my iPhone with the NBC News app (version 4.0.1). They're experiencing difficulties right now; I wonder, is anyone at NBC paying attention? Here are the current "Top Stories," in order. For your reading convenience, I've put a number at the beginning of each duplicate showing how many times it has appeared so far:

  • Morsi investigated for murder as rival rallies take to Egypt's streets
  • (2) Morsi investigated for murder as rival rallies take to Egypt's streets
  • (3) Morsi investigated for murder as rival rallies take to Egypt's streets
  • More Dreamliner ills; smoke in one, another grounded
  • Holder: Snowden would not face death penalty if sent home
  • Death-tax tip: Don't do what Gandolfini did
  • Ariel Castro pleads guilty in kidnappings, agrees to life sentence without parole
  • Mysterious hum driving people crazy around the world
  • (2) Ariel Castro pleads guilty in kidnappings, agrees to life sentence without parole
  • (3) Ariel Castro pleads guilty in kidnappings, agrees to life sentence without parole
  • Armed men bust 'Pink Panthers' jewel thief out of Swiss prison
  • (4) Ariel Castro pleads guilty in kidnappings, agrees to life sentence without parole
  • (2) Holder: Snowden would not face death penalty if sent home
  • China silences American-style TV talent shows
  • (2) More Dreamliner ills; smoke in one, another grounded
  • 'Fat shaming' actually increases risk of becoming or staying obese, new study says
  • (5) Ariel Castro pleads guilty in kidnappings, agrees to life sentence without parole
  • Terminally ill 'Simpsons' co-creator Sam Simon giving fortune to charity
  • Pope stresses the importance of family in Brazil speech
  • (6) Ariel Castro pleads guilty in kidnappings, agrees to life sentence without parole
  • (7) Castro agrees to plea deal: Life without parole plus 1,000 years
  • (3) Holder: Snowden would not face death penalty if sent home
  • Driver of crashed Spanish train investigated for 'recklessness,' police say
  • (2) Pope stresses the importance of family in Brazil speech
  • Two dozen injured in Egypt as rival rallies brace for bloodshed
  • (8) Castro agrees to plea deal: Life without parole plus 1,000 years
  • (2) Driver of crashed Spanish train investigated for 'recklessness,' police say
  • Edward Snowden's dad: This story is far from over
  • (3) Pope stresses the importance of family in Brazil speech
  • (9) Castro agrees to plea deal: Life without parole plus 1,000 years
  • (3) Driver of crashed Spanish train investigated for 'recklessness,' police say
  • (2) Terminally ill 'Simpsons' co-creator Sam Simon giving fortune to charity
  • (2) Two dozen injured in Egypt as rival rallies brace for bloodshed
  • Yearning to be a parent, dad is one of few single men who turned to surrogacy
  • (2) 'Fat shaming' actually increases risk of becoming or staying obese, new study says
  • Happy birthday Mick Jagger: 70 never moved better
  • (4) Driver of crashed Spanish train investigated for 'recklessness,' police say
  • LA- area campgrounds shut down after squirrel test positive for plague
  • Is Weiner part of a 'war on women'? EMILY's List says no
  • (5) Driver of crashed Spanish train to be questioned in wake of deadly derailment

  • At this point, the duplicates stop. Stay tuned, I'll let you know if this gets fixed.

    Updated Oct. 19.  Wording changes.

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    Math problem one: The Time Clock Problem

    I was at an orientation meeting for a job which had a situation that lends itself to a math problem. This company uses the last four digits of the employee's Social Security Number to identify the employee on their time clock system. Assuming that the last four digits of the SSN are random (0000 is not valid so valid values are 0001 to 9999) and you have a group of 200 employees, what is the probability that at least two employees have the same last four digits? I will post the answer when I figure it out.

    If you know the answer, post a comment or send me an email at Sorry, other than bragging rights, there is no prize for a correct answer.

    Updated Aug. 9: A solution to this problem is here. I also changed the problem to add "at least" two employees have the same last four digits.

    Updated Aug. 23: I renamed this post from "A math problem for today" to "Math problem one: The Time Clock Problem." Does this mean that there will be additional problems? You bet! But the next one is complicated enough that I'm going to solve it before I post it. That way, I can post the solution the next day. The common theme of these problems: These are problems that occur in real life.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Peaches are no longer king in Georgia

    Georgia is known for peaches. There's even a picture of peach on its license plate. But beginning in 2005 and continuing every year since, Georgia farmers have made more money from blueberries than peaches. That may come to an end this year, though, as one farmer lost over half of his blueberry crop due to excess rain in July.

    One story discussing this is "Blueberry tops peach as Georgia’s top fruit crop" from the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The story about the farmer with rain problems is from News Channel 6.

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    “There’s gold, er, rare-earth metals in them thar hills, boys!”

    It turns out that the waste from many gold mines contains rare-earth metals. Why is that important? According to this article by the Associated Press, "Two years ago, China raised prices — in the case of neodymium, used to make Prius electric motors stronger and lighter, from $15 a kilogram in 2009 to $500 in 2011, while dysprosium oxide used in lasers and halide lamps went from $114 a kilogram in 2010 to $2,830 in 2011. It's also about the time China cut off supplies to Japan, maker of the Prius, in a dispute over international fishing territory." So it's important that new sources of these rare-earth metals are found.

    The AP explains that miners in the early days of the West were looking for gold, silver and copper. They didn't even know what rare-earth metals were; even if they did, these metals are much more difficult to extract. With China raising the prices for political reasons, companies are looking for new sources and they have found them in an unexpected place.


    The quote that the title is based on was originally from "The American Claimant" written by Mark Twain in 1892. However, there is some indication that this phrase was originally spoken by M.F. Stephenson describing the hills around Dahlonega, Georgia.

    From Wikipedia, here are the 17 rare-earth metals. They get the name "rare earth" because they are widely distributed and not concentrated in ores as are gold, silver and copper. Also, they tend to bind to each other. This makes these metals harder to concentrate and refine.

    Note that indium, also mentioned in the story, is not considered a rare-earth metal. Also, I doubt that AP Style calls for capitalizing element names. Oops.

    Updated July 23 to improve formatting.

    Sunday, July 21, 2013

    Nice profile of DatDudeBP

    Cincinnati Magazine is running a great profile on DatDudeBP (otherwise known as Brandon Phillips, second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds). Phillips said some controversial things in that article, which I'm not going to repeat verbatim here, but I will give you a run down on the controversy. Note that this is one sided; the magazine apparently didn't ask or didn't get a response from the team.

    To understand the situation, you need to go back to the 2012 season. Phillips was going to become a free agent at the end of the season while teammate Joey Votto (first baseman for the Reds) had two years remaining on his contract. According to Phillips, Reds management talked to Votto before talking to Phillips. The result was a contract extension offer of $225 million over 10 years which Votto accepted. Then they went to Phillips and offered him a six-year deal worth $72.5 million which he accepted.

    On the face of this, it looks like Votto is getting paid a lot more than Phillips. For me, to compare these salaries fairly, I need to determine the actual salaries for this year and the next two years. I found two sources for this, which agree on the base salaries: Baseball Player Salaries and Sports Contracts.

    Brandon Phillips$10M$11M$12M$33M
    Joey Votto$17M$12M$14M$43M

    Looking at it this way, things don't look so lopsided. Also note that Votto is taking a pay cut next year; Phillips isn't. I don't know if Votto is worth $10 million more than Phillips over three years or not but I think Phillips' outrage is misplaced.

    Saturday, July 20, 2013

    Extra Ohio Lottery profits to schools? Are you kidding?

    The profits from the Ohio Lottery go to fund the state's schools. So what happens when the profits are higher than expected? You got it! The additional state funding gets cut by the amount of the unexpected additional amount. So it's really just a big shell game. But you're not surprised, are you?

    I'm guessing this only works one way. If the Lottery profits come in under budget, there is no corresponding increase in state funding to make up the difference.

    Here's the full article, courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch, from Thursday [sic], July 19.

    iOS 7 or iPhone 6: Improvements that I would like to see

    Apple Computer is going to release iOS 7 for the iPhone and iPad this fall. They are also expected to release a new iPhone this fall (either a 5S or 6). I currently am using an iPhone 4S running iOS 6. Here are some improvements that I would like to see in the new operating system and/or phone:

    • The date on the Calendar app changes every day. I want the Weather app to show the correct current temperature (now it always shows 73º) and the Clock app to show the correct local time (now it always shows 10:15). I understand that changing the Weather and Clock apps could use up the battery faster but I'm confident that Apple can figure out how to accomplish this without wasting battery power (mostly by not updating when I can't see the display).
    • I want to select the default browser (I prefer Chrome to Safari) and the default maps (Google Maps is still more accurate than Apple's Maps app).
    • Many apps (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) include a browser within the app. When you're done with a page in the browser, you tap the back arrow at the top of the screen to go back to the app. Others (sorry, I can't come up with an example) use Safari to display web pages. However, in Safari, there is no back arrow to go back to the app; you have to leave Safari and try to remember which app you were in. The link to Safari should have a back arrow to take you back to the app.
    • Speaking of back arrows, why is Safari's at the bottom of the screen instead of the top like every other app?
    • Here's one that has to be fixed in hardware: There are two speakers at the bottom of the phone. That's great for portrait mode, but when I rotate the phone to look at a video in landscape mode, the way it was designed to be seen, all of the sound comes out of the left side. There needs to be one or two speakers on the top as well (the second added speaker is for people who rotate the other way).
    • When I go into a restaurant with free Internet through wi-fi my phone connects to it with a minimum amount of hassle. So far, so good. Sometimes, the wi-fi is dog slow and I can't do anything with it. Currently, I have to turn the wi-fi off so I can get the faster speed of 3G (yes, it does happen that 3G is faster). I want the phone to select the faster of wi-fi or 3G (4G for later models) for my connection in this situation.
    • I would like two improvements to the Contacts list in the Phone app: The ability to rearrange the sequence of phone numbers in a contact and the ability to display the company name in place of the phone number type. For example, if I look at my recent calls, I see that Sam at "work" called me recently. I would prefer that the entry say Sam at Acme Staffing Service (not the real company) instead. I usually don't care what number within the contact he used to call me.
    That's all the changes I want today. Let's see how many of these get fixed in the next release of software and hardware.

    Updated July 21 to fix grammar and formatting.

    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    Is the Wasson Way Project going to be sacrificed by the Port Authority?

    The Cincinnati Enquirer [limited access] broke this story today: "EXCLUSIVE: Port wants $27M of city's $92M parking deal." As the lede explains, "The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority wants one-third of the $92 million upfront payment the city is to receive for leasing its parking system to the economic development authority to operate with private partners."

    How will this affect funding for the Wasson Way Project? Well, courtesy of the City of Cincinnati, we have a breakdown of where the $92 million is to be spent:

    • $20 million for the I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive,
    • $4 million for the continuation of Smale Riverfront Park,
    • $12 million to convert the former Tower Place Mall,
    • $3 million (my estimate) to acquire the Wasson Line right of way,
    • $6.3 million for the City's reserve account,
    • $25.8 million to balance the City's 2014 budget and
    • $20.9 million to balance the City's 2015 budget.

    The total of these expenditures is $92 million. So where is the $27 million for the Port Authority going to come from? Keep in mind that the $92 million is the initial payment; there will be ongoing payments as well. Is the Wasson Way Project in jeopardy? Stay tuned, I'll let you know.

    Updated Aug. 7, 2013: I checked the City of Cincinnati web site and could find no indication, other than the statement above, that funds have been allocated to Wasson Way. More to come...

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    Comments on "Outlet Invasion: Upscale Stores Head Downmarket"

    Marketplace from American Public Media broadcast a story tonight that had me grinding my teeth. Here's what I posted as a comment:
    Let's take this one error at a time. "Outlet locations offer up a lot to Saks, Nordstrom ..." according to Nancy Koehn. I challenge you to find me one Nordstrom Rack in an outlet mall.

    Ms. Koehn says, "most of these outlets are located at least 60 miles from a Nordstrom..." No, they're not. Many Nordstrom stores have a Nordstrom Rack located about five miles away.

    "having a place to move slower-selling merchandise ..." is not the Nordstrom way. They will move merchandise to a Rack even if it is selling well.

    This article would have been a lot better if you had just left Nordstrom out of it.
    How do I know this? A couple of years ago, Nordstrom built a store here in Cincinnati along with a Nordstrom Rack. The Nordstrom way was explained in the local business press; I don't think it's a secret except maybe in Massachusetts.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Switching from Local 12 to 9 On Your Side

    Local 12 updated their web site today and it's too heavy on videos, especially videos that start playing automatically. News flash: I get most of my news from text, not video. I never play videos at work.

    To make things worse, Local 12's new site features a box from NewsMax Headlines (sorry, not dignifying that source with a link). NewsMax should be banned from using "News" in their name; their headlines today show you their lack of journalistic skills: "FAA: Aircraft Near-Misses Up 600%" (that should be "near-hits" instead of "near-misses") and "Should Obama Use Zimmerman Verdict to Ban Guns?" If you click on the story link "Weird Trick Adds $1,000 to Your Social Security Check" (no, it doesn't), you don't get a news story at all but an advertisement (be sure to read the FULL DISCLAIMER).

    I'm already visiting Fox 19's web site every day and I will replace Local 12 with 9 On Your Side and see how that goes.

    A note to my friends: Fox 19 is much better than the national Fox News. And Fox Sports Ohio is my favorite sports broadcaster.

    Update July 20: 9 On Your Side won't let me make comments unless I give them access to all of my Facebook friends. I prize the privacy of my Facebook friends so this is a show stopper. I am also checking out the fourth television station in town,, but I haven't tried posting a comment yet.

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    Why I will be boycotting McDonald's until Aug. 13

    Tomorrow, July 16, McDonald's will begin its annual Monopoly game. This year I will be boycotting McDonald's until the game ends Aug. 12. Why? Because of the way the game is designed, it's too easy for the restaurant staff to substitute plain cups, wrappers and boxes for the ones with the game pieces. They could then pass the game pieces that should go to you on to their friends for valuable prizes, maybe even a million dollars!

    I can't prove that cheating actually occurs but I can attest that, in previous years, I have received food items missing the game pieces. I complained to McDonald's headquarters when this happened and they said they would deal with it.

    How do you prevent being ripped off? First, memorize all of the menu items that you eat that have game pieces (from the Official Rules).

    One game piece:

    Medium (21 oz.) Fountain Drinks
    Medium (16 oz.) Iced McCafé®
    Large (22 oz.) Iced McCafé
    Blended McCafé
    McCafé Smoothies
    McCafé Shakes
    Small (16 oz.) McCafé Iced Coffee
    Medium (22 oz.) McCafé Iced Coffee
    Large (32 oz.) McCafé Iced Coffee
    Medium (16 oz.) Minute Maid® Premium Orange Juice
    Large (22 oz.) Minute Maid® Premium Orange Juice
    Extra Large (32 oz.) Minute Maid® Premium Orange Juice
    Big Mac® sandwich
    Filet-O-Fish® sandwich
    10-piece Chicken McNuggets®
    Premium McWrap®
    Hash Browns
    Egg White Delight McMuffin® sandwich
    Egg McMuffin sandwich
    Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich (excludes Sausage McMuffin sandwich)
    Fruit & Maple Oatmeal.

    Two game pieces come on 20-piece Chicken McNuggets or Large (6 oz.) Fries.

    After you have received your meal, check all of the cups, wrappers and boxes that should have game pieces and insure that they do. If they don't, ask for replacement pieces. Of course, near the end of the game, they may tell you that they have "run out" and there's nothing you can do about that.

    Personally, I'm tired of going through this routine to avoid being cheated out my game pieces. So I'm going to boycott McDonald's until this game is done.

    Update July 17: I was remiss in not proposing a solution. I would do three things: Remove all of the plain wrappers from the restaurant. Put a game piece on every cup, wrapper and box. Not having to think about which items have pieces and which don't makes checking by the customers easier. Finally, I would point out to the staff that an individual game piece is unlikely to have any value at all so there's no point in cheating.

    Now, where am I going to eat breakfast this morning?

    Update Aug. 18: The contest is over and I will resume eating at McDonald's. I successfully honored my boycott and didn't eat even once at McDonald's from July 16 through Aug. 17. Don't be surprised, though, if same-store sales this quarter are down from the same quarter a year ago. When I didn't eat breakfast at home, I ate at Frisch's Big Boy which has great breakfasts for under $10 (watch for the Breakfast Bar as it costs more).