Reader content: Mitigating the cost of going to school

My grandson has just gone to senior school with a hundred other third formers.  Definitely a significant event in the lives of our growing up children.

The cost to parents  is high and I do worry about the stress that this causes the parents. School uniforms, school donations and now a computer laptop or tablet. In my grandson’s case there was no recommendation simply that they were required to have a tablet or laptop. This is wrong since it is more expensive than it need be for the parents.

When I was in the computer manufacturing and sales environment,   we would provide a 40% discount for the purchase of a 100 units. Consider what this school could have done by deciding that all of their students should have a  XYZ device and it would be purchased through the school.

Instead of a cost of $500 (below average I would think) then the parents would be up for $300 – can we afford not to take these sorts of directions?   Read more »

So much for peak oil

It is interesting being in Dubai and listening to people talk about how oil prices will rise again one Iran’s sanctions are lifted and with the low price hurting shale oil.

It is also interesting to wonder why we hear nothing anymore from the hippies about peak oil.

The US shale industry has failed to crack as expected. North Sea oil drillers and high-cost producers off the coast of Africa are in dire straits, but America’s “flexi-frackers” remain largely unruffled.

One starts to glimpse the extraordinary possibility that the US oil industry could be the last one standing in a long and bitter price war for global market share, or may at least emerge as an energy superpower with greater political staying-power than Opec.

It is 10 months since the global crude market buckled, turning into a full-blown rout in November when Saudi Arabia abandoned its role as the oil world’s “Federal Reserve” and opted instead to drive out competitors.

If the purpose was to choke the US “tight oil” industry before it becomes an existential threat – and to choke solar power in the process – it risks going badly awry, though perhaps they had no choice. “There was a strong expectation that the US system would crash. It hasn’t,” said Atul Arya, from IHS.

“The freight train of North American tight oil has just kept on coming. This is a classic price discovery exercise,” said Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil, the big brother of the Western oil industry.

Mr Tillerson said shale producers are more agile than critics expected, which means that the price war will go on. “This is going to last for a while,” he said, warning that any rallies are likely to prove false dawns. Read more »

Twitter’s new tools make banning dickheads easier

During the height of the ferals rubbish and Dirty Politics I received thousands of death threats, threats of violence and endless trolling from righteous left twats.

I blocked literally thousands of people. It took a great deal of effort, but the result was I don’t have to listen anymore to a constant stream of dribbly lefties and their sanctimonious preaching.

Twitter has had a constant problem in how to deal with these online thugs and bullies and have now deployed a suite of tools to help.

Boing Boing summarises the changes:

Messages identified as abusive will not appear on notification timelines, thanks to a new filtering system designed to prevent harassment from being seen by its targets.

Twitter is also tightening its terms of service, banning indirect threats and formalizing its suspension system.

The changes are among the first to show up since CEO Dick Costolo said he was “frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue” in a recent interview.

The criterion for detecting abusive messages involve new accounts and the use of language similar to earlier messages flagged as abusive. Such tweets will not be removed–they will simply be blocked automatically from view.    Read more »

So why do we need the Auckland CRL?


Sceptics say the autonomous car has always been 10 years away. But now it really does seem imminent. The Google car – a cute anthropomorphic turret-topped bubble – has clocked up almost 1 million driverless kilometres around Silicon Valley. This is roughly twice the average driver’s accident-free mileage and all of its dents, they say, arise from (other) driver error. Three other prototypes are also driving around British cities.

Read more »

Consumer NZ slams action on global mode

Consumer NZ has come out against the cartel of media companies trying to shut down global mode provided by some ISPs.

They stop short of calling them mafia-like but they do call them out for their blatant protectionism.

NetGuide reports:

Consumer New Zealand has joined the growing number slamming the proposed legal action by Sky, Lightbox, TVNZ and Mediaworks to stop global mode, saying the proposed action is ‘a huge blow to consumers’.

Sue Chetwin today slammed the move as ‘simply protectionism of old content distribution models’.

A number of New Zealand ISPs received a legal letter from Buddle Findlay, representatives of Sky, TVNZ, Lightbox and Mediaworks last week, ordering them to stop providing access to services such as Global Mode which provide access to international geo-blocked TV and movie services.

“While they may argue that this is not about taking action against consumers, it’s exactly consumers who will end up paying more because of this,” Chetwin says.    Read more »

Amazon to test delivery drones


Amazon has won approval from U.S. federal regulators to test the latest version of its delivery drone outdoors, less than a month after the e-commerce powerhouse blasted regulators for being slow to approve commercial drone testing.

So you order something, and after a while, one of those drones turns up at your door to deliver it.   Read more »

The risks of illegal downloading


Illegal downloaders in Australia are going to get a scare

The owners of 2013 movie The Dallas Buyers Club have warned thousands of Australians to expect settlement letters following a landmark decision in the Australian Federal Court.

The Court has ordered several internet providers to supply the names of nearly 5000 people accused of illegally downloading the movie.

Does this mean we’re next?   Read more »

Great news for Trevor, maybe he can get that legacy after all

Before the last election Trevor Mallard had a fantastic plan to resurrect the moa.

Of course he never told his leader about it and then stole all the headlines.

But it seems he wasn’t altogether wonky about at least trying.

It seems that there are 14 extinct species that could be cloned and brought back…the moa and Haast’s Eagle amongst them.

Imagine herds of mammoths roaming the open fields and saber-toothed cats prowling around your neighborhood. Science is on the brink of reviving a number of extinct animals – all that’s needed is a good sample of the animal’s DNA. The basic method of reproductive cloning that could bring animals back from extinction consists of taking DNA from the remains of the species you want to clone and inserting that DNA into a cell (preferably an egg) of a related living species. Then, until the day that artificial wombs can do the job, the best method is for the animal’s closest living relative to carry the baby to term.

While clones made this way do exist (the first successful one was Dolly the sheep in 1996) the science of cloning is still in its infancy, so don’t expect your local lab to start churning out saber-toothed cats right away. But if we’re willing to navigate the stumbling blocks inherent in patching back together extinct species, all of the animals on this roster could be up for de-extinction, since we have already accessed their DNA.

[…]   Read more »


And you are worried about government spying?

While Nicky Hager worries about government spying Google, and other tech companies, including your favourite porn site are spying on you.

Thomas, who lives in San Francisco, recently found himself at a bar, chatting with a member of the online adult-entertainment industry. They got to talking about economics, naturally. While the porn professional insisted that collecting and selling the personal data of users who visited erotic websites wasn’t part of the industry’s business model, Thomas wasn’t convinced.

“If you are watching porn online in 2015, even in incognito mode, you should expect that at some point your porn viewing history will be publicly released and attached to your name,” Thomas proclaimed in a blog post titled ​“Online Porn Could Be the Next Big Privacy Scandal,” shortly after.

Thomas’s case went something like this: Your browser (Chrome, Safari, whatever) has a ​very unique configuration, and it broadcasts all sorts of information that can be used to identify you as you click around the web. You’re basically leaving “footprints,” as Thomas calls them (others prefer “fingerprints”), all over the webpages you visit. Thus, it’s a matter of linking one footprint to another—an expert could spot the same prints on Facebook and as on Pornhub and XVideos.

Thomas argued that “almost every traditional website that you visit saves enough data to link your user account to your browser fingerprint, either directly or via third parties.” He’s definitely right that ​most web pages you visit (certainly not just porn sites) have installed tracking elements that send your data to third-party corporations, probably without your knowledge. Many, for instance, run Google Analytics, which companies use to monitor traffic to the website. Others have social media “share” buttons and third-party ad networks built in.

So, for example, when you click on “Leather Fetish #3” on XNXX, you’re not just sending a request to the porn site—a so-called first-party request. You’re sending third-party requests to Google, to the web-tracking company AddThis, and to a company called Pornvertising, too, even if you’re browsing in private mode. You’re also sending other data that can be used to identify your computer, like your IP address.

All that, paired with the continued rise of casual hacking, Thomas says, means that a complete catalog of your personal porn habits is perennially on the verge of being leaked to the public. Thomas believes that it’s not only possible but likely that a hacker will whip up a database that can share your porn-viewing history with the entire internet.

This, of course, has any number of damaging implications, even beyond the potential humiliation for an outed porn watcher—if you think erasing your internet history wipes out the record of those food-fetish vids or CGI beast porn, think again. Worse, there are still plenty of places around the world where individuals are persecuted for their sexual orientation. A revelation that someone in an oppressive country watched a series of gay porn videos could put that person at serious risk.

Read more »


So you think your gay Prius and wind turbines are clean and green? Think again

The green taliban tell us we need to go clean tech…and green tech and wind and electric this and electric that.

But what does that all mean?

Apparently it means if we use wind turbines and drive gay Prius cars we are being clean and green and using cool tech to do it.

But the reality of their clean green tech solutions is far from their slogans and bumper stickers…so far that their claims are actually lies.

Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech, discovers Tim Maughan.

From where I’m standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth.

Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. I’m here with a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division, and this is the final stop on a three-week-long journey up the global supply chain, tracing back the route consumer goods take from China to our shops and homes, via container ships and factories.

You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world’s supply of these elements, and it’s estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world’s reserves. But, as we would discover, at what cost?

Read more »